7 For 2017 – Nearly There!

Well hello there October! Where did you sneak up from? It hardly seems like any time since I was setting my goals for 2017 and here we are three quarters of the way through the year. Time to check in and see how I’m doing (you can read my previous updates here and here).

1. Set some new race PBs
This one has been at a bit of a standstill since my success at the Inverness half marathon back in March, and with no race plans for the remainder of 2017, I suspect I’ve done all I can here. My main aim was to set a new marathon PB and beat that 4:05:07 that’s been hanging over me since Paris 2014. Unfortunately it was not to be, although I did make some positive progress. Back in April I was thwarted by the Paris heat, however did manage to run what was then my second fastest marathon time of 4:32:07 (yup, my PB is somewhat of an outlier!). I followed this up at the end of September with another try at the Loch Ness marathon, and while I still didn’t crack that elusive 4 hour mark, I did lower my 2017 performance to 4:18:10 (now my second-fastest). I’m not giving up though, and have already entered a spring marathon to have another try.
I had thought I might have a go at a new 10k PB (sub-50) but have not actually raced a 10k this year. I did, however, come tantalisingly close to my 5k parkrun PB of 23:14 when I ran a 23:19 a couple of weeks before Loch Ness. This was really pleasing as this was also a real outlier in my performance history so it was good to prove to myself that it had not been a fluke, even if the time is two years old! Now onwards into 2018!
Progress: 1/3 achieved; Improving picture

IMG_1397
IMG_39502. Run my 100th parkrun
This goal relies on consistency. I’ve missed very few parkruns this year, mainly planned misses due to post-marathon recovery, and still have enough of a cushion to achieve my 100th run before the end of the year. At present I’ve completed my 93rd, so just 7 more to go. Definitely achievable, perhaps by the start of December.
And my bonus parkrun goal is to achieve my 25 volunteer T-shirt. Thanks to my pacing duties this year I only have one more to go before I have that one all wrapped up.
Progress: On track

IMG_37133. Maintain my step goal streak
Back in July I achieved the first part of this goal – one full year of taking 10,000 steps per day. Now, I’m working on completing the second part of the goal – a calendar year of 10,000 steps per day. I’ve not yet broken my streak (currently at 472 days) so continuing the habit for now should be achievable.
Progress: On track

4. Read at least 30 books
This is now the goal that needs the most attention. I’m tracking my reading on Goodreads this year and, with 19 out of 30 books read, am 4 behind schedule to complete this one. This is an advance on the 25 books I read in 2016 and I did set this goal knowing it would push me. I had hoped the summer might bring me up to speed, but I now need to try and set aside a bit more time for reading. Watch this space!
Progress: Needs Attention

5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
The summer break allowed me to reset a bit on this one, and as soon as term began I made sure to prioritise rest right from the start. This meant trying not to allow my natural night-owl tendencies to take over and stay up too late on week nights, as well as scheduling an afternoon nap into my Saturday routine to help counter the busy week. It’s not always easy to fit in everything I want to do, but I am getting better at this one.
Progress: Much improved

IMG_38546. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
I’m really pleased with this one. Thanks to the Tough Girl 100 challenge I was able to make regular yoga much more of a habit for me, and enjoyed doing so. Things have faltered a bit of late thanks to the time pressures of being away on a trip, but now that I’m getting organised again I’m looking forward to adding some more yoga to my days. My favourite is some bedtime yoga to help me unwind and rest well, helping me with that goal too!
Progress: On track

IMG_41967. Blog more consistently
Another one that’s going well. I wanted to improve on my 2016 pattern by publishing at least one post per week IN ADDITION to Friday Finds. So far, so good. I think I’ve only had one late Friday Finds, but it has gone out every week. I’ve also published a Week in Review post every Monday, as well as many additional posts when I can. I’m trying to use school holidays to work through the ideas in my drafts and have posts scheduled in advance, but it definitely feels much more consistent than last year. Very pleasing.
Progress: On track

IMG_0815

A bit of a mixed bag right now, but then goals are there to be a challenge rather than a guarantee. I’ve definitely made positive progress towards each of these, and will do my best to achieve those I still can. Hard to believe that the next time I write about my goals will be a review at the end of the year! I wonder what I will achieve…?

How are you getting on with your goals for 2017?
What would you still like to achieve this year?

Advertisements

Week In Review – Vive La France!

Bonjour! I’m back home from France. It was a great trip, but definitely tiring!

As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL, but since last week’s post didn’t cover the full week thanks to my travel commitments (and lack of wifi to update the weekend’s events) I thought I’d begin this week’s post by filling in the gaps. Unsurprisingly, I have plenty of photos to share – this might be one to enjoy over a cup of tea!

The trip began in Normandy then we headed to Paris. Once home, it was time to get back to my regular routine (whilst also making sure to rest from the demands of a full-on itinerary and 40 pupils to keep an eye on!). Here’s the itinerary:

Saturday – travel to France
Sunday – explore Normandy
Monday – explore Bayeux then travel to Paris
Tuesday – Paris
Wednesday – Paris
Thursday – travel home
Friday – rest(!)
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – easy run

Saturday was a travelling day. While France is not really that far away, we had an early start to ensure we were at the airport in plenty of time (45 people to get checked in and through security!), then once in France we had a coach journey north to Normandy. An early highlight for the pupils was the presence of the Scotland football team in the departure lounge (a few were able to get photos). For me, arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport felt really familiar – I’m losing count of how many times I’ve been there now! – and I was pleased to find we had a great coach driver who not only drove us north, but provided some commentary and information about various things we passed as we left Paris, including the Stade de France.

IMG_4015Once in Normandy we headed to our base for the first couple of nights which is a youth centre opposite the most beautiful church tower.

IMG_4024We were hustled right in to dinner as we were a little later arriving that usual. The teachers had a most welcome arrival drink awaiting them, but I found the food a little strange – edible, but an odd combination. Fortunately, the meal was rescued by dessert which was these delicious pastries:

IMG_4017Our knowledgeable coach driver, who had stayed for dinner, told us they are known as Paris-Brest. Shaped like a bicycle wheel, they were created to commemorate the cycle race of the same name which began in 1891. I can confirm that they are delicious!

By the time we’d finished eating and been shown to our rooms, there was really only time to unpack the things we would need then start getting ready for bed. Of course the pupils were excited, and many had slept on the coach so felt wide awake, but I know how busy and tiring the trip is so was keen to get everyone to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday was all about Normandy. We began the day in the beautiful town of Caen exploring the Sunday market and the castle which was built for William the Conqueror. We had our packed lunch in the castle grounds then headed on to Arromanches, at the heart of the D-Day landing sites (Jour-J in French). We were there to visit the 360 cinema which has a powerful 20 minute film which gives a real flavour of events in June 1944. The cinema is above the town and from the elevated position we could see the remains of the Mulberry harbour which was created to bring cargo ashore during the D-Day landings. We then took the short walk down to the town and had a look around for a short time before heading on to our next port of call: the American cemetery at Colleville.

IMG_4036The cemetery sits above Omaha beach and was featured at the start of the movie Saving Private Ryan (two of the brothers whose story inspired the film are buried at this cemetery). We didn’t have much time there, but I found time to watch a short film in the museum which I had not previously seen, before having a look around the cemetery itself. It’s a very sombre place and the mood can be felt in the air. It always really brings home the scale of the sacrifice made by allied forces as over 10,000 crosses are in this location alone.

IMG_4038
IMG_4043We began Monday still in Normandy with a visit to Bayeux and the famous tapestry which depicts the events around the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It’s quite spectacular and intricate, 70 metres long and 50 cm high. I remember learning about the tapestry at primary school, and always remember the part where Harold is killed with an arrow through the eye. Ouch!

