Week In Review – Here We Go!!!

Yes, indeed. Race week has rolled around once more, and with it a whole new level of maranoia in which my Pocket Bac was attached to me (because the germs wanted to hunt me down), I thought my calf hurt (it didn’t), I thought I was getting a cold (I wasn’t) and I generally wanted to be enveloped in bubble wrap and shut off from other people 😂

IMG_0497Sadly, that wasn’t possible so I had to go to work as usual in the germ factory of many many young people (hence the Pocket Bac lol!) as well as complete my last, gentle workouts ahead of the marathon:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – RACE DAY!!!

For me, taper weeks are all about continuing with the routine of my workouts but dialling down the volume a bit as the race gets nearer. That way I don’t go totally crazy but make sure I feel fresh and ready to go on race day. All my key workouts were in place this week, but the running was much more minimal so as to save my legs for the big day.

I began the week with my Hatha yoga class, which is always a gentle stretch out but with options to add a bit more intensity or work on strength. I often do choose different options, but I imagine my class the day after the marathon will see me choosing all the easiest options there are. Maybe spending the whole class in savasana?

On Tuesday I headed for the gym straight after work. My bike reps have been increasing in number by 2 reps per week up to 20 before changing the resistance level of the bike, and this week was 20 reps at my current level as a finale to this cycle of training. While that sounds like a lot, it was still early in the week and was a non-impact workout so it was fine to do this given that the rest of the week was going to be pretty gentle. There was something very satisfying about completing this set and rounding off all the hard work I’ve been doing – 20 reps at an intensity level I would barely have managed 1 at back in January (and for those wondering, yes I did get the bike I like!).

7qb9STY4RamPdw43%andpwI usually alternate form drills and hill reps on a Wednesday, but this week stuck to the drills. Last week I did 10x 1km so this week dropped it back to 6x 1km. Including my warm up and cool down that gave me less than 6 miles so was an ideal workout to keep my legs ticking over and allow me some sections of faster running to satisfy the urge created by having fresher legs. I’ll admit the first couple of reps felt a little hard, but they were mainly uphill and it was a bit windy so I felt great after that.

IMG_6423Even better, I got home to find that one of Steve’s clients had baked him a carrot cake. Cake = carbs so I had a slice with a cup of tea after I ate. It was delicious!

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ABzSp9IJQySiLBgFpMFEeQThursday was Ashtanga yoga. I was pretty last-minute getting there thanks to some unusually heavy traffic, but soon settled in and enjoyed the class. I was super careful not to overdo things and asked for support in my headstand as I didn’t want to risk taking a tumble, but I really wanted to stretch things out and clear my head so this was ideal.

By Friday a rest day was in order. I had as restful a day as possible then did a short Yoga with Adriene video so I would feel like I had a little activity. We then headed out to eat as usual and I decided I fancied the curry this week. Yes, that is a beer you see but I always have a beer on a Friday and it’s important to do everything the same in the days before the race, right?

P5pvTi1RQPmx0I77c4JftgBefore I knew it, parkrunday was with us once more. I knew I shouldn’t do too much so drove there, paid for a parking space at the park rather than walking/jogging from a free space further away and treated the run as a shakeout run. I decided that averaging out around a 9 minute mile would be good and so a time absolutely no faster than 27 minutes (but probably nearer 28 minutes) would be ideal.

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National Superhero Day = Wonder Woman leggings

I positioned myself a bit further back behind crowds of people with the strict instruction to myself not to weave about, then tried to settle into my pace. I felt fresh and ready to go, so the taper had done its job. I actually managed 9:08 for the first mile (well done me!) then caught up with someone I’ve not spoken to in a while so ran with her for a bit to have a chat. This took in the grass section (yes, we were FINALLY back on our main route!) and kept my pace down to 9:20. I did speed up a little in the last mile to 8:50 and allowed myself to kick it up for the last tiny bit for a faster finish, but overall I did get my planned average with 9:03 and a 27:55 time. Perfect!

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Photo from Perth parkrun facebook page. No, I didn’t spot the photographer 😂

I spent the remainder of the day sitting down/relaxing as much as possible and got all my kit sorted out for Sunday morning as I knew it would be an early start so wanted to be as organised as possible.

KcAAk30YTEShARkyD8rauwDinner was carb loading with some of Steve’s amazing pizza (he used to be a pizza chef before he trained as a Personal Trainer – useful!).

GQ0+1AHHTuyAIak76RHv6QThen I had a nice bath to help me relax and sleep well. It felt so strange actually being at home the night before a marathon. Almost like I wasn’t really doing it, which was good as I felt relaxed.

N4LTpq5eQGaRUjfbpkyidQI’ll write a separate post soon on the race itself, but anyone who follows me on social media or knows me in real life will probably already know how it went. My main goal was to do the best I could under whatever circumstances presented themselves on the day. Turns out my best was 4:05:40. That’s only 33 seconds slower than my PB (set in Paris, a much flatter course than Stirling!) and I really wasn’t expecting that. Had you twisted my arm last week I would have suggested between 4:10 and 4:15 as my likely finish time so I’m absolutely thrilled with this. I guess it just goes to show what’s possible when the pressure is removed and you trust in the process. More on that in a future post.

IMG_6499Post-race it was nice to be home quite quickly, showered and enjoying some food. Chinese really hit the spot!

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M+nb6+u1SfyoL8KQLkNQCwThen we shuffled to the pub down the road for a celebratory beer before heading home so I could have a nice hot bath with epsom salts before bed. Rock and roll!

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Rehydrating like a pro!!

As marathon weekends go, it was a great one!

