April Roundup

If I had to sum up April in one word, I suspect I would struggle. Awesome? Marathon? Paris? Fortunately, I don’t have to choose one word and can sum up the month via a blog post instead.

The month began with just one thing on my mind – Paris! I was travelling to my favourite city for two running events – the Breakfast Run and, of course, the marathon. Both of these were incredible experiences and I came home having settled my unfinished business not just with Paris, but with the marathon distance itself by not only (finally) cracking the 4:30 barrier, but absolutely annihilating it to run a new PB of 4:05:07!

 

And I had such a good time that I’ve already entered the Paris marathon for 2015!

I recovered well and found myself itching to run again. I was able to get back to training within a week to prepare for my second marathon of the year in Edinburgh at the end of May where I would love to have a go at running a sub-4 time – after all, anything is possible…

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My training pattern has been very much as it was before Paris, with just the odd tweak here and there to accommodate other commitments:

Monday – 30 min jog
Tuesday – 4 miles, increasing to 10k
Wednesday – Metafit or swim/sauna
Thursday – coaching running club
Friday – Metafit or swim/sauna
Saturday – 4 miles
Sunday – long run (building from 10k to a 16 mile peak)

I found myself running quite fast over the shorter distances and this stood me in good stead for my 10k race at Balmoral at the end of the month where I ran really well and got a good finish time, despite the fabled Hill (with a capital H) in the first half of the race.

I’ve also had a few other running-related bits and pieces to excite me over the past month. First of all, I’ve raised more money than I ever expected to for Macmillan Cancer Support at this early stage in my challenge, so I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has donated so far and am now keen to increase that total even further. I’ve also been keeping an eye on my mileage as I have been part of the Around the World Running Blog Relay (ATWRBR2014) so every mile I ran contributed to our collective total. My April total of 106 miles was not only a respectable contribution, but it brought my mileage for the year so far to 438, already exceeding my total mileage from last year (a paltry 406 miles). At this rate I’m set to have my biggest yearly total EVER!

ATWRBR2014 has been a great opportunity to connect with other runners/bloggers in different parts of the world and April also brought with it the chance for me to meet up with two of those bloggers in person. First of all, I was able to meet up with Danielle at Balmoral (we had met briefly once before, but this was a great opportunity to catch up):

 

We’re both English teachers by day so had plenty in common to talk about. I also recently discovered that Julia and I work in the same town (small world!) so we have been planning a meet-up which we managed right at the end of the month. We had a great chat over tea and cake after work and would probably still be sitting nattering if the tearoom hadn’t been closing! I suspect we may repeat this again soon. She’s having her first go at ultra marathons this year and I find it fascinating to hear how her training compares to mine when a marathon is a pretty “average” weekend training distance for her now!

Meeting up with both Danielle and Julia was fantastic. One of the things I love about running and blogging is the opportunity to connect with other like-minded people. With running as a common ground, it’s easy to chat and get to know others. Runners are also incredibly supportive of each other and are more than willing to offer advice and tips, which is helpful no matter how experienced you are. It would be great to get the chance to meet up with other running bloggers in future – perhaps at forthcoming races.

Finally, April was all about music as I got involved in the Great Running Music Exchange which was started by Julia and Jaynie but now also includes Kyla and I. We have all purchased cheap Mp3 players which we have loaded up with our favourite running tunes and these are being circulated among us. On my training runs I have been listening to a player from Jaynie and enjoying hearing a combination of familiar tracks, forgotten favourites and new tunes which might inspire future changes to my own playlist. I also have a player from Julia to listen to so that’s another treat waiting for me in May! The exchange has been a brilliant experience so far as we have all sent the players in lovely packages of runner treats, which is yet another example of how runners just “get” each other.

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So as we head into May, I’m generally feeling good about the marathon ahead. I know the fitness is there and having run one marathon already I can trust my training much more through my approaching taper, so I’m likely to feel much more relaxed. I’ve encountered only the slightest of hiccups with a fatigued muscle in my left leg causing a bit of a niggle, but it’s nothing serious and I know how to address this so that I’m race ready come marathon weekend.

Fingers crossed that May will be just as good a month as April!

How was your April?
Have you had the chance to meet up with any bloggers you follow?

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Getting Back To Training

As I wrote about in my last post, recovery after a marathon is really important. 26.2 miles takes a lot out of the body so coming back form Paris I knew that I had to get that recovery right in order to get back to quality training sooner and run well at the Edinburgh marathon (which is now 5 weeks away!).

All of which puts me at a rather odd point in my training. Am I recovering? Am I building mileage? Am I tapering? The answers seem to be yes, yes and not yet! In the few days after Paris I made sure to take it easy. On the day after the race we were travelling home, which should theoretically have been a nice restful day, but thanks to a flight delay in Paris I did find myself on the wrong end of a “bonus recovery run” through Brussels airport in order to make a connection (in a completely different building and through a security check) in just 28 minutes! Funnily enough my legs were up for the challenge, but my poor battered CV system definitely wasn’t ready to be tested like that. Thinking about it, we must have been quite a sight: Steve and Graeme were travelling in their kilts, both Steve and I were wearing our finishers’ tops and Fiona was outdoing us all by looking glam and gorgeous from a weekend in Paris. But as we boarded the flight we were 4 red-faced, sweaty, out of breath people who no doubt looked like they might need medical intervention! No wonder people were looking at us strangely!

Thankfully, the rest of the week was much more straightforward and I enjoyed the chance to use the jacuzzi and sauna at the gym every morning since I was on holiday and had a sports massage on the Tuesday to help with my recovery. I even tried a few gentle lengths of the pool on the Wednesday as I was feeling a bit too sedentary(!) and by the Thursday I was DESPERATE to go for a run, especially since my race pack for the Balmoral 10k arrived that day!

Luckily, we had a running club session that night. Since it was the penultimate week in the course, it was hill reps which didn’t require much running from me, but I did enjoy the chance to run over to the meeting point then run to and from the hill we were using. My legs were feeling great on the way back so I just went with it and was knocking out a pretty decent pace. There was still some weariness in the calf muscles, but I knew my recovery was on track.

I followed this with a 30 minute treadmill recovery run on the Friday. Since I was still itching for a run, I really enjoyed this (something you won’t often hear me say about the “dreadmill!”) and it was good to start getting some movement back in my legs again.

By the time Sunday rolled around, I felt ready for a slightly longer run. This was the day of the London Marathon (and yes, I had marathon envy despite having just run in a big city marathon the week before!) so I REALLY needed to watch the coverage on TV, but I also REALLY needed to go for a run so I made sure to get up early enough that I could zip round 10k and be back in time to see the start of the elite women’s race then settled down to enjoy the event.

I really enjoyed my run that morning and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to sit and watch other people running on TV if I hadn’t been out first! It was a lovely morning, and I also had the excitement of some new bits and bobs to try which made it even more fun.

First up, was the Bondi Band compression sleeves I had asked mum and dad to get me in the USA. I’m convinced that compression is making a big difference to my training and recovery, so I wanted to get a few more “interesting” looking pairs and these definitely seemed to tick that box:

Next, one of the surprise items my parents had brought me back: a Flipbelt. This is a single, tubular belt with openings for items such as phones, iPods, keys, gels, etc. It sits really comfortably around the waist or hips and the openings can either be outside the belt, inside the belt (against the body) for greater security or at the top of the belt, depending on preference. My dad had got himself one at a running expo and he loves it so decided to get one for me. I usually use a Spibelt to carry my phone and keys while I’m running and have no issue with it at all, but I really like the Flipbelt too. It doesn’t move around at all and despite my fears of losing my keys while I’m out, the items inside are secure and don’t bounce around. I think that more and more people in the UK are starting to use the Flipbelt and I can understand why.

 

Finally, I had the first mp3 player I received as part of the running music exchange with Julia, Jaynie and Kyla. If you remember, this player had been sent in a lovely goody pack from Jaynie just before I headed to Paris, so this was the first chance I had to listen to some of the tunes.

I’ll write more about the exchange in a later post, but the thing I really love about it is the element of surprise. Although I run with my iPod on shuffle, I still know what songs are on my playlist, but listening to this one I have no idea what’s coming next – it could be something familiar from my own playlist, it could be a forgotten track rediscovered or it could be something completely new to me. It really adds a new excitement to running a familiar route.

With that happy run done I was ready for my first week of the new term to be my first week back to “proper” training. That training has been:

Monday – 30 min jog
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – swim/sauna
Thursday – coaching running club
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – 30 mins easy
Sunday – 12 miles

I treated Monday’s session as a recovery run so it was back to the treadmill to ensure I got the pace right. Not nearly as much fun as on Friday, but it got the job done. Tuesday’s run was delayed by an impromptu visit to the vet with a poorly puss who has been struggling with a hairball. Reassured that there was nothing more serious going on and with medication duly administered, I headed out into the lovely, sunny evening and had a brilliant run. I went round the route I had been using on Saturday mornings in the weeks before Paris and just went with how I felt.  My legs were really shifting and when I got back I was stunned when my Garmin 10 declared I had run my fastest mile, fastest 10k and that I had averaged an 8 minute mile overall – yowzers!

Wednesday’s easy session was in there to make sure I don’t overdo it at this stage as technically I’m still in a recovery phase – it’s said it can take up to 4 weeks to be fully recovered from a marathon. I enjoyed my swim and felt refreshed ready for Thursday when the running club members were undertaking their timed 5k or 10k run. The group I have been working with over the past 5 weeks has been a mixture of those stepping up to 10k from a previous Zero to 5k group and some repeating the 10k course in order to get faster, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I knew they could all complete the 10k, but I really wanted the “repeat” group (essentially the same runners I have been working with since their original Zero to 5k course back in January) to get the improvements they have been looking for. If they didn’t, I would feel I had let them down.

In the end, every single one of them was faster – on average by about 5 minutes. One even managed to knock 10 minutes off his time and dip below the hour for his 10k and I’m really delighted for him – he’s been running well and deserved a fast time as a reward for all his hard work.

