Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Battle Observer, Runner's World, the Olympics and my 2012 Challenge

Battle Observer

Sue from Alzheimer's Research UK phoned me the other day and suggested we do a round-up of my fund-raising and marathon running exploits for the year and issue another press release. Her idea was to talk about the 4 marathons briefly, bearing in mind that we did press releases before each individual marathon anyway, and then mention my plans for next year.

Great idea I thought and so Mike decided to take a photo of me holding all 4 medals. First of all we went outside but it was so windy that each photo ended up with my hair covering my face leaving me looking like Cousin Itt from the Adams Family!

So we came inside and he took 2 photos of me in the hallway which he thought looked fine. Yeah, right! They looked OK on the camera but when I uploaded them I noticed that my vest had ridden up and you could see bits of myself through the lycra that I would prefer not to share with the world!

Eventually we got a decent shot and so off it went with the wordy bit. Sometimes we get follow-up phone calls or emails but nothing happened so I was quite surprised when I opened the local paper to see this fab article. It's wonderful when they get all the important bits about Alzheimer's Research into the article and ARUK will be delighted as we have had lots of coverage again this year.

Many thanks to the Observer and all the local radio stations for their ongoing support.

Runner's World

Each year Runner's World offer a number of runners the opportunity to train for a marathon (usually London but this year it was Paris) with a team of professionals.

Each year I enter but never get selected.

This year they've teamed up with Asics to offer this amazing opportunity to train for the Paris marathon in 2012.

Ever the optimist I've put myself forward again in the hope that they might help this fat but fit 54 year old achieve her dreams of pbs in 2012. A girl can but dream and I do actually run in ASICs shoes (Gel Nimbus)!

The 2012 Olympics

I don't think I've mentioned this before but the lovely people from ARUK put my name forward for the London 2012 'Moment to shine' campaign to become a torchbearer. They also nominated Dione who I've written about before. Both of us are Champions for ARUK.

Amazingly, out of the hundreds of thousands of nominees, both of us have managed to get through to the next stage. They have created a shortlist of 28,000 potential Torchbearers from all the nominations they received.

The stories will remain anonymous as the panels select the 2,012 most inspiring people to be one of the 8,000 Torchbearers needed in total for the Olympic Torch Relay. The nominees will have around a one in 14 chance of being a Torchbearer.

I felt very humble to have been nominated and it would be brilliant if one or both of us could make it through.

My 2012 Challenge

Which brings me nicely around to my 2012 challenge. You will see from the article in the Observer that I mentioned 'an Olympic effort' for next year. Well I was pondering what to do (more marathons, multiple marathons, ultra marathons?) when it just came to me that it had to be something that would be really hard for me to do. Anyone who has been reading my blog will have seen me try and fail to beat my marathon pb twice now so it was obvious what I should do - get faster across all the distances.

I can't believe I'm typing this but what I intend to do in 2012 is to beat my best times at 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon and marathon.

No details yet but that's the plan. Oh my!

Skies 69-72

Everywhere looks gorgeous at the moment as all the leaves are changing colour now; except for course for the Oak trees as they hold onto their leaves longer than the others.

First to fall are the golds and russets and then the pinks and reds start. I'm trying not to clog up my blog with photos of the trees that I've taken when out running as I want to concentrate on the skies!

So here they are for the last 4 days:

26th October

27th October

28th October

29th October

There is much excitement in Redheadland at the moment but details will have to go into another post when I get a minute!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Skies 62 - 68

I can't seem to keep up at the moment. There's so much to do whilst the weather is so lovely that I'm spending as much time as possible outside. It has been really warm and everywhere is parched with many ponds drying up. Its hard to believe that the Western side of the country has been having torrential rain and flash floods!

Here are the sunsets or skies for the last 6 days:

20th October

21st October

22nd October

23rd October

24th October

25th October

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skies 52 - 61

As I am so far behind with my updates I have chosen just one favourite photo from each day.

11th October

12th October

13th October

14th October

15th October

16th October

17th October

18th October

19th October

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Going home to Sky 51

The next day my legs felt fine but my throat still felt horrid and my head was a bit muzzy (no, not from the wine!). We still had time for a bit of a wander before we had to head off to get the train.

We started by heading off to wander through part of Liverpool One a massive complex of shops, flats and hotels. There were some really interesting plantings alongside the Hilton hotel but I must have deleted the photo - it's been block planted, using tough grasses and paving with fountains and water features.

We climbed a beautiful sweeping stone staircase up to a new level with great views.

I liked the curved shapes of the buildings and the use of the ubiquitous Betula utilis jacquemontii with its ghostly white bark.

