7 For 2017 – Nearly There!

Well hello there October! Where did you sneak up from? It hardly seems like any time since I was setting my goals for 2017 and here we are three quarters of the way through the year. Time to check in and see how I’m doing (you can read my previous updates here and here).

1. Set some new race PBs
This one has been at a bit of a standstill since my success at the Inverness half marathon back in March, and with no race plans for the remainder of 2017, I suspect I’ve done all I can here. My main aim was to set a new marathon PB and beat that 4:05:07 that’s been hanging over me since Paris 2014. Unfortunately it was not to be, although I did make some positive progress. Back in April I was thwarted by the Paris heat, however did manage to run what was then my second fastest marathon time of 4:32:07 (yup, my PB is somewhat of an outlier!). I followed this up at the end of September with another try at the Loch Ness marathon, and while I still didn’t crack that elusive 4 hour mark, I did lower my 2017 performance to 4:18:10 (now my second-fastest). I’m not giving up though, and have already entered a spring marathon to have another try.
I had thought I might have a go at a new 10k PB (sub-50) but have not actually raced a 10k this year. I did, however, come tantalisingly close to my 5k parkrun PB of 23:14 when I ran a 23:19 a couple of weeks before Loch Ness. This was really pleasing as this was also a real outlier in my performance history so it was good to prove to myself that it had not been a fluke, even if the time is two years old! Now onwards into 2018!
Progress: 1/3 achieved; Improving picture

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IMG_39502. Run my 100th parkrun
This goal relies on consistency. I’ve missed very few parkruns this year, mainly planned misses due to post-marathon recovery, and still have enough of a cushion to achieve my 100th run before the end of the year. At present I’ve completed my 93rd, so just 7 more to go. Definitely achievable, perhaps by the start of December.
And my bonus parkrun goal is to achieve my 25 volunteer T-shirt. Thanks to my pacing duties this year I only have one more to go before I have that one all wrapped up.
Progress: On track

IMG_37133. Maintain my step goal streak
Back in July I achieved the first part of this goal – one full year of taking 10,000 steps per day. Now, I’m working on completing the second part of the goal – a calendar year of 10,000 steps per day. I’ve not yet broken my streak (currently at 472 days) so continuing the habit for now should be achievable.
Progress: On track

4. Read at least 30 books
This is now the goal that needs the most attention. I’m tracking my reading on Goodreads this year and, with 19 out of 30 books read, am 4 behind schedule to complete this one. This is an advance on the 25 books I read in 2016 and I did set this goal knowing it would push me. I had hoped the summer might bring me up to speed, but I now need to try and set aside a bit more time for reading. Watch this space!
Progress: Needs Attention

5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
The summer break allowed me to reset a bit on this one, and as soon as term began I made sure to prioritise rest right from the start. This meant trying not to allow my natural night-owl tendencies to take over and stay up too late on week nights, as well as scheduling an afternoon nap into my Saturday routine to help counter the busy week. It’s not always easy to fit in everything I want to do, but I am getting better at this one.
Progress: Much improved

IMG_38546. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
I’m really pleased with this one. Thanks to the Tough Girl 100 challenge I was able to make regular yoga much more of a habit for me, and enjoyed doing so. Things have faltered a bit of late thanks to the time pressures of being away on a trip, but now that I’m getting organised again I’m looking forward to adding some more yoga to my days. My favourite is some bedtime yoga to help me unwind and rest well, helping me with that goal too!
Progress: On track

IMG_41967. Blog more consistently
Another one that’s going well. I wanted to improve on my 2016 pattern by publishing at least one post per week IN ADDITION to Friday Finds. So far, so good. I think I’ve only had one late Friday Finds, but it has gone out every week. I’ve also published a Week in Review post every Monday, as well as many additional posts when I can. I’m trying to use school holidays to work through the ideas in my drafts and have posts scheduled in advance, but it definitely feels much more consistent than last year. Very pleasing.
Progress: On track

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A bit of a mixed bag right now, but then goals are there to be a challenge rather than a guarantee. I’ve definitely made positive progress towards each of these, and will do my best to achieve those I still can. Hard to believe that the next time I write about my goals will be a review at the end of the year! I wonder what I will achieve…?

How are you getting on with your goals for 2017?
What would you still like to achieve this year?

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Week In Review – Vive La France!

Bonjour! I’m back home from France. It was a great trip, but definitely tiring!

As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL, but since last week’s post didn’t cover the full week thanks to my travel commitments (and lack of wifi to update the weekend’s events) I thought I’d begin this week’s post by filling in the gaps. Unsurprisingly, I have plenty of photos to share – this might be one to enjoy over a cup of tea!

The trip began in Normandy then we headed to Paris. Once home, it was time to get back to my regular routine (whilst also making sure to rest from the demands of a full-on itinerary and 40 pupils to keep an eye on!). Here’s the itinerary:

Saturday – travel to France
Sunday – explore Normandy
Monday – explore Bayeux then travel to Paris
Tuesday – Paris
Wednesday – Paris
Thursday – travel home
Friday – rest(!)
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – easy run

Saturday was a travelling day. While France is not really that far away, we had an early start to ensure we were at the airport in plenty of time (45 people to get checked in and through security!), then once in France we had a coach journey north to Normandy. An early highlight for the pupils was the presence of the Scotland football team in the departure lounge (a few were able to get photos). For me, arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport felt really familiar – I’m losing count of how many times I’ve been there now! – and I was pleased to find we had a great coach driver who not only drove us north, but provided some commentary and information about various things we passed as we left Paris, including the Stade de France.

IMG_4015Once in Normandy we headed to our base for the first couple of nights which is a youth centre opposite the most beautiful church tower.

IMG_4024We were hustled right in to dinner as we were a little later arriving that usual. The teachers had a most welcome arrival drink awaiting them, but I found the food a little strange – edible, but an odd combination. Fortunately, the meal was rescued by dessert which was these delicious pastries:

IMG_4017Our knowledgeable coach driver, who had stayed for dinner, told us they are known as Paris-Brest. Shaped like a bicycle wheel, they were created to commemorate the cycle race of the same name which began in 1891. I can confirm that they are delicious!

