Category Archives: Running

The Sport of Ageing

I suppose that being over 60 I can still be classified as being middle-aged, towards the end of middle age and heading towards old age. There is of course chronological age and biological age. That nice machine they have at the gym that tells me I’m only 45! A dexa scan tells me my bone density and % of body fat are average for a 20 year old.

As the body ages, muscle size and strength reduces, flexibility reduces, aerobic capacity reduces, bone structure and density changes – it’s all happening and it’s all a natural process. Ordinary people become more sedentary as they age. Older athletes reduce the rigour of their training. Metabolic function changes, my thyroid doesn’t produce any thyroxin for example and the synthetic substitute is a poor replacement. I am basically very healthy and fit. We live in a nice place and have an active outdoorsy lifestyle.

Kayaking near our home.

For better and for worse, your body never ceases to change through ageing. My approach to training and sport choices and level of activity will reflect that by evolving from year to year in appropriate ways.

The changes in my body have meant a dramatic reduction in running speed. To keep this in perspective I am still ‘good for age’ but it’s still very annoying! Also my body finds running very strenuous and complains more loudly and often than it used to when I was younger. This means I can run less as I don’t want to exacerbate injuries.

I spend more time these days on strength and conditioning than I used to. In practice this means weight training with dumbells and kinesis. It means regular Iyengar yoga classes.

Chair headstand at our yoga class.

At a simple accessible level it is a 2 minute daily plank! Some days even that is too hard!

I no longer feel the need to push myself to do things I don’t really enjoy. I no longer swim in the sea year round for example! I still swim regularly, but only in the pool when the sea temperature is in single figures.

Sea swimming

I did not take up my ‘Good for Age’ place at the London Marathon in 2017. I loved the 2016 event and ran well ensuring an automatic entry to all the big city marathons in the world in 2017 and 2018. But, for reasons I can’t really explain I just didn’t want to do it. Maybe it’s a case of been there done that and got a drawer full of T shirts.

Finishing London Marathon 2016

I have not entered any triathlons this season- yet. I am still training. I still swim, bike, run and I enjoy it. At present – that seems to be enough. Racing is not on the agenda at present.

My Ironman trophy

I still ride Audax events.

I keep up my AAARTY.

There are many inspirational people out there riding huge distances who are much older than I am – mainly men. I continually ask myself, ‘Am I having a nice time – is this fun?’ The effects of ageing on my body have made stuff that used to be fun, much less fun because it hurts and the results are poor. So evolve – focus on what is fun. Focus on what I can do now rather than what I used to do.

My attention has been diverted from training by normal family events earlier this year. My father was very ill for a while. He is 91 and lives close by so we were able to give him the care and support he needed to get well and regain his independence. We also had the great joy of the marriage of Kathryn our daughter.

Kathryn’s wedding

This focused our attention for a number of weeks.

A big change in my life that has affected the training I do is personal. My husband Ian who has never really been interested in doing much exercise himself whist being very supportive of everything I do. Last summer a change occurred and he decided we should get mountain bikes. Now Ian is normally one of those reactive people so when he becomes proactive I tend to sit up and take notice!

Since we got those bikes last June Mountain biking has gradually become a more important part of our lives. We now ride as much as 3 or 4 times a week TOGETHER and have a lot of fun.

Mountain biking

He has become (rather annoyingly) very good and much fitter. I now ride my mountain bike more than my road bike. As a further development he gradually succumbed to riding my old Dawes Galaxy with straight bars that I did LeJOG on and doing some gentle road riding.

Dawes Galaxy ready for the Grand Tour of the Highland and Islands

We have a tour of the West coast of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides planned for a tour in June. A distance of about 600 miles with enough hills to make the elevation the same as the height of Mount Everest!

I can feel my strength and speed just disappearing as time passes and I am determined not to let it mar my enjoyment. I can still do loads of stuff. There is still lots of stuff to do and lots of adventures to be had!

Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

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Virgin London Marathon 2016

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All details about the event can be found here. This post is just about my experience.

150,000 people enter the ballot for a London Marathon place in the May before the event. About 50,000 places are  allocated and about 40,000 start the race. In addition to the ballot places there are also some places that are allocated to runners who are very fast or who are considered ‘Good for Age’. So if like me you are female, old and considered to be quick for age and sex you get an automatic entry. In 2015 I ran the North Dorset Villages marathon in 4 hours 30 minutes (and 46 seconds) which just about quick enough to meet the Good for Age standard for women aged 60 – 64.

Of the 40,000 runners who started the London Marathon on 24th  April 2016 just 204 were women aged 60 – 64 with a further 130 women over the age of 65. The reason why there were so few older women running the marathon is because it is bloody hard.

I have completed the London Marathon seven times over the years since my first one in 1994. Back in the day I used to run quite quickly and until I was 55 most marathons were sub 3 hours 30 minutes with a personal best of 3 hours 12 minutes set in Paris in 2001. In 2009 I ran 3 hours 37 minutes and I then decided to stop running marathons as I was getting too slow!

