Daisies

June 24, 2010

Daisy

We got our first sight of the lovely Daisy sitting in the tall car area of the Gatwick airport arrivals car park. Nanna and Grandad’s latest baby is a brilliant VW camper van. A VW T25, known in the States as a vanagon, so not the classic icon that you envisage when you say “VW camper van” and that currently appears to be the design focus of numerous t-shirts, mugs and what not in every store in England at the moment, but a gem nonetheless. Daisy immediately proved her worth by comfortably fitting all the Allen luggage and our single jogging stroller into her hold with no overspill. We rode back to Tavistock in style with myself passed out in the front, occasionally waking to freak out momentarily at falling asleep at the wheel before remembering I was back in England now and the driver’s seat was next to me, while two tired children, Nanna and a big black dog (that would be Molly) stretched out in the back.

Poor Bea was ill as we travelled down to Devon and Daisy proved to be a godsend in that instance too as Nanna had plenty of room and a bucket on hand to deal with my little sick moppet.

When we stopped en route for a break Daisy’s top got popped, a cuppa brewed and biscuits produced. Brilliant.

In the past four weeks we’ve action tested Daisy twice for camping and have another campsite booked for our imminent arrival. Here’s my little happy campers munching on pasties at Old MacDonald’s Farm, our virgin camping expedition to the North Cornwall coast:

Daisy, sproglets and pasties.

Three cheers for Daisy!

Daisy Two

Little Daisy is a red wagon which is doing a grand job of hauling Sam and Bea around Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. Little Daisy garnered lots of positive attention as we wandered the Royal Cornwall Show and has been up hill, down many a dale with its hefty load.

Little Daisy at the Royal Cornwall Show

Little Daisy at Pork Hill

She nestles nicely inside Daisy’s hold and is always ready for action and adventure. Daisy and Little Daisy are like Thunderbird 2 carrying a pod containing Thunderbird 4, except a lot smaller, quicker and we don’t have a hidden runway disguised by palm trees.

Daisy Three

Perched on top of the hill just up the lane from us on Whitchurch Down, its boundaries marked by a ring of granite standing stones is Tavistock Cricket Club. During non club hours Dartmoor ponies, sheep, and sometimes cows, freely wander through the open ring and stake claim to the grass, though they are prohibited from trying out for the local team by an electrified fence that protects the pitch. A walk straight across the green is a common short cut for us to cross the Down and head into Tavistock proper. I was taking Bea out and over for one such stroll into town when I realised that the white line connecting the stones around the field was not sprayed grass as I had at first assumed, but instead is a ring of pretty white daisies.

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Upsy Daisy

Daisy Five

My final Daisy is the avian self proclaimed matriarch of the Prout household. She lives in a large cage in the farmhouse kitchen, spends her lives strutting up and down the wire walls shouting loud authoritative greetings and orders to all who enter, and anyone in earshot (which is quite a distance). When Lynsey Prout, Bawcombe Farm’s real firm rod of discipline is out roaming around, supervising foster children, or terrorising local rugby teams (on pitch and in t’pub) Daisy does a fine job of substitute. If you didn’t know better you would think it was the youngest Prout sister herself shouting at you from the kitchen and making you quake.

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Happy Father’s Day to Bill, all on his own in Charlotte (not counting the grumpy dog)

June 18, 2010

The Ashridge crew are all just getting things together and about to head off in the camper van to Dorset for another camping weekend by the coast. We’ll be seeing my Aunt Jenny and her girls. I’m looking forward to meeting Sophie, the newest Nicholson, who was a big bump in cousin Lucy’s tummy last time I saw her.

Before we go trotting off though I wanted to send big hugs and kisses to my super husband. I’m not sure when I’ll be online, if at all, over the weekend. Sunday is of course Father’s Day and so I am feeling especially bad that I don’t think we’ll be able to get in touch until we get back on Tuesday. I’ll try to get the kids rounded up for webcam with you then though.

Bill, the kids and I love you and do miss you very much. Thanks for letting us come over to play in England with Nanna and Grandad. I know it’s hard on you to be without the kids for so long. They are having a great time though and it means a lot to us.

Have a lovely Father’s Day, hope you get to play some tennis and not work too hard.

Oh and Bill, it’s absolutely beautiful here. Sunny and warm right now. About right that you are missing England at its finest. I’ll have to remember to pack double raincoats and wellies next time you come over with us, it seems to be doing the trick.

Ok, I’m going to start getting the lazy comments from Mum in a minute if I don’t make an appearance downstairs now.

xxx and Happy Father’s Day to a great daddy and brilliant husband. Wish I could teleport back for the day to spend it with you.

Right, not I’m gone. Bye.

The further adventures of Snuggle Pea.

June 8, 2010

While I was engrossed in journal land Bea got all dressed up and accompanied Grandad for a walk on the moors with Molly this morning. She wore her little wellies and waterproof puddle suit and rode in the jogging stroller. When they returned I heard that they had been to see lots of Dartmoor ponies and sheep, and had examined many trees on their journey. Bea didn’t stay in the stroller and Grandad and grandaughter pottered through the bracken and gorse together after Molly.

