Week In Review – A Monster Calls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yup. It rained AGAIN!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You Know You’re Tapering When…

Ah the marathon taper. After weeks and weeks of pounding out the long miles, promising yourself that it will soon be time to taper and have a rest, along come the marathon demons to mess with your head and make you a little crazy. Here are some of the main signs that taper madness is setting in:

You either get, or convince yourself you are getting, the cold/flu/plague
The taper means race day is near and the last thing you want is to be ill after all that hard training, but cutting back on the miles seems to be some kind of secret Bat Signal to your body that now would be a good time to let the germs in. In my case, I got the cold IMMEDIATELY I began my taper for the Loch Ness marathon. Thankfully that gave me plenty of time to wallow in self pity shake it off and bounce back before the race. And even if you don’t actually get ill, it seems like everyone around you is coughing and sneezing, leading to some major paranoia! Is my throat sore? Does that sneeze mean I’m getting the cold? I’m sure that’s a cough coming on…

Hand sanitiser becomes your best friend 
Because of the above issues with a world of coughing, sneezing people, you take evasive action, one of the main ones being a paranoid overuse of hand sanitiser. Mine sits on my desk, in my bag, in my glove compartment… In theory I should never be more than a slight stretch away from my bottle, so that I can use it whenever I need to  – and that’s A LOT: after handshakes, before eating, during lessons (those pesky young people are FULL of germs!). Good thing I stocked up on my favourite Pocket Bacs when I was on holiday!

You develop phantom aches and pains
Does my calf hurt? Is that a twinge in my hamstring? Somehow running less leads to all manner of niggly aches and pains that have not once bothered you during training putting in an unwelcome appearance. These are generally your body playing cruel tricks on your paranoid mind and not evidence that you have developed a stress fracture overnight/broken your leg whilst sitting in your chair/will need urgent amputation! Unless something is actually affecting how you move, chances are it’s a figment of your (overactive) imagination!

You develop a keen interest in meteorology
Let’s face it, most of the time we really only check the weather forecast to help us decide what to wear, or see if we need a coat, umbrella or accessories like a pair of gloves. But as marathon day approaches we practically become amateur meteorologists as we frantically refresh weather feeds and try to work out if we’re going to get those perfect conditions we’ve been dreaming of or if Mother Nature is going to throw a spanner in the works. Right now it’s just slightly too early for me to get a detailed forecast for the weekend on my weather app (yes, I have checked!) but I’m crossing my fingers for it being a dry, sunny day with temps around 12C. You can only control so much, and sadly the weather isn’t on the list. Prepare your kit (with options for any changes, especially if you’re travelling away from home) and be ready to adapt. Obsessively checking the forecast won’t change it!

You begin to doubt yourself
Despite weeks of training, 20 mile runs and possibly some PBs along the way, those little doubts do tend to creep in. It’s perfectly natural, especially for those doing their first marathon, but sometimes you need to put things in perspective. I try to remind myself that it’s “just” another run, and I do those every week. I’ve run the distance before so there’s no reason I won’t be able to do so again. Yes, it’s a long way, but if you’ve put in the training you should be absolutely fine. Trust your training, and remember you chose to do this – it’s supposed to be fun!

You desperately want to run
The purpose of the taper is to capitalise on all those weeks of training and conditioning by conserving energy so that you’re ready to go on race day. But now that you have permission to run a bit less (the one thing you’ve been dreaming of for a few weeks, right?), going for a super long run seems to be the ONLY thing you want to do. It’s normal to feel like this, but by this stage in your training going for a really long run will be counter-productive. Enjoy the runs you have in your training, but stick to your plan of shorter distances. And don’t fill the extra time you’ve created with mammoth DIY tasks or whole scale spring cleaning – keep that energy for your race!

You become a bottomless pit
The runger is real, and as your mileage has increased, so has your appetite. You would think that cutting back on your mileage would mean you’re less hungry, yet your body wants just as much fuel as ever, if not more. Remember, you do need to stockpile energy for your race, but don’t go overboard. Stick to whatever you’ve been eating up to now and don’t overindulge in fast food and empty calories. Your body is a finely tuned machine and it deserves the best, so save that treat meal or fast food for afterwards.

So if you know someone exhibiting these maranoia-induced symptoms, go easy on them. There’s only one known cure and that’s actually running the marathon. Until that day comes around, just keep your distance (germs!) make sure you have plenty of hand soap/sanitiser and keep the food coming!

Do you get plagued by the taper demons?
What else would you add to the list?

Week In Review – A Confidence Boost!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All finished off with a post-run yoga sequence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3807I had mine later with some peanut butter. Yum!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – The Curse Of The Taper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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She doesn’t really like having her photo taken.

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

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

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

Week In Review – Training Peak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On foot to make sure I hit my step goal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can you spot me?

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

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

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

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Tired but happy post-run

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

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

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

Week In Review – Birthday Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Runner hair, don’t care!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – Back to School

I guess it had to happen. Those 6 weeks off school have a tendency to fly by and before you know it the new school year is starting. It was a bit of a shock to the system and I was definitely pretty tired by the middle of the week, but my training continued more or less to plan. Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

Here’s how my week ended up:

Mondayswim rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – 1km form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
FridayPT session rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

You’ll notice a couple of changes in there, so let me explain…

Monday was the first day of work for me. Staff began with two days of inservice training so no pupils until Wednesday, but still lots to do and a long day of reflecting on exam results, planning for the year ahead and getting organised. It was nice to see colleagues again, but the day felt long compared to being at home (funny that!). I had an appointment in the evening to get my nails done so rather than rush to squeeze in a swim I decided to postpone it until the Tuesday and enjoy a relaxing evening instead.

IMG_3609It was another inservice day on Tuesday and this time we had a training session in the afternoon which was quite interesting. I then headed to the gym to repeat the same bike session as last week. This session is all about intensity rather than volume of reps, so the actual workout won’t change, I’ll just work to my max effort on each one so how that feels will vary. Unsurprisingly I didn’t perform quite as well as the previous week when I was sauntering in feeling super well rested, but I know I still worked hard and that’s what’s important here. After a few minutes of mobility work I then headed for the pool for a quick swim. I had to dodge round people but it was nice to be in the water after a hard workout.

On a Wednesday I’m focusing on form with alternate weeks of either hill reps or 1km drills. This week was the drills. In all honesty it was the last thing I felt like doing after the first teaching day of the year, but I also knew I would feel better for getting out so got changed and set off. I had a 10 minute warm up then 8x 1km focusing on form (knee drive and arms) with 90 seconds recovery. Not only did I get caught in a heavy rain shower, but my chosen route had some lengthy inclines so some of my reps were pretty hard. Job done and in bed at 9:30pm since I was so tired and am making a point of prioritising rest right from the start of the school year rather than waiting for the exhaustion to creep in!

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Scrubbed up for work in the morning…

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…an absolute state in the evening!

I felt much fresher on Thursday morning after a good sleep and having already seen most of my classes could feel myself slipping back into the teaching routine. Still, it was great to get to my Ashtanga class and have a bit of time to focus on myself. It felt really good to switch off, stretch out and relax.

Usually on a Friday I have my PT session with Steve, but this week we cancelled as I needed to take the cat to the vet. Regular readers will know that she’s 17 now and has some age-related health conditions. She’s been great right through the summer but as soon as I went back to work she had a bit of a dip. It’s likely an infection so a course of antibiotics should clear it up. But having been back at work for a week and been worrying about her, by the time I got back home I could feel that I was exhausted and made the decision to take another nap. Best decision ever as I felt refreshed afterwards and ready to head out for some food.

Saturday was, of course, parkrun day and it was the nationwide #teamparkrun event which I already wrote about here. Having become much better at charting patterns in my performance and listening to my body, I went into the run believing that this could be one of my best parkrun performances of the year and then did what was needed to make that happen. My time of 23:42 is just 3 seconds slower than my best for the year (from mid-March when I was training for Paris) and leaves an interesting conundrum: did I run that time because I was right that it could be one of my best of the year, or did I run that time because I believed I would run well? Perhaps it’s a bit of both…

IMG_3617I really loved parkrun this week thanks to a strong performance, the atmosphere created by the #teamparkrun event and, perhaps my favourite bit, having the chance to try on an Olympic medal!

IMG_3649On Saturday evening there was a street party in our neighbourhood with the opportunity to bbq, meet some neighbours and have a drink. With a long run planned for Sunday morning this wasn’t ideal, but I went for about an hour before scuttling back inside to read my book (yes, I’m a bit of an introvert and the whole thing was far too people-y for me!). Steve stayed a little longer, but I really want to focus on rest since my return to work coincides with the longest runs on my schedule. I had an afternoon nap but was feeling pretty tired again so did some relaxing bedtime yoga then headed to bed for about 10pm.