I also had a really enjoyable evening as it was a much easier route to manage than the last time so I was able to run alongside all of the runners at some point and offer tips/encouragement/be really annoying so they ran faster to get away from me…! It was brilliant to see them all at the finish and see how proud they were feeling – and I was proud of them all too so it was a lovely end to the block.

Friday brought with it a nice relaxing day since it was Good Friday, then my first post-marathon Metafit class where I got my first go at the new “Goofy” workout. It was a good workout, although a bit leg heavy, but I enjoyed getting back to Metafit again as I know it’s made a massive difference to my core strength and, in turn, my running since I started going to classes last June.

Having done Metafit, my Saturday easy run was an opportunity to loosen my legs off again ready for my Sunday long run. Yep, everything is getting back to “normal” again!

I was tired on Sunday morning as I don’t think I slept as well as usual. I was too warm when I woke up so that probably had something to do with it. As a result, I slept a little later so was about an hour or so later heading out for my run. This turned out to be a good thing for once as the overcast skies cleared and I had a beautiful sunny run. Yes, it was a little warm, but I need to be a bit more accustomed to that now as my experience of the Edinburgh marathon is of it usually being a hot day so I want to be a bit better acclimatised to warmer weather. Since it was a nice day, I saw loads of other runners and cyclists taking advantage of the weather and lots of people spoke to me or exchanged nods or smiles.

The run gave me a chance to listen to more of the MP3 player I’ve had on the go this week so the anticipation of what I might hear next kept me well entertained. I was also trying out yet another new piece of kit (what can I say, I just can’t help buying running gear!). On my longer runs/races I usually use a waist pack which holds a large drinks bottle really comfortably and has a pocket big enough for my phone, keys and gels. This has always been fine, but in Paris as I turned it to the side to retrieve my gels, it knocked out one of the ions holding on my race number, which then annoyed me by flapping about too much. I decided to look for a way to improve things and ended up ordering a new Spibelt which had gel loops and came with fasteners to attach a running number. I’ll test that out at Balmoral next weekend, but today I wanted to try putting my gels in the belt to see, how it went. The belt itself was very comfortable as I had expected from using Spibelts before, and the gels were held very securely, but also easy to pull free when I needed them. Assuming I’m also happy with the race number loops next week, I’ll be using to in Edinburgh to help streamline my race refuelling – anything that might start shaving a little time off my total and help me aim for that sub 4!

This past week has also brought with it some exciting post. First, in this round of the music exchange I’m due to get two mp3 players and the second one arrived in the early part of the week. This one was from Julia and was, once again, a lovely, thoughtful package of runner treats, proving yet again why I love the running community so much:

 

Next, the iTab insert for my Paris medal so it now has my name and time on the back of it, a lovely certificate from Macmillan to mark my completion of the Paris Marathon and, finally my race pack for the Great Women’s 10k in Glasgow on the 11th May. I did this race for the first time last year and not only did I love it, but I ran a PB so I definitely want to go back for another go this year!

 

Everything really does feel like it’s falling back into place and getting me geared up for Edinburgh.

Have you had any exciting post recently?
Do you have any races coming up?

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March Roundup

Incredible. Not only is it the end of another month, but the end of a three month training cycle that has me just a week away from my first big race of the year. And now that I’m finished work for the spring holiday, it’s safe to say I’m more than a little excited about my forthcoming trip to Paris – I even made myself a little French-style breakfast after my run yesterday morning!

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This training cycle has probably been one of the best I’ve ever had as I’ve stayed healthy for the most part, avoided injury and stuck to my plan like glue as it has clearly been working for me. In total I’ve only missed 2 planned sessions (1 in February when my body was fighting off a bug that was trying to take hold and 1 this past week when a work commitment got in the way) which I’m really pleased with as it really is the rare marathon training programme that goes 100% to plan. I completed all my long runs (mainly in what we’ll call “interesting” weather conditions!) and my Metafit classes have left me feeling strong, particularly my core. I’m now two thirds of the way through my taper and coping well so far, although I’ve been starting to feel impatient to blast out a race-pace long run after a week of shorter, easier sessions!

March has also been the first month of the Around the World Running Blog Relay (ATWRBR2014) which I have been taking part in. With all my long training runs recently, I’m pleased to have been able to contribute 126.5 miles (203.63km) so far. It’s been really exciting to see how far we’ve collectively run so far and to make contact with other runners/bloggers.

So for the second week of my taper my scheduled training was:

Monday – 30 min jog
Tuesday – 6 miles easy
Wednesday – swim/sauna
Thursday – coaching running club
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – 30 mins easy
Sunday – 10k

Unfortunately, the Monday session had to be scrapped entirely after I was asked to go to a twilight session after work and by the time I was back home it was far too late to be getting organised for a run. At this stage, though, it didn’t really matter as I knew that missing a half hour jog wasn’t going to make a difference now, plus I had an easy run scheduled for the next day so if my legs needed some recovery then they would get it then. And as it turned out, my Tuesday run was very pleasant as it was light enough to include a section through the woodland park I like to run in on Saturdays and I really enjoyed it.