8wkBqBnaR86Qh+sG9Dr0mAWhat’s your favourite post-race food?
Would you prefer to be in a hotel or at home the night before a race?

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Week In Review – Music And Excitement!

Oh what a week it’s been! It may have been the first week of a new school term, but from Thursday to Sunday everything was so exciting it was like Christmas for me! It was also the second week of my taper, the one when I tend to start noticing that sluggish feeling creeping in, but there was still a decent week of training (and some extra “rest” to combat a busy week). Here’s how it all looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

A new term at school meant a new block of my Hatha yoga class. Although I have cultivated a decent home practice this year, I still enjoy going to my classes and miss it when it’s not on or I can’t go. It was so nice to be back on my mat in the lovely studio and I marked the occasion by giving my new leggings a whirl. I had a “whale” of a time! 🙄

ekUjbTiQQwqC5YKWYSe7tgTuesday had me back on the bike at the gym. Someone was on the bike I like (surely not just me that has preferences?) so I had to go on one I’m not so fond of. I know technically the bikes are all the same, but I’m sure the tilt of the seats differs a bit and the resistance doesn’t always feel the same even at the same setting. I’m still not sure if my workout felt tough because I was on a bike that feels “harder” or if I was just feeling a bit sluggish and tired. The important thing is that I got it done, event though my legs and my mind were telling me I couldn’t. Tenacious is my middle name!

Then on Wedensday I had a set of form drills to do. This time it was 10x 1km and I definitely felt sluggish. My calves were weary and my right hip was bothering me a little (it’s fine now, just a mobility thing I had been working through and a bit of phantom taper tension). At one point I thought I might bail out early but felt better as the run went on so completed the set.

3tRee26CTCeyXgtH1B4kSQIt was a super-quick turnaround as I got in the door at 6:30pm, showered, changed, ate and was ready for my sister to pick me up for an orchestra rehearsal that started at 7:30pm. Someone in my section had seen me out running and was most impressed that I had managed to juggle everything. To be honest, squeezing in a rehearsal at this point wasn’t ideal, but it was a one-off due to our concert from early March being postponed because of The Beast From The East. I figured I could manage one rehearsal plus I knew I had factored this into some extra rest and recovery at the end of the week to balance things up.

Thursday was probably the absolute highlight not just of the week but of my year so far. Back in October it was announced that GARY BARLOW would be performing in Perth as part of his solo tour and, since everyone knows he is my favourite, there was no way I was going to miss this. My sister sorted the tickets out and I was prepared to forego Ashtanga yoga for one night in order to see my beloved Gary (although I did some at home before I went). Oh boy was it worth it! I don’t think my sister really appreciated how good it was going to be, but there is just something so special about an artist who usually commands massive stadium audiences and huge venues to be in a far more intimate venue. We had seats but I was on my feet throughout and managed to notch up around 2000 “steps” just dancing and waving my arms about at my seat! I LOVED it!

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Yes, we bought the same T-shirt!

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fGA90h7vSwWCCFAfe7pTIwEven better, I appeared on Gary’s Instagram. Sort of😂:

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fullsizeoutput_24c1Of course this meant that I probably had the least amount of sleep I’d had all week, despite being home at a reasonably civilised hour, yet I felt amazing on Friday with songs going around my head and still on a high from the concert buzz. I took a rest day and went to get my nails done all ready for the race next weekend.

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All about the bling!

Originally my plan for the weekend had me doing parkrun on Saturday then 8 miles on Sunday, but since I was so excited about watching the London marathon, I knew I would need to move things around a bit. I contemplated getting up early to run my Sunday miles before the TV coverage started, but with the concert on Saturday night (and an afternoon of rehearsals beforehand) I knew I would want to rest so decided on getting some solid miles in on Saturday instead. I duly ran the scenic route to parkrun, took part in the run, then rook a different scenic route home. 10 miles total for the day.

Fb%Cfn5jQTGlNRBJB3giRAI definitely felt better than on Wednesday, but felt like “marathon pace” was about all I could manage on my run down. Perhaps because in my mind I was running much further, or because I was listening to Marathon Talk, my standard “long run” podcast, I just didn’t seem to have much more oomph. I really expected to run about 26-27 minutes for parkrun, but rallied a bit to get a 25:15, having been getting gradually faster throughout. I’ll take that!

Steve and I ran home together (he had left before me to go down as he wanted to do some drills) and at first my legs felt a bit heavy form the faster running, but I soon settled in and felt comfortable by the time I got to my front door (which I ran past twice to make sure I got my 10 miles – runner problems 😂)

I spent the afternoon rehearsing on the same stage Mr Barlow had been on two nights previously. Sadly no evidence remained of his presence, but it was still cool to think about it like that. Then after a short break to go home and eat, etc, it was back for the concert. We played a great programme including some movie music – The Magnificent Seven, The Jungle Book, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. Great fun!

Choosing a rest day on Sunday meant I got a decent sleep then transferred myself to the sofa in time for the coverage to begin. What an incredible morning of racing, despite less than ideal conditions for it. Now I’m feeling inspired to go out and do my best when it’s my turn next Sunday.

IMG_0496In case you weren’t aware, I’m running for the charity I got my cat Morven from back in 2000. I still miss her tremendously after saying goodbye back in January and decided to do something positive in her memory. When I find myself in a rough patch, I will be remembering Morven and using this to help me push on. If you would like to help, you can read more here. Every penny makes a different to the lives of cats without a fur-ever home.

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What was the last concert you went to?
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Week In Review – Local Tourism

Another week gone and some tentative signs of spring (even if the forecast for the coming days is less than favourable). It was a super busy week for me but the core of my training plan still went ahead, although one or two things were rather squeezed in!

