Sunday, 20 November 2011

A toe in the water

The recovery plan for my oedema was to run 5kms on a treadmill, then 5km on the road and then a longer run and then it should be ok (as long as I do the 101 other things I had to do to aid recovery). So the dreadmill run was endured (with thanks to CBBC for providing something really mindless to watch); I’ve never panted or sweat so much in my life (and I have run in some very polluted and hot places)! How do people run in gyms?! Any way, instead of running 5km that evening on the road, I fell asleep. I know, that is what treadmill running does to you – bores you to a stupor.

So the next day, I had to be out and about for a good five hours, which really called for a long run in countryside, so off I went to Watford and reverse ran the half marathon off the weekend before. I tested out the foot at 5km and 10km; it seemed to still be attached my foot with behaving ligament so I did 15km and called it a day. Yippee!

It was a WONDERFUL day for a run. Even though I had planned for blue skies and 13C (never trust the BBC), I managed to dig out all my winter kit and extreme high vis because it was about 8C and foggy as Ripper’s London. As @mrafletch said, it was like running in Tupperware. about for a good five hours, which really called for a long run in countryside, so off I went to Watford and reverse ran the half marathon off the weekend before. I tested out the foot at 5km and 10km; it seemed to still be attached my foot with behaving ligament so I did 15km and called it a day. Yippee!

There’s something quite haunting about canals in the fog and other than Cassiobury Park where I started, the route was pretty desolate of company. I couldn’t even find my way out of the park to the canal without asking directions and when people found out I was running to Uxbridge, they thought I was brave. Me, brave?! No just silly. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do something that other people can’t even contemplate.

There was a patch of muddy orange leafed wooded area before I got onto the canal and I just span around in circles with my arms out going “this is all mine – and it’s mine because I run through it.” I get a little giddy when I can throw some clothes and fuel in a tiny camelbak and be out all day frolicking in the woods – it really makes you feel alive.

Would you buy me a beer for a good cause?

My running challenge started in Turkey a country that conjures images of whirling dervishes, sunny beaches, soaring minarets and bustling bazaars. But it’s also a country with a dubious human rights record and where sadly torture is still a present danger for certain groups of people. It seems a fitting place to start my series of fundraising runs for the charity Freedom from Torture.

Freedom from Torture, is the only registered charity in the UK which exclusively supports survivors of torture and organised violence. Operating for over 25 years, they aim to rehabilitate individuals back in to society where they may rebuild their own human dignity and worth. Their services adapt to meet the needs of torture survivors so they can find new ways of meeting their changing needs. Such services can be difficult to fund as torture is not an unappealing and challenging subject.

This first event in Turkey was a relatively easy one – 15km from the Asian to European side of Turkey. But it was still a challenge, because as recently as May I suffered from a stress reaction on the soles of my feet that prevented me from walking – not ideal for a runner! The next event will be a gentle step up to a half marathon, only it will be run in Tromso, northern Norway at the Arctic Circle and the town will not have seen sunlight for six weeks! Finally, I’ll be running in the UK – a 50km self-navigating and self-supporting run around a section of the Capital Ring

As I get up nearly every morning and train (four sessions of running, one of personal training one of pilates!) I’ll be keeping the clients of Freedom of Torture in mind. The softly spoken man reading poetry to express his pain, viewing drawings by children who have witnessed unspeakable violence, or recalling the proud smile from a client who has baked bread in a support group – these images will come with me as I run the streets, and hopefully will come to you as you consider a small donation to support the good work of the charity.

I run because "it's the challenge that you choose, rather than the challenge that chooses you." So my modest running debuts of 5km races were in memory of friends who had died of specific conditions and the charities that work to stop that happening. I've since tackled bigger running events, for bigger charities, small charities and grant giving organisations. I’ve been a supporter of Freedom from Torture for about five years now, and I am delighted to be running for this cause.

At many Freedom from Torture events, I've been able to meet their clients, people who have been victims of torture. I've never come away from one of these events with dry eyes. But I've always come away deeply impressed with the charity's work.

I've heard about the work they do, I've read the writings that come from expressive therapy, and creative writing classes. I've eaten bread made by a women's only group whose commonality is the dough they make and the pain they carry. I've smelt the tomatoes grown in their garden refuge, where stones mark tributes to fallen friends and spell out the word "Why".

I've heard from women just like me, and men who could be my father. I've met therapists and Chief Executives and stared in stunned admiration at their volunteer medical practitioners as they talk of their work. I've demanded loads from their communications and marketing folk and joined a local group.

I can't think of a charity that has made me feel more welcome as a supporter - imagine how they make someone feel who has been a victim of horrific torture.

So spurred on by hard working local group at Hampstead and Highgate, I'll be tackling these three events and donating all funds to the charity. My events will not incur the charity any money, other than fundraising fees set by the website, just giving.

I thought if everyone I knew, and everyone who reads this post could buy me a pint of beer equivalent for doing these runs, we'd easily hit the target. 75p of every pound donated goes to running services. You can do donate now.

Thank you.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Funky Old Oedema

Good news on the ligament front. I'm allowed to start running again. The decision (a loose variation of doctor's orders) is to run 5km on a treadmill (ugh) in the morning, followed by 5km on the road that evening, subject to the morning's run going well. The next day, if there is no pain, I'll run a half marathon. And if there is no further pain, I'll make up the back-to-back later in the week (as I was due to run 20km and 15km this weekend)

My Healer, Galina suggested 5km treadmill day one, 5km road day two, then back to training plan. My changes will allow me to test out the foot a bit more in a real ie non treadmill environment.

I'm so happy and really confident that the ligament will be ok. Now I know what's going on I can take good care of it. I've also been told to turn my feet over faster, shorten my gait, stay light when I strike and roll inwards more. Not much to think about then!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Funky Cold Oedema

So the crippling pain in my right foot when I walk, that's a ligament that got so swollen it's got a name - we call it oedema apparently. It means a lot of resting, icing and not running.


So I'm hitting the pools for running and swimming and if I get better maybe I can run in a harness (yes like a baby walker) on a treadmill, or on a treadmill, but maybe not at all. Nailbiting stuff eh.

I'm going to stay positive, enjoy the pool breaks and think of the long term plan.

On Friday I get the verdict of whether I can run more or not...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Doing things by halves

So immediately following my trip to Italy, I ran a half marathon. My feet had been playing up a little which I put down to scrambling over cobblestones in vibram five fingers. The half was organised by Purple Patch Running whom I had never heard of before but am now such a fan that I might go on holiday with them to run more. It’s an addiction folks.

The location was Uxbridge – a part of the country that likes to think it’s London because the tube goes there but really isn’t. It was a beautiful autumnal day, the kind you’d want to run 13 miles in even if you didn’t. I have to admit I was a bit nervous when I got there. Girls never tend to do events on their own (what is up with us woman folk?!) so you end up standing around like a lost pony amongst gabbling groups of girl friends and smiling nervously at some lone man who looks like he runs marathons for breakfast.

The course was very slow; canal towpaths being generally single file and the one or two stiles and locks we had to navigate proved a bottleneck robbing at least 45 seconds of time. But a sense of order quickly followed and it was useful to pick people to keep on the pace of or keep up with. I was careful to only let men pass me (there's got to be some element of competition!) and held my pace confidently as I moved up the ranks.

Feet behaved marvellously, I was beginning to think the problem is when I walk, not when I run! Fitness was great – being so close to other competitors I realise how other people sound like they are seconds away from a cardiac arrest. I kept deliberately conservative, not wanting to aggravate the broken toe any further (naturally it got stubbed in Italy and was a bit tender!)

Despite the route being spectacularly beautiful (who would know there are lakes in Uxbridge) I did get bored around mile 11. But mile 12 proved a bit of a slug so I had something to focus on. The last half a mile always seems like an ordeal and even at the 400m sign I couldn’t see the finish and hard to work at it. For some reason I depended to do a real sprint finish– not for any timing reasons but just because that is what one does, no? The result is some spectacularly awful gurning pics as I heaved my way to the finish line.

My time, including all stops for traffic, congestion etc was 2:11 and given that I had lots more in my legs and plenty of fire in my belly if I needed to keep running, I was really pleased. The feet and toes were happy and only my right IT band was whingeing.

Hooray for halves. I've got to do another one this weekend...(and a 15km the following day!)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Firenze Training Camp (or what I did on my holidays!)

A four day holiday in Firenze sounds like bliss, and it was, but with only 15 weeks between now and London Ultra, I still had to run. So here's how the running elements of the trip were incorporated:

Carb loading: lots of fabulous ravioli, bursting with ricotta (also dripping in butter and sage). Spectacular pizza made by real Napoli pizza folk, including a Calzone erupting with topping. Cakes and biscotti for breakfast, daily.

Protein recovery: typical Tuscan bistecca Florentine (burnt edges, raw inside), Tuscan crostini (topped with liver, chicken hearts and anchovies), day old cabbage soup. Platter of cured meats including possibly a pressed head. Shudder. These Tuscans are hard core.

Interval training: 600m to 800m bursts from bridge to bridge along the Fiume and Arno rivers at sunrise, stopping to take pics of the amazing views. (see above)

Cross training: climbing up hills and clambering cobble stone streets for kilometres while sightseeing.

Breathing: focussed breathing exercises, comprising of Ooohs and Aahs when confronted with amazing art and architecture.