Three hours later it was time for a very sleepy Beatrice to have a nap. I went to put her into her bed and looked around for Snuggle Pea. Hmmm, couldn’t find her. I was hunting through the house for her with no luck. This is when Grandad piped up “Oh, Bea had Snuggle Pea on the moors!”

Yes, you’ve guessed it. Snuggle Pea went for a walk with Bea up onto the Pimple, but did not make the return trip.

I’ve just got back from scouring the route they took. Grandad went one way and directed me to attack it from the other direction. My search was fruitless and I was getting very worried when I came across man and dog picking their way through the sheep paths towards me with no Snuggle Pea in hand. Then, there, just as we rejoined company, lay the little blue sleeping doll off the track and amongst the young ferns. Thank goodness for that. Molly got to her first and gave her a good poopy jaw kiss, lovely.

We found her just in time. As we walked back to the lane the dry interlude ended and it started to rain heavily once more.

River Bound 10k – May 22nd

June 8, 2010

The full official results and photos for this race finally appeared online yesterday after a long wait. No fun on the trail pictures but look, here I am back on the podium!

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I almost didn’t sign up to do this one and was eventually propelled to sign up late for three reasons:

1) I’d talked my friend Andrea into going off road and trying out trail running. This was going to be her first race out in the woods and I wanted to be there.

2) Bill’s parents were visiting from Milledgeville and Bill encouraged me to sign up so we could all enjoy a nice morning at the USNWC and show his folks what a lovely facility they have there. We thought it would be an interesting place to show them as it’s always fun to watch the white water action. The kids also love to climb the mini rock climbing boulders, though I’d have been quite impressed if Granma and Granpa would join in with that.

3) It was a week after my exploits at the Twisted Ankle half marathon. Originally this was more of a why I wasn’t going to sign up, but getting lost on trail rather left me with a cursed feeling I needed to kill and I decided the best way to do that was get right back on the trail and run it to death.

Of course, having signed up I then proceeded to have a terrible week where each of the kids was poorly and sick, culminating in my joining in and cultivating a terrible cold of my own. Come race day I wasn’t feeling so great. Staying in bed would have been lovely but now I felt obligated to run, so it was another early morning off to the USNWC for me.

As soon as I arrived I was a bit thrown and pleasantly surprised. Every race at the centre has started and finished in the top gravel car park at the North/South/Green split trail head. Today I drove up and there was no one there. This was a bit unsettling until I spotted the large race set up over on the other side of the white water rapids. Ooooh. This was a bit of a new twist. A different start, and boded well for avoiding the challenging gravel hill grind to the finish I have come to hate. Interesting.

With no sign of Andrea yet I went on and collected my packet and did a warm up run detouring via my car to drop off yet another hideous t-shirt and the sneaky far bathroom to avoid the line of waiting women. My bib number was 3. I like it.

Race kick off approached and with still no sign of Andrea I was starting to get worried. I had a feeling that kids were involved in her delay. Runners were beginning to gather around the man made channel several hundred feet away from the start and so I ambled over to join them. A rolling start seemed to be the game plan with runners released and running down the path to the start line, pulling a u-turn and then diving into the woody trails.

Still no Andrea but I was spotted by another Open Door Preschool mum and while I was chatting to her a guy in a three lions t-shirt called me out for my accent. It might also have been the Union Jack bandana around my neck that gave this Brit away. I’d made it into a pocket with chamois inside and intended to fill it with ice for the run, but the start away from the coolers thwarted me on that. It was so humid that even just stood with the other competitors I felt like I was breaking into a sweat. Oh, mutterings from the race director meant that I gave up on watching for my friend and ducked forward through the throng for a better start position. And we were off.

I got myself some good foot space fairly early, did my u-turn and just as I was about to break off the paved track and hit the dirt trail I spotted another running skirt joining the race. “Whooo hoo! Andrea!!” And then I was in the woods, charging along in the pack but alone in my thoughts and the rhythm of my footsteps took over.

Several girls hauled past me early and I decided to just let them go. There was also a 5K running at the same time and I assumed that those speedsters were pacing themselves for the shorter run. Especially as I wasn’t feeling 100% I chose to keep on my own pace, stick to my guns and make sure I could do the distance myself rather than get too crazy now. I was just out enjoying myself.

Come the 5K split off though I cursed. Drat. I could see some of the ladies ahead and they weren’t peeling off! Okay, time to step it up a gear. From that point on it was tough running, I had to work extra hard to pull back up through the ranks! Ow.

I started alternating between picking off and drafting behind runners until with less than a mile to go I decided to really make the break. I’d been playing leapfrog with one girl, and tracking two female runners ahead of me and it was time to make my move. I upped it another notch, passed the bloke I was keeping pace with and left all four behind. Run run run! It was good to know that soon I’d be coming onto the flat path by the lake to the finish, and not having to grit my teeth up the usual gravel climb. It did mean I was a little unclear as to exactly where and when I’d be hitting that final stretch though. Perhaps it was a little bit further than I thought!

Then it started to drizzle. Oh my goodness how fantastic was that?! So refreshing. Perfect timing for a cooling spray to hit.

We popped out by the lake and that was a little further from the finish than I had hoped too. I was sure that the ladies I’d passed with such determination must have been riled up and be chasing me down. I refused to turn around and see though, that would be disaster. Just keep on running!

I hit the small crowd waiting for the returning runners and just as I was beginning to flag someone shouted out and warned me that there was a lady coming up behind me fast. Whether that was true or not, he was right, it was time to sprint to the finish.

I spotted Andrea’s husband, Mark, and their children and heard them shout out too. Hooray! A shout from Ashley who had brought her son out to see the race. Hoorah! No sign of my crew though. The finish line loomed and the race was over. I made it! Though, I couldn’t bend over to untie my timing chip so someone else snagged that off for me. As I continued on and through the chute there was Daddy, Sam and Bea trudging towards me. Doh, they’d got confused by the different start/finish line too and missed my home coming by a whisker. Oh well. Great to see them always so happy to see me at the end anyway.

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The kids then got to play with their friends, Heath and Stella, while we waited for Andrea to come in. When we saw her heading in the crew all gathered and gave her a good home coming. Well done Andrea! She had a big smile on her determined face as she ran for the finish.

Granma and Granpa also arrived and we enjoyed spending some time with them too before they had to head back to GA. Getting everyone herded into a photo at the same time was an impossibility though.

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Eventually I learned that I’d been the fourth girl over the line, second in my age group. So we, of course, had to hang around for the award ceremony so I could pick up my medal and go stand on a box for a bit too.

It was a good race, and fun morning. I was glad I did muster up the will power to run despite feeling so sick (though maybe not very wise as the cold then lingered and lingered for weeks afterwards, hmmm).

http://www.riverboundrace.com/may-22nd-10k/overall-finish-results.html

Down on the farm.

June 7, 2010

Still raining and miserable here. The relentless raindrops are making a thunderous noise drumming on the conservatory roof. I’m afraid I wimped out of going to the hash this evening. I just felt wiped out after driving to the farm and back this afternoon and the prospect of driving to Horsebridge for trail was far less enticing than enjoying the remains of the evening with crazy Bea and Sam on webcam with Daddy. I was intending to go out and do a local run once the kids had gone to bed but I’m afraid I just succumbed to a very large slice of chocolate cake instead.

Sam was eager to get out of the house this afternoon and go and visit Nicky at the farm. My friend Nicky and the animals were not the main attraction though. His eye can only be turned by diggers and tractors. Last week we visited and introduced him to the big yellow JCB with two scoops. One on the front, and one on the back. Sam is smitten and happily ventured out into the wind and rain to visit his love once more.

We drove down the narrow country lanes and down down down into the valley with Sam chattering away about the digger and yelling whenever he saw any other tractors and construction vehicles in farmers’ fields. When we descended the track down to the farmhouse he commented on the grass stubbornly growing through the tarmac in the middle of the road, what we would do if we were to meet another car coming up, and started loudly and fretfully wondering where his digger was when we turned the final corner. It was nowhere to be seen.

Luckily before he could get too upset something else caught his attention and he stopped his pouting for a moment and bounded out of his car seat for further investigation. “A red tractor! Just my size!”

Of course, I have to have a customary cup of tea with Nicky when I visit the farm so I herded the kids away from the outside toys, out of the rain and into the house for a cuppa. Relaxing tradition taken care of we piled the wellies and raincoats back on and Nicky took us back outside for a big yellow digger with two scoops hunt.

First of all we ventured down to Nicky’s abode in a converted barn where all her little dogs were waiting to yap at us, and Bea decided to do a bit of gardening. Despite the copious rain Bea didn’t think that Nicky’s plants were getting enough water. After she also set to potting and planting in the poly tunnel last week, Nicky thinks that Bea may well have found her vocation in agriculture.

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Bea then headed down towards the raised beds and found a lovely muddy puddle to splash about in. She was very enthusiastic in her jumping and soon the wellies and raincoat were a bit pointless.

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We then went to see Baldrick and Poppy (?) the ponies before continuing our digger hunt in earnest. Walking up past the red pedal tractor Bea actually jumped right on and had the first turn. Of course, Sam instantly attempted to boot her off. Thankfully Bea didn’t seem too bothered and was happier to wander around on her own two feet in the farm mud and muck, and be chased by Nicky and I. So the hunt continued with bully Sam on the tractor.

First of all we found a big red tractor. Sam was impressed, but it wasn’t the JCB.

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We had to keep looking until we found the object of his desire. I’m glad it didn’t take us too long to find the digger hiding behind a shed because Sam wasn’t really putting too much effort into pedaling the tractor and was insisting that I push him everywhere instead. That got old quite quickly.

