Week In Review – A Monster Calls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yup. It rained AGAIN!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday Finds – 22nd September

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.

In a bid to make my preparations for marathon weekend a bit easier, I’ve written the bulk of this in advance so let’s hope there’s not some huge story that breaks when it’s too late to add it in! Theoretically, as you read this I’m getting myself organised for the trip to Inverness and/or making sure I relax ahead of the race, but there’s no way I wanted to miss sharing some finds with you.

Last week I included the bizarre story of all the runners accused of cheating at the Mexico City marathon. This week, even more has come to light around this with several sources carrying the story. I originally picked it up from Marathon Investigation, where analyst Derek Murphy now believes that the cheating was motivated by a desire for the medal rather than a BQ. Now I’ve coveted some bling in my time, but I’m not sure I could live with myself knowing I hadn’t earned it legitimately.

And the story prompted SBNation to remind us of some other tales of cheating from throughout running history:

Another race hit the headlines this past week, but for very different reasons. Perhaps you saw footage from the Copenhagen half marathon at the weekend, but if not you need to take a look at this. The race began in beautiful weather, but soon changed as storms swept in. Amid lightning and torrential rain, the race had to be stopped to help ensure safety (there were reports of people being struck by lightning) and even the timing mats were floating away. Yet some dogged souls still continued their race. What would you do?

And speaking of dogged determination, that’s definitely one way to describe marathoner Devon Bieling. After falling to the ground exhausted just metres from the finish line, she tried to crawl to the finish but was hampered by the sharp gravel…so she rolled over the line instead. Not only that, but she still managed to finish within the cut off for her BQ. Now that’s one incredible finish (but I really hope I don’t have to resort to that on Sunday!).

I couldn’t let this week go by without mentioning cyclist Mark Beaumont. Not only has he just set an incredible new world record with his around the world cycle, but he’s from my part of the world. What an adventure!

And finally, we all know running can do funny things to your insides and have probably all had to take an unintended pit stop during a run or cut a run short to answer the call of nature, but in Colorado Springs a most bizarre situation is unfolding as a runner nicknamed “The Mad Pooper” appears to be targeting some residences to leave her mark. How very odd!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

You Know You’re Tapering When…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – A Confidence Boost!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All finished off with a post-run yoga sequence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3807I had mine later with some peanut butter. Yum!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Finds – 15th September

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.

For the first time this year, I just didn’t manage to pull my Friday Finds post together while it was still actually Friday! I tried, but was just too tired after a busy couple of days to finalise my article choices and finish it off. So this week, let’s call it Saturday Stories – sorry!

As marathon day edges ever closer (one more week – eek!) my thoughts inevitably turn to the big day. The result? Some reading material with a marathon slant this week…

First, something rather disappointing. While I understand the strong desire to set a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time and secure a coveted place in the Boston marathon, I find it appalling the lengths some people will go to in order to claim that place, often depriving more genuine applicants of their chance. This week it came to light that thousands of runners have been accused of cheating at the Mexico City marathon, many of whom were recorded as having BQ times. I find it incredible that something like this could happen on a large scale, but am pleased that the vigilant Derek Murphy at Marathon Investigation is always looking out for such things. Here is his analysis of the results from that race:

Speaking of Boston, race director Dave McGillivray finally managed to stage an event that first entered his mind decades ago and which he has been planning for years – a marathon entirely inside a Major League Baseball stadium. Just 50 runners were accepted into the 100+ lap (!!!) USATF certified event at Fenway Park which took place as I was pulling this post together. The winner? The one and only Mike Wardian, of course!

This next article had me intrigued. It’s a report on a study of language learning and whether or not exercise could help. Findings suggest that working out can improve our ability to memorise, retain and understand new vocabulary, giving further weight to the theory that exercise boosts brain power as well as physical fitness. Perhaps I should switch to language-learning podcasts on my training runs. I could be much more adept with foreign languages after a cycle of marathon training!

