Week In Review – Me Time!!!

Hola! Finally a bit of space in my week as we enjoyed a two day break for “half term” here in Scotland. That meant just two teaching days, one inservice day and then a glorious four day weekend to relax, read and recuperate. Perfect!

Of course training was still front and centre (this marathon isn’t going to run itself, you know!) but there was a bit more room to get things done without rushing around all the time:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Swim + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

My week didn’t get off to the greatest start as I had hoped not to have to stay at school too late, but it turned out we had a meeting at the end of the day. By the time I got away I was REALLY ready for my Hatha yoga class. I decided this was a great time to try out some new kit to cheer me up. They both came from a website called Lucy Locket Loves and while I paid for the awesome Space Adventure leggings, the headband was a free gift as I volunteered as a product tester. I don’t normally wear this style of band but was really impressed as it was comfortable and stayed in place through the whole class. I loved how bright and cheery it was too.

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I’m quite impressed with the company as the owner sends friendly, personal emails and the packaging is gorgeous.

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The class itself was just what I needed to unwind – gentle stretching, relaxing music and dim lighting. Bliss!

We have an earlier finish on a Tuesday and I made a point of getting away pretty quickly. I headed straight for the gym to get my bike intervals done and since I had found the intensity level quite challenging last week, I took it down a notch in order to maintain the quality of my workout. I still worked hard as my red and sweaty grimace confirms!

sGuA6htqQ%uNhVnYJ99TuwThat evening I took advantage of my sister’s comp tickets for the current play at the theatre. It wasn’t a play I knew but was pretty powerful.

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On Wednesday we had our inservice day which meant no pupils, but a full day of meetings and planning. The real highlight of the day was the curry lunch laid on by the World Challenge group. They are preparing to go to Borneo and this formed part of their fundraising. It’s the third year in a row the curry lunch has taken place on the February inservice and it just gets more and more popular. It wasn’t the “done thing” to take too much on my first visit to the curry buffet, but I definitely didn’t hesitate to lead the charge and go back for seconds!

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That evening I got straight home to head out for a set of 500m form drills. I was a little wary as there had been some rather unexpected heavy snow in the morning and while most of it had melted away, there were still stretches of pavement that were slushy and slippy. I still set up my watch to do the intervals and decided that I would aim to do the workout but was prepared to ditch it for a steady run if the conditions weren’t good enough. As it turned out the first few intervals were over slippy paths but I was able to focus on good form while keeping the pace down, then as the underfoot conditions improved I was able to get some quality intervals in in the second half of the workout.

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I was also really entertained by this fantastic snow creation in our street (I think whoever built it must have used all the snow in the street as there wasn’t really much left!).

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I then had a really quick turnaround to get to orchestra. I’ve probably managed every other rehearsal this term which is a massive improvement on last year when I had to accept that I wouldn’t be playing in our spring concert, but this time I am going to make it.

After all that Thursday was a welcome relief. I actually allowed my usual alarm to go off just so I could have the pleasure of shutting it off and going back to sleep! I started my day with a walk to the gym to have a swim. Being able to take my time and with no other pressures on my day, I felt I got into a rhythm pretty quickly despite very little swimming of late. I really must try to fit it in more often moving forward. I spent the afternoon on some bits and pieces of tidying up then headed out to my Ashtanga yoga class in the evening. It was a small class again so once more we were able to try some newer postures, including working on our headstands. I’m really enjoying having the opportunity to try new things and am feeling the benefit of more yoga throughout the week.

I had an appointment in town on Friday morning so I walked there and ran a few errands before heading home again. After lunch I had my PT session with Steve and since my right shoulder was feeling tight (it flares up a bit from time to time) we did a lot of work to help that before some more specific exercises to help my running. As usual, we used the TRX and the Core Momentum Trainer. For the occasion I chose to wear my Wonder Woman leggings, because it’s good to feel like a superhero from time to time!

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Session done, I headed round the corner to have my nails done. I fancied something a bit different this time as I usually go for dark reds/purples. A sparkly silvery colour hit the spot!

