Week In Review – Oops, I Did It Again!

With running back on the agenda again this week was all about returning all my workouts to their usual intensity and moving on from the lighter workouts of late. I’m linking up again with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my training week.

My post-marathon recovery involved a gradual progression from complete rest, to light cross training, to easy running and now my regular training schedule. Here’s how that looked for this week:

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

Monday was a bank holiday and the schools were off too so I was able to have a leisurely start to the day. Steve had an early client so I was unsupervised which, as it turns out, is perhaps not the best idea. First I did this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 08.37.05Yup, that’s my ballot entry in for the London Marathon. Again. The odds are pretty slim for getting a place, but you’ve got to be in it to win it!

But I wasn’t done at that. Next, I did this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 08.53.35I can now announce that I have entered the 2017 Loch Ness Marathon which takes place at the end of September. This will be my third time entering this race, and hopefully this time I will FINALLY reach the start line. My quest for a sub-4 time is back on (although perhaps after the weekend’s events in Monza I should call it #Breaking4 lol!).

It’s ok, I stopped there before I got carried away entering races! The rest of my day was spent catching up on some household chores before heading to the pool for a swim. I really enjoyed being in the water again and felt that I was swimming well. Unfortunately it was busy so I kept having to stop at the end of my lengths to allow those ahead of me to get further up the pool before I could start my next length. Still, I’m pleased with how my swims have felt lately.

I rounded off my day with a last-minute opportunity to watch a private screening of a play I saw wth my sister last year. It was part of the 14-18 Now project which is marking 100 years since WW1 and we are seeing the second instalment in a few days. When we saw the play last year we had to travel to a converted barn outside the city and the play itself was incredibly emotional. As soon as the screening started all those emotions came flooding back, the lump in the back of my throat formed and I was in tears by the end. At least there was popcorn!

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Tuesday was my first time back to the bike reps at the gym. The last time I did this was in the week before the marathon and since then I’ve had a couple of half hour cycles so I was unsure about how this would feel. Steve had me stick with the same work/rest intervals as my last cycle of these and kept the intensity level the same, simply dropping back to 10 reps to basically repeat the last cycle before considering how best to progress this. My legs felt weary from the re-introduction of running, but I soon got into the way of it and completed the workout feeling quite strong so I must have retained some of the gains from all the reps I’ve completed over the last few months.

When I was finished on the bike I did some stretching and mobility work before heading to the hot tub to relax before walking home. I’m really enjoying having so much daylight as it makes me feel like I have so much more time to enjoy my evenings.

IMG_1708Wednesday also had me switching from a light workout to a more intense session as I headed back to my “favourite” hill for some reps. I have been using the lampposts on this hill for my reps, most recently I was completing decreasing reps to each successive lamppost (i.e. 5 to one, 4 to the next, and so on). To progress this, we cut out the first two lampposts and focused on the reps to the last three. I have to say, it felt tough at first but just like with the bike reps my body soon remembered how to do it. The weirdest thing was not running the reps in the dark. Instead it was sunny, warm (for Scotland in May) and I had shorts on rather than base layers and gloves 🙂

IMG_1724On Thursday we had the local council elections and it was another sunny day so when I got back from work (it was an inservice day so no pupils and a different venue meant I was a bit earlier) I got changed and took a walk to the polling station. Civic duty done, it was off to Ashtanga yoga where I enjoyed another great class. It’s coming up to a year since I first went to this class and I can’t believe the difference it has made to my body. Every week I notice something different, even when working through the same sequence of postures.

I finished the work week with a PT session at Steve’s studio. It was the usual mobility work which I know is key in keeping my body moving as it should and helping to prevent injury. I then had a short walk to enjoy the last of the evening sunshine before going out to eat.

IMG_1766Saturday was, of course, parkrun day. I began my day with the results of the Breaking2 run – I can’t believe how close Kipchoge came to running under 2 hours! I also began my day with a bit of a scratchy throat and feeling a bit below par, however I was fairly sure this was the result of not sleeping enough recently and not drinking enough over the couple of days before, so still wanted to go to parkrun as that often sorts me out. I didn’t expect to run overly well and did feel the run was tough, yet I still finished 10 seconds quicker than last week so that’s a positive sign that my fitness levels are returning to where they were in the weeks before the marathon, at least when it comes to shorter distances.
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My Hatha yoga class re-started this week and it was great to stretch out and centre myself after the run. I really think it makes a difference to my recovery before my longer run on Sundays. My other excitement was the arrival of the tab to put on my Paris marathon medal so the back of it is now complete. It wasn’t the time I wanted it to say, but I remain proud of my achievement as I know how much training went into it and how tough it was on the day.

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IMG_1825Sunday was another sunny day – May in Scotland can be beautiful – and I had 8 miles on my schedule so donned my shorts and shades to head out into the sunshine. I hadn’t really paid attention to my splits last week as I was running relatively easy, and only noticed at the end of this run that something was a bit off. I knew I had been running fairly briskly on the flat and downhill sections, so was surprised by the average pace that flashed up on my screen when I pressed stop. Turned out I still had the autopause feature off from racing in Paris and I usually have it on when I’m out on a training run as I often have to stop to cross roads and don’t like the watch ticking away while I’m not moving. I’ve rectified that now!

IMG_1816And with that, another week of training comes to a close. Overall I feel pretty good and can sense my body getting back into the groove of regular training again. It still feels a little tough to hit faster paces or begin more intense training, but that’s to be expected coming off a marathon and having some time out. Now I officially have a target to aim for again it will help me to focus and build on the fitness I’ve already gained this year. Bring it on!

Did you enter the London marathon ballot?
What is your next target event?

Week in Review – Fight the Temptation!

In many ways the second week of my post-marathon recovery is the hardest. I know I need that time to make sure my body is fully ready to return to running, but at the same time everything feels ok and I start getting a bit itchy to get out there again – not helped by it being both the Boston and London marathons this week! Being back at work meant everything else felt “normal” so not having all my usual training made things seem a bit odd. It was a week of fighting the temptation for the greater good! I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share a roundup of my recovery week.

Having spent last week limiting myself to nothing more strenuous than walking and yoga, this week I began to reintroduce my usual training rhythm by including some light cross training. Here’s how my week ended up:

Monday – swim
Tuesdaygentle cycle walk
Wednesday – walk gentle cycle
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – walk
Saturday – Parkrun volunteer plus afternoon walk
Sunday – walk (after watching the London Marathon!)

