Sunday, 22 January 2017

Musings Running Along The Thames

We’re three weeks into the year and into my challenge to run the 4350 miles from Gatwick to Florida and so far I have been running in ever increasing circles around our Croydon home, never more than four miles away and often within two. There have been reasons for this. When Wills is home, even though he is with his 17 year old sister, I like to be close enough to get home if they need me. I run as many of my longer runs as possible when they are at school and the longest on Sunday when Ellie is buried in her A level work and Wills is with his Dad (although the last couple of Sundays he was home which is why my circular running continued, in fact last week Ellie was out and Wills and I had a day at home together so I put the long run off to Monday). In the week, I have my sewing work to do and admin for that business and the surprising and ever expanding amount of admin this project is generating. To enable me to get my runs done and get work done too before the children get home (12 and 17 I know but they will always be my children, even the nearly 21 year old big sis when she is home). So running from the front door and back is a useful way of managing time. But a challenge should be an adventure right!? So this weekend I decided to start Sunday runs away from home when Wills is with his dad and Ellie is busy working. When I chose to move to Croydon I have to admit I did so more because it is easy to get out of Croydon than because the place itself appealed. You can get almost anywhere quickly and easily from the trains and trams from East Croydon and there is some beautiful and interesting running within an hour from home. 

Today I decided to get the tram and tube to Putney Bridge and run along the Thames. I fancied running away from London through Barnes, Chiswick and Kew and wanted to do 16 miles so eight out and back. This took me to Thames Lock in Brentford which was an interesting place to see. I had to come off the path and down the High Street for a while and the contrast between this and the luxurious houses along the river in Chiswick, Barnes and Putney was striking. In Brentford, they make the houseboats you see further along the Thames. The path is run down and I felt quite alone along them. It’s strange, you hit a green, parky stretch approaching Kew and there are suddenly loads of people - more runners than I have ever seen outside an organised event, couples walking, older folk dressed in hiking kit walking in groups, families… 

I used to run along the Thames when Wills and I pretty much lived in our ‘Chelsea Pad’ at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital before his first small bowel transplant in 2008. I was training for the London Marathon in 2007, running for our wonderful CHASE Hospice (now Shooting Star CHASE) who picked us up at that awful time in our lives and have been there for us ever since. Much like today, I used to do my long runs on Sunday afternoons when his dad came to be with him in the hospital. And much like today, I used to look at families with young children and wish so hard that was our life. Children on bikes with both parents walking behind them arm in arm, children on their dad’s shoulder with mum pushing a younger sibling in a buggy or pram, parents playing with children together in parks, today even playing on frozen paddling ponds. Our live with Wills was never like that. His early childhood was spent attached to drips and pumps and mainly in hospital and the pressure of it all split his dad and I very early on. I used to feel so emotional seeing what to me (and things may have been so very different in reality) such perfect, happy families. I used to imagine the home they would be going home to and the lives they led there. I have to admit, I have never stopped feeling these pangs and felt the same emotion today, as raw as ever. I still mourn for the childhood we never had with William. I still feel robbed of it. At the same time, of course, I feel blessed that we still have him when so so many of our friends have lost their precious children and of course he has two donor families who saved his life through the passing of their brave heroes. But I still wish so hard we had been able to live the lives I imagine when I see these families and I wish that I had been lucky enough to find that man, that father, who had stayed by our sides and made the best of the live we do live together. I had so much to give to that person and that life and I still do, well, I’ve had to give a dam lot more really to do everything we’ve had to do on my own. But you can’t turn the clocks back and those early days shared within a double parent family can never come back. I don’t dwell on it. It doesn’t get me down in general but, occasionally, on days like today I just get the pangs and it does make me emotional. It’s never too late though. Maybe I’ll have someone to share my grandchildren with one day… 

…Anyway, there is no doubting that the mental strength I have gained through this journey with Wills is a lot more doing it on my own though and that strength will carry me a long way on my journey this year. I needed it today too. My 16 miles today took me to 89 this week, the longest I have ever done in a week by a long way and ending with a long run was mentally and physically exhausting. I enjoyed every minute though don’t get me wrong, even the pain and there was a bit today, mainly my neck and back probably as my backpack had more drink and snacks than usual and an extra layer. This is all important training though as I’ll need to carry kit on ultra marathons. And I did it!! I ran my 16 miles, all be it a bit slow and plodding towards the end. Once I had stopped, had a tuna and sweetcorn roll (a cheap and cheerful one but one of the best I had ever tasted) , protein shake (one of the best I had ever tasted) and a much needed cup of coffee (yep… one of the best I had ever tasted - I had been running for three hours from eleven so was ready for a big fill) I felt loads better and could have started again. This all bodes well for the ultras like the 100K, 100 mile and the 10 marathons in 10 days that all consist of laps and will be all about finishing than racing. I’ll be stopping and re-fuelling at these events and my training now is geared more towards increasing my mileage with that in mind than running the faster marathon I had planned for London when I entered it last year. 

So I am now 205 miles down, 4150 to go. And the adventure has really begun…

Friday, 20 January 2017

No getting out of this now....

Not that I am wanting to... OK, maybe for a couple of seconds when running up a steep hill I had forgotten about or the first five minutes running in minus temperature days I may have fleetingly thought this was a crazy idea but these moments never last long. I don't want to get out of this but, if I did, there is no getting out of this now as it has been beautifully written about,  published and shared here by the amazing Caudwell Children and, today, our local paper. 

Photo courtesy of Croydon Advertiser

This does make me feel the pressure and any slight hint of an illness or injury is scary. But this challenge is all about raising awareness of what life is like for families like ours, how running can help and, most importantly, the amazing things Caudwell Children do and raising lots of money to help them to keep on doing it.

I am 170 miles in now. Still learning all the time, literally daily, several times a day... I will be sharing my little new found nuggets of information and experience about distance running here better from now on I promise. I want to blog daily but this week has been a bit exhausting and unfocused. This challenge is big enough as it is but even more so when you have a week without a stretch of sleep longer than three hours. Although the write ups suggest Wills is now well and out of the woods this isn't totally the case. He is well, I hate to jinx things but he is as well as he has ever been. We seem to have won the battle against GVhD (again, I don't want to jinx things) but there are all sorts of factors that make his future uncertain and we treasure every moment of these healthy days. He still needs a lot of care and attention, day and night. This last week has been demanding as his stoma bag and his overnight feed have leaked randomly most nights, resulting in full change of clothing and bed in the middle of the night and little more than 2-3 hours unbroken sleep for both of us. This isn't the best preparation for at least 10+ miles of running. I also find that any soreness or niggles recover during a good sleep but a restless one can result in extra ones joining the party. If I have a serious, injury threatening niggle I will, of course, stop but these little protests need running through to avoid getting behind and to enable rest days when they are really needed. So it's been a tough week but enjoyable at the same time. Yesterday, I hated my run, then loved it, then hated it, then wanted to stop right now, then wanted to add another loop....A combination of the most unbroken night of all and a new route which I thought would be pretty (well as pretty as Croydon gets) but I hadn't realised involved running up several major hills in succession. I had wanted a light little jog.

Lots more to share so do come back later, I may even make up for the lack of blog activity in the last week by posting another one later... Now, it's time to run again.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Challenges Within Challenges....

January 10th

The children went back to school today after the Christmas and I am trying to get everything into a routine again. We got back from Florida wish trip on December 13th  (I am going to tell you loads more about that on here so do watch this space!). After a few days of jet lag I came down with that bronchitis thing that it seems the people across the UK are dropping like flies with and then it was Christmas so it has been a very long time since we have been in anything resembling a routine in our little household. Oh I do like to make things tough for myself! I already have to juggle all William's care needs with getting him to school on time,  looking after him and his sister, getting my work as a writer and a designer-maker-seamstress, making sure our crazy and lively little working springer pup gets enough exercise (he is already in training to become my right hand running buddy)  and now... running an average of a half marathon every day... and that's not even my long run anymore! At least once a week I will have to run far further than my daily average of 13 miles. 

I like to run as soon as the children have got out of the door to school.  Wills has Aspergers on top of a complicated and life threatening medical condition (he has undergone two multi organ transplants, again I will talk a lot more about all of this in the coming weeks and months...). Aspergers and the stresses of making sure you have everything you need for school and have done all your treatments makes for a very stressful morning I can promise you! All three of us are tearing our hair out at each other by the time the two leave so I am ready to get the heck out of the house,  run the stress away and clear my head before I start work. I have started to split my running with a longish run in the morning and a quick three mile top up just before tea. I may also run a mile with Wilfred, the springer... it all adds up! I've gone a bit mad with the miles this week, ramping them a fair bit on last week, in part to prove to myself that I can do this and in part because we are due for a short admission to hospital next week which will dent my mileage a bit so I have planned to make it one of my four-weekly step down weeks.

I want to make this year exciting and challenging so I have planned out some big 'challenges within the challenge.' I am already running Hampton Court Half Marathon next month and the London Marathon in April. In March I am running the Southend Marathon as a guide runner for a blind athlete. This girl likes her races and it is highly likely I will do more with her through the year, as long as we work out together in Southend. I have only done a 5K with her before.  I have now decided to run an 100K challenge (London to Brighton), a 100 mile in 32 hours challenge and a 10 marathons in 10 days challenge. I feel this year should include big challenges like this and, as long as I stay uninjured, I will be in prefect shape to attempt such big things with all the miles I will be running.

I have planned events for most months (I still haven't decided wha two do in June and August - anyone got any suggestions?)

SO, I plan to do...

February: Hampton Court Half Marathon
March: Southend Marathon (as a guide runner)
April: London Marathon
May: London to Brighton 100K
June: tbc
July: Samphire 100 mile race (yikes but not for Mum...this is a laps race so I will always be within a mile or so close support and can stop any time.)
August: tbc
September: The City to Sea ultra marathon with the amazing THHN
October: Beachyhead Marathon (hopefully running canicross with Wilfred)
November: Saxonshore 10 marathons in 10 days
December:  3 of the 10 marathons above and the Saxonshore Usual Suspects race (so I can have my name on a huge medal with a load of other ultra runners to commemorate my year becoming an ultra runner myself)
and finishing the challenge at Caudwell Children's own Elf Run 


As well as a lot of miles, this is going to cost a fortune in race entries, travel, accommodation and the 15 or so pairs of running shoes I am going to get through... I am looking for awesome business to sponsor kit and race entry in return for logos on my kit, mentions here and in all the media, mentions in the book I am writing about my journey and, above all, my heartfelt thanks for ever... Please do get in touch if you can help or know anyone who can... I will write more about that later today. Now, it's time to get running...

Week One Round Up

Sunday 8th January...

Miles run: 46 

Well, it was a week ago when I started my journey from Gatwick to Orlando, Florida, running all the way. Ok, not literally but when I decided to run the 4350 miles of the flightpath we took when we went on our amazing Destination Dreams wish trip with Caudwell Children

In the last week I have run 46 miles. This is less than half the number of miles I need to run per week to achieve this goal. I knew I wanted to do something with the Gatwick to Orlando mileage but didn't know what.I initially planned to run the 4350  miles over two years, finishing in December 2018 when I hope to return to Florida as a volunteer on the trip but over this weekend I decided it will be a much bigger, tougher and better challenge to run all these miles this year, through 2017. This will make it more interesting to other runners and the public, better increasing awareness of Caudwell Children and, I hope, raising more money. It will make it a more intense, but more focused challenge for me and a more focused project to write about as I share my experiences in becoming an ultra distance runner and map onto this journey my story of mum to an incredible little boy who just happens to have a life limiting and life threatening condition. As a writer I always find that running helps me to come up and structure my ideas. I often think I should run with a voice recorder as I do tend to forget some of my ideas by the time I get home  (my phone is with me but delivering my music or audio book).  As I think on the run I have kind of developed this project on the run which means it has developed over the last week, and still is developing... I more organised person would have planned it all out for months at least  and built themselves up to the weekly mileage needed before embarking on such a venture but I have always been more impulsive... Impulsive but stubbornly determined and I WILL do this!  In any case, we only went to Florida at the end of last year and it kind of felt neat to start on January 1st. Over the coming weeks this challenge is writing itself in just that way but it kind of adds to the adventure… I am going to blog daily from now on so do follow my journey as it works itself out, along with my musings along the way,

