Wednesday, 29 February 2012

What would you do with an extra day?

Imagine you're on your death bed. It can be any time of your life, you could be really old and healthy or young and doing coke in a fast car if that's your thing. But a genie in a bottle or some other divine being, offers you one more day before you die! What would you do? You'd take it probably, even if it was to extend the very thing you were doing when death and the genie descended. But most probably you'd take it and do something amazing, emotional and special.

Today, you had one more day. Yep it's just a leap year and we get one of those every four years. But doesn't that make you think a little? What did you do today that was so special? Or as in the word's of one of my favourite and life changing adverts says, will you remember today forever?

As someone who got into running as a way of enduring the death of friends, I am inspired by those who tackle sporting events as a way of facing death. From Jane Tomlinson to Jon Blais we are reminded of people who tackle marathons, ironman and other challenges to raise awareness of issues but also to go down fighting. Yes it is cruel that people like them are taken from life early, leaving behind devastated loved ones. But look at what they did with their death sentence, they turned it into a life sentence.

This morning, as I tweeted my messages for people to "be all they can be", and "make today count" (popular hashtags, not just my corny lines) I noticed someone (joking?) that today was an extra day of the year, and therefore not one they were paid for. But I was pleased to see so many more people doing something amazing with their day, from the RunDemCrew youngers bouncing through the streets, to the chap taking the day off work for Jogle training, another volunteering in a service for homeless people.

The clock is ticking on February 29th as I write this, but I won't let the clock tick down as me. And I hope, that if you're reading this, you might remember this day forever and live all your future days as "the extra one."

It's Wednesday so that must be Ironman

Yesterday three Ironman training guides seemed to have made their way into my Amazon order. I blame Chrissie Wellington and the Amazon One Click service. Don Fink's Iron Fit has made it into my commute bag and with the Jubilee and Met lines being down on my last three commutes, I've had ample reading time.

Mr Fink recommends getting a calendar right now and putting training dates in. (He has little active challenges peppered through the book to get you doing stuff). So as soon as I got home, I made a little month by month excel calendar through to the end of 2013 and I started collecting Ironman dates for 2012 as a rough guide. Hey, it's just a paper exercise right? Then I notice that Lanzarote (my preferred warm, cheap racing destination) has races in May near my birthday and lo and behold my 38th birthday weekend would be holding an IronMan. So despite this being a really hard course, with hills and hot winds, it goes into the spreadsheet. As does 30 weeks of training, a week of acclimatisation to training, two weeks of mock training (to get discipline) and one month of get fit for fun. Then I add one month of Lanzarote acclimatisation, two training camps and before you know it, I have to start training in September this year. Which makes me think that London Triathlon looks jolly sensible especially as you can hire a bike for the training season for only £110! I know. Unfortunately it's all sold out so that's not happening.

But anyway, there's my year and half of next year mapped out. I then plotted the Wall Run (TBC) and Davos (distance to be chosen), the Sarsens marathon which I stumbled upon and decided to enter and my swimming lessons (still to be found). I also put a cost column including a bike but let's not talk of such foul things like money. These are dreams and dreams don't have price tags!

At no point have I questioned the sanity of doing these things. I mean we can do anything we put our mind to right? Wonder what Thursday will bring?

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Learning from Chrissie Wellington

Part two in the Rowena Meets Chrissie Wellington Adventures. The scene is a nondescript university auditorium. Our protagonist is joined by American Eddie from TriOnline and Canadian Tara, a marathon runner. The three non Brits intrepidly have made their own way to the auditorium to seek lunch and Chrissie...

Chrissie is due to give a presentation and while the lovely folk from Janes Appeal set this up, Chrissie patiently and personally signs people's copies of her new autobiography. In the queue, Tara and I learn that we both tear up watching inspirational sporting videos, such as the trailer for Spirit of the Marathon and Julie Moss finishing Iron Man. (Both of these are linked under HardCore Running stuff on the nav bar to your right. Enrich your lives people.) We also start thinking about what we are going to say to Chrissie, how to tell her to spell our names, how to take photos. I manage to keep a sense of perspective by suggesting to Tara that getting her sneakers autographed is a little weird. I try to take pics while Tara gets her stuff signed, and Tara goes in for a fabulous Chrissie hug. I'd laugh but I am too busy being nervous around the woman who has just told me about her weak glute. Chrissie remembers me (I am astounded) and then writes the above message in my book. She has met a hundred people today but remembers I ran an ultra and that I want to do an ironman before I am 40. She seals the fate by writing it in my book. When Tara and I return to our seats we are a heaving mass of hysteria.