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

Thing got off to a fairly reasonable start on Monday. Most of the snow from Sunday had disappeared (so bizarre!) and after work I headed for my usual Hatha yoga class. I’ve really been enjoying this block in the new studio space and feel really relaxed and chilled out afterwards. Definitely the best thing about Mondays right now!

It was on Tuesday that things began to get busy We had a meeting after work then I headed to the gym for my bike reps. This week I was dropping the number of reps back down to 10, but taking the intensity of the bike up a level. At the start of this training cycle I tried the very same workout but only managed a couple of reps before I dropped the intensity so being able to do this indicates a clear progression in my fitness. I was, however, thankful that the workout was pretty short as I had further evening plans. So it was a super-fast shower and change, home (with hair still wet) for a speedy dinner then a quick blast of my hairdryer before heading out the door to meet my sister at the theatre. We were using her comps again to see the latest play – Shakespeare’s Richard III. I actually wasn’t familiar with this one so it was interesting to draw some comparisons with some of his other works and I really enjoyed it. It didn’t finish until after 10pm though, so I was up past my bedtime!

As a result I felt tired on Wednesday but knew I had some drills to do. This week it was a warm up (about a mile) then 10 reps of 800m focusing on form and a minute recovery in between. This brought me home with about 7 miles completed. On the last rep (near my house) I spotted something on the path in front of me which I thought was a leaf. Just as I was about to step on it, I realised it was a frog! Anyone driving past at that moment may have wondered what my odd side-stepping dance was all about, but the good news is I avoided stepping on it. Phew!

QQTEd59GSwaz7twr1g4iFgPost-run I felt really tired. I think I’ve reached that point in the school year where all the demands of supporting senior pupils through drafts and redrafts of their coursework (and meeting the deadlines!) starts to affect me. I felt a bit “off” and could feel myself shutting down so headed to bed almost as soon as I’d eaten. I must have fallen right asleep as I woke up when Steve came to bed and realised I still had my glasses on and my book in my hand!

I actually felt pretty refreshed on Thursday but was glad to get to my Ashtanga yoga class as it always makes me feel so much better. It was a great class and Julia, my teacher, helped with a couple of adjustments to let me move further into one or two postures. I had been working on stretching out my right hip flexor a bit during the week and it felt back to normal after this class, as I had suspected. Sadly I had more coursework essays to check through afterwards so my eyes felt pretty heavy by the time I was heading to bed!

It was on Friday that things got a little more exciting. During The Beast from the East Steve revealed he had booked us a night away in a hotel as a surprise treat, but thanks to the snow we couldn’t go. Fortunately he was able to re-book for a different date so I didn’t feel too put out since I hadn’t known I was going and had something to look forward to. Friday was the night and all I knew was that we were heading to nearby Dundee. We had originally planned to leave about 6pm, giving me plenty of time to get home, get myself organised and write my Friday Finds, but when Steve confirmed the details with the hotel during the day he found that our dinner booking was quite early at 5:30! This meant I had to dash straight home at the end of the day, fling some things in a bag and then we were away. We got to the hotel (Malmaison) about 5pm which was perfect to get checked in, go to our room then head down for dinner.

8Rwn+rElTl6cOTbbgd2LSwTo make things easier we had just driven there wearing the clothes we planned to eat in. That meant all we needed was our overnight things and our parkrun kit for the morning (because everyone books a night away in a nice hotel and plans to go to a parkrun in the morning, right?).

The hotel package was lovely. We had our room for the night complete with a bottle of champagne, a three course meal from their fixed price menu and a continental breakfast in the morning. This could be upgraded to a cooked breakfast for very little extra, but with our parkrun plans a continental breakfast was fine.

o7vhOCYsQkm%Y9uS7sDuLADinner may have been early, but we were definitely hungry. The waiter took our orders for starters and main courses then said he would get our dessert orders after we had eaten them in case we were too full (rookie mistake lol!). I had grilled asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham to start, chicken Milanese with a side salad for my main course and we both wanted the chocolate fondue for dessert so it came on one big plate. This was accompanied by a small glass of red wine as we were conscious we had a bottle of champagne in our room which would NOT go to waste, but we were determined to run in the morning!

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Ob2Nj7BVQNK9VQXfLiDf6wThe early dinner meant it felt like we had a lovely long evening ahead of us. We opened the fizz and since I had been complaining of a dull headache all day, Steve checked my neck and upper back – definitely the culprits as I was all tight and knotted so he worked on that for a bit then I took my fizz into a nice hot bubble bath (I ALWAYS have a bath in a hotel if I can). So nice and relaxing.

FiXVIXuERGaciqK71uTELgBefore bed we got our things ready for the morning and thought it would be funny to take flat lay photos as if we were heading to a race. The irony of our situation hadn’t escaped us – usually we stay in a hotel specifically to go to a race; this time we were having a relaxing night away but couldn’t resist the lure of parkrun!

qaLYMvkFT+2KHOwokkSotwBreakfast started at 8am and we planned to be away around 8:30 as although there is a parkrun in Dundee (at Camperdown park), we have done it twice before as part of the New Year Triple, so instead we thought it would be fun to drive the half hour over to St Andrews and take part in the parkrun at Craigtoun park as ordinarily this would be about an hour’s drive for us and a little out of reach.