Tomorrow, I’m going to contact Virgin Atlantic to ask if they will support this project and if they can provide me with a detailed flight path map so I can track where I am along my virtual journey. I don’t know how many miles it takes for a jumbo jet to reach cruising altitude but I’m feeling at the stage seconds after take off when it has probably only travelled a mile or two. I am feeling strong in my running and, although daunted, confident that I can do this but at the bottom of a huge, steep learning curve about ‘ultra long distance running’ and nowhere near my ‘cruising altitude’ of the weekly mileage I will need to achieve if I am going to run 4350 miles in a year. It is important to increase gradually at the start of a challenge like this to avoid injury and then step back to a lower mileage week every 3 or 4. I will be taking one rest day most weeks to allow my muscles to recover from the longest workouts. 

What have I learned about distance running this week? 

1. Never run a long run in a brand new pair of running shoes (I didn’t do this honest… I so did!) Break them in gradually before not after the blisters! They were so comfy though…. 

2. I should be taking vitamin D  (at twice the recommended average dose) and calcium supplements.

3. I need to eat a shed load of food but the right kind of food - mainly vegetable based and lots of protein.

4. The best ever recovery drink is soya milk strawberry nesquilk with a handful of frozen strawberries, a handful of oats, a measure of rice protein powder and a big spoonful of crunchy whole nut peanut butter (I will share some of my recipes in the near future including this one).

5. The best post run lunch is an avocado spread onto two pieces of wholemeal toast and topped with a poached egg, served with a cup of tea in the biggest mug possible (I think I need to source a suitable post run mug) and followed with some fruit, a little naughty treat like a mini mince pie (for a week or two before I finish the packs I bought in the post Christmas sale), a mini cake or a little piece of chocolate and big cup of coffee (not quite the same boat of a cup as the tea).

6. The best pre run breakfast is porridge with a handful of chai seeds and dark brown sugar (bog standard cheap and cheerful porridge oats are just as quick in the microwave as the more expensive sachets that claim to be faster!) and a not too large cup of coffee (or you need the loo about 4 miles in)

7. The best on the run snack is a few pieces of dark chocolate with a handful of almonds and brazil nuts (preferably the chocolate and nuts all at the same time) and the health food shop kind of liquorice which I happen to have left over from being given again in Florida which is kind of cool. I used to run with gels but I forgot them on today’s long run and had to raid my ‘emergency rations for a moment when you need a treat for a bit of motivation).  I also learned that I can munch and run at the same time when I am running as slowly. This is all good news as a bag of nuts and chocolate drops is a lot cheaper than a big box of gels!  

8. I need to run most of these miles nice and slowly to finish this challenge without any injuries. It’s a very freeing feeling to throw away any thoughts of personal bests and just run to explore and have adventures

And talking of adventures, I decided on my run today that it is going to be one heck of a boring year if I just run 4350 miles of rings around my house. If I am going to dedicate a year to this it needs to be packed full of fun and adventure so I have been dreaming up lots of ways to make it so, such as entering events and races (but running them at the usual slow pace not for a pb), taking myself off and running in new places, maybe even for some weekends away, running to visit friends I hardly ever see, running everywhere I usually take public transport (all within reason of course) and, I hope, organising to run with some runners across the country.