Week In Review – Are We There Yet?

The last full week of the school year (the final week is shorter as we finish on Thursday lunchtime) was a busy one with a day out of school on a course, a school show to see, and the initial preparations for a move of classroom. What with all that and my decision to ease off on running for a few days to help settle the issue in my right leg, I feel like I didn’t train as much even though realistically I only missed one midweek run! As usual, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly roundup.

Having already made the decision not to run midweek, my schedule looked like this:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 4-5 miles

The week began with me out of school for a one day course. Next session I’m going to be taking on the role of supporter/mentor for a probationer teacher and needed to attend a training course to learn more about the role and the various things that need to happen for that probationer to become a fully registered teacher at the end of the year. The course itself was really interesting, but I must admit that at this point in the year it was an awful lot of new information to take in and the room we were in was pretty warm. Still, I did have the additional advantage of being able to head straight home afterwards rather than get caught up in anything else so was in the pool by 5pm swimming my lengths. It did feel really refreshing after being so warm all day and I felt much better when I got home so decided to head out for a walk after dinner (it was a lovely evening and I still had some steps to get to reach my 10,000 target!). I’m so lucky to have this practically on my doorstep:

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On Tuesday I had 20 reps of my bike intervals to do. Regular readers may remember that each cycle goes up to 20 reps before changing, so this is the peak of the current cycle. I chose the same bike as last week and started out very interested to see how my leg would feel. Interestingly, this week’s 20 reps felt easier than last week’s 18, so clearly the extra rest made a difference, which I found encouraging. I then followed this up with some mobility work and stretching before squeezing in a quick sauna to finish off.

Wednesday’s rest day came at quite a fortuitous time as I decided this would be the day that would best suit me to go and see our school show, Billy Elliot. We have been very lucky to get the rights to stage the schools’ version of the show and are the only school in the country to have the honour. Two boys were cast as Billy and performed on alternate nights so each had two shows. I have to say, I knew we had some talented pupils but watching the cast sing, dance and act to highly professional standards was phenomenal. They were in turns funny, dramatic and emotive, with me almost in tears at one part. It was just amazing and I felt so proud of them all, but particularly the ones I knew from my recent senior classes who have grown into fine young people ready to move onto the next stage of their lives. Sob!

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I’m incredibly glad I had the chance to see the show, but my goodness I was tired on Thursday after the later night! Thankfully I had my Ashranga class that evening and it was just what I needed to stretch out and relax. I DEFINITELY drifted off during the relaxation this week!

Friday was another rest day. I was heading off for a post-school coffee with my colleagues and a former colleague who retired this time last year. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we headed to the cafe at a nearby fruit farm. I really enjoyed my tea and peanut butter slice (yum) but couldn’t resist getting a punnet of strawberries to take home as well.

Having done lots of mobility work through the week to sort out the tightness in my right leg, things were feeling much improved. There was no longer any tightness at all in my calf and just a slight sensation of it around the back of my knee so I decided to go ahead with parkrun so I would have a comparison with last week. After a week off running my legs, of course, set off at a suicidal pace which I had to reign in, but there were no issues with my leg this time and I was pleased to finish in 24:15 – better than I expected and not too far off where my fitness has been recently. Very encouraging.

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Saturday Hatha yoga classes are finished for the summer, but I did devote some time throughout the remainder of the day to further mobility work so I can finally overcome this issue in my leg and get back to some longer runs. No yoga did mean I could join Steve for a post-parkrun coffee and bacon croissant though 🙂

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Since everything had felt ok on Saturday, a Sunday run was back on the agenda so long as I kept the distance down to between 4 and 5 miles. Steve set out early for his final big training session before Ironman 70.3 next weekend and I had a more leisurely start before heading out on a loop which I thought would be about the right distance. It turned out to be 4.8 miles which was perfect and my leg still felt ok when I was running so all the work I’ve been doing has clearly helped. It was a bit cloudy but I still felt warm so did all my post-run stretching in the garden – including legs up the wall, which this week was legs up the fence! I’ll not manage a run next Sunday, but hopefully things are getting back to normal for me now.

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So that’s another week over. Listening to my body and taking the extra rest has made a difference and hopefully I won’t need to miss any more runs. Fingers crossed that by the time I return from my holiday later in July my body will be ready to ramp up the training again as I get ready for the Loch Ness marathon.

How has your training been recently?
What sessions make you feel strong?

PS Did you see my posts for Tough Girl Challenges this week? I wrote a piece for National Writing Day to encourage more women to have a go at blogging and make their voices heard (you can read that here) and a piece encouraging others to take up running as part of Women’s Sport Week (which you can read here).

How Yoga Changed My Training For Good

Happy International Yoga Day!


I still find it strange that International Yoga Day is something that even registers with me. Yoga was always one of those things I thought I should do.  I would read about its benefits in magazine articles, see it mentioned in blogs I follow and regularly come across social media posts featuring incredibly flexible people twisting themselves into a pretzel. The more I was presented with the idea of yoga, the more I wanted to try it, but just never got around to doing anything about it.

But that’s not to say I had no experience of yoga at all. Years ago, back in what I now think of as “another life” as I tried to forge a path through early adulthood, I realised I should probably try getting some exercise, and alongside the odd “swim” (heads up breaststroke) or visit to the gym where I would faff around on various machines for a while, I also attended a few Dru yoga classes at the local college. The classes were led by a pleasantly plump, motherly woman who took us through a selection of gentle stretches before tucking us in under blankets for the most glorious relaxation. I enjoyed it, but as life moved on and things changed, it was something I let go. Yet somewhere in the back of my mind the idea of “properly” taking up yoga was firmly rooted, waiting to sprout when the time was right.

And that time was early 2016. Now leading a very different (and happier) life with lots of structured training and regular races, I was also coming across more and more about yoga and its various benefits. It finally dawned on me that it could make a difference to my training and perhaps help to “injury-proof” my body. I had tended to shy away from yoga as I thought I wasn’t flexible enough, but was realising at last that yoga would IMPROVE my flexibility – not going because I wasn’t flexible enough was like not starting to run because I couldn’t run far enough. A ridiculous notion! So I looked into my options, sent some emails and decided on an Ashtanga class at a local yoga studio.

I loved it from the very first class. It was a beginners’ session designed to introduce the basics before joining the main class. As it turned out, despite others being expected I was the only one there so had a one-to-one session to introduce me to ujjayi breathing and some of the key postures. With my grounding in running and fitness, the teacher felt I could join the main class the following week: a led session working through around half of the Ashtanga primary series. At first it was a little tricky as I was unfamiliar with the sequence of postures and didn’t know how each one should feel if done correctly, but soon it became almost like muscle memory and I found I could more easily move from one posture to the next without reminder. I also began to notice improvements in my flexibility as I was moving more deeply into some of the postures as time went on and progressing into full postures from some of the options.

Now, I’m a little more than a year into my yoga journey. My weekly Ashtanga class is a crucial part of my schedule as it makes such a massive difference to how I feel. I leave the class feeling stretched out, relaxed and centred. At crunch points in the year it helps me to forget about the stresses of work and unwind. During marathon training it helps to keep my body in check and the improved strength and flexibility I have gained DEFINITELY help me to run better and be more in tune with my body to (hopefully) notice any little niggle before it becomes a big problem.

I’ve also added more yoga into my life with a weekly Hatha class – a more gentle selection of postures and breathing exercises which allows me to take some time for myself and focus on how my body feels. This is more about the stretching and the mental wellbeing than the strength and flexibility I am building in Ashtanga, but the two are mutually beneficial. More recently, I committed to 100 days of completing at leat 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work as part of the Tough Girl 100 challenge. This is making me think more carefully about how I can make yoga part of my everyday life and I have been exploring various resources to help me with this.

Thinking about my journey as part of International Yoga Day, it’s clear that yoga has changed my training for good. I like how strong I have become from moving through postures and holding them for a number of breaths. I like how much more flexible my body is, something that really counteracts the demands of running. And I like how going to a class allows me some dedicated me-time and headspace to focus only on the present moment without dwelling on everyday stress or thinking about my to do list. For that alone, yoga has become invaluable in my life and as we approach the summer holidays I intend to spend much more time focusing on my yoga practice so that daily yoga becomes part of my routine.

Yoga really has changed my training for good, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Namaste.

Tell me about your yoga journey…

Week In Review – A Bit Of A Battle

Sometimes running is brilliant: you glide along effortlessly and complete every workout with ease. Other times running is tough: your legs feel like lead weights and even an easy run seems difficult. Writing a weekly roundup means I can get a balance of both, sharing the good weeks and the not so good weeks. Most of this year so far has gone well, but as we approach the end of the school year and I find myself both physically and mentally exhausted, the chances are much higher that I’ll have a tough week. I’ve been feeling the creeping tiredness for a couple of weeks now, but to be honest this past week has been a real battle so I need to listen carefully to my body and adjust my training for the next couple of weeks to account for that. Read on to find out more as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share more.

If you’re a regular reader then you’ll spot the changes in the plan for the last week straight away:

Mondayswim sports massage
Tuesday – bike intervals @ the gym + swim
Wednesdayhill reps easy run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday8 miles rest

The change on Monday was expected. I had my monthly sports massage booked and knew I could only fit a swim in beforehand if I was away from work sharp. But this week we had an after school meeting so there was no chance! My legs have been feeling a bit weary so I was looking forward to the massage and certainly felt fresher afterwards.

On Tuesday I felt pretty tired. I probably hadn’t slept enough and at this point in the year I really need as much rest as I can get. My bike intervals were a repeat of last week‘s workout and I headed to the gym a little unsure of how I would perform, but ultimately able to complete the set. I then slotted in a quick swim afterwards. No time to relax in the sauna or anything this week as I wanted to get straight home and log into the marking system so I could catch up on some work there, but due to some ongoing problems with the system I had to wait.

Despite needing to sleep, I decided on an early start on Wednesday to finish my exam marking. By the time I got to the end of my working day I felt exhausted and knew that hill reps would be a mistake this week. Instead I opted for an easy run, but even that was a struggle. I was warm, tired and could feel a niggling tightness in my right calf that just wasn’t settling down. Even worse, something happened that I rarely have any bother with: I got heckled. I’m confident enough in my running not to let that bother me, but it still made me angry that some yobs (who were frankly behaving in a dangerous manner weaving around a busy road on their bikes, causing drivers to take action to avoid hitting them) thought it was ok to ride by me and shout abusive comments about my running just to amuse themselves. I know this happens to many runners much more frequently and I’m lucky that most people around here are very supportive of runners and cyclists, but it is NEVER ok to behave in this way. Fuming already, I was tipped over the edge when I got to the bottom of the hill leading to our street and while waiting to cross the road a driver wolf-whistled at me. Seriously? Again, not acceptable. It was a warm day so I was wearing shorts and what I wear is MY decision based on being comfortable, not an invitation for someone to objectify me. These events, combined with the emerging issue in my calf, put me in a bad mood for the rest of the night.

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Trying not to look too angry for my selfie!

Thursday brought me a much-needed moment of calm with my Ashtanga yoga class. I really needed the time to focus on myself and reset both body and mind. My right calf was still tight, but stretching it out in yoga felt good.

I rounded off the work week with a rest day. The cat had a checkup at the vet on Friday and I just didn’t have the energy for any more – apart from anything else I had completely lost my mind and agreed to mark some additional exam papers which were now available to me and I wanted to get a start on them. It felt so good to have the work week finished and enjoy our Friday night meal out!

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On Saturday morning my calf felt OK (Steve had been helping me to work through some mobility exercises to target the source issue) so I decided to give parkrun a go. Everything felt fine in a warmup jog and as the run began my legs wanted to go quite quickly. Sadly, it didn’t last. Within about half a mile I could feel the tightness creeping in again so backed off the pace and kept my mind tuned in to my leg so I could monitor how it felt. Weirdly, the tight spots kept moving around (Steve later explained that this is because I’m feeling tension deep in the leg in my peroneal muscles, but it’s stemming from an imbalance in how my body is moving on that side right now). I was able to finish the run, but my pace just got slower and slower as I was feeling like the plug had been pulled put. Yet despite my feeling that I had run badly, whilst waiting to have my barcode scanned another runner complimented me on what a “lovely runner” I was. It just goes to show that even when everything feels awful, it doesn’t always show in your form!

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I wasn’t in a “jumping shot” kind of mood!

After parkrun I had the final Saturday morning Hatha yoga class until August. I let my teacher know that I had an issue with my right calf, but to be honest the postures we did felt good and helped to ease the tension. Once home I completed my exam marking then went for a nap. For TWO HOURS! That just shows how exhausted I am right now. I only woke up because Steve shouted to say that my dinner was ready! I then enjoyed a relaxing evening catching up with some TV before bed.

During that tough parkrun I made the decision that Sunday should be a rest day. No point in running further given I had problems in a 5k – much better to rest and resolve the issue quickly rather than escalating the problem so I can’t run for ages.

Steve headed out for a brick session for his half ironman training and I tidied up a few things around the house before walking down to the gym for a relaxing sauna to help me chill out. I was already feeling better from having a bit more sleep and even my leg felt improved from the rest.

Later in the afternoon it was a visit to my parents since it was not only Fathers’ Day, but they are about to head out to Florida again. We haven’t visited them in a few weeks since I’ve been marking and even though we’ll be joining them in Florida shortly after they arrive, it was good to catch up on a few things. We sat in the garden since the weather was good and dad even brought out the beers. Check out the koozie he put mine in!

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Looking ahead, I know I need to dial back the training through the remaining two weeks of term so that I can run strongly through the the summer and get my body ready for my Autumn marathon. I’ll let you know next week how it’s all going, although I’m feeling optimistic that the issue in my right calf can be easily and quickly resolved.

What are your summer training plans?
How do you know when it’s time to back off training?

Week In Review – A Less Than Fresh Start

This past week was one of ups and downs. On the one hand I had a day off work on Monday, but on the other hand I returned on Tuesday to the start of our new timetable and the final stretch to the summer holidays (schools in Scotland do this so that the senior pupils who are returning from their exams can begin their new courses rather than marking time for a month in subjects they may not be continuing with). Starting fresh with new classes is refreshing, but takes a great deal of energy to establish boundaries etc right from the start. Future Me definitely needs this to happen, but Present Me is exhausted and finding the energy for those new classes is a big ask! Somehow I still managed to squeeze in my training, so I’m once more joining the link up with Jessie @ The RIght Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my weekly roundup.

Sticking to my well-established pattern, my plan for the week was:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Fridaymobility rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

And around all of that I also maintained my commitment to to my Tough GIrl 100 challenge to complete at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every day. On the days when I don’t have a yoga class I have been using a mixture of my usual mobility work alongside videos from Jasyoga and Yoga With Adriene. At the moment I have been using shorter sequences as my time is so limited, but as the challenge progresses and I have a bit more time available over the summer, I’d love to try some longer sequences as well as turning my attention to some postures from my Ashtanga class which I would like to work on further.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, Monday was a holiday in the region I work for so the school was closed. I used the time to catch up on some household chores and get some more of my exam marking done. Around mid-afternoon I walked down to the gym for my swim then walked home by a rather circuitous route to go the supermarket for some fresh fish. That made sure I reached my step goal for the day as well as enjoying my time in the pool when it was a little less busy.

Despite the day off, Tuesday was exhausting. I met a succession of new classes and there are always a few kinks to iron out to make sure everybody is in the right place at the right time. By the time I got to the gym for my bike reps I was feeling pretty weary, but was unsure if this was a mental or physical tiredness. I got stuck into my bike reps and the first few felt hard – I even wondered how I was going to manage the full set – but as I went on my body adapted and I was able to complete my workout feeling strong. After my stretches and mobility work I headed to the steam room for a few minutes to relax and unwind before heading home to get stuck back into my exam duties.

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Wednesday meant more of the new routine, but at least when it was time to head out for my run the sun was shining (the weather this week was so awful I thought I might have to build an ark!). I was still feeling a bit weary but again my body knew what it had to do as soon as I got my hill reps started. It felt tough, but I don’t think my performance was overly different to previous weeks, so I’ll put that down to the end of term exhaustion! A great way to celebrate Global Running Day.

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Thursday’s Ashtanga class was a much-needed moment of calm and me-time in a hectic week. Far from the outdoor class in beautiful sunshine a couple of weeks ago, this week we were watching the most awful rain through the studio windows! The class really helped me to stretch my weary legs and calm my mind which had been whirling with exam papers and new classes. Phew! I wasn’t so enamoured with the almost wintery weather though. It was so nasty that someone whose house I passed on a post-yoga walk when the rain finally stopped seemed to have decided it was time to put their Christmas lights up 😉

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Usually on a Friday I have a mobility session to complete, but with Steve away on a course I decided to take this as a rest day. I caught up on some exam stuff then walked the mile or so to pick up some Chinese food to eat – step goal met and a delicious dinner as a reward!

I awoke on Saturday to the most awful weather. On Friday night I had seen pictures showing flash flooding in the car park and parts of the path in the park where we have parkrun. The event was going ahead, but we were all warned we might get our feet wet!

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Picture from Perth parkrun on Facebook

I opted for my “winter parkrun shoes” as I thought a wash for them might be in order, and made sure to take a jacket as it was POURING! It turned out the worst of the flooding had gone, but I was still greeted by the sight of over 100 runners gathering in the foyer of the nearby sports centre questioning their sanity! After the quickest possible briefing we headed off…right into the wind! As we left the park to join the riverside path the rain did stop and conditions felt quite nice, but as soon as we hit the turn it was BAM! Straight into a headwind that we battled all the way back (and it was STILL raining in the park!). It was a strange one as I felt I was working awfully hard but couldn’t decide if it was the conditions or how tired I had been feeling. I was passing people, but my pace wasn’t spectacular and I fought hard for every second of my 25:03 finish when I know that realistically I’m in around 24 minute form. Looking at the results later I noticed that most runners were 30-60 seconds off their best times so I think this one was mainly the conditions. I headed home looking pretty bedraggled (with a bonus stop at the vet to pick up some supplies for the cat – God knows what they thought of me!)

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There was no Hatha yoga class this week, so after a shower and some marking I headed out to get some food shopping then settled in for an afternoon of marking interspersed with some other short tasks to force me to move about a bit and refresh my mind. Still, by the time it got to early evening I’d had enough so made my dinner (pizza – not up to the usual standard since my personal pizza chef was away and I had to settle for shop bought) then settled down with the cat to finish watching the latest series of Once Upon a Time on Netflix (with a cheeky G&T since it was World Gin Day – it would have been rude not to!)

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Sunday was slightly nicer. I was still feeling tired so decided that I wouldn’t necessarily push the pace on my long run but just run to feel. I also decided that I didn’t fancy another run around the same route I’ve used the last few weeks so opted for something different which would have no steep hills but a couple of longer, shallower inclines and the likelihood of some headwinds.  It would also take me here:

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I took this photo whilst sheltering under a tree to put my jacket on as the rain had come on again and was really heavy. Typically, it had cleared by the time I got to the other side of the path a mile further on so I had to stop again to take the jacket off. That’s Scottish summer time! In the end I ran quite well and was happy with my 8:53 overall pace for 10 miles as that’s at the quicker end of my ideal marathon pace and over a route with a lot less downhill to let me really go for it!

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The remainder of the day was, again, spent on my exam duties. It will all be finished in the next few days though and I’ll suddenly feel like I’ve created lots of time!

Next week my mileage cuts back a little to allow for some recovery, and I think I’m definitely needing that right now!

How has the weather been where you are? Has it affected your training?
What is your current goal or challenge?

Global Running Day

Happy Global Running Day!

Global Running Day is a day for people around the world to celebrate the joys of running. Participation is easy—just pledge to take part in some type of running activity on June 7, 2017. It can be a solo lap around the block, a long run with friends, or even a game of tag with your kids. The key is to share your passion for the sport and inspire others to get moving.

Since Global Running Day conveniently fell on a day I have a run in my training plan (hill reps!) I pledged to run 4 miles to help reach my marathon goal. I would have loved to follow that up with a heartfelt post about what running means to me or pen an ode to my trainers, but the exam marking beckons and sadly there’s no time to devote myself to anything else. Instead, I thought I would share a couple of articles I came across today that celebrate the day. Enjoy!

Running is a big part of my life – I’d go so far as to say it changed my life – and I hope Global Running Day helps others to find their passion for running and begin their journey.

Did you pledge to run for Global Running Day?

Week in Review – A Break From Routine

Like last week, this past week hasn’t exactly followed my normal pattern, but I’m pleased to report that I still completed all my planned training. Go me! As ever, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly recap.

The structure of my training is now pretty well established, but here’s how this week looked:

Mondayswim Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike intervals @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – mobility
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 9 miles

The week began with a degree of training uncertainty. As part of my exam marking role I was required to be out of school again on Monday for a meeting in Edinburgh. I got the train so I wouldn’t have the stress of driving into the centre of Edinburgh on a weekday, but this meant I wasn’t sure when I would get back to Perth. Steve dropped me off at the station as my train was at 8am and I walked from the station in Edinburgh to the meeting venue (about a mile) so was already more active than usual for a Monday. The trains are about once an hour so I couldn’t be sure what train home I would get. In the end I arrived back in Perth around 5pm and walked the mile or so home from the station. This meant there wasn’t enough time to squeeze in a swim before going to yoga (I had another missed class to make up), but had the bonus of reaching double step goal on a day when I normally have to be quite creative to meet my goal at all! I enjoyed the class and really appreciated the time to myself after another day focusing on the intricacies of exam marking, but sadly it wasn’t enough to help me drift off to sleep that night and that poor sleep set the tone for the week.

Tuesday was a bit of a struggle as I was feeling really tired from not sleeping enough, but I still went to the gym for my bike reps. I was perfectly prepared to back off a bit and go by feel, but the reps actually made me feel a bit better. I used the chance to also do a bit of mobility work before hitting the pool for a swim. I really like having a swim after the bike session but don’t always manage to fit that in. I had hoped that this would mean a good sleep, but I made the mistake of working too long into the evening and just wasn’t in bed for long enough. Oops!