I usually don’t eat before parkrun so just had a coffee and small croissant while enjoying the views of the new V&A and the RRS Discovery. Then I wrapped a couple of pastries up to take with me for later. Not letting my breakfast go to waste!

cs35ypKwRuqRzKA8WJMxDQIt was such a nice spring-like morning and Craigtoun park looked lovely. Of course Steve managed to meet someone he knows and I spotted a few familiar faces from my school community as St Andrews is only about 10 miles away from where I work. We felt really welcome as people told us about the course and the expected winner (a young guy who completes the course in around 15:40!) ahead of the first timers briefing.

emkdye2AQ0m3KxC1boEUkgThe course was three and a bit laps of the park. The start is right by the car park and the route begins on a smooth tarmac path then changes to gravel path for the bulk of the rest of the lap. Compared to Perth, there as a few more ups and downs, but nothing like Dundee which is known for being quite hilly. Perhaps a bit more unique is the “railway” crossing as Craigtoun has a little train for kids which circles the park in the summer months.

RnwmeZ6jRK2e7l2lXb19iAI probably got a little carried away on my first lap and slowed a bit for the second two when my body remembered the three course meal, champagne and breakfast! Still, 24:32 is a decent time and I’m pretty pleased with that. I later found out that the winner set a new course record with his time of 15:38. Speedy!

Post-run we walked back along the route to return to the car and took a few photos to remember. Note I have my sunglasses on and no gloves – must be spring!

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IMG_5968It was really nice to do a bit of parkrun tourism as here in Scotland it’s not so easy as in some other parts of the UK. We have plenty of parkruns (I believe 35) but spread far and wide so very few are within about 30 minutes of home. St Andrews was the first time I’ve been at a different parkrun at the exact same time as my usual run in Perth (Dundee has always been at New Year when I run Perth either before or after and Clermont is in a different time zone). Although I KNOW that everyone in Scotland is parkrunning at the same time, this was the first time that I was really struck by the concept that while I was running in St Andrews, my parkrun pals in Perth were getting underway at the exact same moment. It really made me feel part of a bigger community, which I suppose is the idea.

For Sunday, my plan originally said 14 miles as it was to be a cutback after 20 the week before, but with the shortening of last week’s run thanks to the snow, I knew I would need to do more. After consulting with Steve, we decided on 16 miles but he left it up to me to decide if I wanted to include any faster sections. The clocks had changed, thus “losing” an hour overnight and the tightness in my upper back/neck was still bothering me a bit and making me feel “off” so I decided to set off and just see how I felt.

My plan was to follow the same route as my last 16 mile run so I would have a point of comparison, and since I felt ok I thought my previous pattern of 2 miles slow followed by 1 mile at/faster than marathon pace would be ideal.

It was a lovely morning and I ended up feeling great. Such a difference to last week when it took me 2 hours to run 12 miles and it felt so hard. This week I was just shy of 13 miles in the same time and the whole 16 felt much easier. Not only that, but I was over 4 minutes quicker than the last time I followed that route with the same workout. That’s really encouraging!

In the afternoon we headed into town to relax with our weekly free coffee and on the way were able to pick up a free Easter egg courtesy of our mobile phone provider. Awesome!

Now, just 4 more days of term to survive then a much-needed break to recharge (and get those big miles done…!).

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Week In Review – Spring’s Not Sprung!

Last week I was rather hopeful that spring might be on its way. Thinking back to previous training cycles for spring marathons I was convinced I usually get into my running shorts in mid to late March, but apparently this year winter intends to cling on a bit longer. How long has it been since Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow? Darned groundhog!

29313813_10156193020316354_7809144258102820864_nAnyway, although the weather might not be spring-like just yet, there’s still a marathon to train for and this week saw another pretty consistent week:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday20 miles 12 miles

It was so good to be back in the yoga studio on Monday evening, stretching out my body after my 18 mile run on Sunday. I have to say, my legs actually felt ok. Weary, of course, but no real pain or tightness. That said, I wasn’t looking to head out for a run again just yet so yoga was perfect!

On Tuesday I hit the gym for The Big One – 20 reps of my current interval cycle (Steve always has me build up to 20 reps of whatever work/rest interval I’m on before either changing the pattern or the intensity). I wasn’t really looking forward to it and knew my legs would have to work hard after Sunday’s efforts, but it actually went by fairly quickly. I try to divide the session into smaller chunks of 3-5 reps (depending on how they divide down – look at me with the sums!) and mark each set with a sip of water before gearing up for the next one. Completing a workout like this always makes me feel strong since I know I couldn’t have done it a few weeks ago.

Bike reps are always followed on Wednesday with some kind of run, ideally hills or drills. Sadly my Wednesdays have seen quite a lot of disruption during this cycle. There were a couple of parents’ evenings and an evening out, which were factored into the plan, but there were also 3 Wednesdays when there was snow and 2 of those were nights when I should have been doing hill reps and had to change tack. This week, for only the SECOND time in this cycle, I was able to do a hill workout. Same hill as usual and reps working from the closest lamppost to the bottom up to the farthest away at the top: 5-4-3-2-1. Thankfully all my other drills and long runs have boosted my fitness so I was able to do it despite the lack of specific hill work, but it was tough. Mind you, that’s kind of the point as that’s what will make me stronger and fitter!

wNo1XQx8SBqcmc9regAFwwBy Thursday I was more than ready to get back to my yoga mat and working through the Ashtanga sequence. It was a really nice class again and I felt good throughout. Just what I needed.

Then on Friday I was able to squeeze in a PT session with Steve. We’ve not managed this every week, but I’m getting plenty of work on strength and flexibility from my yoga practice (2x classes per week plus Yoga with Adriene videos on 3-4 other days of the week) so it’s not a big concern. With this in mind, Steve asked me what kind of workout I wanted to do and luckily I had thought ahead. The last time I was in we did some boxing to help energise me and I really enjoyed it (I used to go to a kick boxercise class and had forgotten what fun it could be) but hadn’t enjoyed wearing the gloves Steve keeps at the studio – other people’s sweat, ewww! I had managed to locate my own gloves and took them with me to the studio, so got in another fun boxing workout.