For me, one of my favourite things about marathon training is the eating I can do. I LOVE my food so being able to put away huge meals without any difficulty is a real joy (I just have to remember to stop once the race is over and I’m not training so hard anymore!). Funnily enough, it’s not just me and I enjoyed this short piece from Women’s Running which beautifully sums up my feelings up with regard to food:

And finally, not a new video by any means, but I recently came across this again and with a marathon on the horizon, found it rather entertaining.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – The Curse Of The Taper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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She doesn’t really like having her photo taken.

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

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

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

Tough Girl 100 – Challenge Completed!

Exactly 100 days ago, on the 3rd of June, I published a post about the 100 day challenge I was taking on. If you missed it, you can read that post here.

To support my inspiring friend and host of the Tough Girl Podcast, Sarah Williams, as she thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 100 days, I decided to take part in the challenge she set for her Tribe – to undertake a personal challenge that would help create a habit and add value to our lives over the 100 days. For me, this was the perfect opportunity to address one of my 7 goals for this year which had not yet had much attention: to commit to more yoga outside of my classes. The chance to work on creating a regular home practice was being handed to me, so my challenge was obvious – at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every day.

I had planned to write about the challenge at various points throughout the 100 days, but that just didn’t happen. But today, on day 100, I want to reflect on my experience and consider what it means for me going forward.

As the challenge began, I was in the final weeks of a testing school year. My life felt chaotic and I knew I needed to be on holiday. Finding even 10 minutes to do some yoga seemed a step too far, especially since I wasn’t entirely sure what I should do, but my commitment to the challenge helped me to overcome this.

To begin with, I relied heavily on the sources I was already familiar with. I used some of the videos from Jasyoga, then gradually began to explore other avenues, starting with Adriene Mishler’s youtube channel Yoga with Adriene. I found that I really enjoyed the relaxing bedtime sequences that helped me to unwind before bed, as well as some of the post-run sequences to stretch out my body. Of course I was also going to 2 yoga classes (1 Ashtanga and 1 Hatha) per week, and some days I was more focused on mobility work, especially around my upper back and hips. I wanted to explore more, but knew this would have to wait until the school holidays.

Once in Florida, things were a little different. I had time. I tried some new YWA videos (I really liked the Travel Yoga energising flow when I was feeling a bit jet lagged and the Yoga for Digestion sequence after that amazing afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian) and often rolled out my mat by the pool to do some sun salutations or part of the Ashtanga sequence. When my right shoulder became problematic (probably from lying face down on a sun lounger and trying to read – there’s no comfortable way to do this!) I switched my focus to mobility work to improve this and Jasyoga videos to reset my shoulders.

UntitledAnd of course I did take advantage of the opportunity to inject some magic and fairy dust into my yoga!

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IMG_3019When I returned, I had the perfect opportunity to take things even further before the new term started. I began to try morning yoga sequences (these were lovely on days when I was in no rush to do anything else) and went to a midweek Hatha class which, on one memorable occasion, took place on a golf course in the evening sun!

IMG_3524For the final month I was back at school and bedtime yoga tended to feel right for me again for the most part. My favourite is a 7 minute sequence on YWA, but I did try one or two others and found a couple of channels I’d like to look at a bit more.

So what can I take away from all this?
Firstly, that finding a little time to incorporate some yoga into my day isn’t all that hard. During term time a morning sequence doesn’t really suit me, but I love to unwind with some yoga before bed as it helps tell my body that it’s time to sleep. It makes a difference for me both physically and mentally.

Secondly, I’m now finding that when something is “off”, yoga is where I turn. Just like when I had bother with my shoulder when I was in Florida, if any part of my body felt tight or in need of some love, I could easily find a yoga sequence to help. And just last week when I picked up a cold, I searched for some videos to do which would help me to feel better and focused on yoga to help boost my immune system, fight the bugs and help me to combat my symptoms. This is something I can definitely see myself continuing.

Thirdly, that I still want to do more. I constrained myself a little bit by saying I would do a minimum of 10 minutes each day, as some sequences are a bit shorter, but moving forward that constraint is gone. If I want to do yoga for 5 minutes, I can. If I want to investigate how I can build a bit more yoga into my work day, I can. If I want to work on just one pose, I can. One thing that did happen as a result of this challenge is that I finally managed to do wheel in my Ashtanga class rather than yoga bridge. I have a limitation in the movement of my left arm thanks to breaking it when I was younger, and this affects poses such as wheel. I couldn’t really do it at all before, but now can hold it for about 3 long breaths and I’d love to keep improving this. There are some other postures I’d like to work on too.