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Nap buddies!

And then it was Sunday…

It all started well enough. The sun was shining, I felt rested and was looking forward to 16 miles on country roads. I tend not to use these routes in the winter as they can be really miserable and lonely, but in nice weather I love the peace and quiet. Since Loch Ness has an undulating (translation: hilly) course, I want to make sure I train on similar terrain. My plan was to use the same approach as my other long runs in this cycle of 2 miles easy and 1 mile hard (focusing on form and intensity if this happened to coincide with a hill).

Leaving the house the first part of my route took me uphill for a while before a slight levelling out and a downhill section. There is also a rather well-known (to local runners) buzzard towards the top of the hill. Lots of runners have experienced being attacked by this bird, usually around February when it’s protecting young so I didn’t expect any problems today, in fact I didn’t even think about it. How wrong I was!

I was running up the hill enjoying the sunshine, listening to my podcast with my brilliant new open ear headphones when I felt something hit my head. Thinking something had dropped from one of the trees overhead, I looked up in time to see the underneath of the bird flying right in front of me. Uh oh!

Knowing Steve had previously been attacked by the bird and ended up with a cut on his head, I realised I had to act. But what to do for the best? My only instinct was to get out of there fast so speeded up to a pace more suitable for parkrun than a Sunday long run as this bird circled round and round really low and got my head at least one more time, maybe more. It was really intimidating and my heart was racing thanks to the fright and the pace I was now running. I was also waving my arms around and shouting to try and scare the bird, but it just kept screeching and coming round again. By the time I was clear of its territory I had lost a hair clip and the hair tie holding my hair back had been pulled practically all the way out. I checked my head but there was no sign of any blood or a scratch, however even hours later as I type this I can still feel where its claws came down on my head.

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It’s in there somewhere!

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The look of fear straight afterwards.

In reality it was probably over really quickly, but at the time it seemed to go on forever and I definitely felt under attack. Heart pounding, I had to make a decision. The last thing I felt like doing was carrying on with my run (I had run 1 mile out of my 16) but I had even less desire to turn around and head back down the hill past the bird again to get home. So I posted a quick Facebook message to warn anyone else planning to run up that way and carried on. I knew I could cut off the road further along and head for home, finishing with about 8 or 9 miles, but if I was going to run on then I might as well go for my 16 miles.

What followed was probably one of the most mentally challenging runs of my life, not even cheered by the loose sheep which tried to race me down a hill (for reference, those things are speedy!). In retrospect, I was probably running on adrenaline to begin with, then in a degree of shock. I found it really hard to settle into my run and it felt more challenging than it should have done. I’m not ashamed to admit that I stopped a few times, but I did carry on and finish it. Eventually.

IMG_3659That’s probably the only time I’ve ever really been scared on a run, because I had no control over the situation and knew that if that buzzard wanted to hurt me it could. I feel lucky not to have any cuts from its claws and was definitely shaken up by the whole experience. I don’t think I’ll be running on that particular route for my remaining long runs in this training cycle!

The rest of the day was a bit of a struggle. Apparently the whole thing took a lot out of me and I felt really tired. On the plus side, I finished my run (with the same average pace as previous weeks) and proved that I can keep going when my brain is trying to shut it down – good mental toughness training. Now it’s time to move on. New week, new training…

Have you ever had a close encounter with some wildlife on your run?
What’s the scariest experience you’ve ever had when running?

Week In Review – Making it Last

How can my summer break be over already? I swear we only just finished school for the summer! This week I made sure to enjoy the last moments of time off (with my marathon training getting priority!) so join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for their weekly linkup.

Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps + Hatha yoga
Thursday – PT session
Friday – rest day
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 14 miles

I made yet another attempt to find a decent time in the afternoon to hit the pool, and yet again got it wrong. I’d no sooner slid into the pool at my gym when I realised there was an instructor setting up to give a kids’ swimming lesson in the lane. Upon enquiry, she told me she was starting at 3:30 and her pupil actually arrived poolside at that moment. I manage to squeeze in half a dozen lengths in the short time before the lesson began, then I had to switch to the main part of the pool and take my chances around those doing the heads up breaststroke, the inexplicable people who seem to swim with their body in a vertical position, and the group of children squealing for their accompanying adults to watch as they took turns to jump in (pretty sure jumping in isn’t actually allowed as the pool isn’t all that deep and isn’t big enough to require a lifeguard). Needless to say, after 20 lengths of dodging round then all and having to stop at the end to wait for space, I headed for the sauna instead!