Here's some random stuff I picked up from Chrissie's well delivered and entertaining talk:
1) Chrissie is rubbish with powerpoint. Really. How she survived a career in government with those IT skills is beyond me!
2) Chrissie has The Circle of Life, from Lion King, on her playlist. This only goes to encourage the kind of cheesy music I have on mine!
3) Triathlon is one sport not three. If you want to improve your run, you have to look at what your bike set up is doing.
4) Chrissie is pretty damn smart. Jokes about Defra employees aside, she can deconstruct a cultural construct quicker than you can say "gender perspective".
5) She really wants to pay it forward and give it back. I do hope she returns to development one day, or gets to meet some of the great community focussed NGOs delivering far better impact than DFID's programmes do.
6) I already sleep like an Ironman (1030 to bed, 0630 to rise)
7) She can tear up talking about things that are important to her.
8) She recognises the need for everyone from the media, the athletes and the governing bodies to do more to package ironman better if we want to make it a mainstream sport.
9) You don't need the most expensive or even a great bike to win (but unless you're very talented it does help)
10) Strength work and conditioning can really help boost your results.

They say you should never meet your idols: well I say it depends who your idols are. David Suzuki, Mo Farah and Chrissie Wellington - they have not let me down. Down to earth, personal and inspiring, meeting Chrissie confirms that your idols are more amazing once you've met them.

Meeting Chrissie Wellington

You know how much I talked about Mo Farah after I got to run with him? That was nothing compared to how much I have talked about Chrissie Wellington. The last two days have been nothing but "Chrissie said this" and "When I was with Chrissie"...

For those of you who don't know who Chrissie is (yes there are some none runners reading this blog; I call you stalkers), Chrissie is the four time Ironman World Champion. I know she is British and I should be a Rinnie Carfrae fan but Chrissie is a legend for many reasons:
1) She only started the sport five years ago
2) She is a self confessed muppet
3) She is unbeatable, even when she's coming from way behind and covered in gravel rash.

Chrissie is a Patron of Jane's Appeal (Jane Tomlinson, cancer fighter, wife, mother and achiever extraordinaire) who organised Run with Chrissie, a chance to run a 5km through the allegedly tick-infested forests of Richmond Park, train with her and hear her speak. I'd not thought about the physical effort required for the day too much - it was scheduled to take place only 7 days after a small 53km run, but the day was to completely wipe me out.

So I'm off before dawn to go see her and despite train issues arrive early (thanks google maps for showing Roehampton Gate as being in Kent). Awaiting her arrival, I notice there's an awful lot of ridiculously kitted up City boys in Equipe style lycra, including retro hats and very expensive machinery. I try really hard not to giggle when they stop for a soy latte, but fail.

Being mostly Londoners, we do that thing where we all stand around on our own not making eye contact with anyone and standing a safe 6 feet apart, until Chrissie arrives, all smiles and we all move in a little, awe struck and trying not to stare but failing. Chrissie is laughing and joking with people she knows and wearing the most coolarse compression socks I've ever seen (black, mid calf with green, yellow, red and purple stripes). She looks so good in them I would have bought five pairs there and then, and it's a good thing there was no shop in the area because my calf muscles and Chrissie's calves (sp) are not comparable things. She swapped shirts and I was all geeky and going - look at that six pack and then started photographing her Kona 2011 scars before the police stopped me (I joke about the police, but am afraid the rest is true).

Chrissie makes jokes about lyme disease and I am already fawning: "oh my god she's so funny". And then we're off being escorted on a wee run through the park. I started for a second near Chrissie but was quickly passed by everyone, and I mean everyone in the field. I should have known when they said "sub 30 or sub 20". I'm a distance runner people, and a long slow recovering one at that. I'm sub 30 on a good day. Today is not a good day. Anyway I determinedly continued and got a bit of mojo on a downhill home straight to finish a trio of girls who sportingly were helping a recovering runner get Back. Clearly, I am not sporting.

Let's be honest, I was knackered after that: legs of lead and all that. So I went a scoffed a protein bar (I'd be hungry since the train!) and swigged a load of water. This would have been sensible if not for some British Military Fitness style Ross Kemp lookalike deciding we should do burpees. Excuse me sir while I vomit on your shoes. Those who know me know:
1) I don't tolerate the British Military
2) I don't believe in the concept of British Military Fitness
3) If a man tells me to give him ten of the best, I will do so via finger gestures.
But it being for charity, I pretended to go along with everything and found refuge in a nice girl who had won a prize to be there and like me, didn't need a bald man in camouflage to point out how unfit we were. After 30 minutes of rolling in mud and performing an exercise called "morning darling" that I'd normally reserve for a gynaecologist, we moved to a session on cadence and finally a session WITH CHRISSIE on running drills.

The session was running drills was expertly run by Karen and I learnt that I must be able to hold a credit card between my butt cheeks while running (for glute strength, not for lack of pockets). But that is all I can tell you about that session because I did these drills with Chrissie. No, sorry WITH CHRISSIE!

She and I joked about glutes and lazy glutes. She remembered me from running past on my ultra training round Uxbridge canals! She remembered my tweets. I was so uncool about it I almost foamed at the mouth! She congratulated me on the ultra. I told her I wanted to do ironman before I was 40. She thought I was way younger. I heart her. She recommended Austria or Copenhagen. She also writes "smile" on her hand! She spoke to other people too and was really nice and encouraging. But she spoke to me! ME!

Well that's probably enough excitement for one blog post no? I'm going to do a separate one about her talk and the sport related things I learned but just reliving that moment means I need a lie down!

Chrissie. Chrissie Wellington. And me.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Post ultra reflections

Okay so you know how I finished London Ultra and said I would never run again. Ever. Well that was Sunday and Monday morning.

And then by Tuesday morning, with the body feeling fine, I seemed to have forgotten the pain that existed in every fibre of my body.

But these are some things I have to learn or want to incorporate in my running:
1. Life first, then running: I put a lot of things on hold to train, mostly because I had a much shorter training plan than I would have liked. So I'd like running to be part of my life but not something that everything has to stop for.
2. Maintaining a level of running ability. The last three years, I trained for a marathon, crawled over the finish line and never ran again. This time I am not going to do that.
3. Less canals, more hills. Hills happen. I need to get over them.
4. More trails. Running in nature makes me happy - there's so much to look at. Farewell Edgeware Rd to Colindale.

So now I just need to work out, when to start running again and how much. I tried 3km the other day and ended up with 2.8km of slow motion like a lead robot! I'm running 5km with Chrissie Wellington tomorrow. At least I'll be smiling for that!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


So I finished the Ultra - but in what condition?

Nothing I'd call an injury. My hips, specifically my hip flexors, hurt like crazy. They were the thing that held me back on those last and unnecessary kilometres. I hadn't experienced this before and figured it was from the hills.

I'd been craving salt (yes I even licked some off my arm at some point) and my toes were cramping, again a new experience. I'd fuelled ok, hydrated well and couldn't complain really.

But yes - everything hurt. Every single thing hurt. And it was going to hurt much more!

There was a half mile walk to the train station, and I didn't have enough warm clothes or spirit for a quick walk.

And I can tell you that I never wanted to do a long run again, not a marathon not a 50km - nothing. I felt broken in spirit and body and mind.

The next day everything below my ears hurt! My neck and back hurt from where my core packed it in, and I had huddled over my self,. My right foot, hip and knee was sore and the inflammation around the knee from my IT band was severe. I still didn't want to run distance again but I felt that I had lots to learn before tackling this kind of event again like hill running and trail running.

But by today (Tuesday) I'm feeling ready to run again, thanks to some ice packs, cold water showering and a good two hours of acupuncture, pilates and osteo. And I'm ready to start looking at what distance I might do in Davos...

London Ultra race report

And we're off, running through suburbia, confusing old ladies trying to parallel park and adjusting hip belts, drink bottles, pants. I followed the pack at a comfortable pace until we hit a stile (really) in the second km and we all had to queue, pass in single file then make our way up a railway platform!

