The Ramsden World Tour

Time flies when you’re about to leave your life as you know it and move across the world. 6 more weekends! That’s not much time left in California!!

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 Sad.

I thought it was a good time to do a quick update on our plans to move back to the UK and our plans for the summer. Our initial intention was to leave the Bay Area at the start of June but alas things changed and now we fly out on May 2nd!

We’re also deep into planning because we’re going to be travelling the whole summer. Nearly four months! This has taken a while for me to get my head around – I don’t love change (understatement) and I would secretly rather go straight back to the UK and start our life there immediately. But the Husband persuaded me that this is the chance of a lifetime to travel. I know he’s right so I’m trusting his instincts!

So this is our plan.

Australia – We leave the Bay Area and fly straight to Sydney, where we’ll be joined by the Giant, the Husband’s son who lives in the UK. He’ll be with us the whole summer, which is wonderful. We’ll be exploring the Blue Mountains, driving to Melbourne, flying to Brisbane and doing some snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef before returning to Sydney for the last few days. In all honestly, I am totally freaked out by the spiders I’ve been checking out on google. I hate to be chicken but this part of the trip is making me very nervous so if you have spider-free Australian stories to tell me, PLEASE drop me an email.

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Hawaii – From Sydney, we fly to gorgeous Hawaii where we have a week on Oahu and a week on the Big Island. Realistically we will never come back to Hawaii and it’s one of my happiest places, so I’m very very excited about this.

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Oahu 2013. When the Dude was small and adorable

Road Trip – We’ll then be back in the US on tourist visas (please, ‘merica) and we plan to drive across the country for a few months. We’ll head east via Vegas, some Utah National Parks, check out the Bay Area’s polar opposite, Texas, sing Sweet Home Alabama in situ, visit friends in Georgia and Virginia, have the time of our lives at Kellermans’, spend time in wonderful DC, see Niagara and explore New England before finishing up in NYC in August.

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DC will have slightly less sparkle under its new ownership

Canada – We fly out of NYC and head to Montreal for a few days. Cannot wait to speak French again.

Iceland – From Montreal, we fly to Reykjavik for five days. I am VERY excited about Iceland and am planning to meet up with Halla and run with her. We arrive in Reykjavik at 4.30am on the day of the marathon – I’m hoping to run the 10k.

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Running in Iceland – read all the details here

UK – Then we land in the UK’s armpit, Luton, towards the end of August. We will be  enveloped in our families’ warm embrace and I will be tearfully reunited with my beloved ginger cat who will spend the summer with his grandparents. And THEN we need to start building our new lives.

So that’s the plan! Okay…what do you know? Where have you been? Where should we stay? What should we do?  Give me your advice!! If you have spider stories, keep them to yourself!

Especially keen on strategies to avoid spiders.

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Bucket List Progress

Last month, I blogged about the things I wanted to do before we left the Bay Area and I’ve been working my way through them. Some adventures are worth a post in themselves, but others don’t necessarily…so here are a few things I’ve been up to.

Bouldering – I wanted to do a little more bouldering before we moved away so the Dude and I spent an afternoon at Dogpatch Boulders in the city. We enjoyed it a lot and I considered signing up for a month’s membership at a more local wall but in the end I decided I didn’t love it THAT much.

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Archery – The Husband I had a a date night a few weeks ago at Palomo Archery in Palo Alto. We’d been there a few years ago but had forgotten everything we learned, so we had a lesson and it was really exciting to see the progress we made in the hour. The final challenge was when the instructor stuck two balloons on the target and we had to see who struck theirs first. I popped both mine, the Husband popped one of his and then we had a shoot off for the final one. The Husband was hugely relieved to get there first. It was flipping amazing! We LOVED archery!  Also…I hate guns and every single thing about them but somehow archery is just deeply sexy in every way!

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Do a fancy spin class – Last week, I got up at 5am and went to the 6am class at Soul Cycle in Palo Alto. This was one of my birthday prezzies. We’d done Soul Cycle in the city last year and felt horribly out of place, old and suburban. This time,it was better.  I wore the right clothes (!) and there were people of all ages in the class instead of just cool, city 20-somethings. I was impressed that I was recognized as a newbie when I arrived and someone helped me set up by bike, and then the instructor came in, sought me out, introduced herself, asked if I had any questions and then came back in the class to adjust my position on the bike. Soul Cycle is a slick operation – the showers were spotlessly clean, there were towels, toiletries, bottles of water, even hair elastics. The class was 45 minutes (which was enough) and a lot of fun even if it was slightly cult-y and club-y for this middle-aged matron. I won’t be swapping run sessions for spin any time soon, but I had a great time!

