Week In Review – Getting The Consistency Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7 Day Journaling Challenge – Day 2

I have decided to take part in a 7 day journaling challenge as a way of writing in a different format to normal. My aim is to write for about 10 minutes in response to the prompt, tidy up any typos then post my entry here. Feel free to join in…

Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. Yes, there are the big ticket items that make me happy – visiting my beloved Paris, going to Florida, spending time in Disney theme parks. But there are also plenty of everyday things which will bring joy into my day:

I love a nice lie-in, reading my book in bed with a cup of tea.

I love getting cuddles from my kittens, feeling their wee warm bodies cosying in beside me at night.

I love the sunshine, especially when it’s a warm summer day with that glorious, endless feeling about it.

I love to head to my yoga mat and stretch out my body.

I love to head out on the water on a standup paddleboard, to feel the water below me and the sun on my face.

I love a run. Oh boy, do I love a run. The kind where you get into your groove and feel like you could go on for ever and ever.

I love hot buttered toast made by somebody else.

I love a hot bath and a nice glass of red wine.

I love going back through old photos and reliving experiences that make me so happy I could actually cry.

These days, with so much negativity in the world, finding happiness in the day to day is so important. I do like to have something bigger planned to look forward to, such as a holiday or short trip somewhere, but the older I get, the more I come to recognise that I need to find happiness in every day. Something to make me smile. Even the smallest things can turn my day around, like a pupil telling me something funny or showing me the progress they have made. Like playing with my kittens (who are practically a year old and can’t really be called kittens for much longer) and observing the way they throw themselves into play. Right at this moment, I’m happy because the sun is out, I’ve just eaten a simple but delicious lunch of spaghetti and tomato sauce, I have a cup of tea by my side in my favourite mug and I have a yoga class to look forward to later. 

Sometimes, the simple things can bring the most happiness to our days.

What things make you happy?

You can read Day 1 here.

7 Day Journaling Challenge – Day 1

I have decided to take part in a 7 day journaling challenge as a way of writing in a different format to normal. My aim is to write for about 10 minutes in response to the prompt, tidy up any typos then post my entry here. Feel free to join in…

To be honest, that’s an interesting question for me and I’ve been thinking about how to answer it. At first glance, it seems reasonably straightforward: the fear of failure often holds us back so if there was no chance of failing, what new challenge would I take on? But the difficulty for me comes from how we interpret “failure” and how we deal with it. Surely for a challenge to really be a challenge, there has to be the risk that we might not succeed? Surely failing (or not succeeding) in something is what gives us the feedback to learn from and improve next time. Surely failure in some way, shape or form is necessary in life?

There have certainly been times in the past when I would shy away from things because I didn’t want to fail – failing wasn’t something that happened to me – or let people down. Perhaps it’s age, perhaps it’s experience, but these days that seems to bother me much less. If I say I’m going to do something and it doesn’t work out, nobody will think any less of me. If there’s a chance something might not work out the way I want it to, I don’t really use that as a reason not to try, it would simply be an interesting experience to have, a story to tell. Besides, I very much believe in the old adage “what’s for you won’t go by you”. In other words, the universe has its plan and is working for us not against us so everything happens for a reason.

Once upon a time I thought I couldn’t run further than 5k, that if I tried I would fail. Last year I ran my 11th marathon .

Once upon a time I thought the idea of taking on a cycling challenge was crazy because I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a kid. A few months later I completed the Etape Caledonia.

Once upon a time I thought I would be terrible at activities involving water, that I would fall in, hate it and make a fool of myself. Last year I tried SUP yoga and loved it.

My point is, that if the threat of failure wasn’t there, I probably wouldn’t have tried as many things as I have in recent years. I wanted challenge and found ways to challenge myself. If there was no threat of failure, these would simply be “things”, like eating breakfast or breathing. 

So what would I do if I knew I could not fail? I don’t think I could pin it down to one challenge or activity. If I choose not to try something, it’s usually something else like timing, money or logistics that stands in the way rather than my chances of success. But if you forced me into an answer, I’d have to say attempt a headstand on a stand up paddleboard. It just looks so cool!!

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
What are your thoughts on “failure”?