IMG_4065After the tapestry there was some time to explore Bayeux before our packed lunches. There’s a beautiful cathedral in Bayeux and overall it’s a very attractive town.

IMG_4070
IMG_4073
IMG_4079After lunch we were back on the road and heading to Paris for the remainder of the trip. Again, staying in a youth centre but more modern than the one in Normandy. We arrived in time to have a little time to relax before dinner, then it was time to head out.

Our first evening was spent in the Notre Dame area. We allowed the pupils some time to explore in their groups, so I opted to pay a visit to the nearby bookshop Shakespeare & Co. It’s a famous independent bookshop, traditionally English-language. Its location is close to Kilometer Zéro, the point from which all French road distances are measured. The shop is part of the rich history of ex-pat literary Paris in the 1920s and was a meeting place for the likes of Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Eliot. Today it’s still full of nooks and crannies inviting visitors to get comfortable and read. There’s even a resident cat whose favourite sleeping place is well defined!

IMG_4113
IMG_4120
IMG_4155
IMG_4124I absolutely adore this place and could easily spend hours (days?) there, but contented myself with a couple of books. You can ask to have your purchases stamped with the store logo, which is a nice touch and something I recommend if you ever visit.

IMG_4333
fullsizeoutput_229cTuesday was probably the most tiring day as we had no coach so were both walking and using the metro. It was also a day when there were public sector strikes, which ended up affecting our itinerary.

The first visit on the agenda was the Musée d’Orsay, a one-time railway station now home to a number of exhibits including Impressionist art. In the past we have visited the Louvre, so this was new. Unfortunately, just as we got there the museum was in the process of closing as the strikes meant they did not have enough staff. We gave our pupils some time to themselves to look around, take photos, buy food, etc while we made alternative plans and I drew on what turned out to be far more impressive knowledge of Paris than I realised I had as I was able to look at my map and come up with a plan almost immediately. All those Paris marathons were good for something!

IMG_4172We needed to do something that would not incur a cost (including additional metro tickets) so I created a tour of the area we were in. From the Musée d’Orsay we walked along the Rive Gauche past the bouquinistes to the Pont des Arts. This is the pedestrian bridge which attracted controversy due to the number of “love locks” attached to it. The locks have now been removed due to safety concerns, but it’s still a great bridge to cross as it’s quite spacious and there’s no traffic so you can take some time for photos.

IMG_4186
IMG_4187
IMG_4231The bridge leads into the Louvre courtyard so we spent some time there taking photos around the iconic pyramid (and I decided this would be the the ideal location for some yoga photos!). I had thought of maybe heading into the Tuileries gardens next, perhaps even along to the Place de la Concorde to see the obelisk, however we needed to start heading to our lunch at a quick service restaurant close to the Pompidou centre so we made our way along Rue de Rivoli to get there.

IMG_4188
IMG_4194
IMG_4196The afternoon was devoted to some shopping so we walked the group along to the Forum des Halles, a huge underground shopping mall. There has been a lot of work going on remodelling the area and it was fascinating to see how much it has changed. I didn’t really do much shopping, but did enjoy the chance to slow down a bit and spend some time in a nearby café.

Unfortunately, our evening was also affected by the strikes. We had been due to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but it was also closed. We had a bit longer to think about alternative activities and I suggested going along anyway to see the monument from ground level and spend some time on the Champs Elysées before walking along to the Trocadéro to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. This turned out to be an ideal solution – another score for all that time I’ve spent exploring Paris on foot!

IMG_4208
IMG_4223
IMG_4219The pupils were pleased to see the coach again on Wednesday morning as they were so tired from the day before. Wednesday began with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. I ended up waiting at the bottom with a pupil who was unable to go up because of a fear of heights. I amused myself with a coffee and pain au chocolat for second breakfast!

IMG_4239
IMG_4240
IMG_4241Once the group was back on the ground we walked across the road to the Port de la Bourdonnais where we had a one hour cruise on the Seine. I’ve done this a few times so didn’t bother listening to the commentary and instead just enjoyed the Parisian scenery and chance to relax for a while.

Back at the coach we had a quick packed lunch (it was a little chilly) before heading off again. We asked our coach driver to go around the Arc de Triomphe, which he did, then took a fairly scenic route to our next port of call all the while keeping up his very knowledgeable and interesting commentary.

IMG_4247
IMG_4255Soon, we passed the Moulin Rouge and got off the coach to make our way up the 270 (I think) steps to the Sacré Cœur. I had to go up them fairly briskly as some of the boys raced up and a member of staff needed to be up there to keep everyone together as they arrived. After a pause at the view point, we walked around to the Place du Tertre to enjoy the artists, cafés and souvenir shops. The staff sat at a café by our meeting point and I ordered a delicious bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée.

IMG_4259
IMG_4280
IMG_4260
IMG_4262
IMG_4272
IMG_4397Our evening activity was a visit to the Montparnasse tower and its panoramic observation deck. We made our way there on foot, and it was well worth it for the stunning views of Paris by night.

IMG_4299
IMG_4297Thursday was, sadly, the day we had to go home. I was up early to take one of our pupils to the airport as a family funeral required her to be on an earlier flight than ours. It was actually quite nice to have a couple of hours to myself and not constantly hear my “teacher name” followed by Are we…? Can we…? When are we…? Where is…? etc.

IMG_4307Back in Scotland our journey home took us over the new Queensferry Crossing (my first time) which was exciting, but by the time I finally got home I was exhausted so Steve treated me to a Chinese takeaway for dinner before I went to bed.

IMG_4320Unsurprisingly, Friday was a very quiet day. I slept a little later then usual, got unpacked and paid a visit to my parents before going out to eat with Steve. Even better, my favourite special was on so I had a lovely steak dinner 🙂

IMG_4335By Saturday I was ready for business as usual. What with my recovery weeks and the trip, I hadn’t trained since the Loch Ness marathon and was keen to get started again with a parkrun.

IMG_4336It was a lovely autumnal day, perfect for running. I had no expectations of time, but enjoyed moving my legs and pushing my body again. I ended up running really evenly and was quite surprised to finish in 24:41. Not too shabby after three weeks off!

IMG_4343The rest of the day was pretty relaxing as Steve was away, so I chilled out with the cat and caught up on some TV.

IMG_4376
IMG_4409Sunday was another return to the usual routine as I headed out for my second run of the weekend. Nowhere near as long as my marathon training runs, but a nice 5.5 mile loop at an easy pace to start reminding my body of how to run again. I felt sluggish at first, but by the end I could feel everything clicking into place.

IMG_4406
IMG_4408What a week! So strange to think that I started the week in France and ended it on my usual running route. Life is so funny sometimes! It was great to have some time in Paris, but now I’m ready to re-focus and get back to some regular training again.

Have you been on any trips recently?
How is your training going?

Week In Review – Bon Voyage!

All of a sudden it’s October and the end of term. I’m not entirely sure what happened to the last 8 weeks (although I suspect it was all just focused on reaching that start line at Loch Ness!). As you read this, I will be escorting 40 teenagers around Normandy and Paris, so look out for next week’s update with more details. For now, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my roundup of the last week.

Since this was the second of my usual two post-marathon recovery weeks, and I was getting ready to head off on a trip, things remained pretty gentle this week:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – travel to France
Sunday – explore Normandy

I felt much better on this Monday than I had the previous one, thanks to a restful weekend. Since I knew I would miss my Hatha yoga class on Saturday (and had paid for it as part of the block) I decided to go to the Monday evening class instead. It meant I didn’t have a huge amount of time to do anything else, but to be honest the time out to calm my mind and focus on me was just what I needed. Interestingly, I felt a little residual weariness in my legs when we held one of the postures for a long time, but I suppose that shouldn’t really be a surprise so soon after a marathon!

Tuesday was busy so “rest” may not be quite accurate. I had to dash out of school at the end of the day to make it back in time for my hair appointment. I usually get this done at the weekend, but thanks to a number of obstacles in recent weeks (including, but not limited to, my trip to Inverness) there had just not been a way to fit it in and I really needed a trim before going away. At least sitting in the chair chatting and reading my book was nice and relaxing.

Tuesday was also the day my rejection from the London marathon arrived. Luckily, I had a Plan B and got my entry in for the Stirling marathon as soon as I got home!

fullsizeoutput_216c
fullsizeoutput_216d
Another rest day on Wednesday, but again not exactly resting on my laurels. This week I FINALLY made it back to orchestra (rehearsals began a few weeks ago) as I want to be part of the forthcoming concert. I was a little worried as I haven’t really played since the concert last November, but it was so nice to see my orchestra friends again, and I even made a decent job of sight-reading the symphony we were playing!

IMG_4010
Thursday was, of course, my Ashtanga yoga class. Definitely something I needed in the last week of term! There were only three of us this week, but I felt so much better in the postures than last week when my legs were still so weary – I even managed to work on Wheel a little more which is one of my goals.

By Friday I was probably running out of “oomph” but luckily it was the last day of term. It still ended up a rather busy day as I got everything sorted out for the two week break. Once home, I had scheduled a checkup at the vet for my cat (Steve’s in charge of making sure she has all her medicines while I’m away!), after which I had to get stuck into packing. I always feel like I take far too much on this trip, but the weather in France can be so changeable at this time of year, and with the regimented timetable of a school visit, going to buy new clothes (as I would if I was caught out on a holiday) just isn’t possible. Add to that all the additional bits and pieces I need with 40 teenagers in my charge and suddenly I need more than usual, but by some miracle I got it all done in time to head out to eat – starting with a celebratory end of term pint!

IMG_4011My other Friday news is that the medal for my Hogwarts Running Club virtual race arrived – year 4 of the Platform 9 3/4k. I’ve taken part in this every year and this year, the medal has a light so it looks like the front of the Hogwarts Express. Cool!

IMG_4012
Saturday was travelling day. We gathered in the school car park while it was still dark to head to the airport, and fly to Paris. From there, a coach transfer to our Normandy base for the first couple of days. However since all this took place AFTER I wrote and scheduled this post, I’ll need to fill you in on the details next week! For now, it’s au revoir from me…

How has your week been?
Are your training just now or enjoying some down time?

Week In Review – Eat, Sleep, Repeat

I consider the rest and recovery from a marathon to be just as important as the training prior to the race, and this week was ALL about recovery! Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

This week, my plan had very little variation:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – sports massage
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun volunteer
Sunday – rest

Spot the pattern lol!

The only word I have to describe Monday is “interesting”. I was sore, I was tired and I was hungry. I also had to go to work, but since everything that was going to make my day veeeeery long was my own fault, I just had to suck it up and get on with it! I consider it a win that I reached the end of the day without any irrational behaviour or tears (from me or my pupils!) and stayed reasonably alert through our after school meeting. I had a free lesson in the afternoon and was well and truly caught having a second lunch (to add to the assorted other things I had been clocked eating throughout the day!) to try and address the calorie deficit the marathon had given me. It was a pretty sedentary day though, and while the rest was good, sitting still for too long also leads to the body seizing up like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, so I knew I would have to move a bit more at the end of the day. Once home, I headed out for a walk which served the dual purpose of getting me moving and ensuring I reached my 10,000 steps for the day. Not so pleasing was the fact that it was getting rather dark by the time I got home and it wasn’t even that late. Winter is coming!

IMG_3961
IMG_3964
I felt a bit better on Tuesday, but realistically I knew I was going t feel tired all week until I could get a proper rest at the weekend. During the week after a marathon I limit myself to nothing more strenuous than a walk or some yoga, and try to rest as much as I can. I also make sure to schedule a massage to promote recovery in my legs and had this booked for Tuesday. In order to kill two birds with one stone, I walked down to my massage then Steve picked me up so we could go and sort out some food (we didn’t exactly find time for a proper food shop for the week!). Rather than wander around the supermarket feeling uninspired, I suggested a Chinese takeaway – after all, I didn’t run 26.2 miles to celebrate with a salad! Our nearest takeaway is run by someone Steve was at school with and he is known for his unique take on some dishes, including some fusing Scottish and Chinese ingredients. I had one of these dishes which is noodles with chicken and Stornaway black pudding (I request some broccoli in mine as well). I know not everyone fancies the idea of black pudding, but it really is delicious.

IMG_3968
IMG_3969
After surviving another work day on Wednesday, I headed home to take another walk. I was feeling the difference in my legs from having the massage and to help even further I decided to have a bath with Epsom salts. Steve was working fairly late so it was nice to relax in the warm water and catch up on the first episode of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, my favourite TV show, which I had missed while we were in Inverness. The bath also made a big difference to my legs and I really wished I could have fitted it in a bit earlier in the week.

Thanks to the bath my legs really did feel much more like my own on Thursday, although I really couldn’t believe it was still only Thursday and became increasingly convinced that someone had sneaked an extra day into the week. I think it was called “Maraday”. Thursday is my Ashtanga yoga day and although I didn’t feel at my most flexible, I knew this was really going to help reset my body so went along. I took it easy through the first couple of sun salutations until I felt things loosen up a bit, and took easier options on the balance poses since my legs felt weary, but by the end of the class I felt renewed (another win = I managed not to fall asleep in savasana!)

When Friday rolled around at long last the only thing I was still feeling was tired. Friday is a short day in our timetable structure and I have some peaceful, chilled out reading periods in the afternoon which help to ease us all into the weekend. I had an appointment in town when I got back so parked a little out of town and walked there and back to get a bit of movement (and steps!). This also gave me the chance to sort out a couple of quick errands to save some time over the weekend. By the time I got home I was STARVING so was really happy to find that when we headed out to eat it was time for my favourite special of the month – steak. And since we were celebrating the completion of another marathon, we opted to have dessert this time. I didn’t need asking twice. Nor did I need to look at the menu as when I know a place has my favourite dessert on the menu there are no other options: sticky toffee pudding.

IMG_3971
I was awoken early on Saturday by the cat who, in direct contrast to last Saturday when she was ill enough to warrant an emergency visit to the vet, was in fine form and wished to alert me to the fact that she required some breakfast. I tried going back to bed (with her in tow now that her food needs had been met) but ended up just catching up with messages on my phone as I couldn’t get back to sleep. In a way this suited me as I was down to volunteer as timekeeper at parkrun and was considering walking down for a bit of exercise, so this gave me plenty of time.

IMG_3973

Steve up to his usual tricks!

IMG_3972
It was the 200th event for our parkrun and there was a huge turnout of 300 people on a beautiful Saturday morning. Post-parkrun I headed off to do a bit of shopping for my imminent school trip to France (with the marathon done I felt a bit more able to turn my attention to this) then met Steve, my brother-in-law and his wife for coffee and a bacon croissant before we got some proper food shopping done. I then enjoyed a really relaxing afternoon catching up on some TV and blogging, which really made me feel like I had got my rest back on an even keel. I even FINALLY got round to tidying away all the kit and things that I hadn’t sorted out (with a little help from a now fully recovered cat!).