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Digger unearthed, Nicky did offer to let Sam sit in the driver’s seat and get a good look at the machinery. Surprisingly Sam declined and preferred to just gaze at it from his seat on the Sam size tractor.

Thanks for a lovely afternoon down at the farm Farmer Prout.

Cold

June 7, 2010

After hot and humid days in Charlotte the UK is feeling decidedly nippy. Before leaving for England I had a pre-holiday freak out and cold-heartedly purged my old and ill-fitting pre-pregnancy and maternity wardrobe. Yes, even having dropped several dress sizes I had still been walking around wearing clothes meant for ladies with bumps and mismatched garments often initially bought over a decade ago. Boxes of discards hung around the house for several weeks as I dithered over saying farewell to so many old friends but eventually I steeled myself and a local thrift store received a rather large boot load of donations. With Bill’s blessing I happily splurged and filled my closet void with bottoms that will actually stay up around my waist and tops with more length so as not to ride up to expose my shy mummy tummy. Giving up on the now alien world of fashionable clothes I decided to opt for function and fitness, and ordered my wardrobe from the shelves of outdoor recreation brands. Unfortunately this meant that I arrived in England with a holdall mostly full of shorts and I am being brave and relentlessly wearing them regardless of the weather. Apparently we’ve had some nice warm days since we’ve been here and I’ve heard many comments complimenting the seasonal warmth England is enjoying I am far from being convinced. It’s cold and rainy out today and I am reminding myself of a refrain that I’d often hear coming from Mum and Dad’s mouths when we’d go camping in Cornwall and be forced to miserably trek coastal paths in the rain. “Legs will dry quicker than trousers!”

I’ve just got back from a very damp and soggy walk across Whitchurch Down with Molly and Dad, and am thankful for the quick dry properties of my Mountain Hardwear shorts. Not too many other people out in the rain up there today. The ponies are in the majority up by the cricket pitch today. Watchful mums staying close to pretty little foals were gathering with the herd up at the top of the lane as we walked up and over the Down on our way to get some milk from Whitchurch Post Office.

Time to get lunch underway for the kids now, want to get them over to see Nicky at the farm this afternoon.

NO! Go away! I have a flight to catch!

May 25, 2010

When you have children it seems that not only are you doomed to be ridden with illness and disease at frequent and regular intervals, but you are also compelled to suffer doubly long as the lurgy lingers and passes through the household cackling maniacally. First the kids succumb one by one and turn into unpleasant little sprites to be cared for and tended to lovingly, and then just as both children are back on their feet using you as a climbing frame and with energy levels recharged to turbo, and you dare to pause to think that you may have miraculously escaped the viral toll it’s time for doting parents to lose all patience and wish they could crawl into bed, shut themselves in a darkened room and just let the kids blissfully create havoc out of sight while the sickness continues on its way.

This has not been a good week.

I really hope I can drink my Theraflu, shut my eyes and wake up full of sunbeams in the morning. Instead I have a dread sense of an impending repeat of the kick off of our last trip to England. Summer 2009, I distinctly remember having a cold mere days before the flight that time too, fending it off just before boarding the plane and then spending the first days of our holiday in Devon relapsing into a swine flu rollercoaster with poor little Baby Bea faring the worst and being treated to the benefits of the NHS home visit.

Our flight is on Wednesday. I’m really looking forward to seeing mum and dad, giving them big hugs and delivering two fantastic rambunctious grandkids to them for a fun filled six weeks in England. We don’t need to be sick any more thank you.

Oh, here’s a snippet that I wanted to relay about Bea. Like Sam, she loves apples. We cut them up for her and she goes to town eating all the juicy flesh and nibbling right up to the peel. She discards the green rinds on the floor and tries to feed them to Quince. Bad Bea. So, I thought I’d be smart and avoid having to pick slobbered on apple pieces up off the floor by peeling the fruit for her first. I gave her some nice slices of apple, no peel. She grinned and giggled, and carefully set to work taking a bite or two of each. She nibbled out a thin strip of apple flesh and tossed it onto the floor as usual.

*sigh*

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NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

As I was writing this Sam erupted and is now very poorly in bed having just been sick. I don’t believe this.

Twisted Ankle Half Marathon 2010 (aka Oops I Did It Again.)

May 17, 2010

The next morning I got up and ran the Twisted Ankle half marathon again. For real this time. The night in the tent had been quiet but fairly sleepless. The kids were great, but I’d tossed and turned and the night passed fitfully.

At the alarm’s beckoning I got up, showered and dressed. I decided to don the red tartan skirt and turquoise sleeveless vest again and carefully prepped my healing blisters for the long run ahead before stuffing my feet into my Mizuno trail shoes and taking a leisurely warm up run from the campsite, around the lake and to the start of the trail race where people were beginning to gather.