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Zumba – I’m not entirely sure why I wanted to do Zumba before we left, there is plentiful Zumba in the UK and I’ve only done it a handful of times but my internet friend Fairy is a Zumba instructor and her Instagram makes it look so cool I wanted to do it. So my friend Louise and I booked into a free class in Menlo Park. It was called ‘Dance, sweat, smile’. We went for a quick glass of wine beforehand (during which I burst into tears IN THE BAR talking about leaving the Bay Area) and then a shot of whisky from my hip flask and we braved Zumba. It was utterly hilarious. We were dreadful but very happily dreadful. We both very quickly gave up on even attempting the choreography and we just free-styled the whole thing but we laughed the entire hour and it went really fast! We then followed it up with another quick glass of red (no tears this time). Just an excellent, funny night out. I could be tempted to do Zumba more often as a low impact cardio activity for cross- training.

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Way too many endorphins

Our move from the Bay Area has moved forward a few weeks so I realistically won’t get all my list done but some of the other activities are planned. It’s fun.

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Hiking Steep Ravine

Last Sunday, I returned to Tam.

I’d spent Saturday morning running in the rain with my friends. On the Sunday, I was back at Pan Toll Ranger Station with my boys to hike. The weather was somewhat temperamental – we had to remind ourselves that we are about to move back to the UK and needed to stiffen our backbones and practise hiking in the rain.

Our planned route was part of the brutal but spectacular Mt Tam Half I ran in November. (‘Ran’ is relative, let’s be honest.) Instead of starting at sea level where I started the race, we’d start at the top and hike 1,000 ft down Dipsea Trail, then join Steep Ravine to hike back up. I’d ‘run’ up Steep Ravine during the race and it had blown me away (in between gasps for breath) with its beauty. I wanted to do it slightly more slowly, to take some photos and to show it to my boys.

The first part of the hike was easy. We took lovely Old Mine Trail through the trees until we came out on a clearing with a gorgeous ocean view and the city in the distance.

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Old Mine trail

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Views for days

 

We took Dipsea down. It was sunny but there was a very cold wind. After a while, sunny ocean views gave way to gorgeous groves of redwoods and my heart was pretty happy. Eventually we hit the steps down. My son counted over 300 – he lost track a few times so I wouldn’t rely on this but there were lots of steps. And sooner or later, two miles in, we came to a bridge and the junction with Steep Ravine.

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Little boy, big trees

Tea time.

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Hot tea and snacks. They must be British

Steep Ravine was as gorgeous as I remember. The rainy winter (yay) had left the brook gurgling and gushing, so the entire time we were on the trail we had the sound of running water. It was lush and green – thick moss on trees and rocks. We clambered under fallen trees, crossed rickety wooden bridges and climbed steps made of rock or root along the way.

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The hike up wasn’t as bad as I remember. There were some steep moments where my legs ached but it was okay. I have no idea how I ran up there, no matter how slowly!

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After a mile or so, we got to the highlight of the trail – the 11 foot ladder! The stream next to it was a full-on waterfall and it was ridiculously lovely. The Dude’s face – previously starting to show a loss of patience with the endless climb – lit up and he shot up the ladder.

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The final stretch went on forever but it was still lovely. However we were happy to emerge from the forest to the car park at Pan Toll and to sit in the car boot, drink tea and eat our snacks. Roughly 4 miles all round.

This is a lovely hike. It’s not easy but it’s not as brutal as I remember from the race, and the beauty of the trails make it totally worthwhile. Bring $8 for the car park at Pan Toll (or snag a spot on the road), bring hot drinks on cold days and bring your best spirits to enjoy the gorgeousness.

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A washout on Tam

On Saturday, I organised a trail run on Mt Tam. I only have 9 more weekends in the Bay Area and the lovely Layla moves to Oregon in three weeks, so a load of gorgeous girls came out to run and say goodbye. I was in charge of route planning. My goal was to run Coastal Trail, a particularly lovely trail with ocean views that is on my  Bay Area Bucket list. So I planned the route – just under 10 miles of trails, views and hills.

(This is the route I planned, in case this is useful).

The forecast got steadily more dismal over the week. It started as cloudy, then showers and then steady rain. Maybe those views wouldn’t be quite as ‘view-y’.

It was an early start – to fit in with various family arrangements, we met at Pan Toll Ranger Station at 7am – a 5.00am start for a lot of us. The benefit of that was that we got parking but it was a little early. In the end, there were 16 ladies gathered to run so we started with a selfie! It was cold and drizzling but we set off in excellent spirits.

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The first few miles were lovely. We started on Matt Davis Trail which was flat as it wound its way around the mountain. We were strung out along the trail and all I could hear was the sound of happy women talking. It was pretty awesome. I was chatting with Caitlin, she was advising me on how to pack for long travels and all was good. The rain was intermittent and we got a lovely shot of SF in the distance.