IMG_3980
Sunday is usually long run day, but not the Sunday after a marathon. Instead, we took advantage of what has become a rare Sunday “off” for our now-traditional post-marathon breakfast out. We headed into town for a delicious cooked breakfast then Steve dropped me off to get my nails done (I couldn’t go to France with my 3 week old manicure which was beginning to chip and peel!).

fullsizeoutput_216a
IMG_4007
Later in the afternoon we walked back into town for our Sunday coffee and enjoyed the last of what had become a relaxed and restful weekend. Exactly what we needed. I, of course, finished the weekend with my Sunday evening bath where I always enjoy a bit of reading and a glass of wine. Lovely!

IMG_1870
Now I have just one week of the school term to go before heading off to France with 40 teenagers. All of a sudden it feels like that has come around quickly, but I think with everything so focused on the marathon I just hadn’t thought about what was to come afterwards. At least I didn’t have to go with my post-marathon funny walk lol!

How has your week been?
Any trips or races coming up?

Week In Review – A Monster Calls

Eek! Where did race week suddenly appear from? Funny how quickly a goal event seems to come round! Let me tell you all about the week leading up to the Loch Ness marathon (and a little bit about the big day) as I link up with Jessie @ The RIght Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for their weekly roundup.

My main focus this week was to maintain some training, but also to try to rest as much as possible. Here’s how things ended up:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + massage
Wednesday – 1km form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun rest + travel to Inverness
Sunday – Loch Ness Marathon!

Monday’s rest came about as a result of another commitment. I’ll be heading off on a school trip to France in a few weeks and we had a meeting with the parents of the pupils involved. It was pointless to head home first, so I busied myself with making a packing list for the weekend before walking to the shop for a snack (and some steps!). The meeting went well but it was almost 8pm before I got away, so once home it was a cup of tea, some relaxing yoga and a reasonably early night.

I got back on track on Tuesday with my usual set of bike reps. SInce it was early in the week I made no change to these, knowing that it was fine to have a hard-ish workout at this stage – basically the last one before the race. I felt strong through these and finished my sessions with a little stretching and mobility work before heading off to have my legs massaged (I have this done once a month, but like to schedule a session in race week so I’m in tip top shape).

Wednesday is always a run day and I wasn’t sure what would be best. After a chat with Steve I decided on a 10 minute warm up, then 3 reps of the 1km form drills I’ve been doing (with 90 secs recovery in between) then a cool down. This fitted beautifully into a route I like which is about 3.5 miles and was a nice leg stretch, without overdoing it, for my mid week run. I did my usual stretching/mobility routine then made sure to get to bed at a reasonable time.

IMG_3891

Yup. It rained AGAIN!

On Thursday I had my Ashtanga yoga class, and after missing it last week I was really looking forward to it. It felt great to stretch away the last bits of tension in my body, and my legs especially felt like they benefitted from this. It also made me feel nice and relaxed, so after some dinner I was able to head to bed and sleep well.

I decided to make Friday a rest day again, partly to make sure I’d had a bit of a break before the weekend, but mainly so I could pay another visit to my friend who is recovering from foot surgery. She’s been feeling a bit cut off from the world, so I stored up plenty of news for her and we had a lovely catch up over cups of tea (under the watchful eye of her dog who was hopeful of a biscuit!). I was home in time to head out to eat with Steve, then began laying out all the things I would need to pack so that Saturday morning would be a bit less frantic.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a spanner in the works on Saturday. I had intended to go to parkrun and use it as a shakeout run, but my elderly cat, who has been doing brilliantly, had a bit of a turn so I skipped parkrun in order to pay an emergency visit to the vet and have her checked out to put my mind at rest before heading off. After a morning at the practice she wasn’t quite herself when I left, but was assured there was nothing in her tests to give cause for concern and the symptoms she was showing were down to her being exhausted and needing to sleep. After a bit of deliberation, I decided that being at home would make no difference one way or the other as there was nothing practical I could do, so got my things together and headed for the train north. Things ended up feeling a bit rushed, but at least I was able to relax for a couple of hours on the journey, safe in the knowledge that the cat would likely sleep (exactly what she needed) and that my mum would be checking on her and knew what to do if something was wrong.

Following our journey on the Marathon Express (honestly, it seemed like EVERYONE on the train was heading to the marathon!) we made our way to the hotel. Steve had managed to book somewhere near to the race HQ/finish which is along the last km of the race. Ideal! We checked in and dropped off our bags before going to get our race packs. I also bought a hoody (I have one from all my major marathons) and some new headbands after losing one at parkrun last Saturday! We then took some photos and meandered back to the hotel for a while.

IMG_3893
IMG_3894
IMG_3910
Rather conveniently there was an Italian restaurant next door, and although they were busy they said if you could get a table outside it was first come first served. We were really lucky as a couple were just leaving and gave us their table. It was lovely – pleasant enough weather to be outside and right across from the castle.

IMG_3921
IMG_3928
Even better, while we were eating my mum got in touch with good news about the cat who was bouncing back after a super long sleep. It was a huge relief and meant I could really focus on the marathon, so once back in the hotel I got all my things organised then relaxed for a while before bed.

Sunday was of course race day. I’ll write a separate post with all the details in the next few days, however it was a great course with some challenging hills and although I didn’t make my A goal of a sub-4 hour time, my time of 4:18:10 was inside of my B goal. You never know what might happen on race day and I already understand some of the factors which affected my performance. That said, my PB of 4:05:07 is actually the ONLY time in my previous 9 marathons that I’ve run sub-4:30, so to get sub-4:20 (my B goal) over a challenging course shows that my training is paying off, and despite what I may have sworn towards the end about never running another one, I’m already leaning towards some further training tweaks for another attempt to lower my time!

IMG_8858And so another marathon training cycle comes to an end. Maybe not quite the result I wanted, but still my second fastest time and the best I’ve managed for years. That’s something to be proud of. Now it’s time to relax, regroup and make some decisions about future races…

What big goal have you set for yourself?
Any suggestions for my next race?

Week In Review – A Confidence Boost!

After last week‘s “taper cold” it was time to get back to training again this week. I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ JessRuns ATL to share more details about my week.

Throughout my taper I try to keep the same pattern to my training, but ease back on the distance of my long runs. Here’s what happened this week:

Mondayswim rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – rest
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 8 miles

Although I was getting back to my usual training, I opted to begin the week with a rest day as I was still suffering from a bit of catarrh. I figured that would be aggravated by the pool chemicals (I get kind of congested for a bit after a swim) so opted for the hot tub and sauna instead. I did do a little bit of relaxing yoga before bed as the Tough Girl 100 challenge has made it a habit for me to do some yoga or mobility work every day now.

It was business as usual on Tuesday though as I headed to the gym for my usual bike workout. After a warm up it’s 10 reps of 40 seconds at max effort and 20 seconds rest, with a reasonable amount of resistance. The first one always feels easy but it definitely gets tougher as it goes on! I finished my session with some stretches and hip mobility work before heading home.

On Wednesday I chose to do a hill workout. I should have done this last week and been on 1km form drills, but decided to pick up the workout I skipped to help prepare me from the hills around Loch Ness:

There had been a bit of rain around all day but when I set off it was dry. Good thing I still wore my lightweight jacket though, as just as I was hitting the toughest reps in the set, the rain came bucketing down. Still, I finished the workout, even if I did look a bit of a sight afterwards!

IMG_3797

All finished off with a post-run yoga sequence.

Thursday, unfortunately, was an enforced rest day. I signed up to attend an event at work where there were going to be some interesting presentations, but it meant that I couldn’t get back in time for my Ashtanga yoga class. I actually got home around the same time that I would if I had been to the class, but a lot less chilled out. I rectified this with some bedtime yoga to help me sleep.

