Week In Review – Positive Action

I want to start with a thank you to everyone who has been in touch with kind thoughts since I shared that I had to say goodbye to my beautiful cat last weekend. I really appreciate all your messages.

As a result, this past week was strange but I found it helpful to have my training routine. It gave me a focus and helped me to make some decisions (more about that at the end of this post).

I have continued with regular yoga (most days that I didn’t have a class) and my week ended up like this:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps + a swim
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

Monday was, quite frankly, awful. I was a bit of a tearful mess and while I did manage to keep it together to teach my classes (a welcome distraction) by the time I got to my yoga class I was definitely feeling emotional. I knew that yoga would soothe me and I always feel better afterwards. I did, but in a different way. People have said to me before that yoga can release emotions, that they have found themselves crying during their practice, but since it’s always made me feel relaxed and happy, I was convinced it wouldn’t have that effect on me. Turns out, it is possible to shed a few tears in downward dog without anyone realising! I suspect the release helped though.

I felt a little better on Tuesday – I even risked some mascara (although realised on my drive to work that it may have been a mistake!). After work I headed to the gym for my bike reps. There had been a little snow around but nothing as I drove back and headed towards the gym. By the time I had changed and emerged from the changing room, there was heavy snow falling outside! I added two reps to the set of intervals I completed last week and already felt stronger completing them. After that I went for my first swim in AGES. It was perhaps not my best effort, but by the end of my session I was feeling like I was getting my rhythm back again.

There had to be a bit of a change on Wednesday because of the snow. I was supposed to do some hill reps, but thanks to a bit more snow during the day, Steve told me the underfoot conditions just weren’t good enough for my planned workout but that a short run in the snow would be possible. I got myself all bundled up in winter kit and headed out. It was tough going as the snow seemed to sap all my energy, but I loved it. There’s something invigorating about running in fresh snow that can’t be beaten. It was only as I was running that it crossed my mind I could have gone to the gym and run on the treadmill instead, but I think the fact that I never even considered that as an option tells you how I feel about that!

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IMG_5354Orchestra was cancelled because of the weather so post-run Steve and I were able to eat together then watch a little tv. I’m still finding things like this a little difficult as I’m so used to the cat curling up on my lap as soon as I commit myself to a seat. That’s going to take a bit of getting used to!

Thursday was cold and there was still snow on the ground, but I was really looking forward to my Ashtanga class. I’ve been doing a little yoga most days this month and feel stronger and more focused because of it. It felt so good to work through the Ashtanga poses (the class I go to works through about half of the postures under the guidance of our teacher) and there were no tears so I was obviously feeling a bit more at peace with the events of last weekend.

On Friday I was back at the studio with Steve for a PT session. My focus is on exercises that will benefit my running, principally by improving my strength and mobility. For me this means working around my upper back, my hip mobility and knee drive so this week’s session included the TRX, bar bell and Core Momentum Trainer. Quite tough on my arms so I was feeling it afterwards!

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Guess who jumped in the shot again!

Still in need of cheer, I decided to break out one of the other pairs of leggings I ordered recently. These ones depict my favourite Disney movie (and favourite Disney princess!) so they did make me feel a little better. Clearly the key to cheering me up is new workout leggings – the crazier the better!

IMG_5355As we went to bed that night we were aware that a number of parkruns not too far from us had already been called off so we weren’t sure what the morning would bring. Ours was provisionally on, but it was 50/50 depending on how much the snow/ice froze overnight. Saturday morning was cold (below freezing again at -4C) but thanks to a light dusting of snow the course was runnable and we were able to go ahead on the usual route. Clearly not a day to run hard, so I decided to ditch my earphones, ran at a comfortable pace and enjoyed the experience. Running in the crunchy snow, I’m finding, is something I rather enjoy and it seems that 183 other people agreed with me!

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IMG_5373In the picture below, there are two paths hidden. Our route takes us initially to the right then returns from the left. No sign of any path right now!

IMG_5434I felt invigorated after the run, as well as pleasantly surprised at my time. Once I was more sure of my footing I got progressively faster to finish with the revered Royal Flush Negative Split and, having expected to be around 27 minutes (a 9-ish minute mile feels good in these conditions) I did it a bit quicker.

IMG_5393As usual it was a quick freshen up at home then back out to meet Steve’s brother for our Saturday coffee. The place we like to go to always shuts for a couple of weeks at the start of the year but was open again so it was back to the bacon croissants. I really missed those!

IMG_5433The rest of the day was pretty relaxing. Steve and I headed out to the farm shop for some things in the afternoon and decided to stay for a mint hot chocolate and scone. Both were delicious!

IMG_5435 I also spent the whole day with a fairly persistent earworm…

I awoke fairly early on Sunday, had some breakfast (porridge with honey is my choice right now) and got organised to run. The snow was still there (not enough change in temperature for it to start melting) so rather than worry about my planned approach of every third mile faster, I simply decided to run. I knew that I wanted to re-visit the woodland path I ran on last week as part of my run so I could see it in the snow and getting there by a slightly different route meant that my run would total 10 miles.

