Tuesday, December 29, 2009

For the Christmas week we stayed in stayed in a small hotel in a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and explored the nearby mountains. The view from Dar Tassa is truly spectacular and we felt very welcome in the colorful cushioned living area, catching up on books and knitting. Our host, Mohamed, played mother hen, ensuring that there was enough heat in the lounge, coffee or mint tea, hot water for showers, taxis for walk shuttles, and even hot water bottles in our beds at night! He presented us with a fantastic chocolate cake on Christmas eve to make it a memorable event.

We struggled with the language barrier at the 13th century Tinmal mosque and nearby markets, and the feeling that we were being taken as tourists. Only Ali really felt comfortable negotiating with the traders for lower prices.
It was windy and rained a few times, but we walked about 10-15 miles a day in the mountains (a good thing, with the lavish breakfasts and fantastic tagines, bread and lovely desserts for dinners!). On cultural tour days, I ran on the path winding above the lodge - exhausting on the steep trail up, but exhilarating on the decline!

People mostly smiled at us as we guessed our way through unmarked mud streets in Berber villages, but the toughest part was cross-country route-finding! Our Spanish topo map had trails marked that we never found and we often had to just bushwhack on compass trend... which was fine until we came upon deep ravines and once a rocky cliff! We were continually traversing unstable slopes, and all ended up with spiky spines in our hands... Ali and I spent a fun day shopping in Marrakesh while the guys met up with a tour guide and had lunch in a Berber household.

The last night, after we laughed ourselves silly about the strange beet dessert, Mohamed arranged for the guests to dress in Berber garb and the lovely staff girls (we'd only seen briefly before) joined us for tea and put henna on our hands while we listened to Berber music.

The week was a great way to avoid a commercial Christmas and it was my first time without email in a few years! We played games, laughed together and the physical challenge left us falling into bed at too early an hour to get bored. A 3 minute video (shot with my ipod nano!) follows; click on the box to start.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Last night was the Stitch and Bitch (Knit club) Christmas party. Will and PoshTater cooked us an AMAZING vegetarian feast!
We all went home with Secret Santa wool and a challenge to show our resultant creations at the next mtg in the new Year.
Really a fun group, left to right - Nicola, Mary, Sue, Niki, me, Danielle, Lauren, Zarich, Will and Elizabeth.
Oh yeah, and Parsnip the dog!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Running with wolves! New Moon fever has hit London and I admit I've been delving into the paranormal/vampire/werewolf genre for the first time since my SISTER, Linnie got me interested in reading Twilight. We were sharing a room while visiting my Mom and she wouldn't stop reading and turn out the light!
So hundreds of hours later after consuming vapid but best escapism reading and audiobooks, I'm really excited to see New Moon. Billy ridicules my shallow literary taste, but agreed to a make a fantasy photo. Only daughter Ali will go see the film with me. Sunday 5pm.. counting down...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Today was the first really cool day and until the wind takes the leaves away - the woods are absolutely spectacular.

But I need to pick a spring race, something to motivate me to push. I find myself walking, almost absentmindedly, when out with the dog without a training plan to follow. I guess its OK to have a bit of down time, but I don't want lose my hard-earned fitness base.

Had Ali home on a whirlwind tour last week during her half-term break from teaching. She was exhausted, but is enjoying teaching - at least most classes. I don't know how she gets through the day - I'm just not that patient.

Ali and Boo carved pumpkins, but we had no Halloween trick-or-treaters on our dark lane. Just as well, as I'd have had to give them granola bars since I resisted buying candy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

'Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO HOO, What a Ride.'

Well, with no firm race plans in sight, I've slipped a bit in the diet and fitness motivation... running really doesn't sound that great after a pub lunch. What did Bruno say, "I'm committing carbicide!" Yep, pancakes for breakfast with the kids today, ice cream on the menu after dinner. I'm giving myself until Monday morning to enjoy the ride - then I'll agonizingly try to lose the weight I can gain with astounding speed. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night, no make that day...

