Life, Running

Party Time

You know you’ve had a successful party when, despite two good downpours and the need to hold down the collapsible (and occasionally collapsing) gazebo when the gusts whipped up for a short time, everyone remains in good humour, and eats and drinks well. Such was the case yesterday, when some of Anne’s siblings and mine, as well as an assortment of nieces, nephews, children and a mother, over thirty people in total, came to ours for a family shindig.

We don’t have the biggest of houses, but we do have a nice long garden, so we were hoping for a continuation of the glorious week day weather for Saturday. The forecast, however, wasn’t looking all that happy. Sometimes it was rain all afternoon, with 30 mph wind gusts, sometimes the winds calmed down to 25. Either way, I was being a negative pain in the backside all week to Anne, who firmly believed another forecasting website, which painted a rosier future.

A toddler with a chocolate ice cream face and a chocolatey top
Alf, enjoying his nanny’s home made chocolate ice cream. He binned the empty cone

As it turned out we were both right, in parts. For the vast majority of the day, the rain held off, and a blue sky and jovial sun were frequently spotted. Our two families mingled, children ran amok, and our week long efforts to give the house and garden a really good spring clean were worth it. We’d borrowed some extra garden furniture from the neighbours, and brought down some of Alf’s toys that were waterproof and everyone went home happy.

Ironically, even though we were well stocked up on the booze, I only ended up having the odd glass of fizz or Pimms, because when you’re hosting, it’s no good getting too soporific until the puddings have been dished out. And surprisingly, despite my glum feelings for last week’s half, I felt like I still wanted to be clear headed enough to get a long run in today.

Is this a sign of maturity?

Probably not, but there has been a shift in my perspective. Possibly since I’ve had this bee in my bonnet about attempting another marathon next year. And as I’ve got another half at the beginning of September, I’ve not got much time to sit around.

Although I have zero wish to give up alcohol, I have noticed, in the last year or two, that it goes to my head much quicker, and makes my body, as well as my head, ache the following day if I have a few too many. It could all be part of the pre-menopause stage. Having three older sisters all currently going through ‘the change’, I’m being uber-vigilant for the signs in myself. However, as I’ve always had a memory like a sieve, and as my body lately seems set on dumping out my eggs more quickly than normal, I can’t work out if anything’s imminent.

At the rate the ‘free’ world is going, by the time I am in need of it, HRT will probably be a banned substance, and drug companies will probably be switching their product lines to Viagra.

But! Have a deep breath, and think back to the party.

What with one thing and another, it has been rather wonderful for the immediate clan to catch up on a purely social occasion. Anne’s mum, who is the final parent standing for the two of us, held court beneath the more sturdy, wooden gazebo, and it was so nice for our two families to sit and relax and get to know one another, while some smooth jazz playlist emanated from my little speaker. The last time we attempted it was four years ago, in March, when Anne turned sixty and our event was attacked by the ‘Beast from the East’, as that particular meteorological phenomenon was dubbed. At least we didn’t need any ice for the drinks back then.

Hopefully, it won’t be another four years ‘til the next party, but in the meantime, there are a few pieces of pudding to finish off.


Rhyl Half Marathon

Well, I didn’t realise quite how popular Harry Styles is.

Standing on the platform at Rhyl, yesterday, I heard one young man (late twenties – and, I reckoned, straight) chatting on the phone, moaning about his horrendous train journey thus far, and looking forward to the concert tomorrow night. Then, within three minutes, a group of middle-aged women gathering for a weekend of jollies in Liverpool (and starting the party early) were rating his Manchester gig very favourably. So quite a wide demographic. I ought to have a listen to some of his tunes.

A seagull on the platform
Not Harry, but a seagull on the platform, eyeing up my sandwich.

I haven’t been on a train in ages, and I’ve missed the ability to people-watch, especially at the weekend. It was only a last minute decision, instead of driving, as despite the hike in petrol prices, tickets are still prohibitively expensive, especially for longer trips. But I was awake early enough and decided to jog down to my local station.

Should I have booked to go on this race in the first place?

Given that my last several long runs felt like fails, I knew this might shake my confidence even more. And, heading back home, exhausted and dispirited, I nearly went under a wave of self-pity, but was saved by the weird and wonderful variety of people squeezing into the steel carriages.

I’m glad I’m writing this today, with a bit of hindsight and a proper look at my stats. I feel a bit more objective about the experience. The Half Marathon course, at Rhyl, appears mainly to follow the waterfront to Prestatyn and back. It’s definitely the nicest looking part, as the town centre has a little sad, charity store and betting shop vibe.

It’s a very flat course and known to offer the potential for a personal best if the weather is right. The weather was pretty good, but I got nowhere near any PB. In fact, it was the slowest Half I’ve probably done. So what went wrong?

Firstly, I made the cardinal mistake of starting off a little too fast. I could still talk, in short spurts, but I knew I was at the top end of comfortable. I ran the first 7 miles with two local women who regularly used this route for their training runs. This was their first Half ever, and they were in their late fifties, and I let them go ahead, after the turnaround as I couldn’t keep up their pace. Dispiriting much?!

Secondly, the route was mainly all on the concrete prom, as opposed to tarmacked roads, and it felt harder underfoot. I even started to get cramp twinges midway through. They do say to train for the terrain that you will have on race day, and, aside from being fitter than me, that could be another reason why the Rhyl ladies had an advantage.

Thirdly, enjoying a run-free holiday with the family, is probably not the best preparation for a race, but our little place amongst the pines, at the Center Parcs in Whinfell forest, was very relaxing, or as relaxing as it can be with an exuberant three year old. Alf got to swim every day and get really confident on his balance bike. His three month old, more chilled out, brother, Leo, got happily passed amongst his folks and the two sets of grandparents. We adults also passed around the fizz generously, so although there was plenty of opportunity to run for me, I never got my trainers out once.

Overall, at Rhyl, I averaged just under 11 and a half minute miles, which is slower than my Scottish Half, last September, but a bit faster than all my recent long runs. It does feel a little bit like I’m going backwards but I’m not as despondent as I was yesterday.

The next step, I think, is to get a bit of advice about building in a little strength-training (which is no bad thing given my age) and cross-training to see if I can turn things around in time for Carnarvon in September. Otherwise I won’t be looking at a marathon for my 50th next year.

I have to remind myself that I’m still getting out there, and mostly, enjoying my runs. And it gives me the excuse to, occasionally, hop on a train to see a new place.


Long Run Blues


Never mind hitting a plateau, I think I’m rolling backwards like a large, weighty moss-repellent stone.

I’ve just walked in from a long run, hoping to hit the elusive 13, ready to be content with a steady 12, and I’ve managed a pathetic 9 and a bit miles. My legs muscles are aching like they might have if I’d done 16, and I’m totally clueless as to why it’s all gone a bit Pete Tong so very quickly, especially as I’ve now booked myself onto a replacement Half in two weeks time.

I had a good meal last night: an inadvertent nod to Her Maj’s deceased other half, ‘Phileep’. A Greek moussaka with added sides of dolmades and plaki etc. I had one alcohol free beer and a tiny piece of cake. I had a good night’s sleep and my regular porridge this morning, a couple of hours before the run. Plus my two gels and some water for the duration. The only thing different were my new trainers.

New Trainers, dark pink and blue
I seemed to have bought odd lace sizes. Perhaps that and the shocking colour clash with my socks jinxed my whole run?

Now I know they should be broken in, and I had done about three 4 to 5 milers in them before putting them away for later. The only reason I got them out today was to try and give me a little oomph.

Maybe they were the culprits, but I’m still not convinced. For one thing my feet felt fantastically comfortable in them, and for the first three or four miles I was consciously forcing myself to go slower because they wanted to bound along at a happy clip.

It was raining when I went out. Not bucketing, but that steadily dripping tap which soaks in quite quickly. This was a first for me, as I’m very much a fair-weather plodder, but I gave myself an ‘I’m a big girl’ and ‘my apple phone is waterproof now’ talk and gingerly stepped outside. The temperature, once I got going, was perfect really, not cold at all but not overly hot, and as I said, with these trainers I had a spring in my step.

I know it’s only the beginning, but the hedgerows are verdant and you can just feel, despite the rain, that Summer has really taken hold. In fact, I felt I had landed into a scene from that folk-horror film Midsommer, when I disturbed, below some red, white and blue bunting, a magpie pecking away cannibalistically at the entrails of a recently expired feathered creature.

This unsettling vision was during the end of my run, at the point when it had become a sulky walk. The kind of walk that doesn’t even entertain the idea of trying to speed up to a gentle canter because it’s completely fed up with the whole concept of movement to begin with.

I’m not averse to all the union flags wafting about for the Queen’s marathon of a reign so long as they’re taken down eventually, and I did find some inventive decorations along my route, such as this gnomic homage.

A red, white and blue balloon and flag display outside of a home, with several gnomes.
The mini vw van lends a touch of extra class I think

That’s one woman who has worked out how to go the distance alright. Seventy years in the hot seat, over a period of immense social and technological change, while contending with a more than averagely dysfunctional family, is quite impressive. Anne did read a slightly contrary view somewhere. Apparently, in Scotland, the letter boxes do not have the EllR on them because she is technically the first Elizabeth to have dominion over Scotland. The union didn’t happen until after England’s Liz the First died, when she was succeeded by James, the Scottish king, whose mum had been done away with by Liz. So it’s kind of understandable that they’d be a tad tetchy about it still.

Tomorrow, we are trooping into the bunting bedecked garden of our neighbour for a little BBQ and many glasses will be raised to Her Maj, Elizabeth the Second (or First). But today, now that I’ve used this blog to spit my dummy out, I will go back to the drawing board and try and work out what I need to do to get better.