Turning Four.

May 3, 2010

Five adorable little preschool boys and Matilda arrived at our house for Sam’s fourth birthday party this afternoon. Five adorable little preschool boys and Matilda left looking like sailors.

Back in January when I booked the campsite at Edisto Island State Park we had decided to just treat Sam to a beach camping holiday for his birthday and let him play diggers in the sand to his heart’s content. But as the weeks passed it was obvious that this was not going to be enough for our little guy. Nothing less than having his own special occasion playing with friends would suffice for his fourth birthday celebration.

Sam’s become very aware of birthdays, and birthday parties, and for months has been giving me a running tally of how old everyone in his class is now, and providing me with strict instructions as to what he wants for his own birthday party, and exactly who to invite. I didn’t draw up the guest list, Sam did. And he checked it several times to be satisfied. I was just thankful that the list was fairly compact. Though I did have to trim it a touch as we only have a little house, and I felt bad as I was unable to include several preschool friends who I really felt ought to have been invited. Even with the condensed list I closed my eyes and prayed for good weather.

Along with the guest list and the venue, Sam even had a theme in mind. He very insistently requested that we had to attempt to provide him with a “little green kitty cat/fire engine/dinosaur” birthday party. Well okay then. I sent out the invites and started to panic.

I ran the 8k in the morning, clambered all over town looking for supplies in the afternoon, and when the kids finally went to bed last night I started work on a birthday cake. With no grand master plan I ended up just baking some base cakes and winging it from there. I was up til gone 2 before I was satisfied with my efforts.

This afternoon, with minutes to spare the cooler was filled with assorted beverages (Bill did comment that this was the first preschool party he’d been to that had beer, I’ll take that as a compliment. Worked for me!) and nibbles laid out. The weekend’s frenzied preparations were put to the test when invited guests, very welcome little siblings and their parents descended on Applegate to wish Sam a very Happy Birthday.

As guests arrived bearing lovely gifts an excited Sam went into a frenzy. There was no waiting to open his presents. I think I rather liked that though and I hope the gift givers got a kick out of watching Sam relish tearing into the parcels and exploding with joy at the contents. Seemed much more personal and less awkward when done on a one on one basis like that rather than putting gifts in a corner and waiting ’til later. Sam got some fantastic birthday presents and every one really hit the spot and got him fired up. He was totally spoiled. Thank you everyone.

We released the kids into the backyard and pointed them towards the diggers and freshly replenished sand pile. They set to work landscaping with gusto. While the kids played, parents got to chill and chat and I really enjoyed dropping into conversations with everyone between hostess duties.

Eventually we declared it time for Pass the Parcel. We mustered the kids into some semblance of a circle and everyone stared at me blankly. Oh yes, I almost forgot for a moment that I’m the crazy Brit! I explained the rules and crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Bill was in charge of music and did a great job making sure that each child got to open a layer of wrapping and reveal their random gift. I’d laced the parcel with a mixture of fire engine, cat and dinosaur related treats and toys. The dinosaur tattoos were the surprise hit and soon it seemed that everyone was inked on hands and legs.

Next up was the cake. After an initial delay of scurrying around actually rueing everyone’s healthy lifestyle choice and hunting for something to light the candles with we were able to bring out my piece de resistance and sing Happy Birthday to my fantastic little boy. Sam’s eyes lit up and his attention easily diverted back from his important construction job with the boys when he caught sight of his little green kitty cat birthday cake. He was enamoured and even tried to pet it.

Bill carefully began slicing up the tummy, but ears, tail, paws, nose and eyes were soon plucked off, and happily devoured by the marauding bunch of children. Poor kitty didn’t last too long before it more resembled roadkill.

Sam really does have a great group of friends and I love how all the parents are just as pleasant, nice and good company too. It was a good crowd.

When I put Sam to bed this evening I asked him if he enjoyed his party? He thought, and grinned, and said “Yes.” Then I asked him if he liked his little green kitty cake? “Did I get it right?”

His response: “No Mummy. I wanted a fire engine, a mummy diplodocus dinosaur, and a little green kitty cat riding a sliding worm birthday cake!”

Maybe next year.

