Week In Review – Too Much To Do!

The annual “crunch time” that is February continued to rumble on this past week as I had ANOTHER parents’ evening and two sets of report cards to write.  It would all be fine if I didn’t have to teach as well lol!

Fortunately I was still able to fit in most of my training and find a bit of time for myself in there – experience has taught me to do what I can to avoid overload at this time of year!

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym plus sports massage
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 14 miles

Going to a Hatha yoga class on a Monday evening is proving to be a great decision. Monday can be a bit of a shock to the system as it is, and as my mileage increases I can find myself quite weary as the week begins. I’m finding the yoga class a great way to take some time for myself and the timing means I don’t have to rush about in order to get there. This week we were in a new venue as my teacher has been looking for the perfect location for her yoga and pilates classes. I really liked the studio space she found – easy to access, nearby parking and it felt really chilled with low lighting and peaceful pictures on the wall. This week was a trial to see how the venue fared and I suspect it’s going to be a permanent move. No arguments here!

IMG_5545On Tuesday I worked a bit later to try and get on top of some of my reports. When I arrived at the gym I realised I hadn’t checked my training programme to see how Steve was progressing my bike reps this month and yup, you guessed it, a longer work interval but the same rest as I have been doing. The number of reps came back down but I found the last couple a bit of a challenge so dropped the intensity level by one in order to get a quality workout.

IMG_5546With a sports massage booked I had no time to squeeze in a swim but I’m hoping to pay an extra visit to the pool when we have our half term weekend next week. The massage was just what I was needing to flush out some of the tension beginning to build up in my legs and it helps to keep me feeling as fresh as possible throughout the training cycle.

Wednesday was the parents’ evening. I was already miffed to be missing a run and this was compounded as due to the way the two evenings had been organised for this year group, I had far fewer appointments and, unfortunately, they were really spread out so I was in for the duration! I made use of the time in between appointments to get some more reports done (I proof-read them the next day just in case!) and although mentally worn out at the end of the day, I felt better for making a dent in my workload.

Of course I felt pretty tired all day Thursday as a result, but I had my Ashtanga class to look forward to. There were only 2 of us in the class and both of us go regularly so that meant the teacher could move a little more quickly through the sequence than when there are less experienced practitioners in the class. As a result, we were able to try some postures we don’t normally do which was great fun. I particularly enjoyed having a go at a headstand and was able to hold it for a few seconds with the teacher helping to support me. Something to work on perhaps…!

I spent as much time as I could on Friday working on my reports and when the school day finished (we’re a bit earlier on Fridays) I decided to stay and get the last 10 done before the weekend. I’ll still need to proof read them, but it was such a relief to get them all written as I know there’s plenty more work to come this term! I did, however, have to sacrifice my PT session with Steve as I needed to be home to take delivery of a parcel (my new phone and I had missed the delivery driver twice already – oops!). Not ideal, but another example of how it’s ok to skip the odd workout when life gets in the way without it being a total disaster!

The rest of the evening was nice and relaxing and after we had eaten Steve discovered an unopened bottle of mulled wine from Christmas. Just to prove we’re still rock ‘n’ roll we not only had some, but served it in Christmas mugs. Party on!

IMG_5551On parkrunday we were still using the alternate course on the path just like last week. This time the conditions were a bit better (no sleet or painfully cold fingers!) but I was doubtful that I could maintain my current streak of each parkrun in 2018 being a bit faster. I’m not delusional and know it has to end some time, in fact I’ve been fairly certain for the last couple of weeks that I had reached my current limit there, but as it turned out I had a few more seconds in me so my 24:50 kept the streak alive. I was a little miffed to lose my Royal Flush Negative Split by just a second though – gah!

IMG_5603Steve’s brother was busy but the two of us still headed into town for our post-parkrun bacon croissant which was satisfyingly well filled this week. Just the thing!

IMG_5605The rest of Saturday was spent getting my new phone set up (something I actually quite enjoy) and making sure I was logged into all my apps again. My dad always takes my old phone so he’s excited to be getting an upgrade too!

Of course we finished the day with Steve’s homemade pizza, this week a belated celebration of (Inter?)National Pizza Day on Friday. I don’t know what TV programmes my parents are watching over in the States, but just about every day my mum sends me a text informing me of the random holiday being marked (my favourites so far include Spaghetti Day, Book Your Travel Day and Hugging Day). This time I actually already knew about Pizza Day as I had entered a virtual race to mark the occasion. Yes, I did enter because the medal was shaped like a slice of pizza. Wouldn’t you?

2yW%4W28T%W90AXKvgShugAnd then it was Sunday. 14 miles on the schedule and it was another bright but cold morning. I plotted a route fairly similar to last week’s and used the same pattern of running every third mile faster, with a focus on good form. There were some points when I felt a little sluggish, but I suspect that’s a reflection of the busy week and missing my midweek run rather than anything else, and my overall average was still where I wanted it to be so I’m not giving it any more thought. It’s still all about the process and part of the process is runs where things feel a bit tougher. I know it will all come together when it needs to.

IMG_5607Later in the afternoon we headed out for our usual Sunday afternoon coffee and Steve bought me a Valentine cake. It must be love!
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The Valentine theme carried on through dinner as we indulged in our M&S Valentine Dine-In meal:

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Salmon, avocado and prawn starter

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Rack of lamb with garlic & rosemary crust served with triple cooked chips (rack of lamb supper? 😂)

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Black Forest rose dessert

I even did my very best to taste it all and not just inhale (the runger is getting real now!). The deal also included a small box of chocolates and a bottle of prosecco so it was good value and all delicious. A lovely way to end the weekend.

How is your training going?
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
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Week in Review – No More Snow

I wasn’t really sure what to title my post this week. It was just another January week of darkness, rain and wind, with me out training anyway. But after getting so much enjoyment out of my snowy runs last week, the sudden melting of that snow was probably the thing that stuck out the most.

Here’s how my week shaped up:

Monday – Hatha yoga rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

Monday didn’t quite go to plan as my yoga teacher had a bit of a family emergency so the class was, understandably, cancelled. I ran a few errands then did my own yoga session using the Yoga with Adriene 30 day journey I have been following. Not quite the same, but I still got some yoga in.

On Tuesday things were a bit more productive. As part of my role supporting a probationer teacher this year I had volunteered to join one of the panels offering them mock interviews in school ahead of their first proper teaching interviews which are coming up. It was really interesting for me to be on the other side of the table and I think I learned a lot from the process. Thanks to our earlier finish on a Tuesday I still had plenty of time afterwards to get to the gym for my bike intervals then followed this up with a swim. Having felt a bit rusty last week, I thought my swimming felt much better this week. Smoother and with less intake of water. Time will tell if this was a fluke or if I’m actually beginning to get the hang of it!