Will I carry on?
Yes. Absolutely yes. It may not be every day and it may not be 10 minutes, but thanks to this challenge yoga has become a big part of my life. Steve is even talking about creating more space in the smallest bedroom (he was using it as an office, but has now moved the desk to his studio) for me to roll out my mat and do some yoga there rather than in the middle of the living room. He has seen this habit develop and is keen to support me.

IMG_1328I would really encourage you to try something like this. It doesn’t have to be yoga, heck it doesn’t even have to be something physical, but 100 days is a great challenge and by the end you will have developed a habit that adds value to your life every single day. Maybe you could read a set amount of a book every day; maybe you could watch a TED talk every day; maybe you could try a new podcast every day (check out my favourites here and here). The possibilities are endless,  and if you start now, you will reach day 100 around the 19th of December. A perfect way to round off the year and totally worth it.

 

Did you take part in #toughgirl100 ?
What challenge will you take on for the next 100 days?

Friday Finds – 8th September

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.

Happy Friday! Hope you’re looking forward to an awesome weekend. Let’s get things sorted with a few bits and pieces to read…

First, something from a source I never expected to be including in a running blog… the Times Educational Supplement (TES), yet the core of the article sums up beautifully what my life is like. I often think there are many parallels between teaching and being a runner, but that’s usually the sort of talk that has my colleagues rolling their eyes at me and thinking, “there she goes again, banging on about running!” Yes, the article is ostensibly tips for navigating the school year, but the comparison of teaching to an ultra marathon is perfect. Check it out to see what I mean…

Fancy being part of a world record attempt? All it takes is a Strava account and a bit of time on Sunday as Strava partners with the Great North Run to attempt the world record for the most half marathons run in a day. Personally I have a little further to run that morning, but I’ll be adding my run to the attempt and keeping my fingers crossed that I become a world record holder!

At the other end of the distance spectrum we have London’s newest running track. What’s so special about a track, you ask? Well this 150m track is on the roof of an office block, 16 floors up. Sounds great in theory, but with 10 laps to complete to reach a mile and a whopping 281 to complete marathon distance, I think the novelty would soon wear off!

A novelty that NEVER wears off is cake, the weakness of many a runner. Nothing quite like a long run then a slice of cake to “refuel”. Aware of this habit, Runner’s World has selflessly put lots of different cakes to the test to see which ones might actually provide the tiniest of benefits to runners. What’s your favourite?

And finally, you know that episode of Friends where Joey wears all Chandler’s clothes? Well think of that, but a bit more sporty and you’re part way to getting this next video. Basically this guy in Canada decided to take on a decathlon whilst wearing 100 T-shirts (yes, you did read that right). It has to be seen to be believed!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Podcast Picks Part Two

Last summer I wrote a post highlighting some of my favourite podcasts. Since then, my love for podcasts has continued to grow and I probably listen to at least one a day now, often more. I listen to podcasts when I’m running, completing my bike workout at the gym, when I’m walking, on my drive home (I still like the radio in the morning) and when I’m doing bits and pieces around the house if I’m by myself. All that means I go through podcasts quite quickly, and while I still listen to (and love) all the ones I highlighted before, I’ve now added a few more to my regular rotation, so thought it was high time I wrote a follow-up post:

Running For Real
In my previous post I mentioned that I had begun listening to the Runners Connect Run to the Top podcast, hosted by elite GB athlete Tina Muir. I ended up listening to all of Tina’s back catalogue and found myself following her blog closely as I found her so relatable and “real”. So when Tina announced earlier this year that she was leaving Runners Connect to start her own business, which would include a podcast, I knew I would be a  listener. The new podcast follows a similar format of having a guest interview, with some comment either side from Tina, but the focus is very much on the realities of running and wellness, the ups and downs we all encounter and how we can overcome them to become stronger. Tina is always very honest so listening to the podcast feels reassuring, like a chat with a friend, and I look forward to downloading a new episode every week.