Run Like A Girl 8K

May 2, 2010

In my meagre opinion runningskirts.com make the best ladies running gear. I haven’t run in anything else since I first tried one of their cute skirts. They fit snugly and the attached panties keep underwear nicely in place on the run so I have no wardrobe adjustments to worry about as I go. Easily accessible and neat side pockets carry the few essential items I have to take on the trail and I can feel great working up a sweat while maintaining my girly dignity in them.

Me, Ashley and Laura, all skirted up to Run Like a Girl. (Ashley’s two year old son was being cute at our feet, not really just looking at our shoes.)

When I discovered that age group winners for the Run Like a Girl 8K would be awarded a free running skirt for their efforts I was therefore understandably quite excited at the prospect of a swanky new skirt and the competitor in me fired up.

Unfortunately though, if doing double the mileage I had planned the evening before the race was an auspicious start then joking about going out to booby trap the trails to be assured of a skirt probably sealed my fate. I think I totally jinxed myself.

The Run Like A Girl 8K was a big event looming on my calendar. A fun trail run that has a place in my heart as it marks my initial entry to competitive running. Last year the all women’s race was run in September and it was my first race. Last year I hit the trails at the USNWC and ran a 9:40 pace. With just over six months of running underfoot since then I was keen to race for a PR and give myself a measure of progress for this course.

The Run Like A Girl 8K is also put on to raise awareness and fundraise for the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation, specifically ovarian cancer. I was counting myself lucky that I didn’t personally know anyone who had to deal with this health threat. That was until just the other week when I learned that a good friend’s mum has been diagnosed with this disease. This run in the woods was suddenly not just for a good time, but I was reminded that it was for a great cause too.

Race morning was nice and relaxed. Compared to other races a 9 o’clock race start felt like quite a lie in and I unhurriedly got up, dressed and had a spot of Weetabix for breakfast before heading out to the USNWC. Bill kindly taped up my right knee before I left as it had been bothering me a bit the day before, probably a result of pushing the heavily laden double jogger up the Nassau Hill on Thursday night. Giving the objecting knee a good prod I was relieved that yesterday’s pain seemed to have dissipated with a night’s sleep, but felt reassured to have it taped up for the race anyway.

At the trail head I met up with Ashley and her friend Laura and the trio of us did a warm up lap of the white water channel before heading to the start to await the gun. This year I was bib number 3 and staged in the first wave of runners. I got a spot at the head of the pack and intended to do my utmost to stay with the lead girls. I’d already clocked who I considered would be my main competition and as we set off around the long gravel track leading to the leafy trails she was running alongside me. I think I may have freaked her out a little by knowing her name, saying hi and introducing myself as we charged along at a cracking pace.

Hitting the trails I felt great, good to have packed dirt, fallen leaves, and roots underfoot and ready to do my best to keep the leaders in my sight. I was in the lead group of women and enjoying tearing down the trail with them. The lead mountain biker guide had peeled off and we were on our own running down the track. Then calamity.

We got to a fork in the road and trail signage abated. I slowed for a better gander but the ladies I was with made a quick judgement and carried on up the trail. My gut told me not to follow but there was no obvious sign of route marker in either direction. I should have known this section well but coming from a different direction to usual had me disorientated and I was swayed when shouts of “here’s an arrow!” came from out of their dust around the corner. Wrong call. Indeed there were arrows posted up the hill and we followed the course markers all the way up the hill to the finish. My Garmin beeped to announce mile one.

Rats! I took off back down to the junction where I assumed we’d taken the wrong turn and began trying to find true trail. It was a little weird, there were a couple of little pink trail flags up the other way but they petered out again quickly and trail didn’t seem to be very convincing here either. Also, we’d been in the lead of several waves and yet there were no other runners coming into sight. Pretty sure I was lost I picked up the pace and did the best I could to get back onto trail with everyone else. At this point I was sinking in curses and knew I was so far off trail that I was out of the race at this point.

I carried on running anyway and was rewarded with the sight of a runner on a parallel trail. The girls I was with and I cut down to join her and I realised it was Ashley. I yelled “Hey Ashley! Are you on trail?!” but she didn’t hear me as she was too busy bitterly snipping at us cheaters who weren’t running a fair race. Not accurate with the cheating, but fair comment. Really, even if I somehow miraculously came in in first place it wouldn’t in all honesty count as I didn’t stick to the route. To add an extra helping of aggravation my running foe had been behind me when I lost trail, but she wasn’t wandering the woods with us now so had obviously been able to stay on trail. Curses!

I was relieved to see Ashley steadily charging along though, and for me to be back following true trail. I stepped it up a gear and hauled myself along, pushing myself to try to gain at least a bit of what I had lost.

I hit the water stop with my Garmin measuring a distance of over 2 miles. Later Ashley said that she ran past that at around a mile and a half.

Several other times I had to double judge which route to take as trail markers were non existent or torn down. I ran past one wooden post laying in the dirt with the race arrow face down at a critical junction. Luckily that time I spotted a second arrow on a tree in the woods to the left before I continued straight. The runner ahead of me wasn’t quite so lucky and had to abruptly halt and retrace her steps when she realised the misdirect.

The rest of the race was brutal.

It was hot. Very hot. I was very glad that I had brought along my new cool off bandana and thought to fill it with ice before the race. That thing was wonderful when we had to dart across the scorching clearings between the trees. I still really struggled with the temperature though.

I also struggled with my mind and many of the ascents on this 8k. I was dispirited and totally thrown off by the inadvertent detour and extra mileage and was finding it hard to pace myself for what remained of the race. The hills had me walking in places as I exhausted myself going hell for leather trying to get back on the trail and back into the running. I played a little bit of trail leapfrog with one fit girl sporting a cute purple outfit with a matching bandana on her head. She ended up significantly ahead of me though as we broke free of the woods and were thrown out onto the mean final gravel trail and hill to the finish. Gritting my teeth I promised myself a final kick and unleashed everything I had left to get my legs really pounding and put her in my sights. I somehow stormed up the hill, my now well practised Crowders hill technique of quicker shorter strides and a lean into the gradient powering me up and past several girls who were slowing on that stretch (thanks Scott Jurek!). Purple bandana girl was still eluding me as I rounded the crest but I hunted her down and got her as we passed the trail head and entered the car park. With the end in sight it was tempting to cruise on in but don’t slow down now Kay! Uh oh, and now there’s a man with a camera – quick, try to look happy! Hurried gurning for the lens was accompanied by a final burst of sprint and I at least sealed my tenth place finish. The announcers called my name as I came in ahead of the purple bandana. Nice. Hooray!

It was a disappointing and aggravating run and no podium for me today. I had managed to claw back to fourth place in my age group though. My nemesis of course won the age group and I sadly watched as she declined the winning running skirt in favour of a Run Like a Girl tech tee. What?!!

I have no idea how she managed to stay on trail when the initial group of us got so lost. Ashley commented later that we must have missed the bit where the trail doubled back and gone straight on to the next junction, which is where we then assumed we had lost trail. She said there were a group of mountain bikers standing on the track on torn down barrier tape when she ran that bit. I remember the bikers too and I’m thinking that they were maybe blocking the correct route as we came past.

Oh well, very annoying, but I suppose it’s not a race that I’ll forget in a hurry! Especially because I’ll be sporting an awesome new running skirt to remind me!

Oh yes! After the raffle drawing and winners had been awarded their prizes, there were still a few items remaining. If you remember first place 30-35 age group winner had declined her running skirt. I was then stood in the right place at the right time when one of the organisers asked if anyone there had been in the lead pack that had got so lost. Of course, I was quick to yell “YES! Meeeeeee!” and share my frustrations. He commiserated with me, seemed to be genuinely concerned and then made it all better instantly with a runningskirts.com free skirt coupon code! Fantastic! I practically skipped back to my car daydreaming about which lovely new skirt I’m going to pick to wear for my Twisted Ankle half marathon, and then the North Devon AONB half in England, where I will not lose trail!

Going the extra mile for one’s child.

April 30, 2010

Well, one sure fire way to ensure the addition of extra miles to one’s run is to, against better judgement, allow one’s darling daughter to carry her newest prize possession in her arms while in the jogging stroller. We set off for our afternoon playdate/run with friends in a mini convoy of double joggers with Sam stubbornly nestling his friend’s toy fire engine in his lap and Bea spitting out a “miiiine!” and giving me a fierce look and a head shake when I tried to extract her dolly from the fingers and put it safely in the car ’til our return. Somewhere en route past the “cute fire engines” I had to calm a distressed Bea and scold her big brother for messing with her seatbelt.

Sometime just before mile two it dawned on me that Snuggle Pea was no longer buckled in securely close to Bea and maybe that was why Bea had been so distraught. Yet to be proven, but I suspect a wayward Sam for ejecting dolly into the traffic.

We followed our double jogger friends (with me getting super jealous as I viewed the pretty flowery running skirt hauling ass up ahead of me in the heat) back to their home and finished our three and a half mile circuit. Sam and Bea then got to play and have fun with their friends while I got an ice water refill and had to head back out on a search and rescue mission.

Past mile one and with no sign of the fallen, I was already trying to come up with how I was going to replace Snuggle Pea so that the gift givers would never know what fate had so quickly befallen their present to their darling granddaughter. I’d covered half of the route with eyes roving all around me when success hailed me victor.

There, at mile 1.67 lay a lonely little blue Snuggle Pea by the side of the road. I scooped her up victoriously and ran onward, triumphantly ignoring any strange looks that passing drivers were giving the crazy woman running with a stuffed toy.

Back at our friend’s home Bea ooohed and squealed when reunited with her love. Happily being doting mum to her dolly she hugged and pushed Snuggle Pea around in a little stroller for all of a minute before pushing her to the floor and wandering off to climb on a train table.

Tickle Me Bea.

April 23, 2010

Bea’s still not saying a whole lot, but every once in a while she surprises me.

As Bea lay down on her mattress and I wriggled her out of her sleepy suit, readying her to face the day in one of Sam’s cast off Spring garments freshly dug out of storage she grinned back up at me. “Tickle! Tickle!” she giggled as her face light up in happiness and her little chubby fingers clutched and patted her belly and thighs.

Of Bea.

April 21, 2010

Considering the terrorising and tears that frequent our afternoons it amazes me how excited Bea gets in the morning when I tell her it’s time to go get her big brother from preschool. Sometimes she’ll find her shoes and hand them to me happily. More often she squeals with delight and immediately takes off racing to the front door. She hammers on it with her hands and can’t wait for it to open so she can toddle down the front steps and towards the car. Yesterday she was so carried away in her excitement that she forgot to stop and went running straight into the door. She bounced right off it and thumped down onto her bottom. Thud. Splat.

Of mice.

April 21, 2010

Was it really over a decade ago that I lived on Rippingham Road and could be found riding the Finglands or Magic Bus carefully holding a little humane mouse trap in hand? I’d get off at Platt Fields and release the little rodent into the park before continuing on to my uni lectures. Trap, bus ride, release, was quite a regular occurrence and plenty of furry pests acquired a new stomping ground until the mice that remained in the house went too far.

The day I discovered my collection of platform trainers, pointy patent stilettos and stompy dredd boots gnawed on, chewed up and used as mouse bedding was the day the war against mice started. I have no more tolerance for the little creatures.

Fast forward to the present.

Every Easter is an exciting time for me over here in the States. Usually the Cadbury’s chocolate on the shelves is manufactured under license by Hershey’s, and is horrid. It doesn’t taste the same at all and is waxy. Easter is the only time of year that I can find proper English Cadbury’s that tastes right and melts in the mouth. If I’m lucky and time it right I can hit the after Easter sales and create myself a little hoard of sweet goodness to savour for weeks. Picking careful moments when the kids aren’t around I enjoy quiet moments alone with my stash and think of England. I don’t share my chocolate treasures. Mine.

Well, rarely I share. Very rarely. The night before preschool photos I did bribe Sam with half a creme egg to get him to wash his hair properly and avoid the usual screaming, splashing, and kicking tantrum. I was very careful not to divulge where I kept this tasty treat, or that I had more hidden away. No, no more where that came from, sorry Sam.

I definitely, unequivocally, do not share with mice.

After spending a morning and an afternoon daydreaming about the peaceful communion with a creme egg and a cup of coffee (I also really like a creme egg and vodka combo) that I was going to enjoy once quiet reigned in the house after the kids had gone to bed, you can imagine how shocked I was when I reached up high to the hiding place and my fingers searched around in the box, but did not grasp a nice firm, perfectly foil wrapped treasure. They met loose shiny shards and a chocolate carcass instead. I was certain that I’d been sneaky enough to keep my stash secret from the boy, but my first thought was “SAM!” Then, peering morbidly at the sad remains like an engrossed rubber necker at the scene of a traffic accident I saw the tell tale rodent gnawing, and droppings.