By the time we’d finished eating and been shown to our rooms, there was really only time to unpack the things we would need then start getting ready for bed. Of course the pupils were excited, and many had slept on the coach so felt wide awake, but I know how busy and tiring the trip is so was keen to get everyone to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday was all about Normandy. We began the day in the beautiful town of Caen exploring the Sunday market and the castle which was built for William the Conqueror. We had our packed lunch in the castle grounds then headed on to Arromanches, at the heart of the D-Day landing sites (Jour-J in French). We were there to visit the 360 cinema which has a powerful 20 minute film which gives a real flavour of events in June 1944. The cinema is above the town and from the elevated position we could see the remains of the Mulberry harbour which was created to bring cargo ashore during the D-Day landings. We then took the short walk down to the town and had a look around for a short time before heading on to our next port of call: the American cemetery at Colleville.

IMG_4036The cemetery sits above Omaha beach and was featured at the start of the movie Saving Private Ryan (two of the brothers whose story inspired the film are buried at this cemetery). We didn’t have much time there, but I found time to watch a short film in the museum which I had not previously seen, before having a look around the cemetery itself. It’s a very sombre place and the mood can be felt in the air. It always really brings home the scale of the sacrifice made by allied forces as over 10,000 crosses are in this location alone.

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IMG_4043We began Monday still in Normandy with a visit to Bayeux and the famous tapestry which depicts the events around the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It’s quite spectacular and intricate, 70 metres long and 50 cm high. I remember learning about the tapestry at primary school, and always remember the part where Harold is killed with an arrow through the eye. Ouch!

IMG_4065After the tapestry there was some time to explore Bayeux before our packed lunches. There’s a beautiful cathedral in Bayeux and overall it’s a very attractive town.

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IMG_4079After lunch we were back on the road and heading to Paris for the remainder of the trip. Again, staying in a youth centre but more modern than the one in Normandy. We arrived in time to have a little time to relax before dinner, then it was time to head out.

Our first evening was spent in the Notre Dame area. We allowed the pupils some time to explore in their groups, so I opted to pay a visit to the nearby bookshop Shakespeare & Co. It’s a famous independent bookshop, traditionally English-language. Its location is close to Kilometer Zéro, the point from which all French road distances are measured. The shop is part of the rich history of ex-pat literary Paris in the 1920s and was a meeting place for the likes of Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Eliot. Today it’s still full of nooks and crannies inviting visitors to get comfortable and read. There’s even a resident cat whose favourite sleeping place is well defined!

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IMG_4124I absolutely adore this place and could easily spend hours (days?) there, but contented myself with a couple of books. You can ask to have your purchases stamped with the store logo, which is a nice touch and something I recommend if you ever visit.

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fullsizeoutput_229cTuesday was probably the most tiring day as we had no coach so were both walking and using the metro. It was also a day when there were public sector strikes, which ended up affecting our itinerary.

The first visit on the agenda was the Musée d’Orsay, a one-time railway station now home to a number of exhibits including Impressionist art. In the past we have visited the Louvre, so this was new. Unfortunately, just as we got there the museum was in the process of closing as the strikes meant they did not have enough staff. We gave our pupils some time to themselves to look around, take photos, buy food, etc while we made alternative plans and I drew on what turned out to be far more impressive knowledge of Paris than I realised I had as I was able to look at my map and come up with a plan almost immediately. All those Paris marathons were good for something!

IMG_4172We needed to do something that would not incur a cost (including additional metro tickets) so I created a tour of the area we were in. From the Musée d’Orsay we walked along the Rive Gauche past the bouquinistes to the Pont des Arts. This is the pedestrian bridge which attracted controversy due to the number of “love locks” attached to it. The locks have now been removed due to safety concerns, but it’s still a great bridge to cross as it’s quite spacious and there’s no traffic so you can take some time for photos.

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IMG_4231The bridge leads into the Louvre courtyard so we spent some time there taking photos around the iconic pyramid (and I decided this would be the the ideal location for some yoga photos!). I had thought of maybe heading into the Tuileries gardens next, perhaps even along to the Place de la Concorde to see the obelisk, however we needed to start heading to our lunch at a quick service restaurant close to the Pompidou centre so we made our way along Rue de Rivoli to get there.

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IMG_4196The afternoon was devoted to some shopping so we walked the group along to the Forum des Halles, a huge underground shopping mall. There has been a lot of work going on remodelling the area and it was fascinating to see how much it has changed. I didn’t really do much shopping, but did enjoy the chance to slow down a bit and spend some time in a nearby café.

Unfortunately, our evening was also affected by the strikes. We had been due to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but it was also closed. We had a bit longer to think about alternative activities and I suggested going along anyway to see the monument from ground level and spend some time on the Champs Elysées before walking along to the Trocadéro to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. This turned out to be an ideal solution – another score for all that time I’ve spent exploring Paris on foot!

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IMG_4219The pupils were pleased to see the coach again on Wednesday morning as they were so tired from the day before. Wednesday began with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. I ended up waiting at the bottom with a pupil who was unable to go up because of a fear of heights. I amused myself with a coffee and pain au chocolat for second breakfast!

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IMG_4241Once the group was back on the ground we walked across the road to the Port de la Bourdonnais where we had a one hour cruise on the Seine. I’ve done this a few times so didn’t bother listening to the commentary and instead just enjoyed the Parisian scenery and chance to relax for a while.

Back at the coach we had a quick packed lunch (it was a little chilly) before heading off again. We asked our coach driver to go around the Arc de Triomphe, which he did, then took a fairly scenic route to our next port of call all the while keeping up his very knowledgeable and interesting commentary.

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IMG_4255Soon, we passed the Moulin Rouge and got off the coach to make our way up the 270 (I think) steps to the Sacré Cœur. I had to go up them fairly briskly as some of the boys raced up and a member of staff needed to be up there to keep everyone together as they arrived. After a pause at the view point, we walked around to the Place du Tertre to enjoy the artists, cafés and souvenir shops. The staff sat at a café by our meeting point and I ordered a delicious bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée.

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IMG_4397Our evening activity was a visit to the Montparnasse tower and its panoramic observation deck. We made our way there on foot, and it was well worth it for the stunning views of Paris by night.