My first real Taper Hiccup came midweek when I realised that the heavy cold that has been sweeping through my colleagues in this final week of term was now threatening me. I’ve been dosing myself with an assortment of preventatives and trying to get plenty of rest to keep it at bay, but I did find myself particularly sniffly this morning which, combined with a somewhat miserable start to British Summer Time, made for a rather interesting 10k run with plenty of tissues to hand! To help, I paid a post-run visit to the steam room and am already feeling better. Things like this usually only affect me for a day or two so hopefully I’ve got it beaten and a few more steams (and a bit of good old Vaporub!) will shift it once and for all in the next couple of days. The next few days are mainly about rest anyway so I have plenty of time to make sure I am in tip top health – I suppose it wouldn’t be a taper without a sniffle or other worry to contend with!

My other news this week is about fundraising. Although a link to my online donation page has appeared on all my posts, I so far haven’t used my blog to drum up support, however I hope you’ll forgive me as this week it’s a bit different. This week, there are high stakes!

Yes, Steve and I agreed to go head to head with our fundraising to see who could raise the most in the last couple of weeks before Paris. To keep things interesting, the loser will have to do a forfeit.

The forfeit is to take part in a Fitsteps class, complete with “suitable” outfit. Have you heard of Fitsteps? Fitsteps is a dance-based fitness class created by professional dancers Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite from Strictly Come Dancing (also known as Dancing with the Stars in some other countries). I LOVE Strictly, in fact it’s my favourite TV programme in the whole year, so it would definitely be fun to take part in a Fitsteps class, however my dance experience is, let’s say, limited and I no doubt have all the grace of Bambi on ice! Hopes are high that Steve is going to lose this particular challenge and a suitably spangly, glittery outfit for him is already being planned. At the moment I think I might be in the lead, but with a week still to go that could yet change so I’m going to give my metaphorical collecting can a little rattle here.

If you’d like to support me in my triple marathon challenge this year, you can make a secure online donation on my Justgiving page by clicking on the link that should appear at the bottom of this post or by clicking here. Every penny raised goes to Macmillan Cancer Support and will help make a difference to the lives of those affected by cancer. And of course if I win this particular challenge, I promise to post a photo of Steve doing his forfeit!

What are your top tips for beating a cold/stuffy nose?

Do you go to any fitness classes?

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Taper Time!

Tapering towards a big race is a funny old thing. With the longest marathon training run usually scheduled for 3 weeks prior to the big day, it would be easy to think that what follows that last huge training effort is 3 weeks of taking it easy, lazing around and being happy about it, yet that is not always strictly true. Over the course of 12 weeks or so of intense effort and ever-increasing long runs, it’s certainly fair to say that the idea of a Sunday lie-in or a night off training sounds very appealing (especially when the rain is hammering down and the wind threatens to blow us off the face of the planet as has so often been the case this winter) but when the intensity of our workouts decreases, the novelty soon wears off and the Taper Demons creep in.

Taper Demons. If you’ve ever trained for a distance/endurance event then you know what I mean. When the Taper Demons arrive, every twinge is a race-ending injury, every sneeze is a hideous bug waiting to take hold and everyone we know begins to avoid us as we experience “minor mood swings”!

 

But the taper is a crucial part of the process, even if it does send an otherwise sane person completely round the bend. After putting our bodies through weeks of hard work, we have to take the time to rest, recover and rebuild our energy stores so we can hit the start line like a coiled spring ready to smash it.

After my final 20 mile training run last Sunday, I’m now a week into my taper. In all honesty I had expected to really need an easy week as after my previous 20 mile run my legs needed most of the week to recover – I distinctly remember dragging my weary limbs around my Tuesday night easy run (despite a recovery jog on the Monday) and having a hard time with Metafit, so much so that I was wondering if I would have my own legs back ready for the following weekend’s training. But not this time. This time I made a quite remarkable recovery. My legs felt good on my recovery jog and when I headed out for my 6 mile run (which I had pencilled in as optionally an “easy” run) I was feeling so strong that I stormed around over a minute faster than I normally complete that route – even faster than the previous week when I was feeling reasonably fresh after “just” 16 miles. Apparently, I am now a machine! Already I feel re-energised and actually found it quite tricky to keep the pace down on my Saturday easy run as my legs wanted to go faster. I hope this remains the case and I get to Paris feeling just as strong and energised after a good taper.

I honestly don’t know why I recovered so well this time, but if it’s a case of everything coming together at the right time, then that can only be a good thing. In fact, overall the first week of my taper has gone well and the Taper Demons have not arrived. Yet.

For the first week of my taper, my training schedule was:

Monday – recovery jog
Tuesday – 6 miles (easy?)
Wednesday – swim/sauna
Thursday – coaching running club
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – 40 mins easy
Sunday – 14 miles

The key is to maintain the frequency of the workouts, but to drop back the mileage and/or intensity.

One of the best parts of the week was starting the new block of running club on Thursday night. Once more there was a huge turnout, especially for the Zero to 5k group. This was really encouraging as the weather had taken a turn for the worse and just as quickly as it had arrived, Spring had been chased off by a cold snap which has extended into the weekend. After several days of wearing much more Spring-like running kit (lighter top layers, cropped tights and even an appearance by my shorts!) it was back to winter kit and a waterproof as it looked like it might rain. There was a definite chill in the air but that didn’t put anyone off and as Steve worked with the new runners, I took the 10k group for a run. This time round I have a mixture of those stepping up from 5k and those repeating the block in order to improve their 10k time and I will be interested to see the difference this makes to their running by the end of the block.

So by the time my Sunday run came around, I felt good after the first week of my taper. Although a bit chilly (and windy – apparently Sundays are just ALWAYS going to be windy!) it was a beautiful sunny morning as I headed out for my 14 miles. After 20 miles last week, 14 just seemed so manageable and I had a lovely time on one of my favourite routes – I even saw my first lambs of the season. I finished the run feeling strong (and somewhat surprised at how quick it seemed as it was an hour less running than last week) with plenty of energy left to enjoy the afternoon. I’ve become used to spending Sunday afternoons with a completely addled brain so it’s refreshing to be able to think straight!

From here, I have no runs longer than 10k until race day itself and more easy paced runs, so if the Taper Demons are going to make themselves known, it’s going to be sometime soon. If my next post is lots of paranoid babbling about seemingly insignificant race details, you’ll know those Taper Demons have taken hold. Please don’t hold it against me!

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Are you tapering for a spring marathon? How are you feeling?
Have you ever experienced the Taper Demons?

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Spring has Sprung!

I suppose it’s been creeping up for a few weeks now. A subtle change in the air, a slight shift in mood which can only mean one thing: Springtime!

Over the last week or two the weather has been a little better (by which I mean marginally drier and slightly less windy) and the temperature has been a bit milder (including some forays into double figures) but the biggest difference for runners is the amount of daylight we have now. It’s so nice to be actually experiencing some daylight during my day rather than driving to and from work in the dark, spending the daylight hours cooped up inside then running in the dark later on. These days it’s pretty much light when I get up and I could catch the tail end of the daylight for my evening run if I didn’t keep working so late!

I suppose I’ve been so busy with work and training that I didn’t really notice the signs of the changing season (and let’s face it, the weather hasn’t exactly helped), but last Sunday on my run I was aware of the brightly coloured crocuses along the side of the road, interspersed with the daffodils which will start to bloom any day now. I’ve certainly noticed that it’s a degree or two milder and am finding myself at one of those awkward points in the year (the other is in the autumn) when I’m not quite sure what kit to wear for my runs – a little too mild for winter layers but not yet mild enough for the full summer kit. It’s all too easy to misjudge at this time of year and end up either far too warm or ill-prepared for a soaking! Soon, though, I’ll be rotating my kit so that the summer things are at the front of the wardrobe and the winter things relegated to the back for a few months while I work on my running tan!

Of course, all that training has been for a SPRING marathon which is now only 3 weeks away (eek – getting excited!) so it really is high time the weather improved so that I can have a chance to run in the sort of kit I’m likely to wear on race day. Fortunately, I’m not planning to wear anything new and have raced in all my planned kit before so if I don’t get a chance to wear it on a training run it won’t be too big a deal. But kit aside, my thoughts are turning more and more to the thought that not only will I be in my beloved Paris in 3 weeks time, but I will get to do one of my favourite things in the world in my favourite city in the world: run!

Preparations are, of course, almost complete and as of next week I will be tapering. With the cutback to “just” 16 miles last week, I’ve been feeling re-energised and in really good shape ahead of my final long run so I know that a good taper should see me at the start line ready to go out and chase down my goals.

My training schedule for this past week was:

Monday – 30 min recovery jog
Tuesday – 6 miles
Wednesday – swim/sauna
Thursday – coaching running club then sports massage
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – 40 mins easy
Sunday – 20 miles

Since I’d had a “shorter” run last Sunday, I felt good on Monday and completed my jog on the treadmill (I usually to do my recovery runs on the treadmill as I tend to run too fast if I go outside) then had a good stretch and foam roll before availing myself of my favourite gym facilities: the jacuzzi and sauna! This meant that I was well recovered for my Tuesday run and was able to run the same 6 mile loop as last week, but at a much more pleasing pace.

On Wednesday there was a change to my normal routine as I was booked on a training course in Glasgow. For a teacher, getting out of school for a day to go to a city and see the “real world” is very refreshing. I had to get the train with the commuters, in fact I took the same journey I used to for university: train from Perth to Glasgow then subway to Hillhead. It was so nice not to have to drive and the travelling time gave me a chance to read, catch up on some messages and work on a blog post whilst listening to some music on my iPod. The course itself was really good (including lunch which, let’s face it, is one of the things we all judge courses by if we’re honest!) then afterwards I took advantage of my proximity to my old alma mater (and the beautiful weather – Glasgow is always so lovely on a spring day) to have a walk around the university and take a few photos:

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Already feeling a trifle nostalgic as I walked around my old haunts, I bumped into a former pupil, which made me feel a little old, but he did give me a laugh by greeting me with, “shouldn’t you be running or something, it’s a lovely day!”. It was nice to briefly catch up with him though and hear about what he has been up to since leaving school. When I got back to Perth it was good to end the day with a nice swim and sauna to set me up for going back into school the next day. Being away for a day is all very well, but you never know what might be waiting for you on your return!

Thursday was the final session in this block of running club which meant that the beginners were completing their 5k run and the group I have been working with had their 10k to do. Steve worked out routes that had a degree of crossover to allow us to try and “marshal” and make sure everyone would remember where they were to go. Since Steve was timing and therefore had to be at the finish a lot earlier, this meant that I spent a good portion of the evening sprinting about like a lunatic!

They all completed their runs and are keen to carry on. This means that some of the 5k runners are likely to step up to join the 10k group in the next block and many of the 10k runners, who are enjoying the routine of a group run on a Thursday evening, are talking of continuing to come along for the next block with the aim of improving their 10k running. This is a really good idea. They’ve all made brilliant progress over the weeks from their initial 5k training on to the 10k training they have just done. Having conquered the distance and built up their endurance, now is the time to work on speed and become even better 10k runners. I’ll be delighted to continue running with them as I had been a little sad that my time working with these runners might be coming to an end, and obviously I’m thrilled that they have the running bug and want to keep going.

As it worked out, I had to dash away at the end in order to make my sports massage appointment. This was also a really encouraging experience as my massage therapist told me my legs are in pretty good shape – no niggly bits, just a bit of general tightness to work out but no real surprise there! Given the mileage I have done so far and everything I have expected of my body over the past few months, I’m really pleased to have reached this point in good shape (although I probably undid the massage with Metafit on Friday night!).

Saturday, as per usual, I was out for my easy run to shake out my legs after Friday’s Metafit. With the energy I gained from my cutback week, I decided not to set an alarm and simply wake up naturally – and I woke up earlier than usual! This turned out to be a good thing though, as I had to go to the post office to collect a parcel containing yet another box of energy gels before I headed out! Turns out, the packaging of my preferred gels has changed so that might make a difference to the way I choose to carry them in future as they are now longer and thinner, more like some other popular gel brands:

I really enjoyed my Saturday run, in fact I often think that is one of my favourite sessions of the week – no pressure, just an easy run when I enjoy being outside and seeing the scenery – I even wore 3/4 length running tights for the first time! This week, however, it struck me that I would only have to do that particular run 2 more times before Paris, then on the 3rd week my Saturday morning run will be the Breakfast Run through the streets of Paris – a little different to the woodland trail I have been running through the past few weeks to set me up for my Sunday runs!

On Sunday morning I realised two things: one, despite the beautiful sunshine, Mother Nature had seen fit to deliver another incredibly windy day and two, it was time to dig my shorts out and get to work on my 2014 running tan!

What followed was an enjoyable run taking in three familiar loops: it was hilly, it was windy (oh boy was it windy!) and it was brilliant! Before I set out I remember thinking that all I had to do was complete this one 20 miler and I would be into my taper. And that was all. The wind was, once more, what I now imagine to be a uniquely Scottish phenomenon whereby no matter which way I turned, I was running into a headwind. This made some of the uphill climbs rather “interesting” and often there was little respite on the downhills. But I still enjoyed it. I was happy with my time given the conditions and finished with a smile on my face.

Even better, Steve had bought a voucher from one of those group discount sites for a Sunday roast at a nearby restaurant. This was definitely a brilliant way to refuel (although I wouldn’t say I savoured every mouthful in my calorie-depleted state!)

 

So that’s it. The hard part of the training is done and I’m happy with how it’s gone. Now I cut back the miles and conserve energy during my taper ready to go for it on the 6th of April. Bring it on!

Are you training for a Spring race? How is your training going?

What is your favourite way to spend a Spring day?

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Do the Monster Mash!

For anyone training for an early spring marathon (Paris, London, Brighton, etc) allow me to welcome you to The Monster Month. That’s right, March (and the last long training runs that come with it) is now upon us. These are the final few exhausting weeks before the taper towards The Big Day when most training plans will have marathoners completing long runs of 18-22 miles and, if we’re lucky, the weather may start to show signs of improvement, even here in Scotland!

Not only is March the start of the Monster Month, it’s also the start of the Around the World Running Blog Relay (ATWRBR2014) set up by Kyla over at the Motivation blog so each week I’ll be submitting my mileage to be added to the count. I’m really excited to see just how far we manage to run collectively. You can still sign up to be part of it by heading over to the blog and following the links.

Having started March with a 20 mile run last Sunday, I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel throughout this week. So far I have recovered well, but as the weeks go on and the miles creep up, the weariness inevitably begins to set in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving my running, but at the same time I’ll be pleased to start my taper and give my legs a chance to recover and feel fresh ahead of Paris.

During March, my training will focus on my longest runs, some shorter midweek runs for time on my feet, at least one Metafit class per week and the beginning of my taper during which the frequency of my workouts will remain the same, but the intensity/distance will drop down.

To begin the month, this week’s training schedule was:

Monday – 20 min recovery jog, stretch, sauna
Tuesday – 6 miles easy
Wednesday – Metafit
Thursday – coaching running club
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – 40 mins easy
Sunday – 16 miles (cutback week)

As it turned out, my legs didn’t feel too bad at the start of the week. I certainly knew I had run a fair distance, but there was no sign of any adverse tightness or niggles. Oddly enough, my recovery jog on Monday actually felt a bit easier than the same session the previous week, even though I had run further – no idea why that would be other than perhaps the effects of whatever bug I had fought off the week before. It was also nice to spend some time unwinding in the jacuzzi and sauna after a hard day at work.

Monday also brought with it the rather disappointing news that the organisers of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Edinburgh half marathon have decided to cancel the event, a decision which leaves in its wake a multitude of disgruntled runners. For me, it is merely a mild irritation, but for many others it is a major inconvenience as they have booked flights and accommodation to plan a trip around a race that now does not exist. Everyone will be refunded their race entry fee, but for those who have shelled out a lot of money, I can understand their frustration and feelings of being let down. I mention it now because it was part of my race/fundraising plan for the year and I want to be open about the fact that this has now changed. I will now need to have a bit of a rethink and am currently considering other races to replace it with on my calendar, not least because I was hoping to pick up a half marathon PB at that one!

Coming back to my current training, the rest of the week was actually fairly packed and demanding, starting with persuading my legs into a 6 mile easy run on Tuesday evening. Despite my recovery run on Monday, my legs were still weary from the 20 mile Sunday run so I was glad I could keep the pace easy. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have managed a faster run at that point! Still, as the run went on my legs felt better and better so I found myself unconsciously picking up the pace in the second half.

My legs were still weary on Wednesday when I went to Metafit, although I wasn’t really aware of this until it was time for burpees and squat thrusts in the workout. My calves and lower legs were doing ok, but the muscles above my knees were protesting and doing their absolute best to resemble jelly. Not the most useful for those particular exercises! Since it was midweek, I was already starting to think about my weekend runs and wondering how my legs were going to fare.

Thursday brought with it the penultimate session for the current running group aka The Hill Sprints Week. Rather than repeat exactly the same session the group had completed as part of their Zero to 5k training, we had them run to a hill a bit further away which required a little uphill running first. The hill we used also has a bit of a sting in the tail as it starts on a quite gradual incline but gets steeper in direct proportion to the legs getting wearier. It was a great session for boosting lung power and leg strength and was certainly character building! Judging by how some of the group looked afterwards, they definitely worked hard and should now find culminating the programme with their 10k run next week much easier. Needless to say, the downhill run back to finish the session was very welcome!

 

I’ve really enjoyed working with this group over the last couple of months and it has been wonderful to see them progress from not really running at all to being ready to complete 10k. It’s fantastic and inspirational progress. I’m really glad to have met them, but a feel a little sad that our time working together is coming to an end.

The advantage for me in that Thursday session was that I didn’t have to do too much running, so my legs got a bit of a break. Still, in Friday’s Metafit class I was still noticing a bit of a protest from my legs over the burpees and squat thrusts! Fortunately, my easy run on Saturday morning got them feeling much better and I awoke on Sunday feeling fresher and ready to tackle my long run.

 

This week being a cutback week meant that I “only” had to run 16 miles. Not only that, but although the sky was overcast there was no rain forecast for the morning (unlike Saturday when I got wet again!) so I thought I would head out for a loop around one of my favourite country roads for the first half of my run – without my waterproof! The first 3 miles or so of this route are uphill, but after that comes a brilliant section of undulating road which I’ve heard some runners refer to as “the roller coaster”. I love running this particular route but actually haven’t done it in ages. I feel a real sense of freedom as I hurtle down the hills, tempered only by a lung-busting hill climb towards the finish which is sure to induce that jelly-legged feeling!

I finished the run with my staple route out to Scone. Like a few weeks ago, I managed to overshoot my 16 miles, but at least this time it was only by 0.2 of a mile rather than a full “bonus mile”!  As I ran, I thought about how our perspective on things can change. A few weeks ago, as the mileage was increasing, 16 miles sounded like a long way (which it is) and presented a degree of challenge. Having now completed two 18 mile runs and a 20 mile run, 16 suddenly seemed refreshingly “short” (and, dare I say, reasonably easy!) in comparison. 16 miles is also below the 17/18 miles threshold which leads my brain to pack up for the afternoon leaving me completely unable to think,  so I had the energy and brainpower to deal with a few domestic tasks before heading out for my Sunday afternoon coffee. Of course I am still following my established recovery plan of stretching, compression and hot bath – I’ve come too far to mess things up by missing one of these crucial steps now!

The benefit of this cutback week is that although I will still have my usual training through the coming week, by next Sunday my legs should feel much fresher ahead of my final 20 mile long run before the taper.

That 16 mile run will not be included in the ATWRBR2014 total until next week, however my first mileage submission for Saturday 1st – Saturday 8th March was 36.2 miles. In total I’ve already surpassed 50 miles for the first 9 days of March – not a bad start to the month and another big mileage week to come. Bring it on!

What’s the furthest you’ve ever run?
How is your March training going so far?

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February Roundup

I know February is a a short month, but wow! How can that be another month of the year over? Believe it or not, we are now a sixth of the way into 2014!

Last month, I was very pleased to have completed all of my planned training and to have maintained the consistency of my running all the way through January, despite Mother Nature’s best attempts to derail my plans. In all honesty, the weather in February hasn’t been much better and I’ve endured several more soggy runs and one or two when I genuinely thought I might be blown off the face of the Earth! But in marathon training, you just have to get your head down and carry on. I try to look for the positives in even the toughest sessions so have come to the conclusion that all those wet and windy runs not only make me stronger and better able to cope should race day bring less than favourable conditions, but have also been “character building”! Whether or not I need it (and Steve would say I certainly don’t!) I have definitely built much more “character” in recent weeks, but this too is a vital part of marathon training as 26.2 miles will test not only your physical ability, but also your strength of character to keep on going when things are getting tough and every last fibre of your being is screaming at you to stop. Those tricky runs have toughened me up and, given that I have been training alone, have left me feeling confident that I can overcome any race day demons to reach the finish line, hopefully with a new PB.

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage all of my planned sessions in February. It was all looking good until the very last gasp when I missed one midweek run due to not feeling very well, however all things considered I’m not overly worried about that. Looking at the big picture, I’d say it’s better to miss one midweek run and hit the weekend fighting fit than to carry on regardless and not only make an illness linger, but potentially affect the quality of the all-important long run.

With that in mind, my training for the final week of February should have been:

Monday – 20 min recovery jog
Tuesday – 7 miles
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Coaching running club
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – 40 mins easy
Sunday – 20 miles

But I woke up on Monday with the sort of prickly throat which normally heralds an imminent cold. I decided to go ahead with my recovery jog since this was a treadmill session and therefore easily curtailed if necessary, and there was the added draw of going to use the steam room and sauna afterwards as this has proven successful in the past at warding off the lurgy. In actual fact, I felt fine while I was running and by the time I’d had a steam and sauna, felt much more human than I had all day. I followed this up with a preventative Lemsip and an early night, awaking on Tuesday to feel much better. Sadly, as the day went on I began to feel below par again and worrying about whether or not to run didn’t help. Finally, I asked myself a couple of questions: could I run? Yes. Should I run? Hmmm, not so sure. In the end, it was Steve who helped me decide to forget about that particular run and said if I felt like it I could go for a swim, but to listen to my body. My body was saying rest and after a couple of hours of quality sofa time and my scheduled sports massage, I was once more feeling much better. Another preventative Lemsip and another early night were called for.

Wednesday is my rest day anyway, but whatever bug was trying to invade my system had one last go and I spent the day with a sore throat and a general achy, “bleurgh” feeling. Instead of my orchestra rehearsal that evening, I opted for a nice hot bath and a catch up with my running magazine before an early night with (you guessed it!) a Lemsip.

 

But this time I beat it.

By the time I woke up on Thursday morning, I felt brand new. My legs felt a little heavy and sluggish, but this was in all likelihood because I had missed a run. Fortunately, Steve had given me a particularly “interesting” route to take the running club on that evening. Just shy of 3 miles, it included a hill, a gradual incline, a bit of a hill, a brief adventure in the darkness and a lovely downhill glide back to where we started. The runners all did a brilliant job and it gave my legs a chance to loosen up a bit again. Oddly enough, I loved it!

I continued to feel good as I headed towards the weekend confident that I had, indeed, beaten the bug. Metafit went well and I had a lovely Saturday morning easy run ahead of an afternoon orchestra rehearsal and evening concert. Perhaps not the most conventional of preparation for a 20 mile run, but it was interesting to spend a day engaged in a completely different activity (i.e. there was no opportunity to talk about running!).

For my Sunday long run, I had decided to cover pretty much the same route as last Sunday, but with an extra loop in town before setting out and a slightly extended diversion in Scone to make up the distance. I had high hopes of a dry day, however shortly before heading out there was a bit of a passing shower so the lightweight running jacket was called into play. As it turned out, there was actually only the briefest of showers early on in the run before it dried up again (and there was even a guest appearance by the sunshine for a while). More importantly, although there was some wind it was nothing like last week’s brutal, swirling cross winds which I was overjoyed about – perhaps it is now spring!

As is typical of my training routes, there were some pretty challenging hills in there but I did have a target time in mind for my run which I met. I was so happy about this that when my watch finally bleeped to tell me I had run 20 miles, I experienced something akin to the wave of emotions that engulfs you on the finish line of a marathon and for a few moments I thought I might actually cry – God knows what I’ll be like if I do manage to run a PB in Paris!

And so with a successful 20 mile run March, and the Around the World Running Blog Relay (ATWRBR2014) begins. I now have just one more 20 mile run to complete in a couple of weeks before the glorious taper when my legs can recover, my body can store energy, and my mind can play all kinds of tricks on me. I”m still feeling strong and I can’t wait to get to that start line in Paris.

I’ll leave you with this great link I came across earlier: Google Translate for Runners. It certainly gave me a laugh!

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What additions would you make to the running translations?

Has your training been affected by illness? How did you cope?

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