Last night the peanut butter baited traps were laid.

This morning I found the first casualty of battle.

Finding her voice.

March 26, 2010

Bea is beginning to use sounds to make vocal sense now. An example:

Sam – “I want to play with Bea in her room. Don’t worry Mummy, I’ll keep an eye on her and look after her. Come here Bea!”

Bea – “MUMMY!”

Oh Aussie Gumboots!

March 21, 2010

From Australia with love tiny tot Sam received a cheerful yellow pair of wellington boots adorned with a friendly koala on each ankle. Inherited by Bea these boots have become a firm favourite and she can often be found stomping around in them, regularly having stubbornly inched her toes into the wrong boots.

These were the boots in which she left the house on Tuesday morning. With Daddy away in Austin, Texas to proudly collect an interactive award at SxSW we were tasked with the preschool run. We dropped the boy off with his friends in the playground and then us girls went shopping.

We browsed the racks at Marshalls and Bea happily sat in the trolley. Her small grabby hands reaching greedily for hanging garments as we strolled through the aisles leaving a trail of disarray. She enjoyed watching herself in the changing room’s big mirror and tried to kick her laughing reflection. Bea decided to wean herself the other month, I think we made it to sixteen months before she lost interest. After nursing two children into toddlerhood I am very much in need of a pick me up in the bust department and was on the prowl for new underwear. I left the store disheartened.

The supermarket was our next port of call. Bea arched her back and flailed as I tried to sit her in another trolley. She was adamant that she should be allowed to walk. I headed into the store with Bea happily toddling alongside me.

I trawled the beer aisles looking for elusive rebate forms to ease our grocery bill and provide me a buzz of excitement as bankable cheques arrive in the post in exchange for our discarded supermarket receipts. Bea disappeared between the stacked Miller Lites and I had to struggle to hurriedly wrangle the obstinate child back out from between the display of crates.

As I set her back on her tottering feet in the aisle a passing shopper commented on how dangerous it was for her to be clambering around in the display, as if I’d been intentionally letting her use it as her personal playground. He then started a commentary on wearing shoes and that the floor was slippery without the proper footwear on. I was politely making appropriate noises and carrying on my way when his words registered. Looking down at the little girl holding my hand and determinedly pulling away in another direction I clocked her pink stripy socked feet. Pink and stripy. Socks. No yellow. And no koalas! Oh no! Where were her wellies?!

Our remaining Sam free time was spent frantically retracing steps and hunting for the missing precious footwear. We found one little yellow boot propped up atop customer service at the grocery store. The other took a bit more searching. Boot number two was eventually located under a clothes rack in Marshalls.

What a difference a bed makes.

March 9, 2010

Baby Bea is quickly buzzing her way along to her next milestone marker of being eighteen months old. She’s really not a baby at all any more and is growing up so fast. She’s hit that age I remember loving with Sam. Suddenly she isn’t a baby lump but is a little toddling person, a daredevil child who likes to climb up high and explore everything. She likes to be on top of the tallest table and go down the big slide by herself. I blink, and I can lose her in seconds as she moves at breakneck speed, everywhere.

I truly caught a glimpse of this metamorphosis at the playground yesterday. Bea grabbed a bucket and spade and headed into the sandpit, content to move away from mummy and join the other children hard at work with diggers and dump trucks in the construction zone. With great focus she found herself a place in the sand and diligently filled and emptied her bucket. I wondered who this child was and where had she suddenly come from?

She has really come into herself over the last couple of weeks and the change in her is staggering. A month ago I was worrying because she always seemed so tired and would sleep an awful lot through the day. Thinking I was keeping her safe from her big brother and giving her some personal space I would put her in her playpen to play. If I had to deal with an unruly Sam I’d quickly set her in her cot so I wouldn’t worry about her while setting her brother straight. I don’t think this was doing her any favours and thinking back I feel bad.

Bea would quickly toss out all her toys from her enclosed space and then when half hearted attempts to climb out would fail she’d settle down on the mat, put her comfort fingers in her mouth and close her lovely eyes. Returning from whatever Sam catastrophe had pulled me away I would find a sleeping beauty, and often she would refuse attempts at reawakening, preferring to slumber on uninterrupted. Often she would settle straight down into nap mode as soon as she got confined. I realised something had to done.