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Photo: Layla

Soon enough we turned left up Nora trail. It was steep so we did some hiking but it was fairly runnable and eventually we emerged at West Point Inn where we regrouped. My preschool teacher skills got some usage as I kept counting heads to make sure we didn’t lose anyone. (It helps if you remember how many people you started with).

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Layla takes the best group photos!

We didn’t linger long as it was a little chilly – we headed off on Rock Springs Trail. This was a lovely trail – fairly flat, very runnable but very pretty. As long as we were moving, we were warm enough. At one point, the trail split with no signs at all – we had a quick confab and went left and soon enough emerged at the Mountain Theatre at a campsite.

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Me and Lisa. Photo: Kristen

And then it all went wrong. No signage. No trace of our next trail. It was cold and wet. We consulted sodden maps. We spoke to people who had no idea. We ran here and there trying to find the trail. We thought we found a lead, it wasn’t a lead. We had 16 wet cold women running aimlessly around in the rain.

We wondered if we headed up Rock Springs a little further if we’d get to our next trail but there was no guarantee and a few people were so wet and cold they couldn’t get warm, so we ended up splitting. Some people training for a 50k braved the wind and rain and pressed on to see if they could find the trail. Five of us (including me) caved to the siren call of coffee and brunch and headed down Old Mine to the car park. A few minutes later, three others ran back to join us…one blast of cold, wet wind and they too wanted the coffee!

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Yorkshire weather, Bay Area rental prices!

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‘Smile’, I told them, ‘Look happy!’

We got back to the car park with just under six miles in our legs. This was frankly a bit rubbish, bearing in mind people had got up at 5am and driven for an hour to run in the rain, and I felt bad about getting us lost, but everyone seemed happy enough and the endorphins were buzzing.

We got changed – my hands were so cold I could’t do up my bra – and headed down the mountain for brunch at the Dipsea Cafe, where eggs, coffee and a roaring fireplace confirmed we’d made the right decision 🙂

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We then proceeded to the San Francisco Running Company, where we bought cool running stuff we didn’t need, but Layla and I at least knew we’d be grateful for these souvenirs when we live a long way from the lovely Tam trails.

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The only cougar I want to see

In retrospect I know where we went wrong – when the trail split on Rock Springs, we should have gone straight instead of left. That would have linked nicely to the next trail. If it hadn’t been cold and wet we could have checked our maps, the maps wouldn’t have been sodden, we could have got our phones out to check better, we would have been able to stand around for a few minutes instead of shivering…but there we are. Later, I spoke to some of the badasses who continued and they’d found the trail eventually and had a good run but I feel bad for getting us all lost.

Tam gave me a master-class today for UK trail running.

  • I’ll need more, warmer clothes.
  • I’ll need gloves.
  • I’ll need a laminated map.
  • I’ll need great friends who don’t hate me for getting them lost in the rain.

Despite this, I think we all had a good morning. It’s never a bad morning for new, beatiful trails, for lovely running buddies, for good food and for hugging friends farewell.

However…Coastal Trail is still calling my name! Tam, I’ll be back.

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Stuff I’m loving lately

I’ve been mulling this post over in my head for a few weeks now. I’ve recently discovered a few new podcasts and IG accounts that I love, so I thought  ‘ooh, I’ll share them on the blog’ and then last week, Charlie shared a very similar post on her blog! Darn, I thought, now I can’t post MY list…but of course I can! So check out Charlie’s list in addition to my thoughts below!

Podcasts

I’ve listened to Marathon Talk for years now and I always love it. They’ve started using Patreon as a way of allowing listeners to voluntarily contribute to the ongoing costs of running the podcast and I signed up immediately. If something gives you pleasure and information on a weekly basis for years then it’s only proper to help contribute financially if you’re able to do so. I also contribute via Patron to Real Talk Radio which has entertained many a long run and is always thought-provoking.

However I’ve picked up a few new podcasts to listen to recently.

I’ve started listening to Another Mother Runner on my runs and in the car. Whilst you don’t have to be a mother to listen, it’s definitely aimed at a sightly older crowd. Next week’s episode is on running during peri-menopause and unfortunately I think it will be sensible for me to listen. I really enjoyed a recent episode discussing alcohol. Also Sarah Bowen Shea sounds exactly like Sarah Koenig so I can basically pretend I’m listening to Serial Series 1.

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The time I met the hosts of AMR

Ali on the Run Show is the new kid on the podcast block and I love it. I’ve read Ali’s blog for years and have a very soft spot for her. I really like her podcast – a good mix of guests so far, lots of chat and laughter but also some great points made about running and life. It’s getting better with every episode both technically and content-wise.