Monday was the first day of term which is always a bit of a shock. These days I fall into “holiday mode” quite quickly and get so bound up in my “real life” that it can be a bit of a wrench to be back in the classroom. I was at least cheered by my calendar – even Gary Barlow is getting into the marathon spirit this month!

IMG_1511Since I would normally swim on a Monday, going for a swim after work helped to remind me of my own routine. It was nice to be back in the water, and despite a gap of a couple of weeks since my last swim, I felt I swam quite well. I took it nice and easy since this was technically a recovery workout and although I felt a little more tired than usual at the end, I knew that was the after effects of the marathon and length of time since my last swim so nothing to worry about.

However Monday may have been a bit much for me as I awoke on Tuesday with a scratchy throat and aches that didn’t lift all day. My eyes felt heavy and I didn’t feel like doing anything more than going to my bed. Since Tuesdays had previously been bike intervals, I had planned a gentle half hour cycle to get my legs turning over again, but decided instead to just have a walk in the fresh air then relax at home with some hot food and a nice bath before an early night. One thing that did cheer me up was the arrival of my April challenge medal from Virtual Runner. I had entered a cumulative challenge involving running the marathon distance across the month. I, of course, had decided it would be fun to do the whole thing in one go haha!

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IMG_1513By Wednesday the aches had gone but my throat remained scratchy first thing in the morning for the rest of the week. This meant I felt well enough for the cycle I had missed the day before. It felt good to get my heart rate up a little again, and I enjoyed sitting in the hot tub and steam room afterwards. On this day I was also cheered by the replacements for my end of term “casualties”:

IMG_1514I’ve not yet made a return to my PT sessions so Thursday was simply my Ashtanga yoga class. It was another great class for me and I could feel my legs becoming even more “my own” with every posture. I left feeling relaxed and better than I had done all week.

Ordinarily Friday is my rest day, however I’ve not exactly been over-exerting myself lately! The weather was nice when I got home so I went for a walk for 20 minutes or so to enjoy the extra daylight then waited for Steve to arrive home so we could head out to eat. After returning to work and fighting off what was likely a bug, I was more than ready for my Friday night beer and curry!

IMG_1519Saturday is parkrunday but my two weeks off running were not quite up yet so I was on the volunteer roster once more. This week I was on finish tokens which meant I had to check through them before the run started, but was held up in traffic, so enjoyed a bonus run from the car to get to the start! It felt really good to be running, albeit briefly, and I would have loved a bit more, but at least I know that the enjoyment will be there next week when I do run again.

IMG_1521Since Steve was away at a race further north and Hatha yoga hasn’t restarted yet, I decided to head out in the afternoon for a walk. I had a few errands but didn’t need to go into town so instead walked to the retail park, got a coffee then picked up the bits and pieces I needed before taking a different route home. I was probably out for a couple of hours but it was still a productive day.

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Sunday was London Marathon day and since it was also my last day “off” when it came to running, I had grand plans for a morning on the sofa watching the coverage. I love watching all the races from the elite to the runners in crazy costumes. It’s so inspiring and always makes me want to run another marathon! I spent the whole weekend feeling rather envious of those in London soaking up the atmosphere both at the expo and at the race, so would definitely love to get back there again some day. True to form the combination of the theme tune and inspiring stories had me in tears and keen to get back to running again. There’s just something about the London marathon that makes people lace up and get out there!

When the TV coverage finished I realised that I really should move so walked into town for a coffee and to do a little work for the blog.

IMG_1529Thanks to the time out I’m now itching to get running and target my next challenge. My recovery strategy is one week completely off, one week of light cross training then a week where I re-introduce some easy running so long as there are no issues such as injury or tight muscles picked up in the marathon. Right now my legs feel good and I’m looking forward to a couple of easy runs in the week ahead. I know to expect a slower pace, but I also know that I’ll soon feel like I have my own legs under me again.

How long do you take off running after a marathon or goal race?
Are you training for anything in particular right now?

Week in Review – Taper Time!

Wow! It hardly seems like any time at all has passed since I began this cycle of marathon training, yet here I am into my taper and writing my last pre-race week in review! As always, I’m linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL to share my weekly training.

Tapering means a bit of a cut back in mileage, but maintaining the intensity of the workouts. That means feeling fresh and ready to race when you need to. I’ve found in the past that the traditional three week taper leaves me feeling sluggish on race day, so this time I’m trying out a two week taper to see what difference it makes. Based on the pattern of how I’ve felt in longer runs versus cutback weeks throughout this cycle, I’m feeling confident that this is going to work better for me.

So for my first taper week my plan was:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike intervals
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun plus Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

And I even did all the sessions as planned – nothing missed or swapped around. I think that makes three weeks this year with no changes lol! But I have to say, my week didn’t get off to the best start. I’m not sure if I was tired from my 20 mile run, tired because it was the last week of a veeeeery long term, or something else, but I was an absolute clumsy clot. I was late for work on Monday due to the aftermath of an accident on the road I was on (hopefully everyone involved was ok) then when I set my cup down to go and make a cup of tea, I managed to nudge it off my desk and smash it. I was fond of that cup too 😦 I did survive the rest of the day and headed to the pool for my swim. It probably wasn’t my greatest performance ever as the pool was really busy and there wasn’t much space to really get into a rhythm, but it really helped my recovery. If I hadn’t known otherwise, I wouldn’t have known I had run 20 miles the day before!

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The irony of the calendar that day was not lost on me!

My clumsy behaviour continued into Tuesday when I began my work day by dropping (and smashing) my plastic water cup. On the plus side, this was the last thing I broke during the week – phew! On Tuesday evening I headed to the gym for my bike reps and although I was still feeling tired (I was fairly certain this was work-related by this stage) I still felt strong throughout the workout and was thinking about where I started with these reps towards the end of last year when they were shorter and at lower intensity. I would never have believed I could progress to where I am now had you told me back then. Fitness really is a funny thing as you never really “feel” any different, it’s only when you have a tangible measurement that progress is more apparent.

fullsizeoutput_1ccaWednesday was a return to my hill reps after a two week break. To be honest, I wasn’t feeling overly motivated to go and do them, perhaps because it was in my head that this was the last time before Paris, but I headed out and got it done. My splits were slightly slower than the last time, but I was ok with that given I had missed two sessions of hill reps, had run 20 miles on Sunday and was, like my colleagues, just generally on my knees and crawling towards the school holidays!

IMG_1042I always enjoy my Thursday sessions. First it’s my PT session with Steve where our focus has been on core strength and mobility, particularly my hips and my upper back/shoulders. We repeated some of the work we have been doing in recent weeks, then Steve repeated his “photo bombing” manoeuvre so I couldn’t take a post-workout selfie for laughing!