IMG_5438I ran to feel and largely ignored my watch as pace was irrelevant. At this point in training a run is a run and I’m convinced that running in the snow is making me stronger as I’m working hard on changeable terrain. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed my run and would have happily gone further. The woodland path was lovely (no heron this week though) and I passed so many dog walkers and families out enjoying the snow (quite a few with sledges). What a great way to start the day!

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IMG_5439It may have been a strange week, but these snowy runs have really made me feel a bit better as I’ve enjoyed the change of pace and scenery. The cold air has cleared my mind and while I’m still sad and missing my wee cat, the pain is easing.

Another reason for this is the decision I made about how to channel my energies in a positive way moving forward. I got my cat from Cats Protection, a charity which seeks to create a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs, when she was just 6 weeks old. She had been found living under a shed, presumably abandoned, and I loved her from the start as we quickly formed a tight bond. It breaks my heart to think that there are so many cats who don’t get that opportunity, and while I will likely bring more cats into my life in future, I can’t give a home to all of them. What I can do is raise funds to help improve the lives of cats in the care of Cats Protection. CP will never put a healthy cat down and will do whatever they can to find the cats in their care a loving home. But this, of course, takes money. In 2018 I will be dedicating my miles to the memory of my cat and raising funds for my local Cats Protection branch. It just feels like the right thing to do and I know my cat would approve.

First up is the Stirling marathon, where I will run in a CP top. Having this motivation will help to get me out the door on the coldest days and work towards my next goal. I’d love it if you could support me by making a donation. The equivalent cost of just one cup of coffee could enrich the life of a cat who deserves some love. Thank you.

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Friday Finds – 19th January

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.

Hello! How has your week been? If you keep up with my other posts then you’ll know last weekend wasn’t the best for me and it’s been a bit of a strange week as a result. Sticking to my routine is helpful though, so I’m here as usual with some Friday Finds for you. Here we go…!

First, an interesting thing I came across just this morning. Adidas has teamed up with Berlin transit to create a shoe with a transit pass sewn into the tongue! The pass is valid until the end of the year and the shoes quickly sold out. I suppose that eliminates the need to fumble around for a pass and is a novel idea which has scope for development. Would you go for something like this?

I also loved this next article featuring some NYC marathon photos. Photographer Eddie Cohen wanted to capture runners in the moment of “exhaustion and euphoria” at the finish, a description which I find very fitting. The photos, along with “before” photos of the runners, feature in his new book. I don’t know about you, but as I look at those “after” photos, I understand just how they feel as all those marathon finish lines come flooding back to me.

Particularly striking this week was this letter written by US Olympian Bruce Berian. We all know a little of the commitment and hard work that takes an athlete on their journey to the top of their sport, but we don’t always learn the full story. In this heartfelt letter to his future self, Berian tells us of his journey from working in a fast food chain to the Olympic village Rio. Well worth a read.

Speaking of fast food, it seems that pro runners are not all the pillars of healthy eating that we might assume. Many fuel their running with some most unexpected foods. I certainly enjoy a treat AFTER a race, but tend to be quite cautious with my pre-run food. Some of these would definitely not sit well with me during a run, much as I might enjoy them at other times! Anyone else got any unconventional choices?

And finally, I’m becoming more and more keen on regular yoga practice and am also curious about some of the more “novelty” yoga classes now available (cat yoga and Harry Potter yoga are particularly appealing!) but if you’re anywhere near Baltimore then you can go along to a yoga class at the Maryland Zoo where you have an hour of yoga alongside the PENGUINS! I love penguins! If this happened at a zoo near me then I would be straight there!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – The Hardest Goodbye

I hope your first full week back in a regular routine has gone well. For me, things were emotionally charged (more on that later) and I was glad of a bit of “normality” to help me deal with things.

Here’s how training looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym + sports massage
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 8 miles

The new school term began on Monday and it was a super cold day. I was out at my car early hacking away at the ice which seemed to have been well and truly welded on. It took me almost half an hour just to get it passable enough to drive!

IMG_5333The first day back is always tough, but I had the first class of a 5 week block of Hatha yoga to look forward to. There’s no Saturday morning class right now, but the teacher is still doing Mondays (in a new location) and I was keen to return. It was a lovely gentle class for the first one back and I felt much better afterwards.

On Tuesday it was time to get things moving again. While I’ve been on the bike at the gym since my training for Loch Ness, it’s only been for a straightforward cycle rather than a set of intervals. Steve gave me my workouts for the month and I got on with the business of bike reps. I had to play around a bit with the resistance in the first couple of reps and I could feel myself getting weary by the end, but it was a good kickstart.

I had hoped to squeeze in a quick swim afterwards but there was no time as I had my first sports massage of the year booked. As ever, I’ll be having these monthly to keep my legs shipshape.

It was all go again on Wednesday as I needed to fit in a run before my orchestra rehearsal. My Wednesday run alternates between form drills and hill reps, starting with the drills this week. Somehow I managed to complete my run (the cool down was a little curtailed), have some food and be ready for my sister picking me up for orchestra. Phew!

Thursday saw me back in the yoga studio for the first Ashtanga class of the year. It felt like so long since I did this class as I missed one when I was ill in early December and was still quite sore when I returned for the last class before the Christmas break. Despite all that, I still managed to hold Wheel for a few breaths so I’ve not lost all my yoga ability!

Steve was able to fit me in for a PT session on Friday so after popping home to get changed, I headed over to the studio. Having survived the first week of term, I decided to wear my awesome new “pants of perspective” leggings.

IMG_5334We worked on the usual things – upper back mobility, knee drive and hips – mainly using the Core Momentum trainer.

What I’ve not said is that throughout all of that I continued to worry about my cat. She wasn’t herself and was clearly missing having me around. Tests revealed a persistent infection so she was back on antibiotics but a little quiet on Friday. I’ll not get into the details, but when we went to find her on Saturday morning to give her medication, it was clear that something was very wrong and we rushed her to the vet. Sadly, she had reached the end of her journey and it was time to say goodbye. The kindest thing for her as I had promised myself she wouldn’t suffer, but the hardest thing for us as despite over a year of managing her health conditions, everything moved so very quickly at the end. We were both there with her, and all plans for the day were shelved as I needed time to begin processing what had happened (mainly by crying). It’s safe to say I felt devastated, and we did the only thing we could think of to “toast” her on Saturday night by raising a slice of Steve’s homemade pizza to her memory. She always did fancy the cured meat on the top and was known for trying to sneak some, as the evidence below attests!

IMG_1018I knew that I would feel better for a run, so decided to head out as planned on Sunday morning. It wasn’t important how far I ran or how fast, I simply needed the headspace and endorphins to reset. As I left I realised that I wanted to head to my favourite woodland path to enjoy the peace and solace of nature, so did end up running the 8 miles I had on my plan, but if I had only run 2 miles it would have been fine.

I no doubt looked a real sight as I blubbed my way across town. At one point I met a friend who was out running too. She ran towards me with her arms out for me to get a hug. Of course this resulted in both of us crying as she said goodbye to an even older cat in the last few years too. As I ran on it rained a bit but I didn’t care – the pathetic fallacy seemed fitting.

The run through the woodland path, however, was just the tonic I needed. I chatted to dog walkers, petted their dogs and a lovely man pointed out a huge heron that was sitting by the stream. It was watching everyone go by, not at all bothered by us talking and the man’s dog bounding around our feet. A woman I had already run by stopped to join in and told me she could remember the heron being there since it was quite small, probably a couple of years. Despite the weather, they were happy to have a conversation. It reminded me of how nice the world can be and lifted my spirits a little to then face heading out for some essential food shopping in the afternoon.

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IMG_5340Not the week I was expecting and I know I have a process of grief ahead of me as I adapt to a routine that doesn’t involve my special little girl. 17 years is a long time together so it’s going to take time to get used to how quiet it seems without her. It’s a good thing I have marathon training to distract me!

fullsizeoutput_22abHow was your week?
What pets do you share your life with?

Friday Finds – 12th January

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 imagine you’re back into the regular routine now and the recent festivities seem like a dim and distant memory. Never fear, I still have some Friday Finds to get your weekend started.

Let’s start with something inspiring. You may have seen the headlines that US marathoner Molly Friel recently qualified for the 2020 Olympic marathon trials. On first reading that doesn’t sound like anything special…until you find out that Friel is 50! I LOVE seeing “older” athletes still performing as well as younger competitors as it reminds us all that age is just a number.

One of my goals for this year involves getting a bit more sleep as I know that I will perform better in all areas of my life if I’m better rested. With that in mind, I read with interest the findings from studying all the sleep data gathered by Fitbit. While  some of it is US-based, some of the basics are bound to be true for everyone else and are very revealing about how poor our sleep in general can be. It certainly inspired me to think more about this basic, but important part of life.

Of course one of the benefits of running is that it helps us in other areas of life, including improving our sleep. If you’re new to running, or your running has taken a back seat lately, here are some reminders of how it can help you (beyond fitness):

It wouldn’t be Friday Finds without some stats, so here are the results from the Running Shoes Guru reader survey where participants were asked a variety of questions about their running habits. I don’t know about you, but I always like to see where my answers fall compared to the others…

And finally, it’s the return of Strava art! London cyclist (and Strava artist) Anthony Hoyte created a fantastic festive design which involved 88 miles of cycling through busy city streets. Making this story even more appealing is the fact that he actually intended to do this a year ago but had to postpone due to illness. Definitely worth waiting for!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Happy New Year!

Wow! I’ve now been writing these weekly updates for a year! What was originally going to be a short series of posts to document my training leading up to the 2017 Paris marathon soon became a permanent fixture as I enjoyed writing them so much. So here we go with the first update of 2018…

Monday – New Year Triple
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – light workout
Thursday – 5 miles
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

Monday was, of course, New Year’s Day and I was starting the year with not one but THREE runs! I already wrote a post with all the details (you can find it here if you missed it) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only did I have the satisfaction of getting the first 10 miles of the year under my belt, but I worked up a pretty decent appetite to enjoy the delicious steak pie we got from the local butcher. And to cap it all, Steve made another sherry trifle Well worth all the effort!

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IMG_5231We later learned that 108 people did the Perth/Dundee double, but I was blown away by this stat from parkrun HQ:

fullsizeoutput_2373Tuesday was a little more indulgent and restful. It was Steve’s brother’s birthday so after a pretty leisurely morning we walked over there (the other side of town!) for a bit of a family gathering. A couple of drinks and some delicious party food was a nice way to round off the festive season.