Tuesday was a bit better. I headed to the gym to get on the bike and following our experiments with different sets over the last couple of weeks, Steve gave me a new workout to do in order to progress what I’ve been doing on the bike. For this workout I took the resistance level of the bike up one then had 10 reps of 40 seconds at max effort with 20 seconds recovery, with a warmup and cool down on either side. On the first rep it felt pretty straightforward as my last set of intervals were a minute long, but I had 30 seconds recovery and the resistance was lower, so by the time I was a few reps in I could feel the weariness creeping into my legs. Not that long a workout, but it felt very effective!

IMG_3460On Wedensday it was back to hill reps. My plan going forward is to alternate hill reps and the 1km form drills I did last week, so this week I had hills. Goody! I’ve only done one specific hill workout since returning from Florida and it was using the last 3 lampposts on my chosen hill (3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep). Of course Steve likes to challenge me (it’s “character building” apparently!) so it was back to all 5 lampposts on the hill (5 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps and 1 rep to the last one). The hill starts out fairly gently so the 5 reps to the first lamppost feel fairly easy, but there’s a sting in the tail as the hill gets steeper as it goes on so the last few reps can be pretty tough and I always hit my max heartrate for the session on one of the last 2 reps when it’s at its toughest. Although I’ve done this workout before, the focus has changed from being all about the speed, to thinking about the knee drive and form I’ve been practising in other workouts. I found that while it definitely felt like I was working hard to really drive forward with my knees, I was probably a couple of seconds slower on each rep, but Steve said that’s what he expected so no problems there.

IMG_3470Wednesday evening was possibly one of my favourite workouts of the week. I headed up to the clubhouse at the golf club for a Hatha yoga class, and since it was a really nice evening we decided to go outside. Cue much hilarity as we basically had our mats rolled out by the second tee (it’s ok, we had permission and all the golfers were further round the course by this time) and a few comedy moments as some golfers nearby shouted “fore!” just to see us all scramble for cover! It was a great laugh as well as being a lovely stretch out and it was so nice to be outside in the sunshine, lying on my mat with hardly a cloud in the sky above. Bliss!

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IMG_3524I switched my Friday PT session to Thursday this week as I had plans on Friday. I headed down to the studio on Thursday morning and worked through the mobility drills we have been using in recent times. After the issue I had with my left hip last September, I’ve made a point of working on hip strength and stability ever since. These days that is being covered by the work we’re doing to improve knee drive and upper back mobility and I definitely think the Core Momentum Trainer has contributed to an improvement in my upper back mobility, especially on the right where I tend to carry a lot of tightness. After working through some exercises with Steve, I returned to a drill I had done at the start of the session and Steve was falling about laughing at the shock on my face as I moved through a greater range of motion than I had just half an hour earlier. Not bad for a piece of kit that reminds me of a giant maraca or a baby’s rattle lol!

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IMG_3538I arrived home to another cool medal from a virtual race. Love it!

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IMG_3546In the afternoon I had some “back to school” errands in town then I met Steve for an ice cream. This was Honeycomb caramel cup. There were small caramel-filled chocolate cups throughout it. Absolutely delicious!

IMG_3550I did have a disappointment that evening though as I arrived at the yoga studio to find that my class had been cancelled. My teacher isn’t local and her train had been cancelled so she was unable to get there and nobody else was able to cover at short notice. I had been looking forward to the class but there was nothing to be done so I headed home and made use of the time to make some French onion soup and stew some of the rhubarb I got from my parent’s garden.

IMG_3551On Friday morning I had an appointment for my “back to school haircut” then I met some friends from work for a bit of lunch and a catch up. I hadn’t expected to be able to join them when the idea of lunch was first floated, but when they decided to come to Perth I realised I could just make it. It was a bit of a rush, but I enjoyed a lovely lunch of a chicken burger with prosciutto and guacamole. I love this dish as the “burger” is an uncoated chicken fillet and the addition of the prosciuotto and guac make it really tasty.