Friday was another busy day. I contrived to miss lunch as I was catching up with a former pupil (playing fast and loose with my nutrition a week out from the marathon!) so felt quite hungry by the end of the day. I grabbed a snack of some pretzels, but still had lots to do as the cat was due at the vet for her booster vaccinations then I headed down to the studio for a PT session with Steve. As usual, using the broom handle and Core Momentum Trainer (which matched my top!) to work on upper back mobility, hip mobility and knee drive. After all that I was ready for my Friday night meal at our “local”!

IMG_3801By the time we’d eaten and I’d taken care of the cat’s evening medications, I was exhausted, resulting in my first Friday Finds failure of the year (I did get it posted on Saturday though). I could hardly keep my eyes open so headed to bed and was asleep in an instant.

I woke feeling much fresher on Saturday morning. I slept about as late as I could get away with to still have time to get myself ready for my morning activities. It had crossed my mind that this would be my last real “blast” at parkrun for a while as next week I’ll use it as a shakeout run ahead of the marathon then I’ll have a couple of weeks off before I run again. It’s been irritating me that I’ve not quite managed to run faster than 23:39 for this parkrun year (which ends late November), a time I set in March and had hoped to better during this training cycle. Apart from (theoretically) being at my peak fitness, I’ve become much more adept at understanding my performance at different points in the month and knew that hormonally this would likely be my strongest weekend of the month for a speedy run. Time to go for it, and the arrival of the medal from a virtual run I had entered gave me further motivation just as I was leaving the house.

IMG_3888But as I jogged to the start line I wasn’t so sure. I was a little sluggish and wasn’t sure I would be able to turn my legs over fast enough…and then the run started. I fell into a rhythm and everything just seemed to flow. I was focused on my knee drive and the form I’ve been working on in my drills. I wasn’t sure if I could hold it, but wanted to try, and as I saw my mile splits tick by, I knew that I could keep pushing and beat the 23:39.

Coming in to the finish I still felt like I was running smoothly – Steve even commented on how “controlled ” I looked, and when I saw my time I was stunned. I had expected about 23:30, but had absolutely smashed it with 23:19!! Not only my best this year, but my 2nd fastest EVER. I had actually come to believe that the PB I set a couple of years ago (23:14) was some sort of rogue result as I’ve never run anywhere near that sort of time before or since. My best times are mainly in the 23:4X region, with just a couple of 23:3X, so that PB was a real outlier…until now! Having believed I could never get anywhere near it again, I was thrilled with my time. Furthermore, when I ran that PB I pushed so hard that I felt ill for the rest of the day. I remember my heart beating out of my chest and being forced to slow towards the finish rather than having a burst of speed. I actually scared myself. This time, I felt no different to any other hard run and recovered quickly. With the marathon next week, this was the perfect time for everything to come together and it’s really boosted my confidence ahead of the race.

IMG_3852This week there was also a special treat of some homegrown apples on offer courtesy of one of our parkrun regulars.

IMG_3807I had mine later with some peanut butter. Yum!

IMG_3855Absolutely buzzing, I headed off to Hatha yoga where I did manage to settle down thanks to the chilled music, relaxed work on the floor and lovely flowing sequence we did. Perfect!

I then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon, with a “cat nap” of course, to make sure I remained as well rested as I could.

IMG_3854

I actually wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my run on Sunday morning. Would I pick a distance and map out a route, or pick a route I fancied and just go with whatever the distance was? In the end, I decided there was a route I really wanted to do and figured it would be a little under 8 miles, so added a loop near our house to bring it up to a just over the 8. After all the weeks of big mileage, 8 miles seemed to go by in a flash and felt pretty easy. It was also really nice to take in a short section along one of my favourite paths.

IMG_3860
IMG_3861
IMG_3862

I still finished the session with my usual stretching, mobility exercises and 10 minutes of legs up the wall (if you haven’t tried this, you should – it was a game changer for me!).

And now I guess that’s more or less it. A couple of workouts in the week ahead, but other than that “the hay is in the barn” and all that. My update next week will cover race weekend and hopefully all the miles I’ve put in will pay off. I feel as ready as I’ll ever be and keen to toe the line by Loch Ness on Sunday. Wish me luck!

IMG_3881What are the signs you look for to know you’re ready to race?
Any goal events soon?

Week In Review – The Curse Of The Taper

Well the signs were all there…the cold germs got me! Getting ill really is the curse of the taper (thanks for giving me that phrase, Jessie!). On the plus side, it happened at the beginning of my taper and not right before race day. It’s the rare marathon training cycle that goes off without a hitch, and if I had to pick up a bug I suppose it happened at the “best” time.  Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share more about my week in training.

I was definitely fighting off the germs last weekend, and the coughs and sneezes hit me full throttle on Monday morning. As a result, I quickly decided to spend my week focusing on rest and self care – a couple of missed sessions now aren’t really going to make that big of a difference compared to trying to carry on whilst ill. Here’s how my week ended up looking:

Monday – swim rest
Tuesday – bike reps rest
Wednesday – hill reps rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT Session
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 16 miles

As you can see, most of the changes were at the start of the week when a workout really wasn’t a good idea. I felt much better later in the week so was able to get some quality sessions in then. The time off was definitely a good idea!

I awoke on Monday knowing I had lost my battle to keep the bug at bay. I felt more stuffed up and my throat hurt. Interestingly, despite a 20 mile run the day before my legs felt fine. Weird! I knew a swim was out of the question as breathing was already challenging enough without factoring in water, but I did take some things with me in case I fancied going to the steam room on my way home. But the dry air in school made me feel worse and we had a meeting at the end of the day so by the time I set off all I wanted to do was go home, eat, have a bath and head to bed. So that’s pretty much what I did. Steve was working late so I made myself his cold-fighting meal (garlic, chilli, tomatoes, basil and chicken) which did make me feel better and I had a lovely bath with some decongestant in it. I also found a yoga video for when you have a cold, so did that too as part of my self care routine. I was then in bed early to try and sleep it off.

Sadly I didn’t sleep very well as every time I dozed off I started to cough. The poor cat, who has taken to sleeping on top of me in recent months (she’s old, so I let her!), didn’t like it much! I did feel a bit better throughout the day though, so took advantage of an earlier finish to go and sit in the steam room to clear my head out a bit. That, another bath, some more cold-fighting yoga and an early night with extra pillows to prop me up all helped.

I actually felt a lot better on Wednesday as a result, but was still coughing so knew I shouldn’t run just yet as that would trigger it. Instead, I had another restful evening of reading, gentle yoga and a reasonably early night (with those extra pillows again) as all of my self care measures were definitely helping. I did, however, want some fresh air as being inside all day at school was making me feel stuffed up again, so I took a walk and listened to a podcast before settling down for the evening.

IMG_3745

Autumn is coming (and look at the regrowth on those nails!)

By Thursday I felt generally fine, just plagued by the cough. Having done some yoga every day I saw no reason not to go to my Ashtanga class (but did have a cough lozenge tucked in the side of my mouth throughout!). I made it all the way through the class without the slightest hint of a cough…until we lay down in savasana at the end. Unfortunately the cough won just before we finished, not ideal in that situation, but everyone was lovely about it. Yoga made me feel much better and helped me to sleep well for the final day of the week.

Throughout Friday things were much the same – a bit of a cough but generally much better so I arranged a PT session with Steve since I’ve not had one in a few weeks. But before that, I had an appointment to get my talon-like nails sorted out. It seems my nails grow pretty quickly, and although my gel polish had lasted beautifully, there was a lot of regrowth and my nails were just a bit too long for my liking. I chose purple polish this time (thinking ahead to a match for my planned marathon kit lol!).