On Wednesday a hint of “normality” resumed as Steve went back to work, leaving me to my own devices. Don’t worry though, there was plenty to entertain me! I had made plans with my friend from work to catch up over the break and at the last minute we discovered this would be our only chance. My friend lives in St Andrews and is a member of the leisure facilities at the Old Course Hotel. She has been trying to go for a swim every day and invited me to take advantage of a guest pass she had and join her. I got to use the awesome Roman-style pool which made me feel like a character in a Jane Austen novel “taking the waters” in Bath and she got the chance to have someone show her some of the machines in the gym as she hadn’t yet been in there. I think my favourite thing was going up to the rooftop spa. It was a crisp and sunny day and it felt amazing to be sitting in the warm, bubbly water whilst the air around was quite cool. Perfect! No photos as my phone was safely locked away, but we did get some nice views from the top floor when we had a coffee afterwards.

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IMG_5235Thursday was all about getting myself sorted out. I began the day with a run then had some errands in town later on. I have to admit it was one of those days when I had to persuade myself out the door to run as it was grey and cold, but I felt sure I would enjoy it once I was out. I picked one of my favourite routes and all was fine for the first mile until my legs reminded me about Monday’s endeavours. I ignored them and carried on, only to find myself caught in a rain shower about half way round. But once home, warm and dry I found that I had rather enjoyed the run after all. I knew it!

IMG_5240I took a rest day on Friday and made use of the time to myself to do some tidying up and get the Christmas decorations all packed away. It always makes me sad to take the tree down, but at the same time it’s satisfying to feel that everything is tidy. I also got to grips with a bit of re-organisation of my bookshelves as I was keen to make a few changes but was worried about destroying my nail polish (I’m getting a bit high maintenance lol!). Friday was ideal as I got my nails re-done later in the afternoon. Even the festive nails have gone now, but at least I feel neat ready for the start of term.

IMG_5251One of my favourite things about the Christmas break has been the number of parkruns I’ve been able to do. The whole point is that there’s just one per week, but at Christmas and New Year there is the option of an extra run (or two) so while a break extending over three weekends should have resulted in three parkruns, over the festive period I’ve actually completed six! The last of the six was Saturday morning, however the course conditions weren’t too great so we used the alternative route which is two and a bit laps of the park on the path. It was supposed to be pacer day, but the RD decided to cancel the pacers given the conditions. The path was a bit slippy in places so I still took it easy, but I always enjoy the community aspect of parkrun and it was good to be running.

IMG_5300The rest of Saturday was the usual routine – coffee with Steve’s brother, food shopping and a relaxing afternoon at home. Oh the glamour! Although there was an exciting moment when this dropped through the letterbox:
IMG_5314It’s from a virtual race I entered to run 5k between Christmas and New Year. I definitely had that covered! (And yes, I did wear it around the house for a bit!).

Since Sunday was the last day I could have a leisurely start before the new school term, I took advantage of the chance to lie in bed a little longer all snuggled in with the cat before getting organised for my run. Rather alarmingly, my weather apps were telling me that it either was or would feel like -5C, so I got myself well bundled up in my cosiest running gear to brave the elements. The all terrain shoes got another airing as they’re best on frosty paths and I looked a little like I might be away to shout, “stand and deliver” and stop a carriage, but at least I was warm enough!

IMG_5316I ran 10k at a fairly easy pace and despite the cold I enjoyed the run. My fitness isn’t quite as I would like it to be thanks to being unwell in December, but it is what it is so I’m not going to worry about it. There’s nothing quite like a cycle of marathon training to sort out your fitness!

Now it’s time to get my head down for a new school term and a marathon build up. Let’s go!

How did you begin the year?
What is your next goal?

The Liebster Award 2018

Something a little different from me today as the lovely Beth at My Anxiety Matters has nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thank you!

If you’ve not come across it before, the Liebster Award is a great way of connecting with other bloggers and giving a little blog-love to those whose work you enjoy reading. I’ve not taken part in anything like this before so am excited to get involved.

So what do I have to do? It turns out it’s pretty straightforward:

  • Link to the Official Rules in your Liebster Award blog post.
  • Answer the questions given to you.
  • Create more questions for your nominees to answer (ideally unique and creative ones).
  • Comment on the Official Rules post with a link DIRECTLY to your Liebster award. This collates all the posts in one place to make them easier to find.

The questions I got from My Anxiety Matters are:

