Week in Review – Eek!!

I made it through the first week of the new term! It was a little odd being back in the workday routine after being off ill then off for the school holidays, but it was remarkable how quickly I got back into the way of it. And with our senior pupils beginning study leave for their exams midweek, my days will feel a little different for the next month!

This was also a week of keeping things ticking over ahead of the marathon on Sunday. I had to make sure I kept up the consistency of  my running, but also that I did my best to be as well rested as I could around all my work and other commitments. Here’s how it ended up:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Sunday – race day!!

As you can see, it was pretty much short runs, yoga and some extra rest.

Monday’s Hatha class was a nice sequence of hip openers. Having run 17 miles in the heat the day before (and it was still reasonably warm that day too) it was a great way to make sure I didn’t tighten up. In actual fact, my legs felt ok. A little weary, but nothing felt tight or sore which is a good thing.

Setting the alarm early on Tuesday morning was a bit of a shock to say the least! I may have been doing early runs since October, but I didn’t run when I was unwell then could go out a bit later when I was on holiday, so this was the first early one for about a month. I ran my favourite 4 mile route and treated it as a recovery run. Like I said, my legs were a little weary but nothing untoward and much better than I expected to feel after 17 miles a couple of days earlier! It was also good to head straight out into a lighter morning – no need for the extra high viz any more!

When I got in that evening I did a little home yoga then rested for the remainder of the evening.

I took Wednesday as another rest day. I had some sweet treats to make for a staff event on Friday so queued up some YouTube videos and got on with it. I could probably have done some yoga afterwards, but opted to spend some time with my feet up instead – it wasn’t going to make any difference by this point!

I was up early again on Thursday morning. Previously I had been going for a slightly longer run, but with the race looming I decided to stick to 4 miles at a nice easy pace. I checked my ego at the door and got out there to enjoy the early morning air. It was actually quite a nice run and my legs were feeling pretty good.

I had my Ashtanga class that evening and it was another session where I was conscious of feeling pretty strong in moves like chaturanga where arm and core strength are key. My Wheel poses felt good and Headstand was decent too. I think these are my measures of how I’m feeling as being able to do these poses is a reasonably recent things for me compared to other postures where it’s more about progressing more deeply into them. I can’t imagine I’ll be feeling so strong in my next class 😂

Friday was another rest day. I had an appointment to get my nails done (they were due to be done when I was ill so I cancelled the appointment and was definitely conscious that they needed some attention!). Obviously I matched the colour to the top I planned to wear for the race – my less-than-ideal training may have left me feeling a little underprepared, but at least my nails are ready haha!

Afterwards, Steve and I headed out for our usual Friday night food and I opted for chicken curry with a beer. This is what I had on the Friday before the marathon last year so I thought I would repeat it. Maybe it will bring me luck!

Since we were both conserving our energy, it was “just” parkrun on Saturday without the run there or back. To be honest, I was quite pleased as the latest storm with a human name had brought a lot of rain and it wasn’t looking too great. Driving down was much more enjoyable than running! I had thought it was due to be dry during parkrun, but the drizzle at the start had turned into a downpour of biblical proportions by the time I was running the final mile, only to stop and be replaced by bright sunshine almost as soon as I stopped. I couldn’t believe how nice it looked as I stood there dripping! On the plus side, I had a nice new pair of leggings to wear – damn that Easter weekend discount!

This was a special parkrun as we had around 250 pupils and staff from one of the local secondary schools taking part to raise money for their chosen charity. Something fairly similar happened last year but on a much smaller scale. Despite the rain and the inevitable drop in numbers thanks to the London marathon and more local events such as the races in Stirling and a popular cycling event, our numbers were good and having set a new attendance record of 384 last week, we surpassed that to reach 446! It will be really interesting to see if any of the new parkrunners who joined us today will continue to come along. The extra numbers also meant a few minor changes such as using a different path to avoid fast runners meeting the back of the pack on their return, a slightly different funnel and a seeded start to make sure everyone was safe. It all worked really well as far as I could tell.

I took the run at a fairly steady pace. I had thought around 9 minute miles would be fine as that’s a pretty comfortable pace for me. I was a little faster, but that’s ok. It was even an unintentional Royal Flush Negative Split!

We headed home fairly quickly as we were wringing wet and needed to get showered and changed before we got too cold. I swear I was drier when I came out of the shower than before I went in ha! Then it was the usual breakfast with Steve’s brother and a quick food shop before a restful afternoon making sure we had our feet up and kept ourselves hydrated. Then it was time for the pre-marathon pizza.

And the traditional offering to the gods of racing!

Before heading to bed to get as much sleep as possible.