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And then the weekend. Having already had a couple of days to myself meant I didn’t have a stack of things to do and was able to relax and enjoy myself. First up, of course, was parkrun. We’re still on the alternative course to allow the grass section to recover and to round off a week of madcap leggings I chose to wear my latest, and possibly maddest, pair.

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My favourite picture on them is the cartoon cats with unicorn horns!

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I was certain that my parkrun streak of each week being a bit faster than the one before would definitely be over but somehow found another few seconds to keep it alive. So including the New Year parkrun double that makes my 2018 “streak” 29:16 (Dundee and a trickier course), 27:20, 27:01, 26:31, 25:34, 24:56, 24:50, 24:43. I was slightly faster this time last year but I also had a stronger starting point with more consistent training at the tale end of the year, so that just motivates me to keep working hard and see if I can keep improving and get back to sub-24 form.

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The rest of the day was nice and chilled – coffee and bacon croissants with Steve’s brother, food shopping and some quality time on the sofa catching up on some reading. I finished reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and can highly recommend it.

On Sunday morning I got myself moving fairly sharp to head out for my 16 miles. I wanted to not only run my usual pattern of 2 easy, 1 harder with good form, but to break the bad habit I’ve been forming of having to stop for road crossings that could be avoidable. This made the run feel harder as I think I’ve been relying on those stops, but overall I was a little quicker than a comparable run this time last year so that’s a positive sign and I know the consistent running will make me stronger for race day.

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Once home and showered/fed we headed off to Edinburgh (hence why I wanted to be out a bit earlier). Steve has been planning to upgrade his iPad ever since I got mine in the summer but was waiting until he got his new phone as he knew he could trade that in against the new device. Today was the day to go and sort it all out and there was no way we were going to go to Edinburgh after a 16 mile run and not visit Hotel Chocolat for a hot drink. This time they had Easter specials (perhaps a little early, but who am I to judge!) and the picture on the sandwich board sold me before I even walked in the door! I ordered the Hot Crossed Caramel Hot Chocolat (the caramel was mixed with almond, orange, cinnamon and molasses. Delicious!) and yes, it was the chocolate bunny on the top that sealed the deal for me 😂

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By the time we’d done all that and driven home again I was pretty tired as my Sunday is usually pretty chilled after my long run. Good thing I had those extra days to relax beforehand!

And with that, another week came to an end. Apparently there are now 10 weeks until the marathon…

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Week In Review – Too Much To Do!

The annual “crunch time” that is February continued to rumble on this past week as I had ANOTHER parents’ evening and two sets of report cards to write.  It would all be fine if I didn’t have to teach as well lol!

Fortunately I was still able to fit in most of my training and find a bit of time for myself in there – experience has taught me to do what I can to avoid overload at this time of year!

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym plus sports massage
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 14 miles

Going to a Hatha yoga class on a Monday evening is proving to be a great decision. Monday can be a bit of a shock to the system as it is, and as my mileage increases I can find myself quite weary as the week begins. I’m finding the yoga class a great way to take some time for myself and the timing means I don’t have to rush about in order to get there. This week we were in a new venue as my teacher has been looking for the perfect location for her yoga and pilates classes. I really liked the studio space she found – easy to access, nearby parking and it felt really chilled with low lighting and peaceful pictures on the wall. This week was a trial to see how the venue fared and I suspect it’s going to be a permanent move. No arguments here!

IMG_5545On Tuesday I worked a bit later to try and get on top of some of my reports. When I arrived at the gym I realised I hadn’t checked my training programme to see how Steve was progressing my bike reps this month and yup, you guessed it, a longer work interval but the same rest as I have been doing. The number of reps came back down but I found the last couple a bit of a challenge so dropped the intensity level by one in order to get a quality workout.

IMG_5546With a sports massage booked I had no time to squeeze in a swim but I’m hoping to pay an extra visit to the pool when we have our half term weekend next week. The massage was just what I was needing to flush out some of the tension beginning to build up in my legs and it helps to keep me feeling as fresh as possible throughout the training cycle.

Wednesday was the parents’ evening. I was already miffed to be missing a run and this was compounded as due to the way the two evenings had been organised for this year group, I had far fewer appointments and, unfortunately, they were really spread out so I was in for the duration! I made use of the time in between appointments to get some more reports done (I proof-read them the next day just in case!) and although mentally worn out at the end of the day, I felt better for making a dent in my workload.

Of course I felt pretty tired all day Thursday as a result, but I had my Ashtanga class to look forward to. There were only 2 of us in the class and both of us go regularly so that meant the teacher could move a little more quickly through the sequence than when there are less experienced practitioners in the class. As a result, we were able to try some postures we don’t normally do which was great fun. I particularly enjoyed having a go at a headstand and was able to hold it for a few seconds with the teacher helping to support me. Something to work on perhaps…!

I spent as much time as I could on Friday working on my reports and when the school day finished (we’re a bit earlier on Fridays) I decided to stay and get the last 10 done before the weekend. I’ll still need to proof read them, but it was such a relief to get them all written as I know there’s plenty more work to come this term! I did, however, have to sacrifice my PT session with Steve as I needed to be home to take delivery of a parcel (my new phone and I had missed the delivery driver twice already – oops!). Not ideal, but another example of how it’s ok to skip the odd workout when life gets in the way without it being a total disaster!

The rest of the evening was nice and relaxing and after we had eaten Steve discovered an unopened bottle of mulled wine from Christmas. Just to prove we’re still rock ‘n’ roll we not only had some, but served it in Christmas mugs. Party on!

IMG_5551On parkrunday we were still using the alternate course on the path just like last week. This time the conditions were a bit better (no sleet or painfully cold fingers!) but I was doubtful that I could maintain my current streak of each parkrun in 2018 being a bit faster. I’m not delusional and know it has to end some time, in fact I’ve been fairly certain for the last couple of weeks that I had reached my current limit there, but as it turned out I had a few more seconds in me so my 24:50 kept the streak alive. I was a little miffed to lose my Royal Flush Negative Split by just a second though – gah!

IMG_5603Steve’s brother was busy but the two of us still headed into town for our post-parkrun bacon croissant which was satisfyingly well filled this week. Just the thing!

IMG_5605The rest of Saturday was spent getting my new phone set up (something I actually quite enjoy) and making sure I was logged into all my apps again. My dad always takes my old phone so he’s excited to be getting an upgrade too!

Of course we finished the day with Steve’s homemade pizza, this week a belated celebration of (Inter?)National Pizza Day on Friday. I don’t know what TV programmes my parents are watching over in the States, but just about every day my mum sends me a text informing me of the random holiday being marked (my favourites so far include Spaghetti Day, Book Your Travel Day and Hugging Day). This time I actually already knew about Pizza Day as I had entered a virtual race to mark the occasion. Yes, I did enter because the medal was shaped like a slice of pizza. Wouldn’t you?

2yW%4W28T%W90AXKvgShugAnd then it was Sunday. 14 miles on the schedule and it was another bright but cold morning. I plotted a route fairly similar to last week’s and used the same pattern of running every third mile faster, with a focus on good form. There were some points when I felt a little sluggish, but I suspect that’s a reflection of the busy week and missing my midweek run rather than anything else, and my overall average was still where I wanted it to be so I’m not giving it any more thought. It’s still all about the process and part of the process is runs where things feel a bit tougher. I know it will all come together when it needs to.

IMG_5607Later in the afternoon we headed out for our usual Sunday afternoon coffee and Steve bought me a Valentine cake. It must be love!
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The Valentine theme carried on through dinner as we indulged in our M&S Valentine Dine-In meal:

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Salmon, avocado and prawn starter

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Rack of lamb with garlic & rosemary crust served with triple cooked chips (rack of lamb supper? 😂)

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Black Forest rose dessert

I even did my very best to taste it all and not just inhale (the runger is getting real now!). The deal also included a small box of chocolates and a bottle of prosecco so it was good value and all delicious. A lovely way to end the weekend.

How is your training going?
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Week In Review – Positive Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guess who jumped in the shot again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday Finds – 1st December

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.

Ok, ok, I know it’s Saturday not Friday. Unavoidable I’m afraid due to a retiral dinner on Friday evening and no time to get my post prepped in advance. Still, I’m here today to share a few interesting stories to see you into the rest of your weekend.

First up this week is a post about shoes. If I’m honest, I’m way more interested in running shoes than any other kind of shoe, probably because I spend so much time in them and have spent a long time seeking the “perfect” shoe for me. In this post, Jonathan Beverly examines some of the changes that have taken place in the design of running shoes over the past decade or so. Anyone who has been running for a while will no doubt recognise some of these:

Next, some interesting news from parkrun. I read recently that there were moves afoot to launch parkrun events within some UK prisons and the effect of this has been extraordinary. Because of a 5k run once a week, many participants have been motivated to adopt a more healthy lifestyle, make greater use of the prison gym and encourage others to follow suit. Since studies have noted that sport can engage prisoners in education and help prevent re-offending, this is a very positive step and one university is looking to measure the long-term effects of the initiative on both the prisons and the prisoners.

Now a quirky story from The Washington Post. As the city pilots a number of different bike-share systems, the newspaper decided to test them out with a race. The results came down to more than just the fastest cyclist: the bike itself, the pickup/parking locations and routes taken also played a big part. I love these kinds of ideas which really put various transport options to the test.

On a different topic, I enjoyed reading more about the positive benefits of yoga. It’s fairly well-know what a difference yoga can make to both physical and mental health, and I definitely noticed this when I did yoga every day as part of a 100 day challenge. Reading this has reminded me that I really need to get back into the habit of daily yoga. I think I feel a new goal coming on…

And finally, it was the headline of this final article that caught my eye -how on earth could Harry Potter help someone to run a marathon? Did I overlook something in my reading of the books? Perhaps some kind of “Fleet Feet” potion. But no, sadly no marathon-related sorcery to help someone to run 26.2 miles, more the power of having something good to listen to on the run. I’m a big podcast listener, but one day I’ll maybe try an audiobook instead.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Winter Begins…

With the clocks going back last weekend and the calendar turning over to November, I guess I have to accept that winter has officially arrived. I don’t enjoy colder weather, but I do enjoy snuggling up under a cosy blanket and looking forward to the festivities of December. In the meantime, I’m continuing to get back into the swing of regular training, but without any pressure. There needs to be some downtime after two marathon training cycles this year, so while it’s important to train, if something else comes up then I’m not going to stress about it. Join me now as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL  (they’re both ran the NYC marathon this weekend so I hope they had an awesome race!) to share more about my week.

After being so busy in the week before, here’s how this past week worked out:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike @ gym
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – Edinburgh trip

I decided on Monday that rest was the most important thing as I was feeling tired. I was at work later due to a meeting then rather than go for a swim I headed straight home to get comfy. I was actually so tired that I went to bed before 9pm and was asleep shortly after. Wow!

As a result, I awoke on Tuesday morning after 8.5 hours of sleep. I was refreshed and ready to go! When I finished work I went to the gym and got set up on the bike with my Kindle again. I started a new book and pedalled fairly hard for half an hour. Often I like to go down to the sauna after this but this week preferred to head right home and spend some time with my cat as she was a little under the weather again. This also meant that I could be in bed at a reasonable time once more.

Wednesday is still a running day, even if the distance has been a little shorter of late. This week I had longer to fit in my run before orchestra so decided on a similar loop to the one I had done the previous Sunday (a bit under 4 miles). It felt good, but was the first run of the winter that was properly dark from start to finish. Time for a bit more high-vis!

IMG_4570By Thursday I was really looking forward to Ashtanga yoga, but found myself a bit behind schedule and was worried I might not make it. By some miracle (and spending less than 10 minutes in the house to get changed!) I got there in time. It was great to have some quiet time after rushing, and I was pleased to hold “Wheel” for the full 5 breaths again. Definitely improving at that one!