  1. Three words to describe your blog.
    Running, yoga, food!
  2. What would you name your boat if you had one?
    Since Boaty McBoatface is taken, I’d go for something that captures my passions a bit more. I’m fairly certain I was born in the wrong time and place (I would have loved 1920s Paris) so I would call my boat La Parisienne. I’ve never sailed though and all I can think of right now is that episode of Friends where Rachel tries to teach Joey…😂
  3. Five positive words to describe you.
    Optimistic. Caring. Energetic. Springy. Determined.
  4. The most interesting thing you’ve read/seen this week?
    As a parkrun aficionado, the most interesting thing I’ve seen this week is this statistic about New Year’s Day:
    Yes, I was one of them!
  5. Favourite joke/pun?
    I’m one of those people who can NEVER remember any jokes. Except this one which nobody else ever finds funny apart from me. I’ll not put “comedian” on my CV then 🙄
    Two elephants fell off a cliff…BOOM BOOM!!
  6. They’re creating a film (movie) of your life, who plays you?
    If it could be anyone from any time then I would have to say Audrey Hepburn. But if we’re talking someone more current, then I’m going to choose Idina Menzel. Why? Because the movie of my life would have to be a musical (oh I do enjoy musicals!) and I would love to be played by the talented actress behind Elphaba (Wicked) and Elsa (Frozen)!
  7. Favourite blog post you’ve read today & would recommend?
    I’m going to keep it in the family here. My sister has just started a new blog all about her experiences in Disney (she has been a cast member in more than one capacity) and I loved her post offering tips to get the most out of a runDisney experience. If you love running or Disney then I recommend taking a look.
  8. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
    I don’t really remember having a particularly fixed idea of what I would like to be, but I do remember fancying myself a princess (some things never change!) or a superhero (maybe that explains why I love to see myself as Wonder Woman lol!). Clearly I set realistic goals for myself as a child 😂
  9. Positive motto for 2018?
    Can I have this one?
    2018 is The Year of Me and I want to focus on things that add value to my life rather than things that create stress, so Hakuna Matata sounds fitting (and should really be everyone’s motto!).
  10. Your top tip for finding blog-spiration?
    Engage. Engage with other blogs and podcasts, engage with nature and engage your brain. I definitely get some of my best ideas when I’m out on a long run, so take a bit of time to clear your head and get outside – you’ll be surprised what you come up with while you’re out!

And now for my nominations (*drumroll*):

  1. Running on Espresso
  2. Adventures by Linsey
  3. Early Bird Runner
  4. Tartan Jogger
  5. Tri.runner.ella
  6. Maria Runs
  7. Anna The Apple
  8. The Right Fits
  9. Pip In Motion
  10. Running Bean

And my questions to pay it forward:

  1. What inspired you to start your blog?
  2. An elevator pitch for your blog?
  3. If you could have a conversation with anyone (real or fictional) from any time, who would you choose and why?
  4. If you had a theme tune, what song would you pick and why?
  5. Where is your happy place?
  6. Who would you most like to go for a run/cycle/workout with?
  7. Flying or invisibility?
  8. If you could learn one new skill, what would you choose and why?
  9. What do you want to achieve in 2018?
  10. What made you smile today?

One of my favourite things about blogging is the chance to engage with others around the world and learn more about people I wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with, so answering Beth’s questions and coming up with my own has been fun. I can’t wait to read the answers…!

Friday Finds – 5th January

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 the first Friday of 2018. The festivities are drawing to a close and most are getting back into a regular routine. As part of that routine, here’s the first Friday Finds of the year…

One of my favourite stories of the week is about Japanese marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (a name probably familiar to listeners of the Marathon Talk podcast). Kawauchi travelled to the US to run a marathon on New Year’s Day and the race took place in the sort of temperatures that would have had me seriously questioning my decisions! But despite the adverse conditions, Kawauchi went on to win the race, along the way claiming the World Record for the most career sub-2:20 marathons. Amazing!

Just in case you were wondering what it would be like to run in super-cold temperatures, Canadian Running Magazine included this piece in which elite runner Matt Setlack shares his experiences of running in -30C. Yes, -30C!!! I would DEFINITLEY be on the treadmill if I had a run scheduled in that sort of weather!

On a different topic, I really liked this post by Sarah Crouch for Motiv Running. The elite US athlete writes with great honesty about the nature of race photos, and what she says really rings true. If you’ve ever cringed at the photos taken of you during a race (and who hasn’t?) then you should really have a read of this:

I wouldn’t expect to be including a post form Bloomberg in my Friday Finds, but this one is an interesting read on the development of running brand Brooks. I’m not sure how I feel about some of their definitions of a runner, but charting the history of the company and how things have changed in the market over the years is just the kind of thing I like to find out about. I don’t currently wear Brooks but have done in the past so their shoes are usually on my radar.

And finally, if you’re getting your 2018 fitness regime underway and considering training with your significant other, perhaps you should heed the cautionary tales in this piece from The Guardian and look elsewhere for a training partner. You have been warned…!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Go the Distance – my runDisney experiences

My sister has started a Disney blog and since it’s the WDW Marathon weekend (good luck to everyone taking part, especially those doing the Dopey!) I thought you might enjoy reading more about the runDisney experience. Introducing: Adventures by Linsey…

Adventures by Linsey

The Walt Disney World marathon takes place this weekend and runDisney has come a long way since it’s inception. Hell, when I began running their events it was known as the Disney Endurance Series.

My first Disney run was back in 2007 when I took part in the Race for the Taste 10k which coincided with the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival. The race sadly no longer exists as Disney replaced it with the Wine and Dine half marathon event, which was a much needed expansion on what they offered, so an understandable change to mix things up a little. What I enjoyed most about the race was how relaxed it was for those who are more ‘fun’ runners. We entered as a large group from the Rose and Crown – including those of us on the program, along with managers and chefs. We had a lot of fun, some struggling a little –…

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Three Is A Magic Number!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you may remember that I began 2017 by taking part in a local challenge known as “The New Year Triple”. It’s an unofficial affair which involves a double parkrun (something available in lots of areas at New Year) in the morning then a long-standing 6k fun run in the early afternoon. There’s a bit of travelling around between the 3 locations, but the timings are about right to make all 3 possible and there are usually a good number of people taking on the challenge of the triple, which really adds to the atmosphere.