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IMG_4297Thursday was, sadly, the day we had to go home. I was up early to take one of our pupils to the airport as a family funeral required her to be on an earlier flight than ours. It was actually quite nice to have a couple of hours to myself and not constantly hear my “teacher name” followed by Are we…? Can we…? When are we…? Where is…? etc.

IMG_4307Back in Scotland our journey home took us over the new Queensferry Crossing (my first time) which was exciting, but by the time I finally got home I was exhausted so Steve treated me to a Chinese takeaway for dinner before I went to bed.

IMG_4320Unsurprisingly, Friday was a very quiet day. I slept a little later then usual, got unpacked and paid a visit to my parents before going out to eat with Steve. Even better, my favourite special was on so I had a lovely steak dinner 🙂

IMG_4335By Saturday I was ready for business as usual. What with my recovery weeks and the trip, I hadn’t trained since the Loch Ness marathon and was keen to get started again with a parkrun.

IMG_4336It was a lovely autumnal day, perfect for running. I had no expectations of time, but enjoyed moving my legs and pushing my body again. I ended up running really evenly and was quite surprised to finish in 24:41. Not too shabby after three weeks off!

IMG_4343The rest of the day was pretty relaxing as Steve was away, so I chilled out with the cat and caught up on some TV.

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IMG_4409Sunday was another return to the usual routine as I headed out for my second run of the weekend. Nowhere near as long as my marathon training runs, but a nice 5.5 mile loop at an easy pace to start reminding my body of how to run again. I felt sluggish at first, but by the end I could feel everything clicking into place.

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IMG_4408What a week! So strange to think that I started the week in France and ended it on my usual running route. Life is so funny sometimes! It was great to have some time in Paris, but now I’m ready to re-focus and get back to some regular training again.

Have you been on any trips recently?
How is your training going?

Week In Review – A Confidence Boost!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All finished off with a post-run yoga sequence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3807I had mine later with some peanut butter. Yum!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – The Curse Of The Taper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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She doesn’t really like having her photo taken.

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

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

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

Week In Review – Training Peak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On foot to make sure I hit my step goal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can you spot me?

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

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

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

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Tired but happy post-run

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

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

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

Week In Review – Birthday Week

That’s right, I had a birthday this week. Funny how the older we get, the faster the birthdays seem pop up! Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details of my week in training and life.

As well as being my birthday week, this was also the first full week of teaching for the school year (last week I had two days without pupils first). I’m still getting back into the swing of things but managed to fit in the most important parts of my training plan:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
FridayPT session rest
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 18 miles

I hadn’t been sure if I would manage a swim on Monday as I had a meeting after school then a sports massage a bit later which would squeeze my time a bit, however as it turned out my massage therapist had to reschedule so I had plenty of time for my swim. As is becoming a regular occurrence, I managed to arrive at the gym when there was an aqua fit class on in the main part of the pool so everyone who wanted to swim was in the “fast lane” and I had to adapt a bit to work around that. I still got my lengths done, but they felt quite interrupted. I’m not sure if my swims lately have been top quality workouts, but since the main purpose of them is active recovery from my Sunday long run, I’m not too bothered about that.

Tuesday was my birthday, but weekday birthdays tend not to feel so special as it’s business as usual. Since a) it was a school night and b) Steve had a late finish, he told me that he had planned a weekend celebration instead (although he didn’t tell me what. To be honest, good food a nice glass of wine and a nap suits me!). At work I was given a lovely card and some flowers, and we enjoyed a bit of cake at lunchtime to mark the occasion. When Steve arrived home he told me that he had been trying to find some kind of nice cake or pastry to get me as a treat, but couldn’t quite find what he was looking for. Instead, he brought me a “cruffin” (croissant/muffin). The texture was that of a croissant, the shape that of a muffin and there was some strawberry and champagne jam inside. It was delicious and as you can see, the cat fancied sharing it with me!

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IMG_3669Workout-wise, I still headed to the gym for my bike workout. It’s not my favourite workout of the week as it’s a hard session, but my current workout only takes 30 minutes which feels much more achievable. After the bike I spent a few minutes in the hot tub to relax then headed home to eat.

My Wednesday workout this week was hill reps again. I last did these two weeks ago and with the work I’ve done since then, I definitely felt stronger this week. It was a bit later before I got out since I stayed at work late to finish some things up, but even then it was still quite a warm (for Scotland) day. I took this picture arriving home at 7:45pm in my shorts and strappy top, still feeling perfectly comfortable. I wish we could have more weather like that!

IMG_3678Thursday felt a bit rushed. The cat had a follow-up at the vet, but the only appointment I could get with “our” vet was only an hour after the school day finished and it can take me about 40 minutes to get home at that time of day – tight, even if I left with my pupils, a rarity! Luckily, Steve was free so he offered to meet me there with the cat. This meant I could drive straight to the vet without having to go home and chase the cat around, and madam got door-to-door chauffeur service for her trouble lol! She was given a couple of injections to further improve how she’s feeling, but there’s no need for concern right now. I guess neither of us are getting any younger 😉

Once home I didn’t have long to get myself changed and organised for Ashtanga yoga, but I was keen to go as the week felt busy and I really wanted the time to focus on myself, clear my head and stretch my body. It was a good class and there was a woman there completing her observations to go with her yoga teacher training so we all had a few more adjustments than usual, which I’m fine with. I chatted to her at the end of the class and she mentioned that I had a good practice as I have great strength. I think I quite like someone telling me I have strength, so that made me happy.

On Friday I had to make a change. I was going to have a PT session with Steve, but with the 10k race he organises taking place this weekend, he had to meet up with some people to go over details. The only option was to try and go earlier, but that just wasn’t feasible as I actually needed to finish up some things at work before leaving. In the end I said just to leave it rather than getting stressed about a session and stayed at work for a couple of hours after the pupils went home. I was tired, but was pleased to get some things sorted out. My reward was our usual Friday night date for some food, and this time I opted for the chicken curry which I haven’t had for a while.

IMG_3684I got up a bit sharper on Saturday as I had some logistics to sort out. The Hatha yoga class I go to was starting again, however the studio has moved to the other side of town and I was trying to figure out the best way to get between parkrun and yoga without having to pay a fortune for car parking or spend ages in heavy traffic. My decision was to drive to parkrun and use a car park that is very inexpensive, leave the car there and walk over to yoga (I thought this would take about 20 minutes) then go back for the car once Steve and I had finished our Saturday errands, about an hour after yoga ended. The sticking point was that the car park was likely to be busy due to an event taking place at the sports centre, so I wanted to get down early enough that there would still be spaces.