There was this quirky statue, a tribute to John Lennon.

What a legacy those four young men left their city of birth. The tourism side alone must be worth a fortune to Liverpool.

We decided to take a walk up to the Walker Art Gallery and the Library via a different route to soak up some more atmosphere.

Liverpool has some amazing architecture and you really do need to look upwards to catch some of the wonderful details.

The gargoyles, the ornamentation, the stonework and brickwork all make it too good to miss.

It's always good to view things as a tourist as you catch the little details that draw you in to the history of this wonderful city (can you tell I have a great affection for Liverpool?).

Sadly the library was closed for renovations. Mike was disappointed as he used to spend hours in there as a teenager looking through musical scores, studying and learning from the great composers. We did however manage a quick look around the art gallery.

Time was marching on and so we had a stroll through the little garden behind St. George's Hall where I spotted this very sad little memorial promoting 'Road Peace'.

The inscription reads "Injured or killed lives unfulfilled........the reality of road crashes" and is covered in everyday items from those who lost their lives such as a teddy bear, a handbag, mobile phone, set of keys.

Then it was time to head back to the hotel to collect our things before heading home.

I could not leave this account of our visit without showing the monstrosity that is Mann Island.

My photos will give you a feel of how dreadful this development is and why I'm beginning to sound like Prince Charles

I found a like-minded individual's comments here and his photos show just how beautiful the view was before!

He's also printed a quote from the developer and this one made me snort in disbelief:

Developers Neptune say: “The development proposes a subtle but striking architectural response to this extremely important connecting site. The development respects the scale height and setting of the neighbouring buildings and proposes simple elegant forms.”

Are you sure? Do you really think that hideous black glass carbunkle of a building juxtaposed starkly with the magnificence of the Three graces shows any respect for its neighbours?

This final photo shows the view from Canning Dock now. What a travesty of the planning rules in a World Heritage Site!

I must add that I am not against modernist architecture at all and I really loved the modern design of the new museum and the Echo Arena. But I believe that the old and new should sit happily together and I do not think that they do in this instance.

After that little rant there's not much more to say except we collected our things and caught the train to Euston from Lime Street Station where we found sculptures of the wonderful Ken Dodd and Bessie Braddock (scroll down the link to see them). Mike worked as a backing act for Ken Dodd in the days when he was a starving musician and played the keyboard to supplement his income!

It was a fast train with only a couple of stops en-route, one of which was at Stafford where Mike spotted this lovely car with it's eyelashes.

How wonderfully girlie!

My head was still too swimmy to concentrate on my knitting so I just messed around with a few puzzles and looked out of the window.

The journey home was a long one as once we reached Euston, after 2 hours 15 minutes, we then had another 2 hours 45 minutes of travelling to go before we finally reached our little bit of paradise.

We reacquainted ourselves with the animals and I noticed that Esther was getting far too fat so would need her grazing restricted even further!

The sky welcomed us home with a melange of purple, grey, pink and peach.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Marathon Day

I had a great sleep the night before which was a huge relief. We were up bright and early but I still felt pretty grotty so had a quick coffee and a dose of ibuprofen before heading down to the breakfast room as soon as they opened.

The cooked breakfast wasn't quite ready so Mike had a crumpet whilst he was waiting and I'd just started eating my toast and marmalade when the fire alarm sounded. There was a short delay whilst people looked around to see if it was for real and then the waitresses came and asked us to vacate the building.

So we trundled down the fire escape and were directed to a car park opposite the hotel. Thankfully it wasn't raining and it was reasonably warm with only a slight wind. After about 10 minutes the fire engines arrived and the firemen went inside. People still kept coming out of the hotel. We stood around waiting patiently for any news.

Another 10 minutes passed and some firemen came out of the building and settled down in the engine. 45 minutes later bleary-eyed people were still coming out of the hotel, some of them barefoot (surely they had time to put on some form of footwear?!). Then eventually we were allowed back in but by this time it was far too late for brekkie or even a hot drink and we just went up to our room, got our things together and headed off to the station to get a very packed train to Birkenhead Park station.

It was then just a 10 minute walk to the start.

The race organisers must have been out and about getting everything ready for hours.

There was so much to do: water and aid stations to set up, portaloos to put in place, volunteers to brief and get into position, road closures, signage, entertainment.

Thousands of runners' bags to load onto the waiting wagons to be transported to the finish line.

It must be a logistical nightmare!

I was supposed to meet people from Runner's World at the first aid tent but there wasn't one, and people from Fetch at the information office which was on the other side of the park so that didn't work out either!

I just saw a couple of old chums and then Martin introduced himself as he made his way through the pen and that was it until we were underway.

So here we are again, another marathon, another start line, another big smile.

What would it hold for me?

Would my mind be able to convince my body that it wasn't suffering from some sort of virus and make it round at my chosen pace?

Was 1/2 a piece of toast and marmalade enough to fuel my run? (I often run on empty so my body should be used to it!).

We were about to find out.

Mike was meeting an old friend after the start and so when the wheelchair racers set off around 9:30am he headed off so that he could meet up with Dave and still have time to meet up with everyone else and support me in Sefton Park.

But the massed race didn't start. We all stood around in our respective pens getting colder and colder. No-one knew what was going on but it was obvious that there was a problem. After 30 minutes runners started leaving their pens to go to the toilet. I was getting quite anxious and I couldn't get through to Mike as his phone was going to ansaphone each time I rang him.

After 40 minutes a spectator found out from someone that there were vehicles driving on the course so the Police couldn't give the all clear until they were removed. They still didn't know when the race would start. I started to worry that Mike wouldn't know that the race had been delayed and would be wondering where I was. Then what would I do if the race was cancelled as I had no money to get back to the hotel but then, after a 50 minute delay, we were off.

I settled into a nice comfortable pace of 10:30 minute miling as we headed off through Birkenhead. Then all of a sudden I heard Mike calling my name and I turned to see him waving alongside Dave. I couldn't believe it and it really lifted my spirits.

The support was wonderful and I really enjoyed the route on the Wirral side as I went past lots of places I remembered plus there was a fantastic view of Liverpool across the water. The sun came out and it was really quite hot for a while so the strong wind along New Brighton seafront was most welcome.

Eventually we wound our way down to Hamilton Square and the entrance to the Queensway Tunnel. Now I'd driven through that tunnel many a time when I worked in Liverpool but I'd never run through it.

What an experience! There were lots of shouts of "oggy, oggy, oggy etc" as is the custom in any tunnel and everyone seemed lighthearted. First of all it went down, and down, and down which of course meant it would be going up and up and up at the other end but that didn't worry me unduly. Some people said they felt claustrophobic but I really enjoyed the cool, quietness of the pace.

But it wasn't quiet all the way. As we were nearing the tunnel exit we started to hear loud drumming. Actually we started to feel it rather than hear it first. As we exited the tunnel like moles blinking in the sunlight the noise from the Batala band acoustic drummers was deafening and incredibly uplifting. I clapped and cheered the drummers as I ran past. Many people said they felt very emotional at this stage and that the memory would stay with them for a long time.

There was excellent entertainment all round the course - bands, drummers, cheerleaders, dancers which were great for the crowds of spectators as well as for the runners.

Then we were running through the streets I used to know so well. I chatted to lots of people I knew and waved to lots more. The volunteers at the numerous aid stations were amazing and very supportive. I felt fine and was maintaining my pace too. The hill at Upper Parliament Street didn't cause me any grief and I hit 15 miles bang on my target time. Then around 16 miles I spotted a man I know from Runner's World. He was slumped at the side of the road and looked awful so I went over to check if he needed help. He said he didn't but I could see that he did and so I asked another runner to go and fetch a first aider whilst I waited with him. It only took a few minutes and then I was off again. He emailed me later to say thanks and let me know that he did finish eventually but was over an hour slower than usual. He felt he was dehydrated from the New Brighton stretch when it was rather hot and windy.

For some reason though I couldn't get back into my stride after that. I still felt OK and knew I would finish but I'd somehow lost my oomph. Maybe it was the lack of brekkie or the virus or lack of sleep or a combination of all those things, who knows. I ripped off my paceband and threw it into a waste bin as if to move into a different zone. For some reason I also decided to throw away my water bottle when it was empty as if it was somehow to blame for things going awry. Stupid woman, now I'll have to buy a new one!

The thing is that once you accept that you won't achieve your goal of whatever time you can just settle down and enjoy the experience and that is just what I did. More runners I knew came alongside and chatted.

As I headed into Sefton Park I spotted my patient little team of supporters plus Mike and that really lifted my spirits again.

Mike took a photo of me and I got a quick hug and a kiss before I headed on my way again.

Lots of people complained about the Sefton Park section as it was a circuitous route but I actually enjoyed most of it because I got to see everyone 4 times without them having to walk too far. Mike remarked that each time they saw me I was talking to a different man! At one stage I was chatting to the Everton supporter, whose name I don't know, who was running round with Alan, who is blind. I often see them at marathons but hadn't met up with them since Abingdon in 2009 so we had a good long chat and catch-up.