IMG_3552Of course I still had my usual Friday night date with Steve at the pub down the road, but rather than having another burger (I’ve been loving their chilli burger lately) there was ribeye steak on the menu so I picked that as I had been craving that particular combo for days.

IMG_3554Just before heading out I received a notification that it was my 6 year blogging anniversary (blogiversary?) so we marked the occasion by having dessert. As far as I’m concerned, sticky toffee pudding is the ONLY dessert worth considering!

IMG_3555And then it was parkrunday (some people call it “Saturday”). I know that my performance goes up and down at different points in the month and expected this to be my most sluggish performance of the month, certainly not under 24 minutes. I expected something like 24:15 or so, so imagine my surprise when I crossed the line in 23:54! If that’s what I did on a day when I didn’t think I was running at my best, I’m curious to see what I can do over the next few weeks when I’m feeling a bit more at my peak!

IMG_3604Post-parkrun Steve and I refuelled with a coffee (him), pot of tea (me) and a scone each. I had my favourite berry and white chocolate. If you’re ever in Perth, I might divulge where to go and sample this culinary delight for yourself.

IMG_3600The remainder of Saturday was pretty chilled. I had an afternoon nap (definitely something to make a habit of as the school year begins – I need to stay as well rested as I can right from the start rather than waiting for the tiredness to catch up with me) and watching the athletics. What a shame Mo Farah couldn’t get just one last track gold medal, and it was so sad to see Usasin Bolt pull up in his last competitive appearance. On the other hand, it was amazing to see the GB 4×100 relay teams performing so well. We’ve had the talent in those teams for a while now but they’ve not always been able to take the baton safely round the track so this was a real triumph.

We also enjoyed a cheeky glass of fizz to celebrate the cat turning 17. She was about 6 weeks old when I adopted her and as a rescue cat her exact date of birth is unknown. I just counted back six weeks from when I got her and declared that date to be her birthday!

IMG_3605Sunday was long run day and I’m still using the principle of running 2 easy miles then 1 harder mile where I focus on form. I was feeling sluggish from the start and not at my best, but I knew there was no reason not to run, I simply adjusted to run by effort rather than by the numbers on my watch. Great mental training to push on when things feel tough and another 14 miles in the bank for Loch Ness.

IMG_3606Over the last 6 weeks I’ve had the chance to relax and recover, had a fantastic trip to Florida and got serious marathon training underway. Part of me feels sad that my holiday is over, but a very wise person once told me not to be sad that something was over, but be happy that it happened at all. I’ll try to remember that as I spend the first couple of days of the week sitting in meetings and getting ready to begin then next year of teaching. With a bit of luck it will be next summer before I know it!

What is your faavourite workout?
What’s been your summer highlight (so far)?

Week In Review – It’s All In The Hips

We’re still playing around a bit with the content of some of my workouts, but this has been a great week of getting to grips with some different forms of training. Not only that, but the World Championships Athletics has now started and I know I’ll be glued to that for the next few days! As ever, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

In general, the pattern was the same as ever. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – 1km drills + Hatha yoga
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 12 miles

As always, the week began with a swim. I find this a great way to recover from my weekend runs, which helps to both boost my fitness and make me think about my breathing. This week, unfortunately, wasn’t such a great swim for me. The pool was busy (I had spent a good chunk of the day at work getting my new classroom organised for the start of term) so it was really hard to get into any sort of rhythm. I also think they might have adjusted the pool chemicals and my nose felt quite blocked throughout the swim, making it hard to get my breathing right. I have noticed this before, so if you’ve any tips that might help then I’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, in all honesty, was a bit of a disaster. It was really wet in the morning so I decided not to go to the gym until later on. During the holidays I tend not to use my car unless I really have to as I spend so much time driving to and from work during term time. What I’m now noticing is that in bad weather I’m more likely to either delay an outing or re-think my clothing for the conditions rather than get in the car instead. Things seemed better later, just a few brief passing showers, so I set off. About half way to the gym the rain started, but rather than ease off it quickly became Florida-like monsoon conditions. I know we get a lot of rain in Scotland, but nothing like this with drains instantly overflowing and rain bouncing off every surface. I was stranded under a bus shelter for ages until it eased off and I moved on, but I was soaked through and realised that I had a problem: all I had was the clothes I was wearing and the clothes for my workout. If I did my workout I would either have to walk home in sweaty gym clothes or put my rain-soaked clothes back on (including very squelchy shoes and socks!). Neither option was appealing!

