Midland Masters Track & Field Championships

Well, that’s me back safe and sound from my first sortie into the world of track and field! I talk in today’s video-blog (scroll right down) about how I got on at the 400m and 800m races at the Midland Masters Track & Field Championships, which took place in Nuneaton, Warwickshire on 9 June.

For those who prefer to cut straight to the chase, I did well and won two silver medals! I ran the 800m in 2:49:14 and the 400m in 1:13:67. You can check out the full results listings here.

I learned a great deal from participating, including:

  • I could probably up my pace in the 800m (I had no idea about pacing for this race).
  • I need to accelerate more in the first 100m of the 400m (and stop laughing so much 🤣). By the way, I made a wee mistake in today’s video: I meant to say that the other athletes ran the first 100m very quickly!
  • Masters track & field athletes are a friendly and inspiring bunch of people!

400m 45-50 & 50-55  [Photo credit: Stephen Lee]

Working hard! 400m 45-50 & 50-55 [Photo credit: Stephen Lee]

I’m now looking forward to the NI Masters Championships at the end of June. I think I’m going to enjoy myself 😎. Here’s today’s video-blog with the full low-down about the Midland Masters Championships:

Right, then. I’m off to polish my medals and then I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Talking About #OldDogNewTricks on the Telly!

A while back, I got the chance to talk to Karen Mooney at Northern Visions Television about my #OldDogNewTricks project. As well as talking about my adventures, we also talk about The Faerie Thorn‘s journey to the stage, The Wonder Tales, my theatre-training with Tinderbox Theatre Company, and Women Aloud NI (an organisation I set up in 2015 to raise the profile of women writers in Northern Ireland).

You can watch the programme in full here:

I am just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Book Review: My Midsummer Morning

I’m almost 6 months into my #OldDogNewTricks adventures now and, as the year moves on, I’ve welcomed the inspiration offered by several books and films. 

With my second adventure looming large (400m/800m track races – first at the West Midlands Masters Track & Field Championships in Nuneaton on Sunday 9 June and then at the Northern Irish Masters Track & Field Championships in Belfast on Saturday 29 June), I was hoping that Alastair Humphreys’ new book, My Midsummer Morningwould see me to the start line this weekend. I’d planned to read a little of it every night, finishing it on Saturday, just before the first athletics meet. Unfortunately, that’s no longer a possibility because I consumed the whole thing in two short sittings!

I review Alastair’s book in today’s video blog (scroll down). In the video I also talk about how the book got me thinking about my own adventures and the motivation behind them. If you want to avoid any kind of spoilers at all, please DON’T WATCH THE VIDEO! Here’s a very brief spoiler-free written review for those of you who want to enjoy Alastair’s book with completely fresh eyes:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Alastair Humphreys sets out to recreate Laurie Lee’s journey through Spain, a journey made famous by the book As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969). Earning his daily crust by busking with a violin (which he is not very good at playing), Alastair’s adventure offers him the joy of human connection, the challenge and reward of vulnerability, and perfect conditions to re-assess his relationship with adventure and with life. It’s a brutally honest, refreshing and heart-warming read. It’s also a rare book in the adventure/travel-writing genre: you feel like you really get to see the human behind the adventurer’s mask. Reading this book, you don’t just feel like you’re a spectator, watching a man or woman complete a challenge. Reading this book, you feel like you’re in Alastair’s head, looking out of his eyes, hearing his (sometimes uncomfortable) thoughts – the kind of thoughts that don’t usually get written down in a book like this. This proximity to the ‘real’ action (Alastair’s honesty with himself) is what sets this book apart. I loved it!

I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

White Lights

One of the biggest challenges of my #OldDogNewTricks year of adventure is project management! For the first three adventures, I’ve had to prepare for each simultaneously: I started preparing for my musical theatre adventure, my track adventure (400m/800m) and powerlifting adventure in January.

Whilst my musical theatre adventure was done and dusted in April, my first track adventure takes place this weekend (9 June). All well and good, you might think 😉 .However, the small spanner in the works is that I’m less than 7 weeks out from the rookie powerlifting competition. This has meant that getting ready for my upcoming track races (including the NI Masters Champs at the end of June) is clashing head on with an increasingly heavy (literally 😂) powerlifting training load.

Result? I’m whacked. To be more precise, I’m REALLY whacked during the first week of every new powerlifting mesocycle. (Each mesocycle is a 4-week schedule with a very heavy first week, a moderate second week, a heavy third week , and a light fourth or de-load week). I’ve just come to the end of the first week of a new cycle, so I’m definitely feeling it a bit. With my first track races this weekend, I’m getting in as much recovery as I can. Basically, this means as much sleep as I can take (which is about 10 hours at the moment: 9 hours at night and 30-60 minutes kip late afternoon if I’m working from home). It also means as much food as I can take (which is 4000 – 5000 calories a day at the moment); and it means a strategic lightening of the training load (which means that I’ve front-loaded my moderate powerlifting week so all my lifts will be done by tomorrow lunchtime. It also means a slightly lighter run load).

On top of the physical training load is the psychological training load. Last week I learned how to get out of the blocks and got some track experience in my spikes to build a little racing confidence. This took a huge psychological weight off my mind. On Sunday, I’ll be focusing on enjoying the experience and getting a feel for what an athletics meet is really like: all useful for ‘peaking’ at the NI Masters Championships at the end of June 😎. (Listen, if you’re reading this and you’re competing at the Masters T&F Championships in Belfast at the end of June, don’t worry. My peak will be nothing like your peak: I just want to get off that track alive 🤣 ! And without getting disqualified 😱)

Psychological preparations have also started for the rookie powerlifting competition. Paul Cullen, my powerlifting coach (who holds two current weightlifting world records: behind- the- head military press and push press from the rack), ran an evening seminar for CrossFit Causeway lifters competing in the July competition. During this session, the five of us who are going to compete learned all about platform etiquette, how to work out what to go for for the three attempts at each lift, what the commands are for each lift, warm-up etiquette, weigh-in protocols and how you know whether you ‘got’ the lift. There’ll be three judges on the platform and what competitors will be hoping for is three white lights (and a minimum of two).

Knowing how things will work on the day helps me to stop worrying about all the things I don’t know (because I have a better sense of those things now) and put all that energy into training. Being prepared suits me 🙂 . Being inspired also helps me with my preparations. And last Friday Gail (my powerlifting training buddy) and I got a surprise mega-dose of inspiration after our CrossFit workout.

Ricky (L) and Eugene (R)

Gail and I take our training very seriously 😉

Northern Irish powerlifting legends Ricky Mullan and Eugene Currie popped into the box to train. Gail and I were thrilled when they took a bit of time out and had a chat with us. Gail got some top tips about tightening her belt and her wrist wraps (and, let me tell you, those things aren’t comfortable! My belt bruises my ribs every time I wear it 😱). When Ricky said I was probably a good deadlifter, it was really lovely to feel a sense of ‘belonging’ to the powerlifting community. To look at me, you might not take me for a powerlifter at all – and yet here was a great powerlifter ‘seeing’ the powerlifter in me. His words really helped to make me start to take myself more seriously as a lifter – and to feel more possibility too.  (I have pretty long everything, which isn’t that great for bench-pressing or back-squatting. Here’s an interesting wee factoid: my arms are actually as long as Gail’s legs! My old-lady back squats are improving, thanks to my knee sleeves which really help my old-lady knees 😉 But my super-long arms and super-long back are just perfect for deadlifting. )

So, here I am with 5 months of training under my belt. I’m running faster. I’m lifting heavier, and – most importantly of all – I’m feeling more connected to the world, and more alive, than ever before. If the world were watching me, I reckon I’d be getting 3 white lights right now!

Right. I think I need a little lie down, so I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Final Preparations for my First Track Adventure!

Tuesday was a very big day in the #OldDogNewTricks adventure house! With my first track races (400m and 800m) taking place in Nuneaton at the West Midlands Masters Track & Field Championships on Sunday 9 June, the nerves are starting to kick in.

Whenever I get anxious about anything, I find one of the best ways to feel more confident is to prepare as best I can.

I started training for these events on 1 January 2019. In the grand scheme of things, 5 months may not be very long to prepare for the demands of the 400m and 800m. However, it is long enough to have a good go at the distances! 5 months in and the training is beginning to pay off, and I’m realising that, given another 5 months, I’ll probably have a much better feel for my potential at these (and other) distances. In other words, I’m not going to stop training for the track once my track adventures are over 🙂 .

With less than two weeks until my first races, my current worries are around the starting blocks (setting them up and getting out of them) and running on a track in spikes.

With the aim of being as prepared as I can be, I went along to CrossFit Causeway at lunchtime on Tuesday of this week to get some experience with the blocks.

During a 45-minute intensive lunchtime session,  Richard Lappin (a member of my ‘adventure support crew‘) showed me how to adjust the blocks. He then put me through my ‘block paces’ by getting me to practise ‘falling’ out of the blocks. I had to learn how to get out of the blocks while resisting the urge to stand up (this is much tougher than it sounds). By the end of the session I was feeling a lot more confident about the blocks – and I still have a bit of time to fine-tune.