As we finally left Sefton Park behind we headed into Princes Park a guy behind me exclaimed "Oh no, are we still in that f***ing park? Please just let me run through a nice industrial estate or something else!" It really made me laugh.

I was still feeling OK but just slower than I'd wanted but I didn't walk at all. Having said that my running was almost as slow as some of the walkers by then!

What was really nice was the 12 people I'd never met before who came alongside to say "hi" because they follow my blog. Thank you to everyone who took the time to come over and I hope you all had a good race experience.

Soon I was heading back down to the river Mersey and still the marshalls and volunteers clapped and cheered us on. I don't think I've ever been hugged by so many people during a marathon, it was fantastic! There was one guy on a bike who was riding backwards and forwards shouting support and encouragement and then my favourite missive came from a marshall at around 22 miles who shouted "Hurry up love, I want mi lunch!" to which I replied "You're going to have to wait a bit longer 'cos there are hundreds behind me!" It's little moments like that which keep you going in the final stages.

Then I saw those wonderful Liverbirds and I knew it was time for a final push and so I upped my pace for the last 1.5 miles. There's a wonderful photo of me on marathon foto. Just type in 'hewer', my bib number is 5481 and select the Liverpool marathon 2011 from the drop-down menu and it's the 2nd from the left on the top line. If you click on the magnifying glass you'll get a larger image.

My finish time? Was it a pb? 5:14:27 so nowhere near!

Do I really care that I'd spent 4 months doing a gruelling training regime for it all to go wrong on the day?

Nah, just look at that smile!

The best laid plans of mice and men etc. Marathon 24 done and dusted so onwards and upwards.

I shall end this section with 2 very apt quotes from Winston Churchill:

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

After I'd collected my tee shirt etc. Mike asked me what I fancied doing that evening as we were hoping to meet up with Phil, Kathy, Alexandra and Elizabeth. My request was something along the lines of "a really good curry, not more that 400 metres away from the hotel". A tough thing to ask you might think but a call to hotel reception, whilst I soaked in a lovely hot bath, found us booked into a wonderful Indian restaurant called Spice which was indeed just around the corner from the hotel.

A few drinkies were in order and the food was wonderful. It was lovely to see everyone again and I could hardly believe how much the girls had grown. They are certainly going to break a few hearts. I was secretly a bit sad that they were getting older as I used to hide notes for them from the fairies that live in our garden and they would spend ages looking for them. Sometimes the fairies left a gift for them and they would write them a thank you note when they got home (I saved all their letters 'cos they were so sweet). I hope they always believe in fairies.

Phil if you're reading this I need an nice photo of all of you to put on here please!

The day before the marathon

Fuelled by a good breakfast, caffeine and ibuprofen I felt able to face the day. Besides, we couldn't miss this opportunity to visit old haunts and new attractions and we had a cunning plan; visit Tate Liverpool (where there was a Magritte exhibition) and the new Museum of Liverpool first as they are down by the docks, then wend our way towards the city centre taking in places we knew well.

Tate Liverpool

I worked in Liverpool in the 1980s at the time Tate Liverpool was opened and I took my mum with me to the opening night party and viewing. I remember we were walking around and giggling at some of the very modern exhibits and the one thing I remember clearly was one of us spotting a pint glass full of water that had been placed on a shelf. We giggled because we thought someone had left it there by mistake but upon closer inspection we found it had a plaque underneath stating it was a work entitled "Oak Tree". I found reference to it here - Glass, water, shelf and text sculpture. Just don't get me started on Marcel Duchamp's urinal!

The Magritte exhibition was a delight. I wasn't a huge fan before as I've never warmed to his bowler-hatted men but seeing his paintings up close made a huge difference.

I loved the detail in some of his amorphous shapes. The way he carefully shaded them to give them form and substance. The way he presented familiar objects in unfamiliar places. I loved his clouds and bird forms. I also found some of his imagery disturbing but you don't need to like everything an artist produces to appreciate their artistry. I was interested to read about his association with Edward James who set up the Edward James Foundation at West Dean college where I have been on many different courses.

You are now allowed to take photos in many galleries and museums so I snapped a few things that caught my eye.

On seeing these beautiful hat blocks designed by Philip Treacy I have to eat my words and agree with Marcel Duchamp’s declaration that any existing object can be declared a work of art!

They were stunning.

This mirrored cube intrigued me.

You can see me taking the photo and Mike, behind me and to my right but he wasn't actually behind; he was beside me!