As the 10k runners waited in the pouring rain for the half marathoners to get to us, we wondered what we'd gotten ourselves into.... That cosy pub just opposite the lock was looking pretty good.

But after "wrong-way" Chopper found his way back on the tow-path after the closed section, they finally arrived (with an extra mile in the clock!). Fuelled with bananas and cereal bars, they were ready to set off again.Phil from Runcast.tv made a great video of the run.

Tactical error, as I was cold waiting, but neglected to leave my two coats with husband Bill before we started, so I had to carry them as soon as I warmed up (you'd think I'd never run before!) Nelly the dog was ready to go, and son Nick stopped grumbling...

It was more of a group run than a race, with cameramen moving through the group while most of us were chatting and waiting for stragglers every couple of miles - and Steve provided tourist commentary when we got into the historic Oxford colleges. (and made us run two loops around the treacherous cobblestone "camera" for filming video!)

Then we made the last stretch into the Stadium where Roger Bannister ran the first under 4 minute mile. It was my first time running on a track! I didn't make in anywhere near 4 minutes, but the race metals that Steve passed out made us all feel like winners! Thanks Steve!

Walking around Oxford in the afternoon we finally got that beer and sunshine... ahh!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I totalled Billy's Honda today. Pretty shaken up, thank God I was wearing a seat belt. It just happened so fast - probably my fault, but I really can't explain the lapse. Mostly I'm just incredibly thankful that no one was injured in the car I rear-ended!

The Honda's locked in the recovery yard now, we'll probably never see it again. It isn't as bad as this photo, but I'm sure our insurance will say that it's not worth repairing all the damage.

The little to-do tasks and niggling worries that were churning in my brain (& probably contributed to my lack of concentration) vaporised with the shock of impact and the horror of what-ifs after the accident. I'm not sure I trust myself to get behind a wheel again, yet I don't know if I could bear the lack of independence. Could I really just walk or run or ride my bike, beg rides or take public transport from now on? Whew... need to think about it.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Chalfont St Giles 10k
Nick, Nelly and I ran in our little village fair 10k today. It was sunny and pretty hot (65 degrees) for Nelly in her fur coat, but I carried a bottle of water just for her. Nick ran with me (and kept me running up the hills) for the first 5K and then blasted off on his own for the second. I improved my time from two years ago by 8 minutes! (58:04 on my garmin which I stopped for the water stop as Nelly needed a break)
There was a pretty good set of hills in the first half, but the second was a nice easy drop along the Misbourne river. Nick whined (" I hate running!"),as usual, on the way down to the start and about his late night and dehydration, but admitted after the run that he enjoyed it and was now looking forward to the Oxford Spires 10k we're running in 5 weeks for the World Wide Festival of Races. And I promised to vacuum all the dog fur out of the back of his car.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Just back from a great Barefoot Running class run by John Woodward and Janet Dutton. The highlight of the class was a beautiful run across the sands and tidal channels of the Duddon Estuary. It was Nelly's first time swimming! Tom Urry filmed us all running on pavement in running shoes and barefoot on the grass. (clearly the photo's not of me, but a better runner!)

A great group of people attended the class and we debated the conspiracy theories re shoe design, Vibram 5-fingers and the book "Born to Run" by Chris McDougall. Tales of incredible ultra-marathons from "Loony" Tom. In lectures, proto-bondage sessions with neoprene cuffs and bungee cords, we all practiced the movements that should have resulted in the perfect stride - with arched toes, landing softly on the forefoot, stroking the ground....Ahh, I know what I should do now... just have to do it!

The comparison of my normal heel strike with tense shoulders to the upright fluid form I had running barefoot. Click on the box and then triangle to see a 3 sec video.

I'm not sure I'm ready to throw away my trainers for my run on concrete across London every day, but I will work to try to land on my forefoot instead of my heels and hopefully avoid the Achilles pain that has been troubling me.

Billy, Nelly and I went on to have a glorious week walking in the Lake District despite occasional rain (a great excuse to explore new pubs...)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tutorial - How to upload a route to a Garmin 405 to use it for navigation.