Training for a marathon is quite tricky. In an effort to train hard enough to get the best from yourself it is essential to avoid over-training and acquiring injuries. I try to vary my training and do a lot of it off road. I build intensity by running on hills (not difficult in West Dorset) and by doing some intervals and speed work. After the ironman in September 2015 I had a few months of low motivation and started 2016 with no desire to compete and not much urge to get out of the door and run! My training diary records ‘running is hard work and I am depressingly slow. I cannot imagine being at the start of VLM on April 24th’. In January a 15km run was ‘exhausting’, but by February things were improving and I was pushing the long run out to 30km. During March my mojo gradually returned and I recorded that I was ‘running well – just slowly.’ I ran the Grizzly in March at race intensity and was quite pleased. I recovered well and ran the Weymouth half marathon in 2 hours 4 minutes the weekend after. However, I only ran more than 30km in training 6 times in preparation for the London marathon.

As well as running, I have  continued to swim at least once a week and cycled several times a week, including many rides over 100km. I also do some strength and conditioning with weights in the gym and Iyengar yoga.

The Virgin London Marathon is incredibly well organised. It is a massive event with 40,000 runners and many thousands helping to facilitate the event. Registration takes place at Excel in London and in itself is a huge event. Registration is open for 3 full days and although by Saturday lunch time when we rolled up it was very busy, we were quickly processed and I had my number and timing chip. I had been quite nervous in the week before going up to London but by this time I was resigned to my fate.

Registration at Excel

Registration at Excel

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The Grizzly 2016 – ‘Grin and Bear It’

The Grizzly is a race organised by Axe Valley Runners. It takes place in March every year and starts and finishes on Seaton sea front in Devon which is on the South coast of England.

Seaton sea front

Seaton sea front

The race is very popular and entry is gained by taking part in a ballot held in September where approximately 1500 places are allocated. About 400 women take part. The Grizzly has been happening every year since 1988. Not including 2016, the race has raised £305k for local charities. Every year the race has a name. The 2016 race was the 29th and was named ‘Grin and Bear It.’
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Swoosh!

The Bantham Swoosh was a new event organised by the Outdoor Swimming Society for the first time in 2015. I heard about it too late to enter the OSS event.

However, this sounded like a lot of fun so I checked out the tide tables and earmarked a few dates which looked suitable. All that it needs is a big spring tide really.

On 30th August there was such a tide and all my swimming buddies were busy doing other stuff. Ian and I managed to drag ourselves out of bed – despite the dreary bank holiday weather – and drove down to Aveton Gifford where the River Avon is accessible from the car park.
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Bristol Harbourside Triathlon

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June 14th 2015 was the 6th staging of the Bristol Harbourside Triathlon run by TriBristol. Bristol Harbourside Triathlon is established as a premier event on the Triathlon racing calendar in the South West.

A triathlon is a multi stage competition involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance disciplines. There are many variations but triathlon in its popular form consists of swimming cycling and running in immediate succession over varying distances. Triathletes compete for overall fastest course completion times including timed ‘transitions’ between the individual swim cycle and run components.

Triathlon race lengths vary and at the TriBristol event there was a Sprint race consisting of a 750m swim, 20k cycle and a 5k run. I competed in the Standard distance also popularly known as the Olympic distance which is a 1500m swim 40km cycle and a 10km run. My daughter Kathryn was also competing in the standard distance event.

A transition area is set up where athletes change gear for different segments of the race. At Bristol the women were numbered 1 – 54 and the places in transition were allocated consecutively. There were only 4 of us so called female Supervets aged over 50 and we met up before the race as we were setting up in transition.

Kathryn and I in transition before the start

Kathryn and I in transition before the start

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Strava

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Strava – which mean ‘to strive’ in Swedish is a website and mobile app used to track athletic activity via GPS. It was created in 2009 in San Francisco. The most popular activities tracked using the software are cycling and running but they are exploring how to extend the service to other areas of sport.

The basic service is free but there is an optional pay component which allows access to even more statistics than the free version. Strava will not disclose how many members it has but it has grown 30 times since 2011 and now 75% of its members are outside the US.

I have resisted signing up for Strava. I’ve had a Garmin for as long as I have been cycling and have enjoyed timing, discovering and mapping rides. The Garmin is also an essential tool for me to find my way on Audax rides and also to submit evidence for Audax DIY rides. Nowadays I rarely go out for a ride or a run without the Garmin on my wrist or the bars.

It's not all about Strava. Once in a while there is some true recreation with no Garmin on the bars!

It’s not all about Strava. Once in a while there is some true recreation with no Garmin on the bars!

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Focus

I haven’t posted for a long time. This is not because I have been idle and inactive. Far from it.

My focus for this year is the Challenge Weymouth long distance triathlon – Ironman distance – which is in September. The distances involved are 3.8 kilometres swimming in the sea followed without a break to180 kilometres cycling and then direct to 42.2 kilometres running. This is a big challenge for me and I’m not sure if I will manage to complete it. However I have been training with this event in mind since October 2014.

Long winter run on Thorncombe Beacon

Long winter run on the Dorset Coast Path. the picture is on Thorncombe Beacon

Audax ride on my winter bike

Audax ride on my winter bike

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