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Q9tJmW2KQOOKS7xb8F3KDwOn Saturday we awoke to rather miserable weather. Apparently we were experiencing the Mini Beast from the East, and while I had understood that the snow would be heading for other parts of the UK, I was expecting it to be really cold again. What we got was cold and windy with some hailstones and light snow. Perfect parkrun weather!

T6VbTw8AS8WBI0agjWKUvwSo once more it was winter kit on and down to the North Inch for the run. Still the alternative route, but the “usual” one heading anti-clockwise around the path. I hadn’t been expecting much as I thought there might be some residual weariness in my legs and there was a bitterly cold cross-wind, but despite having hailstones blown into my face (bonus: free facial 😂) I felt strong and was passing people I would normally expect to be slightly behind. As I stopped my watch I was delighted to see 24:10ish (my fastest since mid-November) and around 30 seconds faster than my best time of 2018! No idea where it came from, but it’s a powerful message that even in tough conditions all my training is starting to fall into place and I’m running well. Fingers crossed that continues!
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q2HWQkctQPuiem3sq4eBnAeutANBNQQzScDZwFsMkY6gAnd as an added bonus, I managed another Royal Flush Negative Split. Love it when that happens! I think this is the first fully sub-8 minute/mile parkrun in ages as up to now I’ve had at least the first mile at 8:XX. Progress!
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By Saturday evening there was little sign of the morning’s snow/hail, but things changed overnight and looking out the window on Sunday morning it wasn’t looking quite so good. Enough snow had fallen to have a layer over everything and fat flakes were continuing to fall on and off. Checking the weather apps I was informed that there was going to be some pretty “interesting” weather through the morning, with temps around freezing but feeling a few degrees below, further snowfall and high winds. And we had 20 miles on the schedule!

5YAvly3pQP6dOpPXkM8MUAAt first I sat plotting out a possible route and looking out my gels, etc with the intention of going ahead, but then Steve (who NEVER backs out of the planned run) suggested that since some nearby running events had been cancelled due to the conditions, maybe sticking two fingers up at it and heading out for 20 anyway might not be the best idea. It was clear we wouldn’t be able to include any faster intervals, work on form or do anything other than plod around with the aim of staying upright whilst being battered by the wind and stepping carefully on the snow. So we decided to cut it back to 10 miles. We bundled ourselves up in winter kit (again) and Steve was out the door a few minutes ahead of me.

KHm3hW8%QcCuqKOQkN03hASince we had planned to run opposite ways around a similar route, we did meet each other out there, having enjoyed sideways hail, snow being blown into our faces so we couldn’t see a thing, and a hellish headwind. Every time it seemed to be easing off, it returned with a vengeance to make a pretty slow pace feel much harder than it should. Definitely character building! Steve said he might extend his run a little depending on how he felt, so with that idea in the back of my mind I carried on.

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See that haze in the top right? That’s the drifting hail/snow blowing sideways!

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Apparently I look like I’m in “The Blair Witch Project” 😂

To be honest I didn’t think I would do any more and simply arrive home with 10 miles banked. My legs felt heavy and weary, probably due to the ploddy (for me) pace – often I actually find it easier to go a bit quicker but it wasn’t the day for it. But as I emerged from a side street close to home I saw Steve up ahead and wondered if I could close the gap between us. I did get a little closer, but not enough for him to realise I was there and since it was clear he was going to run a short out-and-back to extend his run, I decided to do the same since the burst of speed had made my legs feel much better. I ran a mile up the road and looped around to return along the woodland path. I love running in there and it was nice to see families out taking their kids sledging. This little addition meant I arrived home with about 12.25 miles, albeit rather slow ones.

There’s a bit of me that feels a little short-changed as I actually was looking forward to the run, but I also know it was the right decision to cut it back today as it would not have been 20 quality miles. I’ve done 18 and still have 6 weeks to go until my marathon so there’s still time to adjust the plan a bit if need be. Perhaps a valuable reminder for us all that being a slave to the plan is not always productive. Sometimes life gets in the way (or in this case Mother Nature) and we need to be flexible. Have I trained to the letter of my plan? No. Do I feel marathon fit? Actually, yes. Nothing to worry about then!

IMG_5895I still think the weather must be broken though!

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L-R Dec 2016, Feb 2017, Mar 2017, Mar 2018. Why no shorts yet???

Did you have more snow/winter weather this weekend?
What adjustments have you had to make to your plans recently?


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Week In Review – Normal Service Resumes

And just like that, the snow was gone! After a pretty epic snowfall and a great deal of disruption (continued into Monday) with above freezing temperatures and some heavy rainfall, the snow is all but gone save for the odd random miserable looking patch. Now everything just looks a bit grey and soggy. Oh well, perhaps spring is on its way…

But regardless of weather, marathon training continues and I was pleased to put in a pretty solid week of running despite work pressures (a coursework deadline which couldn’t change but was affected by our snow days). Here’s how my week ended up:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + sports massage
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 18 miles

Monday was a bit of a strange day. The schools in the region where I live were all back to normal after the snow, but I teach in a neighbouring region which had been worse hit and there were a lot of difficulties organising school transport and getting pupils safely to school. In the end the schools were shut to pupils but open to staff and since my journey is on main roads I had no problem getting in. It was actually quite a nice way to ease back into routine after our “bonus” days off and I got a lot done in my classroom that I hadn’t expected to get to for a while yet. I headed home at the end of the day knowing that I had no yoga class (there was never going to be a Hatha class this week as my teacher had another commitment) so I did a Yoga with Adriene video and enjoyed a restful evening before the coursework onslaught.