Friday Finds – 12th April

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 may not having been posting my usual updates recently, but I’ve still been saving up plenty of interesting things to share with you and now is as good a time as any to get back into my regular posting routine. And with spring marathon season really kicking off with Paris on Sunday, Boston on Monday and London coming up in a couple of weeks, this week’s finds are going to be loosely race-themed. Let’s get started…!

First up is everybody’s nightmare scenario: travelling to a race only to find that your luggage has gone missing (this is why I ALWAYS carry my race day kit in my hand luggage!). In many situations it can be reasonably easy to sort out some replacement kit, but not always, and that is exactly what happened to Peter Messervy-Gross who found himself at the start line of a 100 mile ultramarathon across a frozen Mongolian lake, without all the kit he had been carefully gathering in the months previously. But rather than miss out, Messervy-Gross took part in the race anyway…in his jeans and brogues! Now that’s tenacity!

Of interest here in the UK, the London marathon recently announced the steps they are to take to become more environmentally sustainable. Several new initiatives are to be trialled at this year’s event and I look forward to reading more about how successful these are. Anything that reduces the amount of waste – especially plastic bottles – is a fantastic step.

Meanwhile in the US, all eyes are on Monday’s Boston marathon where it looks like weather conditions may be quite tough again. This year the Grand Marshal for the event will be fan favourite Men Keflezighi. I’ve recently been reading his first book and am really beginning to see why everyone loves him so much. I’ll probably go on to read his new book at some point, so here’s an excerpt in which he reflects on his first experience of the the Boston marathon:

The other one to watch in Boston is, of course, 2018 winner (and another firm favourite!) Yuki Kawauchi who recently turned pro. He also recently raced a half marathon dressed as a ninja, proving once more why he is such an amazing character to follow. Yuki will be running again on Marathon Monday, but in what is very likely a marathon running first, the defending champion will also be running in the same race as his mother! I hope Mummy Kawauchi doesn’t keep her son waiting around too long at the finish!

And finally, we all know I enjoy stories which combine running with animals, so here’s the latest one: the dog that joined this year’s Marathon des Sables. How (p)awesome!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess 

An Update…

Have you missed me?

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I last posted on the blog and a few people have noticed that I’ve been quiet on social media, that I just kind of disappeared. Don’t worry, I’m absolutely fine but I was unwell for a couple of weeks so took a total step back in order to give myself a chance to recover and reset.

The last time I posted, I mentioned that my Sunday run had been a bit of a challenge, that I had been having a bit of an “off” day. As it turned out, that was the first sign that my body was fighting an infection and all its energy was going to that. As the day wore on, I felt worse and worse, leading me to take time off work ill and pay a visit to the doctor where I was given some antibiotics.

The infection was stubborn, putting up quite a fight against the antibiotics and it took some time before I began to feel any better. It was only when I did, that I began to realise how unwell I had been feeling. It was like a fog lifted from my brain and I began to have a bit more energy rather than sleeping for about 12 hours a day (pretty impressive for someone who wasn’t exactly moving far whilst awake – my transition to becoming a cat is coming along nicely haha!). Steve noticed that I was generally less sluggish and more focused – I had clearly been under the weather both physically and mentally and at last I was coming out the other side to feel more like my usual self.

My faithful companion was by my side the whole time!

While I was ill, I didn’t really have the desire or focus to do much beyond sleep, watch tv and catch up on some reading. I FINALLY watched Stranger Things then Steve and I got totally hooked on This Is Us. I began each day with a nice hot bath and read a bit of whatever book I had on the go at the time – I went through 2 or 3 fairly fast-paced thrillers which didn’t require me to think much. I got hopelessly lost down a YouTube rabbit hole of Disney Parks videos thanks to a link my sister sent me. And I napped like a champion!

On the flip side, I missed work, yoga classes, a trip to the theatre, a nail appointment and, of course, running while I was glued to my comfortable chair cosied in with a hot water bottle and feeling rotten. I didn’t post anything on social media, I didn’t summon the brain power for any blog posts, heck I only left the house to go to the doctor and to get some food shopping with Steve! I felt like the world was still turning but I had stepped off for a moment…and actually that was just what I needed.

