A Runner’s Alphabet

As I get closer to race day (and spring marathon fever tightens its grip) I find myself more and more obsessed preoccupied with running and all it entails. Soon, I’ll be running 26 (point 2) miles once more, and by a happy coincidence for this post there are 26 letters in the alphabet. So just for fun, here’s a (marathon) runner’s alphabet.

The Running PrincessA is for Athlete. Because that’s what you are. It doesn’t matter if the pinnacle of your athletic achievement is parkrun or the Olympics, if you are taking active part in an athletic endeavour (i.e. running) then you are an athlete. End of story.

B is for Blisters. We’ve all had our fair share of these and somehow the marathon always seems to result in at least one of the little blighters for me, even when none have raised their heads during training. Gah!

C is for Chafing. Again, we’ve all been there. Often we don’t know we’ve chafed until we get in the shower and then the full extent of the chafe is unleashed. In a word, ouch!

D is for DNS/DNF. Never letters we want to see next to our name. You’ll certainly find DNS (Did Not Start) in my marathon history, but so far I’ve always been able to finish every race I’ve started. Let’s hope that continues *touches wood.

E is for Electrolytes. When we sweat, we lose salts so it’s important to replace them, especially in marathon running. My choice is to add electrolyte tabs to my drink as taking too much water on board is not a good idea thanks to its tendency to dilute those all-important electrolytes.

F is for Fartlek. If you can say the Swedish word for speed-play without sniggering, then you are definitely a runner! Playing around with different paces and effort levels is a great way to improve fitness and speed. If you want to run faster, then you have to run faster!

G is for Gels. Ah yes gels, my sticky marathon friends. Our bodies have enough energy for around 90 minutes or so of running, so anything longer than that needs a top up. My preference is gels and I’ve found the ones that work for me, but it’s always best to experiment in training so that any “issues” can be avoided.

H is for Hills. Speedwork in disguise, these short, sharp battles against gravity help to make us fitter, stronger, faster and improve our form. Hard work but worth it for benefits like those.

I is for Injury. If you’ve not suffered an injury at some point, are you even a runner? A high percentage of runners will be sidelined with an injury every year. My advice: don’t ignore it and hope it will go away, seek advice from an appropriate professional (not Dr Google or strangers online!).

J is for Jogging. According to TV, the activity being done by someone who finds the body. For me, jogging is the easy-paced effort you might do to warm up. It is NOT a word to be used to describe someone giving it their all and running – just because they’re not moving at world record pace doesn’t mean they’re not trying just as hard. Rant over.

K is for Kudos. The validation we hope to receive on Strava after our run!

L is for Laps. You might run laps of a particular route in training, you might run laps of the track as part of your speedwork and you might ultimately run laps of a course during your race. This is not my favourite kind of race.

M is for Medals. It’s all about that bling, right!

N is for Niggles. Often the precursor to injury. Best not to ignore!

O is for Off-Road. Hitting the trails is a great way to build a solid base. The terrain can be kinder on your body, the changes keep you alert and also help to strengthen your ankles. I recommend a pair of specific trail shoes to get the most out of this.

P is for Parkrun. Oh I do love parkrun, A weekly free timed 5k that’s open to all and happening in a park near you this Saturday morning. Great to test yourself over a short distance and a good way to sharpen up before a race.

Q is for Quicker. What we all want to be. Even just by a second!

R is for Race. A chance to test yourself out over a measured distance. Also how we earn T-shirts, medals and free bananas.

S is for Strava. The social network for athletes. If it’s not on Strava, it doesn’t count!

T is for Training Plan. Something worth having to structure your training, but make sure it fits your life rather than you trying to fit around it. And while a training plan is important, you don’t have to be a slave to it. Flexibility is key when life (or Mother Nature) gets in the way.

U is for Undulating. Runner speak for hilly as f&@#

V is for Variation. Vary your terrain, vary your shoes, vary your training. It is the spice of life after all.

W is for Watch. You don’t need to have a fancy GPS watch that does everything bar make your post-run smoothie. But as soon as you start to take this running lark seriously, it’s top of the shopping list! Just don’t get too obsessed with the data.

