Three Is A Magic Number!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tough Girl 100 – Challenge Completed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday Finds – 28th April

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

Can you believe it’s the end of April? It’s been such a great month in the world of sport, at least as far as marathon running is concerned, and you can look out for a post from me over the weekend about why marathons are so special. In the meantime, here are some other articles that have caught my eye lately.

This week saw our senior pupils finishing school for study leave as the exams here in Scotland are about to start. Most are (hopefully) heading off to to sort out revision timetables and spend big chunks of their day with their heads in their books, however one piece of advice I always like is to take time to exercise as well – even if that’s a simple walk with the dog. On that topic, my first article this week features former Ireland rugby captain Fiona Coghlan explaining why exercise is so important for young people, particularly in an exam year.

Next, a reminder about the power of positive self-talk. Many endurance athletes use mantras or other mental tricks to help them when the going gets tough (mine is, “I can. I am. I’m strong”) and this article explains the difference using self-talk can make to performance. Since the mind will give up before the body, mental training and having a strategy ready for tough moments (and in endurance challenges there will ALWAYS be tough moments!) is as important as the physical training when it comes to pushing limits.

Someone who took on a really huge endurance challenge for charity is Rob Pope. Originally from Liverpool, Rob decided that, like Forrest Gump before him, he would run across the USA. He has already run from Alabama to California’s Santa Monica pier where, like Gump, he simply turned around and kept on going! Judging by the pictures, he’s even starting to look a bit like Forrest Gump!

Another endurance athlete with his sights set on a major challenge is cyclist Mark Beaumont who recently announced his plans to beat the current record for cycling around the world (123 days) by attempting to complete the circumnavigation of the globe in just 80 days! With his imagination fired by Jules Verne, Beaumont will set off from Paris in July with his support crew and will be raising money for charity through this epic challenge. All I can say is wow!

And finally, these days we’re all guilty of using apps like Strava to record our runs and share them with others. But what if your run doesn’t go as well as you would like and it’s out there for all to see? This tongue-in-cheek post takes us through some ways to use the name we give the run to account for any issues encountered. I found it pretty amusing and will definitely be remembering this the next time I have a bad run!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess