Friday Finds – 2nd June

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

I’m coming over all scientific this week with some rather interesting studies that I’ve come across in my reading.

But first, you might remember that last week I included a piece about ultra runner Kilian Jornet and his speed record for summiting Everest without oxygen or fixed ropes. Incredibly, he summited the peak again just a few days later! The second time may not set a record, but the feat itself demonstrates just how far we can push our limits.

And now to some science. Personally, I’m a big fan of compression tights/socks after a long run as I believe they help with my recovery, however the science on this has always been bit sketchy. According to this CNN report, there is no scientific backup at all for compression tights making us run faster. Interestingly, it is still noted that the belief that they help is just as important. And when it comes to the psychology of sport, surely that’s all that matters?

When it comes to running performance, it’s a fact that women tend to be a bit slower than men. I’ve always known it was basically to do with hormones and biomechanics, but was a little unclear on the finer points of what that actually meant. This article from Live Science helps to explain a bit more. It’s funny how subjects like maths and science, which are far from my strengths, are much more accessible when presented through the medium of running!

Speaking of differences between men and women, it turns out that women’s feet really are always colder than men’s due to differences in body temperatures in different conditions. One company used this to help engineer their socks and base layers to meet those different needs. Intrigued? Here are the details:

And finally, what if all these studies (and all the various, sometimes contradictory, studies about running and health that are published all the time) have you feeling confused about what to believe. This article from The Verge give some advice to help work it out.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Finds – 26th May

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week in Review – An Easy Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Report – Loch Leven Half Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Gordon Donnachie

[Source]

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

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

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

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Overall this was a great race. Well organised by Kinross Road Runners and with a lovely route (thankfully we were spared the midge cloud which had been in the news!), gender-specific tech T-shirt and nice medal. Definitely worth entering if you ever get the chance.
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Friday Finds – 19th May

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

It’s been a funny old week in the world of running and fitness. The biggest spring marathons are naught but a distant memory, the Breaking2 experiment is still generating some comment (more on that in the promised separate post soon!) and with the (mostly) better weather people are getting their summer training schedules kickstarted. For that reason it really is a bit of a mishmash of finds this week.

I’ll start with a story from the world of triathlon. You might remember Jonny Brownlee’s dramatic finish to the World Series finale in Mexico last September when his brother Alistair carried him over the finish line. Back in action for the first time since then, he once more demonstrated his grit and determination when a crash in the bike leg rendered his bike useless. Rather than give up, Jonny picked up the bike and ran barefoot to the transition a mile away so he could still head out on the run. Despite being almost 7 minutes behind the winner, he still finished the race, saying, “I had not come all the way…not to finish.” What would you have done?

While Jonny Brownlee may not have had quite the comeback he was looking for, what about the rest of us? Taking time out of training for any reason inevitably means a lot of hard work to regain previous form, something I’ve noticed even from taking a little time off after a marathon. With that in mind, I found it really interesting to read this piece from Outside in which a number of high-profile athletes discuss their approach to a comeback and what they learned from it. Some even went on to perform better than before!

At the other end of the scale, what happens if we run too much (yes, it is possible). This is a topic I’ve come across a few times recently, both in print and on podcasts, and I think it worth highlighting. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only running because it makes us feel good, but it’s important to find a bit more balance in our workouts in order to be create the strength we need to support our running and to be a bit more resilient. Getting the balance wrong is a fast track to injury, as I’ve learned to my cost, and if I could give myself as a beginner one piece of advice then this would probably be it. In this post the writer discusses how easily our running can become an obsession, and what we should do about it if that happens.

Possibly the coolest thing I’ve come across this week comes from Nike. The sportswear giant, fresh from their Breaking2 endeavour, has created a running track shaped like a running shoe. What’s so cool about that? Let me tell you. The track is also lit by LED lights and is integrated with a sensor worn on your shoe (a bit like a timing chip) which then allows you to race against your own virtual avatar. If you’re anything like me then as soon as you’ve watched the video you’ll want to give it a go. Shame it’s so far away!

And finally, here’s one for the ladies. Posts on social media lamenting the struggles of putting on (and taking off!) a sports bra are a regular occurrence (and a struggle our male counterparts will never know). For those in the know, this tongue-in-cheek set of instructions for putting on a sports bra is sure to raise a smile:

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week in Review – A Cheeky Half!

Another week, another week in review! As ever, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to bring you my weekly roundup.

From the title of this post you might have worked out that there was a half marathon in there, but here’s how the rest of my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Loch Leven half marathon
Sunday – rest

At this point I’m in a bit of an odd place training-wise. The furthest I’ve run since Paris is 8 miles, but still have decent fitness from my marathon training cycle. I’m looking forward to capitalising on this over the summer, but right now am amused by having sufficient fitness to complete a half marathon without any specific training. Just another reason to be grateful for marathon training!

I began my week, as ever, in the pool. I’m really enjoying my Monday swims lately as I’m beginning to feel a bit more confidence in the water and can find a rhythm more quickly. What I need to work on is having more continuous swimming i.e. not stopping between lengths. It will come!

On Tuesday I was a bit pushed for time but still managed to squeeze in a set of intervals on the bike at the gym. No time for any mobility work or anything this week though as I had plans with my sister. We were seeing the second instalment of the trilogy of First World War plays which began last year with The 306: Dawn. This year was The 306: Day and where last year the focus was on the stories of some of the 306 men who were executed for cowardice, deception and mutiny, this year the focus was on the women at home. Three of the women were connected to characters from the first instalment and some of the same music was woven through to give greater impact, so while you could have watched it in isolation without having seen last year’s production, it was definitely more powerful if you had. Dawn had me in tears, but Day had me torn between tears and anger as I felt driven to start a revolution 100 years too late as I watched the way women were treated for standing up for themselves and the men in their lives. Shocking that this was seen as acceptable and I’m so glad there has been progress since then.

I was a little distracted during the performance as I recognised the male actor who appeared but couldn’t quite figure it out. Checking the programme he had a Casualty credit (but then most UK actors do!) and I thought he might have been a regular. It was only afterwards that I was able to look him up and remembered exactly who he was!

fullsizeoutput_1e00Wednesday was a repeat of the same hill reps from last week. It felt tougher this week and I’m still not sure if I was a bit sluggish or if it was because every time I turned to run up the hill I found myself running straight into a headwind. Tough, but I know it will make me stronger and hill training is definitely going to be key in preparing for the Loch Ness marathon which is an “undulating” course with a hill at 18 miles, exactly when you don’t want it!

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IMG_1845On Thursday I enjoyed a fantastic Ashtanga yoga class. It’s been about a year now since I began my yoga journey and every week I love it more. This week was special because a lovely lady who used to be a regular at the class returned as an observer as she is just finishing her yoga teacher training course. Having an extra instructor meant more opportunity to be adjusted, not because of issues in how I approached a posture, but to help me move more deeply into it. It was so nice to see her and at the end of the class she commented on how much progress she could see in my practice, which is really good to hear.

Then it was Friday, perhaps the most exciting day of the week. Not because it was scheduled as a rest day, but because the reason for that rest was a trip to Glasgow to see TAKE THAT live in concert! I’ve been looking forward to this for ages and as usual they didn’t disappoint. The band is renowned for the theatricality of their live shows and this one fetaured a cast of dancers and acrobats performing in the round with a set that changed levels and with props that flew around the stage and awesome lighting effects. I was on my feet throughout belting out every song and loving every moment.

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The thing about a concert, though, is that it’s inevitably a late night and heading through after work meant we only had time for food at the venue (pizza with a base apparently made of cardboard!). None of this is particularly ideal preparation for a half marathon, but that was the prep I had so on Saturday morning, after less than 7 hours sleep, I was off to Kinross for my race. Anticipating that I wouldn’t be at my finest, I had decided in advance to simply treat this as a training run with a medal and just take it easy rather than racing. This turned out to be a good strategy and I was pleased to find that even when at less than my best I was able to finish in just a little beyond 2 hours and feeling comfortable. I’ll write more about my experience of this race in a separate post, but I enjoyed it.

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Post-race we grabbed some food then had a relaxing afternoon of napping and reading before treating ourselves to a takeaway since we knew Sunday would be a rest day to allow our bodies to recover from a late night and a race. I even pushed the barrel out and had a Saturday night bath with Epsom salts, bubbles, a running magazine and a glass of wine. Lovely!

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It was nice going to bed on Saturday night and not setting an alarm (little chance of sleeping in anyway when you have a cat!) and waking when her majesty demanded food. It was then an easy day of coffee, food shopping (usually done on a Saturday) and a visit to my parents (there was cake again!). This must be what the non-runners do with their Sundays! It was nice, but I think I would get bored of this after a couple of weeks and be desperate for something different.

In the week ahead I’ll probably ease off training a little for a lighter week to make sure I recover well, then I’ll be back to my preparations for Loch Ness. September will be here before I know it!

How is your training going?
Any exciting events in your life?

Friday Finds – 12th May

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

To be honest, it’s been another week full of Breaking2 news, however I intend to write a separate post on that in the next few days, so instead I’m bringing you a selection of other bits and pieces I’ve come across this week.

The 8th -14th of May is Mental Health Awareness Week, and mental health is something I’m growing more interested in. I now come into contact with so many young people who are struggling with their mental health and while I do what I can to support them, I always wish there was something more. For me, running is what I turn to in difficult times to help clear my head and refocus. I’ve also found yoga really beneficial in helping me feel calm and settled through the controlled breathing and slow movements. So it was with interest that I read of Matthew Rees, the runner who shot to fame after his selfless act at the London marathon, and how he has used running to help combat depression.