Wednesday was warm, but not as much as last week so I felt much better during my hill reps. I’ve had the same session for the last couple of weeks so it’s easy for me to compare my performance week on week and consider the impact of factors like weather and how I’m feeling. Although tired, I felt my performance was better than last week so I was pleased. Still not enough sleep that night though – I just didn’t learn my lesson!

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On Thursday my day was a little different. I was in school, but only with one year group (the seniors were still on study leave and two year groups were out on various activities). It was a bit of a weird day and for various reasons I just didn’t achieve as much as I had hoped. Heading to Ashtanga that evening was a welcome relief! We were back in the studio again as the weather wasn’t as good, but it was a great class, despite my tiredness making my balance a bit iffy in some of the postures! Afterwards I (yet again) got caught up in some exam stuff and worked a little too long. Not ideal, but it’s only once a year and the marking period is relatively short so I can cope.

Friday was another different day for me and I really enjoyed it. As part of our annual health promotion week the junior classes are taken out for a day on an organised walk. I had been assigned to accompany the year group heading out on Friday and was pleased to find myself with a really nice group of 50 pupils. Their walk was taking place at Loch Leven (where I recently ran the half marathon) but on a portion of the heritage trail. Our starting point was where we had registered for the race and we were led from there onto the path which we followed for about 3.5 miles around by the loch to reach our lunch venue. Fortunately it was dry (in fact, conditions were ideal for walking – dry and mild but not too hot) so it was really nice having our picnic on a nice grass area. We spent about an hour there and the pupils had a group activity to complete about responsible behaviour in the outdoors. After lunch we set off again for a slightly longer stretch (not quite 4 miles) to our bus pick up point (there were two other groups out walking around different stretches of the trail so we were a bit more spread out and unsuspecting walkers wouldn’t have 200 young people suddenly descending on them!). The kids were brilliant: super behaviour and no complaints, although I was amused at the fact that they had covered less than half a mile before they started asking when lunch was ha!

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Once back at school I had a bit of a chat with my colleagues (we had all been on various activities over Thursday and Friday so hadn’t all been together) then drove straight to the studio for a mobility session with Steve (I had spent the day in workout gear so there was no need to change). We worked through a series of exercises targeting the usual spots: upper back, hips and core. The temperature picked up during the day so I did have to clean myself up a bit afterwards before I was fit to be seen in public when we went out to eat lol!

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I had been hopeful of a longer sleep, however the cat decided to allow me just half an hour extra before declaring that starvation was imminent and I had to get up and fill her bowl. I did manage a short doze afterwards, but it wasn’t quite the same.

It was pacer week at parkrun so I was down sharp to collect my pacing bib. I had 29 minutes this time and to be honest I found it pretty tough to settle into the required pace and ended up finishing in 28:39! Oh well, I can’t imagine anyone would complain about getting a faster time than they wanted! I ran most of the course with a lovely woman who is quite new to running. Turned out she had met with Steve during the week to discuss some training and we had a nice time chatting while I gave her a bit of advice on her running. It was only her second parkrun and she did brilliantly, sprinting off in the last kilometre while I tried to keep the pace even and encourage some others around me. Much as I love to run a hard parkrun, I also really enjoy pacing as it gives me a chance to chat to new people and run at a more leisurely (for me) pace. I would definitely recommend it if you ever get the chance.

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After parkrun I had a quick change then headed off to my Hatha yoga class. I really feel the benefit of that post-run stretch and it sets me up for the rest of the day which, right now, is mostly centred around the exam marking and my team management duties.

On Sunday Steve headed off on a long cycle as part of a brick session for his forthcoming half ironman. I, meanwhile, had a bit of a tidy around the house then got ready for my 9 mile run. It was sunny but not too hot, so shorts and a vest were ideal. Of course the weather suddenly became very changeable and I got soaked in a midrun downpour, but it was still a good run. I have been running a very similar route every Sunday, with slight tweaks to vary the distance, and my plan remains the same: capitalise on the endurance I’ve built by running a bit faster so that after my holiday I will (hopefully) find marathon pace feels a lot easier as I build up the miles again towards the Loch Ness Marathon. Given that my route features a pretty big hill, I was pleased to finish with an overall average of 8:46 per mile, only a tiny bit slower than last week, but with much more of a headwind through large chunks of the route. Needless to say, by the time I was finished I looked pretty bedraggled!

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Next week I’m hoping to get my sleeping pattern back under control. The marking process should level out a bit, with my team perhaps not needing quite as much input, and I’ve changed my bedding as I know clean sheets help me to sleep better. A day off work on Monday should help too! I’ll let you know how it goes…

How has your training gone this week?
What is your next event?

Week in Review – A Change Is As Good As A Rest

It’s been a bit of a different week for me. Apart from the arrival of summer at last, I was away for a night on a work trip – something that’s a bit of a rarity in teaching – which meant a change to my routine. Read on as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to I recap my week.

Despite my trip I did manage to keep the structure of my week (mostly) as planned:

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

Monday was a bit of a rush as I had a dental checkup at 5pm and got stuck in traffic on my way home from work. Luckily I made it. Just! My dentist is near my gym so I was able to head in for a swim afterwards and benefitted from some tips from a very good swimmer who has taken an interest in my progress. He often gives me advice on how to make form tweaks which will help improve my swimming and I find this really helpful as I have no idea what my form looks like as I make my way through the water. After my swim I had time for a short relax in the hot tub before getting showered and changed. Since I had missed a couple of my Saturday Hatha yoga classes I was going to a Monday class instead to “make up” (we pay for a block in advance). Going on a Monday evening was a really nice way to round off the day, especially after all my rushing around after work!

It was on Tuesday that my routine began to change. I am involved in the process of marking and quality assuring exam papers, and the preparation for this each year requires me to be out of school for two days while the standard is finalised. This year my meeting was taking place in Edinburgh and I opted to stay over in order to remove the stress of driving up and down the road in peak traffic, through lots of roadworks. This also helps me to clear my head and focus on the task ahead. Since teachers don’t often have meetings or courses outside of school, one of the highlights is always the food! So for my readers who are teachers, this was my lunch:

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I wasn’t staying at the same venue as the meeting but my hotel was just a few minutes away, right next door to the zoo! This made my “commute” much shorter, giving me plenty of time to make use of the hotel gym facilities for my bike intervals. Using different equipment made it harder to get the right intensity level on the bike, but the most important thing is that I still got my workout done and was able to spend time on some mobility work as well.

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I also did a few lengths of the pool to try out the form tips I was given on Monday, before making use of the hot tub and sauna!

Since I was viewing this solo work trip as a bit of a treat (I was working hard during the day, but the evening was my own), I opted for a steak dinner and a small glass of wine which I enjoyed whilst catching up on some blog reading I had fallen behind with.

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And no hotel stay would be complete without a relaxing bath. Yes, I take hotel stays VERY seriously lol!

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My short journey back to the meeting venue on Wednesday meant I could sleep slightly later, although I did end up waking up a bit sooner than I need to so enjoyed time reading in bed with a cup of tea before getting organised and heading to breakfast. Given how seriously I take hotel stays, it should be no surprise that I fully availed myself of the spread available to create a three course breakfast!

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The remainder of the day was spent over marking preparations, pausing of course for lunch!

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Once home at the end of the day I had hill reps on my schedule. It was a hot day and I’d spent two days eating heavier meals than usual, but I gamely headed out anyway. I’m not going to lie, some of those longer reps were hard work, but I completed the set before heading home to melt into a puddle in the garden! It’s nice to have some good weather as I enjoy doing my post-run stretches (and jumping about!) in the garden.

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Thursday was another hot day so it was lovely to arrive at Ashtanga yoga and have the teacher suggest taking the class outside. I know they did this one night last year, but I think it was when I was away on holiday so missed it. We took our mats over to the North Inch and worked through the series of postures on the grass, surrounded by lots of other people out enjoying the warm evening in various ways: sunbathing, dog walking, sports… It was perfect! It felt a little odd having a different surface under me, and one or two times I had to shift around on my mat a bit due to a bit of uneven ground, but I would definitely do that again.

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On Fridays Steve has added a mobility session to my programme. Ordinarily I will do this at home on my own, however he had a cancellation this week so was able to fit me in at the studio. It was another hot day so in the end I refused to go inside and I completed my session in the car park! I may have had a few funny looks from those departing for the weekend, but at least I got to enjoy the fresh air and nice weather for a bit.

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It was so nice that I actually took a short walk once I got home as I wanted to enjoy the sun for a bit longer. I then took my MacBook into the garden and worked there for a while until it was time to go and eat. It was a bit warm for my usual choice of chicken curry, so I opted for a chilli burger instead (yes, I did cut it in half before remembering to take a photo – bad blogger!).

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The run of hot weather continued into Saturday morning and I knew parkrun was going to be a toasty one. I wore pretty minimal kit, but the bulk of the course is in direct sunshine so I got pretty warm and ended up being a little slower than last week with a 24:03. To be honest, I thought I would be slower! It was a really busy parkrun and we had a new record turnout of 286 which was brilliant. There was also the annual volleyball tournament taking place in the park so the area was really busy and buzzing with activity.

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Of course I was a pretty sweaty mess afterwards but managed a quick turnaround to freshen up and head to my Hatha yoga class. It was a really good class and I must have been really relaxed at the end as I suddenly became aware of the teacher telling us to start moving our fingers and toes at the end of the relaxation. I must have completely drifted off!

Saturday afternoon was quite overcast and there was a little rain, with a bit of thunder later on, but by Sunday morning this had cleared to leave another hot and sunny morning. Once more I found some minimal kit and headed out a bit earlier for my run. I had 8 miles to do and was taking the same approach as last week to run harder in order to capitalise on the endurance I’ve built by adding a bit of speed. My route was pretty similar to my 10 mile run last Sunday and the sun definitely made it tough in places, but I finished with an overall pace average a bit quicker than last week so I was pleased. If I can continue to perform well in warmer weather then I should definitely gain some performance benefits as the weather cools down into the autumn. Right now I’m all about finding those marginal gains that will make a difference to my marathon performance!
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fullsizeoutput_1e47It’s been so good to get some warmer weather, even if it did make my workouts a bit harder! Still, I’m happy with how I performed throughout the week and I know strong performances in the heat will be beneficial in the long term.

How do you fare in warmer weather?
Do you enjoy staying in hotels?

Friday Finds – 26th May

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.

I’m actually typing this whilst lying on a blanket in my back garden – a new experience for me! The last few days have been warm here and I hope you’ve had good weather too. Given the Scottish heatwave my first find this week may seem a little incongruous, but it’s something that’s really captured my attention and I want to lead with it this week. I recently read a Kathy Reichs novella featuring an Everest adventure which taught me much more than I ever knew before about what it takes to summit the famous mountain. So when I read that Spanish ultra runner Killian Jornet claimed to have summited the peak in the fastest known time (without oxygen or fixed ropes) it really caught my attention, particularly given that the area above 26,000 feet is known as the “death zone” as the air becomes so thin. An amazing feat!

Another amazing feat was achieved by María Lorena Ramirez, a Mexican Tarahumara woman, who won a recent 50km ultra race whilst wearing sandals and ordinary clothing. The Tarahumara are the indigenous community who came to prominence in Christopher McDougall’s now-ubiquitous book Born to Run, in which he shared the “secrets” of what made the Tarahumara run so well. I always find it interesting to learn about those who naturally run well, without all of the technology and fancy gear the rest of us are so reliant on.

But what about those of us who aren’t setting out to achieve amazing feats, but to simply run, race and enjoy? A few days ago I came across this report on the state of running in the US and thought it made for interesting reading. The first thing that jumped out at me was the dominance of women, with female runners accounting for 57% of finishers. The other thing I noticed was the popularity of 5k races. I know from my summer visits to Florida that there seems to be a 5k somewhere just about every week, and I would imagine it’s similar in other States. I would love to know how these figures compare to other parts of the world, particularly since the Paris marathon continues to have just 25% of its field made up of female entrants…

I’m going to pair up the next 2 finds as their subject matter is kind of related. I was drawn to these because of how they resonated with my own life. Because Steve and I both train and race regularly, we are often asked if we do these things together. The short answer is no, we don’t . Our goals, paces and available time are quite different and although Steve writes my plans and sets me up with one PT session per week (his time allowing), the bulk of our training is done separately – we really only run together on Christmas Day and in the Paris Breakfast Run! But what if we did try working out together? The writer of the first of these articles tried exactly that with her husband and shares the outcome. And in the second article we learn a bit more about Charlie (The Runner Beans) Watson’s experience of pacing her fiancé in a marathon. I’m not sure that’s something I’d ever manage to persuade Steve to do…!

And finally, if the summer weather is making you crave a gin and tonic in the garden then fear not – it just might be better for you than you thought! I wouldn’t recommend drinking the whole bottle, but at least you can claim some health benefits, however tenuous!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week in Review – An Easy Week

Despite treating last weekend’s half marathon as a training run rather than a race, I still felt it worthwhile to cut back my training in the week afterwards since I had jumped up my mileage a little in order to take part. Yes, I recently ran a marathon so have all that training “in the bank” but I still prefer a sensible build up in mileage to help avoid injuries. In this post I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my post-race recovery and training.

Last week‘s race, unusually, was on a Saturday so I’d already enjoyed a rest day on the Sunday. Here’s how the rest of my week went:

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Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – 4 miles
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

I actually fully intended going for a swim on Monday as I find getting in the water after a long or hard run really useful. Unfortunately I was too late getting away from work and needed to nip home to check the cat had enough food so didn’t quite have enough time to squeeze in a swim before my sports massage. I have a sports massage every month as part of my strategy to help me recover and to spot any issues before they become problems. I was really pleased to find that my legs were in pretty good shape and they felt even better after Katie had massaged them. Thanks Katie 🙂

Tuesday was a complete rest. If I’m honest, I would have been OK to train but I had a commitment to meet a friend for coffee after work and the logistics of that meant there was no time for a workout. Since it was a nice evening, I took a short walk when I got back before settling down to eat and relax.

By Wednesday things were back on track, but rather than go for another set of hill reps, Steve advised sticking to a simple run. No particular pace, but around 4 miles. I decided just to let my body tell me how it wanted to run and while I felt a little sluggish at the start, by the end of my 4 miles I was feeling much better.

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Thursday remains by far my favourite workout of the week. I feel such a difference in my body (strength, flexibility, movement) after a year of Ashtanga yoga and I still notice improvements all the time. The class covers about half the Ashtanga primary series, led by a teacher, so we don’t do exactly the same sequence every time. This week we did a posture we haven’t done for a while (I’m still not great with all the Sanskrit names!). It’s quite a tricky one and I was able to get much closer to being able to do the full posture than I’ve ever been before. I was quite amazed as I wasn’t expecting that to happen.

It was another rest day on Friday. I had initially wondered about fitting in a swim here, but the cat was due a checkup with the vet (you’ll remember she’s pretty old for a cat and with an age-related health condition) and Friday was the most convenient. They were running a bit behind due to an emergency so while the cat quietly seethed in her basket, I enjoyed watching the other pets in the waiting room, my favourites being the cutest little sausage dog I’ve ever seen and the the tiny turtle with an infection (absolutely no idea how they could tell!). It was a positive visit as there was no need for further medication or tests and she’s even put on a little weight! Once home, I headed out for a walk since I had been sitting around for a while then it was time to head out to eat. According to Facebook, Steve and I have now been friends for 9 years so we marked the occasion with a delicious steak dinner. I’m so glad steak was on as a special that night as I was really craving it!

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On Saturday the cat decided to give me one of her famous early wake up calls, so I wasn’t sure how I would perform at parkrun. As soon as we got underway my legs decided they wanted to run fast and I was waiting for the rest of my body to mount a protest, but I managed to not only sustain my pace but actually get a little quicker with each mile to complete the Royal Flush Negative Split and finish with a time of 23:49 (7:51, 7:46, 7:40 and the last nubbin at 6:43 pace!). That means the three parkruns I have done since Paris have been progressively faster – 24:15, 24:05 and 23:49. In actual fact my fastest this year is 23:39, so it looks like I’m not too far away from that and hopefully I can improve on that time over the summer. Saturday was also a pretty wet day so I didn’t look my finest when I finished!

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No Hatha yoga for me this week as I had an appointment, but I plan to go on Monday instead. It will be a lovely way to end my Monday.

My four-legged friend provided another early alarm call on Sunday, but I took my time getting ready for my run. I had 10 miles on my plan and have made a decision about my training for the next few weeks. Through the winter I was running slowly on Sunday mornings to build endurance, however now that endurance is in place I need to work a little more on my pace. I won’t run any more than half marathon distance before heading off on my summer holiday, so it seems that the best way to use those runs to capitalise on my endurance base is to run them a bit faster. On this run I was aiming to run at or faster than marathon pace, with the target of completing 10 miles in 1:30 or less (approx 4 hour marathon pace which is 9:09 per mile). I also included hills towards the end as I know that’s what I can expect at the Loch Ness marathon. Despite Mother Nature providing yet another free shower, I was well within target with 10 miles in 1:28 and an 8:53 per mile average. Perfect! Hopefully this approach will help develop my pace in the next few weeks then when I return from my holiday I’m going to use my long runs in a different way, a bit more like fartlek-type runs.

IMG_1938The rest of the day was spent relaxing. We had a chicken to cook and guess who took it upon herself to act as guard? Shame she can’t have any due to her dietary restrictions!

IMG_1942All in all, I think my decision to have an easier week definitely paid off in my performance over the weekend. I’m feeling excited now about the weeks ahead and am already visualising my finish at Loch Ness. Now to make it happen…

How do you like to recover from an event?
What are you training for just now?

Race Report – Loch Leven Half Marathon

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have been in a hurry to sign up for a half marathon at this point in the year: not only did I know that I wouldn’t quite have worked my way back up to the distance again in my post-marathon training, but on this particular occasion I was going to a concert the night before. Not what you’d call ideal race preparation, but having been lucky enough to win a place in this race through the parkrun points competition last year, I figured I could take it easy round the 13.1 miles safe in the knowledge that my endurance base was up to the job – it’s funny how a month after a marathon you can just turn up and run a half marathon without any particular difficulty!

Actually, the last time I ran this race (in 2010, pre-blog) I did something similar: Paris marathon in April (my first marathon and hampered by injury during training) then the Loch Leven half marathon around a month later. At that point the course was very slightly different (minor alterations to the start and finish as well as a stretch which now takes place on the trail which opened more recently) but the bulk of the route remains much as it was.

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To be honest, I was a bit of a bad blogger this time. I left out some kit on Friday night (the race was 11am Saturday) but changed my mind about some of it when I saw the weather on Saturday morning. Being quite tired from my late night, I neglected to take a pre-race “flat runner” photo before I put it all on – oops! – but I opted for Nike twin shorts, a short sleeved Tech T-shirt, lightweight gilet, 2XU calf sleeves and my Adidas Ultra Boosts. On the drive through to Kinross, about half an hour down the road, I began to wonder if I should have brought my “emergency hat”!!

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Registration for the race takes place at the high school and we were able to park right across the street. We collected our numbers and race T-shirts then headed back to the car to sort ourselves out before returning to the school for a quick toilet stop. The start was about a mile from registration so we had to leave plenty of time to walk/jog there (they were transporting bags etc back to the start but we headed to the start line ready to run).

We chatted to one or two others en route to the start and once there I decided to have one last toilet stop before the race began – I had just enough time to join the short queue, nip in and line up at the start before the gun went off.

The race itself was quite nice. An undulating route around the perimeter of the loch with some hills in the second half. I gave myself the first mile to settle into a comfortable pace then switched on the latest edition of Marathon Talk to listen to and got a real surprise about 3 miles in when I heard my name mentioned in the “Rate Your Run” section!

I followed my usual strategy of a gel at 5 miles and 10 miles, but to try and avoid the slump I often experience around the 10 mile mark I decided to count DOWN the miles from the start, which psychologically made a difference.

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Running at a comfortable pace rather than racing meant that when I reached the steepest hill around 8 or 9 miles, I had plenty of energy left to start overtaking people who had gone out hard and for a good while I was passing other runners. Only a few overtook me in the last mile, which was on the trail, as I had developed a blister under my toe which was a bit nippy when I landed on it!

I also found time to pose for the photographer I spotted on a nice downhill stretch. Looks like I’m having fun (and doing a phenomenal balance manoeuvre!).

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Photo by Gordon Donnachie

[Source]

I wasn’t 100% sure where on the school grounds the finish line would be, but I also knew that since this was a smallish race (471 finishers – I was position 322, 97th out of 200 females and 43rd out of 94 in my category) my watch had been pretty much in line with the mile markers so I could trust how much there still was to go. Coming off the trail and around the final bend I began to speed up a bit to finish in 2:01:55. It would have been great to run just sub-2, but the second half was just a little too hilly for that. Still, I’m really pleased to run so close to 2 hours when I was tired and taking it easy as that means I wasn’t much slower than the pace I will need to run a sub-4 marathon and I still have plenty of time capitalise on my current form.

Once over the line I was handed my medal, a bottle of water and was able to collect a snack (there were bananas and that Scottish staple the caramel wafer). There was also a tent nearby where you could key in your number and get an immediate printout of your chip time, which was really good.

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I milled around taking selfies and chatting to folk until I was able to find Steve as he had my bag with warm clothing for the drive home. As soon as I’d sorted that out, we headed back to the car to get home for some food.

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Overall this was a great race. Well organised by Kinross Road Runners and with a lovely route (thankfully we were spared the midge cloud which had been in the news!), gender-specific tech T-shirt and nice medal. Definitely worth entering if you ever get the chance.
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