A month ago I got rid of the play pen and I got rid of the cot. A surprised Daddy came home from work to find that I had doggedly hauled Sam’s toddler bed down from the attic and set it up for Beatrice.

Bea’s reaction was instant. Crazy girl went wild when she saw her new bed. She didn’t even need her big brother to show her how to climb on up and start bouncing. She shrieked and giggled and plopped down flat on tummy to hug the mattress. I’m pretty sure she liked it. She was immediately energised.

I was nervous switching her, and I’m sure Daddy was unconvinced but accepting that his wife had made another rash decision, but we really haven’t looked back. Bea has taken to her new sleeping arrangements very happily. She loves being able to get up on her own and get to all her toys in the room. She sleeps through the night and I’m not woken up her crying in the morning. Instead I am alerted by little feet padding around on floorboards and toys crashing around in her room. She has a renewed interest in her toys and plays with them now instead of just throwing them away from her. When she is really tired Bea will also now put herself down for a rejuvenating nap. She’ll disappear and go quiet, and I’ll find her lying on her mattress buried beneath the covers. When she wakes she gets up and plays, no more lying in bed with her eyes open and hand in her mouth. She’s no longer bored and seemingly using naptime to numb time passing. I’m very relieved.

An unexpected added bonus has been a newfound love between siblings. Bea is still brutally shocked into moments of terror by her big brother, but we have had far more happy times since she left the cot. I wonder if Sam now sees her as more of a real playmate than a curious lump to goad when let out from behind her bars? The nicest sound in the world is the sound of gleeful shrieks and giggles emanating from Bea’s room as Sam and Bea entertain each other nicely. Sam gets cross and angry if Bea ventures into his room, that still needs a bit of remedial work, but he loves to go into Bea’s room to play with her. He’ll even bring in favourite cars so they can race together. Yesterday I heard him letting her hold one of his prize possessions, “Uncle Simon’s Polo Race Car.”

Sam put Bea to bed. I was changing her into her bedtime clothes and came in to help. He realised there was no blanket on the bed so he went to get a clean one from the laundry. He tucked a sleepy Bea up under it, gently making sure her toes were covered. Favourite toys strewn around the room were gathered up. Sam decided that Bea needed to sleep with her doggy and his Spotty Dog, so he tucked those in next to her. Incredulously I watched, ready to jump into an unnecessary crisis aversion mode, as in his own way Sam and Bagpuss read Bea a short board book bedtime story. Bea looked back at him with sleepy wide eyes. Sam then quietly told her how much he loved her, “I love you very so much Bea, I love my little sister.” He wished her good night and gave her a hug and a kiss. Okay, the hug was a little forceful and after months of bullying the kiss was a big surprise and probably more like being eaten by a dinosaur. Bea cried. The moment was lost, but it was amazing while it lasted.

Red Top Rumble 11.5 miler

March 1, 2010

[Race was on Sunday February 7th, finally edited my text.]

I signed up for the Red Top Rumble 11.5 miler last November and the race filled in early December. This was a very popular and fairly long anticipated race. One which I hoped would be a good progression towards my ultimate goal of a half marathon come May. Spending the week before the big day dealing with sick children and then getting the nasty stomach bug myself was not part of my optimum training plan. On Friday I was wondering if I should even attempt to make the drive to Atlanta and run.

Slightly wobbly but undeterred, I started out on my drive a good five hours later than originally planned and on the way went via Camp Leslie to collect Quincy from his luxury holiday resort. I got to Martha’s house in the early evening and was instantly rewarded with a cold beer. It was great to see her again and catch up, and to finally meet her fella. Jerry came over with his dog Logan and after the three dogs had done some good sniffing and greeting we left them to get to know each other better while we three competitive humans went to fuel up for the race.

The pasta I ate at Lil Azio was actually my first proper meal since mid week and I was still feeling a little delicate. Managed to eat as much of it as I could though and felt better about my prospects the next day having done so.

Back at the house the dogs hadn’t killed each other, we bade Jerry and Logan goodnight and they left us to have a girl’s night in. Not long later Martha and I were both looking at our watches and yawning. We were in bed, asleep, by 9.30. Big race tomorrow!