IMG_1052I then headed to my Ashtanga class which has become a real marker of the end of the week for me. The focus on breathing and working through the postures helps to calm my mind from a busy week so I feel much less stressed afterwards, and the postures themselves have made a huge difference to my overall strength and flexibility since I began last May. Once that class is done, I also know I only have one more day to work, and this week it was the last day before a long-awaited two week break. Bliss!

By the time I finished work on Friday I felt completely done. This is our busiest term with coursework and assessments, which are all really exhausting for the pupils as well, especially those who are coming back to exams. When the bell rang at the end of the day, it was like someone pulled the plug out on my energy as well. I had to keep moving until I got to my car as I knew if I stopped it was going to be a battle to get going again. Once home, I enjoyed the chance to relax before dinner, and this week chose a steak in celebration of a tough term completed.

IMG_1057Since Saturday was the first Saturday of the month, I was a pacer at parkrun and had 26 minutes again. Following a course inspection the day before, it had been decided to stick to the alternate route as the main route was still pretty waterlogged and I saw this as an opportunity to really nail my pacing since it would be flat tarmac the whole way around. All I had to do was lock into the right pace and stick to it. I have tried resetting my watch to kilometres in order to get more frequent updates on my splits, but this time opted to stick to miles since that is how I usually have it. A quick check of a pace calculator revealed that to run a 26 minute 5k I would need to run 8:22 per mile and I’m pleased to report that I absolutely nailed it – 8:21, 8:20, 8:23 and the final bit at 8:24 for a finish time on my Garmin of 26:01 (I always run through the finish line before stopping my watch so there’s usually a second or two added to my actual time). I was so pleased to have got it right that I was actually a bit disappointed when my official time came in as 25:53. It’s not often a runner is disappointed by a time being too fast haha! Still, I know I got it right and the runners using me as a pace guide should theoretically have a good time against their names, so job done.

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Wearing my 2014 Paris marathon finishers’ top in the hopes it would be lucky!

IMG_1076Parkrun was followed by the last Hatha yoga class of the term and I really enjoyed relaxing into the class (and the holidays) and stretching out my body. I could feel all the stresses of the term melting away. However I was feeling a little “off” (and had been since the end of school on Friday) so decided on a fairly long nap on Saturday afternoon, after which I felt back to normal so I was clearly in need of some sleep!

Sunday was my last long run before heading to Paris and I had “just” 12 miles on the schedule. It was a beautiful morning so I was able to wear shorts and my souvenir Tshirt I got in Paris last year. I followed the same route as my previous 12 mile runs on this cycle and just ran to feel – no deliberate slowing, no aiming for marathon pace, just running comfortably and enjoying the day. In the end my average pace wasn’t too far outside goal marathon pace so I’m feeling optimistic that my endurance and speed work can come together next Sunday to propel me to a good time. My fingers are firmly crossed for a PB and my ultimate goal is sub-4 hours. I’ll definitely be giving it my best shot!

IMG_1078 IMG_1079 IMG_1080So that’s it. The hay is in the barn (so to speak) and my focus now is on making sure I’m well rested and well hydrated. I’ll use the week to keep some training ticking over, but have plans for an afternoon nap each day, a bit of blogging and turning my attention to organising my kit ready to pack for our flight on Friday. If you want to keep up with what I’m up to in Paris, remember you can follow me on Facebook and I’ll be writing all about it once I’m home.

Keep your fingers crossed!

If you have a goal race soon, how are you feeling about it?
How do you prepare in the days before a goal event?

Week in Review – The Big One!

I can’t believe this training cycle is nearly over! It began in the depths of winter and now the clocks have actually going forward for British “Summer” Time! I’m linking up as usual with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL as I review my peak training week.

There were one or two minor changes this week thanks to life getting in the way, but I still feel I had a solid week of training. This was the plan:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps short run
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – long run

I stayed a bit later at work on Monday which meant I got to the pool a bit later. It was busy as there was an aqua fitness class on in part of the pool and a couple of others using the swim lane. I was keen to get home so probably swam a bit quicker than usual. Unfortunately this resulted in a bit less finesse in my form due to my rushing so I wasn’t overly satisfied with that, but I still felt it was a good workout.

On Tuesday I was back at the gym for my bike reps. Having missed this session during my recovery period last week, I wasn’t sure how I would feel and asked Steve if I should repeat the previous number of reps or move on. In the end, we decided I should aim to move on, but if I got to the number of reps I had completed a couple of weeks before and felt I couldn’t manage another two, then I could stop. As it turned out, I was able to complete all the reps I should and felt strong in the workout. I then enjoyed the chance to relax in the hot tub and sauna before heading home.

Wednesday threw a bit of a spanner in the works. I was due to resume my hill reps, however my elderly cat (who has a health condition) had been unwell and when I got home I wasn’t happy with how she was doing and felt the need to seek advice from the vet. The upshot was a bonus trip to the surgery for me to collect some new medication, followed by a couple of other errands while I was out. By the time I had done all that and tended to the cat, I felt mentally drained. It was also around 7pm and I was hungry. Getting changed and heading out to complete a set of hill reps just didn’t appeal. I sent Steve a message and he suggested just going for a straightforward run to clear my head, then if I felt like doing the reps once I was out, to do them. I really wasn’t fancying the hill reps, but knew the run would make me feel better so stuck some kit on and got out the door. I ran a loop of a little under 3 miles, maintained a reasonably hard pace and zoned out with a podcast. By the time I returned I felt much better and the cat was doing much better too. Phew!

Things got back on track on Thursday with my PT session. I had slept a bit funny and tweaked my upper back/neck so we focused again on upper back and shoulder mobility, which helped a great deal. By the time I had completed my Ashtanga yoga class, it was feeling so much better and my head felt much clearer too.

My Friday rest day was incredibly welcome. This term has been really busy with coursework to mark and we’re just one week away from our spring break now. I was home reasonably sharp after a quick errand, wrote my Friday Finds post then decided I felt quite sleepy so thought I would have a quick nap before Steve got home. That nap ended up being around 45 minutes as he finished work a bit later than we had expected. I still felt a bit “spaced out” as we headed out to eat, but was soon revived by my now traditional curry and beer. Once home, we watched a little TV (I wanted to see the Love Actually sequel and Carpool Karaoke with Take That on the Comic Relief TV coverage) before heading to bed.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early. By which I mean it was a nice, bright day and the cat made sure I appreciated it good and early as she wanted fed! With her needs taken care of, I had a bit of time to myself before parkrun. It was another week on the alternate route as the weather hasn’t improved enough to firm up the grass section and I was feeling pretty good. My legs were fresh and wanted to run fast, but I was consciously reigning it in as I knew I had 20 miles on the schedule the following day! I still sneaked it in under 24 minutes with a 23:53 (and rather surprising second mile of 7:37!).