Friday was another rest day, this time because the cat had a check-up scheduled at the vet. She was much better than earlier in the week, but she hadn’t been in to see the vet for a month and I wanted to review her meds as well as make sure she had a check to see if there had been any change in her health conditions. We did make a small tweak to one of her meds, but other than that she was about the same which was good news. After that I enjoyed a relaxing evening of heading out for some food with Steve then relaxing in front of the TV with a glass of wine (and the cat!).

IMG_4573I awoke on Saturday to a crisp morning for parkrun. As the first Saturday of the month it was pacer day and I was the 28 minute pacer. I was also volunteering for the 25th time which means that I will shortly be able to claim my 25 volunteer T-shirt 🙂

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IMG_4577As usual I was a little bit quick, but by less than 20 seconds which is not too bad, and had a lovely run. It’s nice to run at an easier pace and I enjoyed chatting to several others as I made my way around the course. It was a bumper event with 336 runners (a new record for us) which was great to see.

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IMG_4620Post-run Steve and I got changed then headed into town to get some shopping (after a scone and cup of tea that is!).

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It was an early start on Sunday to drive through to Edinburgh as Steve had a place in the men’s 10k. It was a chilly morning but bright so we had great views as we drove over the new Queensferry Crossing.

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IMG_4648Safely parked, we made our way over to the Royal Mile via Starbucks for a caffeine hit and toilet stop.

IMG_4651The plan was for me to set off as soon as Steve was ready, but before the race began, in order to reach the finish line at Murrayfield Stadium before he finished. I set off with a podcast playing but wasn’t even past the castle before I got a call from Steve.

IMG_4653It turned out that as he warmed up he was getting a problem with his calf and had decided not to race. Probably a sensible decision. I returned to meet him and suggested that since it was just around the corner we (really I!) should pay a visit to the Harry Potter shop Diagon House which had opened in the summer. It’s on the street that is thought to be J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley and I’ve been desperate to visit, but back in the summer the queues were massive!

IMG_4654Inside, I was spellbound and passed some happy time taking photos and browsing the merchandise. I bought a cloth bag with a picture of Harry Potter in cat form, as well as a couple of postcards for my classroom.

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IMG_4660After that we went for a coffee (and the first mince pie of the season!) then had a look in the Apple Store before heading over to our favourite place – Hotel Chocolat. Their products are amazing and there’s a nice cafe. They also had festive drinks on and we had the most amazing salted caramel and clementine hot chocolate. Yum!

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IMG_4683Then with all that chocolate goodness inside us we headed back to the car for the drive home as we were both in need of a nap after the early start (and I hadn’t slept too well the right before).

All in all, a pretty good week rounded off with a brilliant weekend, at least for me!

Are you a Harry Potter fan?
Any exciting plans for the festive season?

Friday Finds – 22nd September

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.

In a bid to make my preparations for marathon weekend a bit easier, I’ve written the bulk of this in advance so let’s hope there’s not some huge story that breaks when it’s too late to add it in! Theoretically, as you read this I’m getting myself organised for the trip to Inverness and/or making sure I relax ahead of the race, but there’s no way I wanted to miss sharing some finds with you.

Last week I included the bizarre story of all the runners accused of cheating at the Mexico City marathon. This week, even more has come to light around this with several sources carrying the story. I originally picked it up from Marathon Investigation, where analyst Derek Murphy now believes that the cheating was motivated by a desire for the medal rather than a BQ. Now I’ve coveted some bling in my time, but I’m not sure I could live with myself knowing I hadn’t earned it legitimately.

And the story prompted SBNation to remind us of some other tales of cheating from throughout running history:

Another race hit the headlines this past week, but for very different reasons. Perhaps you saw footage from the Copenhagen half marathon at the weekend, but if not you need to take a look at this. The race began in beautiful weather, but soon changed as storms swept in. Amid lightning and torrential rain, the race had to be stopped to help ensure safety (there were reports of people being struck by lightning) and even the timing mats were floating away. Yet some dogged souls still continued their race. What would you do?