X is for X-Ray. Ignore the niggles and injuries and you might just find yourself needing one of these to figure out what’s going on.

Y is for Yoga. Great for runners as it stretches muscles, builds strength and improves flexibility. I definitely think yoga has improved my running.

Z is for Zzzzz. Ok, ok, but you think of something else that starts with Z!! Sleep is super-important for runners as it’s when we rest that the adaptations from our training take place. Sleep resets our minds, heals our bodies and boosts our immune systems. We should all get more of it.

What would you include?

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Book Review – The Pants of Perspective

“When I ran, I ran for pleasure. I didn’t run for times, to win, to impress: I ran for me. When I ran my bum cheeks rubbed together, so much so that if I was going on a long run I’d have to ‘lube up’. I maintained that I was not a ‘real’ runner – I just liked to run so that I could eat cake.”

Anna was never anything like those ‘real’ runners on telly – all spindly limbs, tiny shorts and split times – but when she read about New Zealand’s 3,000-kilometre-long Te Araroa Trail, she began to wonder… perhaps being a ‘real’ runner was overrated. Maybe she could just run it anyway? Travelling alone through New Zealand’s backcountry for 148 days, she scrambled through forests, along ridge-lines, over mountain passes, along beaches and across swollen rivers. Running up to 52 kilometres in a day, she slept wild most nights, and was taken into the homes and hearts of the kiwi people in between. The Pants of Perspective is a witty, colourful and at times painfully raw account of a journey to the edge of what a woman believes herself to be capable of. It is a coming-of-age story which will lead you on a roller coaster ride through fear, vulnerability, courage and failure. For anyone who has ever dreamt of taking on a great challenge, but felt too afraid to begin – this story is for you.

Back in the summer of 2017 I decided to explore the trails of the world vicariously. Whilst basking in the Florida sunshine I traversed the Appalachian Trail with Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woods, joined Cheryl Strayed on her voyage of self-discovery along the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild, and finally I took to New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail with adventurer and “mischief maker” Anna McNuff in her book The Pants of Perspective.

I first came across Anna McNuff when she was interviewed on the Tough Girl Podcast. I was drawn to her sense of fun and adventure, the way she wanted to speak to school children and inspire them to go after their dreams, so when I saw that she had written a book about her New Zealand adventure, I was quick to grab a copy and devour it straight away.

And I certainly want disappointed. Anna (it somehow feels right to use her first name rather than be all correct and write”McNuff”) is such an engaging writer. I mean, even from the title and cover art we can tell that she is going to have a sense of humour. There are certainly times when the going is tough, but we are rooting for Anna all the more because her warmth and enthusiasm come through on every page, fostering a connection with her. Reading the book almost feels like a catch up with a good friend.

We join Anna as she undertakes a 148 day run from Bluff, at the southernmost tip of New Zealand, to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, 3000km away in the north. Yet this is not really a book about running, per se. For me, it’s more a book about the journey (both literal and metaphorical) that Anna undertakes and the unforgettable “trail family” she creates along the way. Despite her taking on what feels like an overwhelming challenge, Anna is very “real” and somehow makes the whole thing seem so much more accessible. We are shown that even with some oversights in planning, taking on an adventure like this is possible and through the cast of characters she bonds with along the way, we are reminded of the inherent good in people when complete strangers look out for each other and provide support.

Yet Anna also lays bare some of the low moments, the times when it is a struggle to keep putting one foot in front of the other because she’s exhausted, or hurt, or the weather is awful (or all three!). We are inspired by her mental strength and fortitude when fear takes hold, and we celebrate her successes along with her. At times I almost wished I was there, sharing a slice of cake (there’s quite a lot of cake/chocolate consumption) before hitting the trail once more in a pair of ludicrous leggings.

Yes, the leggings (or “pants”, used in the US rather than UK sense). We’re around half way through the book when the significance of the title is revealed to us:

“Setting my empty coffee cup down beside me, I rummaged around in my bag until my fingers found what I was looking for. Pulling out the mess of brightly coloured Lycra material, I laid it flat so I could see the entire pattern. Moments earlier, over another morning’s serving of cold porridge, I had remembered something. I’d thought in spending over five months on the trail that perhaps, just perhaps, I was going to have one or two days when I didn’t want to get out of my tent and run, and instead I might just want to curl up in a ball and cry. For this situation, I had packed myself a secret weapon – a pair of magic Lycra pants.
One leg was adorned with a unicorn, the other with a robot. Both were engaged in a fierce battle and above them was a star-spangled night sky. Naturally, across the sky was a bright rainbow.”

Basically, the “pants” are Anna’s mental safety net. She may not have planned every other detail to perfection, but she had recognised the importance of mental strength in undertaking a challenge like this and had found a way to give herself a boost when the going got tough:

“Everything around me, the facts, so to speak, would indicate that I should be miserable, but it was scientifically impossible to be miserable whilst wearing these pants. They were a sheer act of defiance, flying the flag of ridicule in the face of what should be a serious and grave situation. I laughed, and immediately felt more like me.”

I loved this idea, and as someone with a penchant for more “unusual” leggings, the discovery that I could buy my very own pair of THE pants via Anna’s website was fantastic. Yes, I did buy them (and got a very lovely email from the lady herself as part of the process!). As such, I can confirm that Anna’s right – you really can’t be miserable whilst wearing these beauties!

IMG_5334If you haven’t already read this book then I highly recommend it. Not only is Anna easy to relate to and engage with, but she is also a very good writer. Sometimes books about adventures can have a “detached” feel about them, or they read a bit like a series of notes. But not this one. This one takes you along on the journey (whether you have the pants or not!) and leaves you feeling like you’ve made a new friend. I believe Anna has been writing a new book about one of her other adventures and I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

You can find out more about Anna McNuff here.
You can watch Anna’s TED talk here.

Friday Finds – 30th March

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Hello! I hope Good Friday has been good for you. The weather here has been pretty miserable, but a day off work was definitely welcome! So as you relax into your (long) weekend, here are some bits and pieces for your reading pleasure…

Last week I included a piece with the startling news that caffeine might not make everyone run faster, so to counter that here’s an article from Runner’s World to remind us of all the benefits having a coffee. Just don’t drink it too late if you want to get a good night’s sleep!

Also from Runner’s World, the results of a study into the effects of stopping exercise on our mental health. Certainly any runner who has ever been sidelined by injury can attest to how their mood changes, but up until now there has been very little research done on the subject. Unsurprisingly, the study notes changes almost immediately in many cases, but what was most surprising for me was that females seemed to be affected much more. Perhaps that explains the way I have reacted to past injuries compared to Steve! I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.

If you’re needing something uplifting after that, then I have the very article for you. Sometimes the person who finishes last in a race is the most inspiring of all, so here are the stories of 8 runners who found themselves doing just that.:

This week’s near-obligatory article about Strava is a cautionary tale for those who pore over the data too much – but perhaps not in the way you think. Most of us (read: me!) like to geek out over the copious amounts of data the app provides, but for one user the only data she was interested in was who her partner was working out with. Can you guess what happened next…?

And finally, the tagline tells us that “America runs on Dunkin'” and now we can take that literally as Saucony’s latest running shoes to celebrate the city of Boston have a Dunkin’ Donuts theme. It may seem an odd partnership, but there’s something appealing about running shoes covered in sprinkles 😀 If you could design a pair of running shoes featuring food, what would you choose?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Local Tourism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you like to visit different parkruns?
How is your training going just now?
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Week In Review – Normal Service Resumes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is your training progressing?
Do you have any time goals right now?
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Week In Review – Me Time!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Week In Review – Too Much To Do!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Salmon, avocado and prawn starter

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

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Black Forest rose dessert

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

How is your training going?
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
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Week In Review – Frantic February!

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

Here’s how the past week looked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is your training going?
How do you measure progress? Is it about the outcome or the journey?
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Week in Review – No More Snow

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

Here’s how my week shaped up:

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

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

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

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

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The windswept look lol!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Week In Review – Positive Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guess who jumped in the shot again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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