IMG_1009Sadly there was no Hatha yoga this week as my teacher had a wedding to attend, so instead I headed home to shower before meeting Steve for the weekly food shop. Since the weather was so nice I opted to walk into town and enjoy the sunshine. Errands done, I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon to ensure I was well rested ahead of my long run. This included some quality time with the cat (and yes, there was another pizza-related “incident”!).

IMG_1018Sunday also began with an early wake up call from the cat, but at least with the clocks going forward it could be considered to be at a more civilised hour! I had decided not to get worked up about the loss of an hour overnight and instead focus on getting enough sleep and just dealing with the fact that I would be about an hour behind schedule all day. Since it was a nice day it meant I was finally able to hit the country roads for my long run. I don’t like to use these routes through the winter as it can be pretty lonely and miserable, whereas on a sunny spring day I usually see lots of other runners and cyclists as well as all the newborn lambs in the fields!

IMG_1026I’ve been trying to overdress a bit on my Sunday runs in order to get some acclimatisation since the chances are it will be warm in Paris in a couple of weeks. If it turns out to be a cool day then that’s a bonus for this pale Scottish runner! This week was probably about as warm as I’m going to get before race day so I opted for similar kit to what I plan to wear in Paris, but with an extra lightweight top which I could remove if I felt the need.

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My route was much hillier than the marathon profile (and hillier than all my previous training routes!), so my overall pace was not quite as quick as I would like, however I know that I was hitting goal pace on the flatter sections, even towards the end of the run, whilst slowing right down on the hills in order to give me a better chance of recovering over the next few days. To be honest, simply getting this far in my training plan fills me with joy after the way things have gone over the last few years, and hitting that peak mileage gives me the confidence that I’m as ready as I will ever be for this race. Will I get my PB? That’s in the lap of the running gods, but I’m going to give it my best shot!

IMG_1034And now, the taper. I’m experimenting with a two week taper rather than the traditional three as I’ve found that leaves me feeling a bit sluggish and heavy-legged for race day. If a training schedule is tailored to an individual and a recovery plan is different for every runner, then surely the nature of the taper is too? I guess we’ll soon find out…!

What will be the peak mileage in your training plan?
Do you use a three week taper or have you tried something else?

Week in Review – It’s All About Recovery!

Phew! Not long to go now until marathon day! For now it’s time once again for my week in review. Linking up as usual with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

This week, my plan was completely different as I needed to make sure I recovered well from the Inverness Half Marathon. The last thing I wanted was to run a PB then pick up an injury that would put my marathon at risk! I’ve done the majority of the hard work now, so a recovery week could only be a positive. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – sports massage
Tuesday – 10 mins easy on bike then swim
Wednesday – recovery run
Thursday – PT session then Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun then Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

On Monday I was tired and my legs were pretty weary and tight – not a big surprise given I had run a hard parkrun and a half marathon PB on consecutive days! I kept moving thoughout the day then headed to my sports massage in the evening. It was good to have my muscles worked and reassuring to know there was nothing untoward going on, simply that my legs had been worked hard!

My calves were still tight on Tuesday, and I decided it would be good to move my legs a bit more but without any impact so Steve suggested an easy 10 minute cycle before heading for my swim. I definitely couldn’t have done a set of higher intensity reps, but 10 minutes of moving my legs was nice and I had a good swim afterwards. I even got some useful tips afterwards from a very proficient swimmer and I’ll be working on those next time.

By Wednesday my legs were feeling better, but not completely back to normal so a recovery run was definitely in order! I chose a route I like which is gradually downhill for the first mile then flat, finishing with a brief uphill to finish. I could feel the weariness in my legs and I felt tired, but I knew this run would help get things to get back to normal. It wasn’t my greatest run ever, but it served its purpose and I still spent a little time afterwards wearing my medal from the International Women’s Day virtual race the previous Wednesday which had arrived that day. I can confirm that it’s a pretty chunky bit of bling!

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IMG_0973I felt really exhausted on Wednesday evening so practically as soon as I finished my dinner I was scooping up the cat and heading to bed where I fell asleep almost immediately. Poor Steve thought he was going to have to sleep in the living room with the two of us taking up all the bed! I definitely felt so much better the next day though 🙂

From Thursday my training routine was a bit more as normal. First there was a PT session with Steve and we did a little more work on shoulder/upper back mobility (the tightness in my right shoulder had been noticed by my “swim coach” on Tuesday) using both the core momentum trainer and another highly technical piece of kit…a broom handle!

IMG_0975Then it was off to the yoga studio for my Ashtanga class. I feel like this made the biggest difference out of everything I did to recover from the half marathon as my legs felt great afterwards and when I awoke on Friday morning I finally felt like I had my own legs back!

Friday was my usual rest day and meal out. That pint of beer with my dinner always gives me something to look forward to and feels like a mini celebration of another week survived! On the way home I spotted this little guy, who narrowly avoided being stepped on!

IMG_0977Saturday was a bit cooler again, but still decent conditions for parkrun. We were on the alternate course again, but since I was taking my recovery seriously I didn’t want to run as hard as last week. I ran the first mile quite conservatively, but once I had completed the first lap of the Inch my legs seemed to remember what it was like to run faster and wanted to push on a bit. I ended up running each mile a bit quicker, but with an official finish time of 24:19, I stuck to my self-imposed limit of a 24:XX time.

IMG_7309 IMG_7314As usual, parkrun was followed by my Hatha yoga class which felt really good this week. Lots of lovely work on the floor which I did with my eyes closed to enjoy the time to myself and I felt really relaxed and well stretched out when we finished. As has become my habit, the rest of the day was spent relaxing and napping with my suPURRvisor. Perfect!
IMG_0979Sunday saw me with 16 miles on the plan and I decided to run near enough the same route as my previous 16 miler, but with one minor change which, although including an extra hill, would then mean a direct run home rather than a slightly circuitous route to make up the mileage. I also decided to keep the pace nice and easy. I allowed my legs to go a little faster on my 18 mile run a couple of weeks ago, but since I had stuck to lighter workouts during the week I didn’t want to push it too much – the long run is about distance rather than pace and the fact that I was able to run a half marathon PB last week following this method gives me confidence that it is working. But despite the easy pace I was surprised to discover afterwards that I was actually a bit faster than my previous 16 mile run, further proof that my fitness is improving. I also discovered that thanks to a predominantly purple kit selection, I pretty much looked like a berry!