Inspiration: Friendly running community (only two weeks to Florence Marathon), mostly older men, very cheery and great for friendly waves across the bridge. Chiselled bodies of sculptures also very inspiring (though the men get great quads, the women got soft bellies)

Injuries: lots of foot pain from dodgy potholes and clambering around in Vibram Five Fingers. Gained a few extra kilos and will probably never regain the years lost to eating that much meat in a single night. All injuries treated with ice, or more to the point fabulous all natural gelati in closed vats, including pear and red peppercorns.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Viva Italia + then a half

So in 12 hours I will be on a plane to Firenze. I am going to eat cow's tripe that has been boiled in broth in a paninni (it's a local speciality) and my own body weight in gelati. I will seek out Napoli pizza and eat tiny cakes with fistfuls of cream. I will sip vino and campari like a fish.

Then, on Sunday, less than 12 hours after I land, I will run the Grand Union Half Marathon. It will be my furthest run of the year.

Somewhere in between these two occasions, I will probably ink myself with fear. Oh well.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Running in the wild

On Saturday I ran up the Edgware Rd for 8kms and then back again. For those with a basic grasp of London, running 8km out from zone 3 pretty soon delivers you into No Man's Land: an area of 24hour Asdas, Matalans and Mecca Bingos repeating every 2 km so that you lose track of where you are. You run into ringroads and overpasses and the space beneath them where rose sellers dwell. I'm not painting a pretty picture am I? So I was most struck with the plan of taking a train out of London and running in the countryside. I got some expert help on places to start, routes to take and then used MapMyRun to find my exact trail. The night before was some googling of epic proportions.

On Sunday I was delighted to make my way to Cricklewood Station, having learned that this station of no real geographical significance, is very close to me, and is an express to the Home County of Hertfordshire. I detrained (as they say now a days) at the quaint village of Radlett, a place where everyone drives a 4x4 and has a Very Big House. I suspect that Madonna owns a house like this for the days when she needs to be close to Luton airport; it is that kind of place.

I scurried up a road with some confidence, as the street sign matched my Google map and trotted off, jaw hanging open at some of the epic and beautiful houses, coupled with epic and beautiful gardens. The locals must be awful nice, as they were very patient with me pointing a camera down their

hedges and taking pics of horse manure, despite the massive potential for running me down in their 4x4s and them not feeling a thing.
My route map quickly ended with marked roads and disappeared into "green space" which I mistook for a field I needed because it was very well signposted. I had a little run in this field, but didn't know where it went (there are never clearly signposted exits in fields), so I ran out again and found someone posh to ask who confirmed I was running in the wrong direction. I then found a tiny waymarker (the little signs that English ramblers use to both navigate the countryside and test their eye sight) which split immediately into two paths. By this stage I was letting my Australian accent out in full force so I didn't feel half as stupid to be told by a Rambler With Dog that the paths reunited 25m later.

RWD and I came across each other again when I failed to spot what to do after a stile (I was in a field with horses). He explained that I should follow the river, dog leg after the smug oak, do something else at Park St and for god's sake carry an Ordanance Survey Map.

I immediately forgot nearly everything he told me, ran into a field, ploughed some furrows, got lost and ran back. I decided that RWD must have gone ahead by now and perhaps I could follow him. But he was nowhere to be seen. I repeated the field ploughing and emerged into another field. Jumped a stile. Ended up in a field. Between these fields are signs saying "this is really ever so posh Equestrian School's private training field and so you should not be there, commoner". This made me anxious to understand if I was in the right fields. I decided to keep to anything mucky and to let the Aussie accent talk me out of anything.

It really was a lovely run, or more like, a series of intervals. I kept stopping to test out the new camera - there were blackberries, rosehips, sloe berries and all those little English things that are still so exciting to me! There were little streams and stinging nettles and not a single poisonous snake or spider to worry about. And I never felt like someone was going to murder me (that's a Hackney reference yeah).

I really didn't know where I was going a lot of the time but I had such fun it didn't matter. I squelched in mud, fell over, stared at piles of animal poo. The only incident I had was when I ran into some cows. Not literally. I came over a stile, ran into someone's field, ploughed a furrow and there were The Cows. And I was wearing red. And some of them had horns. I don't like cows. Not because I think they're malicious like in a Far Side cartoon but because they are really big. In the same way a hippo doesn't want to squash you but you're in their way. So I spent a lot of time in that field with the cows, edging nervously around the edge of the field, with a keen eye and whispered mantra on what to do if one caramel fudge coloured beastie made a move for me. In fact Caramel Cow had such a glare about her, that she actually stared me out of the field, walking backwards and I went the other way around the field which was actually through a quagmire. But not to be mistaken for Sinking Mud, for I came across that too on my adventure. And a Smug Oak...

The run took me through Park Street, which misleadingly is not a street, but a village or town and is a bit chavvy if you ask me. But if you live there and read this, you didn't ask me, so please just ignore this statement. I ended up in St Albans, which I have learned has two train stations, a lot of people who have lunch on the weekend and no greasy spoon cafe (or at least not one that wasn't boarded up to turn into a brasserie).

As well as being thoroughly amusing, the run was great for my feet, ankles and knees, giving them some different terrain to get a grip on. I honestly think if I ran over those fields every run I'd be a way better runner than a canal runner. But I'd had to have words with the cows first...