An interesting take on the mental side of running is covered in this article from Outside which deals with boredom and how we might channel that into improved performance. In this day and age people find it increasingly difficult to just “be” and accept boredom as something that might drive creativity. Instead, we tend to reach for our phones as a distraction. Perhaps as runners we can use it to our advantage?

Stories like those of Matthew Rees gain most of their traction these days on social media, and runners are particularly guilty of sharing everything about their runs, sometimes to the irritation of their non-running friends! But why are we so obsessed with sharing every run be they good, bad or indifferent? The writer of this next piece shares her theories and I have to say it makes sense to me. These days I tend to keep my running chat for my blog’s Facebook page or dedicated running groups so I know my ramblings (and photos of me leaping about like a loony!) will be seen by those who are interested in running and simply “get it”, but I think I’m still driven by the same factors suggested here:

Of course social media last weekend was all about Eliud Kipchoge and the Breaking2 project, but in the days afterwards another speedy runner came to light, this time in a half marathon. 18 year old Benjamin Pachev ran a 71 minute half marathon. That’s speedy, but not pushing any boundaries…until you learn that he did so whilst wearing Crocs. Yes, Crocs. Those funny shoes with the holes in them that are often the butt of jokes. Not being a Crocs wearer I’ve no idea how he kept them on his feet and am impressed not just at his speed but that he did so in footwear far from traditional. I can’t see Kipchoge looking to race his next marathon in them though 😉

And finally, you may remember me sharing the quirky story of the crossword compiler who challenged himself to create a clue for each mile of the London marathon. For the crossword fans among you, here’s the finished puzzle (for the impatient, the answers are in this post about the process itself):

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Tunes on Tuesday – Could it be Magic

Many studies have shown that working out to music can have a number of positive effects and help us to push ourselves further. Music is also strongly linked to personal memories and hearing certain tracks can transport us to a particular moment in time. In this occasional series of posts, I’d like to introduce some of my favourite tracks from my workout playlist and share some of the memories they have given me.

Could it be Magic – Take That

It was only a matter of time before a Take That track made its way into Tunes on Tuesday. There are actually a few in my playlist, but I’ve picked this track today because I do have a story to tell around it.

For my readers not in the UK, Take That is a pop group formed waaaay back in 1990. I guess you could say they were one of the 90s “boy bands” and were created out of a desire to emulate groups like New Kids on the Block in the US. The band split in early 1996 while I was in my final year of high school and teenagers around the country were bereft – there was even a telephone helpline set up to help fans deal with the announcement! 10 years later, in 2006, the band reformed for a reunion tour and have continued to produce new material (and tour) ever since. To date, they are the most successful “boy band” (more of a “man band” now lol!) in UK chart history.

Basically, I’m old enough to to have loved Take That the first time around, but never got a chance to see them live until 2009 when Steve surprised me with concert tickets. In fact, the video above is taken from that tour. If you had told my teenage self that one day the band would get back together and I’d still be getting to see them live at my age then I’d have laughed in your face!

The song I’ve picked today is their cover of the Barry Manilow classic Could It Be Magic, the track which gave them their first big success. Not only is it a great song, but it has gained its place here thanks to the last time I saw then tour back in 2015.

The day after the concert, perhaps not feeling my most rested, I took part in the Tayside Challenge, a cycle event which I was using as a warm up for the Etape Caledonia the following week. My head was, unsurprisingly, still full of Take That songs so it was a bit like having my own playlist as I pedalled, but without the inconvenience of earphones (something I never use when cycling as I’m so conscious of safety). I was cycling with a friend, but at one point I was alone on a downhill stretch. We had been talking about the concert so as I swept down the hill, enjoying the sense of freedom, I began singing away to myself. Loudly. The song I picked? Could It Be Magic. I was having a great time, so it was only marginally embarrassing when another cyclist overtook me, no doubt having heard me singing to myself like an absolute madwoman! Oops!

The song itself featured on Take That’s first album which was released in 1992 (yes, I am that old!) so this year they are celebrating their 25th anniversary. The original lineup of 5 may now be reduced to 3, but my favourite (Gary Barlow) is still there and what better way could they have found to celebrate than to go out on tour? So on Friday of this week I’ll be heading through to Glasgow to see my “boys” performing live for the 4th time. Frankly, I can’t wait!

Please note that under UK Athletics rules, racing with headphones whilst on open roads is banned. If you choose to train with headphones, please be careful and make sure you are aware of your surroundings at all times.

Feel free to share your favourite workout tracks in the comments below…

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?