This is pretty straightforward in the USA where topo maps are easily viewed in google maps and all the web-based applications that use them (e.g. MapMyRun.com).

But here in the UK, the Ordnance Survey topo maps are not accessible in Googlemaps. See the map on the left is the googlemap and the image in the middle is the OS topo map, and the right is the satellite image for the same area. Clearly, its hopeless to try to find a route to run on just the Googlemap or satellite maps - you need the right-of-way footpath info that is only found on the Ordnance Survey maps. The two images on the right are taken from a fantastic free (but donations accepted) web application Where's the path?

In this web accessed application, you just click on the little icon in the bottom left (next to the route length) and a route is marked on BOTH the OS topo and the sattellite image. When you're done just click on the import/export button and export the route GPX > File. Then you have to open another free site, GPSies Tracks for Vagabonds, and convert the GPX file to a Garmin Training Center TCX file format.

Once you have this file, you upload it on the Garmin Training Center program (which you have to download to your computer) and then you can then push the upload button to sync it to your 405. Its pretty useless that you can't upload routes to the web-based Garmin Connect site, but you can't. You can take a route that you or someone else has already run and do "send to device" to load it as a route, but not one from a map.

Once you've synced, on the Garmin 405, go to Menu/Training/Courses and select the one you uploaded and then "Do Course". Page through the displays until it has "to Course" and a compass rose on the screen and it will point the way to the start. Once you start, its a good idea to navigate back to this compass rose and lock the bezel. Then as you go along, it will show "dist to finish" when you're on course, and "dist to course" when you've strayed off - just follow the arrow (when you're moving). If you go seriously off course there's an alarm, and another beep when you find it again, and when you finish the course.

It really works! Here's the result of my navigating a path I picked to run between train stations near home seen in Garmin Connect and you can see under the "Map" tag, that I started going in the wrong direction, but backtracked until I found the route again. So for the continually lost-in-the-woods sort of person, this is a godsend!

Monday, July 20, 2009

100 Thing Challenge

"Stuff starts to overwhelm you," says Dave Bruno, 37, an online entrepreneur who looked around his San Diego home one day last summer and realized how much his family's belongings were weighing him down. Thus began what he calls the 100 Thing Challenge. (Apparently, Bruno is so averse to excess he can't refer to 100 things in the plural.) Bruno's online musings about his slow and steady purge have developed something of a cult following online, inspiring others to launch their own countdown to clutter-free living.

Well, I passed the time in a boring meeting by starting a list, topped my by ipod and Garmin405, but as I got farther down the list, I realized it was just stuff - all replaceable for a bit of cash, and I quit the list.

Then started the "what do I take from burning building?" list - kid's photos, some family jewelry, an old diary. OK , a favorite bathrobe maybe. But that's it - really. As long as the family and pets are safe, I'm fine and that realization was like a breath of fresh air.

So a bit of cheat. I've avoided throwing away any of the stuff or even really examining how much of it I'd need to replace to maintain my consumptive lifestyle. But I know now its just that - stuff.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

(Swiss wood stack)
AA Gill, the columnist for the Sunday Times, is a guy I love to hate. He's just too smug to live, but I have to admit that he's often funny and clever, and Billy reads his restaurant review before anything else in the Sunday papers. This week he wrote:

"I've often thought that Europe is a allegory for the ages of man. You're born Italian. They're relentlessly infantile and mother-obsessed. In childhood, we're English; chronically shy, tongue-tied, cliquey, and only happy kicking balls, pulling the legs off things, or sending someone to Coventry. Teenagers are French: pretentiously philosophical, embarrassingly vain, ridiculously romantic and insincere. Then, in middle age, we become either Swiss or Irish. Old age is German: ponderous, pompous and pedantic. What Germans have instead of sex and laughter are word games and complaining about grammar. Then finally we regress into being Belgian with no idea who we are at all."

OK, I'm not ready to be anything more than middle aged - but he didn't really describe the Swiss or Irish psyche. I don't want to be my stereotype Swiss (compulsively tidy and xenophobic), but I can't fit into my Irish stereotype either (care-free and engaging, but slurring my words).