Now, with the illness behind me, I feel so much better. It’s the school holidays but I’ve been in to tidy up my classroom, catch up on what my classes were doing in my absence (you can never be sure how much of the work you send in will be done when you’re not there!) and go through my emails. I’ve sorted out a few bits and pieces around the house, I’ve started some daily yoga at home and, more importantly, started to run again. I feel like myself again and have learned a valuable lesson about looking after myself more. It was a busy term and I know I prioritised my pupils’ needs over my own at some crucial points, leaving me run down and open to illness. Not a mistake I plan to repeat!

So hopefully normal service can resume, with my regular posts and regular training routine. More importantly, I can now enjoy my spring break, something I wasn’t so sure was going to happen not so long ago. I might even leave the house a bit more…!

Have you seen “Stranger Things” and/or “This Is Us”?
What TV show should I watch next?

Week In Review – Finding Some Form?

Hola! As I write this the wind is whipping up again outside for what will no doubt turn into another storm and thanks to the current political storms, the country looks like it may very well implode in the the coming days as everything unravels around us. So what else is there to do but keep on training and hope the endorphins keep me sufficiently balanced to deal with it all! Here’s how the past week looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – sports massage
Thursday – form drills + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun open sandwich
Sunday – 14 miles with every 3rd mile faster

For the first time in what feels like ages, I actually did everything as planned, without any tweaks or changes. Go me! I’ve been trying to fit a little more yoga into my week again with some home practice, but I got the week started with my Monday Hatha class (only one more to go this term 😔). Still the best thing in an otherwise long Monday – especially at this time of year!

Despite wanting to stay in my bed forever, I am still managing to get up for my early runs and definitely noticing more signs of daylight when I’m out. Soon I think I’ll be able to ditch my hi-viz and head out into a gloriously light morning, I think that will make all the difference as I already feel so good for finishing with a bit of light around. This was my standard 4 mile recovery run and although my legs were feeling a little heavy, I did feel better and better as the run went on, finishing with a glorious Royal Flush Negative Split (which of course had nothing to do with the fact that my route goes mostly uphill for the first half and then mostly downhill for the second half!).

I did some home yoga that evening and then squeezed in another yoga session on Wednesday after work before heading off to my sports massage. Thanks to a variety of unfortunate circumstances, this had been postponed a couple of times and I was really feeling like I needed my massage as it’s such a staple of my recovery routine. I was certain my legs would feel refreshed afterwards as they have been a little weary.

I got a chance to test this out on Thursday morning with my form drills. My legs were probably not as fresh feeling as I had hoped, but I did feel that the massage had made a difference and completed my set of form drills well – even if my warm up felt like hard work as the wind was being funnelled right down the road I was running up! Fortunately once I turned off that road I was a bit more sheltered and immediately felt better.

After missing my Ashtanga class last week I made a real point of getting away from work in good time so I could get to class this week. I find I really am relying on yoga to help balance both my body and my mind so missing out is not ideal. Probably as a result of recent circumstances and the way I have trained this year, I noticed that my arms did not feel as strong as I would like when in Wheel. Despite that, I still did one of the best headstands I’ve done in ages so it can’t be all bad. It was a good class and it did make me feel calmer and ready to head into the last working day of the week.

Because of my observations about the strength and toning in my arms, I requested an arm workout when I went to the studio for my PT session on Friday. Steve dutifully came up with a circuit that used weights, TRX and my own body weight to work my arms in various ways (and my core!) and this is probably something I need to prioritise a bit more moving forward. I suspect the fact that I have been doing a bit less yoga up until now has probably played a part in this as well so it gives me a target not specifically related to running, but which will be of benefit to my running, to work on through the coming weeks as summer approaches.

Steve had an early client again on Saturday morning so I sent him off with an extra top for me to put on after parkrun. His brother was away for the weekend so we had decided to return to the “parkrun cafe” after our run and although the weather was so much better than last weekend, I knew I would still want an extra top to put on. Sending my “luggage” with Steve meant I was free to run down without having to figure out a way to carry extra stuff with me. I quite enjoyed the run as the sun was out, it felt warmer than the forecast had suggested and I found myself speaking with someone else on their way to parkrun whilst I was waiting to get across a busy junction. It’s so nice that parkrun makes us feel like we can talk to random strangers on the street without coming across as weirdos!