It was a fairly early alarm call for a Sunday morning, but we were keen to get to Stirling in time to snag a good (and free!) parking spot so it was worth the effort. A separate post on my race day experiences will follow, however the short version is that I performed much better than I had expected to given my recent illness and various disruptions to training over the winter. Marathon number 12 is DONE!

With the race only being about half an hour away, we had the rest of the day to rest and refuel. I had a recovery shake right after I finished and plenty of fluids, so by the time we got back to Perth I was ready for a nice, salty McDonald’s (post-marathon/half marathon is really the only time I would eat this!). I know it satisfied a craving but don’t really remember tasting it!

Then after getting showered, changed and catching up on social media for a bit, we headed out to pick up a Chinese takeaway. After a race like this I love to start with some salt and chilli ribs.

But I totally neglected to take a photo of my main course (a speciality noodle dish created by the owner of the takeaway we use) as I was so focused on shovelling the food in haha!

And then a short while later met up with a friend to enjoy a couple of “recovery beers” which just hit the spot, before heading home to try and get some sleep  – it was a school night after all!

And I certainly had plenty of steps for the day 😂

Now it’s time to enjoy some time off to let my body recover. Perfect!

What are your favourite pre- and post-race meals?
What do you look forward to most after a goal event?

Week In Review – Getting The Consistency Back

If you read my update last week you will already know that I recently took a bit of a time out due to being unwell. Rested and recovered, it was time to start adding some training back into my schedule, beginning with some lighter workouts as my spring break from school began, then working back into a more “normal” routine.

That meant a light workout with Steve on the Friday, a slower parkrun (minus the sandwich as I opted to drive there and back) on the Saturday and a longer run on the Sunday. Steve had suggested I run at least 10k, ideally being able to extend that to 8 miles. In reality I ran 10 miles and felt pretty good, helping me to make a very important decision with regard to my forthcoming marathon (for which my race pack arrived during my illness – poor timing or what!). Having initially been unsure if I wanted to go ahead, I enjoyed getting out and running again so with the help of the good old Inverse Taper, I plan on being on that start line at the end of the month. I know it will be a slower time for me, but that’s fine. Sometimes our goals have to change.

So with that in mind, here’s how my first week of returning to “proper” training looked. Remember that around this I had no work commitments so was simply fitting this in around a heavy schedule of YouTube videos and playing Disney Emoji Blitz 😂

Monday – rest
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 10k + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun sandwich
Sunday – 16 miles

Since it’s the school holidays, that means I have to do to all kinds of glamorous things that I can’t fit into the school term. The list began on Monday with my dental checkup – oh the excitement! Fortunately all was well and after a quick clean of my teeth I was on my way. I actually took the chance to head into school to tidy up my classroom from when I was off, catch up on any important emails and get my head around what I had missed. I think the office staff thought I was mad going in, but not knowing what I was going back to after the holidays was causing me some stress so by going in at the start of the holidays I could alleviate that and get on with enjoying the break, safe in the knowledge that everything was in order for the start of the new term. I only stayed for about an hour and a half, basically arriving home in time for my lunch and ready to relax. No workout that day as I had pushed my mileage a little the day before, but I did do some home yoga as I was conscious I had let that slide while I was unwell and wanted to get back into the habit again.

When there’s no work I enjoy a leisurely start to the morning, which for me means making a cup of tea and taking it back to bed to read for maybe an hour. It’s so nice and such a treat when usually mornings are so frantic. Once I had done this on Tuesday, I got myself ready to run and headed out for a 4 mile recovery run. My calves were a bit weary, but nothing untoward and it was so nice to be getting out in the daylight after all those dark winter runs. I had read that it was Unicorn Day, so dutifully wore a pair of unicorn leggings to mark the occasion. It would have been rude not to!

Wednesday was a rest day, other than some yoga, but Steve and I had some codes for one or two freebies in town so I walked there and back in order to get a bit of movement into my day. First up, we claimed a small bag of Mini Eggs (yum).

Then grabbed a free coffee in Caffè Nero, treating ourselves to a little snack to go with it.

Quite a pleasant way to spend the afternoon, and I do love a freebie!

Thursday was another run and since I had the luxury of time, I decided to stretch the distance a bit. 4 miles is perfect on a school day, but I had nowhere I needed to be so went for 10k in the spring sunshine and it was lovely.

Later in the day I had my Ashtanga yoga class. I had missed a week while I was unwell and this was to be my second class since I returned. The previous one had been fine, but I had gone easy on myself in some of the transitions and had definitely felt that I lacked some of the strength I had been used to. What a difference in this class! I moved through the postures the way I normally would and felt much stronger in Wheel, completing 2 rounds. Even my Headstand was better. It really showed me how much better I was doing compared to just a week earlier and I was pleased to feel like I had really recovered.

On Friday morning I headed down to the studio for a workout focusing on my upper body. I really want to work more on my arms right now, and Steve added in some exercises that would also work my upper back/shoulders as well as my core. We’re mainly using the TRX and some small weights just now and hopefully I’ll begin to notice the results as the weeks tick by.

Post-workout I had a few errands in town so walked down. First, a haircut, which was followed by a sight test (told you school holidays were full of glamorous activities!). By a strange coincidence, my dad was also at the optician as he was due a contact lens check and my mum was meeting him there after some errands of her own. I emerged from my test to find my parents still sitting in the waiting area as it was time for their afternoon cup of tea and they were taking me with them. A pretty good surprise! We headed over to the cafe at the nearby concert hall (where my sister works) and had tea with fruit scones. It was very nice, but I failed to take a photo as I was having a conversation with my sister about our plans for the summer. Oh well, I guess you know what tea and scones look like so it’s not a big deal!

While I was out I also picked up another freebie I hadn’t been able to claim earlier in the week – an actual Easter egg (which they iced with my name). I’m looking forward to this one!

Since I was feeling so much better I decided to go for the parkun sandwich on Saturday (and wear my new Cookie Monster leggings!). I wasn’t sure how I would do on the actual parkun, so was pleased to squeak under 25 minutes with my time of 24:59. On the one hand, I know it’s not my best as I ran sub-24 right before I was ill, but on the other hand it was a significant improvement from my “comeback parkrun” the week before where I ran 26:15 and it felt super hard. The fitness is still in there and it shouldn’t take much to get back on track now.

The rest of Saturday was pretty restful. We finished season 2 of This Is Us (a total disaster since season 3 hasn’t reached the UK yet – gah!) and watched some recent episodes of Cold Feet. It’s actually been pretty good committing to a box set of something as it’s not something we usually do. I am going to need some suggestions for something new to watch though…

And then it was long run Sunday. SInce I’m using the Inverse Taper, things are going to be a bit unconventional. My most recent long run was 14 miles. I then missed a run before coming back with a 10 miler. I figured it would probably be ok to go for 16 miles for this one since I’ve got plenty of miles in my legs and experience of long runs. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this approach to a beginner!

As it turned out, the run went well. I expected to really fade towards the end but I still felt pretty strong, in fact I felt better than in my 10 miler the week before. I also noticed that my legs recovered well and I wasn’t stiff and sore during the remander of the day, which is a good sign.

And when I checked my stats in the Garmin app, I was intrigued to notice how many steps I had taken. I’ll take that as a marathon-based sign ha!

My mum visited in the afternoon as she needed to collect some things from me (any excuse to see the kittens as I could have given her these things when my parents dropped me off on Friday afternoon!) so we had a restful afternoon with tea and a slice of cake. Perfect!

Now I have one more week of building up through my Inverse Taper then a mini-taper of a week into the marathon. What could possibly go wrong? 😂

Have you successfully used the Inverse Taper for your marathon preparations?
Are you a freebie fan?

Week In Review – Groundhog Day!

Another week gone by and although busy, a much easier week compared to the first week of term as I was settled back into the routine again. Training-wise I’m feeling strong and consistent at this point and looking forward to building up in the coming weeks. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – drills + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun “open sandwich”
Sunday – 11 miles with every 3rd mile faster

The aim is to keep most of the week really consistent, with the real changes coming around the Thursday drills and Sunday long run. This week began, as ever, with my Hatha yoga class which I really love. It’s a nice, slow class which is perfect after my Sunday long run and busy Monday at work, but there are also plenty of options which allow me to build strength and flexibility week on week. I always really appreciate this one on a Monday evening, especially since on this particular Monday I had gone from a work meeting, to an appointment, to the vet to collect some routine flea/worm treatments for the kittens, then to yoga, without actually going home! That time to unwind was just what I needed so I felt much more relaxed when I did get home after class.

Tuesday was an early start for my 4 mile run. Although I wear my watch to log the miles, I run this one by feel, aiming to keep it fairly easy and comfortable to get my legs moving again. Basically it’s a recovery run. Yet again it was really windy outside (apparently Tuesdays are windy right now. Surely it should be the day after – Windsday? *groan*). That evening I rounded off my day with some at-home yoga before settling down to relax (Tuesday is usually my best chance to find a bit of space in the evening) and this was time that I really appreciated since Monday had been so packed.

No workout on Wednesday – it’s currently my rest day so I can fit in my orchestra rehearsal without having to rush and getting stressed out.