IMG_0997All in all, I’m pleased with my week. My performance in my long run tells me that taking the time to recover properly was the right decision and has actually helped to improve my fitness. Now to hope it all comes together in Paris next month…

How do you recover from a hard workout/race?
Do you have a goal event coming up soon?

Week in Review – Time For A Tune Up

Things continue to be busy at work as the deadlines for coursework loom, but somehow I’m still managing to fit in my training around it all. Here’s my regular week in review, linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL.

Believe it or not, I actually managed to complete all my workouts on the planned days this week with no changes or omissions – I think that means a grand total of two “perfect” weeks since the start of January! I keep mentioning this as a reminder that sticking rigidly to a plan doesn’t always work, but I know I’ve made progress and am now stronger and fitter even with some shuffling around of workouts each week.

Here’s how this week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun plus Hatha yoga
Sunday – half marathon

Monday was the morning after the run before. I was tired (18 miles at the busiest point in the school term will do that to you!) but my legs felt ok. Weary, of course, but not really achy which was good. Still, it was nice to get in the water at the end of the day. I did find it a bit harder to get into a rhythm with my breathing though, probably because I had worked my body hard the day before, but felt much more refreshed for getting in the pool and having a swim anyway.

Tuesday is bike reps day. Nothing of note to report here, it was just two more reps onto the workout I did last week. It’s tough, but I’m tougher and I know I’m much stronger now because of working through these reps each week since late last year.

My Wednesday hill reps also formed my entry to a virtual race organised by Women’s Running magazine for International Women’s Day. There was something so inspiring about listening to my favourite podcast (The Tough Girl Podcast which had a special episode for IWD) and thinking about the #BeBoldForChange message for IWD that gave me that extra oomph for the one final rep that I’ve now added to this workout. Basically it’s the same workout as before (5-4-3-2 reps to a series of lampposts) but by adding one rep to the final lamppost I now run right up the hill. Even saving a little something for that last rep, I still managed to run some of the earlier ones a bit quicker again which is really pleasing.

IMG_0942On Thursday I asked Steve to take me through some exercises for my hips. I’ve had a sensation that there was an imbalance between them and wanted to make sure I addressed that given my history of problems with my left hip. The issue seems to be less that my left hip was weak, more that my right was taking over, so we worked through some movements to help even things up. After that I had a really good Ashtanga yoga class. There were just two of us again this week and I felt really strong and centred throughout my practice. Just what I needed!

Friday was my rest day. I always look forward to this as I’m so tired at the end of the work week, especially right now as so much coursework is due and we’re close to the end of a very long term. This week I had a few errands then, as usual, Steve and I headed out to eat. I DEFINITELY needed my beer this week! Usually I have a curry to eat with it, but this week there was a ribeye steak on the specials menu and I really fancied that instead. It was delicious!

IMG_0946Parkrun this week was a little different as the team had opted to switch to the alternate route since the grass section has been getting so boggy. The weather hasn’t really helped it to firm up, so giving it a rest for a couple of weeks should help a bit. The alternate route is two laps of the Inch which, as regular readers may remember, is a route that always makes a little piece of my soul die! On the plus side, it’s a flat and fast route and the conditions this week were grey but still, offering the opportunity to run well. Parkrun rules state that alternate courses should be a little longer than the regular route so that there are no PBs set that will be too difficult to beat on the regular route, but I was still presented with a bit of a dilemma: on the one hand, I knew I had a half marathon the following day so didn’t want to overdo it; on the other hand, I was really curious to know what sort of shape I was in over 5k as I knew the state of the grass had been slowing me down recently. In the end I decided to treat it as a tempo effort and run comfortably hard but with the knowledge that I could speed up at any point. I was therefore delighted to run each consecutive mile a little faster and to finish with my fastest parkrun time since August (23:39). A very encouraging sign for my fitness!

IMG_0947Next up was my Hatha yoga class which I always really enjoy as I find the stretching really helps to reset my body after my week’s training so I feel ready for my longer run on Sunday. I then continued the relaxing vibe with an afternoon on my recliner watching TV and taking a nap with the cat (she’s in charge of rest and naps, remember!).
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And then it was Sunday. This year we decided to enter the Inverness half marathon as a tune-up for Paris. Steve actually did this race last year, but I wasn’t at that point ready for the distance after my stress fracture so didn’t go up there. Like Saturday, I was unsure what to do. If I want a sub-4 hour marathon then my goal pace needs to average out faster than 9:09 per mile, so my target is 8:50-9:00 per mile. Since this was my tune-up, I wanted to make sure I could hold that pace, however I also knew that my half marathon PB of 1:56:35 averaged out at 8:58 per mile, so saw the opportunity to FINALLY run a new PB – it’s been my PB since 2012 after all! In the end, I decided to run to feel with the aim of running each mile at, or faster than, goal marathon pace. This would allow for slowing on hills but some faster sections downhill over the undulating course. I’ll be writing a separate race report, but spoiler alert, I got a new PB with my 1:53:03 finish! Delighted doesn’t even come close!

IMG_7263The race starts at lunchtime so despite a big breakfast and pre-race banana, we were both starving and made a bee-line for McDonald’s afterwards. Not exactly healthy, I know, but ok as a post-race treat for some fast energy until we got home. It was a long drive back so we finished the day tired but happy (Steve got a PB too).

IMG_0962So as weeks go, this has to be a good one. I recovered well from my 18 miler, ran a solid time at parkrun then followed it up the next day with a half marathon PB. Now to see if I can convert that into a marathon PB next month…

How has your training gone this week?
Any PBs to share?

Week in Review – Broken Sleep

What a week! It’s been a busy one for me (mostly with expected events) which inevitably had an impact on my training, but I’ve still plenty to share in my weekly roundup. Linking up again with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL for this post.

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This week I had to move a few things around and unfortunately had to miss out on a couple of things, but otherwise the structure of my week was as usual:

Monday – no workout due to seeing a show
Tuesday – bike intervals at the gym + swim
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – no workout due to parents’ evening
Friday – rest day
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – long run

The week began with a long day, but a fun one. I had tickets to see Brendan Cole, one of the pro dancers from Strictly Come Dancing (my favourite TV programme!) in his tour. Not only that, but my sister had booked us tickets right in the centre of the front row so we were practically IN the show! We were a group of four: my sister, two friends from work and me. The evening began with a nice pre-show dinner then a fantastic evening of sequins and sparkle. A bit of a late night for a Monday (and no chance of fitting in my usual swim) but it was a  great evening.