In order to support pupils with the deadline and make sure I was keeping up with checking all the work they had completed while school was cancelled, I decided to stay later at work as much as I could this week. I was able to stay for a good hour or so beyond lessons on Tuesday then headed to the gym for my bike reps. I had the same focus as last week to try and pull UP on the pedals rather than thinking about pushing DOWN and had an additional 2 reps to do. It’s a tough workout but I can feel the difference it makes to my fitness without the constant impact that, for me, often leads to injury. No time for a swim unfortunately as I had my monthly sports massage booked and with staying later at work I had only left enough time for my bike workout. The massage was great and was probably well-timed after all that running about in the snow last weekend!

For once, my Wednesday run went ahead as planned (these have been rather disrupted this training cycle thanks to a few weeks where I had planned not to run due to other commitments and at least 3 weeks where there was snow so could only do a steady run rather than hills/drills) although I was at work a bit later again. This week I had form drills to complete – 1 mile warm up then 10x 600m focusing on good form. Despite some gaps in my Wednesday training these went well, presumably helped by all those long runs I did with every 3rd mile faster/focusing on form.

YU0CrHaAQLS6B8Kxx6P%ZgOn Thursday I was pleased to have my Ashtanga yoga class. I missed this the previous two weeks (I had a parents’ evening a couple of weeks ago then the following week class was cancelled due to the snow). There were some newer yogis in the class so we simply worked through the asanas from the primary series that we normally do, no opportunity to work on my headstand this time. Still, it was great to be back in the yoga studio and I really enjoyed the class.

Friday had to be a rest day as I had an appointment to get my nails done (they were a bit of a disaster thanks to playing in the snow followed by all the work I did in my classroom at the beginning of the week). Steve had offered to do a PT session afterwards, but I thought it would be getting a bit late for him to hang about the studio and I had an errand before going home, so made it a rest day. Probably for the best as we’re in one of the annual “pinch points” at work and since the body can’t tell the difference between work stress and training stress, making sure rest is a priority is important to avoid injury/burnout.

XB02xfRrQX2kFjQKq25zzAAs parkrunday rolled around again, we were still on the alternative course as thanks to the melted snow and heavy rainfall, the grass section was completed saturated and churned up. For variety, it was decided that we would run the double loop course in reverse this week. It initially sounded appealing, but in the end was not the best week for this decision as there was some pretty heavy rain and one of those “Scottish headwinds” (a headwind in every direction – how is this even possible?!?!?). On the first lap I felt like I was working quite hard, much harder than the pace my watch was giving me, but I was still surrounded by all the same people I usually am so just went with it. In the end I managed another Royal Flush Negative Split and with a finish time of 24:49 was just 8 seconds slower than a couple of weeks ago when I ran my fastest this year. Given the conditions, I’m pretty happy with that, even if I did look like a drowned rat when I finished!

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IMG_0421Post-parkrun I headed home for a really quick shower before a brief stop at our neighbour’s house. He had run his 200th parkrun that morning and had invited people round for a cup of tea and cake/biscuits afterwards. I couldn’t stay long but had enough time for a quick chat, cup of tea (always awesome after a chilly parkrun) and one of his homemade biscuits which were marking the occasion.

O1X8cb7FRPWX0eNkHQ2T6wI then had to speed off to go and get my hair cut before getting on with the usual Saturday errands of food shopping and catching up on various jobs. Probably fir the best oterhwise I might still be there eating biscuits 😂.

Sunday was, as ever, my long run. I had 18 miles on the schedule and Steve had put something different into my plan. Having done lots of runs with every 3rd mile quicker, now he wanted me to do sequences of 3 miles at marathon pace and 1 mile recovery. Thing is, I’ve set no time goal for this race as I’m all about the process this year. Since sub-4 has previously been my goal, I decided to make my target pace for this run around 4 hour marathon pace and decided on a range of 8:50-9:10 since the route would be undulating (which I still think is a euphemism for hilly!). I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sustain this, but still wanted to give it a go. I took the first 2 miles as a warm up since they were mainly uphill, then settled into the pattern. At first I found myself running much faster than goal pace so it was an interesting exercise in controlling my pace in order to save something for later, but overall I was really pleased with the results. The recovery miles were super-slow and I just missed the target pace on 2 of the quicker miles, but this was because of an incline that’s encompassed the end of one mile and the start of the next – I just focused on running at the same intensity and only missed the pace by 10 seconds and 2 seconds respectively, which was pretty good! I even managed to hit my target in my last cycle which was miles 15, 16 and 17 so that’s encouraging. In many ways this run actually felt easier than last week’s 14 miles which came on the back of 7.5 the day before and were, of course, over the snow.

fullsizeoutput_242aWhen I run 18 miles I always feel near enough ready to run the marathon, but with a few weeks and more long runs still to go, it will be interesting to see how things progress for me. I’m still not setting a time goal though! I just want to see what happens when there’s no pressure.

IMG_5880Sunday finished in a pretty chilled fashion with a trip into town for coffee, some TV and lots of food before my usual Epsom salt bath. Lovely! And my legs didn’t feel too bad either…

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Week In Review – Me Time!!!

Hola! Finally a bit of space in my week as we enjoyed a two day break for “half term” here in Scotland. That meant just two teaching days, one inservice day and then a glorious four day weekend to relax, read and recuperate. Perfect!