Oh I had a glorious night’s sleep. I was only woken up once by the smelly hairy child snuffling around at the foot of my bed around two in the morning. No having to get out of bed and pad around an icy floor to see which kid was crying, and why, that night. Delightful.

Martha woke me bright and early. This was good because I thought I’d set my alarm but apparently not as it did not go off. I felt wide awake and perky. She fixed us up some bowls of porridge and again I made sure to fill my fragile tummy as much as I could. Race day! There was running to be done.

Picking up a confident Jerry along the way we headed North out of Atlanta and towards Red Top Mountain. It was an icy icy morning. Just as Jerry was joking about Martha’s driving and getting us there in one piece on the icy roads we passed a truck parked at a surprising jaunty angle between some trees at the side of the road. I later heard that another Red Top runner on his way to the race had spun on black ice. He’d got stuck in mud and had to abandon his ride at the side of the road and got a lift to the start. Minutes after he had left the scene another car spun in the same place, smashing into the front of the parked vehicle. I’m very glad the runner and his friends weren’t still there trying to move the truck at the time. I’m also very glad that it wasn’t us because when we drove past and over the treacherous ice the truck looked fine and its grill was intact and smiling at us.

Without such adventures we safely arrived at Red Top Mountain State Park and headed straight for check in. I got my bib (number 11) and made final decisions as to what to wear. I hate carrying anything on the run so I resolved to tough it out with just one layer as I knew I would get warm soon enough. In the meantime I hopped around a lot and did quite a bit of flapping. Though I did relent and borrow Martha’s Red Top Rumble 2009 finishing gloves when I couldn’t feel my fingers.

Looking at the other competitors I could see that it was a very different crowd to my last trail race back at the USNWC. The third year of this sell out race organised by GUTS (Georgia Ultrarunning and Trailrunning Society) definitely attracted what appeared to be more seasoned trail runners. I don’t think I saw a clean virgin pair of trail shoes at the start this morning. There were also what appeared to be little pockets of sponsored runners or running teams dressed very skimpily in skin tight little numbers stretching away and prepping themselves for what I presume would be speedy efforts.

Glancing into the woods I was tempted, but instead opted to join the rest of the demure ladies in the slow wait for the portaloos. My race thus had an auspicious start as the competitors gathered for the off and I was still in the queue. I finally made it to the front and with lightning speed was in and out. Relieved, and with mere seconds to spare I just made it to toe the line with the rest of the runners as the race started and we were off.

The first part of the trail was an easy meandering gravel track that wound us down to the Iron Hill Trail, named after the mining done there in the 1800s. It was fast going and plenty wide enough to cope with the stampeding horde of trail runners eager to play in the woods. It was fairly flat and very non technical. After a couple of miles I did hear some conversational mutterings from runners hoping that the trail wouldn’t be like this all the way. For me it was refreshing as it was so different to the narrow rooty Charlotte trails, but I shared their sentiment.

For the moment though I was enjoying running along next to Lake Allatoona. It was scenic, I felt free and alive, and I was having a good time. My only concern was my speed as I was doing early splits of 8:30ish and wondering if I could make it to the finish at that continued pace, but it was feeling so easy and I had a smile on my face.

Then disaster. I felt a disturbing pang in my right hip. Oh no! Please no! At first it was just a little nagging doubt but then right around mile four or five it set in for sure, and every time my right foot hit the ground I felt a jolt of sharp pain. Oh I could have cursed, and I did.

This was probably entirely my own fault, and I spent the rest of the run mentally berating myself copiously. As I ran I wondered whether I could have avoided this aggravation had I done some stretches and focused on my hip more pre race. But as I wasn’t in my own home and we had had to drive an hour or so to get to the race I kinda skipped that bit.  Bad Kay.  When we arrived at the start it was frigid and after the past days of torrential rain the ground was thick with sloppy mud with frozen icing, so there was nowhere to get down and work out the kinks. With little time to spare getting to the loo had been my prime concern too. Dammit.