Kms 3 -5 felt pretty good and I was a bit surprised to check my watch and find I was averaging 5:30 to 6 per km - I had planned to run 6:30/km at the beginning to play it really safe. The roads were quite undulating so I figured that I was slowing down enough.

The hills started to bite at km6 but by km8 we had a new obstacle: a subway full of cold dark water that was above ankle height to navigate, though some tried to find a way around the train tracks - the best way was through the water.

The first checkpoint was just under 10kms in, so I just grabbed a drink and some frozen snickers bar to hold in my hand till they melted! At some point we meandered on a trail and I thought "this is nice, come into your own". I note this now because I never felt this moment ever again in the race! I found the run very mentally taxing as you were always thinking of the route, where to put your foot in the terrain and so forth that my one strength, mental toughness, was unable to be used as much as I hoped. Luckily I had the word "smile" written on my hand in big letters and whenever I saw it, I did!

The next ten kms were very hilly around Norwood and Crystal Palace. A friend was trying to cheer me on but kept missing me, and I really felt like I could do with a lift. Fellow competitor who I know now as Claire Z, in her vibram 5fingers, came storming down a hill, making it look all easy and relaxed and I was very envious, but not as envious when a friend met her and ran with her some of the way.

Another checkpoint emerged at 20km, just next to an ambulance for a fallen senior, and stocked with more snickers as well as fabulous licorice allsorts. I stopped this time to drink water properly (ie not pour it all over me) as did a number of other runners, all gasping and saying "hills" as they came to a stop. They could have also said "giant squirrel" and "dinosaurs" - it was surreal running through Crystal Palace Park.

I was pleased that on some of the epic hills, other people were walking, and there seemed to be a bit of rhythm, as one person at the front walked, so we did further down the line. The same was pretty true for navigation, a lot of people were following the person in front or keeping people in their sightline as the route constantly turned corners.

The terrain was a mix of suburban streets - including road crossings, and boy do I love a red light now! - trails, parks, funny steps uphills, hillsides, railway platforms, bar terraces - you name it!

When we entered Wimbledon Park (30km) I realised my friend said she would spectate with her family, and all I could think about on entering the park was that she was in there somewhere. Park maintenance meant it wasn't quite clear where and I ran about a bit looking for signs until I recognised my friends watching and whooped and jumped with joy. Nothing like a baby cuddle for an uplift! The man at the checkpoint was lovely and motivating despite having about 11 miles to go and not having red sauce to go with the delicious cold sausage rolls. I used my friends to help with putting cold strips on my feet; the man at checkpoint took one look and offered first aid but it was just a bit of inflammation and a few dramatic capillaries. As I spent a bit of time there, I'd lost the regulars I was following and had to rely on my own ability to sport the green Capital Ring signs and what direction the level skewed arrows were really pointing at.

Richmond Park came sooner than I thought and I recognised a silhouetted figure against a fast bike as another of my private cheer squad; I was truly spoilt. Andy pointed out the actual route that no one else was following, which gave me quite an advantage as I didn't stop to get lost. The going at Richmond felt tough, with lots of undulating terrain and no deer.

I don't remember much after this except a long and lonely run along the water at Richmond, where I came upon the American Jacob looking really lost with the whole scenic rambling concept and helped him find the way over the bridge back to the hallowed ground North of the Thames and to the fourth and final checkpoint. I treated myself to an already opened can of coke and stuffed as many sausage rolls as possible into my cheeks like a hamster. It was only ten km to go at this point. Ten. Ten km! I dug out my ipod, to get into the zone as there was not many people in sight in front and Jacob seemed to be lagging. The navigation got tough, with the signs pointing along bar terraces (where I tripped), through car parks and garden centres; you name it. Once we were back on canals - the same surfaces I had been training on, my spirits lifted, and I started to give my Mo Farah Kick!