Sadly Wednesday didn’t quite pan out again. I got caught up in some things at work (there are what seem like a million mock exam papers to mark in a really short space of time!) and knew I couldn’t fit everything in. Since training is my priority, I had to miss my orchestra rehearsal but I’ll make sure I get there next week. My Wednesday workouts have been a little disrupted with the snow, so Steve told me to do another set of the form drills I did a couple of weeks ago, this time adding on two further reps. It was a REALLY windy day (Storm Georgina apparently) so it wasn’t an easy run, but since the drills are about form rather than pace I was still able to do it. I certainly knew about it in the last rep which was on a slight incline AND into a headwind. Character building I’m sure!

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The windswept look lol!

Thursday was, of course, my Ashtanga yoga class. I was really feeling in need of it to clear my head as I had been tying up the loose ends of vet bills and insurance payments related to my cat – not easy but it had to be done and yoga was exactly what I needed to settle myself down again. There were some beginners in the class so some parts of it moved a little slower, but I was really pleased to manage a full round of Yoga Wheel, a posture I was working on throughout 2017. Next is to manage 2 rounds as we usually do 2 or 3 rounds of a back bend and I tend to mix Wheel and Bridge in my practice.

I ended up with a rest day on Friday purely down to logistics. I fit my PT sessions around Steve’s paying clients, but had an appointment to get my nails done (badly needed, they were such a disaster and far too long for me) so our diaries just didn’t match up. This meant a home yoga practice for me again before we headed out to eat.

IMG_5451For some reason Steve fancied a dessert and since I’m a team player I wasn’t going to let him eat alone and made the sacrifice to have a sticky toffee pudding.  The things I do for love lol!

IMG_5452After a good sleep I was up and ready for parkrun on Saturday morning, wearing my new Mr Men/Little Miss running tights (apparently I’m developing a leggings habit but the mad patterned ones I’ve been buying are really cheering me up and let’s face it, at this time of year I’m manny in work clothes, running clothes or pyjamas!).

IMG_5455Since the ground was so soft the decision was taken to use an adjusted version of the route (we missed this a couple of weeks ago as we were at the vet). Basically it means avoiding the quagmire of the grass section and returning on a different section of grass (which is in much better condition) just behind where we normally run. It adds very minimally to the route, but is realistically faster as the ground is in better condition.

It was one of those days fairly common in Scotland where there is a headwind no matter which way you turn and I was starting out easy as I had been working through a slight niggle in my right leg (all good, just the effects of a movement pattern that needed adjusted so it’s fine now thanks to Steve’s intervention). I got a bit faster as I went on and was initially a little disappointed with my 25:34 until I remembered that last winter was very much the same with the effort level not really giving the return when it came to pace. It’s really best to forget about pace and just run to feel at this time of year so when the better weather comes the benefit will be there. When I received my result I realised that this was actually the fastest time I’ve run since the “parkrun year” began at the end of November, and on a slightly longer course. Not only that but each parkrun since the 1st January has been getting gradually faster so the training effect is in there, I just have to pay attention to it.

IMG_5460Post-parkrun I was getting my hair cut so missed out on the coffee and bacon croissants this time. I’m already looking forward to next week!

Since this was a cutback week, my long run was “just” 10k. Since I felt well rested I decided to get up and go quite sharp so as to create a bit of time in my Sunday. I was out the door before 9am and we were actually out on our Sunday errands before noon. Unheard of during training! I took it easy on my run and enjoyed one of my favourite loops close to home which involves a few challenging hills but also the fun of a nice long downhill stretch. Lovely!

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IMG_5520Then with all that time I was able to relax, tend to a few household bits & pieces and generally relax ahead of another work week.

How is your training going just now?
Has your parkrun course been affected by the weather?

I’m running for Cats Protection this year in memory of my cat, Morven.

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The Daily Post – Friend

Friend (noun): a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

These days “friend” means many different things. There are the friends we’ve known since childhood, the friends we make through our interests or work and the “friends” we make online. But what does true friendship look like?

For me, a true friend:

  • is there for you no matter what
  • listens without judgment
  • gives unconditional love
  • knows when you need comfort
  • shares mutual trust and respect
  • is loyal
  • is good fun
  • makes you happy
  • helps you to be your best self

True friendship is a beautiful thing indeed, and perhaps it doesn’t only come from our human friends but our furry/four-legged friends too.

Morven was my best friend. For over 17 years she was by my side. Many believe cats to be aloof, yet I knew she loved me unconditionally, trusted me to the extent that even while in pain at the end of her journey she let me handle her, and she always knew just how to make me feel better when I was sad or sleep when I was tired. I have so many wonderful memories of the games we played, the moments we shared and the “conversations” we had. It’s hard for me not having her around and I’m trying to adjust to the hole she has left in my life.

Not everyone can understand the bond we share with our pets, but those who do know that they are a big part of our lives, a member of the family. When we lose a pet we grieve in the same way we would if we lost a member of our family. That grief is hard, yet I wouldn’t trade in all the years of love and companionship for anything. No matter what other cats come into my life, Morven will always remain my special girl, my first cat, and nothing can ever change that.

Run free my special girl. I’ll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge when the time is right.

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Week In Review – Positive Action

I want to start with a thank you to everyone who has been in touch with kind thoughts since I shared that I had to say goodbye to my beautiful cat last weekend. I really appreciate all your messages.

As a result, this past week was strange but I found it helpful to have my training routine. It gave me a focus and helped me to make some decisions (more about that at the end of this post).

I have continued with regular yoga (most days that I didn’t have a class) and my week ended up like this:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps + a swim
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

Monday was, quite frankly, awful. I was a bit of a tearful mess and while I did manage to keep it together to teach my classes (a welcome distraction) by the time I got to my yoga class I was definitely feeling emotional. I knew that yoga would soothe me and I always feel better afterwards. I did, but in a different way. People have said to me before that yoga can release emotions, that they have found themselves crying during their practice, but since it’s always made me feel relaxed and happy, I was convinced it wouldn’t have that effect on me. Turns out, it is possible to shed a few tears in downward dog without anyone realising! I suspect the release helped though.

I felt a little better on Tuesday – I even risked some mascara (although realised on my drive to work that it may have been a mistake!). After work I headed to the gym for my bike reps. There had been a little snow around but nothing as I drove back and headed towards the gym. By the time I had changed and emerged from the changing room, there was heavy snow falling outside! I added two reps to the set of intervals I completed last week and already felt stronger completing them. After that I went for my first swim in AGES. It was perhaps not my best effort, but by the end of my session I was feeling like I was getting my rhythm back again.