The 2 parkruns involved are my home parkrun in Perth and one of our nearest neighbours at Camperdown in Dundee. One goes at the regular time of 9:30am and the other at the revised time of 11am for this one day, and they take it in turns to go first. In 2017 we started in Perth, so for 2018 our first port of call was Dundee.

From my experience of doing this last year I learned that the key to the challenge is to pace yourself (I keep it in my mind that I’m running 10 miles rather than a parkrun to help me lock into a slower pace) and to keep warm in between events. Although it was slightly warmer this year (comparatively speaking) I still had a cosy hoody to put on, cosy socks in case my feet were cold and a blanket to put over my lap in the car if I wanted it, as well as a warm jacket. Last year I changed top, but this year the only kit change I was going to make was my shoes (socks if necessary) and my gloves as I wasn’t keen on putting them back on when they were damp!

I got a lot of my things organised the night before as we planned to leave about 8:30am to drive to Dundee (less than 30 minutes away). The only real snag was that neither of the parkruns would have toilets available as all the usual locations used are closed over the festive period. This meant I had to make sure I didn’t drink too much before leaving as a wild pee in January was not appealing!

Since we were in good time we were able to park right by the start in Camperdown park (last year we had to go all the way to the other side of the park and it was a fair distance!). We greeted a few friends from Perth and tried to stay warm while we waited to start, then I went over to the visitors’ briefing as I knew there had been a slight change to the course.

The change meant that the route started and finished a little further down the hill – great news for the end but less of a downhill to start with. I think it was the same run director as last year, in his customary kilt, and he got the run underway fairly swiftly after the usual announcements.

I knew that there was a fairly steep hill for about a third of a mile at the far end of the course (it adds around 2 minutes to your parkrun time from Perth!) and I also knew that my fitness was not where I wanted it to be thanks to that virus I had in early December, so my plan was to take things easy and not overdo it. Probably wise since the parts of the course on tarmac paths were quite slippy and while my trail shoes were doing a great job on the trail sections, they weren’t gripping so well on the path.

I kept my effort level fairly even and finished in a time of 29:16, around 9:35 per mile. More like long run pace but realistically that’s what I was going for.

After having my token scanned I found Steve for a couple of pictures then we jumped back in the car to head back to Perth.

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IMG_5133There was enough time to swing by the house for a quick “comfort break” and a change of shoes before heading down to more familiar parkrun territory where there were a fair few people about (308 parkrunners after the 220 in Dundee). We greeted a few we hadn’t seen, re-connected with others we had spoken to in Dundee and listened to the briefing. The paths were a lot less slippy than they had been on Saturday, however the ground over the grass section was still pretty solid and rutted so there was still potential for a fall.

Again I went by my effort level and enjoyed listening to my music and chatting to some people on the way round. Thanks to the flatter terrain my time was a bit quicker at 27:20 which is around 8:50 per mile – ideal marathon pace for me – and only about 4 seconds slower than on Saturday on the icy paths. Not bad since it was my second run of the day!

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IMG_5160I had grabbed a running jacket when we went home as we had passed though some heavy rain and I didn’t want my top to be soaking wet for the rest of the day. I was so glad I did as the rain started just as I finished but we weren’t in a hurry to leave since a very generous couple of parkrunners had brought mulled wine for everyone. It was a lovely way to warm up post-run and I enjoyed mine while chatting to some friends.

IMG_5145But then it was time to get back in the car and drive the half hour or so to Blairgowrie. I was starting to feel hungry so ate an energy bar I’d packed to keep me going (I had plenty of time to digest it since I wasn’t running again until 1pm). I suspect the caffeine gave me a bit of a boost!

IMG_5225We seemed to get to Blairgowrie much quicker than last year when we were travelling from Dundee (it’s about the same distance but the journey was really slow last year) so we were able to park right around the corner from the Town Hall which is used as event HQ. I popped my road shoes on (I’d been wearing my trusty all-terrain shoes in Perth), grabbed some dry gloves and we went in to register. It’s a real bargain at just £2 each and there’s the added bonus of the hall having nice INDOOR toilets to use while we waited to start.

With my number pinned on, I sat in the hall and chatted to some friends until it was time to head outside. This was the 34th consecutive year this event has taken place (never a cancellation or postponement in all that time) and it attracts a decent crowd of people. It’s one of those events that isn’t publicised, people just know when and were to turn up!

I had decided to switch from music to a podcast for this one as I expected my legs to feel a bit weary as we got underway. Strangely enough, though, I felt ok and when I spotted our MSP (also the Deputy First Minister of Scotland) a bit ahead of me, I wondered if  I would be able to catch him…

About half way around the course I found myself right behind him, having kept up a comfortably brisk pace and had to decide on my next move. Back in 2014 when I did this run for the first time I passed him only to be beaten at the end as I hadn’t realised how close I was to the finish. This time I knew that if I made a move I would have to hold the lead. Game on!

So I went for it. With two previous experiences of this route I knew exactly how far I still had to go and had a landmark in mind (a convenience store) to begin speeding up to the finish. Unfortunately, just as that store came into view my legs started to take on a distinctly jelly-like sensation!

I dug in and kept on going to the finish. 3.8 miles in 32:46/8:37 per mile (they only time the top ten males/females so this is all from my watch). I had run each event a little quicker than the one before so was really pleased given the lack of training in the weeks before. As soon as I finished I turned back to watch for my “rival” and probably had a minute or so lead. I had done it. I had won a race the only other competitor had been unaware he was in! 😂

Steve was waiting for me and we grabbed some photos before heading back up to the hall where we had left our warm clothes.

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IMG_5189Included in our bargain entry fee is post-run soup (which tastes AMAZING after 3 events!) and some kind of sweet treat – this year some chocolate bars. I actually ended up having 2 cups of the soup as it was so good and I was really hungry. The chocolate I took away with me and ate when I got home.

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IMG_5224After a while we decided it was time to go home so headed back to the car (and I embraced my inner old lady by draping my blanket over my legs to stay warm!). As soon as we were in the door the wet kit went straight in the washing machine and the shoes were left out to dry.

IMG_5220Once showered and in my onesie (with compression socks underneath lol!) we had some bacon rolls to keep us going and relaxed in front of the TV. Despite the distances being relatively short, I still felt tired. Probably more from the travelling around from one place to the next and the effort of 3 separate runs rather than 1 long one. Still, it was great fun and I think has probably become a New Year tradition for us. If you have the chance to do something similar, like the double parkrun, then I highly recommend it. There’s such an amazing atmosphere and it feels so good to start the year off with a good run (or two…or three!).

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IMG_5229Did you do the double parkrun?
Anyone go for a New Year dip in the sea?

2018 – The Year of Me!!!

That’s right, the year of me. I don’t mean I’m going to be utterly selfish in 2018, more that my goals for the year ahead are going to be about creating habits that add value to and/or improve my life. As I reflected on my goals for 2017 the thing that struck me was that the goals I felt most invested in were those that were about a process rather than an outcome, and that got me thinking: how can I set goals that will challenge me but also allow for some kind of progress, regardless of outcome? For example, by setting the goal of a marathon PB, my only options were to achieve it or not (I didn’t) but that didn’t take account of all the miles I ran in training that helped my running to progress. In contrast, by setting the goal of reaching my 100th parkrun, even if I hadn’t made it to 100 I would still have reached a number that advanced on the 60 I began the year with. That requires consistency and therefore is a progression. Since I celebrate a “significant birthday” in 2018 I want to focus on myself and how I can enrich my life, so it’s out with “I want to run X time in a race” and in with aims that involve a year-long process of self-improvement and developing positive habits, aims that will take time and commitment to achieve rather than hanging on a one-off performance. I didn’t set out to come up with 8 for 2018 (to follow 7 for 2017), it just worked out that way – apparently even my unconscious mind likes things to be neat!

1. Run 1000km (621 miles)
Rather than focus on time, this year I want my running to be about cumulative distance. On average, I probably do run around 1000km in a year but have never made this a goal before as I was so conscious of being injury-prone. I probably still am, but I’m also better at listening to my body now and have done a lot of work to help keep me injury-free, so this year I want to make my total distance a goal. 2017 may have been a year of very little racing (I actually only raced 5 times!) but I ran very consistently and my final total of 752 miles was my highest annual mileage ever. Of course I won’t be aiming to meet my goal no matter what – if I get an injury or have an illness then recovery will be my priority, but it’s important to me that my miles mean something beyond “just” another training run. To that end, I have signed up to the 1000km challenge on Virtual Runner UK so assuming I reach my goal, there will be a medal at the end of the year to mark my achievement. Running consistently make me a better runner, and I want every mile in 2018 to count.

2. Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
Last year one of my goals was to commit to more yoga, but I was a little vague about what “more” meant. Not a very SMART goal! But when I did finally get to grips with it thanks to the Tough Girl 100 challenge, I absolutely loved it. My Ashtanga class is a real highlight of my week and throughout the 100 days when I was doing some yoga daily, I felt great. It became my habit to turn to a yoga practice that met my needs that day e.g. to address a tight muscle or aching shoulder, to help me to sleep better or to energise me in the morning. For that challenge my goal was at least 10 minutes per day, but I discovered a number of shorter sequences that I really enjoyed, so when thinking about my goals for 2018 I kept coming back to yoga. I really regretted letting that regular practice fall by the wayside towards the end of the year, so decided that 5 minutes (minimum) of yoga on 5 days of the week would be achievable. To get back into the habit, I signed up to the Yoga with Adriene 30 Days of Yoga to begin the year and am really looking forward to it. Steve has been promising to turn our smallest room int a space where I can roll out my yoga mat so perhaps we’ll finally get that done too…!