Fortunately, my plan worked out well. I got a space and didn’t have too long to wait for parkrun. It was quite warm first thing in the morning, and I know some people found that tough. It’s a while now since we were in Florida, but I’m still finding that I deal with warmer conditions ok. What I found tough was the grass section as there had been some rain during the week. The surface of the grass was slippery and while most of it was firm, the sections which are muddy puddles in the winter were a bit squelchy, some of them rather deceptive so it made for trickier running. I was only a few seconds slow than last week, though, with 23:48 so I was happy with that.

IMG_3686After parkrun I returned to the car, changed my shoes and socks, grabbed my stuff for yoga and headed over to the new studio. I was there in plenty time so was able to change clothes, freshen up a bit and be on my mat ready to begin relaxing in savasana. I’ve missed my Saturday morning yoga so it was really nice to relax and stretch after the run, setting the intention for the remainder of the day to be chilled.

And it was chilled. It didn’t take us long to complete our errands, then after lunch I set myself up to catch up on some posts, sort out some online purchases I’ve been meaning to make and, most importantly, take a nap (with the cat. She’s a napping champion!).

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Runner hair, don’t care!

Sunday began with my long run, and thankfully it was much less “eventful” than last week! I picked a route for my 18 miles that would entirely avoid the Big Scary Buzzard, the only issue being that since I’m running a faster pickup every third mile, I knew some of those would fall on big hills. As it turned out, this included the toughest hill on the route. Oh well!

fullsizeoutput_2108Other than that, it was quite pleasant. The weather was good, I saw a red squirrel (not a common sight) and chatted to cyclists and horse riders. I was tired when I was done and my legs definitely felt weary, but it felt like a good run overall.

IMG_3690After trying to take a photo  (Steve couldn’t help more of his messing about!) I had to keep on going – shower, food, errands then get changed for the promised birthday treat.

IMG_3694All I knew was that we were going somewhere nice, that there would be good food and that the table was booked for 6pm. The early time intrigued me, but then I’d run 18 miles so knew I would definitely be ready for food. Other than that, clueless. Steve did say that he made a booking based on something I had said recently. and it took me until we were almost there to finish racking my brains. I had a recollection of discussing a meal and saying it would be fantastic after a super long run, but couldn’t actually remember what venue I had been talking about…until we got there.

IMG_3698Steve had booked high tea at the hotel where we had our wedding reception. High tea is awesome, but I’m conscious that some of my readers may not have any idea what that means. Allow me:

History tells us that “afternoon tea” was a kind of stopgap between meals for the upper classes. It consisted of tea, scones, finger sandwiches, etc served whilst sitting in low, comfortable chairs. Working classes also adopted the tradition, but needed something more substantial after a day of hard graft, so would take theirs at a “high” table alongside savoury food, usually something filling, as their main evening meal. High tea is now an entrenched part of the culture, but more as a special treat and can vary around the country. In Scotland the savoury food is usually “pub grub” items such as gammon steak, steak pie, scampi, etc served with buttered toast and tea then finished with scones and sweet treats. To be honest, the savoury food is very much the sort of evening meal (often called “tea” in Scotland) that people of my generation and before would often have growing up – I can even remember tea being the drink my dad would make with our evening meal as his mother always did that. Now, it’s probably the sort of thing that younger generations may not have heard of, let alone tried. It would be a shame for it to disappear.

The afternoon tea at this particular hotel is fantastic, but it’s been a couple of years since we had it. After 18 miles, I could think of nothing better to eat!

We had a gin and tonic when we arrived then were shown to our table where there was tea and toast being served (what is it about hotel toast? Yum!). At first I couldn’t decide what main dish to order but eventually went with gammon steak as that’s what I had mentioned when I said what a great post-long run meal it would be. I was making jokes about asking them to swap the salad for a fried egg (I had been distracted by egg and other all day breakfast delights in some of the other dishes on offer) but when the order was taken I was asked if I would like my gammon steak topped with pineapple, fried egg or both. Winner!

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fullsizeoutput_2107After that huge plate of food (which I polished off) there was a tier of scones, cream scones and a giant meringue each (also all polished off). They kept brining fresh tea so I was awash, then we had another gin and tonic before our bus home. It was just the perfect thing for that particular day and I loved it.

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Trying to look like a normal, well-presented person rather than someone who just ran 18 miles and wants a nap (but I did wear compression calf sleeves under my jeans!)

Having the early booking (high tea is served around that sort of time) was a real advantage as we were home fairly early, and since Id been on the go all day I opted to head pretty much straight to bed so I could have a really good sleep. Rock ‘n’ roll!

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Who needs a duvet when the fluffiest cat in the world insists on sleeping on top of you every night!

All in all, a great week. Training went well and Steve chose the perfect way to celebrate my birthday so I was really happy.

Have you ever had a high tea?
How did you celebrate your last birthday?

Week In Review – Back to School

I guess it had to happen. Those 6 weeks off school have a tendency to fly by and before you know it the new school year is starting. It was a bit of a shock to the system and I was definitely pretty tired by the middle of the week, but my training continued more or less to plan. Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

Here’s how my week ended up:

Mondayswim rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – 1km form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
FridayPT session rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

You’ll notice a couple of changes in there, so let me explain…

Monday was the first day of work for me. Staff began with two days of inservice training so no pupils until Wednesday, but still lots to do and a long day of reflecting on exam results, planning for the year ahead and getting organised. It was nice to see colleagues again, but the day felt long compared to being at home (funny that!). I had an appointment in the evening to get my nails done so rather than rush to squeeze in a swim I decided to postpone it until the Tuesday and enjoy a relaxing evening instead.

IMG_3609It was another inservice day on Tuesday and this time we had a training session in the afternoon which was quite interesting. I then headed to the gym to repeat the same bike session as last week. This session is all about intensity rather than volume of reps, so the actual workout won’t change, I’ll just work to my max effort on each one so how that feels will vary. Unsurprisingly I didn’t perform quite as well as the previous week when I was sauntering in feeling super well rested, but I know I still worked hard and that’s what’s important here. After a few minutes of mobility work I then headed for the pool for a quick swim. I had to dodge round people but it was nice to be in the water after a hard workout.

