I have another thumping migraine, the steel band of pain is encircling my head, but today I am going for a run. No excuses – so no pesky migraine is going to get in the way of it today. So what to do? Well clearly running and pounding the streets with a pounding head is not an option. Cue a mug of tea, 2 horse strength Ibuprofen and a snooze.
2 hours later, the band of pain has subsided and is a manageable pulsing, so up I get and assemble the kit. It is brass monkey weather but bright and sunny. Base layer, running top, jacket, gloves, fleece lined running tights, padded socks and head/earband. Oh and trainers too.
Then the usual Faffolino visit – let’s get the washing organised. Have a cup of coffee – yup. Tidy up kitchen, take rubbish out. Faff with Map My Run etc, etc, etc. This useful enterprise ate up about 40 minutes, until a strong scolding from me to me, made me go outside. Surprise the sun is shining and it’s warm – well it is 7 degrees and that feels warm now.
Walk down the Slope of Hope, past the barking balcony house (quiet today) and I see a bright yellow Vespa coming towards me, the rider slows down and when she passes says Buon Anno Signora – absolutely no idea who she was, but she was laughing rather manically as well. At this stage she couldn’t have been laughing at my face as I was only on my warm up walk! I continue down the Slope of Hope and realise mechanical Voice Lady from Map My Run is suspiciously quiet – I haven’t changed any settings, but all she is monitoring is calories – no distance, time or anything else. I stop to restart her and continue with a run, down through the village, onto Laundry Lane past Rita’s house, past Mario Di Porchetta’s van, past Adriana’s house (the indefatigable Pro Loco rep and local cook for all festas) and towards the local vinery, which still proudly proclaims winning a bronze medal for one of its wines over a decade ago!
I realise (despite the restart) that Mechanical Voice Lady still hasn’t been monitoring me and I mess about with the settings again – but on this new pesky iPhone everything appears to be ‘greyed out’. Curses – but I continue past our friends’ house, looking beautiful and immaculate in the winter sun, just as Lou Reed starts singing ‘Perfect Day’. Mechanical Voice Lady has decided she is monitoring me, but is still not quite right she thinks I did 1km in 15 minutes and the next in 5. Those timings would really make me a weird runner – 15 minutes for a km is slower than my walking pace and 5 minutes a km is just wishful thinking. On I plod, through long curving S bends, towards the final push which I guess is about another 2km. Whilst I haven’t run for a few days, I notice that I am not out of breath and that my running pace is fairly steady.
Ouch, pride goes before a fall, I stumble on a bit of cracked tarmac – yikes a twinge in my left ankle, okay I need to slow it down a bit, just in case. A few more paces and I manage to repeat stumbling on another bit of cracked tarmac – okay JCR start watching where you’re going… This in fact is really bad advice; all the running guidance tells you to lift your head and look to the distance not at the floor ahead of you. But the roads are in a state of disrepair here, and with no pavements to run on, looking at the ground is often a measure of self preservation.
My ankle is okay and Green Day’s ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ comes on, and I don’t know why but I always thought it was when ‘November Ends’. But today, I sing the alternative JCR version of ‘Wake Me Up When December Ends’, it’s followed by Dancing In the Dark by The Boss and I notice that I have reached my destination – the full distance of Laundry Lane. It’s time to wind it down as I have a large hill to climb to get back home. Luckily for me, Mr JCR happens to be coming home from the bar (that sounds bad – he had been out for a 70km ride prior) and a familiar sounding car passes me and I am offered a lift – which I gratefully accept.
Job Done – I hauled my sorry arse out. New Year, I’m out to get you.
– well these are rubbish Map My Run Ones – so I am starting the New Year with a New App…
by the Hill That Kills. this was the running reality, on my first run back in Italy.
It has been a hectic week – last Sunday was the London apartment close down and the unwelcome news that our water heater element had gone. Cue short sharp showers using the emergency top up facility – it was a game of chicken between you and the shower as to how long you could actually wash with hot water. Not great when you’ve been running and desperately need a shower!
Whilst I was enjoying myself running Mr JCR was packing the car with the essentials for our Christmas and New Year. Christmas Presents – check. Wine – check. Waitrose trolley dash – check. Bike – check. Solar Lights – check. More Wine – check. Whisky, Port, Sherry – Check. Holland & Barrett trolley dash – check. Clothing – check. Room in boot for the necessary cases of champagne – check. Room in boot for stop at Calais Vin to buy more wine – check. Room in boot for the cool bag of essential dairy stuff that can’t be bought in Italy – check.
Sunday night can’t sleep. Monday wake up early, everything goes to plan, except for one tiny detail – leaving space in the car for the fridge essentials is fine, one small detail JCR, you needed to have actually taken the essentials out of the fridge! This minor detail was discovered on the way to Kent – too far out of London to turn back, this meant a series of frantic WhatsApp messages to friends Maan and Dragan to go into the fridge take what they wanted and freeze the rest.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t have been that bothered by missing the groceries but we have our dear friends G & J staying with us over Christmas, G is particularly partial to all things Cornish, as a child he used to holiday in Cornwall a lot. There pretty much isn’t anything Cornish that he doesn’t like. As he and J live in The Netherlands, it’s quite hard to get Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream out there; my dairy surprise included this precious jewel so we could all enjoy Cornish Clotted Cream Teas over the holiday. Luckily a stop for petrol outside of Folkestone took us to a Tesco, where a last minute clotted cream dash meant we could continue with the precious cargo on board. No cool bag to put it in, but with temperatures of two and three degrees, that didn’t seem to be a big problem.
Next stop Calais, aha an hour delay on the tunnel crossing, ho hum. Next stop Calais Vins – a trolley dash, breakfast and then en route to Champagne. Next stop the champagne supplier, eight cases bought and stowed. Next stop Beaune. Overnight stay, get up, breakfast, trolley dash around the supermarket to replace the ‘lost’ Comte, Stichelton and Vacherin cheeses. To the Mont Blanc tunnel refuel, change drivers and next stop Italy, to a shopping outlet near Milan. We thought this was a good idea, because from a distance it looked like Bicester Village and we thought the food there would be better than eating in a Motorway Service Station. Hmm, we won’t ever return there. Next stop – home. Blimey, it’s brass monkey weather here, the house is literally stone cold. We unpack, shake and shiver and put the heating on, which is not really up to the job.
Wednesday morning, – more blinking shopping to do – this time it’s fresh stuff. Get home start organising the house for our friends’ arrival. Mr JCR has a committee meeting, so I set up the Christmas tree (well it is an olive tree actually, which gets decorated and then put in the garden).
As I am doing this pleasant task, I start looking for the window lights and my Santa candle (sad I know!) – it seems that when we were burgled in March, the burglars liked my taste so much that they stole my Scandi window lights and Santa candle, along with the other weird stuff. Curses. Trying to channel my inner Christmas karma, I hope they enjoy them – as my inner Christmas karma doesn’t actually extend to thieves, I hope that my Santa candle is stuffed to the gunwales with hitherto undiscovered gelignite and blows them to Kingdom come.
Thursday – my usual running day, we have chores to do in the morning and a delivery arriving in the afternoon, the delivery doesn’t actually materialise, so my run is deferred and deferred until it is dark and I don’t have torches/lights here for running, so that blows that idea out of the water.
At last, Friday arrives – now we are doing the ‘big shop’ for all the goodies for Christmas – that means my run waits a little longer. Then the Thursday delivery arrives on Friday, just as I am about to go out – so delayed just a bit longer – Faffolino has done a great job this week. I finally get out – dressed in my finest black fleece lined leggings, with fluoro orange on top, and a natty bright orange hat – I looked like a bizarre liquorice stick, with a satsuma topping.
I start my warm up walk down the Slope of Hope, the walnut trees are bare, and the wind whistles in places you wished it didn’t. Turn the blind bend and yes naturally I have to dodge a car – welcome home JCR. Past the barking balcony house – no dogs today and start my run into the Hill That Kills.
I have been running in London, I have done some park runs, some interval training and some longer runs. Quite evidently what has been missing is regular hill training. I have become a soft southern namby pamby, actually as London is north of here, I have become a soft northern namely pamby. Either way, I now can’t run all the way up the Hill That Kills, I manage to run just past Pigiama Mamma’s house and then my puffing and tired legs tell me to stop. It’s only been eight weeks since I was running hills regularly and I’ve lost my hill legs.
I start to walk and then at the hill peak commence running again, down Lovers’ Lane, now totally empty, the piadineria is shut down and it looks like Villa Bali is closed for Winter. I circuit the gardens and turn back down Lovers’ Lane – a car approaches, passes and then turns round and follows me slowly. I now have paranoid thoughts about a weirdo kidnapping me and worse. Then he pulls over and stops to take his dog out for a walk. Not a weirdo then, just a dog walker…
I run up to the mini peak on Lovers’ Lane and give myself another walking break – back to the Hill That Kills and now she is laughing at me. ‘JCR, you tested yourself and on your first visit back to me, I have taken a great big chunk out of your bum, – but there’s plenty more bum to chew, so you better get training girlie’. I decide then that I will do a mini sprint part way up The Slope of No Hope – which 8 weeks ago, I could run from top to bottom, without stopping. Well that idea was clearly misguided – I manage to wheeze my way past the barking balcony house and I have to walk again, up into Mill Lane I do one further loop and try The Slope Of No Hope, once more. I did a little better this time, past the barking balcony house to the boundary of the walnut grove.
So my summary is that just like Christmas, my running needs to be planned a little more militarily.
When packing the car and leaving room for one more thing, write a post-it note somewhere visible to tell you to take that thing with you. When running up hills, it’s not a bad idea to actually have run up some hills beforehand! I think that means when I return to London the Hampstead Heath running may be necessary to keep my running legs going.
Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
Green Eyes – Coldplay
Green Garden- Laura Mvula
Yellow River – Christie
White Riot – The Clash
Little Red Corvette – His Purple Highness
Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis
Lavender – Marillion
Pretty Fly For A White Guy – The Offspring
Fade to Grey – Visage
Purple Rain – His Purple Highness
Distance 6.03km ( I think it was about 5km really)
We are in the home strait, closing down the house before we return to the UK for a few weeks and we had a list of things to do as long as your arm. From harvesting the olives (thanks Mr JCR – nobly done whilst I was in London a week back), to de-fooding the house and cleaning absolutely everywhere.
Part of the new close down procedure, is setting up the security cameras inside and out after our burglary earlier this year. The cameras (in principle) are designed to make us feel safer whilst here and away. Last night Mr JCR went out to meet his Iron Man buddy for a goodbye meal and I stayed home alone. It is very dark in the countryside here; I was binge watching Catastrophe in front of a roaring fire. Then, all of a sudden my phone told me that both the internal and external cameras had lost their signals. Mmm my heart did pound a bit, as I muted the tv just in case and then sat in silence for about 10 minutes wondering if there was an axe murderer outside who had just cut the power.
I sent a casual text to MR JCR enquiring whether such power loss was normal – his answer an hour later…. ‘No idea, seems strange’
Quite clearly I am somewhat deranged as had said axe-murderer cut the power, neither the lights nor the tv would have been working… such is the power of an over-active imagination all sense of logic is lost. And any hope I may have had at being imminently rescued, was quite clearly dashed by the 1 hour delay in getting Mr JCR’s reassuring reply… Halloween obviously playing on my mind.
This morning, I decided binge-reading The Times was in order, all part of my prevarication strategy to not run this morning. But after having read the paper (can you still call it a paper when it is on-line?), really there was no viable excuse to not getting my butt out there. In daylight there was no sign of any axe-murderers having been near the house, just the hum of lots of olive harvesting going on.
Off I trotted down the Slope of Hope, into the Hill that Kills and coming towards me an unusual sight – a 1950’s or 60’s American Muscle car, driven by a guy who looked like a shorter and short haired version of Lemmy from Motorhead. Now he was truthfully a Halloween sight. Into Lovers’ Lane and I overtook a couple of women on a walk, who then decided to take advantage of the children’s playground nearby and they ran giggling to the swings and were swinging merrily as I looped back. Their giggles reverberated across the fields and back – actually what fun, to be a grown-up and play on the swings and not get tutted or told off!
Back to the Hill That Kills and I dropped down back onto the Slope of Hope and decided I’d run all the way back up. My speedy feet weren’t really on today so it was more of a plod, back up the hill to Mill Lane, where there was a car – now this constitutes pretty much gridlock. A couple of years back Mill Lane changed designation to one-way and the one-way it does go, doesn’t seem to be that popular with the locals. The car was coming away from the olive frantoio and as I passed I could see all the empty crates lined up and the waste from the pressing being churned into a waiting trailer. The air smelt full of fresh olive oil. For the second time I ran up Lovers’ Lane and this time the giggling women had gone to be replaced by the old guy who I think is closing up the piadineria and park for Winter. The swings had been removed and all is quiet, so I plodded slowly onto the 5km mark.
Back towards home having listened to Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Vincent Price’s voiceover – (what an apt day to hear this song) and Mill Lane and the local comune man with his Ape was at work. This weekend will be the All Saints Day celebration in churches and cemeteries – the local cemetery will see hundreds of visitors, the road will be partially closed off and parking wardens in attendance – All Saints Sunday is a big day here. This also means we have to ride shotgun at our entrance gate, otherwise we can’t get in and out of the house. This is why I am running today and not tomorrow as is usual.
A slow steady 5k, nothing interesting or scary happening. And after last night’s 10 minutes of almost terror, it’s nice for things to be back to quiet, sleepy normal.
It’s been a busy October as we are preparing to close down the house for Winter. Last week I was in London and Mr JCR harvesting olives. My return to Italy was marked by an impromptu invite to a birthday party (Friday night) involving a volcano, the end of season party for Mr JCRs cycling group on Saturday night and about 30 of his cyclist group coming for snacks and olive oil tasting on Sunday. This is all hazardous to health with vast quantities of food and wine consumed, between trying to clear out the house for our departure.
Amidst all of this activity, there is a small matter of fitting in some running – I had given myself a target to do 10K before leaving Italy for the UK and that seemed to have been stymied by a couple of weeks on the injury couch after two rather stupid slips. So today was my first attempt at getting back to a more usual distance. The morning didn’t start well, I was cold and grumpy and could hear the wind howling around the house. Eventually I gave in and got up, faffed about, prevaricated some more, went outside – jeepers the wind was bracing, so went back indoors to put on another layer and eventually off I went. I didn’t really have a target in mind, but more than 7km would be good. Warm up walk down the Slope of Hope, loads of acorns by the side of the road, so the surface a little hazardous, I kept looking down, which in Italy is dangerous in itself, as the traffic is let’s say haphazard in roadcraft. Up the Hill that Kills and did one of my fastest first km, this is not a good thing as the Hill TK is the first part of my run, if I overshoot here, it has consequences. Down Lovers’ Lane past the barking beagle house, who as per tradition made me leap in the air. The roads are quiet because most activity is in the fields, with the olive harvest in full swing and the mills all busy. I am a bit warm, so return to the house and dump my extra layer and then continue back down the Slope of Hope. In the distance I see a rangy long haired blond runner, a bit like a lanky Bjorn Borg only minus the headband. He is running faster up this damn hill than I am running down it. Curses!
I turn down to the Bendy Scary Road and decide to take the Laundry Lane loop. It’s now gloriously sunny, everywhere I run is accompanied by the snap, crackle and pop of acorns and leaves falling. We had a temporale (storm) on Sunday evening which seems to have caused a lot of debris, so there is rather a lot of twigs and branches around, requiring nifty footwork. As I plod along, I see a collection of the following ‘fruits’ which have fallen from the trees and thank heavens the temporale seems to have stripped the tree bare. If one of these had fallen on my head, that would have been rather hazardous too.
I carry on and decide that if I can make 8k today I will be very happy indeed. Then I am tooted by some Dutch friends as they drive past, and just for once the running gods were smiling and I was running a nice pace, not in my tired Mrs Overall style, but all proper runner-like, so that gave me quite a boost. I arrived at Prune Way at about 7.5km and thought I could just continue so I did until I hit about 9km and turned back along Laundry Lane towards Prune Way again, as I approached I was just on the 10km mark, but remembered I had walked a few metres earlier on (when putting my extra top in the post box), so to make sure I had done the magic 10 clicks, I turned back away from Prune Way for about 200m and then ran back. Job Done. Challenge Done – a 10km run before leaving Italy. Despite Faffolino visiting, despite acorns, leaves and twigs providing low lying hazards, despite me not really wanting to do this, I did and I am a happy bunny!
One of the joys of living in Italy is the impromptu nature of your social life. Whilst one of the downsides is not being fluent in the native language meaning you occasionally end up doing something that you hadn’t quite expected or prepared for.