She explores is another new podcast for me and I like it a lot so far. It’s all about women in the outdoors (mainly hiking and backpacking) but newer episodes are talking about activism in the new political climate. It can be a little eye-rolly at times (‘I wanted to vibrate on a higher frequency’) but the episode about being a woman alone in the outdoors was really thought-provoking for me.

Instagram

Instagram remains by far my favourite social medium and I have a few new obsessions.

Trail Sisters is a lovely account filled with beautiful pictures of women running trails and it also links into an excellent website/blog with loads of great stuff on it.

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Megan Marie Myers is an artist based in Bend, Oregon. I LOVE her work – sweet, lovely pictures of people in the outdoors. She does adorable paintings on little panels of wood. I’m hankering to commission a family picture of me and my boys in California but she’s not taking commissions till 2018. In the meantime, I’m hoping to treat myself to a wood panel when I find the right one.

Idle Theory Bus is a lovely account of a very beautiful couple driving round the US in their orange camper van. It’s idyllic but is especially interesting because in what is usually a very visual medium, they use a lot of written words to paint pictures as well as the images themselves. I like it.

Finally Vincent Croce is a Dutch photographer who posts BEAUTIFUL atmospheric pictures of the countryside where he lives. Gorgeousness.

Websites

Salty Running has been around for a long time but I’ve started getting into it mainly because of the variety of articles they post. They also do a great Twitter chat on a Monday night which I’ve done a few times and have really enjoyed. I won a running jacket one time too! Result.

Movies

Salomon Trail Running did a wonderful 20 minute movie about running in Patagonia. Patagonia is where the cool kids seem to be going – the scenery in this film is spectacular and there is much gentleman eye-candy.

Books

I’ve been reading loads recently, due to the rainy weekends. One book I loved was Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night, the gentle, bittersweet tale of two older people who start sleeping together (like ‘sleeping’) to ward of loneliness. It’s a lovely book.

I’m currently reading Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist which is likely to offend everyone. The general feeling is you can’t be a feminist if you love Jesus and you can’t really love Jesus if you’re a feminist…but sometimes, you simply ARE a feminist who loves Jesus. There’s not much out there to help you process those potentially conflicting, deeply held beliefs but this book is being really helpful to me and I’m valuing the writing and the thoughtfulness.

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TV

Due to our British connections, we got to watch the first episode of the new series of Broadchurch and it is excellent!

So there you go…some good stuff to waste some time with!

 

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In which I find my perfect winter sport

I’ve talked before about my love-hate relationship with skiing. (Basically I love the whole skiing ‘thing’. I just hate the actual skiing.) This weekend we headed up to Tahoe to ski Homewood, a smaller resort on the west shore. It looked perfect for us – lots of greens and blues, ideal for a family trip. I knew I could do greens and I was up for trying some blues!

I won’t go into details but suffice to say that I hated skiing on Saturday. Hated it. NONE of this is due to Homewood which is a great little resort which we all really liked. I was just a crap skier having a crap day. I was done with skiing.

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On the Sunday, NONE of us wanted to ski. This has NEVER happened before. Neither the Husband nor the Dude were particularly healthy this weekend,  so they decided they’d rather go sledding at Granlibakken and I was determined to have a go at cross-country skiing.

I’ve wanted to try cross-country (aka nordic) skiing for a long time now….it’s on my Bay Area Bucket List. I’ve long been secretly convinced that it’s my perfect snow sport. All the things I love about ‘skiing’…being active, being outside, snow, mountains, cake…and none of the things I hate…fear, broken bones.  I did try it once when I was unknowingly pregnant, in France with my lovely friend Debs. We skied for about a mile before finding a chalet with deck chairs in the sunshine selling hot schnapps. (I said UNKNOWINGLY PREGNANT). But I hadn’t done it since. However I know that a lot of Europe’s best trail runners (including my heroine Emelie Forsberg) do it as a winter activity because it complements running so well. The action is similar, it builds cardiovascular fitness in a similar way. So I cashed in some Christmas money from my in-laws and booked a group lesson at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Center.

My lesson was at 10.30, my boys dropped me off and headed off to sledge. I felt at home instantly. A lot of the people there clearly did this regularly and they looked like runners. They wore different clothes to us newbies wearing our downhill ski clothes. The regulars wore much less bulky clothes, almost like running clothes. The shop was full of stuff that I could imagine myself running in…I wanted to buy most of the stuff too. This was my place. My heart beat faster.