Photo credit: Roy Mitchell

Parkrun itself was really good. After some positive performances recently on our winter route (and in tough conditions) I wanted to try and get a measure of where I am. We were back on the main route and I set off running quite hard. I did slow up a little on the middle mile as that was initially into a headwind then over the grass, which is still a little soft, but I maintained a consistent effort and was thrilled to finish with my first sub-24 in ages and fastest time of the year. My 23:49 is actually fairly comparable to where I was last year and was probably just the confidence boost I needed as I still have a niggling doubt about how much training I have done this year when it comes to distance and overall fitness. I really do need to put more faith in the process right now – after all, I’ve completed marathons on far less than I’ve done to date!

Photo credit: Roy Mitchell

This week we were in the cafe earlier and it was packed with parkrunners. It got me wondering what other people think when around 10am the place is suddenly filled with sweaty, smelly (and sometimes muddy) runners all looking for coffee and hot filled rolls. The staff don’t seem bothered at all and are probably pleased to have so much regular custom!

The rest of Saturday was fairly restful. I read my book, had a nap and made a real point of relaxing. I still have two weeks of this term to go and it’s feeling like a real effort right now so rest needs to be a priority.

After a good sleep with no alarm, I was up and ready to run my 14 miles – and this time I actually did the “every 3rd mile faster” part. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this run. Physically, it went well and I’m happy with my splits; mentally I just wasn’t in it this time. It was one of those runs that I just didn’t feel like I wanted to do and didn’t enjoy it as much. There was no good reason for it, I just seem to have had a bit of an “off” week. Maybe because I’m finally moving the miles on; maybe because I’m worried about getting enough Big Runs in before race day; or maybe just because I’m feeling a bit done right now and in need of my holiday. Whatever it was, I still completed the miles so can use this one as mental training to draw on in the inevitable tough times on race day – especially since the last 4 miles were straight into a headwind so fierce I actually managed to kick myself TWICE as the wind blew me sideways mid-stride! It’s been a long time since I was so pleased to finish my long run – I even reached the distance before reaching my front door and stopped my watch there and then to walk the last couple of hundred yards home. I guess every training cycle has its ups and downs and this hasn’t been my best all things considered. All I can say is onwards and upwards!

What are your strategies to keep going during tough runs?
What is your next event?

Friday Finds – 22nd March

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

It’s Fabulous Friday! I hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to the weekend ahead. I’m just stopping by to share some inspiring stories from the week gone by…

I want to begin this week with an update on a story I shared last month about a visually impaired runner aiming to be the first to run the New York half marathon with a team of guide dogs rather than a guide runner. Happily, he achieved just that, making Thomas Panek (and his dogs Westley, Waffle and Gus!) history makers. Here’s some more information courtesy of Runner’s World:

It was quite the weekend for inspiring performances, as here in the UK it was the ever-popular Bath half marathon. The biggest story to come out of this event is that of Harmonie-Rose Allen. The five year old lost all her limbs to meningitis as a baby, and was being wheeled around the course by a team of family and teachers, however the little trooper wanted to walk the final few metres to cross the finish line herself. I imagine it would have been a very emotional scene to witness and such an amazing achievement for those involved.

Speaking of half marathons, did you see Will Smith’s latest challenge? I hadn’t previously come across his Facebook Watch show Will Smith’s Bucket List (presumably because I’m old and don’t know about such things!) but the idea is fascinating – travelling the globe and ticking off personal challenges. But for his latest challenge, he had to get half marathon ready in just 3 weeks! It’s one thing taking on a last-minute half when you’re seasoned runner with plenty of miles in the bank, but quite another when you are not in your best shape and have never run the distance before. An impressive undertaking and perhaps worth a watch.

Someone else who’s no stranger to a challenge is Anna McNuff. The adventurer behind the awesome books The Pants of Perspective and Fifty Shades of the USA has just announced her next challenge…and it’s a great one. Starting in June, McNuff will run 100 marathons (yes, 100!) through Britain. Oh, and she’s going to run them all barefoot! Check out the link below to see how you can follow along/join in/help out:

And finally, if you missed last year’s collaboration between Saucony and Dunkin’ Donuts, then good news! They have worked together again to produce another pair of donut (doughnut?) themed running shoes. I still find the idea rather appealing, but I know not everyone would go for it. Would you wear them? What food would you like to see on a pair of running shoes?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess