What A Difference A Day Makes…..?????

Well, after having finally told Lucy to be quiet, lie still and go to sleep, we had a ridiculously early night, slept through until this morning and both feel on top of the world!

It was time to get up and go to the gym and my gorgeous girl came with me. Don’t get too excited, her iPad had to come as well and there was a bit of a struggle for her to get to grips with some of the kit, but cor blimey she did it and soon has a bright red face and was out of breath – nice one Luce!

For me, I have known for a few days that now that I am getting to grips with my pace, (i.e. not starting off at a sprint and then landing up in a panting heap after half a mile), I needed to start to get to grips with distance. The issue with pace is a long term one and I have struggled with this massively in the past. However, the last few runs have reminded me that I am a bit like a traction engine, get my pace constant and steady and I just keep on going for miles.

That is the joy of treadmill running. Many people slate it, but for me it is always invaluable in setting my pace and getting me going further. To remind myself of what a reasonable and achieve able pace is is beyond doubt worth every footfall and it is then easier to translate out onto the tarmac.

Today’s run wasn’t the longest, about 2.5 miles, but it was the most valuable by far with getting to grips with my pace.

There was one problem however. Now don’t get me wrong, I adore my daughter more than she will ever understand and I was more than made up this morning when she said that she wanted to come to the gym with me. However, she is a chatter box of epic proportions and has not yet grasped the social signals that say for goodness sake shut up.

So, today I was on the treadmill, getting to grips with my pace and those damned demons that never shut up in your head about how you must be mad, what the heck do you think you are doing? and for goodness sake just get off this damned machine and go and eat cake, with Lucy chattering on in the background, asking questions about the equipment and how to make something work. All that when the sweat was pouring off me and I was fighting my demons made life pretty exciting!

We got there though, Luce had a great workout, I beat my demons and I managed not to shout at my daughter – all in all a good day at the gym!


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A Note From A Broken Woman…..??????????

Part of the perceived exciting expat life involves flights and lots of them! Living somewhere like Riyadh routinely dictates flights to get pretty much anywhere, or long, long car journeys just to get to a neighbouring country let alone anywhere else.

So, add that onto the fact that the gorgeous daughter is at boarding school in the UK  and she comes home from school for the pretty much all the holidays then you will see that whereas most people get on trains and buses, we get on flights.

We are pretty lucky as there are at least 2 direct flights a day between Riyadh and London – pretty good really. That is the good side, the bad side is that the flights are pretty much always in the dead of night – not good for anyone, let alone me who needs and likes her sleep! Lucy on the other hand is usually buzzing and wanting to chat. That combined with the connecting flight up to Manchester finishes me off , but unfortunately not Lucy who is buzzing all the way and intent on talking my socks down!

So, a message from a broken woman, no training today, it is a sleeping and working out how to shut the daughter up day……..I will be back!



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Sand-Blasted Face?, Not Today Thankyou….???

Well, having talked about the difficulties in training in 30 degree heat, the ominous darkening of the skies today reminded me that I had not mentioned the equally unpleasant phenomenon that is a Middle Eastern dust storm. In fairness today’s weather did not rate on the same spectrum as a true dust storm, but it was pretty unpleasant. Trying to describe the dust storm experience needs skill on the part of the reporter and patience, a good imagination and a sense of belief on the part of the audience.

The easiest comparison had to be that of a wild gale and blizzard in the UK but with dust and all the eye watering, literally, rubbish that goes with it. At least with a blizzard you usually only get pelted with snow, in Saudi the possibilities for getting an eyeful of something unpleasant are pretty much endless. Saudi Arabia is not the cleanest country and has yet to realise what it has, apart from oil, and what it could become, instead of dumping every bit of rubbish and grot in the nearest empty space. The consequences are gut wrenchingly disgusting.

So in training terms the weather was not good, in fact it is about as far from good as it is possible to be.  Even if you are plucky enough to head out for a run, you would almost certainly be treated to a brutal, free, sand-blasting facial by the dust, sand, grot and dried camel poo that would come hurtling at you at great speed. Imagine that sandblasting your face and getting a mouthful at the same time – enough to put you off your lunch for some considerable time.

So, I had to find an alternative and fast – I resorted to my old trusted stead, a Spinning® bike.  It does have its uses owning 17 of them, so we braved the horrendous weather and went to the sports centre to collect a couple – what a dream solution! Don’t worry, we have not reduced anybody to missing a Spinning® session, for various reasons which may or may not be revealed in the course of this blog, Spinning® has been quiet of late and so nobody is going to miss a couple of the bikes.


So, my training today was a tough hour on a Spinning (R) bike with high resistance while catching up with the major stars of the latest James Bond film with Graham Norton on iPlayer – what a way to spend an hour of training! Thoroughly engrossing and the first 45 minutes of the training went so quickly as I stared lovingly at God’s own personal gift to women – Daniel Craig! One of the best training sessions I have had  for a while I can tell you! Phew!!

Bring on the windy season I say and let’s enjoy a Daniel Craig fest sat on a Spinning® bike! 1 hour achieved, a mere 23 to go for the Spinathon – bring it on!

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The Day Of The Watery Nemisis…..?????

A trusted friend was told me to face your fears straight on and get on with it, my fab old Grandma always said thinking about something was always worse than doing it and my head has told me time after time that I am not born to swim and today is shouted very loudly ‘swim 10 miles in a month – get real!’

Well ha, who had the last laugh??? Not my head that is for sure. Today I took the plunge, (quite literally), and went swimming! Not only did I swim but I swam a grand total of 1KM and nobody was more surprised and chuffed than me, I can still swim! Well nagging voices and negative thoughts – go do one!

My question to myself is now, perhaps an accumulative total of 10 miles in a month is too easy – perhaps we ought to up it? One step at a time old chap says my head, but let’s face it that is on the back foot now!



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Next Time I Have An Idea……?

Well here goes, I suppose it is all becoming real now and there is no turning back!

Today our places for the 2016 London Marathon were confirmed and so I decided now is the time to start the blog that will describe our crazy activities for the next 6 months. No, it is not just the London Marathon that we are about to do………

Yes, you have guessed it, I have got us into another crazy adventure – but it is all for a brilliant cause and one that will hopefully help us to come to terms with recent events and the spanner that life regularly throws into the works.

One of the major things to remember about me is I am a pragmatist, I respond to situations by doing and really cannot cope with the fluffy and emotional side of life. A few years ago many members of a work colleague’s family were, what seemed to be overnight, diagnosed with cancer. That shock spurred me into action and led to me donning my running kit, getting out and training and finally running several ‘Race For Life’ events, numerous 10KM races and finally The Reading Half Marathon all for Cancer Research (UK).

Life threw another curved ball recently when good friends lost their little sunflower unexpectidly at 6 months gestation for no apparent reason. The effect is heart-breaking for everybody who knows them and is beyond devastating for them.

So in my pragmatic, non emotional way, (although even I cried on many occasions with this news and am still reduced to tears when talking about it), I decided to stir my stumps and do something practical to channel just a fraction of the despair at the situation.

Having previously been a runner, the obvious way again was to dust off the running shoes and get out there, but I needed a goal, something to aim for. So in a moment of weakness I contacted ‘Tommy’s’ – the Charity for research into premature births, stillbirths and miscarriage.

Having run half marathons in the past, I had always hankered after running a full marathon but there had always been an excuse not to. Finally, aged 45 I decided the time was now. Several health issues have recently been sorted out and with a new lease of life now is the time to crack on.

Devina at Tommy’s listened patiently while I explained and said that The London Marathon was full but offered me a place at Brighton – which I gratefully accepted.

Now, another point you need to bear in mind is that the pragmatist in me tends to drag people along in my wake – in particular my long suffering husband who has a tendency to procrastinate but who had also been talking about doing a full marathon for sometime.

I suppose I ought to mention that several years ago I entered for The Great North Run and ‘absent mindidely’ happened to enter him as well at the same time and only told him about it after the applications had been accepted. He was somewhat shocked on that occasion – so I guess you can see what’s coming here…..

Having been out of the running world for quite a while I wanted to get some training under my belt before I spilt the beans to him – that in 7 months we were heading out to run The Brighton Marathon. It was on a training speed walk that I finally coughed and told him that I was doing it before muttering that he was as well. Once he picked himself up off the floor  and the expletives had finished then he calmly accepted the fact and started muttering about training.