On a Wednesday I’m focusing on form with alternate weeks of either hill reps or 1km drills. This week was the drills. In all honesty it was the last thing I felt like doing after the first teaching day of the year, but I also knew I would feel better for getting out so got changed and set off. I had a 10 minute warm up then 8x 1km focusing on form (knee drive and arms) with 90 seconds recovery. Not only did I get caught in a heavy rain shower, but my chosen route had some lengthy inclines so some of my reps were pretty hard. Job done and in bed at 9:30pm since I was so tired and am making a point of prioritising rest right from the start of the school year rather than waiting for the exhaustion to creep in!

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Scrubbed up for work in the morning…

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…an absolute state in the evening!

I felt much fresher on Thursday morning after a good sleep and having already seen most of my classes could feel myself slipping back into the teaching routine. Still, it was great to get to my Ashtanga class and have a bit of time to focus on myself. It felt really good to switch off, stretch out and relax.

Usually on a Friday I have my PT session with Steve, but this week we cancelled as I needed to take the cat to the vet. Regular readers will know that she’s 17 now and has some age-related health conditions. She’s been great right through the summer but as soon as I went back to work she had a bit of a dip. It’s likely an infection so a course of antibiotics should clear it up. But having been back at work for a week and been worrying about her, by the time I got back home I could feel that I was exhausted and made the decision to take another nap. Best decision ever as I felt refreshed afterwards and ready to head out for some food.

Saturday was, of course, parkrun day and it was the nationwide #teamparkrun event which I already wrote about here. Having become much better at charting patterns in my performance and listening to my body, I went into the run believing that this could be one of my best parkrun performances of the year and then did what was needed to make that happen. My time of 23:42 is just 3 seconds slower than my best for the year (from mid-March when I was training for Paris) and leaves an interesting conundrum: did I run that time because I was right that it could be one of my best of the year, or did I run that time because I believed I would run well? Perhaps it’s a bit of both…

IMG_3617I really loved parkrun this week thanks to a strong performance, the atmosphere created by the #teamparkrun event and, perhaps my favourite bit, having the chance to try on an Olympic medal!

IMG_3649On Saturday evening there was a street party in our neighbourhood with the opportunity to bbq, meet some neighbours and have a drink. With a long run planned for Sunday morning this wasn’t ideal, but I went for about an hour before scuttling back inside to read my book (yes, I’m a bit of an introvert and the whole thing was far too people-y for me!). Steve stayed a little longer, but I really want to focus on rest since my return to work coincides with the longest runs on my schedule. I had an afternoon nap but was feeling pretty tired again so did some relaxing bedtime yoga then headed to bed for about 10pm.

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Nap buddies!

And then it was Sunday…

It all started well enough. The sun was shining, I felt rested and was looking forward to 16 miles on country roads. I tend not to use these routes in the winter as they can be really miserable and lonely, but in nice weather I love the peace and quiet. Since Loch Ness has an undulating (translation: hilly) course, I want to make sure I train on similar terrain. My plan was to use the same approach as my other long runs in this cycle of 2 miles easy and 1 mile hard (focusing on form and intensity if this happened to coincide with a hill).

Leaving the house the first part of my route took me uphill for a while before a slight levelling out and a downhill section. There is also a rather well-known (to local runners) buzzard towards the top of the hill. Lots of runners have experienced being attacked by this bird, usually around February when it’s protecting young so I didn’t expect any problems today, in fact I didn’t even think about it. How wrong I was!

I was running up the hill enjoying the sunshine, listening to my podcast with my brilliant new open ear headphones when I felt something hit my head. Thinking something had dropped from one of the trees overhead, I looked up in time to see the underneath of the bird flying right in front of me. Uh oh!

Knowing Steve had previously been attacked by the bird and ended up with a cut on his head, I realised I had to act. But what to do for the best? My only instinct was to get out of there fast so speeded up to a pace more suitable for parkrun than a Sunday long run as this bird circled round and round really low and got my head at least one more time, maybe more. It was really intimidating and my heart was racing thanks to the fright and the pace I was now running. I was also waving my arms around and shouting to try and scare the bird, but it just kept screeching and coming round again. By the time I was clear of its territory I had lost a hair clip and the hair tie holding my hair back had been pulled practically all the way out. I checked my head but there was no sign of any blood or a scratch, however even hours later as I type this I can still feel where its claws came down on my head.

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It’s in there somewhere!

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The look of fear straight afterwards.

In reality it was probably over really quickly, but at the time it seemed to go on forever and I definitely felt under attack. Heart pounding, I had to make a decision. The last thing I felt like doing was carrying on with my run (I had run 1 mile out of my 16) but I had even less desire to turn around and head back down the hill past the bird again to get home. So I posted a quick Facebook message to warn anyone else planning to run up that way and carried on. I knew I could cut off the road further along and head for home, finishing with about 8 or 9 miles, but if I was going to run on then I might as well go for my 16 miles.

What followed was probably one of the most mentally challenging runs of my life, not even cheered by the loose sheep which tried to race me down a hill (for reference, those things are speedy!). In retrospect, I was probably running on adrenaline to begin with, then in a degree of shock. I found it really hard to settle into my run and it felt more challenging than it should have done. I’m not ashamed to admit that I stopped a few times, but I did carry on and finish it. Eventually.

IMG_3659That’s probably the only time I’ve ever really been scared on a run, because I had no control over the situation and knew that if that buzzard wanted to hurt me it could. I feel lucky not to have any cuts from its claws and was definitely shaken up by the whole experience. I don’t think I’ll be running on that particular route for my remaining long runs in this training cycle!

The rest of the day was a bit of a struggle. Apparently the whole thing took a lot out of me and I felt really tired. On the plus side, I finished my run (with the same average pace as previous weeks) and proved that I can keep going when my brain is trying to shut it down – good mental toughness training. Now it’s time to move on. New week, new training…

Have you ever had a close encounter with some wildlife on your run?
What’s the scariest experience you’ve ever had when running?