On Tuesday evening I headed over to Antrim to join Ballymena & Antrim Athletics Club for a training session on the track. This would be my chance to get some experience of running in spikes – and I have to say I was a little bit nervous about going along.

I needn’t have been nervous at all: I had a lovely warm welcome and learned a great deal from the session. I was very well looked after by the coach (Pauline) and athletes (thanks in particular to Emma, Katie, Sophie and Rhonda). It was my very first time running on a track and I completely loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I’m going to join the club. I’m pretty certain that my running will improve no end by training with other runners – and I’m pretty certain that I’m going to really enjoy getting to know the other athletes. I talk in full detail about my blocks and track experience in today’s video-blog (and I get a bit of a major insight too 🙂 ):

Right. I am just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT

Snatching a Moment of Confidence

Something unusual happened at the swimming pool this morning. It was something so unusual that it had a profound impact on me. I talk about the experience in today’s video-blog. (Samantha, whom I mention, is pictured below the video in full fighting flight: she’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt.)

‘I’m just gonna do it’
Samantha Russell- Morelli

I’ll keep you posted about tonight’s snatch session (video of what a snatch is below). In the meantime, I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Getting Back on Track

With only two weeks to go before the West Midlands Masters Track and Field Championships in Nuneaton, I’m making my final preparations for my first athletics meet. This first meet will be all about me getting some racing experience, ready for the NI Masters championships at the end of June.

My racing spikes 🙂

Next Tuesday will be a big day on my adventure calendar. I’ll be learning how to set up the blocks for the 400m (and get out of them  😎) with my running coach, Richard Lappin. I’ll also be running in spikes for the very first time in my life 😱. The folks at Ballymena and Antrim Athletics Club have been brilliant. I asked if I could go along to the track in Antrim to give my spikes a try out, and they invited me along to a training session, run by one of their middle-distance coaches.

I’ll let you know how it all goes, of course. In the meantime, here’s a video-blog about my upcoming running adventures, which includes a trip down memory lane to the very first time I stood on an athletics track. (Correction: in the video I mention Marlon Devonish. He was a 100m and 200m runner, not a 200m and 400m runner!) Below the video, you’ll find  some 400m and 800m inspiration, along with a video about how to set up blocks 🙂 .

Here’s Michael Johnson winning  his fourth 400 metre world title with a new world record time of 43.18 seconds at the relatively late age of 31 years and 11 months. The record stood for nearly 17 years before being beaten at the 2016 Olympics by the South African Wayde van Niekerk.

On 9 August 2012 at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, David Rudisha led from start to finish to win gold in what has been called the greatest 800m race ever. In so doing, he became the first and, so far, only runner to break the 1:41 barrier for 800m.

And here’s how to set up those all-important blocks!

Right. I’m just going outside and I may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Stoned Enough to Dance Burlesque

As far adventuring goes, this past weekend has been a very good one! On Saturday morning I had the opportunity to have a go at some typical ‘strongman’ stuff at CrossFit Causeway.

First up was an extensive introduction to the Atlas Stones. We started light, learning how to get the stones off the floor, how to ‘hug them’ and then ‘encourage them’ up to our shoulders. (Just so you know, verbal encouragement does seem to work – as long as you have a good relationship with your stone , I reckon it’ll listen and ‘work with you’ 😎.) The heaviest I managed in practice was a 40kg stone. Here’s me in the WOD (Workout Of the Day) lifting a 35kg  stone (5 1/2 stone/ 77 lbs):

We also had a go at a Zercher carry. As you can see from the images (one of me and one of Gail, a fellow competitor in the upcoming powerlifting competition), the load is held in the crook of your elbows. The load is  largely in front of you and this increases the demands on the upper back, while also increasing core tension.

The session was all about strength and this wouldn’t normally appeal to me (I like a bit of the old conditioning too 😉 ). However, I really enjoyed it (I think it was because I’d never done anything like it before and I wasn’t even sure whether I could lift any of the stones) and my body obviously got a pretty tough workout because on Sunday morning my whole body felt like it was full of concrete!

I managed a sprint session on Sunday morning (without it I don’t think I would have been able to move very much at all) before heading to Belfast for the hotly anticipated Rock Goddess Burlesque workshop, led by the brilliant Soup du Jour (Laura Firby). I was sharing this adventure with a writer friend of mine, Belinda Bennetts. We’d both studied the joining instructions very carefully and were ready to throw ourselves headlong (or whichever body part might work best 😎) into the experience. We had our outfits. We had our attitudes. And we were up for it!