There had to be a bit of a change on Wednesday because of the snow. I was supposed to do some hill reps, but thanks to a bit more snow during the day, Steve told me the underfoot conditions just weren’t good enough for my planned workout but that a short run in the snow would be possible. I got myself all bundled up in winter kit and headed out. It was tough going as the snow seemed to sap all my energy, but I loved it. There’s something invigorating about running in fresh snow that can’t be beaten. It was only as I was running that it crossed my mind I could have gone to the gym and run on the treadmill instead, but I think the fact that I never even considered that as an option tells you how I feel about that!

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IMG_5354Orchestra was cancelled because of the weather so post-run Steve and I were able to eat together then watch a little tv. I’m still finding things like this a little difficult as I’m so used to the cat curling up on my lap as soon as I commit myself to a seat. That’s going to take a bit of getting used to!

Thursday was cold and there was still snow on the ground, but I was really looking forward to my Ashtanga class. I’ve been doing a little yoga most days this month and feel stronger and more focused because of it. It felt so good to work through the Ashtanga poses (the class I go to works through about half of the postures under the guidance of our teacher) and there were no tears so I was obviously feeling a bit more at peace with the events of last weekend.

On Friday I was back at the studio with Steve for a PT session. My focus is on exercises that will benefit my running, principally by improving my strength and mobility. For me this means working around my upper back, my hip mobility and knee drive so this week’s session included the TRX, bar bell and Core Momentum Trainer. Quite tough on my arms so I was feeling it afterwards!

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Guess who jumped in the shot again!

Still in need of cheer, I decided to break out one of the other pairs of leggings I ordered recently. These ones depict my favourite Disney movie (and favourite Disney princess!) so they did make me feel a little better. Clearly the key to cheering me up is new workout leggings – the crazier the better!

IMG_5355As we went to bed that night we were aware that a number of parkruns not too far from us had already been called off so we weren’t sure what the morning would bring. Ours was provisionally on, but it was 50/50 depending on how much the snow/ice froze overnight. Saturday morning was cold (below freezing again at -4C) but thanks to a light dusting of snow the course was runnable and we were able to go ahead on the usual route. Clearly not a day to run hard, so I decided to ditch my earphones, ran at a comfortable pace and enjoyed the experience. Running in the crunchy snow, I’m finding, is something I rather enjoy and it seems that 183 other people agreed with me!

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IMG_5373In the picture below, there are two paths hidden. Our route takes us initially to the right then returns from the left. No sign of any path right now!

IMG_5434I felt invigorated after the run, as well as pleasantly surprised at my time. Once I was more sure of my footing I got progressively faster to finish with the revered Royal Flush Negative Split and, having expected to be around 27 minutes (a 9-ish minute mile feels good in these conditions) I did it a bit quicker.

IMG_5393As usual it was a quick freshen up at home then back out to meet Steve’s brother for our Saturday coffee. The place we like to go to always shuts for a couple of weeks at the start of the year but was open again so it was back to the bacon croissants. I really missed those!

IMG_5433The rest of the day was pretty relaxing. Steve and I headed out to the farm shop for some things in the afternoon and decided to stay for a mint hot chocolate and scone. Both were delicious!

IMG_5435 I also spent the whole day with a fairly persistent earworm…

I awoke fairly early on Sunday, had some breakfast (porridge with honey is my choice right now) and got organised to run. The snow was still there (not enough change in temperature for it to start melting) so rather than worry about my planned approach of every third mile faster, I simply decided to run. I knew that I wanted to re-visit the woodland path I ran on last week as part of my run so I could see it in the snow and getting there by a slightly different route meant that my run would total 10 miles.

IMG_5438I ran to feel and largely ignored my watch as pace was irrelevant. At this point in training a run is a run and I’m convinced that running in the snow is making me stronger as I’m working hard on changeable terrain. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed my run and would have happily gone further. The woodland path was lovely (no heron this week though) and I passed so many dog walkers and families out enjoying the snow (quite a few with sledges). What a great way to start the day!

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IMG_5439It may have been a strange week, but these snowy runs have really made me feel a bit better as I’ve enjoyed the change of pace and scenery. The cold air has cleared my mind and while I’m still sad and missing my wee cat, the pain is easing.

Another reason for this is the decision I made about how to channel my energies in a positive way moving forward. I got my cat from Cats Protection, a charity which seeks to create a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs, when she was just 6 weeks old. She had been found living under a shed, presumably abandoned, and I loved her from the start as we quickly formed a tight bond. It breaks my heart to think that there are so many cats who don’t get that opportunity, and while I will likely bring more cats into my life in future, I can’t give a home to all of them. What I can do is raise funds to help improve the lives of cats in the care of Cats Protection. CP will never put a healthy cat down and will do whatever they can to find the cats in their care a loving home. But this, of course, takes money. In 2018 I will be dedicating my miles to the memory of my cat and raising funds for my local Cats Protection branch. It just feels like the right thing to do and I know my cat would approve.

First up is the Stirling marathon, where I will run in a CP top. Having this motivation will help to get me out the door on the coldest days and work towards my next goal. I’d love it if you could support me by making a donation. The equivalent cost of just one cup of coffee could enrich the life of a cat who deserves some love. Thank you.

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2015: An End of Year Report

Unbelievably, another year has ticked by and now we are all locked in “Crimbo Limbo”, an odd time of year when we’re not entirely sure what’s going on and most small talk (after the obligatory comments about the weather!) begins with, “did you have a nice Christmas?” then segues seamlessly to, “anything planned for New Year?” ( in case you’re wondering, my answers are “yes, thank you” and “no, just a quiet one”). It’s a time of year when we inevitably begin assessing what we’ve done with our lives over the past 12 months and consider how we might make the next 12 even better, so what better time than now to look back over my challenges from 2015 and think about some of my personal highlights..

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I suppose it all started this time last year when I set out my challenge for 2015: one marathon (hopefully with a PB), one cycling event, and a frankly crazy weekend of multiple races, all completed by the end of May. After being hampered by injury in the second half of 2014, I didn’t want to plan any further ahead than that, preferring a cautious approach to my race plans, and it paid off – despite a strain to my left quad affecting the final weeks of my marathon training, the only plans I had to change were my expectations of a marathon PB, instead setting out to simply complete the race and have fun. It may not have been my greatest ever marathon finish time, but I finished it, had fun and, in the words of one friend, “became the selfie queen of Paris!”.
Paris Marathon done and part one of my challenge complete √

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Next up was the cycling event, and with my strained muscle preventing me from running, I got a bit of bonus time in the saddle, even going so far as to enter an extra event as a warm-up the week before. I may sound quite flippant about it all now, but in reality this was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. You may recall that I only began cycling in the summer of 2014 and bought my first road bike that autumn just before my first ever sportive, now here I was contemplating an 81 mile event which went over a mountain! I found the whole thing really daunting – the distance, the climbs, the risk of mechanical failure and the risk of rider failure(!) – yet somehow I managed it. The weather was apocalyptic (up on that mountain was particularly horrendous!) but both my trusty steed Trixie Trek and I held it together to cross the finish line of the Etape Caledonia and complete the second part of the challenge.
Cycling, done! √

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But I think the real stand-out moment of the year for me has to be the third part of the challenge. Back in 2014 Steve became infamous for his challenge to complete all 4 races of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, a feat involving lots of running, a very swift half marathon and a willing friend with a motorbike. I was incredibly proud of what he achieved that weekend, but also intrigued. It may have been a long, long way to run, but Steve seemed to really enjoy it and get a real buzz from the experience, so when I was looking for something new to do, my thoughts turned once more to Edinburgh. I knew that my race pace versus the event logistics would rule me out of mimicking Steve’s challenge, but thought a variation might be possible: rather than going from the half marathon to the full marathon (the bit the logistics made impossible for me), what if I then went on to complete a leg of the team relay instead? From that seed of an idea, the concept began to take shape, and at the end of May it all came to fruition: I ran four races in one weekend, I got treated like a rock star by Macmillan, my chosen charity, and do you know what? I loved it all!
Four races, two days, one challenge completed!! √

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Edinburgh challenge completed 🙂

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The spoils from the cycling part of my challenge…

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…and the running bling from Paris and Edinburgh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In taking on this challenge, I learned that I am even more tenacious than I knew. Funnily enough, the marathon was the “easy” bit (not often one calls a marathon “easy”!), with the cycling posing the greatest challenge and Edinburgh being a journey into the unknown in terms of keeping on going. Yes, there were tough moments, that’s what makes it a challenge, but the pride in knowing I completed it will stay with me forever. Why did I do it? For one thing, I felt I had unfinished business from my 2014 challenge, so decided to extend it for another year. I feel a sense of satisfaction in completing what I set out to do, and am thrilled to have raised a further £1000+ to add to my total from 2014, bringing my grand total raised for Macmillan Cancer Support to over £6000! That’s £6000 that will make a huge difference to the lives of those affected by cancer and I want to thank everyone who has supported me in any way as I completed my challenges over the last two years.

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But this year wasn’t just about the challenge, I also had a lot of fun: I discovered the joy of parkrun; I continued to dabble in learning the front crawl; I completed both the Jantastic and 5×50 challenges; I had a fantastic trip to Florida, where I even won running prizes; I ran lots of real and virtual races (as well as creating my own!); I won some competitions; I tried out some new training ideas; and there was that time I met Paula Radcliffe, a real highlight!

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Oh yeah, and there was A LOT of bling!

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Top L-R: Great Winter Run 5k, Cool Summer Mornings 5k, Chocolate Sundae Run 5k, Perth Kilt Run 5k, Perth 10k. Middle: my prize for being in the top ten female finishers at the Chocolate Sundae. Run Bottom L-R: Scottish Half Marathon, Great Scottish Run 10k, Mo Run 5k.

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Virtual Runs L-R: 4th July Weekend 4 miles, Platform 9 3/4k 2015 (and the 2014 equivalent I was able to acquire later), Back to the Future Day run

Another mini challenge I set for myself was to complete at least one Virtual Runner UK event per month. With a final haul of 14 medals, I’d say I definitely achieved that one too!

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In total I’ve run 648 miles this year, my highest annual mileage to date, and cycled 270, a bit less than last year. I also found a great graphic to represent my total mileage for the year at Veloviewer, which uses your Strava profile to collate the information:

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Apparently. I climbed Everest this year!

All in all, I’ve had a fantastic year. I hope you’ve enjoyed following it all on the blog and will continue to follow my adventures into 2016. Remember you can also connect with my page on Facebook and use the links on the right hand side of my homepage (if you’re viewing this in a browser) to subscribe to the blog and never miss a post. But for now, I wish you all a very happy new year. Here’s to 2016!

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What have been your highlights of 2015?
Do you have any challenges lined up for 2016 and beyond?

An Overwhelming October

After some tough times in August and September, October offered much more positivity and I found myself rather busy. I began the month by volunteering at parkrun in order to save my legs to race in the Great Scottish Run 10k the following day. That particular Saturday was International Parkrun Day, a day to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the very first parkrun. I was barcode scanning and enjoyed congratulating runners as they finished.

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If you’ve been reading the blog recently then you will already know how much I enjoyed the Great Scottish Run, the highlight for me being the chance to meet Paula Radcliffe. Paula has long been a hero of mine and that experience even overshadowed my new PB! We also enjoyed catching up with our friends from Macmillan and posing for some photos:

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And I was greatly amused by this tweet from Traffic Scotland with a shot from the traffic cameras on the Kingston Bridge!

In the days after GSR I received the not unexpected news that I had not been successful in the London Marathon ballot. I have to say that on this occasion I wasn’t really disappointed as I already have my entry for Paris 2016 sorted out. I would, however, really like to run London again in the future so continue to enter the ballot in the hopes that sheer persistence will eventually pay off. On the plus side, my Spiderman magazine was accompanied by this year’s “consolation prize”, a long-sleeved running top. I rather liked the one I got last year and have worn it quite a lot to go to and from PT sessions, etc. This one looks to be pretty good too, although I’ve not had a chance to wear it yet.

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But for me the real high point of my October was the school trip to Normandy and Paris, an “intimate” gathering of 44 (4 teachers and 40 of our pupils). As always it was a real whirlwind of a visit, but I loved being back in Paris, soaking up the atmosphere and thinking back to my last visit earlier this year for the marathon. By the time I came back I was exhausted, but ready to start focusing on a new training programme to prepare my body for the demands of marathon training proper in the new year.

For those wondering what we get up to on the trip, here’s a bit of a photo dump with some memorable moments:

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I bought these almost as soon as I arrived. When in France…!

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This tribute to WW2 soldiers was not far from our accommodation in Normandy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stunning views from above Arromanches looking down to Gold beach.

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Omaha beach below the American cemetery. Very sobering to think of the events which unfolded there on D-Day.

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A simple but poignant memorial at the American cemetery

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I never tire of taking photos of the Eiffel Tower!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A beautiful sky above the Sacré Cœur

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Some unexpected hill sprints in Montmartre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A visit to the famous Shakespeare and Co bookshop. If you’re a bookworm then I highly recommend it!

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A return visit to Bertie’s Cupcakery. Amazing cupcakes and another of my recommendations near Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Arc de Triomphe by night (there are A LOT of stairs to get to the top!)

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The Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling. I love seeing it like this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, we crammed in rather a lot, so by the time I got back I needed a bit of rest. However that didn’t stop me heading to parkrun that weekend. Not only did I have an October virtual 5k time to run, but it was Perth’s 100th event and there was no way I was going to miss out. Having run almost exclusively in shorts/summer kit until I went away, it was a real shock to wake up to a decidedly wintery day and find myself hunting for winter kit. I still throughly enjoyed the event, took it easy since I was tired and enjoyed a bit of cake at the end. Perfect!