#teamparkrun

Ah my beloved parkrun. Today, 19th August, things were made even more special by a UK-wide event in partnership with UK Sport and The National Lottery – #teamparkrun.

Here’s the gist of the event:

“On Saturday 19 August 2017, following the World Athletics Championships in London, the UK’s National Lottery funded Olympic and Paralympic athletes are teaming up with parkrun to encourage the nation to get active with #teamparkrun”

You may remember that last August, following the Olympic Games in Rio, returning athletes took part in a celebration called I Am Team GB which not only welcomed home our athletes who had performed so well, but encouraged the nation as a whole to be more active. Around 60 GB athletes took part in parkrun events that day, and this year’s event, backed by Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Wales, Sport Northern Ireland, The British Olympic Association and Paralympic Association as well as a number of governing bodies, was designed as a thank you from our National Lottery funded athletes for getting behind them. At parkruns across the country this morning, those athletes were right behind us this time as they volunteered as tail walkers. Nobody finishes last at parkrun so this event highlighted how inclusive parkrun is.

We’re fortunate enough to have an Olympic athlete right here in Perth – the swimmer Stephen Milne who was part of the silver medal-winning 4x200m freestyle relay team. He also won silver in the same event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Stephen came to Perth parkrun last year for I Am Team GB and returned again today to be tail walker.

IMG_3615Our event began with a rather longer than usual run briefing as we thanked the volunteers, acknowledged those with milestone runs and heard a few words from both Stephen Milne and our local MP Pete Wishart who had also come along in support of the event. There was a huge turnout, no doubt due to a combination of #teamparkrun, a beautiful morning and the cancellation of our nearest parkrun event which brought a lot of visitors to us. We now have a new attendance record of 303!

There were also some photos taken. Everyone else was getting ready to run but I spotted the photo op and sidled in at the back – parkrun ninja lol!

fullsizeoutput_20cbSlightly late, we were counted down by our MP and were off. I had it in mind that I could run well today and found I naturally slipped into the form I have been practising during my recent form drills. I ran the first mile rather quickly and slowed a bit over the next couple of miles, but felt strong throughout. Perhaps like last year I was inspired by having an Olympic athlete around and was really pleased to finish in 23:42, a pesky 3 seconds outside of my best time this year. However I felt good and think I might still be able to find another few seconds before my marathon at the end of next month.

I really wanted a photo with our guest tail walker so waited around the finish, cheering on other runners and chatting to people I knew.

IMG_3618And then my chance came. I got a lovely photo and, as a bonus, managed to get a shot of me wearing the ACTUAL OLYMPIC SILVER MEDAL (last year I only got to feel the weight of it while its owner was still wearing it). Of course I did my standard medal pose. It’s pretty heavy so I’m not sure I’d have managed a jumping shot 😉

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IMG_3649#teamparkrun was a fantastic event. Parkrun is always friendly and inclusive, but I’m quite sure the presence of Olympic and Paralympic athletes drew more people to parkruns around the UK today – after all, how often do you get the chance to say you were faster than an Olympian haha!

IMG_3633Thank you Stephen Milne for contributing to a fantastic event today.

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Photo: Stephen Milne on Twitter

Did you take part in #teamparkrun?
Ever tried on an Olympic medal?

Week In Review – Making it Last

How can my summer break be over already? I swear we only just finished school for the summer! This week I made sure to enjoy the last moments of time off (with my marathon training getting priority!) so join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for their weekly linkup.

Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps + Hatha yoga
Thursday – PT session
Friday – rest day
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 14 miles

I made yet another attempt to find a decent time in the afternoon to hit the pool, and yet again got it wrong. I’d no sooner slid into the pool at my gym when I realised there was an instructor setting up to give a kids’ swimming lesson in the lane. Upon enquiry, she told me she was starting at 3:30 and her pupil actually arrived poolside at that moment. I manage to squeeze in half a dozen lengths in the short time before the lesson began, then I had to switch to the main part of the pool and take my chances around those doing the heads up breaststroke, the inexplicable people who seem to swim with their body in a vertical position, and the group of children squealing for their accompanying adults to watch as they took turns to jump in (pretty sure jumping in isn’t actually allowed as the pool isn’t all that deep and isn’t big enough to require a lifeguard). Needless to say, after 20 lengths of dodging round then all and having to stop at the end to wait for space, I headed for the sauna instead!

Tuesday was a bit better. I headed to the gym to get on the bike and following our experiments with different sets over the last couple of weeks, Steve gave me a new workout to do in order to progress what I’ve been doing on the bike. For this workout I took the resistance level of the bike up one then had 10 reps of 40 seconds at max effort with 20 seconds recovery, with a warmup and cool down on either side. On the first rep it felt pretty straightforward as my last set of intervals were a minute long, but I had 30 seconds recovery and the resistance was lower, so by the time I was a few reps in I could feel the weariness creeping into my legs. Not that long a workout, but it felt very effective!

IMG_3460On Wedensday it was back to hill reps. My plan going forward is to alternate hill reps and the 1km form drills I did last week, so this week I had hills. Goody! I’ve only done one specific hill workout since returning from Florida and it was using the last 3 lampposts on my chosen hill (3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep). Of course Steve likes to challenge me (it’s “character building” apparently!) so it was back to all 5 lampposts on the hill (5 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps and 1 rep to the last one). The hill starts out fairly gently so the 5 reps to the first lamppost feel fairly easy, but there’s a sting in the tail as the hill gets steeper as it goes on so the last few reps can be pretty tough and I always hit my max heartrate for the session on one of the last 2 reps when it’s at its toughest. Although I’ve done this workout before, the focus has changed from being all about the speed, to thinking about the knee drive and form I’ve been practising in other workouts. I found that while it definitely felt like I was working hard to really drive forward with my knees, I was probably a couple of seconds slower on each rep, but Steve said that’s what he expected so no problems there.

IMG_3470Wednesday evening was possibly one of my favourite workouts of the week. I headed up to the clubhouse at the golf club for a Hatha yoga class, and since it was a really nice evening we decided to go outside. Cue much hilarity as we basically had our mats rolled out by the second tee (it’s ok, we had permission and all the golfers were further round the course by this time) and a few comedy moments as some golfers nearby shouted “fore!” just to see us all scramble for cover! It was a great laugh as well as being a lovely stretch out and it was so nice to be outside in the sunshine, lying on my mat with hardly a cloud in the sky above. Bliss!