So, I'll try to be the best of both - disciplined (15 weeks of half marathon training to go!) and friendly (making people smile and feel good about themselves).

With my navigating Garmin back (THANKS TO GLENN!!!), I'm exploring the trails again, and I paid up for another 3 mo at the gym, so now I can focus on the path ahead to the WWFOR Half Marathon in October, and enjoy the journey.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Meeting up with virtual friends for the White Peak Swift half was great and a bit surprising. Somehow my pre-conceived notions really didn't hold up to the brush with reality. From the podcast of his epic Hadrian's wall run, I envisioned Gary Wall as an ascetic hardcore runner - and I discovered that he was funny, genuine and a natural story-teller, really not the ultra-marathon purist I expected. Steve Chopper has such a magisterial voice on his podcasts, I expected him to be commanding... but I was surprised at how engaging and sincere he is. He's still an natural spokesman, but he's also a really good listener. Phil's un-likeness of a twitter photo and the intensity with which he talked about Runcast TV on the Runners Round Table made me expect some sort of tech-nerd, and I was surprised to meet up a gentle bear of a man, with self-deprecating modesty and a bubbly sort of warmth and laughter. It was also great to meet Mark Wheeton who I'd only exchanged emails with. Petra I'd met at the London Expo and it felt like we were old friends. She insisted on buying me a bacon sandwich (a "cobb" in Derbyshire-speak) after the race which was heavenly, and will henceforth be my gold standard of bacon sandwiches... or maybe I was just REALLY hungry.

I was really pleased with the race time 1:58:59, five minutes faster than I ran it two years ago. But nothing great compared to Boo's 14th place at 1:27!! Ali and Billy really made the logistics easy for us, and their cheers and hugs at the finish made us feel like stars. Thanks guys!!!

For the week following the race, Billy and I scouted for wild campsites as we made our way through the Peak District, to the N Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland, stopping at National Trust properties when the days were rainy. We had a memorable night in a farmers field watching lambs prance like kittens - while we worried that we'd have to be towed out after the rain. The coastal path between Ravenscar and Robin Hood's Bay claimed my new GPS watch, and the badgers must have taken it, because it was gone when we retraced our steps... oh well.

Finally Ali flew up and met us in Edinburgh and I flew home to work while she and Billy walked in the Highlands before Boo came up to run the Marathon on Sunday (in an amazing 3:20!).

I guess I feel a bit deflated now with no clear running goals until October WWFOR half. I need to practice the paper I'm giving at a conference in Amsterdam on June 8th... so I still have something to worry about!

I guess its time to re-focus on resistance training so that I can be stronger in the next cycle of training in a couple of months. I'll still keep running the 3 mi across London in the mornings - I love that!

Finally, a video Phil edited of the race! Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Meeting Petra at the FLM expo was the highlight of the week, but then I missed her fantastic race as my husband bought a band-saw on ebay and we had to go to Norwich to get it.

But it turned out to be a spectacular weekend and I got my 11-miler in running from our campsite to Wells Next The Sea and back. That's really what is says on the maps... don't they know they are missing the preposition??

Three weeks till the White Peak Swift Half....I feel like I'm ready, I just have to get t-shirts printed with the WWFOR logos!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nelly and I hopped on the train and took it up to the next town, Chesham, and then began exploring a new route as the rain started. The little scrap of map in my pocket started to fall apart in the rain, but finally we made it home and I was feelinq quite smug until I uploaded my track and discovered that somewhere I'd gone around in a circle and didn't even notice!!! Oh well..

9 miles in 2 hrs was not good but it was hilly and I did stop at every branching trail or stile and try to figure where I was. Billy and I will have to walk it with his Garmin or iphone and try to see where I went around twice!