So it turned out last night at a friend’s birthday. There was to be some sort of informal gathering outside their shop and Mr JCR thought their usual outdoor marquee may be involved. There was a birthday party and it was in their shop (no marquee), and the evening was somewhat surreal as we saw a handmade polenta and fish ragu volcano being set alight.
I have been to all sorts of events in my life, but the lighting of a polenta and ragu volcano is a first. This is where it got awks (my new found social media language dictionary tells me means awkward). There are many many things in Italy we love, food, culture. people, climate etc etc etc., however polenta isn’t on that list. But we are in Le Marche, it is Autumn and polenta comes into its own at this time of year, there are polenta feasts and fairs all over the Region celebrating the gloop. We have over the years tried runny gloop, cheesy gloop, cheesy oven baked gloop, griddled gloop, oniony gloop, garlicky gloop, white gloop, yellow gloop, and ‘even if you don’t like polenta, you’ll love mine’ gloop. In fairness you can’t say we haven’t tried, but love of the gloop evades us.
The polenta and ragu volcano was duly set alight and the shop lights dimmed to many oohs and aahs from the assembled audience. And then came the doling out of the gloop. We tried to keep our plates full of other food, but it was noticed that we had not got our portion. Being British and polite we took a sample, as it would have been rude and frankly impossible to have not had any. We didn’t shirk our responsibility or manners, although we did try sliding the gloop around the plate so it looked as though we’d eaten quite a bit.
This morning the alarm went, my stomach felt a bit gloopy, but that was probably more the Aperol Spritz and prosecco consumed, rather than the polenta. I had decided to see if I could run for about 6 or 7km and not push it, given recent twinges and time spent on the injury couch. My usual warm up walk towards the Hill that Kills and my run started, a very quick shimmy was necessary in the first seconds as an oncoming car decided to take the bend tightly and would have hit me, had I not heard him approaching. Onwards and plodwards up the hill, a car approaches from behind and toots, it is a friend Lucia, who says it’s nice to see me back from London – in truth I’m a bit miffed as at this stage I am still not running aerobically so the run is more of an upward stagger, I hardly look like a fit runner at all. Down Lovers’ Lane towards Villa Bali, a lady is training two collies on fetch and retrieve routines – unfortunately I am in the way on the retrieve run and one of the collies and I do an awkward shimmy around each other and continue.
There aren’t many people out and about at this time of year as it is slap bang in the middle of olive harvest time, so there are many tractors and nets and harvest crews working in the fields, to get the precious cargo in and pressed on time. I had quite fortuitively timed my visit to London to coincide with our own olive harvest. I slid off without a backward glance, leaving Mr JCR to organise the logistics and I came home to 70+ litres of green-gold. Dodging my way around the tractors and trucks, I take Laundry Lane which is a long mainly down hill route to give me a nice run. Being Autumn the oaks are shedding all their acorns and it is a running hazard as you will either be hit on the head or you have to keep looking at the ground to avoid slipping. Given two recent incidents of Stupid Tart Syndrome, I don’t want to slip and fall on acorns so I take my time. I give myself a target milestone to complete which is to do 7km or Prune Way, but 7km is my minimum. Prune Way is in view and the turn off is actually at 6.9km, so I continue a little further and then start running up Prune Way. This is a short sharp ascent and frankly my legs aren’t up to it, so I walk and jog to the most apt tune – Culture Club and ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ – but mainly walk to finish. It’s about 650 metres with 50 metre gradient, so quite tough to do at the end of a run. On my way up I hear more olive harvesting going on and I spy a gorgeous old cinquecento shading under the trees, a pretty car on a pretty day.
Pics show, Prune Way, the cinquecento and Mr JCR’s endeavours whilst I shirked my harvesting duties, shimmied around London, slid back into my running routine and finally shaded my very red face as Salsa Red.
(This is from memory as Map My Run doesnt synch with Spotify library)
Girls Just Want To Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Every Day Hurts – Sad Cafe
Cars – Gary Numan
Runnin’ Down A Dream – Tom Petty
Talk Talk – Talk Talk
Tainted Love – Soft Cell
Shout – Tears For Fears
Break My Stride – Matthew Wilder
Hold Me Now – Thompson Twins
Doctor, Doctor – ditto
Visage – Visage
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me – Culture Club
I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty
Distance 7.65km (I reckon 7.1km of true running)
Average Pace 7.21 (much worse than London – I blame heat and slopes)