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IMG_3524I switched my Friday PT session to Thursday this week as I had plans on Friday. I headed down to the studio on Thursday morning and worked through the mobility drills we have been using in recent times. After the issue I had with my left hip last September, I’ve made a point of working on hip strength and stability ever since. These days that is being covered by the work we’re doing to improve knee drive and upper back mobility and I definitely think the Core Momentum Trainer has contributed to an improvement in my upper back mobility, especially on the right where I tend to carry a lot of tightness. After working through some exercises with Steve, I returned to a drill I had done at the start of the session and Steve was falling about laughing at the shock on my face as I moved through a greater range of motion than I had just half an hour earlier. Not bad for a piece of kit that reminds me of a giant maraca or a baby’s rattle lol!

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IMG_3538I arrived home to another cool medal from a virtual race. Love it!

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IMG_3546In the afternoon I had some “back to school” errands in town then I met Steve for an ice cream. This was Honeycomb caramel cup. There were small caramel-filled chocolate cups throughout it. Absolutely delicious!

IMG_3550I did have a disappointment that evening though as I arrived at the yoga studio to find that my class had been cancelled. My teacher isn’t local and her train had been cancelled so she was unable to get there and nobody else was able to cover at short notice. I had been looking forward to the class but there was nothing to be done so I headed home and made use of the time to make some French onion soup and stew some of the rhubarb I got from my parent’s garden.

IMG_3551On Friday morning I had an appointment for my “back to school haircut” then I met some friends from work for a bit of lunch and a catch up. I hadn’t expected to be able to join them when the idea of lunch was first floated, but when they decided to come to Perth I realised I could just make it. It was a bit of a rush, but I enjoyed a lovely lunch of a chicken burger with prosciutto and guacamole. I love this dish as the “burger” is an uncoated chicken fillet and the addition of the prosciuotto and guac make it really tasty.

IMG_3552Of course I still had my usual Friday night date with Steve at the pub down the road, but rather than having another burger (I’ve been loving their chilli burger lately) there was ribeye steak on the menu so I picked that as I had been craving that particular combo for days.

IMG_3554Just before heading out I received a notification that it was my 6 year blogging anniversary (blogiversary?) so we marked the occasion by having dessert. As far as I’m concerned, sticky toffee pudding is the ONLY dessert worth considering!

IMG_3555And then it was parkrunday (some people call it “Saturday”). I know that my performance goes up and down at different points in the month and expected this to be my most sluggish performance of the month, certainly not under 24 minutes. I expected something like 24:15 or so, so imagine my surprise when I crossed the line in 23:54! If that’s what I did on a day when I didn’t think I was running at my best, I’m curious to see what I can do over the next few weeks when I’m feeling a bit more at my peak!

IMG_3604Post-parkrun Steve and I refuelled with a coffee (him), pot of tea (me) and a scone each. I had my favourite berry and white chocolate. If you’re ever in Perth, I might divulge where to go and sample this culinary delight for yourself.

IMG_3600The remainder of Saturday was pretty chilled. I had an afternoon nap (definitely something to make a habit of as the school year begins – I need to stay as well rested as I can right from the start rather than waiting for the tiredness to catch up with me) and watching the athletics. What a shame Mo Farah couldn’t get just one last track gold medal, and it was so sad to see Usasin Bolt pull up in his last competitive appearance. On the other hand, it was amazing to see the GB 4×100 relay teams performing so well. We’ve had the talent in those teams for a while now but they’ve not always been able to take the baton safely round the track so this was a real triumph.

We also enjoyed a cheeky glass of fizz to celebrate the cat turning 17. She was about 6 weeks old when I adopted her and as a rescue cat her exact date of birth is unknown. I just counted back six weeks from when I got her and declared that date to be her birthday!

IMG_3605Sunday was long run day and I’m still using the principle of running 2 easy miles then 1 harder mile where I focus on form. I was feeling sluggish from the start and not at my best, but I knew there was no reason not to run, I simply adjusted to run by effort rather than by the numbers on my watch. Great mental training to push on when things feel tough and another 14 miles in the bank for Loch Ness.

IMG_3606Over the last 6 weeks I’ve had the chance to relax and recover, had a fantastic trip to Florida and got serious marathon training underway. Part of me feels sad that my holiday is over, but a very wise person once told me not to be sad that something was over, but be happy that it happened at all. I’ll try to remember that as I spend the first couple of days of the week sitting in meetings and getting ready to begin then next year of teaching. With a bit of luck it will be next summer before I know it!

What is your faavourite workout?
What’s been your summer highlight (so far)?

Week In Review – It’s All In The Hips

We’re still playing around a bit with the content of some of my workouts, but this has been a great week of getting to grips with some different forms of training. Not only that, but the World Championships Athletics has now started and I know I’ll be glued to that for the next few days! As ever, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

In general, the pattern was the same as ever. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – 1km drills + Hatha yoga
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 12 miles

As always, the week began with a swim. I find this a great way to recover from my weekend runs, which helps to both boost my fitness and make me think about my breathing. This week, unfortunately, wasn’t such a great swim for me. The pool was busy (I had spent a good chunk of the day at work getting my new classroom organised for the start of term) so it was really hard to get into any sort of rhythm. I also think they might have adjusted the pool chemicals and my nose felt quite blocked throughout the swim, making it hard to get my breathing right. I have noticed this before, so if you’ve any tips that might help then I’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, in all honesty, was a bit of a disaster. It was really wet in the morning so I decided not to go to the gym until later on. During the holidays I tend not to use my car unless I really have to as I spend so much time driving to and from work during term time. What I’m now noticing is that in bad weather I’m more likely to either delay an outing or re-think my clothing for the conditions rather than get in the car instead. Things seemed better later, just a few brief passing showers, so I set off. About half way to the gym the rain started, but rather than ease off it quickly became Florida-like monsoon conditions. I know we get a lot of rain in Scotland, but nothing like this with drains instantly overflowing and rain bouncing off every surface. I was stranded under a bus shelter for ages until it eased off and I moved on, but I was soaked through and realised that I had a problem: all I had was the clothes I was wearing and the clothes for my workout. If I did my workout I would either have to walk home in sweaty gym clothes or put my rain-soaked clothes back on (including very squelchy shoes and socks!). Neither option was appealing!

IMG_3380Steve was free so I got him to pick me up and drive me home. Once there I got dried off, put my gym clothes on, grabbed the things I needed and drove to the gym. It was a case of walk in, do workout, drive home. By the time I got there the workout was the last thing I felt like doing, but it’s good mental training to carry on when you’re head isn’t in it and I got the bike workout done.

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It’s not all glamour this marathon training!!

For Wednesday, Steve had something new up his sleeve for me. Rather than another set of hill reps, he wanted me to do some form drills. We’ve been working on knee drive in my PT sessions, so now this was being incorporated into a run as well. I had a 10 minute warm up, then it was 6x 1km drills, focusing on knee drive and arms. Basically, running with really good form. After each rep I had 90 seconds recovery. The first rep began well but as I approached a road crossing I had a most unfortunate encounter with a swarm of midges and had to stop while I hawked and hacked. Pretty sure I still swallowed a couple. Let’s call that “bonus protein”! The second and third reps were great as they were mainly downhill and I felt like I was flying. The last part of the fourth and first half of the fifth were uphill so by the time I got to the last rep I was digging deep, but this was the reason I had six to do as Steve knew from his own experience that after that the form would start to go and then the workout would have little benefit.

IMG_3395I had a short cool down after the last rep then a really quick shower and change before heading off to meet Steve. Some friends of ours are going to Florida later in the year and were feeling a bit overwhelmed with planning everything so we offered to sit down with them and talk through some things/answer questions/give recommendations over a cup of tea. I really hope they found it useful. Perhaps I should seek an alternative career as a Central Florida holiday planner/guide (I’d be happy to offer personal tours “in situ” lol!).

I finished the day with a nice relaxing Hatha yoga class up at the golf club again. I was feeling sleepy from a busy day (I ran quite early compared to what I usually do in order to fit everything in) so this was just what I needed.

On Thursday I had a little indulgence when I met Steve at a coffee shop after some errands. They were offering half price frozen drinks so we tried the double chocolate cookie mocha. I can confirm it was good!

IMG_3399My main workout was my Ashtanga yoga class. It was a small class this week and all people who go regularly so we were able to flow quite quickly through the postures and try something new at the end of the sequence. I felt good and am pleased with my progress in one of the postures that I wanted to work on.

Friday began with a PT session. More work on my knee drive, hip mobility and upper back mobility. Like last week I used both weights of Core Momentum Trainer and the broomstick. We also finished with some short hopping drills to consolidate the work on knee drive.

IMG_3402I got home to find that the medal from my July virtual challenge had arrived. I do like it when this happens!

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IMG_3407Later that afternoon I had to walk up to my parents’ house and I definitely felt some weariness around my hips after all the work this week! Whilst at the house I realised that there was tons of rhubarb in the garden so headed out (in the rain!) to pick some before I left. I usually make some stewed rhubarb with it as Steve likes it with his breakfast and I quite like it with some Greek yoghurt. It’s not good to have too close to a run though, unless a sprint finish to the loo is what you fancy lol!

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The evening was spent enjoying the first night of the athletics, including an incredible run from Mo Farah. I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

Since it was the first Saturday of the month that meant it was pacer day at parkrun. This time I was pacing 27 minutes and knew I was aiming for about 8:45 per mile. It was a beautiful, still day (great for PBs!) and I found myself slightly ahead after the first mile. No big deal as it can take a bit of time to settle into the right pace. Just before the turn I found myself alongside a runner I’ve seen a couple of times now and exchanged a few words with. She said hello and asked what time I was pacing. A couple of minutes later she spoke to me again and said that she was running parkrun as the last part of her long run but she was starting to struggle and asked if she could run with me. At that point I decided just to focus on helping her rather than getting my pace spot on. So I fell into step beside her and just started chatting (I was not even very sure of her name but now I know lots about her and her running plans). As we got closer to the finish she told me she was so glad I was there as she had been on the point of giving up and slowing right down, but having me there had kept her going. I may have ended up about 30 seconds faster than I was supposed to run, but it felt so good to know that I had helped someone. That’s something I really love about parkrun – that sense of community and meeting new people all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if she now became one of the people I speak to regularly at parkrun.

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Steve was away all day so no photographer for my jumping shot this week!

Once home, I got myself settled to catch up on the morning session of the athletics, then when Steve got home later on we watched the evening session together. What a shame that Bolt didn’t have his fairytale ending with another gold medal, but the women’s 1500m is shaping up to be an incredible final. Even the cat was glued to the TV!

IMG_3427Sunday is all about the long run. Currently I am aiming to run every third mile faster, so 2 “easier” miles followed by a harder mile. Last week I tried to do this by aiming for a particular pace, but the route I chose for this week’s run was rather undulating and I knew a couple of my faster miles would not be on flat terrain. Instead, I focused on maintaining good form and keeping up the intensity in the faster miles, using the first part of the following mile as recovery.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 18.41.51As the session went on I increasingly found it harder to run the slower miles as my body was becoming accustomed to the faster pace and better form of the faster miles and although these were harder on my CV system, I actually found myself looking forward to that faster blast. I did not expect that!

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Yes, I have become so fed up of my hair that I found a way to tie it out of my face into the world’s smallest ponytail for the run. The Florida heat and humidity has sent it on a mad growth spurt and I can’t wait to get it cut at the end of the week!

I got home from my run in time to see the last part of the men’s marathon at the World Championships (an awesome run from Callum Hawkins) while I cooled down/stretched and then squeezed in a quick shower before what was a very exciting women’s marathon with Alyson Dixon leading for a good chunk of the race. A very enjoyable way to relax after my run, safe in the knowledge I had already done the hard work for the day.

And I rounded off the week with my usual “recovery bath”, accompanied by the magazines I brought back from my trip to the US. Bliss!

IMG_3459Overall, this week has had a lot of focus on form and I’m hoping to build on that in the coming weeks so that my target marathon pace begins to feel easier.

Are you watching the World Championships?
How is your training going?