I pressed on and left the Iron Hill Trail behind. The trail looped back past behind the starting area and on up towards the Homestead Trail. By this point I had completely warmed up. I had already hauled the sleeves of my top up around my elbows and the gloves had been pulled off in the early miles. I was running and juggling, trying to figure out how best to carry them. Just as I was hatching a plan to drop them somewhere, make a mental note and try to find them again afterwards Atlanta hasher BWANA was spotted at the sidelines and there to save the day. He yelled at me that he would take them. Hoorah! I bog hopped a bit to get to him, but when I made it I was relieved to hand over my little burden.

Ok, mind back on the race and getting through the rest of the miles. Seeing the glimpse of the volunteers and start/finish line through the trees it was tempting to give in to my hip and just roll over and call it a morning, but I’m too stubborn for that. Onwards I went, trying to adjust my pace and stride to lessen the growing aggravation at my side.

Across a road and on to the Campground Trail linking to the Homestead Trail, and where the hilly bits were. Though, really they were not terribly hilly, and nothing like you’d expect for a place called Red Top “Mountain”. Even so I really struggled on hills that would normally not even register as hills to me. My hip would seize up when I tried to run up any remotely steep part. I had to walk and haul myself up and then try to make up time on the descents and flats where I could. It was depressing.

I think I spent the entire race being passed by everyone else. When it was a guy passing me I didn’t mind so much. Hey, they are generally faster than women anyway. If a lady came running past though I would get more grumpy. I was constantly surprised that there were still people behind me to pass me for I was convinced that at the rate I was going I must surely be last already.

It was pretty excruciating to put my right foot down as it felt like my leg was strapped on and grating against the hip bone.  Ouchie! Still, I hauled myself around the course. Oddly, at times I felt like I could run again and maybe for a mile or so I would get back into a decent clip before the pain started to edge back in.

I never stopped to take a breather and always kept on going, my mind trying to argue with itself that I could do this. My legs never really felt tired on the route.  I was battling the hip pain, but felt that if I could have made that agony go away then I could have easily run the distance properly, no worries.  So in a weird way that was encouraging.  

Another Atlanta hasher, Supersuck, was a welcome sight as she came effortlessly slugging down the trail with a wave and passed me in the final handful of miles just before I hit another aid station. I filled up my handheld water bottle, and grabbed a fistful of colourful smiling gummi bears before chasing her down the trail. Not far to go now.

There was a little bit of a jaunt through a car park in between trails. I kept to the edge, uncertain where the trail was actually supposed to go, then got yelled at by someone to keep to the trail. It only then twigged that the little utility company flags dancing in the breeze along the verge at the edge of the car park were not indicating some underground pipe system or danger unknown to me, but were delineating the actual path I was supposed to be following. Oops! Well I wasn’t that far off as I was running along side, but I’d been thinking it was self preservation not to be running within the flags, who knows what the gas company was doing up in the woods?!

The sound of a lone cowbell in the trees pulled me towards it and along what must surely be the final stretch now? I’d kept Supersuck in my sights for a while but she had long forged on ahead now.

Onto the final leg I was following another girl elusively up ahead of me. Here was a volunteer keeping people on the right trail. As we passed he yelled out that we were chasing the clock now and it was currently ticking to the two hour mark. “Run run run to beat it!”

It hadn’t actually really occurred to me to have a time goal and by this point I was just fighting to finish. That little snippet of news perked me up and spurred me on though. I wasn’t about to let this course and my silly hip let me go over two whole hours! I kicked back hard and got a charge going. The trail cut through some brush and I hit a path of sloppy mud holes in between roots. Slurp! Squelch! “Don’t lose your shoes now Kay!” I thought as my trainer needed a good old heave to release from the sticky muck and threatened to leave my ankle. No worries, I skipped through the rest of the roots and chased down the target ahead of me. I passed her, then somebody else, and felt like I flew through the finish chute like a tornado, clock time 1:59:42.

I chanced across this image of my finish on Flickr. Picture credit and thanks goes to Flickr member gtzr50.

That was my longest run yet, and despite the hip I felt accomplished and had fun.

Next – onwards to May and my trail half marathon (with a couple of smaller trail runs along the way to keep me on my toes!).  I think I have definitely come out of the Red Top Rumble knowing that a good 13.1 miles is absolutely within reach. I just need to work on keeping that hip comfy and somehow avoid that pain again.  

Hmm, I guess that race report got a little lengthy. I suppose you really could have shortcutted all of that and just asked my three year old son for his synopsis:

“Mummy likes to run in mud.”