I nervously kept sipping on my water bottle and pretty much downed the entire contents before the race even started. I grabbed a refill of Powerade from the race supplies and cursed that I had forgotten a banana before I had given the family a hug and a kiss goodbye. Although the temperature at the start was fairly mild I also started regretting that I hadn’t filled up my cooling neckerchief with ice back at camp as I had assumed that there would be some on hand in the paddock. There wasn’t.

As I meandered around with a roving eye looking for Martha she spotted me first and waved. It was good to see her again, though I am sad to say we didn’t get much of a chance to catch up. Pretty quickly it was time for all the runners to cluster by the edge of the lake, listen to Race Director Becky’s words of encouragement and advice, and then we were off with little fanfare. Here we go, my first half marathon.

Around the lake we ran at an easy clip, not too strenuous at all. I kept myself in check a little to save my legs for the long run ahead, and especially the much lauded hill at mile three. As soon as I started running the heat and humidity started their cruel embrace and dashing across a grassy strip over the dam wide open to the sky before we ducked into the leafy shade of the lake trail to the campground felt scorching even at nine o’clock in the morning. Knowing we’d be back this way en route to the finish I made a mental note to just keep on running and try to get back before the sun really came out and was waiting to grill me alive on the homeward leg. I also immediately cursed my decision to fill my bottle with Powerade as then I couldn’t cool off by squirting water on my neck.

We ran through the campground and past some cheering campers set up at the side of the course with their camp chairs. I scanned around looking for my crew, could I catch sight of them as I raced through? Our tent was off to the other side of the camp ground and away from the course, but there was Daddy carrying Bea, striding towards the wash house. I bounced and waved and yelled at them as I ran past. I think they may have heard me. What a lovely sight.

Race Director Becky Finger was in the middle of the road handing out high fives as we ran out of the campground and prepared to start our ascent into the mountain up past the Marble Mine and onto the Pinhoti Trail. The climb began. It was gentle at first, fairly wide tracks and very manageable. We made our way up and up and spotting falling water up ahead I pulled out the Flip to try to capture the beautiful marble mine as we ran past. My first encounter with a race photographer was me grinning and fumbling with my camera as I tried to run, take some footage and then stuff it safely back into my pocket. That was pretty. Okay, onwards.

Trail got substantially steeper and steeper until a large wooden sign warning to be cautious of the steep grade appeared on the hillside. Light hearted banter started as we hit the narrow single track and were forced to slow to the pace of the people ahead. It was hot, it was hard work, but it was also a little frustrating as I couldn’t pass the walkers ahead and continue on at my own pace. I just had to hang in, tough out the climb at a plod and wait for the track to open up again at the top. Some blokes who had run the race before promised me that an ice cream van, cool swimming hole, flock of wild flamingos, gogo dancers (male I hoped!) and a pack of cold beer was waiting at the top.

They lied, all we got was a bunch of boy scouts with water, Powerade and ice. I gratefully accepted their offerings and filled my bandana with cool refreshing ice cubes. Fastening that back around my neck was delightful. Okay, good to go. A boy scout directed: “Full marathon to the left, half to the right. No, wait! The other way. Half that way!” A quick double check with someone I hoped would know what he was doing to confirm and I was off again.

Oh it felt good to stretch the legs and settle back into a nice pace atop the ridgeline. The guy ahead of me warned me that there would be more hills to come and not to get too excited, but I was ready to run.

It felt like I blinked and was at the next aid station already. Gummi bears! I grabbed a handful of those, along with a GU gel, and was told I was 4th place girl. Onwards. Onwards.

Fairly soon after that another girl caught up to me as I was fumbling to open my procured packet of GU. I was asked if I was okay. “Oh yes!” and mentally I added “just haven’t mastered the art of running and eating yet!” Packet opened I tried to down small mouthfuls of it (I hate GU!) as I ran, and now in fifth place I settled in behind the overtaker to run an easy pace watching the little foot logos on the back of her shoes work the trail in front of me. Felt great.

I began to discover the appeal of Dirty Girl gaiters for the smart people I’d noticed wearing them on this trail. Numerous times I had to break pace to pull needle sharp black spears out of my shoes and uncatch them from my socks. Stab! Stab! Ow!

Pretty soon a man came hurtling down the track towards us at breakneck pace. I barely even got to see him go by. I just felt the rush of air and heard the crackling of leaves and twigs as he blew past, arms wildly waving for balance. A little after that more front runners started to trickle past on their return from the turn around point. I counted the ladies as they ran past, and then we were greeted by a crew of cheery folk working the turn around point aid station ourselves. Yes, looks like we were fourth and fifth. I didn’t waste time, but I did take a moment to replenish myself here. Garmin said 6.91miles. So far so good. Some people were making themselves up some evil pb and j sandwiches and tucking in, I steered well clear of that little pit of anaphylactic shock, momentarily eyed a banana but decided against that too. Just a refill of ice and water, some more gummi bears for me, and I was back heading out on the trail again.