IMG_3748Steve and I worked through a short session of exercises for my upper back mobility, hip mobility and knee drive. Basically all the things which have been making a difference this year. I didn’t get a photo as we were rushing home to get ready for our standing 7:30 dinner reservation, but I did take a photo of my food since it was my favourite special on the menu rotation – steak!

IMG_3749On Saturday I felt ready to get back to some running again. The lovely thing about parkrun is that it can be whatever you need it to be. I wasn’t sure how I would feel, so started a bit more conservatively, knowing after the first mile I would know if I needed to go slower, could hold my pace or maybe push on a bit. In the end I felt better and better through the run, with each mile a bit quicker. I was quite surprised to find that “taking it easier” now means sub-8 minute miles and a 24:21 finish!

IMG_3752
IMG_8721My Hatha yoga class was on this week and it was just what I needed. We did a lovely flowing sequence around chair pose and I really enjoyed it. At the end of the class my head felt clear and my body stretched out. Perfect.

The rest of the day was pretty chilled, including my now-habitual Saturday afternoon nap with my furbaby.

IMG_3778

She doesn’t really like having her photo taken.

After a successful parkrun I was definitely going to head out for my 16 mile run. I plotted out my route and knew I could stick to my usual structure of 2 miles easy, 1 mile harder. And what a difference! Distance aside, those 16 miles felt so much easier than last week’s 20. I could have kept going and my legs felt great afterwards. Still a bit of a cough occasionally, but the cold symptoms have definitely cleared and it’s more the lingering after-effects now. A few more days of looking after myself and I’ll be right as rain. I did stop to take pictures of some of my favourite riverside pals, though:

IMG_3781
IMG_3782
IMG_3783
IMG_3784
IMG_3787It was a little frustrating missing out on a couple of training sessions, but I also know it was the best thing for me. A week of rest, yoga and self care worked wonders to get me feeling better and the difference was plain to see in my Sunday run. A great reminder of the importance of listening to your body. Now onwards and upwards!

How was your week?
What’s your strategy for fighting a cold?

Podcast Picks Part Two

Last summer I wrote a post highlighting some of my favourite podcasts. Since then, my love for podcasts has continued to grow and I probably listen to at least one a day now, often more. I listen to podcasts when I’m running, completing my bike workout at the gym, when I’m walking, on my drive home (I still like the radio in the morning) and when I’m doing bits and pieces around the house if I’m by myself. All that means I go through podcasts quite quickly, and while I still listen to (and love) all the ones I highlighted before, I’ve now added a few more to my regular rotation, so thought it was high time I wrote a follow-up post:

Running For Real
In my previous post I mentioned that I had begun listening to the Runners Connect Run to the Top podcast, hosted by elite GB athlete Tina Muir. I ended up listening to all of Tina’s back catalogue and found myself following her blog closely as I found her so relatable and “real”. So when Tina announced earlier this year that she was leaving Runners Connect to start her own business, which would include a podcast, I knew I would be a  listener. The new podcast follows a similar format of having a guest interview, with some comment either side from Tina, but the focus is very much on the realities of running and wellness, the ups and downs we all encounter and how we can overcome them to become stronger. Tina is always very honest so listening to the podcast feels reassuring, like a chat with a friend, and I look forward to downloading a new episode every week.

You can find out more about Tina and Running for Real on her website

Marathon Training Academy
This is one that I often saw referenced in other blog posts about podcasts to listen to, and I was aware that husband and wife hosts Trevor and Angie had a big following so decided to give it a go. Then, in a strange coincidence, they did a crossover episode with Martin and Tom from Marathon Talk (my favourite long-run podcast) and I became a regular listener from that point. Angie is a registered nurse and running coach, while Trevor is a much newer runner so it is an effective pairing. They produce three podcasts per month and their format includes some recent running news, updates from listeners, a feature interview or race report segment and some training tips. Great for learning new things or highlighting an interesting guest to look into further and I love their tag line, “you’ve got what it takes to run a marathon and change your life.”

You can learn more on the MTA website

Sparta Chicks
On the surface, it may seem a little strange that I find myself listening to a podcast hosted by an Australian coach/PT, but I was led to this one through my interest in Tough Girl Challenges. Host Jen Brown was an interviewee on TGC and she mentioned that she would soon be starting her own podcast. I enjoyed the interview so took a look at her website and signed up to her email list so I would know when the podcast launched. I love it because like TGC, the focus is on sharing inspiring stories from women (and the occasional man) who have chased their dreams. A regular discussion topic is how we can overcome fear and self-doubt, in particular the imposter complex that makes us feel like we’re not good enough, when we most certainly are. If you’re a fan of Tough Girl Challenges and looking for something else in the same vein, then this may be one for you.

Visit the Sparta Chicks website for more information

Dirt In Your Skirt
I think this is another one I discovered through Tough Girl Challenges as host Margaret Schlachter was an interviewee. Margaret is an OCR runner and while many of her guests come from the obstacle racing field, it’s certainly not all of them and OCR is not always the focus of the discussion. Interviewees are always female and the tag line of the show is to “explore new topics, conquer old fears and inspire those around us”. I’ve not yet managed to listen to all of the episodes, but am really enjoying the different topics discussed as I catch up. I’ve learned all sorts of things I was unaware of about tiny houses, bee keeping and coffee! And of course I’ve heard from inspiring women who have taken on male-dominated fields and been successful.

The Dirt in Your Skirt website can be found here.

Run Selfie Repeat
You may already be familiar with this blog from New York-based runner Kelly Roberts, however earlier this year she started a podcast to accompany it. Kelly is very honest and often uses her own experiences of grief, shame and self-doubt to help encourage others to overcome these barriers and move forward positively. If you read her blog then you will notice some overlap, however she also invites guests on to give advice on mental strategies, training plans and other running-related matters. Kelly is a strong voice in the running community, having started the #sportsbrasquad in the summer of 2016 and her own #bqorbust campaign to try and qualify for the Boston marathon. Being a strong character means that she can ruffle some feathers and it seems people either love her or hate her, but she is doing a lot of good and is a really positive role model for women.

You can read Kelly’s blog and find out more here

Run Eat Repeat
Another blog I’ve read for a while is this one from California-based Monica Olivas. The blog does exactly what it says in the title, discussing running and eating (both VERY important to me!) and I love Monica’s conversational style. The podcast is a new departure for her as she looks ahead to how she can continue to add value to her blog and share her ideas within the running community. There are usually a couple of episodes a week featuring chat from Monica, some guests, training tips and encouragement. They’re a good length for a commute ( the Fast Friday episodes are usually around 10 minutes long) and while the podcast is in its early days, is developing steadily.

Check out Monica’s website for more information

So there you have it. Six more podcasts I’ve added to my weekly rotation and listen to regularly in addition to the ones I highlighted last time. I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts to try, so if you have any suggestions for me, why not add them in the comments below…

Are you a podcast fan?
When do you like to listen?

NB Nobody has offered me any incentive to write this. It’s simply an honest post highlighting more of the podcasts I enjoy.

Week In Review – Training Peak

I’m at that stage in marathon training when the big miles are coming, the weariness is setting in and the taper is looking like an appealing prospect! Here’s how things have been over the past week – linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL as usual.

This week felt like a bit of a whirlwind, but here’s how my schedule ended up looking:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – 1km form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun pacing
Sunday – 20 miles

I actually felt quite good on Monday morning, despite the previous day’s 18 mile run. Clearly the post-birthday high tea was a great recovery tool! (If you missed last week’s post, you can catch up here). It was a good thing too as my work day was going to be a little different. Rather than be in my classroom all day, I was taking a group of 40 pupils to the Edinburgh Book Festival to see some authors speaking live. It was a good trip and the pupils were brilliant, but some of the timings were a little tight so there was a lot of rushing about to make sure we managed to do everything and got everyone home safely.