3. Read at least 30 books
Back in 2016 I set myself the goal of reading “more” as I was conscious that I just wasn’t finding as much time to read as I had in the past. I’ve ALWAYS been a reader (hence a degree in English!) and it frustrated me that I seemed to be completing so few books. To make that a SMARTer goal I used Goodreads to track my reading and joined their annual reading challenge, setting a target of 15 books on the basis that I probably read about a book a month with some extras during my summer holiday. I actually ended up reading 27 books, so my 2017 target was 30 books, a goal I met by the skin of my teeth! This year I’m keeping the goal this same, but hoping to stay a little more on top of it (although I suspect that the first few days of January will be the only point in the year when 0 books will be declared “on track” haha!). I actually read a fair amount of non-fiction in 2017 so plan to have a balance between fiction and non-fiction on my reading list. I can’t wait to see where reading will take me in 2018…

4. Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
This one is a development of my 2017 goal to prioritise rest more during the work week. I did make progress on this one but still would fall into the trap of staying up a bit too late sometimes (I’m a natural night owl) so in 2018 I want to do even more to make sure I’m as well rested as possible. This goal is really for term time as it’s much easier to be well rested during school holidays, and by making it a public goal then that will hopefully make me more accountable. I often start thinking about going to bed around 10pm, then spend time getting changed, brushing my teeth, etc and before I know it another half hour has passed. This goal is set in such a way that I should do all this earlier and actually be IN my bed at 10pm, settled with my book. Perhaps I’m just getting boring with age, but the thought of more time in my cosy bed is rather appealing and I know that being better rested will make me feel more alert, keep my immune system more robust and improve my running performance.

5. Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I LOVE Ted talks and use them frequently in the classroom. There are so many incredible speakers sharing a range of fascinating information and I’ve worked up a massive list of talks I would like to watch…but never take the time to do so. This year I’m committing to watching at least one per week, either on the Ted Talks website or one of their youtube channels. There is so much out there to learn about and by making this commitment I’m committing myself to broadening my mind and learning more about the experiences of others. What a huge offering from a free platform!

6. Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
When I first started to run I couldn’t set foot out the door without my trusty iPod and some music to distract me. These days I’m happy to run with just my own thoughts for company, but I much prefer listening to podcasts and use them to learn a lot, mainly about running or incredible adventures and challenges that inspire me. I have a huge number of podcasts that I enjoy (and a list of others I’d like to try!) but for various reasons have fallen a little behind in listening to them. So in 2018 my aim is to listen to at least 8 per week, which is basically one per day (usually on my drive home) and a couple during my Sunday long run. My only “rule” is that it must be over 10 minutes to count. I do listen to one or two shorter, daily updates and will continue to do so, but 8 short podcasts (maybe 80 minutes in total) is not quite the same as, say, 8 hours of quality content when it comes to broadening my horizons. If you fancy joining me then I wrote about some of my favourites here and here.

7. Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
I wanted to have a blog-related goal as well to help me develop my writing a little bit further, but I know that time-wise I’m quite limited in being able to produce any more content than I am at the moment. However I often see the WordPress daily prompts/challenges and think it would be a good idea to produce a response to them – I’ve even wondered about a mini-goal of completing all of them for a month in the summer, but never actually done it! – and so I thought it might be fun to try one (or maybe more) each month. I’m being fairly flexible with my “rules” around this one so the prompt doesn’t have to be from the month in question, it might be an older prompt or even come from one of the ebooks of daily prompts. I might choose a prompt requiring a written response or I might choose a photographic prompt. Who knows where this might take me…

8. Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
My final goal is interesting as it’s a little harder to quantify, but I am concerned in general about the amount of mindlessly scrolling through social media and/or staring at smartphone screens in the world today. As a teacher I find that my tolerance for phones is getting pretty low and I am catching myself getting more and more annoyed when I look around me and just see people staring at screens rather than interacting. People don’t look around and notice the world anymore and even when groups are together they are often sitting in silence all tapping away on different screens, any conversation being to ask if someone has seen a particular post. Is that what the future is going to be? When I was in France in October I barely looked at my phone all week other than to take photos and communicate with Steve, and I found it rather liberating. Since then, I have tried to cut back on the amount of time I spend using my phone as it’s so easy to get sucked into infinite timelines, especially when little of what I see enhances my life in any great way. I enjoy being part of some specific groups, and interacting with people I rarely see, but it’s a problem when I can’t sit and watch a TV programme without checking my phone. And so I want to be a bit more present in my own life and mindful in my phone use. If I’m on social media then it should be for a purpose (e.g. interacting in a running group or sharing my blog posts), not mindlessly scrolling through drivel when I could be reading blog posts from writers I’m interested in or getting lost in a good book. I often feel like my time is squeezed, so why waste it looking at “copy and paste” status updates, vague posts fishing for “u ok hun?” responses and people falling for hoaxes like to-good-to-be-true competitions or that privacy statement that keeps resurfacing? Yes, I will keep posting photos from my runs, yes I will share content that I find interesting (or might win me a good prize!) and yes I will “like” things I genuinely like. What I won’t do is let these things suck away my precious time and prevent me taking part in more fulfilling activities. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

So there you have it, my goals for the year which will (hopefully) develop positive habits and add value to my life. I will post the usual updates throughout the year to keep myself accountable and share how I’m getting on, but in the meantime, let’s go…!

What are your goals for 2018?
What one thing would you like to do to either create a positive habit or add value to your life this year?