Of course training was still front and centre (this marathon isn’t going to run itself, you know!) but there was a bit more room to get things done without rushing around all the time:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Swim + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

My week didn’t get off to the greatest start as I had hoped not to have to stay at school too late, but it turned out we had a meeting at the end of the day. By the time I got away I was REALLY ready for my Hatha yoga class. I decided this was a great time to try out some new kit to cheer me up. They both came from a website called Lucy Locket Loves and while I paid for the awesome Space Adventure leggings, the headband was a free gift as I volunteered as a product tester. I don’t normally wear this style of band but was really impressed as it was comfortable and stayed in place through the whole class. I loved how bright and cheery it was too.

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I’m quite impressed with the company as the owner sends friendly, personal emails and the packaging is gorgeous.

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The class itself was just what I needed to unwind – gentle stretching, relaxing music and dim lighting. Bliss!

We have an earlier finish on a Tuesday and I made a point of getting away pretty quickly. I headed straight for the gym to get my bike intervals done and since I had found the intensity level quite challenging last week, I took it down a notch in order to maintain the quality of my workout. I still worked hard as my red and sweaty grimace confirms!

sGuA6htqQ%uNhVnYJ99TuwThat evening I took advantage of my sister’s comp tickets for the current play at the theatre. It wasn’t a play I knew but was pretty powerful.

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On Wednesday we had our inservice day which meant no pupils, but a full day of meetings and planning. The real highlight of the day was the curry lunch laid on by the World Challenge group. They are preparing to go to Borneo and this formed part of their fundraising. It’s the third year in a row the curry lunch has taken place on the February inservice and it just gets more and more popular. It wasn’t the “done thing” to take too much on my first visit to the curry buffet, but I definitely didn’t hesitate to lead the charge and go back for seconds!

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That evening I got straight home to head out for a set of 500m form drills. I was a little wary as there had been some rather unexpected heavy snow in the morning and while most of it had melted away, there were still stretches of pavement that were slushy and slippy. I still set up my watch to do the intervals and decided that I would aim to do the workout but was prepared to ditch it for a steady run if the conditions weren’t good enough. As it turned out the first few intervals were over slippy paths but I was able to focus on good form while keeping the pace down, then as the underfoot conditions improved I was able to get some quality intervals in in the second half of the workout.

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I was also really entertained by this fantastic snow creation in our street (I think whoever built it must have used all the snow in the street as there wasn’t really much left!).

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I then had a really quick turnaround to get to orchestra. I’ve probably managed every other rehearsal this term which is a massive improvement on last year when I had to accept that I wouldn’t be playing in our spring concert, but this time I am going to make it.

After all that Thursday was a welcome relief. I actually allowed my usual alarm to go off just so I could have the pleasure of shutting it off and going back to sleep! I started my day with a walk to the gym to have a swim. Being able to take my time and with no other pressures on my day, I felt I got into a rhythm pretty quickly despite very little swimming of late. I really must try to fit it in more often moving forward. I spent the afternoon on some bits and pieces of tidying up then headed out to my Ashtanga yoga class in the evening. It was a small class again so once more we were able to try some newer postures, including working on our headstands. I’m really enjoying having the opportunity to try new things and am feeling the benefit of more yoga throughout the week.

I had an appointment in town on Friday morning so I walked there and ran a few errands before heading home again. After lunch I had my PT session with Steve and since my right shoulder was feeling tight (it flares up a bit from time to time) we did a lot of work to help that before some more specific exercises to help my running. As usual, we used the TRX and the Core Momentum Trainer. For the occasion I chose to wear my Wonder Woman leggings, because it’s good to feel like a superhero from time to time!

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Session done, I headed round the corner to have my nails done. I fancied something a bit different this time as I usually go for dark reds/purples. A sparkly silvery colour hit the spot!

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And then the weekend. Having already had a couple of days to myself meant I didn’t have a stack of things to do and was able to relax and enjoy myself. First up, of course, was parkrun. We’re still on the alternative course to allow the grass section to recover and to round off a week of madcap leggings I chose to wear my latest, and possibly maddest, pair.

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My favourite picture on them is the cartoon cats with unicorn horns!

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I was certain that my parkrun streak of each week being a bit faster than the one before would definitely be over but somehow found another few seconds to keep it alive. So including the New Year parkrun double that makes my 2018 “streak” 29:16 (Dundee and a trickier course), 27:20, 27:01, 26:31, 25:34, 24:56, 24:50, 24:43. I was slightly faster this time last year but I also had a stronger starting point with more consistent training at the tale end of the year, so that just motivates me to keep working hard and see if I can keep improving and get back to sub-24 form.

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The rest of the day was nice and chilled – coffee and bacon croissants with Steve’s brother, food shopping and some quality time on the sofa catching up on some reading. I finished reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and can highly recommend it.

On Sunday morning I got myself moving fairly sharp to head out for my 16 miles. I wanted to not only run my usual pattern of 2 easy, 1 harder with good form, but to break the bad habit I’ve been forming of having to stop for road crossings that could be avoidable. This made the run feel harder as I think I’ve been relying on those stops, but overall I was a little quicker than a comparable run this time last year so that’s a positive sign and I know the consistent running will make me stronger for race day.