You can find out more about Tina and Running for Real on her website

Marathon Training Academy
This is one that I often saw referenced in other blog posts about podcasts to listen to, and I was aware that husband and wife hosts Trevor and Angie had a big following so decided to give it a go. Then, in a strange coincidence, they did a crossover episode with Martin and Tom from Marathon Talk (my favourite long-run podcast) and I became a regular listener from that point. Angie is a registered nurse and running coach, while Trevor is a much newer runner so it is an effective pairing. They produce three podcasts per month and their format includes some recent running news, updates from listeners, a feature interview or race report segment and some training tips. Great for learning new things or highlighting an interesting guest to look into further and I love their tag line, “you’ve got what it takes to run a marathon and change your life.”

You can learn more on the MTA website

Sparta Chicks
On the surface, it may seem a little strange that I find myself listening to a podcast hosted by an Australian coach/PT, but I was led to this one through my interest in Tough Girl Challenges. Host Jen Brown was an interviewee on TGC and she mentioned that she would soon be starting her own podcast. I enjoyed the interview so took a look at her website and signed up to her email list so I would know when the podcast launched. I love it because like TGC, the focus is on sharing inspiring stories from women (and the occasional man) who have chased their dreams. A regular discussion topic is how we can overcome fear and self-doubt, in particular the imposter complex that makes us feel like we’re not good enough, when we most certainly are. If you’re a fan of Tough Girl Challenges and looking for something else in the same vein, then this may be one for you.

Visit the Sparta Chicks website for more information

Dirt In Your Skirt
I think this is another one I discovered through Tough Girl Challenges as host Margaret Schlachter was an interviewee. Margaret is an OCR runner and while many of her guests come from the obstacle racing field, it’s certainly not all of them and OCR is not always the focus of the discussion. Interviewees are always female and the tag line of the show is to “explore new topics, conquer old fears and inspire those around us”. I’ve not yet managed to listen to all of the episodes, but am really enjoying the different topics discussed as I catch up. I’ve learned all sorts of things I was unaware of about tiny houses, bee keeping and coffee! And of course I’ve heard from inspiring women who have taken on male-dominated fields and been successful.

The Dirt in Your Skirt website can be found here.

Run Selfie Repeat
You may already be familiar with this blog from New York-based runner Kelly Roberts, however earlier this year she started a podcast to accompany it. Kelly is very honest and often uses her own experiences of grief, shame and self-doubt to help encourage others to overcome these barriers and move forward positively. If you read her blog then you will notice some overlap, however she also invites guests on to give advice on mental strategies, training plans and other running-related matters. Kelly is a strong voice in the running community, having started the #sportsbrasquad in the summer of 2016 and her own #bqorbust campaign to try and qualify for the Boston marathon. Being a strong character means that she can ruffle some feathers and it seems people either love her or hate her, but she is doing a lot of good and is a really positive role model for women.

You can read Kelly’s blog and find out more here

Run Eat Repeat
Another blog I’ve read for a while is this one from California-based Monica Olivas. The blog does exactly what it says in the title, discussing running and eating (both VERY important to me!) and I love Monica’s conversational style. The podcast is a new departure for her as she looks ahead to how she can continue to add value to her blog and share her ideas within the running community. There are usually a couple of episodes a week featuring chat from Monica, some guests, training tips and encouragement. They’re a good length for a commute ( the Fast Friday episodes are usually around 10 minutes long) and while the podcast is in its early days, is developing steadily.

Check out Monica’s website for more information

So there you have it. Six more podcasts I’ve added to my weekly rotation and listen to regularly in addition to the ones I highlighted last time. I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts to try, so if you have any suggestions for me, why not add them in the comments below…

Are you a podcast fan?
When do you like to listen?

NB Nobody has offered me any incentive to write this. It’s simply an honest post highlighting more of the podcasts I enjoy.

Week In Review – Training Peak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On foot to make sure I hit my step goal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can you spot me?

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

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

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

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Tired but happy post-run

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

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

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