Another early start on Thursday, this time for my drills. Basically the same as last week – 500m focusing on good form – but adding a further 2 reps this week. I took a slightly different route so that I could include the little bit of extra distance and felt pretty good doing these. These reps are more about form than pace, but that focus should mean that I run better in my other runs – especially parkrun. I quite like setting my watch up with the workout and just following the bleeps until it says I’m done. Rather satisfying!

That evening I had my Ashtanga class and felt really strong through 2 rounds of Wheel. I was conscious I was using my arms more to move into the posture rather than relying on leg strength so that’s a progression. The flip side to that is that my headstand was a bit off this time. I held it for 2 or 3 breaths before having to come out of it and although I reset to try again, my body was having none of it so I accepted that it just wasn’t my week and rested in child’s pose until we were ready to move on. I know there will be times when postures like that just don’t work and that’s ok.

Steve was able to fit in a session on Friday afternoon so I headed to the studio after work. Lately he’s been giving me circuit-style workouts and mixing up the exercises. This week’s set was designed to build intensity and power. It was a bit like Metafit in a way, but much more running-specific. I was assured that I would run well on Saturday as a result, but was doubtful as I felt the weariness in my hip flexors!

On Saturday morning Steve was away quite early for a couple of clients so we arranged to meet at parkrun. I knew I didn’t have time to run both there AND back as I had an appointment, so decided to run down, taking a less direct route to add distance, then get a lift back home with Steve afterwards, making it an “open sandwich” (no top layer!). It was quite chilly but I was determined to debut the new leggings I bought with my Christmas voucher from my sister!

My run there ended up pretty perfect. A 5k “warm up” with just enough time to pop into the sports centre to grab a mouthful of water from the water fountain before heading to the start line in time for the briefing. I had thought I felt a little sluggish as I ran down so wasn’t sure what kind of a run it would be, but as is usually the case my legs felt ready to run as soon as the Run Director said, “go!” Immediately I found myself a bit boxed in and stuck behind others who weren’t moving quite as quickly as I wanted to and it struck me that with our numbers continuing to grow I might have to start positioning myself a little further forward in order to avoid this. It meant that my first mile was a around 25-30 seconds slower than I would have liked, but when I did find some space I was in good shape to push on and found myself passing a number of people. Checking my splints later it was a pretty solid Royal Flush Negative Split!

I didn’t give much thought to my finish time as I knew I had to get home and changed quite quickly in order to grab breakfast with Steve and his brother before my appointment to get my hair cut, so it was only when my text came through that I realised what had happened:

The same time at the same parkrun two weeks in a row earns the Groundhog Day badge on the parkrun Chrome extension (if you haven’t used it yet, you really should – great fun!)…but I already have the Groundhog Day badge! Yes, I have now run my arbitrary SECOND Groundhog Day, or Groundhog Groundhog if you will. Rather conveniently, the Chrome extension does show that I’ve achieved it twice, which is cool.

Sunday’s long run added a mile to last week’s and had pretty much the same format with every 3rd mile faster – but this week I remembered to put the auto pause on so I got a better idea of what I was actually running rather than including all the time I spent waiting to cross busy roads! It was a chilly but bright morning and I enjoyed the run. At this point it all feels really manageable and I’m finishing my runs knowing I could have gone on. That’s always such a good feeling as it means fitness and endurance are progressing well and my body can handle more as the weeks go on. I do like my Sunday runs, listening to podcasts and taking in the scenery and am perfectly content that way for hours. Perhaps that’s why so many of my (non-running) colleagues just can’t understand me!

So overall a good week of training. A little short-lived snow on Friday evening did little to alter things, but who knows what the coming weeks might bring as there is continual talk of cold and perhaps snowy weather coming from the east…

Do you use the parkrun Chrome extension?
Are you a solo runner or do you prefer to run with others?

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 😂

Sadly, 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!).

I 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.

Even 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!


Thursday 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?

Before 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.

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!

Photo – Perth parkrun Facebook page

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.

Dinner 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!).

Then 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.

I’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.

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


Then 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!

 

As marathon weekends go, it was a great one!

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

 

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! 🙄

Tuesday 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.

It 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!

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


Of 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.

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.

I 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.

In 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.

Did you watch the London Marathon?
What was the last concert you went to?

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!

Post-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.

To 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.

Dinner 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!

The 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.

Before 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!

Breakfast 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!

It 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.

The 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.

I 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!

It 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…!).

Do you like to visit different parkruns?
How is your training going just now?
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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!

Anyway, 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!

By 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.

On 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!

So 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!

And 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!

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!

At 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.

Since 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.

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!

I still think the weather must be broken though!

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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