The place was RAMMED. This was their busiest weekend of the year and the queue was long. (So get there early if you’re planning to go). However it moved fast and before long I was kitted out. The minute I put on the ski-boots, I knew this was the sport for me. Cross-country boots are not the torture devices of downhill skiing. They’re soft and pliable and comfortable, and you stand NO chance of snapping your tibia over the rim. (Yep). I was in love. Also the skis are much thinner and much lighter than downhill skis – no heavy schlepping around here. I basically skipped onto the snow.

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So comfy…

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So light…

My group lesson was with a sprightly older gentleman named Rick. It was a big group – maybe 13 people. I’m sure this is abnormal due to the holiday weekend. We were all total beginners and all a little nervous. Rick showed us how to step into the skis and over the next hour he showed us how to move forward, how to move forward faster, how to glide, how to go downhill and most importantly how to stop. I was a little nervous on the downhills but there was none of the terror I feel in downhill skiing. Most of all, I was having fun.

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My lesson

Cross-country skiing does feel a lot like running. The movement is similar and my running fitness really made a difference, I noticed I was faster than others in my group. Normally I’m the slowest and the last in my ski-classes so this was nice. As I skied, I could feel my heart working similarly to how it does when I run easily.

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At the end of the lesson, I had about an hour and a half before my boys would pick me up so I set to work. I spent much of that time simply going up and down the very gentle slope near the lodge practising climbing and practising descending. Each time I descended, I got a little less tense and a little less clumsy. I was elated with myself.

For the last half hour, I headed up the easy yellow trail to the flat meadow area where a network of trails spread out. Trails are graded in difficulty from yellow to green to blue to black. I stuck with greens but felt really comfortable on them. I really loved exploring the new trails. It was so peaceful and pretty. I swooshed along happily and just relished being on skis without being scared.

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As my time ran out, I skied down back to the lodge to find the Husband waiting for me. He saw my massive grin and knew instantly that this was much more ‘me’.

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My enthusiasm was so great that I persuaded my (previously reluctant) boys to try it on Monday morning before we headed home…but the weather had other ideas. A massive snow storm blew in and we decided to head over the Donner Pass before it got too bad or anyone got too hungry. Sensible decision but it just left me itching to do more. I sense a return trip coming up in the weeks we have left.

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But all in all…flipping excellent!

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Lunch-date with my favourite gap-toothed cutie

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Review: This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey

On her blog, The Runner Beans, Charlie Watson has started a monthly book club and I thought it would be fun to join in and read the books if they appealed.  This month’s book was the autobiography of British elite runner Jo Pavey. I’m not sure how familiar she is to my Bay Area running friends but she’s a big UK heroine.

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Jo’s been running at elite level for nearly 30 years if you include junior level athletics. She was plagued by injury for years and missed the podium in many championship races, often coming 4th or 5th behind runners we now have good reason to believe were doping – indeed she’s still awaiting a bronze medal from the 10k at the 2007 world championships, having finished fourth behind an athlete who has since tested positive to performance enhancing drugs.

Because of these reasons, she kind of flew under the radar for many years despite competing in 4 Olympic Games for Team GB. However in 2014 she sprang to immediate fame when she won a gold medal at the European Championships in the 10,000m. This was particularly notable because she was 40 when she won that first gold medal and was just 10 months postpartum from her second child! This made her a heroine to all the middle-aged mother runners in the UK. I mean this with NO disrespect as she was hugely inspiring to THIS middle-aged mother runner as well.  So I was looking forward to reading her book.

On the whole it’s a good sports autobiography. It starts with her club running years in her teens and charts her years off with injury, her university days studying to become a physiotherapist, getting back into competition right the way through to four Olympic games. Alongside the professional story, she talks of her marriage to Gav who becomes her coach, and the birth of her two children and how their arrival immediately changes her attitude to training.

I liked her quiet, wry recognition of how much older she is compared to most of her competitors – how her club vest was older than some of the women she raced against and how, when she won gold, the press always mentioned her age after her name so she was always referred to as ‘Jo Pavey, 40…’.

The bits that most resonated with me were about her  approach to training.  In this busy life we all lead, it’s easy to identify with someone juggling many different commitments and fitting training in where possible. She talks about how her second run of the day is often at 9pm on the treadmill in what’s basically a large cupboard. No glamour, no flashiness…just that daily commitment to grinding it out and putting the miles in. That really did challenge me to commit harder to getting my run in, when I’d usually just decide it wasn’t going to happen and open the zin.

So…a few things that this middle-aged runner is taking out of the book.