IMG_3380Steve was free so I got him to pick me up and drive me home. Once there I got dried off, put my gym clothes on, grabbed the things I needed and drove to the gym. It was a case of walk in, do workout, drive home. By the time I got there the workout was the last thing I felt like doing, but it’s good mental training to carry on when you’re head isn’t in it and I got the bike workout done.

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It’s not all glamour this marathon training!!

For Wednesday, Steve had something new up his sleeve for me. Rather than another set of hill reps, he wanted me to do some form drills. We’ve been working on knee drive in my PT sessions, so now this was being incorporated into a run as well. I had a 10 minute warm up, then it was 6x 1km drills, focusing on knee drive and arms. Basically, running with really good form. After each rep I had 90 seconds recovery. The first rep began well but as I approached a road crossing I had a most unfortunate encounter with a swarm of midges and had to stop while I hawked and hacked. Pretty sure I still swallowed a couple. Let’s call that “bonus protein”! The second and third reps were great as they were mainly downhill and I felt like I was flying. The last part of the fourth and first half of the fifth were uphill so by the time I got to the last rep I was digging deep, but this was the reason I had six to do as Steve knew from his own experience that after that the form would start to go and then the workout would have little benefit.

IMG_3395I had a short cool down after the last rep then a really quick shower and change before heading off to meet Steve. Some friends of ours are going to Florida later in the year and were feeling a bit overwhelmed with planning everything so we offered to sit down with them and talk through some things/answer questions/give recommendations over a cup of tea. I really hope they found it useful. Perhaps I should seek an alternative career as a Central Florida holiday planner/guide (I’d be happy to offer personal tours “in situ” lol!).

I finished the day with a nice relaxing Hatha yoga class up at the golf club again. I was feeling sleepy from a busy day (I ran quite early compared to what I usually do in order to fit everything in) so this was just what I needed.

On Thursday I had a little indulgence when I met Steve at a coffee shop after some errands. They were offering half price frozen drinks so we tried the double chocolate cookie mocha. I can confirm it was good!

IMG_3399My main workout was my Ashtanga yoga class. It was a small class this week and all people who go regularly so we were able to flow quite quickly through the postures and try something new at the end of the sequence. I felt good and am pleased with my progress in one of the postures that I wanted to work on.

Friday began with a PT session. More work on my knee drive, hip mobility and upper back mobility. Like last week I used both weights of Core Momentum Trainer and the broomstick. We also finished with some short hopping drills to consolidate the work on knee drive.

IMG_3402I got home to find that the medal from my July virtual challenge had arrived. I do like it when this happens!

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IMG_3407Later that afternoon I had to walk up to my parents’ house and I definitely felt some weariness around my hips after all the work this week! Whilst at the house I realised that there was tons of rhubarb in the garden so headed out (in the rain!) to pick some before I left. I usually make some stewed rhubarb with it as Steve likes it with his breakfast and I quite like it with some Greek yoghurt. It’s not good to have too close to a run though, unless a sprint finish to the loo is what you fancy lol!

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The evening was spent enjoying the first night of the athletics, including an incredible run from Mo Farah. I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

Since it was the first Saturday of the month that meant it was pacer day at parkrun. This time I was pacing 27 minutes and knew I was aiming for about 8:45 per mile. It was a beautiful, still day (great for PBs!) and I found myself slightly ahead after the first mile. No big deal as it can take a bit of time to settle into the right pace. Just before the turn I found myself alongside a runner I’ve seen a couple of times now and exchanged a few words with. She said hello and asked what time I was pacing. A couple of minutes later she spoke to me again and said that she was running parkrun as the last part of her long run but she was starting to struggle and asked if she could run with me. At that point I decided just to focus on helping her rather than getting my pace spot on. So I fell into step beside her and just started chatting (I was not even very sure of her name but now I know lots about her and her running plans). As we got closer to the finish she told me she was so glad I was there as she had been on the point of giving up and slowing right down, but having me there had kept her going. I may have ended up about 30 seconds faster than I was supposed to run, but it felt so good to know that I had helped someone. That’s something I really love about parkrun – that sense of community and meeting new people all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if she now became one of the people I speak to regularly at parkrun.

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Steve was away all day so no photographer for my jumping shot this week!

Once home, I got myself settled to catch up on the morning session of the athletics, then when Steve got home later on we watched the evening session together. What a shame that Bolt didn’t have his fairytale ending with another gold medal, but the women’s 1500m is shaping up to be an incredible final. Even the cat was glued to the TV!

IMG_3427Sunday is all about the long run. Currently I am aiming to run every third mile faster, so 2 “easier” miles followed by a harder mile. Last week I tried to do this by aiming for a particular pace, but the route I chose for this week’s run was rather undulating and I knew a couple of my faster miles would not be on flat terrain. Instead, I focused on maintaining good form and keeping up the intensity in the faster miles, using the first part of the following mile as recovery.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 18.41.51As the session went on I increasingly found it harder to run the slower miles as my body was becoming accustomed to the faster pace and better form of the faster miles and although these were harder on my CV system, I actually found myself looking forward to that faster blast. I did not expect that!

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Yes, I have become so fed up of my hair that I found a way to tie it out of my face into the world’s smallest ponytail for the run. The Florida heat and humidity has sent it on a mad growth spurt and I can’t wait to get it cut at the end of the week!

I got home from my run in time to see the last part of the men’s marathon at the World Championships (an awesome run from Callum Hawkins) while I cooled down/stretched and then squeezed in a quick shower before what was a very exciting women’s marathon with Alyson Dixon leading for a good chunk of the race. A very enjoyable way to relax after my run, safe in the knowledge I had already done the hard work for the day.

And I rounded off the week with my usual “recovery bath”, accompanied by the magazines I brought back from my trip to the US. Bliss!

IMG_3459Overall, this week has had a lot of focus on form and I’m hoping to build on that in the coming weeks so that my target marathon pace begins to feel easier.

Are you watching the World Championships?
How is your training going?

Week In Review – Getting Back On It

Another week already? This week has been all about getting back into the groove of my training in preparation for the Loch Ness marathon at the end of September. Linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share all the details.

At the end of term I cut back my training a little as I was so exhausted and kept things fairly minimal while I was away in Florida. Now that I’m home, I need to re-establish my routine and get down to some hard work so I’m ready for the marathon. Here’s how my week looked:

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

The pool at my parent’s place in Florida is quite small and I can swim from one end to the other in one breath, so arriving at the gym on Monday the first thing that struck me was how big the pool seemed in comparison! Unsurprisingly I felt a little rusty at first, but I soon felt my rhythm returning and was able to swim reasonably well. Unfortunately the lane was a little busy so I did have to wait at the ends quite often to allow the swimmer ahead to move up the pool a bit before I could go. I do feel like the controlled breathing has helped my running and swimming in general is giving me a good workout without any impact.

Since Monday was a sunny, warm (for Scotland) day, I headed into the garden with a book for a while in the afternoon, before going to get my nail polish changed. I loved the sparkly gel polish I had on for my holiday, so decided to get a different colour of sparkly polish since technically I am still on holiday, even though I’m at home 🙂

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On Tuesday morning I had a sports massage booked. I may not have been running high mileage, but I still like to have the “maintenance” of a monthly massage to keep my legs ticking over nicely and deal with any tight spots before they have the chance to become an issue. This meant leaving my workout until later in the day, and I arrived at the gym at around the same time I would if I was working. Tuesdays are always bike reps, and Steve had told me to stick to the same intensity and work/rest intervals as I was doing before the holidays (I peaked at 20 reps in the last week of term). The plan was to asses where I was fitness-wise for these right now so Steve could decide how to progress the workout. He told me to aim for 10 reps, but if I found it hard to drop the intensity on the bike. If, however, I found it ok I should do 12 reps. Not going to lie, I expected it to be tough, but 10 reps felt just a little too achievable so I went for 12. It was getting tougher in the last 2, but I still knew I could have gone on if the session had called for it. I must be a bit fitter than I realised!

The remainder of Tuesday was nice and chilled, getting kitty snuggles and reading my book. Bliss!

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I awoke on Wednesday to the predicted miserable weather, and while I don’t object to running in the rain, I did think it would be much nicer to run my hill reps in the sunshine, so trusting the forecast that the afternoon would be better, I decided to wait until later in the day. And I’m so glad I did! By the time I headed out the sun was splitting the sky and there was a bit of warmth in the the sun – something I’m a bit more used to right now after running in Florida! I headed back to my usual hill and did a session of reps to the last 3 lampposts – 3 reps, 2 reps then 1 to the furthest away. It felt tough and my breathing was pretty ragged at the top of the hill, but comparing my reps to what I was doing back in June (the last time I did any hill reps) was pretty favourable. A reader recently got in touch to ask me to include a bit more about hill reps in one of my weekly recaps, but I think I’m going to write a separate post on this. In the meantime, hill reps serve several purposes for me – speed work, improved strength and better technique as the incline forces me to drive my knees forward and use my arms more. Tough, but worth it!