Obviously, we were a little shocked when the workshop started with everyone pretty much fully dressed 🤣🤣🤣.  During the first part of the workshop we learned how to ‘promenade’ and practised jiggling, hip-swivelling and shimmying (which is much harder than it looks). After a while, we were invited to put on our heels – and that made a real difference: I certainly felt like more of a performer with them on. Just before the tea-break we managed our first routine!

Belinda and I took an executive decision to go the whole hog and put on all our burlesque kit for the second part of the workshop. I was keen to have the full experience and see if dancing like this offered the opportunity to experience my ‘edges’ in new ways. Once it was obvious what Belinda and I were up to, another woman started to get changed. She was about the same age as me – also post-menopausal and also filling her life with new experiences.

I was rather taken with her leather bustier, but it was her homemade nipple tassels that impressed me the most! She’d already done a few classes with Soup du Jour and had obviously found her thing. I loved the joy and playfulness in her – and she had such a free energy in her when she was dancing.

In the second part of the workshop we learned how to take off gloves, take off clothes and do floor work (also much harder than it looks and requires LOTS of flexibility). By the end of the afternoon, we’d learned and performed a second routine. And I’m so glad I changed into my outfit during the tea break: it made such a difference. I felt much more in my body, much more powerful, much more willing to ‘let go’ and try on the full-on burlesque persona. Being in a dance studio, we all faced ourselves in the mirror. As I watched myself, I kept my eye out for things I’d never noticed about myself before.

I noticed how strong I looked and I could see how my adventures have changed my body. I noticed how ‘in my body’ I was, too: I wasn’t trapped in my head. As I watched my body move, I noticed that I was not self-conscious or embarrassed in any way at all – rather, I was thrilled that my body was moving and enjoying the movement. I had invited it to dance and it had accepted the invitation ‘with knobs on’. And when it got to the floor work (I’d say you’d call that the ‘rudest bit’ 🤣), I noticed how playful my body was.

Burlesque dancing was a brilliant way of finding out where I am in my post-menopausal journey. I am happy to confirm that I feel free, confident, playful and have no hang-ups to speak of about my aging body. I actually love what my body can do – and wants to do. I love that it remembers how to do things, even when my mind has forgotten. I love that it still learns quickly (much faster than my mind). I love that it gives things a go – and keeps giving things a go until it find its own way of ‘getting the hang’ of it.

Burlesque dancing is also a brilliant way of connecting with other women. It was interesting to me that most of the group were young women (in their 20s and 30s), but there were some women there in their 40s – and at least two of us in our 50s. I felt a much stronger sense of sisterhood with the older women, and I have the feeling that if there were a class just for more mature women, it might be pretty wild!

If you’re interested in having a go at burlesque dancing, and you’re based in Northern Ireland, I strongly recommend Laura’s classes. The class I did was a single workshop, but there are courses spread over weeks too. You can do the Rock Goddess Burlesque class at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on 2 June!

I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

A Mind Needs Books as a Sword Needs a Whetstone

These days I’m going to bed earlier and earlier. And as there’s nothing I like better than a good book, I’ve combined bed and books to create a ‘Horizontal Inspiration Zone’ (HIZ) 😉 . Between 9 and 10 most nights you’ll find me tucked up with a book that’s pertinent to my adventures, the kind of book that might help psychologically or practically with what lies ahead. (By the way, sometimes I don’t even realise the book is pertinent until I start reading 🙂 ).

Usually I read a lot of fiction, but at the moment I’m all over the non-fiction, creative non-fiction and memoirs. Here are a couple of stand-out books from recent visits to the HIZ:

Twelve Minutes of Love: a Tango Story This is a memoir written by a woman who discovered the ‘truth’ of herself through dance. You don’t have to be a tanguera (person who dances tango) or even have a remote interest in dance to enjoy this book. Whilst I learned a huge amount about tango ( its origins and history; the different styles; the music and songs associated with the dance; its spread across the world;  what milongas (a sort of ‘tango meet’)  are like; and the kind of people you might encounter on the dance floor), the memoir resonated with me deeply because of the parallels with my own life. This memoir, at its heart, is a quest for belonging written by an adventurous woman with itchy feet. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and it has made me very excited about my autumn tango adventure!

The Oxygen Advantage often gets mentioned in the same breath as What Doesn’t Kill Us (mentioned in a previous post). The book is an enthusiastic manifesto for the benefits of nose-breathing (as opposed to breathing through your mouth). Similar to the Wim Hof method, claims are made about improving V02 max through following the Oxygen Advantage Method.