  • Get the run done. No matter when it gets done and where it gets done…if it’s on your plan, get it done.
  • At the same time…I liked how she was able to recognize that sometimes you can only do what you CAN do, not necessarily what you ‘should’ be doing. There’s a lovely realism in her approach.
  • Elite sport isn’t necessarily glamorous – nor does it need to be. Jo and her family live in rural Devon, at least 4 hours from the bright lights of London. The nearest track is 12 miles away and she’s not exactly living in the hub of an elite athlete world. I loved that contrast – the quiet, understated, dedicated way she just gets on with her training. It’s that inner drive and I respect it so much.
  • The love of running and racing. Jo speaks with so much love of running and her desire to be running her whole life. And I love her gritty approach to racing and her love of pushing herself hard. I was finishing her book when I ran Kaiser a few Sundays ago and it definitely motivated me to race harder.

My only complaint is that it was written with a ghost-writer,  which I understand but I feel that doing so hides the true voice of the athlete. In real-life interviews, Jo comes across as very even-tempered, very humble, understated and down-to earth and that definitely comes across in the book. However I couldn’t help but wonder what Jo is like in real life. Is she funnier? Is she feistier or sarkier? The ghost-writer made the book feel oddly impersonal – more like a biography told in the first person than a true autobiography. I think that’s a shame.

I admire Jo greatly – her dedication, her realistic commitment to running and training and her down-to-earth personality. So I enjoyed this opportunity to find out more about her story. Recommended.

Thanks to my friend Liz who helped me source this book on the interwebs for much less than the amazon.com price!

Also, I won’t be bringing this heavy book back to the UK with me so if you’re a Bay Area local and you fancy reading it, let me know and it’s all yours!

 

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Running Mission Peak

One of my Bay Area Bucket List items was to run Mission Peak. We’d hiked there three years ago when the Dude was small and cute and had never forgotten the views from the top. I wanted to run it, so Jen, Debbie and I found an afternoon that suited and the plan was on.

I dropped my boys at the Stanford Avenue trailhead – they would hike the 3 miles from there,  it would be a race – and then drove a little further to pick up an alternative trail starting at Ohlone College. It’s a steep climb up Mission Peak and this route would take us up in 4 miles, as opposed to the 3 miles from Stanford Avenue. We hoped it would be slightly more runnable. Parking was plentiful and free on Sundays, there were portaloos at the bottom…we posed for the obligatory starting selfie and we were off.

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Make no mistake, it was a tough climb and there was a fair amount of hiking that took place but we managed to run more than I’d expected. The climb was steady but fairly do-able and also surprisingly shady – the climb from Stanford Ave is fully exposed to the sun and brutal on hot days, so this is definitely the better summer option. There were plenty of cows on the hills including one ambling up the trail – we had to pass her which freaked me out a little but we survived the giant cow attack!  careful slow passing of a medium-sized bovine.

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Soon enough we came to the loo in the middle of nowhere which marks the final mile up to the peak. It gets very steep from here onwards and we hiked the vast majority, including the scramble up rocks for the final push. As we hiked upwards, I glanced back and saw my boys behind me and the desire to win galvanized me to push to the top. It was very windy at the top and rather chilly but we found a sheltered spot in the sun and waited for the boys to arrive.

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Thanks for the photo Jen…and the very precise German who took it

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My boys arrived, they conceded the race,  we ate snacks, we posed for photos including a recreation of a shot we took three years ago 🙂

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mission peak me dude

Me and the Dude in 2013 when he was small and cute

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Me and the Dude in 2017 when he is almost as big as me

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The run down was delightful. Easy running on smooth trails, chatting all the way. The weather was perfect today – it can be very hot on Mission Peak or bitterly cold and windy, but we’d struck gold. The fields were a luminous emerald green due to all the rain, the views were gorgeous, the company was top notch.

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Our potentially dodgy parenting trick to encourage hiking is to reward with ice-cream. THIS one was surprisingly enormous and covered with candy floss! Ooops…

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Mission Peak…done!

 

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Skyline Trail

Back in January, when I had completely lost my desire to run, one of the things that I knew would bring joy back was running more trails. This year, I made a vow to run at least 250 miles on the trails and to make it a regular event. It was something I decided to prioritise, and to do so, I changed the way I approached it.

In the past, I’ve managed to run trails maybe once every month or two months. I’d get the morning off parenting, I’d meet a bunch of girls, we’d run 12 miles and then go for brunch. It was a big, exciting, fun morning. But when you have a child, that’s not sustainable as a regular event. So instead of those BIG events, I started to plan shorter runs with friends. I’d meet them at the trailhead at 7am, we’d run for maybe an hour and then I’d be home by 8.30 or 9. I’d still have the endorphin glow of time on the trails but I’d also be there with my boys! Perfect.

January is traditionally quiet for us so I’ve managed to run trails every single week in 2017 and it has been a delight. I’ve run with 7 different friends and I’ve run alone a few times where I feel safe. I’ve run in 6 different places. My trail shoes have been permanently filthy and my stoke-ometer has been off the scale.

I feel obliged to point out that I’m still relatively new to trail running. I’m not GOOD at it. I love it SO much but I don’t want to portray myself as some badass trail queen who scampers up hills and screams down the descents. No, I slog up hills (often hiking) and if you’ve ever run with me, you’ll know that I take the descents slower than my late grandma. I’m not tough. But I AM enthusiastic.

This weekend, I got to run trails twice (I know) and both runs were so much fun I wanted to blog about them both. I took loads of photos and basically I want to share them 🙂

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The first run was on Saturday when I ran an out-and-back on Skyline Trail with Lety. Lety is a new friend – our kids go to the same Kids Club at church and we discovered we were both runners so it was really fun to finally get to run with her. We were at the trail-head on Kings Moutnain road at 7am. The sky was getting light but the trails in the redwood forest were dark and gloomy. I would NOT have run there alone so I was grateful for the company.

Skyline is a lovely trail. It’s relatively flat. There are ups and downs of course, but it basically follows the ridge-line and runs parallel to Skyline Boulevard. Every now and again you see the road and hear a car but for most of the time you’re deep in the forest. It was the first time Lety had run trails like these and seeing her excitement was so lovely. We ran into the forest and round a corner and she basically ground to a halt and started exclaiming at how gorgeous it was. It was like a whole new world had opened up to her. Her enthusiasm was exactly how I feel every time!

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We ran south for about 45 minutes. There were trees to clamber over due to the recent storms. There were muddy puddles to climb around. And bit by bit, it got lighter.

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Just before we turned around to come back, we got to a bend in the trail and the lights were just incredible.

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I know that this light effect has a scientific name (crepuscular rays) but it never fails to move me. Lety and I are both christians and we just stopped and stared for a while at what looked like shafts of light from heaven.

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There’s a quote from  ‘Room with a View’ that I always think of when I see them.

‘One might have compared the curtains to sluice-gates, lowered against the intolerable tides of heaven. Without was poured a sea of radiance; within, the glory, though visible, was tempered to the capacities of man.

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We turned around shortly afterwards and headed back to the car. Running is a great way to get to know someone better…somehow people seem more willing to open up when running than in normal life, so it was great to get to know Lety better. We got back to the car buzzing and happy and feeling triumphant. It was a good morning.

trails skyline

 

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Race Recap: Kaiser 5k

You know how sometimes your read other bloggers’ race recaps and they’re all ‘Oh I PR’d and I did no training and I totally wasn’t expecting it’ and you’re all ‘Bugger, why doesn’t that happen to me?’

Reader, it happened to me.

Let’s recap. A few months ago, I was really chuffed to become a race ambassador for the Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon and 5k. Having done the half marathon twice, I decided to run the 5k because of the sweet downhill and I was determined to absolutely crush it. It felt like the opportunity to set what was likely to be a lifetime best PR because a) downhill b) getting old.

And then Winter happened. I got sick, I got better, I got sick, I got better, I got my period, I got sick…I was unable to string together more than one solid week of training, I felt rough and I had absolutely no desire to run. So I stopped ‘training’. I abandoned all thoughts of a PR and focused on getting healthy, rediscovering the joy of running and getting some happy, easy miles in my legs. So race weekend came with no pressure. On Saturday night I had dinner at a friend’s. I drank a lot of wine, I ate a lot of food. And I woke up on Sunday morning ready to run as hard as I could on the day and just be grateful to be healthy, decently fit and able to race with my boys on the day before my 42nd birthday.

Race morning was fairly straight forward. We found spectacular parking right next to the portaloos by the windmill at the finish line. We used the aforementioned portaloos and got the schoolbus shuttle from the ocean to the start-line. We found Jen to hand over her bib which I’d collected the day before and then headed over to the 5k start.

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The magic schoolbus

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Pre-race Ramsdens

 

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Start-line

The 5k started 10 minutes before the half-marathon. I left my boys to run together and I shuffled forward a bit. I wasn’t bothered about self-seeding as I had no expectations. We listened to the National Anthem and I got a bit emotional about the beautiful singing and then we were off.

I should have self-seeded better.

It quickly became apparent that very few people around me wanted to race. We crossed the start line and I immediately had to stop and we minced along for a bit…it was ridiculously slow, I just had to laugh. Definitely wasn’t PR-ing today. Even less pressure. But I did still want to run hard so I started weaving my way around people and after about quarter of a mile I was able to run pretty much freely.

The course was hiller than I expected. It started with a very slight hill, then we turned through the museums and up MLK. As we turned up past Stow Lake, the hill was definitely noticeable. I was relishing the chance to run hard but I definitely worked up the hill using my new hills mantra of ‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ to channel my dark fury into race fuel! It worked.

From Stow Lake there was a lovely downhill back to JFK, a very slight uphill on Transverse and then a long steady downhill on Overlook and Middle Road West.  ‘Let it go’ came on my headphones which (oh the shame) never fails to make me run harder and this time made me think of two of my preschoolers who belt this out regularly, totally off-key. So much gratitude. I never once glanced at my watch. I was surprised at how tough running hard was – by Mile 2.5 I was totally ready to be done but I kept pushing on, trying to pick people off one by one. Soon enough, we turned onto MLK, I saw the M3 sign and then the finish line in the distance and gave it all I had. As I approached the finish line, I could see the clock was counting up from 25:30 and I was really thrilled – I was expecting 26:something so 25:something was brilliant, especially as I thought I could take several seconds off the gun time. I crossed the line, stopped my watch and took some time to catch my breath and recover as I was pretty much cooked.

I took my medal (FLIPPING ENORMOUS), took some water and positioned myself by the finish chute to be able to see my boys coming in. It was several minutes before I glanced down to see my time and my heart leapt to see 24.53! Just 3 seconds over my PR. Amazed.

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Boom!

My boys came in a few minutes later having had a solid run. Lots of hugs and some red-cheeked photos.

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Leaving his dad for dead

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Job-done

We wandered down through the expo, ate all the free samples, got all the freebies and stopped at the results tent to check our times and somehow my actual time was 24.45, a 5-second PR, and I was 6th in my age-group. I was totally thrilled! I got a bit emotional. I really hadn’t expected this. I didn’t deserve it but somehow I’d wangled a birthday 5k PR.

We had a brunch reservation at the Beach Chalet at 10.30 so we skyped our family in the UK and stood cheering the half-marathon runners seeing my friend Lety come through and then Jen! We got to see them come back up the other side, seeing Sesa too and then headed to the Beach Chalet where Jen met us and we ate a lot of french toast, drank a lot of coffee and one of us snuck in a cheeky kir royale.

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Next time, I’ll remind the husband not to chew mid-photo

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Hydrate, caffeinate, celebrate

 

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Someone wanted to sit by Jen

Notes on the race

In the interests of full disclosure, I was a social media ambassador for this race. Thank you to everyone who used my code – I earned a free entry plus several other prizes including free running shoes and a fitbit so I’m really grateful. My thoughts on the race are below – I’ve paid for my own entry twice and would have done this race again even if I wasn’t an ambassador so hopefully my opinions are trustworthy.

  • Once again, this was an excellently organised race. There were plentiful schoolbus shuttles from Ocean Beach to the race start, we didn’t have to wait at all. There were plenty of portaloos at the start and plentiful safety pins also for those of us who discovered they didn’t have any at home at 6.15 on race day morning.
  • The volunteers deserve a special mention. There were seemingly thousands of lovely teenage volunteers the whole day. They stood in lines as we walked to the shuttle buses saying a cheery ‘good morning’. There were volunteers at the start with signs saying ‘Ask me anything’ and they were able to answer our questions. They were plentiful at the end, giving out medals, water, food and space blankets – one entertainer had drawn a Nike swoosh on one and was shouting out ‘Get your Nike Space Blanket here, only $30’ which was very very funny. They were just a lovely bunch of teenagers, I hope the Dude turns out so nicely.
  • I heard that some people didn’t get their race bibs through the post and this caused some race-day stress but ours arrived well in time so I can only speak of that.
  • The 5k course is a PR-magnet (even if you’re overweight and unfit, apparently). Be sure to start very near the front if you want to race and be prepared for the uphill sections but it’s lovely!
  • The 5k medal is ENORMOUS but it doubles as a coaster which is genius. When we move back to the UK, we’ll be rehoming most of our medals but this one will be coming with me for that very reason!
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Thin Mints provided to add scale

  • Finishers also got a cotton, long-sleeved top. I was dubious about the colour but once I put it on, I really liked it. The small is quite fitted on me  (I’m a US4). One of my Ambassador perks was a long-sleeved tech top which I flipping adore and I’m saving it to wear until we move back to the UK. I also got a free race jacket which I also LOVE! So if this is a goal race for you, I’d definitely recommend upgrading to the tech-shirt at least!
  • I wish there was a 10k which basically covers the first 6 miles of the Half course…I’d fly back from the UK to run that!

In recent weeks, I have been starting to reconcile myself to the strong possibility that my PR days are behind me. Today, I realised that’s not true.

The fire is burning again, people!

(Thanks again to everyone who used my discount code.) 

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