Again I found myself running easily behind a girl, albeit a different one with different logos on her shoes. That confused me a little but I think we’d just done a switch at the aid stop and we were still 4th and 5th women. I decided to just hang behind her for a stretch as the going was comfortable and for my first half I rather liked having the company and metering. Turns out she’d done some ultra runs, longest being a 100 miler. Nice. Assuming she wasn’t pulling my leg she was interesting conversation. We were seeing a steady stream of runners coming along the trails behind us and it was fun to shout encouragement and wave as they went past on their own journeys to the turn back point. Yelled and screamed when I saw Martha coming along the trail. Hooray Martha! Felt great to see a friend on trail and she was looking good.

Eventually Ultra Girl said to let her know if I wanted to pass though, so I think she had had enough of me. I told her I’d probably see her again in about five minutes! Pulling ahead I was surprised at how easily I carried on at the faster pace. Soon I was running along on my own without anyone else in sight. I took advantage and did a quick nip into the woods for a pee! That was pretty well timed as around the next bend I discovered myself back at the aid station and directed down the mountain. Disappointingly there was no ice here to replenish my now very melted supply, but that was okay. Homeward stretch! Garmin was saying I’d been on trail for an hour and fortyfive minutes, and with roughly only about a 5k to go and I was feeling super. I calculated and got very excited, 5k, even at ten minutes a mile (presuming rate of descent at speed of curling into a ball and rolling down the mountain to the lake) I ought to be seeing Bill and the kids again at around the two hours fifteen mark. Wow. That was way better than I expected.

Get me off this mountain! I happily rejoined trail and started tearing down the path. Fun! 5K to go! I wondered how far ahead the lead women were and resolved to up my pace for the remainder and see if I could gain some ground.

I ran and ran on my own, still no one in sight in front, or even behind. Coming to a cross roads I followed the very obvious festoon of blue trail markings that fluttered from the trees, swung around and took the trail to the left. Go Kay go!

I was a little confused as the trail began to wind back up the mountain again, but I was disorientated and figured that maybe the track split again further up the path. After all, that other runner had talked about there being more hill to run hadn’t he? I was still following blue ribbons so I pressed on. Then I hit the steep grade sign again and the sinking realisation that I was running Becky’s Bluff all over again. Arse! Surely I’d have heard about it if we were having to run that twice?! I turned around and started pegging it back down the hill. I was feeling pretty ill and panicked now.

Hang on though. Here was, at least I think it was, Ultra Girl coming up the same hill. She couldn’t have seen me in front so wasn’t blindly following and so must have made the same call herself. Now I was greatly confused. I had joked that I said I’d see her again before the end. We then spotted a group of male runners also coming up the hill, one of whom was Jerry. Surely we couldn’t all be wrong? Had any of them done this race before? Did any of them know if we were on the right trail? The answer was a very unreassuring no to all questions. I headed back down to the last intersection together with the other girl to reassess though.

We eyed the completely barren of markings gravel trail that led to the right, the “private property keep off” sign that blocked the trail straight ahead, and the fiesta of trail markings, coupled with a big blue arrow on a prominent tree pointing to Becky’s Bluff. There was no one who knew what they were doing around. We started off down the gravel track a little way. Nothing obvious. The lads and a girl (now I’m getting confused as to which one she was!) had decided not to follow and to take the way I’d gone the first time. I got nervous and worried about taking what appeared to be an unmarked trail. That could take us even further off track for all I knew. The blue ribbons were in abundance after all, surely I must have missed something? I took off up the hill again. I passed the blokes, again. Up, up and up for the third time. This time I went further. Dumb, yeah I know. Though I did get a big kick out of being able to actually run up the steep single track I’d got so frustrated walking up over ten miles before. Take that stupid hill!

Then I realised that the other runners had thought better and turned back around again. Ok, off down the hill once more. I hauled arse back down the trail again and eventually caught and passed them before we got back to the intersection. Screw this for a laugh. There was still no one in evidence who knew what they were doing. I took the leap of faith and started off down the gravel path.

It was a fair while before I saw the reassuring sign that I really was back on track. Things started looking familiar again and I began to recognise where the trail was going to take us back through the campsite and around the lake to home. I chugged back past the girl who had been running the bonus miles with me and struggled to push past my despondancy at the run going so very wrong for me. I definitely walked a fair bit of hill stuff here where I ought to have run but I was aggravated and dreading the last blistering push in the sun through the open ground around the lake. I caught up to Martha on a downhill as we were entering the campsite. Back up the hill towards the tents I was spurred on by the thought that maybe I’d see Bill, Sam and Bea somewhere along this stretch. Didn’t want them to catch me walking! I didn’t see them waiting here, but at least I got my head back in gear. Right, not far now, let’s do this!

Eventually I came around the lake and to the bridge. Over the bridge, clomp clomp clomp. I heard someone shout “Tasty!” and something about “hasher incoming!” and I released my charge to the finish line.

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Bill and the sprogs were waiting for me at the end and Bill caught that photo for me with his iPhone. I got some great hugs from Sam and Bea as my finish reward. Thanks for being there guys.