IMG_3705

I think my young charges were all spending their money in the bookshop when I took this!

After that I decided it would be much more beneficial to head straight home and have some quality time at home rather than rushing about with going to the gym and using up a big chunk of my evening. This meant a reasonably early night and I definitely felt better for it.

Tuesday was a return to normal both with work and training. After school I headed to the gym to complete my bike reps (still hard work but boosting my fitness and making me stronger). I had considered a swim, but was a little later as I had decided to walk down there so headed home again instead so I could eat and enjoy a bit of down time (which basically means sitting in my comfy chair with the cat purring on my lap!).

IMG_3709

On foot to make sure I hit my step goal!

I wasn’t looking forward to my Wednesday workout. I had 10 x 1km form drills to do and I just couldn’t work out a route. It’s fine to do some of the reps on inclines, but it does make it tougher. There aren’t really any totally flat routes around here though. To make things worse, I was quite late getting home and organised so it was about 6:30pm before I was heading out the door and I knew that with a warm up and cool down, as well as my recovery segments, I was probably looking at an hour and a half of exercise. In reality that’s not too much, and the workout was fine, but it meant arriving home again around 8pm, whereupon I had to shower, change and eat. I was so tired that I pretty much headed to bed as soon as I’d done all that and was sound asleep before 10pm!

IMG_3710

The rock and roll life of a runner during marathon training!

I much prefer Thursday as I have my Ashtanga yoga class. I think this is one of my favourite sessions in the whole week. By the time I get to Thursday I really appreciate the time to unwind and stretch. I always feel better afterwards.

Friday became a rest day as I had arranged to visit a good friend from work who has recently had surgery on her foot. She’s been spending her days at home with her foot up, so was keen for a visit to catch up on the gossip as various circumstances prevented that from happening over the summer and her surgery was scheduled for soon after we went back to work. It was great to see her and we had a lovely chat over several cups of tea and a bit of cake. Lovely!

Since Saturday was the first Saturday of the month, it was pacer day at parkrun. I was down for 28 minutes so that meant I had a nice comfortable (for me) run ahead of me. Probably a good thing as I woke up not feeling at my best. Over dinner on Friday evening I felt a bit off – scratchy throat and lethargic – and put it down to being tired from a busy week as that’s usually the physical symptoms I get if I’ve overdone it a bit. I had hoped to sleep it off, but don’t think I slept well enough. I still felt fine to run (no “below the neck” symptoms) and running 28 minutes rather than sub-24 meant I felt no pressure to perform. In actual fact the run made me feel much better and I was pleased to be able to help other runners again. One friend got a great new PB, with lots of loud “encouragement” from me towards the end, and I helped a first timer to keep on going to the end. Very satisfying.

21192452_1525742460853108_2893965987356236431_n

Impressive that we managed to line up in the right order (no idea where 21 was though!)

IMG_3713It was also Steve’s 100th parkrun (my 90th – nearly there!) and this year he has taken on the job of photographing parkrunners on their milestone run days to add to our event’s Facebook page. I was ready to leap in and take his, however we weren’t standing together and he handed his camera to someone else. It was only later that the lovely Ella pointed out that I was in “stealth mode” again lol!

21314844_1525743350853019_1635266237889362047_n

Can you spot me?

Sadly no Hatha yoga this week, but that did mean I could join Steve and his brother for their usual Saturday morning post-parkrun catchup. I had a pot of tea and a bacon croissant (so delicious) before Steve and I sorted out all our errands for the weekend. After lunch Steve headed out so I finished off the mammoth stack of laundry I’d not had time to tackle during the week and had a nice nap with my furry napping supervisor. It was just what I needed and I woke feeling refreshed and much less “off” than earlier. Hopefully that should sort me out – a cold would be most inconvenient right now!

I tackled the germs hard on Saturday night with an assortment of remedies I know usually ward off any nasties for me and I awoke on Sunday morning feeling pretty much myself, but with a bit of a lingering sniffle. The 20 mile run was on! There was a bit of me that kind of couldn’t be bothered, but I told myself that once the run was done I would feel ready for race day and would be able to taper. But having fought off a probable cold, I didn’t want to stray too far from home in case I had any bother so plotted a route that would keep me reasonably close by but without too much repetition.

I’d be lying if I said it was easy, but then when is a 20 mile run ever easy? I felt absolutely fine, but my body did take advantage of the time in the fresh air to make my nose run a fair bit. This, in turn, made my mouth and throat feel really dry so by the time I got home I was desperate for a drink as I’d used up all of mine. Luckily I had the foresight to text Steve and ask him to have my drinks ready for my return so there was some ice cold water at the door for me to drink straight away, before some electrolytes and my recovery shake. By the time I had my shower I was feeling fine again.

IMG_3738

Tired but happy post-run

I also took the opportunity on this run to try out a running skirt I hadn’t worn before but was considering for race day (I liked it so that looks like a decision made) as well as a new pair of the shoes I have been training in (always best to check in case there’s a bit of material that rubs or something). Most excitingly, I had bought a new hydration pack and was keen to try it out. I already have a couple but the sloshing of the water reservoir can be a bit annoying and I still have a scar on my shoulder blade from where the pack I was wearing in Paris worked loose and rubbed against my back in the heat. Ouch! This time I decided to invest in a Salomon pack, where you buy a specific size. It came with two soft flasks on the front and loads of storage for phone/gels/tissues and anything else I consider indispensable. There’s also space for a reservoir, but I just went with the soft flasks today as that was new to me. I have to say, the pack was amazing. It doesn’t really move, there’s no sloshing from the soft flasks and is barely noticeable while I run, yet I know that everything I need is easy to access without having to stop and faff around. Perfect!

IMG_3739So that’s my longest run done and now it’s time to taper. I’m definitely ready to cut back a bit and plan to really focus on rest, especially sleep, over the next three weeks so my body is ready to go for it on race day.

What is your next challenge?
What’s your preferred method (if any) of carrying hydration for a long run?

Week In Review – Birthday Week

That’s right, I had a birthday this week. Funny how the older we get, the faster the birthdays seem pop up! Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details of my week in training and life.

As well as being my birthday week, this was also the first full week of teaching for the school year (last week I had two days without pupils first). I’m still getting back into the swing of things but managed to fit in the most important parts of my training plan:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
FridayPT session rest
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 18 miles

I hadn’t been sure if I would manage a swim on Monday as I had a meeting after school then a sports massage a bit later which would squeeze my time a bit, however as it turned out my massage therapist had to reschedule so I had plenty of time for my swim. As is becoming a regular occurrence, I managed to arrive at the gym when there was an aqua fit class on in the main part of the pool so everyone who wanted to swim was in the “fast lane” and I had to adapt a bit to work around that. I still got my lengths done, but they felt quite interrupted. I’m not sure if my swims lately have been top quality workouts, but since the main purpose of them is active recovery from my Sunday long run, I’m not too bothered about that.

Tuesday was my birthday, but weekday birthdays tend not to feel so special as it’s business as usual. Since a) it was a school night and b) Steve had a late finish, he told me that he had planned a weekend celebration instead (although he didn’t tell me what. To be honest, good food a nice glass of wine and a nap suits me!). At work I was given a lovely card and some flowers, and we enjoyed a bit of cake at lunchtime to mark the occasion. When Steve arrived home he told me that he had been trying to find some kind of nice cake or pastry to get me as a treat, but couldn’t quite find what he was looking for. Instead, he brought me a “cruffin” (croissant/muffin). The texture was that of a croissant, the shape that of a muffin and there was some strawberry and champagne jam inside. It was delicious and as you can see, the cat fancied sharing it with me!