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Unfortunately I didn’t get the best night’s sleep on Monday night as my (very elderly) cat, no doubt put out by my absence for the evening, decided to wake me in the middle of the night to get some attention. Luckily my long weekend meant I was quite well rested so was able to continue without much problem. That evening I headed to the gym for my bike reps and this week it was time to try out a new workout. I took the resistance down a level and lengthened the timing of the work/rest intervals in order to progress my training. I think this was the right decision as I found that I was able to sustain the intensity for the required amount of time, but the last 15 seconds or so of each rep needed me to really dig in. After my session on the bike I headed down to the pool for the swim I had missed the day before. I was starting to feel tired but was a bit more revived after my 20 lengths.

The anti-social alarm call from the cat started a pattern that lasted for the first few nights of the week so once more my sleep was broken, but I still managed to see a further improvement in a number of my evening hill reps. It’s still a tough workout but even a second off a rep tells me that I’m getting stronger so I’m pleased with that. I know I will be adding another rep to the workout soon and that intimidates me, but I was also intimidated by the workout I’m doing now and I’m managing it, so I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

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Thursday was a pretty long day. Yet another early wake-up call from the cat (not only is she old, but she has a chronic health condition and is becoming more and more demanding as a result of both – basically she’s the boss!). Not only had my sleep been disturbed all week, but I had a tricky journey to work thanks to the heavy snow that came down in the hour or so before I left – thanks storm Doris! The weather actually made me a bit late which meant my day began in a bit of a whirlwind as there’s no time to catch up on yourself when you have classes to teach. On top of that, I was working late as it was my final parents’ evening of this school year. It was almost 9pm before I got in so I really only had time for a quick snack then it was straight to bed. I didn’t mind missing my usual PT session, but was disappointed not to be able to go to my Ashtanga yoga class as I really felt in need of the me-time!

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The Boss!

Another night of broken sleep (this time I felt a little unwell in the night, the cat was very well behaved and came to cuddle in beside me!) meant Friday was a bit of a battle. Several nights of less than ideal sleep, a long and tiring Thursday and pupils who were more than ready for their weekend = a rest day being a welcome relief! My day was cheered by the presence of some home made cake at lunchtime to celebrate a couple of birthdays in our department. Yum!

IMG_0825Finally, on Friday night I got a decent sleep. The cat waited until a little past her usual breakfast time to alert us to the need to fill her food bowl and it being the weekend meant I could sleep for a little longer before getting up and getting ready for parkrun. It was tough to decide what to wear as the temperature was reasonable, but it was raining and there was a high wind – not a day to expect a fast time! By the time we started running it was much drier but we were still treated to that particularly Scottish phenomenon – the headwind that you run into for the entirety of a out-and-back run. How is that even possible? I felt like I was working quite hard but not actually clocking up much speed and at first wondered if it was down to me being tired, but I soon realised that I was still running beside all the same people I am usually beside and, thanks to a slightly more conservative start than last week, was able to work much harder at the end. 25 minutes is not exactly blistering for a 5k, but with strong winds and a lot of mud to deal with on the grass section, I’m perfectly content with that. This isn’t really a time of year when we can expect fast parkrun times, but all that working hard through the mud will be making me stronger.

IMG_0828Sadly I missed my Hatha yoga class as well since I had another appointment, but I’m hoping to make up for that by squeezing in an extra class next week. Instead, much of the rest of Saturday was spent relaxing: I read, blogged, watched a little TV and took a nap with the cat. She was pretty content with that – if she had her way she’d spend her entire life napping on my lap! – and I felt much better for the rest (although there was almost an “incident” involving a tenacious cat and some cured meat as I chose to eat dinner on the sofa. Lesson learned!)
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Sunday was, of course, long run day. The cat most graciously allowed me a full night of unbroken rest and I awoke on Sunday feeling refreshed, but able to hear the wind once more whipping around the house. Since this was a cutback week I was dropping back down to 12 miles, so opted for the same route I tackled a few weeks ago. Despite the wind I felt comfortable throughout and was really pleased to finish my run over 3 minutes quicker than the last time, which I’m taking as an indication of the progress I’ve made in the last few weeks. Now I feel ready to head into March and tackle The Monster Month!
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Overall, not too bad a week. I did have to miss some sessions, but they were all for planned reasons rather than unexpected snags, so nothing to worry about. I also know that I worked hard in the sessions I did do and made the most of my training, even if my sleep patterns were a bit below par. Fingers crossed for a more restful week next week!

How has your training gone this week?
Does your cat/dog/goldfish wake you up at a less than ideal time?

Friday Finds – 10th February

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.

After a sleep special and a mindfulness special, this week it’s time for something much more firmly rooted in the act of running. As winter continues to hold us in its icy grip and all those goals set with such optimism just a few short weeks ago seem so far out of reach, I thought I would bring you some finds all about inspiring people who will hopefully lift your spirits and provide some motivation.

First up, the recent news that legendary runner Ron Hill finally ended his running streak…after over 50 years!! I know lots of people commit to running streaks for a variety of reasons, although I must confess it’s never seemed like something I wanted to do as I know that running too much, for me, tends to lead to injury. I’ve known people take on running streaks throughout December and by the end of the month they’re exhausted and looking forward to a day off, so it’s with real amazement that I consider Ron Hill’s achievement. It’s quite incredible to think that for over 50 years he was never once too ill or too injured to manage his run, and that’s a real testament to his commitment. That commitment only ended due to a health issue (and he still made sure to complete – and time! – his last run) so I wish him well in his recovery.

Another runner who has earned a day off is US Olympian Ryan Hall who recently completed the World Marathon Challenge of 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days. Yup, you did read that right! This endeavour was Hall’s farewell to running and, in a poignant symbol of closure, he left his marathon shoes on the finish line of his last race. I read several stories about this event over the week it was taking place, but what I really liked was seeing Hall’s Fitbit stats which he published at the end of the challenge and which show a grand total of over 308,000 steps. That definitely blows my 10,000 per day out of the water!

Closer to home, I was thrilled to hear that Scot Callum Hawkins set a new Scottish half marathon record in Japan last weekend. Having recently heard that the record time he thought he had run at the Great Scottish Run in the autumn would be discounted since the course was found to be short, setting a new record was the perfect response and continues to show the strength of elite Scottish athletes right now alongside fellow record-setter Laura Muir and speedster Andy Butchart. I can’t imagine I’ll be troubling their records anywhere other than in my dreams, but it’s inspiring to know that Scotland can produce world class athletes and that as a nation we have a bright running future.