Official time: 2:51:35 and final mileage just under 15 miles according to Mr Garmin.

Aggravating. Very aggravating. I had a really great time out there, and enjoyed myself a lot, but I’m pretty gutted. I’m quite thankful that the prizes that were almost within my sweaty grasp consisted of giant jars of nuts though. Fat lot of good those would have done me! 😀

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Hmm, I think my words at the end of my Twilight 5K recap came back to haunt me: “Crikey, I hope this time next week I am laughing about running up Becky’s Bluff too!”

Twisted Ankle Half Marathon 2010

May 16, 2010

The morning started off well. I woke up refreshed having had a good night’s sleep. The kids were nice to me and once night fell everyone slumbered peacefully under canvas. I did not have a little green kitty cat roaming the tent, or get body slammed by a giggling Baby Bea while I slept.

I’d laid out all my gear and stowed it safely in a little black rucksack before we set off for the campsite so I knew everything was ready and all set to go. I was very prepared.

I got up early and hit the showers before there was a queue. On the way to the wash block someone handed me a cute helium balloon with the little running Twisted Ankle dude on it. Thinking that the kids would love that I held on to it. While I showered I tied it to my kit bag so it wouldn’t drift away.

Chatting to Bill as I ate my Weetabix breakfast I watched as a balloon lingered and bobbed along the path by our tent, then rose up and soared jerkily away high into the sky. I passed comment on the poor child who must surely be crying having let go of their balloon.

Then I realised that there was something attached to the balloon’s string. It was a bag. My bag, with all my running gear tucked neatly inside. Top, skirt, socks, trail shoes, Garmin, Gu. All disappeared hopelessly out of reach and sight.

Idiot!

I couldn’t replace the Garmin but at least I had spare clothes in the tent. I also luckily still had my hand held water bottle and a toy snake. I was distressed and out of kilter, but I garbed up and made it to the start line by the lake just in time to catch the Race Director giving instructions before we were off and down the trail.

The race was fun.

It poured with rain and we got sloppily muddy and soaked to the bone. Getting up Becky’s Bluff was an ordeal and an half. I kept Martha in my sights and following her footing chugged along behind her trying not to slide back down the mountain prematurely. Aid stations were good and plentiful, but none more so welcoming as the one at the top of the mountain. I ran fueled by a gastronomic feast of smily gummi bears.

After an eternity of running my legs were burning by the time we got to a downhill stretch back towards the lake and what I hoped was the finish line. Did I still have a bit of kick left? Yes I did.

I stepped it up a gear and started to slip and slide my way back down the mountain. I verily hurtled and felt like I was flying. I lost one green dinosaur wellington boot about half way down and the other wellie got sucked off my foot in a bog at the bottom.

I kept on running, and running barefoot. Toes squelched through the mud propelling me home.

What exhilaration to reach the finish line and cross it triumphantly!

Mud splattered, drenched in rain and sweat, and exhausted I fought for breath ignorant of my time. I watched the remaining runners coming in with a mixture of weariness and fight. One runner came charging in to the finish carrying two mud caked objects. I breathed a sigh of relief. Relief was two fold. One, I wouldn’t have to go back out there again myself. And two, “Thank goodness! Sam would’ve killed me if I’d lost his boots!”

Right Moves For Youth Twilight 5k

May 11, 2010

My nagging second thoughts about having signed up for the Right Moves for Youth Twilight 5K were already strong when I woke up to another uncomfortably hot day in Charlotte on Friday. After a very enjoyable but sweaty morning running the kid laden double jogger around a three and half mile course with my friend and her two little ones I was really beginning to drag my feet about going. I did the morning run pretty much guzzling an entire bottle of water and trailing behind a very strong and steady Andrea. I think she is a clockwork camel. While my pace was sporadic and all over the place, and my troops had to stop at least three times for picnic and squabble resolution breaks, she just kept on evenly running for the entire distance and didn’t break a stride. I made it through the run, but it wasn’t pretty. Crikey.

If I was hot and tired after the run, by mid afternoon I was exhausted. If only the same was true of both my children. Bea put herself to bed and slept the afternoon away, but Sam just turned on the trouble. After such a pleasant morning spent with Andrea’s company watching the children play furiously together, I had a horrendous afternoon chasing him around. I constantly had to chastise and redirect him. Trying to keep him from helping himself to the contents of cupboards and causing chaos was a lost cause. Any wistful chance of a reenergising nap for me before race time was out of the question. By the time Bill came home I really was in no mood to go run a race. I’d had enough.

And yet that is exactly why I ended up pulling my resolve together and hauling my arse to the start line in Uptown. The excuse to run away from being Mum and to be just by myself again for a few glorious hours spurred me onwards.

Of course, it also helped that I received a wonderful new running skirt in the post that afternoon. My lovely prize of a red tartan skirt from last Saturday’s trail race arrived, and was every bit as sassy as I hoped it would be. Ignoring the voice that warned me not to wear anything new and untested on a race day I couldn’t resist putting it on. Instantly I began to perk up. Okay, maybe I could do this afterall.