But disaster struck! Ok a small calamity. There was most definitely a London Ultra sticker pointing to a trail, but the trail was most definitely barred by a fence and a sign saying "no access, by order of the police" Mark F who had already got lost earlier on, ran ahead, and didn't think we were going the right way if we were to get onto the canal branch to finish. So Claire, Mark, myself and John (who had been swapping places with me from the start) squeezed through the fence, running through a good stretch of lumpy soamy clay before squeezing through another fence. Yes it's as hard to run in as it sounds. We all plodded off separately but together checking in when we weren't sure of the route. Once in one of those little parks we kept running through, the Capital Ring signs went right, and Mark felt we should go left. I was happy to stick with the signs and said as much. For some reason these poor people followed me and I think they decided it was the wrong decision. We ended up off route but at least with a location we could find on the map and work out the way back.

Unfortunately the way back involved a long slope uphill that seemed to continue on forever. We had passed 50km, Claire and Mark had padded off strong into the distance (hope they weren't mad for following me?) and John and I started to walk intersperse with a brief bit of jogging. John's Garmin beeped 50, and I confessed I had nothing left. As we emerged onto the final road before the sports track finish, Rita, an older modest looking woman came pounding past from the right path and strode off to the finish line. John and I were spent. We had intermittent coverage behind trees shielding us from the folk at the finish and we walked until we were in plain sight of the finish line, 53kms, 6 hours 48 minutes and 5 second later.

Pre race jitters

Feb 19th 2012 - 6am to 0915am

Pre race:
Despite a cheesy American movie all about drumming (oh yes) I didn't sleep. I end up coughing a lot of the night and my new mobile which I had set to silent kept humming and buzzing with good luck messages from around the world (alright, mum, dad and a few nightbird friends) The 6am alarm clock came round too soon and I moved around doing Monty Python's ministry of silly walks as dynamic stretching to get my heart rate up as my low blood pressure has been making me dizzy on early morning runs.

The taxi driver arrived 15 minutes early but refused to wait ten minutes. Nothing like starting a long day by shouting down the intercom. He made everything better by not knowing where to go, ignoring the sat nav in hilarious fashion, crossing the Thames three times and finally asking if I was an athlete as we pulled up to the sports ground at Grove Park, a part of London that most people don't know existed. To be honest, I'm still not sure it does.

There were a lot of people in lycra looking all professional and talking to each other. So what makes people look intimidating on the start line? 1) they don't look terrified. 2) they know someone. I find both these things amazing; that you could calmly stare the unknown in the face and that you would know someone else that was as bonkers as you.

There was some lass who I am going to assume was a little bubbly on adrenalin. She looked very friendly but kept talking very loudly about how she was a 100 miler talking at the start, to the registration and by the start line, she was shrill.

At registration I got a handy fold out A3 map from the google map of the route (ie some corners cut in the drawing). When we were all asked to raise our hands to show our map on the start line, it was a sea of hands. When asked to keep our hands up if we intended to use it, all hands went down. We're an honest lot if nothing else.

I found that someone else had taken my race number (the lovely 88) with my name also printed on it. I'd have really liked my race name on my bib as a souvenir but it was not to be - and I ended up with a blank with 259 on it.

The start was delayed till 0915 so we huddled against the radiators in the women's change rooms watching the to-be winner, a super muscly skinny girl, doing dynamic leg stretches that would have crippled most people and was soon to knock someone's head off as they walked out the toilet door.

We all eyed each other nervously, looking for signs of ourselves in the other. Two girls with identical massive back packs (perhaps training for Marathon des Sables?) paired up. Two women eating bananas exchanged smiles. I looked for someone who looked so edgy they might soil themselves but that was no-one to be found. I had my eye on an elderly lady who looked sensible that I might want to run with, but I lost her in the start scrum. An Asian lady also looked like a friendly candidate, but when I went out into the cold air to warm up, she had a few people she already knew. I jogged around some goal posts nervously, dazzled by the blue sky and sun, before Rory called us for a quick briefing ("if you talk to someone, you're likely to get lost") and we were off.

The SRO reported that someone at this stage had the mentals and said they were not going to do it, simply were not going to do it. But the description (men in stripy rainbow knee socks) matched someone I ran with at Richmond Park so hats off to you sir for getting over the start line.

Starting was surreal because as soon as we left the sports ground we were in suburban Grove Park, a place, as I said, that only people who live there no where it is. The arrival of 260 odd runners, literally stopped traffic. We dodged the cars, the streets ours - we were off for 50km of fun around the Capital Ring...

to be continued

Monday, 20 February 2012

Running for a cause

Let's not pretend I am superhuman, running 50km is very difficult. Running 50kms over hills while navigating through flooded subways and twisty trails is even harder.

But I did it.

It was very hard, extremely taxing on the body and took a good six months out of my life. Why did I do it? Because I can. Because life is a gift full of blue skies to run under and frosty grass to run over. Because I grew up without a personal threat of harm through torture, persecution and victimisation.

And that has to be cause for celebration. How best to celebrate that? By taking myself out of my comfort zone, by doing something challenging and using Freedom From Torture as a great motivation for every early morning wake up call, late night run and every footstep further.

Thanks to the clients, staff, volunteers and supporters for being such a great reason to run. When you think about all that has been experienced by a survivor of torture, 50km doesn't seem like such a big deal.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No it's a very tired ultra runner!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

I did it!

I finished my first 50km run!

But I am exhausted, from the constant hills and trying so hard and need to sleep. More to come...

Thanks everyone for your support.


The courage to start...

Quote from “Marathon Running for Mortals” by John The Penguin Bingham and Jenny Hadfield

"The finish line is not the end. The finish line is the beginning. Standing at the starting line gives you permission to hope. Taking the time to train, putting in the mileage, making the changes in your life, and taking the risks has given you consent to hope for the best in yourself. The miracle is not that you finished, but that you had the courage to start.

"Crossing the start line also gives you permission to dream. You can dream about the perfect day, the perfect race and the perfect experience. It may not happen that way, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream about it.

"Cross the starting line may be an act of courage, but crossing the finish line is an act of faith. And faith is one of the most powerful emotions you can experience.

"Faith is what keeps us going when nothing else will. Faith is the emotion that conquers fear. Faith is the emotion that will give you victory over your past, the demons in your soul and all of those voices that tell you what you can and cannot do and can and cannot be.

"If standing on the starting line gives you permission to dream, crossing the finish line gives you permission to plan. Crossing the finish line gives you permission to plan for your next success, to plan for the realization of your next dream. The last step of the race is the first step of the rest of your life.

"What you do now is up to you. You’ve seen what you can do. If you’ve stuck with the training program, you’ve seen yourself filled with joy and blinded by frustration. You’ve overcome your fears. You’ve been humbled by both the strength and fragility of your body. You’ve found what you thought were your limits and gone beyond them.

You’ve also learned that what stops most of us from achieving our dreams – as athletes and as people – are the confines of our imaginations. We can never be more than we imagine we can be. And as long as we restrict ourselves by our imaginations, we forever bind ourselves to our past and blind ourselves to our futures.

"Your limits lie behind you now. With that one final step across the finish line, you liberated yourself form everything that you ever thought you knew about yourself. You have taken the very first step on the course to your destiny.

Waddle on..."

Saturday, 18 February 2012


Twas the night before Ultra when all through the house,
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The leggings were hung by the bedside with care,
next to socks, sports bra and clean underwear.
The jacket potatoes were snug in the skins
As the final effort to get more carbs in.

So before I go and wreck havoc on an old rhyme any further, what am I think this evening?

I'm feeling very relaxed because I have learned a lot. Not so much to be snug. I am well aware that there are 31 cold miles tomorrow through a bit of mud, a bit of dog poo and a bit of suburban dashing. But I have learned enough to know:
  • What pain is, both neurologically and physically, and how I am going to deal with it.
  • That what I lack in strength, fitness and talent I compensate for in determination and bloodymindedness.
  • That I have more fun running over a bit of a grassy hummock than I do over 26 miles of road. And this makes me smile. Which is part of my plan to deal with pain.
  • That I am ok with being all alone for hours at a time. Because I know I have a great support crew out there. And that also makes me smile.
One of my trigger words tomorrow will be the word "smile". It makes me relax, helps me run faster, tackle hills and it's what I want to be doing when I cross the finish line. Albeit a little manically.

Friday, 17 February 2012


I was asked today what I would do immediately after the race.

I think the answer is a bit like this:
  • hug someone
  • ask for something to eat, probably a banana and a vile protein bar, and some water to get it in me.
  • attempt to remove sports bra
  • ask for photo to be taken before removal of sports bra
  • drink water
  • remove sports bra successfully
  • walk around in a sport of Julie Moss about to collapse fashion
  • text my nearest and dearest
  • look at my watch to see the time
  • marvel at the mud on me
  • ask for a photo of the mud
  • ask for more food
  • eat a passerby.

The real secret of the Tarahumara

From Chris McDougall's Born to Run

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Sick :(

I'm home sick sipping a lot of honey and ginger, eating even more of the same, drinking vitamin c and zinc and swallowing decongestant, cold and flu tablets, antihistamines and antibiotics like I am in the valley of the dolls. Oh and some cough medicine too. And then there's the lung steroids.

I hate taper.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Alternative Valentine

From Chris McDougall's Born to Run

More supportive than a sports bra

There are lots of people who have got me to where I am, this close to the start line. Some of them don’t want to be named on the

internet, which, given the search terms by which my site is found, that is probably a wise choice. Some people don’t even know they have supported me, so this post is for you too.

Thanks to the patience of those who have to live, eat, sleep and see me nearly every day. It’s very boring listening to someone talking about running, and probably quite hard to handle when you know I'm so proud of the thing that is making me boring!

Thanks to all the running tweeps (really did I just use that word) who gave me practical advice, encouragement or just headed out the door the same time. Thanks to those who don’t even realise they are an inspiration through their 140 characters of daily life insight.

Thanks to my non running friends for understanding why I can’t easily go out, see them, plan on weekends or eat anything interesting on certain nights. Thanks for putting up with this and not making me feel bad. Thanks especially to everyone who has texted, emailed, facebooked a message of support for the big runs, and thanks to those who might not realise it, but remembered and supported every single run.

I could not have done this without you.

So it seems fitting that my post on Ystävänpäivä is for you.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Sitting still

I'm sitting still.

Actually I'm not sitting still. My right leg is jiggling in only a way a leg can when it's not used to sitting still. My stomach muscles are quivering a bit too, following an hour of pilates excess.

Inside I am definitely not sitting still. My insides are running around my circulatory system at 100 miles an hour. But I am technically sitting still. I am not running anyway.

When I go to sleep, the sheets bounce off my chest with the thump of my heart. Really. My ears are full of the beat and my breathing is hard. Just a bit of adrenaline then.

I should not have had the slice of cheesecake this close to bedtime.

There is never any sitting still during taper...

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Seven more sleeps

I've just made an appointment for a last stretch before the run with my osteo. I'm making a list of what to eat and drink during the week and when - and what meetings I need to shuffle around for both of these things.

I'm considering going for a run at 1030pm as I am anxious because my weekend's running was not too good. I'm also clearing my evenings this week because the reality of a decent run after 10pm is a bit ridiculous. Maybe I can get a good one in on Tuesday...

These are the kinds of things I am doing because there are only seven more sleeps. Seven.

Saturday, 11 February 2012


I was set for a lovely 13 mile run on beautiful blue sky cloudless sunny day (albeit minus 6C) and I had to go and ruin it by eating snow. Or at least I think that was the cause of what gave me stomach cramps. I don't know what came over me and I am trying not to have a fit of giggle as I write this, but I was running through the park and it all looked so beautiful and powdery and the next thing I knew, I had a fistful of fresh white stuff and was eating it.

It was all rather refreshing but I had to end my run at 14kms due to stomach cramps and then felt sick and achy for the rest of the afternoon. I'm sure the latter can't be due to snow eating so maybe I fighting off a lurgy.

And that's the story of my silly day.

Unfortunately it seems to be a thing I do, here's a pic from several years ago...

Things about the London Ultra

So some lovely people who feign interest in this stuff that I do have asked about the race itself. If you're so inclined there's a tonne of info on the official site but if you want details at a glimpse here you go:

NEWS! The lovely @mrnimby is going to tweet checkpoint times using #rowena50 for anyone wanting to stand in a South London Park

Distance: 31 miles / 50km
Route: Capital Ring from Grove Park to Perivale. Yes I don't know where either of them are either.
Terrain: mud trails through green parks linked by suburban roads and footpaths.
Hills: god yes
How long might this take me to finish: Let's say I'm there for the day. I start at 9am and if it was a flat road I would say I would be done by 2:30. Add food, hills and navigation.
Spectator points: Why, yes you mad person, you can either stand by a South London station or eat cake at a checkpoint. See below.
Route map: over here
Keeping in touch: I'll be ringing home as I pass through kms 10, 20, 30 and 40. I will be able to receive messages at +44 79 793 05422. I won't tweet till it's over. The lovely @mrnimby is going to tweet checkpoint times using #rowena50 for anyone wanting to stand in a South London Park.

Watching the London Ultra: so if you like standing around in the cold you could go to:
0900: The start, 147 Marvels Lane, London SE12 9PP. Here I'll be very cold and anxious and probably not talking much.
1000h: 9.5km (1 hour) Aldersmead Road (sort of near Beckenham)
11am: 17km Streatham Common South
midday: 28km Wimbledon Park Road
1300: 39kms Ranelagh Road, Richmond
50kms Perivale Track

At all these points there should be some sort of table or something as a checkpoint.

In addition, I can confirm that fellow runners will be streaming past the following commonly used stations: Penge East and West, Crystal Palace, Wandsworth Common, Earlsfield and Wimbledon Park. I just don't how those commuters are going to contain themselves.

A note of warning if anyone does venture to a checkpoint, firstly, I could be a good 40 minutes slower than I anticipate and secondly and most importantly, if you touch my cake, I kill you.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Last half

Tomorrow marks my last half marathon before winding down before the big day. I'm hoping it's not too icy round the flyovers as I am going to tackle the hills at 9am, the same time as I will be heading out next Sunday.

Feeling pretty good. Naturally you always focus on something that you wished you'd done better in training. I'm wishing I did more pilates and that I did even 5km the day after the marathon run. I don't know why, we all need to fixate on something during taper

Last night I checked all my maps and feel good about navigating. I've also identified the 10km marker checkpoints at which there is cake. I repeat, cake.

Next week I am going to have to work really hard to focus on nutrition and hydration as it's a busy week at work. Perhaps I'll be lucky enough to recruit some supportive people in my team to always nudge me to a glass of water and a jacket potato!

I also have to cover my maps in contact. And I need to find out what you call contact in this country. (It's the plastic adhesive you put on school books). I've got to buy a new ear warmer, write my kit list, book a taxi to the start, write my eating plans, write my visualisations and mantra. And breathe.

But first, a final half.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Sweet little sixteen

Hot on the heels of my visit to the wonderful Galina, osteo to the stars, I had a grand old 16km hill run on Tuesday - leaving work early, arriving home to clothes all laid out neat and a charged ipod (trust me, all these things are a rarity) and hit the hills around NW London. It was minus three celcius, but I didn't know that, so I was quite cold, and singing a lot of 90s powerballads and quite frankly had the best time ever!

The moon was full, the hills were a nice mix of challenging and fun and I felt like I could tackle anything including repeating the run another two times (and then some).

Monday, 6 February 2012

Because you can't, you won't and you don't stop

Or more to the point, you shouldn't stop.

I have just come back from my amazing pilates / osteo / acupuncturing guru where I thought I would be told I had plantar fascia, or some other awful thing that would stop me running ever again. Fortunately I don't.

I have, it seems, quite the opposite. I need to get out and run more, do a gentle runstreak. It seems the shock of stopping running quite suddenly albeit for four days, has brought all the inflammation and trauma caused by running to top of my skin and the pingiest part of my nerve endings. And I am so pumped full of adrenalin I can't sleep. And my inflammation is kicking in during the early hours of the morning. And my feet are bruised because my capillaries are broken from the running and my body can and will demonstrate all that now I'm not running.

So apparently the trick is (after a good bout of stretching, massage and pilates) to ice the already broken bits and keep my body thinking I am running by running.

So I'm off to hopefully get my first decent night's sleep in week or so and then tomorrow let's hit the road again.

Because I can't, I won't and I shouldn't stop.

Thank you Beastie Boys

Sunday, 5 February 2012


Definition: "the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition".

Also the period where everything in your body aches, you get niggles in places you don't know niggled and you have a pathological fear of being crushed by a tourist's suitcase as it goes falling down an escalator.

A period of spending much money buying kit, eating food, purchasing things to play with and do after the race.

A period of tiredness and laziness.

Below: a Malaysian tapir. Not dissimilar to myself, a Malaysian, tapering.