But enough of all these men, now it’s time for some inspiring women. One of my first book reviews on the blog was of Alexandra Heminsley’s Running Like a Girl and I’m excited to read her second book which focuses on her journey as she learned to swim and took on a mammoth challenge. All this set against the backdrop of IVF treatment and heartbreak. In this edited extract, published in The Guardian, Heminsley demonstrates the resilient spirit and mental strength needed not only to face her swimming odyssey, but to take on everything life throws at her. It’s a longer read, but well worth it.

And finally, if body image is something that holds you back, then why not look to Kelly Roberts aka Run Selfie Repeat for the inspiration to embrace a strong body rather than a “perfect” body. Kelly’s blogs are always honest and are never hidden beneath a veneer of “perfection” for a social media world – if she’s having a tough time, if workouts are hard or a race doesn’t go as she would have liked, she shares it. That’s so refreshing and reminds us that (as I often tell my pupils) it’s ok to find things difficult; it’s not ok to not even give it a go. Earlier this week the Run Selfie Repeat Podcast was launched and I’ll be having a listen to get more of that trademark honesty and reality. In this article, she tells us more about the #sportsbrasquad which was such a big hit throughout last summer.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Rest and Recover

It’s a new week, a new month and time to move into the next stage of my marathon training. As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly roundup.

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This past week I made it a big focus to get more rest. I was really conscious that I hadn’t been getting enough sleep at night and no amount of lazy Saturday afternoons or weekend naps will ultimately make up for that. My aim, which I largely achieved, was to be in bed by 10pm, with no messing about with my phone to distract me from sleep. As a result, I have had more sleep and have felt a bit more refreshed at my morning alarm. I now need to make it a priority to continue with this and make sure I get enough rest.

When it came to training, the structure of my week remained the same (and I even got everything done as per schedule for the first time on this training cycle!):

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike intervals at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

My Monday swim seems to be falling into a bit of a pattern where I feel a bit “rusty” for the first few lengths then by the second half of my workout feel like I’m in a groove and could go on and on. I’m never really sure how to feel about my swimming. On the one hand, I still think of myself as a beginner, making loads of mistakes and suspect there are still some issues I could tweak. On the other hand, I’ve been feeling more and more that once warmed up it’s all clicking into place. It’s an odd position to be in, but I’ve no swimming-related goals right now and am simply using my weekly swim as active recovery and a bit of cross training to keep my fitness up without lots of high impact.

On Tuesday I was back at the gym for my interval session on the bike. I had a couple more reps to add on to the workout but right from the start I knew it was going to be a tough one. My quads felt weary and I found it harder to sustain each rep. I still got the workout done and am pretty sure the weariness is a leftover from the weeks before when I wasn’t well enough rested. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this over the next few weeks to make sure I’m not overdoing it.

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Wednesday means hill reps and this time the workout progressed from what I was doing in January. I’ve been running reps between lampposts on a nearby hill – 5 to one, 4 to the next and 3 to the next. This week saw the addition of 2 reps to the NEXT lamppost. This hill gets progressively  steeper as you go up and there are a few changes in the terrain below your feet as there are driveways and lanes to cross so it can be pretty tough going! I felt the earlier reps were a little slower than last week‘s triumph, but I’m not sure if that was down to me still feeling weary or if I was holding back a bit in anticipation of the additional reps at the end. Again, this is something to monitor over the next few weeks to see how things progress.

IMG_0572My session with Steve on Thursday once more focused on upper back mobility then we did three sets of a mini circuit using the core momentum trainer to work on knee drive and hip strength. None of the exercises were new to me, however this time Steve had me using the heavier trainer so I was working harder, plus he had me doing single leg squat thrusts, which I find really tiring! Still, I know that ultimately it’s things like this that can make a huge difference to my performance.

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After all that it felt so good to stretch my body out at Ashtanga yoga and it never fails to amaze me how much progress I’ve made since beginning the class last May. I also love how the relaxation at the end makes me feel. I think I sleep really well on Thursday nights because of it and even though I should feel at my most exhausted on a Friday morning, it’s usually the morning I awaken feeling the most refreshed.

But despite feeling great on Friday morning, by the afternoon I could feel my energy levels dropping so was really pleased it was my rest day. The energy problem wasn’t helped by staying late at work to finish off some marking, so when I left my eyes felt really heavy, I was teetering on the brink of a headache and I felt the beginnings of that gnawing, marathon training hunger that signals a time to start taking in more calories. Arriving home I took the time to hang out on the recliner with the cat until it was time to go and eat. It was a strange meal because I was really hungry but I was also really tired so it was quite an effort to keep eating. Several times I toyed with giving up on my (delicious) meal, but knew what I really needed was the energy from the food so ate every last mouthful. As soon as I was done, we headed home and almost immediately went to bed. In bed by 9:15pm on a Friday night? I know how to party! I was asleep by 9:30 and slept all the way through until the “cat alarm” went off at 6:30am (I really must check her weekend settings lol!). Luckily Steve decided to get up so he fed her and I dozed for a little longer and enjoyed the chance to relax in bed for a bit before getting up for parkrun.

Since it was the first Saturday of the month, it was pacer week at parkrun and this time I had been asked to run 26 minutes. I knew the time was well within me, and since I wouldn’t be running at my usual pace, it seemed as good a time as any to try out my new “parkrun shoes” which had arrived during the week.

IMG_0580I’ve heard good things about the Salomon Speedcross 4 and have noticed a number of runners wearing them to parkrun recently, so when I found them at a good price online, I took it as a sign that it was time to try them out for myself. Half a mile of our parkrun is over grass and right now it’s REALLY churned up and muddy. This makes for a very slippy few minutes of running and a lot of squelching about!

Today the mud made for some tricky pacing. The first mile was near enough right, but I should probably have gone a little faster to make up a bit of time before hitting the mud. One runner had said she was aiming to stick with me, but unfortunately she dropped behind over the mud and I knew I had lost some time there too. Coming off the muddy section I knew I would have to pick the pace up a bit, and glancing over my shoulder I caught sight of my companion and encouraged her to catch up with me. Through the last kilometre or so I was constantly giving her tips and encouraging her in a bid to get her to the finish as quickly as possible. My shouts of, “I’m right behind you! Don’t let me catch you! Go on! You’ve got this!” caused some amusement to those watching and other runners we were catching! Sadly she narrowly missed out on a PB, but in better conditions she will nail it. As for me, I was slightly slow with an official time of 26:11, but since it was only my second experience of pacing and the muddy stretch was hard going, I’m really pleased with that. I’m also really pleased with the shoes which made me feel really secure on the mud, and they definitely got put through their paces!

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Parkrun was followed with a really good stretch at Hatha yoga, then the remainder of the day was spent relaxing. I took a nap with my furry supervisor and did a little blogging under her watchful eye! Basically Steve’s in charge of the content of my workouts; the cat’s in charge of my rest 😀
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Saturday night saw me having another early night and I slept through until the cat alarm once more alerted us to the fact that it was time for breakfast! I had a 12 mile run on the schedule which I had mapped out the night before so I knew my route. Having checked my weather app I knew it was chilly, but the information that there was only a small chance of rain was definitely flawed as it poured for the first 4 miles. I then spent the next 8 miles with my wet and uncombed hair getting a “fresh air blow dry” and arrived home looking like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. No wonder people were looking at me a bit oddly as I passed through the town on the final stretch home!

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Weather aside, it was a good run and I felt my pacing was a bit better. I still found my legs wanting to speed up, but I know the slower pace now will ultimately help me to run better on race day so I’m trusting that I’m doing the right thing and taking it as a good thing that my legs have a bit more speed in them.

The weekend showed me the difference that being better rested makes to how I feel. Now I need to work on trying to bring that more effectively into the rest of the week. I’ll let you know next week how I get on…

What is your training focus right now?
Anyone else woken up by a hungry cat in the morning?

2016 Goals – The Final Verdict!

It hardly seems a minute since I first published my 2016 goals, yet here we are at the end of 2016, looking back over what has, in many ways, been a most strange year. I’ve checked in with my goals throughout the year (in March, June and September) so now it’s time to round things off with one final post to sum up my progress.

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  1. Overcome injury and return to running
    Overall, this went well. When I wrote my goals I was unable to run thanks to a stress fracture in my foot (I promise to stop going on about that now!) and was worried about being able to train for the Paris Marathon in the spring. But with a sensible return to running and some adjusted goals, I was still able to take part in the marathon and had a blast. I continued to run well through the summer and although I hit a little obstacle in the path in the autumn thanks to an irritation in my hip, backing off for a couple of weeks and taking my time over reintroducing running has meant that I could finish the year strongly. I even sneaked in a sub-24 parkrun a couple of weeks ago, which is always an indication of being in good form.
    Another reason for this goal was that I felt I missed out on a lot at the end of 2015, but have since laid those demons to rest with my participation in this year’s Santa Dash and continued presence at parkrun. Given how things were this time last year, I am thrilled with everything I have achieved. Result – goal achievedIMG_6510
  2. Work on learning the front crawl
    I’ve been a bit up and down on this one. The positive is that I have been to the pool almost every week and worked on my stroke. The negative is that the one time I had an opportunity to test out my progress, I panicked in the pool and had a terrible time. I did make a point of getting back in the water within a couple of days (otherwise I might never have returned!) and I do feel that the experience taught me a valuable lesson about keeping calm in the water, but I’m not convinced I’ve made as much progress as I would like. Realistically, swimming was not, in the end, as much of a priority as I first thought, and I know there is still some work to do here. In recent weeks I have felt a bit more comfortable in the water and have felt like I’m establishing more of a rhythm, so this goal will likely be continued into 2017. Result – working towards goalimage
  3. Get out on my bike more
    I’m not sure I ever really got to grips with this one. Yes, I did get out on my trusty steed Trixie a few times, but heading out on my bike just never became a habit this year as I always prioritised my running or other workouts that would benefit my running. It’s a shame as I actually do enjoy riding my bike, but I know I’m very much a fair weather cyclist and given the choice of going for a run or going for a cycle, I’ll always choose the run. Perhaps another goal to continue into 2017? Result – working towards goal
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  4. Be more organised
    This has been an interesting one. Moving house early in the year made me feel anything but organised as I regularly forgot where I had put things and had to establish new routines. By the summer, things were much improved and I was able to get a bit of a handle on life, but staying on top of things outside of work as the term goes on continues to be a problem, resulting in the first couple of days of any break from school being a flurry of sorting and organising. That said, I do think there have been many improvements such as planning our meals for the week (since we no longer live across the road from a supermarket!), planning not just my workouts but also how to achieve my step goal every day and finding some time to write one or two blog posts in advance. Since this is the kind of goal where improvement rather than perfection is the aim, then I’d say I was successful. Result – goal achieved
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  5. Read more books
    Of all my 2016 goals, this may be the one I feel the most proud of. This time last year I was conscious that while I read news articles, blog posts and pupil work every single day, my time spent actually sitting down with a book was getting more and more curtailed, to the point that I actually had no idea how many books I could read in a year. It was time to publicly declare a goal that would make me more accountable and, with improvements in my time management, find more time to work my way through the ever-increasing pile of books to be read. To help, I set up an account on Goodreads and joined their 2016 reading challenge with a target of 15 books (I based this on managing one per month plus some extras on holiday in July) and by the time I got back from my holiday, I had already achieved my target. So to keep me focused, I turned my attention to the sub-goal of a reading challenge I had saved at the beginning of the year, and in my last update I had embarked on the final book of the challenge – a book that intimidates you. For sheer intimidation in size, I opted for War and Peace and worried that I might not finish it on time, however with some post-Christmas free time I was able to spend a bit more time with this literary behemoth, finishing it with a few days to spare. I’m now reading something much lighter (both in physical weight and content!) and will likely have one more completed book to add to my tally before the year is over. Definitely a massive success! Result – goal achieved
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    And for anyone interested, the books I read for this this part of the challenge were:
    *A book published this year – Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
    *A book you can finish in a day – Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan
    *A book you’ve been meaning to read – Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
    *A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
    *A book you should have read in school – Lord of the Flies by William Golding
    *A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child or BFF – Start with Why by Simon Sinek
    *A book published before you were born – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
    *A book that was banned at some point – The Color Purple by Alice Walker
    *A book you previously abandoned – One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson
    *A book you own but have never read – Last Bus to Coffeeville by J. Paul Henderson
    *A book that intimidates you – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
    *A book you’ve already read at least once – Persuasion by Jane Austen

All in all, I’m pleased with the outcomes of my goals this year. Yes, there is room for improvement, but if they were all things I could easily achieve then there wouldn’t have been much point in setting them as goals. To me, a goal should be something that presents a degree of challenge and may take time to achieve. I have made clear progress in each goal I set and have definitely moved forwards in the past year. I wonder what 2017 will bring…?

How did you get on with your goals in 2016?
What has this year taught you?