When you looked through one of the different sized holes you had a rather psychedelic experience of row upon row of different sized circles in pink, white or pale wood depending upon your viewing point.

Finally this innocuous stack of plates really set your head spinning when you walked around it.

The plates appeared to wobble and move as you walked past and it was most disconcerting! Mike tried to film it going round but sadly couldn't capture the effect.

Then it was a short walk alongside the Mersey to the Museum of Liverpool.

The museum has only recently re-opened in this stunning new building.

Inside there is a glorious staircase (I think it had 84 steps) that sweeps round and round to the upper levels where you get magnificent views of the city. Although it isn't fully open yet there was enough there to show that it is going to be an excellent archive.

Then it was time for a wander through the streets we used to know so well.

This is one of the many replica Superlambananas that are dotted all over the city.

The original was created as a comment on the dangers of genetic engineering and was influenced by Liverpool's cargo trade of both lambs and bananas.

Behind me you can see part of the Three Graces. The infamous Royal Liver Building with the magnificent Liver birds atop the domes, the Cunard Building and the former Port of Liverpool building which housed the offices of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company.

They are an amazing sight to see, especially from across the river where you see them in all their glory. On the morning we left I took photos of a monstrosity that is obscuring the view of them but I'll save that for another post!

Our next stop was the church known locally as St Nicks where Mike sang the cantata Saint Nicholas by Benjamin Britten and Bernstein's Chichester Psalm many years ago.

I was struck by these beautiful modern bargello hangings made in really thick wool.

Outside in the grounds I noticed this waste bin with the Liverbird standing proud.

All the bins in the city centre were like this and I thought they looked very smart.

Then it was time for a wander up to see India Buildings on Water Street.

This magnificent building was built to house the office of the Blue Funnel Line, a fleet of ships, and is enormous as it was designed so that it could be used as a warehouse as well as an office space.

In my day, a large part of the ground floor housed the main Liverpool branch of Lloyds Bank and also the regional head office. In my role as regional marketing co-ordinator I covered 23 branches in the Liverpool area and so it was where I had my office base.

It may sound glamourous but to bring me back down to earth my office was situated next to the managerial toilets and all the men used to relieve themselves and then come and have a chat with me!

More wanderings found us in the world-famous Mathew Street, site of the original Cavern Club where it all began for The Beatles.

When I worked in Liverpool it was a really grotty street and the only Beatles in sight were statues but it's been titivated and is much nicer now.

I loved this bench.

How appropriate for a great fan of the Beatles, a composer himself, to be caught sitting here!

As we wandered around reminiscing it was amazing how our paths must have crossed - for example, I was a regular visitor to the Bluecoat Chambers for lunch when I was working in Bold Street and Mike had piano lessons there. His dad worked in Cranes music store at the bottom of Bold street and we had our first meal together on our first date in the street parallel with Bold Street and so it went on. It felt rather like the film Sliding Doors!

Time for lunch then off to visit Sharon (my SiL), Paul, Thomas, Emma and Buster the greyhound, seen here supporting me in Sefton Park.......but I'm getting ahead of myself already!

Sharon and Emma came to pick us up outside the hotel and the route back to their house, that I hadn't seen before, took us along roads I knew well from the past. When Emma found out I was going to run the marathon the next day Sharon explained that it was further away than Southport and Emma declared that I was mad (which is probably a fair assessment!).

As we headed up Upper Parliament Street Mike very helpfully observed that it was both a steep climb and went on for quite a while. I pointed out that the hills I run every day are actually much worse than that and told him to shut up, in a nice way of course.

At one point I realised we were very close to where I once had a flat but I couldn't remember the name of the road until we were right on top of it. Sharon did a quick left turn and we went right past the house where my flat was which I used during the week and then went home at the weekends. My landlord was John Hutchinson who was the drummer with The Big Three in the 1960s.

Spookily, Sharon's house is only a stones throw away. Yet another coincidence.

We had a lovely afternoon catching up.

Thomas has shot up and is nearly as tall as Paul and Emma has just started ballet lessons. She did some amazing poses for us and is very bendy!

Emma did this lovely drawing for me (sorry but I can't get it to rotate!) and it shows the hill I would have to run up with a rainbow and all of them supporting me, including Buster the dog (he came from a centre for retired Greyhounds and is a real softy), but what I like best is that I'm on the right, well ahead of all the other runners. The reality of the marathon was somewhat different!

That evening Paul & Sharon spoiled us with a lovely pasta meal that Paul had spent ages preparing for us then it was an early night ahead of the big day.

Next up, marathon day.