And speaking of dogged determination, that’s definitely one way to describe marathoner Devon Bieling. After falling to the ground exhausted just metres from the finish line, she tried to crawl to the finish but was hampered by the sharp gravel…so she rolled over the line instead. Not only that, but she still managed to finish within the cut off for her BQ. Now that’s one incredible finish (but I really hope I don’t have to resort to that on Sunday!).

I couldn’t let this week go by without mentioning cyclist Mark Beaumont. Not only has he just set an incredible new world record with his around the world cycle, but he’s from my part of the world. What an adventure!

And finally, we all know running can do funny things to your insides and have probably all had to take an unintended pit stop during a run or cut a run short to answer the call of nature, but in Colorado Springs a most bizarre situation is unfolding as a runner nicknamed “The Mad Pooper” appears to be targeting some residences to leave her mark. How very odd!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 11th August

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.

Have you been watching the World Championships Athletics from London this week? I’ve been loving watching world class competition every evening and there have been some thrilling performances to watch – the men’s 10,000m, the women’s marathon and the legend that is Usain Bolt to name a few. There have also been some more “controversial” moments – continuing discussion of Caster Semenya, Makwala not being allowed to race due to illness and the reception of Justin Gatlin spring to mind. All of these have been covered extensively in my news feeds this week, but rather than go over old ground I thought I would bring you a few articles I had already saved…

I’m going to start with this piece by Running Like a Girl author Alexandra Heminsley. Considering the brilliant This Girl Can campaign from Sport England, Heminsley reflects on some of the barriers we create for ourselves which hold us back from participation. I have often heard people make comments like, “I’m not a real runner,” or say that they can’t take up a particular sport or go to a particular gym class until they lose weight/get fitter/become more flexible – some of the very things that activity would help with. Heminsley herself recognises that these moments mirror her own thinking before finding sport and once upon a time I felt the same. A great reminder that whether it’s running, swimming or something else entirely, nobody is born a fully-formed expert, but participation is all it takes to be able to call yourself part of the tribe.

This next article has raised some very interesting debate. Is it more impressive to run a super fast mile or to complete a marathon (or ultra)? It seems to me that every distance presents its own unique challenges, but that doesn’t necessarily make one better than another. In the mile, you’ve got a few minutes of lung-busting, heart-thumping effort (possibly ending with a bit of “pavement pizza” if you’ve really pushed it) whereas in the marathon and beyond there are the challenges of time on your feet, aching limbs, blisters and keeping your body fuelled. Different distance, different challenge. Is running a 4 minute mile impressive? Of course it is. What about completing a marathon? Apparently only 1% of the population will ever do so, so I’d say that’s another yes. What makes a challenge impressive is the possibility of failure rather than what that challenge actually is. For me, a sub-4 hour marathon is waaaaaay more likely (and appealing!) than a sub-4 minute mile. Both would present their own challenges. What are your thoughts?

If maintaining motivation is your issue, then perhaps this next article will help. A number of running bloggers were asked for their top tips to stay motivated. Most of the suggestions are probably fairly familiar, but it can still be useful to see it written down and read about another’s experiences. Perhaps you’ll find something in this extensive list useful. Do you have any to add?

Now to some cycling. Although I’ve been completing a bike workout every week in the gym for months now, it’s been some time since I’ve been on my trusty steed Trixie. I’m lucky enough to live somewhere with plenty of cycling options, but I know that for many this is not possible which can be off-putting, and am conscious that many cities on the continent are much better equipped for cyclists than we are here. But what would an ideal cycling city look like? That’s exactly what Steven Fleming considers in his new publication Velotopia. Would you want to live there?

And finally, I’ll leave you with this poem by Nat Runs Far published on Women’s Running. There is a certain poetry to getting into the groove of a long run on a sunny day, and this really captures that moment.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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?

Tunes on Tuesday – Could it be Magic

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

Could it be Magic – Take That

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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