C1EDEC2E-FA97-4826-9562-3B566549F9DC
IMG_3669Workout-wise, I still headed to the gym for my bike workout. It’s not my favourite workout of the week as it’s a hard session, but my current workout only takes 30 minutes which feels much more achievable. After the bike I spent a few minutes in the hot tub to relax then headed home to eat.

My Wednesday workout this week was hill reps again. I last did these two weeks ago and with the work I’ve done since then, I definitely felt stronger this week. It was a bit later before I got out since I stayed at work late to finish some things up, but even then it was still quite a warm (for Scotland) day. I took this picture arriving home at 7:45pm in my shorts and strappy top, still feeling perfectly comfortable. I wish we could have more weather like that!

IMG_3678Thursday felt a bit rushed. The cat had a follow-up at the vet, but the only appointment I could get with “our” vet was only an hour after the school day finished and it can take me about 40 minutes to get home at that time of day – tight, even if I left with my pupils, a rarity! Luckily, Steve was free so he offered to meet me there with the cat. This meant I could drive straight to the vet without having to go home and chase the cat around, and madam got door-to-door chauffeur service for her trouble lol! She was given a couple of injections to further improve how she’s feeling, but there’s no need for concern right now. I guess neither of us are getting any younger 😉

Once home I didn’t have long to get myself changed and organised for Ashtanga yoga, but I was keen to go as the week felt busy and I really wanted the time to focus on myself, clear my head and stretch my body. It was a good class and there was a woman there completing her observations to go with her yoga teacher training so we all had a few more adjustments than usual, which I’m fine with. I chatted to her at the end of the class and she mentioned that I had a good practice as I have great strength. I think I quite like someone telling me I have strength, so that made me happy.

On Friday I had to make a change. I was going to have a PT session with Steve, but with the 10k race he organises taking place this weekend, he had to meet up with some people to go over details. The only option was to try and go earlier, but that just wasn’t feasible as I actually needed to finish up some things at work before leaving. In the end I said just to leave it rather than getting stressed about a session and stayed at work for a couple of hours after the pupils went home. I was tired, but was pleased to get some things sorted out. My reward was our usual Friday night date for some food, and this time I opted for the chicken curry which I haven’t had for a while.

IMG_3684I got up a bit sharper on Saturday as I had some logistics to sort out. The Hatha yoga class I go to was starting again, however the studio has moved to the other side of town and I was trying to figure out the best way to get between parkrun and yoga without having to pay a fortune for car parking or spend ages in heavy traffic. My decision was to drive to parkrun and use a car park that is very inexpensive, leave the car there and walk over to yoga (I thought this would take about 20 minutes) then go back for the car once Steve and I had finished our Saturday errands, about an hour after yoga ended. The sticking point was that the car park was likely to be busy due to an event taking place at the sports centre, so I wanted to get down early enough that there would still be spaces.

Fortunately, my plan worked out well. I got a space and didn’t have too long to wait for parkrun. It was quite warm first thing in the morning, and I know some people found that tough. It’s a while now since we were in Florida, but I’m still finding that I deal with warmer conditions ok. What I found tough was the grass section as there had been some rain during the week. The surface of the grass was slippery and while most of it was firm, the sections which are muddy puddles in the winter were a bit squelchy, some of them rather deceptive so it made for trickier running. I was only a few seconds slow than last week, though, with 23:48 so I was happy with that.

IMG_3686After parkrun I returned to the car, changed my shoes and socks, grabbed my stuff for yoga and headed over to the new studio. I was there in plenty time so was able to change clothes, freshen up a bit and be on my mat ready to begin relaxing in savasana. I’ve missed my Saturday morning yoga so it was really nice to relax and stretch after the run, setting the intention for the remainder of the day to be chilled.

And it was chilled. It didn’t take us long to complete our errands, then after lunch I set myself up to catch up on some posts, sort out some online purchases I’ve been meaning to make and, most importantly, take a nap (with the cat. She’s a napping champion!).

IMG_3687

Runner hair, don’t care!

Sunday began with my long run, and thankfully it was much less “eventful” than last week! I picked a route for my 18 miles that would entirely avoid the Big Scary Buzzard, the only issue being that since I’m running a faster pickup every third mile, I knew some of those would fall on big hills. As it turned out, this included the toughest hill on the route. Oh well!

fullsizeoutput_2108Other than that, it was quite pleasant. The weather was good, I saw a red squirrel (not a common sight) and chatted to cyclists and horse riders. I was tired when I was done and my legs definitely felt weary, but it felt like a good run overall.

IMG_3690After trying to take a photo  (Steve couldn’t help more of his messing about!) I had to keep on going – shower, food, errands then get changed for the promised birthday treat.

IMG_3694All I knew was that we were going somewhere nice, that there would be good food and that the table was booked for 6pm. The early time intrigued me, but then I’d run 18 miles so knew I would definitely be ready for food. Other than that, clueless. Steve did say that he made a booking based on something I had said recently. and it took me until we were almost there to finish racking my brains. I had a recollection of discussing a meal and saying it would be fantastic after a super long run, but couldn’t actually remember what venue I had been talking about…until we got there.

IMG_3698Steve had booked high tea at the hotel where we had our wedding reception. High tea is awesome, but I’m conscious that some of my readers may not have any idea what that means. Allow me:

History tells us that “afternoon tea” was a kind of stopgap between meals for the upper classes. It consisted of tea, scones, finger sandwiches, etc served whilst sitting in low, comfortable chairs. Working classes also adopted the tradition, but needed something more substantial after a day of hard graft, so would take theirs at a “high” table alongside savoury food, usually something filling, as their main evening meal. High tea is now an entrenched part of the culture, but more as a special treat and can vary around the country. In Scotland the savoury food is usually “pub grub” items such as gammon steak, steak pie, scampi, etc served with buttered toast and tea then finished with scones and sweet treats. To be honest, the savoury food is very much the sort of evening meal (often called “tea” in Scotland) that people of my generation and before would often have growing up – I can even remember tea being the drink my dad would make with our evening meal as his mother always did that. Now, it’s probably the sort of thing that younger generations may not have heard of, let alone tried. It would be a shame for it to disappear.

The afternoon tea at this particular hotel is fantastic, but it’s been a couple of years since we had it. After 18 miles, I could think of nothing better to eat!

We had a gin and tonic when we arrived then were shown to our table where there was tea and toast being served (what is it about hotel toast? Yum!). At first I couldn’t decide what main dish to order but eventually went with gammon steak as that’s what I had mentioned when I said what a great post-long run meal it would be. I was making jokes about asking them to swap the salad for a fried egg (I had been distracted by egg and other all day breakfast delights in some of the other dishes on offer) but when the order was taken I was asked if I would like my gammon steak topped with pineapple, fried egg or both. Winner!

IMG_3697
fullsizeoutput_2107After that huge plate of food (which I polished off) there was a tier of scones, cream scones and a giant meringue each (also all polished off). They kept brining fresh tea so I was awash, then we had another gin and tonic before our bus home. It was just the perfect thing for that particular day and I loved it.

IMG_3700

IMG_3696

Trying to look like a normal, well-presented person rather than someone who just ran 18 miles and wants a nap (but I did wear compression calf sleeves under my jeans!)

Having the early booking (high tea is served around that sort of time) was a real advantage as we were home fairly early, and since Id been on the go all day I opted to head pretty much straight to bed so I could have a really good sleep. Rock ‘n’ roll!

IMG_3704

Who needs a duvet when the fluffiest cat in the world insists on sleeping on top of you every night!

All in all, a great week. Training went well and Steve chose the perfect way to celebrate my birthday so I was really happy.

Have you ever had a high tea?
How did you celebrate your last birthday?