6 weeks till the Swift half. I've booked camping at the Grouse & Claret campsite outside Matlock near Rowsley at Phil's recommendation - phone 01629 733233

I've lost 3 or 4 lbs since starting the Fast Weight Loss diet, but I'm ready to kill for oatmeal or bran flakes... I really miss breakfasts. Cottage cheese just doesn't do it for me, even with blueberries. And facing more salads with grilled chicken or tunafish, I keep repeating the mantra..... ONE MORE WEEK!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

We explored Suffolk last weekend, camping in the remarkably attractive shadow of Sizewell nuclear power plant. We searched for raw oysters in Aldeburgh and I got my 8 mile run in beside the beach. Nice weekend and the weather cooperated for once.

This week I signed up again at Educogym - resistance training coaching for a gut-wrenching amount of money... I've just got to shift my spare tyre! Perhaps with 2 mo before the half marathon, I should not be dieting, but there's always a good excuse and this period of low travel and a clear goal seemed better than most. They took "before" photos and I just wanted to get the scissors out (Chest up - fine, hips down - fine) and just cut out the middle! I wish it was so easy!

Researching an expert for a RRT diet expert, I came upon Lyle McDonald and his Rapid Fatloss Handbook which happens to fit almost exactly with the one the gym gave me. I'm so much more motivated reading the rationale and science behind a diet, rather than just being given a printed sheet and being told..do it. So, I have high hopes that in a couple of weeks I'll be relatively tyre free! He does say that "the crash diet should be used several weeks prior to the endurance event, to drop a few pounds of fat such that normal hydration can be retained before the competition." Right so I've got 4 weeks only to lose!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Had a brilliant run today with Ali and her boyfriend, Boo. Boo is training for the Edinburgh marathon and he's fast, so he pushed us for the first 2 miles when we sent him off on a longer 8 mi loop and the two of us carried on with Nelly (the dog) for only 6 mi. There is something about running with someone that removes the barriers (calls on her mobile phone with Ali!) and you really have a chance to have sort of a stream-of-consciousness discussion. She's headed back to Uni now, but I had a wonderful time with her - and unlike after some whirlwind visits, I felt like we really got a chance to talk to each other!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

11 weeks to go until the Swift Half. I'm finally back on track with my BuckeyeOutdoors training plan after my holidays... well, except the length of the long run every week. But if I run a 6 mile long run this week, I can increment it up one mile every weekend and I'll stand a good chance to hit my 2:00 target.

I'm staying with the PFA online diet and working in the strength training at least 3 days a week. I learned through my marathon training last year that I'll replace every calorie I burn running if I don't follow a plan. This diet plan is good, cycling through calorie restrictions on different days of the week, so I can plan my longer runs on the days when I can eat more. And I can eat plenty of carbs on those days, but change to higher % protein and fewer calories on the lower mileage days. Its not so much that I want to lose weight, I just want to shift that spare tire into some upper body muscle. And I am a goal oriented sort of person - it just makes me happy when I know I'm on track.

I'm getting to know lots of new people through the Runners Round Table, and I'm really enjoying it, but still find it a bit difficult to not be totally intimidated by some of the more committed, faster, or tri and ultra runners. I try to tell myself that they're just testing their own boundaries, same as me, but whew, I can't imagine where they find the time and commitment!
But it has inspired me to get serious again about my training again... feeble is it seems by comparison.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One of those magical harmonic convergences - an unusually warm and fair meterological system coincided with my visit to northern Idaho to visit family and my first time downhill skiing in 10 years - It was amazing! And being with my two sisters and Missi's family was really fun. I'm the oldest, and Linnie, the social one, now writes charity grants to support women with a church in LA, and Missi, the driven one, is now an English and Economics teacher in Sandpoint Idaho.

We grew up in a ski area, Breckenridge, Colorado. My husband and I met and fell in love skiing. It used to be a passion - I was on one ski team or another team through university. And then we had kids and moved away from Colorado, and it got so expensive and the kids went on trips with their friends instead of us...

I just forgot how amazing it feels, the thrill and the laughs.

When we stopped for lunch mid-afternoon, my legs were tired and my feet hurt. (Whoever designs ski boots is a sadistic bastard!) Limping to our table in the sunshine on the lodge deck, we knew we weren't kids anymore, but we'd forgotten it that morning.