Even thinking about where I ought to try parking was giving me a headache, so I opted to take the light rail. I carefully only carried exactly what I needed for the race and nothing more: hand held water bottle, cool off bandana, cash, id, my race bib, and of course, a clean hankie. It was a little nerve wracking walking away from my well stocked running bag and heading to the platform. The train was already full when it arrived at Scaleybark, packed with plenty of shorts and tech tee wearing folks, and a slew of mums herding boys wearing Let Me Run t-shirts. I squeezed into the carriage and we were off to the race. No turning back now.

With about forty minutes to go I breezed in and picked up my timing chip then set about taking in the crowds and preparing for the race. Moseying around not really sure what to be doing with myself I bumped into a group of friends from the Meetup Running Club. It was good to see some friendly faces out there.

It was super hot. Shaded at the start line it didn’t feel too uncomfortable, but as I ran a warm up mile up and down the street the real heat soon hit as the sun blazed down on unsheltered tarmac. It was a relief to scurry back into the shade of the tall Wachovia Center.

Several off limits coolers of gatorade lined the starting corale. Eyeing them greedily I sauntered over to the guarding officials and before I could politely request anything I was reproached about taking any bottles. Actually, it was the ice they were swimming in that I had my eye on! Oh ok, that was allowed. I happily filled up my bandana and settled in to enjoy the cold drip as they melted down the back of my neck.

Runners started to fill the cordoned street and I hung with my friends for a bit as I deliberated where I ought to start the race. The announcer was trying to get the runners staged a bit with the elite and competitive runners at the front and runners and walkers at the back. I wondered for a moment if I counted as competitive then decided damn right I did and decided to edge my way up closer to the front a bit. Tudor also made a move forward and so I cunningly drafted behind him to squeeze through the increasingly tight crowd.

Stroller runners set off, and ninety seconds later so did we.

I’d heard a lot about this being a very tough race, that there was a challenging hill to encounter around mile two. Glancing at my Garmin I did my first mile in 7:10. It felt great though and I was having to force myself to slow down a touch. With the hill in mind I wanted to make sure I had enough left to tackle it when I got there.

I hit mile two even faster, but I still felt great. It was incredibly hot but my legs were good and I was enjoying myself. When I hit the aid station I grabbed a water and dumped it on my head. Gulps of water from my hand held staved off a dry mouth and the ice around my neck was working wonders as a little cooling system. It was all systems go for me when I started to see the runners ahead of me begin to slow a little. Was this the dreaded hill? Surely not? It didn’t seem all that bad. I guess all my work on the real hills of Crowders Mountain played off here as I had a bit of fun picking off people and passing them as they began to falter. I still consciously held off a little on my pace though as I wasn’t convinced that the fuss had been about that stretch of the course.

Rounding the final corner apparently we did hit another incline but I still didn’t really think it was that terrible and honestly only really thought about it after the race when I examined the Garmin elevation data. At this point though I suppose I wasn’t paying too much attention to the road as I had been a little put off kilter by a man who was running in front of me. He suddenly started to look like he was a puppet being pulled by strings and I had to slow and dodge around him as he flailed. I heard afterwards that he did actually collapse before the finish. I checked and didn’t see any mention in the news afterwards so I’m hoping he was okay and no harm was done.

TMI but as I ran the final mile I also might have missed a little thing like a hill as I came to the realisation that I really needed to pee, badly. I spent the latter part of the race concentrating on getting to the finish so that I could find a loo! I charged to the finish, but not too fast for fear of, well, you know, and then desperately tried to find a break in the metal barriers and bypass the timing chip retrieval police so I could find a porta-porty! When I did make it to the loo I stepped inside and almost passed out from the fuzzy contained heat in the thing! Wow.

Recomposed I returned to hand in my timing chip and collect my finishers medal. Somewhere in the middle I remembered to turn off my Garmin and congratulate myself on finishing the race without feeling like I was going to vomit as I crossed the line.

It then also dawned on me that I’d crossed the finish and just smashed my 5K PR. It took my fumbled brain a little while to compute, but I beat my last 5K record, set six months ago at the incredibly flat Charlotte Runway 5K in perfect running temperatures, by two minutes and fortyfive seconds! Bam!

Official chip time – 22:33
9th place in my age group division of 172 women.
26th out of a total 904 women.
Overall 191st place in a field of 1860.

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I’m pretty damn pleased with myself. I signed up out of curiosity to see if all the trail running I’ve been doing would translate into some decent progress in a road run. I’d say that’s a yes.

Right, that was definitely fun but I’ll be sloping back off to the trails again for a bit now though.

Next challenge – Twisted Ankle Half Marathon – May 15th.

Now, that course is supposed to have a killer hill! Check out the race director’s course elevation:

Yeah, I have to laugh at Charlotte’s definition of a hill. Crikey, I hope this time next week I am laughing about running up Becky’s Bluff too!