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Looking cold and tired before the run!

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My October medal

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Amazing cake – and it tasted fab too! Pic from Perth parkrun Facebook page.

Whilst in Paris, I also discovered that I had won a twitter competition and my prize was an Absolute 360 tech T-shirt. I hadn’t come across the brand before, but a few people seem to be trying out their compression kit and I certainly found my T-shirt (not compression) really comfortable to run in:

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The remaining highlights of October included Back to the Future Day, in which I got completely over-excited, geeked out over my favourite film and earned a really cool virtual race medal!

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And finishing as I began, with parkrun. It was Hallowe’en and there were lots of decorations and things set up around town as part of the celebrations. Typically, I couldn’t resist a photo!

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So there you have it – parkrun, Paris and prizes! Looking back, it was a really busy month, but I also used my October break from school to have a bit of downtime from my training. I think it’s important to have a proper break from training a couple of times a year in order to allow the body to recover and hopefully avoid overtraining/injury. I had a couple of weeks off in the spring after the marathon, and even though my autumn races were shorter, I wanted to recharge my batteries ready to begin a new cycle of training. Now I’m back at work I’m settling into the routine of my new training programme and looking forward to building up a solid base of strength and fitness over the remaining weeks of 2015. I can’t wait!

How was your October?
What are your plans/goals for the remainder of the year?

A Super(ish) September

Although September began on a sad note with the funeral of Steve’s mum, having that closure meant that we both felt it was time to get back to a normal routine and return to regular training – after all, we had a half marathon fast approaching! I still had some lingering remnants of a cold, but I was certainly able to run (so long as I carried a few tissues!). The weather remained very pleasant for the time of year and I enjoyed sticking to running in my summer kit for a bit longer:

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I also had a bit of virtual running to do. First up, a September virtual 5k which I completed at parkrun:

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And then, something very exciting. I recently discovered the Hogwarts Running Club, which can be “joined” simply by liking their Facebook page. They organise six virtual races every year with a Harry Potter theme, and I found myself particularly taken with the Platform 9 3/4 km event. I paid my registration fee and downloaded my custom race bib:

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The race could be completed at any time, however participants were encouraged to run on the 1st of September as that was the date Harry returned to Hogwarts. I wasn’t able to run that day, so my trip on the Hogwarts Express was delayed by a week, but it was definitely worth it for this really cool medal depicting Harry and Ron’s eventful journey in the 2nd book:

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Front

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Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The medal actually arrived on the same day as the Scottish Half Marathon, a race I didn’t particularly enjoy for a variety of reasons, so arriving home to find a medal waiting for me was great. It’s a fairly hefty bit of bling, and holds its own nicely next to the frankly huge medal I got from the half marathon:

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Since the half marathon took place on a Saturday (highly unusual!), the following day afforded us a rare Sunday off, so we decided to make the most of it by heading out for breakfast – yum!

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A half marathon the day before meant we had earned this!

Then that evening we headed to Perth Concert Hall to see Twin Atlantic, a band from Glasgow, who were playing as part of the 10th anniversary of the venue. They’re not a band I know terribly well, but the show was great. I thought they were talented musicians and they played my favourite song of theirs as part of the encore, which made me happy.

Another highlight of September was the annual Macmillan fundraiser, the world’s biggest coffee morning, which my school has supported for several years. I’m not much of a baker so my contribution was some bits and pieces from my Macmillan fundraising kit (which somehow resulted in me standing in the home economics department ironing sashes the night before the event!), but the pupils put on an impressive spread and raised over £500 for the charity simply through selling tea, coffee and cakes to the staff. A fantastic effort!

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But I think my September highlight came the following Saturday. I took a few days off running after the half marathon in order to allow my body to recover, so parkrun was my first run in a week. As I walked over to the start, it struck me that conditions were perfect for a good time – cool and still. I had been posting some decent times recently and began to wonder if this was the day to try and shave a few more seconds off my 23:49 PB. I decided that I would go out hard, try to hold on and see what happened. If I got a PB, great; if not, I would know I had given it my best shot.

I got myself in a good starting position and set off at a fairly brisk pace. Glancing at my Garmin, I really wasn’t sure I could maintain it, but felt reasonably comfortable so got myself “locked in” to the pace and kept going.

Mile 1 ticked by in 7:28 (7:28?!?)

Mile 2 over the grass was a steady 7:32.

Mile 3, tiring somewhat, I clocked 7:36. My previous PB was based on a 7:40ish average so all I had to do was keep going to the line and a new PB was mine…

And this was when it got really difficult. I could see the finish line and my natural instinct was to speed up, but I had finally found my maximum effort level, so there was nothing else left. Despite slowing in the last 100m or so, I took a whopping 35 seconds off my PB, setting a new best of 23:14 (an average pace of 7:32 per mile). I couldn’t believe it! Actually I really wanted a lie down and had to have a nap that afternoon to recover! I still can’t believe that my legs moved at that pace – I never think of myself as someone who can put in mile splits like that. Not only that, but I somehow managed to claim 3rd female overall in the field that day – a triumph indeed!

The following day, conscious that I’d asked a lot of my body, I opted for an easy-paced recovery run and enjoyed the sunshine by the river rather than churning out “junk” miles and risking injury.

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Sadly, after the joy of a new PB, the fates weren’t quite done with me and September finished on a sour note with the news that my dad had been involved in a car accident. Thankfully there were no serious injuries, but he has done some damage to his knee so he’ll be in a knee brace and using crutches for a while, meaning golf and running are both firmly off the agenda. He’s also got loads of bruises from his seatbelt and airbag and, unfortunately, his car is beyond repair so there’s a lot of insurance stuff to sort out. And none of it was his fault – another driver shot out of a side road right into him as he was driving home from a round of golf. It just goes to show how things can change in the blink of an eye. As you can imagine, we all got a real shock, especially when he had to be taken to hospital to be checked over, and it’s awful seeing him unable to do the things he loves. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery or I can predict him getting rather grumpy!

Hopefully, that’s me done with misfortune for a while – I’m certainly ready for some more positive experiences and October looks set to bring some fun. Watch this space…

How was your September?
Any exciting plans for October?

Race Report – Great Scottish Run 10k 2015

I kept this one under the radar as far as my blog was concerned, but the truth is I was REALLY excited to go and race 10k in Glasgow this weekend. I’ve always really enjoyed taking part in races in Glasgow and have fond memories of the 2012 Great Scottish Run half marathon (which I finished beaming from ear-to-ear and desperate to take part again), the Great Women’s 10k (which last year afforded a shock PB of 50:15) and the festive high jinks of the Santa Dash. I knew that this year I had my first chance since 2012 to return to the GSR and it’s been in the back of my mind all year to sign up – the only reason I waited was my new policy of not getting carried away and entering loads of races only to get injured and miss out. When I decided to join Steve at the Scottish Half Marathon in Edinburgh in September, I thought that might be it for big autumn races as I didn’t think I’d fancy another half marathon just two weeks later – then I remembered the 10k.