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Once home and showered/fed we headed off to Edinburgh (hence why I wanted to be out a bit earlier). Steve has been planning to upgrade his iPad ever since I got mine in the summer but was waiting until he got his new phone as he knew he could trade that in against the new device. Today was the day to go and sort it all out and there was no way we were going to go to Edinburgh after a 16 mile run and not visit Hotel Chocolat for a hot drink. This time they had Easter specials (perhaps a little early, but who am I to judge!) and the picture on the sandwich board sold me before I even walked in the door! I ordered the Hot Crossed Caramel Hot Chocolat (the caramel was mixed with almond, orange, cinnamon and molasses. Delicious!) and yes, it was the chocolate bunny on the top that sealed the deal for me 😂

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By the time we’d done all that and driven home again I was pretty tired as my Sunday is usually pretty chilled after my long run. Good thing I had those extra days to relax beforehand!

And with that, another week came to an end. Apparently there are now 10 weeks until the marathon…

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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.

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Week In Review – Frantic February!

Ah February! Slightly less dark and miserable than January, but as a teacher in Scotland, one of the busiest times in the teaching year – far too much to do and definitely not enough time to do it in! Fortunately, I know that taking time out for my training helps me to stay focused and be more productive, so I’m still managing to be consistent.

Here’s how the past week looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – Hill reps
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 12 miles

After Hatha yoga being cancelled last week it was great to get back on the mat for a gentle practice. I know that as my Sunday long runs increase in miles I’m really going to appreciate this time to stretch out and take some time for myself. And at this busy time of year, I think my long runs and my yoga time are really going to help me keep it together!

We had a meeting at the end of the day on Tuesday so I was later getting away from work. I headed straight to the gym for my bike reps (same workout, more reps) but skipped the swim this week in favour of getting home for a bit of time out. I’m conscious that I really have to take time for myself right now as in the past the stress of this time of year has led to me feeling really run down or, worse, getting injured. Even in years when I haven’t been training I’ve still felt awful, so my goals of resting, reading and doing more yoga are really helping me right now.

On Wednesday I had hill reps on my schedule. Thanks to factors such as snow in January, this was the first time in this cycle that my workout has been hill reps. I was conscious as I headed to my “favourite” hill that I hadn’t done this since before the Loch Ness marathon so wasn’t sure how I would feel. Steve gives me a workout that involves reps to various lampposts on the hill – more reps to the nearest ones then fewer to the ones further up the hill. It’s a real lung-buster but I know it’s helping me to get stronger and fitter so I keep asking for hill reps in my plan. Yes, I know I’m a weirdo lol!

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IMG_5537I had made sure to get away from work in enough time to complete the reps and get to orchestra. Our final concert of the year is a month away and I know that it’s difficult for me to get to every rehearsal (I actually didn’t take part in our spring concert last year as it was too stressful to make it to the rehearsals) but I REALLY want to play the music in this programme so I’m doing my best to make it work. I do really enjoy the rehearsals, I just need to get into a routine that allows me to be there.

Thursday was a rest day but not out of choice. I had a parents’ evening which kept me at school until almost 8pm and meant I couldn’t get to my Ashtanga class. I hate missing that class as it’s a real highlight of my week, but it couldn’t be helped. I had hoped to be home a bit sooner and had plans for an at-home yoga practice, but by the time I got back and had some food all I wanted to do was go to bed as time was marching on and I was knackered!

And this was followed with another rest day on Friday. I had a (long overdue) dental checkup (all fine) and Steve had an appointment in town so we just couldn’t co-ordinate for a PT session. After my visit to the dentist I headed home and got out my yoga mat. I’m still doing the Yoga with Adriene 30 day yoga journey as although I’m doing all of the days, I’m not doing them in 30 consecutive days as I work around yoga classes and maybe a day or two in the week when I don’t do any yoga (my goal is at least 5 times per week so it fits my plans). I felt refreshed and ready for a chilled evening afterwards.

Parkrunday (I believe some people call it Saturday) was grey and cold. It had been decided that we would use our alternative course which is 2 laps of the park on the tarmac path as we need to give the grass section a rest and a chance to recover a bit. We did this for a few weeks last year too. I had expected to be a pacer but this was once again called off so I was able to run as I pleased. As I listened to the briefing I was conscious of some rain, then realised that the rain had…substance! Yep, it was going to be a sleety one! I chose to run at a comfortably hard pace as I wanted to test my pace and I have to say it felt tough, although that might have been the cold air. I wore light gloves and my fingers were still so cold that they were really hurting – I couldn’t even stop my watch when I finished! If I look miserable in my photos it’s because I really was in some pain.

IMG_9629When my time came in I was pleased to note that my “streak” had continued – each parkrun in 2018 has been progressively faster. I’m not sure this pattern can continue any longer, but it has been interesting to watch the improvements as it’s tangible proof of improving speed and fitness, even if I am still slightly slower than I would ideally like to be. This year is about process rather than pace, so I’m simply enjoying seeing those times come down as it tells me I’m on my way towards my next marathon and the training is taking effect. From 27:20 on January 1st (although I did have TWO parkruns that day!) to 24:56 this weekend, I’ve taken a decent chunk off my times as I get back into training after that enforced time out through late November and a good chunk of December. Very pleasing.

Which brings me to Sunday Runday. After a cutback last week it was time to start ramping up the miles again, beginning with a 12 mile run to kick off the month. Conditions and circumstances in January prevented me from returning to my Loch Ness training method of running every 3rd mile faster, but it was an approach I liked and found successful so I was keen to do it again. Thanks to much brighter, crisper conditions I was able to do that and was pleased to find my average pace comparable to a similar run in my last training cycle. I may not have quite the short distance pace I’m looking for just yet, but my longer runs don’t seem to be suffering. My legs felt good afterwards too so I must be adapting well to my training.

IMG_5544So all in all I’m pleased with my progress so far. I’m trusting the process and just enjoying the ride, so to speak. There are still a few hurdles to overcome this month, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can continue to get fitter and stronger.

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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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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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