That was a few weeks ago now and training has continued reasonably well. However, yet again something to consider is that we live in a compound, in the desert, 2000 feet above sea level. Yes, we live in Saudi Arabia. Now, some people may consider this a fantastic lifestyle and for the main part they are right – but when you are training for a marathon on a reasonably tight timescale it does present its own problems. Firstly, females are not allowed out of the compound without an abaya – yes the sexy, attractive black number that covers you from the neck down. Fortunately we do not have to have our heads covered. So, even if running in public was an acceptable phenomenon then you would either wilt from heat exhaustion with your black coverall on or break your neck as you tripped over the free flowing hem of your sexy little black number. So that means that training has to be done on the compound. Now our compound is not small, far from it, but believe me when you are training you soon get to know every tree and blade of grass, every inch of tarmac, (hence the blog name), every dog poo bin and every part of the superdooper reinforced security wall that surrounds the compound. While running I often wonder if the guys operating the CCTV of the compound perimeter are watching and if so what they are thinking as we all trudge around almost in conga fashion. As you run you actually find yourself rating the dog poo bins by their level of stinkiness and the number of flies buzzing around them and trying to decide how long it is since they have been emptied. You also get to know all the other diehard runners, walkers and cyclists who pound the tarmac of the 2.5 ish mile perimeter of our compound.  Good music and a reduced sense of smell is essential to wile away the miles.

The second problem is the heat, that combined with the 2000ft above sea level issue makes training interesting to say the least. Here we are in late October with the temperature still over 30 Celsuis – interesting running weather. Most people wait till after dark when the temperature drops and it is definitely more comfortable.

The last but certainly not the most trivial issue is salt, yes NaCl, that compound which in the UK we are led to believe will lead to high blood pressure, all sorts of other horrendous illnesses and will kill us if we merely look in its general direction, is actually vital when you are trundling round the compound walls, sweating in the heat and counting the flies around the dog poo bins. If you have never had a salt deficiency, then do not go out of your way to experience it – it really is not much fun. Over the first few weeks of my training I self diagnosed everything from old age to ankylosing spondylitis, (no offence intended to anybody with AS, as a qualified physio I know how horrendous the condition is), such was the pain in my legs and hips – nothing like I have ever experienced before and nothing like muscle pain from enthusiastic running training I have had in the past.

I have managed to solve this problem by going against everything that is rammed down your throat, or not as the case may be, in the UK. I am now keeping the Saudi Arabian salt industry in business. Salt with everything and if in doubt I can usually be found crunching a stick of celery smothered in the stuff. So, to all my friends here on the compound, forget my usual gluten free cakes and biscuits, if I am coming to visit just make sure you have celery in the fridge and a full salt pot – that will do nicely thank you!

I am pleased to report that my overdosing on NaCl has reduced the pain almost completely – thank goodness! I just have to go against my inbuilt English fear of the stuff and remember to keep scoffing it!

So, up to today that was where we were at, me crunching away on celery and salt and feeling relieved that my legs are back to how they should be. Howard sprinting round the compound grumbling about his pragmatic wife but under his breath secretly quite chuffed that he will fulfill his ambition of doing a marathon.

Then today happened. Devina had commented that although the charities places for The London Marathon had all gone, people get injured and drop out and so it may be that places would come up. An email from Devina arrived today and I don’t think I need to say anymore other than we are now not doing Brighton…..?

It was at this point, when the realisation that he was doing London kicked in to Howard that he absolutely stunned me. Those of you who know me will be aware that I stared up Spinning® here on Salwa and although the day to day management has been handed over to Tommo, I am still involved in the overall strategy for the project and we still own the bikes. I should add that I am not actively taking any classes at the moment to allow for my running training – important point that one! Anyway, I digress. Tommo, Howard and I have recently been chatting about another Spinathon event similar to the last one of 18 months ago which lasted for 24 hrs and raised in excess of £12,000 for charity. I had already suggested that we have Tommy’s as the nominated charity and that had been agreed by everybody. Howard tonight, completely out of the blue, proposed, (no, not marriage, that was many, many years ago),  that we turn it into an extended event and do the Spinathon in February as planned, swim an accumulative total 10 miles in March and then do London in April – arrghhh! As I had got him into this in the first place I didn’t really feel I could refuse!

Oh gee! What have I done! Never mind what have I done, I now know what I have got to do! Another training run completed tonight and off to the pool tomorrow to tackle my nemesis- swimming ??

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