My mind was made up when it was announced that the great Haile Gebrselassie was set to bid farewell to competitive running at the GSR 10k and that 10 lucky runners would have the chance to have a meet and greet with the legend before lining up next to him at the start. Sadly Gebrselassie later had to pull out due to his sister being seriously ill (I had been hopeful of a chance to run with him) but I was still excited about the race and my excitement levels only increased with the news that the official starter for the race would be my running hero/inspiration Paula Radcliffe. She might not have been running, but the chance to see Paula far outweighed (for me) the chance to see Haile!

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I had no idea what sort of shape I was in for 10k, but was sure I could beat my Perth 10k time of 52:36 as I had run with a cold that day. I wasn’t convinced I was in PB shape for the distance (anything under 50:15), but was still curious to know how close I could come so opted to volunteer at parkrun the day before so I would be racing on fresh legs. Even the weather forecast was promising, with cool, dry conditions and not too much sun after some warm days recently. It was all going to come down to my performance on the day. I wasn’t putting myself under pressure, but still wanted to finish knowing I had done my absolute best and with a clear idea of where my fitness is right now.

Organising my kit the night before, I opted for my favourite running skirt (by Under Armour), my pink argyle calf sleeves (these attract a lot of attention and are by Bondi Band), my Macmillan running T-shirt, Nike arm warmers to keep the chill off at the start and my Adidas Glide Boosts (my favourite 10k shoes).

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We were both in the white (front) wave and were due to start running at 9:45am so left Perth just after 8am for the drive to Glasgow. We’ve pretty much got it worked out now so that we know exactly where to park, exactly what toilet options we have in order to avoid long portaloo queues and exactly what we need in our post-race bag so that by the time we reach the start area at George Square we can just squeeze ourselves into our start pen and set off. Just after dropping our bag off at the baggage bus I was really pleased to bump into two former pupils who were also running the race – it might even have been their first. We had a quick chat then went our separate ways for the start pens where the mass warm up was underway (I passed since I can’t bear mass warm ups where there’s approximately one square centimetre of room to work!). We had to wait outside our pen, but once the elite wave set off we were able to move inside and find some room.

While we were waiting, I was delighted to hear that for the first time ever there were more females signed up to races over this weekend than males. Absolutely brilliant news and a trend I’d love to see continue.

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Pre-race selfie

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Start line selfie!

Start line selfie!

As our wave got underway, I kept an eye out for Paula Radcliffe and spotted her cheering runners on by the start. I remember being struck by how amazing she looked and feeling really pleased to have run close by her, then I was crossing the start line and heading towards the St Vincent Street hill which accounts for much of the first mile. I felt that I ran strongly up the hill and was pleased when I heard my name shouted by someone we know who was going to be running the half marathon later in the morning.

For me, all the best bits of the half marathon route feature in the 10k: hitting some streets I ordinarily run on dressed as Santa (it crossed my mind that it seemed a little odd to be in “normal” running gear), running over the Kingston Bridge (technically motorway so normally out of bounds for pedestrians) and crossing the Clyde on the “Squinty Bridge” before finishing on Glasgow Green.

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I was quite surprised when I completed the first mile in 8:07, despite the uphill slog, however this slowed to 8:26 in mile two as there were some gradual inclines and a couple of pinch points as we headed for the Kingston Bridge and I was conscious that I was running a little slower as there wasn’t the same room to pass people. I enjoyed this section of the course, though, so didn’t let it bother me. Once off the bridge, we were into wide streets and my times ticked by quite consistently from there on: 7:53, 7:56, 7:59, 7:59.

I had realised that a PB might actually be on the cards so was working quite hard, but still really enjoying the on-course support with a piper at every kilometre marker as well as some other entertainment such as a local nightclub who had set up around the 4km mark to play upbeat music, and a drumming group further on in the race. There were also plenty of charity cheer squads and it was great to run past 3 Macmillan cheer points to get some encouragement and support.

Around the 9k mark was the Wall of Support, a massive bank of TV screens with personalised messages of support for runners, triggered by their race number as they neared the screen. I knew there would be no message with my name on it as I hadn’t shared the details with anyone and had missed the deadline to leave myself a message, but there were plenty of messages going up for all the runners and it was lovely to see. At this point I knew my chances of a PB were really tight so I was trying to focus all my energies on getting to the finish and seeing all the messages helped.

Suddenly, a sign saying 400m to go, a bend, 200m to go. My watch ticked over into 50 minutes and I couldn’t quite see the finish gantry. I was giving it my all and my body was starting to protest at the effort, but then I saw it. The announcer was calling out names of runners approaching the line and I heard my name called out, giving me a final boost to sprint for the line – I was running so hard I even forgot to smile for the official photographers so those photos will no doubt be particularly “special”.

As I stopped my watch, I glanced down to see that it read 50:14. Could I actually have a PB? It was a close call, however I had signed up for a free text message with my time and sure enough, it was confirmed as 50:14. A PB by just one second, but a PB nonetheless! I was momentarily disappointed that I hadn’t managed a sub-50, but knew I couldn’t have done any more and was thrilled to be back to what I considered the peak form I had after my marathon training cycle last year (after which I promptly got injured!). It was interesting to note that it was mile 2 which really prevented the PB, not a later mile, so consistent 8 minute miles for the whole thing will get me there – a target for 2016!

I made my way through the finish chute collecting a bottle of water and my goody bag: medal, cotton t-shirt (there was the opportunity to buy a tech t-shirt at sign-up), sports drink, food, space blanket and assorted leaflets.

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Steve was waiting for me and together we went over to catch up with our friends from Macmillan, where we had  a cup of tea and something to eat before getting some photos.

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Being childish with an orange segment!

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Medal selfie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the Macmillan tent to collect our bag, we discovered there were also a number of official photo ops for us to enjoy.

A race backdrop:

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An official time clock (like when the elites set a world record – a great way to mark a PB!):

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And a big screen recreation of the Wall of Support. We didn’t do this one as there was a massive queue, but I’ve later discovered that by putting my race number in on the website, I can get an image of “my” wall:

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But far and away the most exciting photo op was this one:

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And of course, I was straight in the queue. There was no way I was going to miss the chance to meet Paula Radcliffe! I was more excited about this than my new PB, and couldn’t understand the people who would approach the queue, ask what it was for then shrug and look disinterested when they were told. Why would they not want to meet a world record holder and inspiring runner? I was like a little fan girl and hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself!

When my turn came, Paula asked me how I had got on in the race and, in my excitement, I merrily told her about my new PB (I’m sure that was the highlight of her day 😉 ) and she graciously congratulated me before signing my race number and posing for a photo.

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After this, we decided to head off as I was yapping away like I’d had several coffees, floating along on the high of a good run and meeting a legend. An absolutely fantastic experience!

So once more Glasgow did not disappoint, in fact on this occasion it presented me with one of my greatest race highlights ever! If you’re considering entering one of the GSR races next year, then I highly recommend it. Both the start and finish are really well organised with plenty of signage to help you to be in the right place at the right time, there are loads of announcements, the course is great, the support vocal and there’s a decent medal and goody bag. Even without the chance to meet a running legend it’s a brilliant day out. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

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A Mad May

What a month! April may have been awesome, but May did its very best to maintain those high standards as I got back into some “proper” training, took on some big challenges and made a pretty serious addition to my bling collection in a month of utter madness!

The month began in style with a trip to the SSE Hydro in Glasgow to see Take That live. The “boys” always put on a fantastic show and I thoroughly enjoyed myself singing along to all my favourite songs!

My concert experience left me on a high as I found myself up sharp the next day and on my way to Pitcairngreen for the 46 mile Tayside Challenge. This was my longest bike ride to date and I was glad to have the company of my friend Debbie, a much more experienced cyclist than me, as we pedalled (mainly uphill it seemed!) in strong winds, rain and, at times, hail. Let’s just say it was a “character building” experience. There was a brilliant cake stop at half way though – very civilised – and it was a very well organised event overall. I would definitely recommend it to you.

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I used this event as my May virtual race so a few days later a medal popped through the letterbox for me. Brilliant!

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May Medal #1

A week later, I was back in the saddle again for The Big One aka the Etape Caledonia. I was so intimidated by the idea of an 81 mile cycle that I didn’t really mention to anyone that I was doing it. I actually felt fairly confident I could cover the distance, given plenty of time, but was conscious of the infamous “sweep bus” and was quite convinced I would end up on the back of it before long. Nobody was more surprised than me when I actually completed the event, especially given the particularly apocalyptic weather Mother Nature blessed us with that day. It’s not a distance I’m in a hurry to cycle again, and even now I can hardly believe it was me who did it (I actually keep looking at the photos to confirm it!) but that hasn’t stopped me feeling particularly hardcore for taking on such a huge (for me) challenge!

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#ThisGirlCan

 

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May Medal #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling events done, it was time to turn my attention back to running as I had just two weeks to prepare for the final part of my 2015 spring challenge. My previously injured quad muscle was feeling ready to go, and after a week of much more gentle exercise to allow my body to recover from the Etape, I was lacing up my trainers once more. I’d be lying if I said it was easy, because it wasn’t. Cycling had maintained my fitness, but I was lacking conditioning in my legs for running and while I had no problems from my quad muscle (I had done A LOT of strength work there), I did have all the usual issues of tight calves and some tension around the top of my quad to keep on top of as I re-introduced running into my training. It was great to be running again, but I mourned the loss of the form I had earlier in the year.

Yet somehow, it all worked out. The niggles miraculously vanished as race weekend rolled around, and despite my own misgivings about being able to get up and run a half marathon with the 10k and 5k already in my legs, I felt pretty good throughout. Not bad given the less-than-ideal training time.

Completing 4 races in 2 days (10k, 5k, half marathon and Hairy Haggis Team Relay) was an unbelievable experience. I truly didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a very special weekend. I had fantastic support from the team at Macmillan who looked after me throughout (and made me feel like a bit of a celebrity) and there was something very satisfying about walking around with 4 medals around my neck! For me, this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will no doubt run in the EMF again, but to take on this particular challenge again would probably be a mistake as it just wouldn’t be the same. I want to remember my Epic EMF Extravaganza for the special experience it was: an incredible way to round off my challenge and a fabulous way to finish May with a bang!

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May Medals #3 – #6!

What a month indeed! A month I’m incredibly proud of and which is sure to be a highlight of my year.

How was your May? Did you take part in any events?
What are you most proud of?

 

Race Report – EMF Day 2 (Half Marathon and Hairy Haggis Team Relay)

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel when I woke up on the Sunday morning of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. I was excited about tackling the challenge ahead, but at the same time had no idea how my body would have stood up to running 10k and 5k the day before. I half expected my legs to have seized up or for a niggle to have resurfaced around my left quad. Yet somehow, I felt good. Despite having only had a fortnight of focused training for these events thanks to spending much of my post-Paris training time on my bike to prepare for the Tayside Challenge and Etape Caledonia, my body had decided that it was ready to go and wasn’t going to hold me back from accomplishing what I set out to do. So after breakfast at our hotel it was time for one last kit check before heading for the start line.

As it happens, sorting out my kit was the most complicated part of my plans as what I was planning was outside of what the race infrastructure would support. To avoid getting caught up collecting a bag after the half marathon, I gave a “drop bag” to the Macmillan team on Saturday so that I would have quick access to everything I needed before heading out to the relay changeover. I also decided to use a hydration pack and carry a few essentials with me throughout the day. This became even more important on the eve of the race when we received the following information from race organisers:

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Just what we all needed to hear!

I was comfortable enough with the kit I had decided to wear, but had to make sure I would have access to warm and dry clothes at various points and a change of kit in case I was completely soaked, so I was glad I had prepared that in advance. Some might say I overpacked, but I prefer to think of myself as “prepared for any eventuality”!

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A lot greyer on the start line than the day before, and not just because it was before 8am!

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Last time I wore an emergency pre-race poncho was in Edinburgh last year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was by myself at the start line as the race has 2 start areas and Steve was at the other one, for the speedier runners, while I was at the the front of the second start. We were delayed for a few minutes while the first group got safely underway in the wet conditions (I used the time for one last toilet stop!) and then we were off.

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The route covers the first part of the marathon route, with a turnaround at mile 11 to head back to the finish. For me, this meant it was pretty familiar, having previously run the marathon in 2011 and 2014 as well as the relay in 2010 and 2013. I tend to enjoy the first few miles as there is a downhill start before a run through Holyrood Park and some up and down sections by Leith Links towards Portobello Prom. The only thing that marred my enjoyment slightly was that I had somehow failed to set up my hydration pack properly and was struggling to get any liquid from it. Coming to the conclusion that I must have twisted or blocked the tube, I realised that I would have to go with Plan B: pick up water at the aid stations and waterboard myself every few miles! I also had a brief stop at the 5k water station to remove my waterproof jacket as the predicted rain had failed to materialise and even though it was an extremely lightweight jacket, I was beginning to bake!

Not being in any real hurry time-wise (my prediction was around 2:04), I opted to take walk breaks to take my gels at 5 miles and 10 miles. I wasn’t even too bothered about being overtaken by a carrot and a banana! Instead, I enjoyed the experience, focusing once more on just the race I was in and looking out for the Macmillan cheer squads so I could wave and get shouts of encouragement (nothing like having your name on your race top to make you feel like a rock star!).