I have actually tried the nasal breathing technique in some of my recent CrossFit classes – not with a view to increasing V02 max, but with a view to switching off the ‘fight-or-flight’ response – and have to say that I was amazed at how relaxed and unstressed I felt (and was able to load up my weighted plank with no bother!).

The one thing in this book that really piqued my interest was the protocol for simulating altitude training at sea level. This is something I will try after my sprinting adventure – along with some of the related exercises. The reason I’m not diving straight into the Oxygen Advantage Method is that it takes the body a while to adapt – and in the early stages, it’s common to see a dip in performance. With my sprinting adventures just weeks a way, I’m not that enthusiastic about a dip!

There was something about this book that niggled away at me – and made me not ‘trust’ the information completely. I’m not sure if it is because the guy who wrote it isn’t an athlete or because he had to protect the identities of his famous sporting clients. Either way, I’m still yet to be 100% convinced (but that won’t stop me having a go at the altitude training!) 🙂 . There was also a fair bit of wandering off into other territories (like meditation). I think I would have preferred him to stick to the point (but that’s probably just me – I was reading with a specific purpose in mind and deep peace wasn’t it 😉 ).

If you have read something you think I might enjoy, do let me know 🙂 . I’m always on the lookout for a good read 🙂 .

Right then. I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂

Chatty Woman Goes to Cookstown

You’ve probably worked out by now that ‘organisation’ is my middle name! I don’t think I’d be able to adventure so, well … er, adventurously 😉  (and fulfil the rest of my daily commitments) without lots of up-front planning.

Getting in shape for my upcoming burlesque workshop! (I did weighted pull-ups last week 🙂 )

Next weekend (19 May) sees the arrival of my much anticipated burlesque adventure. I’ve spent the last week digging around in my ‘dressing up box’ to make sure I’m suitably equipped to get the most out of the experience. I’m going all out for this adventure, I reckon: the feather boa’s coming along (as are the all-the-way-up-the-arm gloves, the ridiculously high heels and other ‘unspeakable accessories’ 😉 ).

The burlesque outfit is very much in contrast to the powerlifting accoutrements I purchased in Cookstown yesterday. Even though the powerlifting competition isn’t until July, I need to get used to lifting in knee sleeves, wrist wraps and a belt – and I definitely need to break the belt in! (Scroll down for a wee ‘show and tell’ video blog 😉 )

Whilst I could have ordered the powerlifting kit online, I wasn’t sure about my size so I drove over to Performance Nutrition Plus in Cookstown who stock NIPF-approved gear.

Here’s Dana doing her thing!

I’m so glad I decided to get myself over to Cookstown. The folk at Performance Nutrition Plus are super friendly and totally in-the-know. I was looked after by Dana Suitor, who just happens to hold the current NI bench press record  (under-23; 72 kg class): an impressive 80kg! Dana is also representing Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in Canada this September. (Athletes don’t receive any financial support to attend the championships, by the way. If you’d like to support Dana, do visit her GoFundMe page here. #LetsGetDanaToCanada 🙂 )

You’ll know from previous posts that I’m quite the chatter. Dana is also a chatter! It was so inspiring to hear about her powerlifting journey and I loved the way she treated me as a fellow strength athlete (even though I’m only a rookie!). She asked about my own training and gave me lots of encouragement. Like a good tailor, she was able to estimate both my weight and kit-size by eye alone; and she spent lots of time showing me how to put the kit on and making sure the fit was spot on. I’d say Dana is a fabulous ambassador for the sport.

Dana is 30 years younger than me and it was brilliant having one of those across-the-generations moments with her. She’s got incredible focus, energy and something that I’ve noticed in other adventurers I’ve met along the way: a special kind of ‘denseness’or solidity.  Of course, Dana is physically dense and solid (she’s obviously very strong and muscular), but I’m not really talking about that kind of ‘denseness’ or solidity. I’m talking about the kind of denseness and solidity that comes with being totally present, totally in-the-game and all-in. I’m taking about the kind of denseness and solidity that comes with enthusiasm, passion and dedication. I’m talking about the kind of denseness and solidity that is present when who someone is (their identity) is in complete alignment with what they do.

In my experience, this kind of ‘denseness’ is quite rare, but I’ve found plenty of pockets of it since starting my #OldDogNewTricks project. I see it at the CrossFit box. I see it in the young people waiting for their music lessons (when I’m waiting for my lesson). I saw it at the 5K race I recently competed in.

When the ‘denseness’ isn’t there, I experience people like ghosts – only partially present and sometimes not present at all!

Anyway, on that philosophical note I’ll leave you to watch my video blog. And while you’re watching that, I’ll start wearing that belt in!

I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