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I finished the day with a Hatha yoga class. My usual Saturday morning class isn’t on during the school holidays, but my teacher has recently begun another class in the clubhouse of the golf club that’s practically on my doorstep. I was really keen to get to a class so thought I would head up there. It was so nice to be led through a class and give my body a good stretch. I think I slept really well after it too!

Thursday was pretty chilled. I ran some errands during the day then in the evening I had my Ashtanga yoga class. I’ve really missed this while I was away and the class was cancelled last week (the day I got back home) so I’ve missed 3 weeks of class. Steve had a rare Thursday evening free as his running clubs hadn’t re-started yet so he decided to join me, but had to meet me there as he was teaching a class right before. It felt so good to be back in class again, even if I was a teensy bit rusty, and I could feel the flexibility returning to my body with every posture. Steve enjoyed it too. Making it to a class regularly just isn’t an option for him right now, but he does do a lot of mobility work and similar postures as part of his day-to-day routine.

To be honest, Friday started out pretty chilled too (rest is my summer holiday priority!). The cat joined me on the bed and I spent some time cuddled in with her and reading a bit of my book. But even I can’t spend all day lazing about so I got my act together, tackled a job on my to-do list then headed down to the studio with Steve for a workout. We were mainly focusing on upper back mobility, hip mobility/knee drive and, for a bonus, several of the exercises also targeted core strength. We used both weights of Core Momentum Trainer, the Vipr and the good old broom handle. I definitely knew about this one the next day!

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Trying to take a post-workout selfie Steve kept messing about and trying to put me off, resulting in this gem of a photo series (he’d done it so many times already that I managed not to react this time, but his face tells a story – you can practically see the cogs turning as he comes up with his latest mischief lol!).

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Saturday, as ever, was parkrun day. I was still pretty jet lagged last Saturday but still managed to run 24 minutes flat so thought I should be able to take my time below 24 minutes again now I’m better rested. When we set off it looked like it might rain so I left my sunglasses at home, but just a few minutes later when we arrived at the start the sun was coming out. Typical! What followed was a part dull, part rainy, part sunny, part windy parkrun. They do say you can get all 4 seasons in one day in Scotland!

I set out quite hard, probably too hard as the first mile ticked by in 7:30 (and that was me slowing down a bit after the start!). I knew there was no way I was in shape to hold that pace, but pushed on as fast as I could. The second half of the run was into the headwind, so that combined with the fast start meant each mile was getting slower, but I rallied at the end for a fast finish and crossed the like in 23:51. Not quite my fastest this year, but my fastest since May, so I’m pleased with that.

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After parkrun we had breakfast with Steve’s brother and his wife before they set off on holiday on Wednesday. We then chilled out for the afternoon before heading back into town for the annual highlight that is Soul Food at the Southern Fried festival (I wrote a little bit about last year’s festival in this post). The food was delicious as usual, especially the Coca Cola cake. Amazing!

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We walked there so we could both enjoy a beer, then decided to round off our evening with a wee gin and tonic on the way home. I do love summer holidays!

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Sunday means a longer run and this time around I’m wanting to try something different with my long runs. I built endurance in the early part of the year through running slowly on long run days, then before the summer break I capitalised on this by dropping the mileage back to around 10 miles and running a bit faster. Now, I’m thinking a bit more about pace and running every third mile faster (with the other miles fairly easy). Steve has used this before quite successfully, but it did mean a re-think of my planned route as I was going to hit a fast mile on a long, steep hill. Not useful! In the end I reversed the route and it worked pretty well.

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We then took a trip through to Glasgow as I wanted to make a purchase and whilst there we treated ourselves to an amazing frappé at Hotel Chocolat. Mine was salted caramel brownie. Yum!
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We also came across this little gem. I don’t think it would work for a cat, but I bet at least one person reading this now wants one lol!
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It felt good to be getting back to some consistent training again this week. Now to keep making progress so I can smash it at Loch Ness!

How has your training been this week?
What’s your summer goal?