A slightly disheartening section for the unprepared comes around mile 9 when the route passes close to the finish area, but instead of peeling off towards Pinkie School and the finish line, we carry on past Musselburgh Racecourse and are treated to the view of the faster runners heading back through their final miles, knowing that we have another couple of miles before we hit the turnaround and join them. I chose to run alongside the boundary line so I could watch out for Steve and any other runners I knew. When I spotted Steve coming towards me, I starting waving like a lunatic and got a quick high five before he ran on and I plodded my way towards the turn which seemed to be taking AGES to materialise.

After the turn it was was a straight run to the finish. Running by the racecourse again is one of the best bits as the crowds are starting to grow, especially right before the entrance to the playing fields which are used as the finish area, and runners get so many shouts and cheers that I can’t help but smile. It also gives an extra boost as we head into the finishing straight.

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Official event photo – 3rd race done!

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Official event photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And despite my stop to remove my jacket, I finished bang on my predicted time with 2:04:18!

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3 out of 4

After crossing the line I joined a queue to collect yet another goody bag, medal and bottle of water before having my photo taken with my medal. I then made my way over to the Macmillan tent to find my drop bag. And this was when things took a surprising turn.

Steve was there.

I had been assuming that he would be back in Edinburgh ready to start the marathon, but it turned out that he had decided to end his challenge after the half marathon and not attempt the full marathon this time. He has written his own post detailing what prompted that decision, and I recommend giving it a read as I’m very proud of what he has achieved over the last couple of years.

He had been waiting for me as Lesley Martin, one of the photographers, was going to take some pictures of us both before I headed off to my relay changeover point. I’m really grateful to her for the fantastic photos she sent us:

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Photo – Lesley Martin

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Photo – Lesley Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the one with the foam hand is one of my favourite post-race photos ever!

I wanted to be away from the finish area by about 11 as I had to walk to my relay changeover point (there was no time for getting back to the centre of Edinburgh to catch one of the relay buses, so it was all down to me). I knew I had plenty of time, but preferred to wait at the changeover than be in a rush, so I had a recovery shake, grabbed some food to take with me, changed into a dry top and fresh socks, put some warm layers on and set off clutching a cup of tea. The best thing was, having expected a wet and lonely trek out to the changeover, it was now dry and I had company in the form of Steve who had decided to go with me.

We followed the route of the marathon, cheering on runners and catching a glimpse of the leaders heading back towards the finish. We even took the chance to stop for a selfie with everyone’s favourite picturesque power station at Cockenzie – always the highlight of the Edinburgh Marathon :-0

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Although only the marathon route goes past it, you can see the power station in EVERY race of the EMF. Trust me!

Shortly before we got to the changeover point, the 2nd leg runner from my team ran past us and a few minutes later we joined her at Port Seton. The wind was definitely much stronger by this point, so we found some shelter behind a tent to pass the time. There was around an hour to wait until the leg 3 runner finished, and it was time for me to get underway for one last time.

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By now, I knew that I would be running straight into a hurricane headwind and that the first part of my section would be slightly uphill. Not so easy on weary legs and I was conscious that most of the runners around me had run almost 22 miles to get to this point. I remembered being in a similar situation in 2011 and knew the struggle they were facing. For me, it was strange: ordinarily in the later stages of the relay I feel a little guilty about running on fresh legs when surrounded by marathoners, yet on this occasion I knew that while fresher than them, my legs still had a lot of miles in them from that weekend. I had also run 22 miles, they were just broken up into sections over the two days!

At first, it was tricky to convince my legs to move yet again, but soon I settled into my pace. It felt like my effort level should have been yielding a much faster pace, but that was more down to the wind than my weary legs. Besides, it was “only” 4.4 miles. For me, those miles just felt like something I had to do to complete my challenge. My team had done a fantastic job of setting me up to finish the event, and now I was “bringing it home”. I got my head down and ploughed on, enjoying the Macmillan cheer point for the last time and soon enough I was back on familiar territory with the racecourse alongside me and the now bigger crowds making me feel like even more of a rock star with their shouts and cheers.

Turning onto the finishing straight felt amazing. I may not have run a full marathon to get there (this time), but I had taken on a big challenge, a challenge I wasn’t sure my body would be up to, and I had done it. Grinning from ear to ear and four fingers aloft to signify my fourth race, I crossed the line for the final time that weekend.

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Official event photo – 4th (and final) race done!

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Once more I collected a medal, goody bag and bottle of water. I then made my way over to the official photo area determined to have a photo taken with my bling haul from the weekend. The photographer looked a little stunned as I jingled over and posed with my 4 medals, but it was totally worth it!

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Official event photo

I sent messages to the others who were on their way back to join me, and made my way over to the Macmillan tent for a hard-earned massage. I love the fact that runners are (quite literally) given the red carpet treatment at the end of the event and I was met by the charity cheerleaders to welcome me in:

Photo – Rob Basson @ Macmillan

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Photo – Rob Basson @ Macmillan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The massage was fantastic, and it turned out my legs were in pretty decent shape – no knots or niggly bits. The massage therapist was quite surprised (as was I!) and kept making me repeat what I had done over the weekend!

When Steve arrived, it was time for a couple more photos then some food as by this point I was starving.

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Challenge completed!

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As one of the official EMF video bloggers, Steve was invited to the VIP tent and had managed to get me added to the list as well. Since we were getting a lift home with my relay team, we didn’t want to spend too long hanging around at the finish, but did make a point of going over to the VIP tent to say hello. It was right by the finish line so a great photo opportunity. They also had some food left, including a giant bowl of tiramisu. Well, it would be rude not to and I’d run a long way!

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All in all, it was an amazing weekend, and not something that could be easily bettered. My strategy of focusing on the race I was in and not thinking about the ones I’d already run or had still to run really worked to keep me running well in each event, it was only later that night when I was enjoying a nice bath that the magnitude of what I had done really hit me. I was reading through all the messages we had received on social media and reflecting on the weekend and just burst into tears. I couldn’t stop crying and there was no real reason for the tears. I suspect a combination of emotion and exhaustion :-0

My EMF Extravaganza was certainly a great way to finish my spring challenge with a bang. I still can’t believe that in the space of two months I ran a marathon, completed an epic cycling event and then took on 4 races in 2 days at the EMF. I think I might be mad (and definitely think it’s time for a rest!).

I’ve had mixed fortunes in Edinburgh over the years, but this year was definitely a highlight. Edinburgh, I thank you.

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I ran 4 races in 2 days partly because I’m crazy, but mainly to raise valuable funds to help Macmillan support those affected by cancer. You can still donate to my page by clicking on the link below and helping me to make a difference. Thank you.

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