Race Report – Aviemore Half Marathon 2018

It’s been a few years since I last ran this race, but those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember that this one holds a special place in my heart, not just because it was the first ever half marathon I ran (back in the pre-blog days of 2009) but it was also where Steve and I got engaged – that was quite a way to relieve my pre-race nerves! Further to that, in 2012 I ran a PB here which proved stubbornly difficult to beat for quite some time – all the way to early 2017 in fact! But for the last few years I haven’t been up there as I had different autumn priorities, and when Steve signed up back in the summer I initially wasn’t sure if I wanted to run the half or the 10k, eventually deciding that it would be worth capitalising on the training I was doing for the Disneyland Paris half and “properly” running a half marathon to round off my racing year.

In the past we have stayed in Aviemore the night before the race, but this time decided we would get up early and head up first thing in the morning. This meant leaving between 6 and 6:30am, times which seem increasingly reasonable the more I run!

It was still pretty dark as we set off on the 80ish mile drive north into the Highlands which meant we didn’t get much chance to appreciate the beautiful scenery. We had the latest episode of Marathon Talk playing in the car and had a pretty easy drive, arriving at the race HQ just before 8am.

The race itself starts at 10am, however the logistics are such that runners are taken by bus to the start (only about 10-15 minutes away) and the course returns us to the MacDonald hotel complex which is used as the race HQ and car park. The buses begin at 8am and the last one is at 9am so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to collect our race numbers, go to the loo and get in line for a bus.

s6tVq4+ARuSFinP1VTwu%wWe were up at the start at the Badaguish outdoor centre not long after 9am. It was pretty chilly, but the organisers have a good set up with teas and coffees available (with donation buckets out for those who have cash at the start line) and a sheltered area to gather in. I had a cosy top on that I was going to put in Steve’s bag (we usually do this since he will finish first and can collect the bag before I finish) but had chosen one I was happy to throw away if I just couldn’t bear to remove it soon enough!

We had a cup of tea then got in the queue for the toilets around 9:30, so by the time we emerged it was time to hand in our bag. I was shivering a bit, but didn’t have too long to wait until I got underway and I knew I would be absolutely fine once I got moving.

DtHG+BLvRxaWOtnFMuJoZgAs runners line up there are markers with approximate times on them and I set myself up next to the “sub 2 hours” marker. Realistically I had no idea what I could do, but with a PB of 1:53 and previous long-standing PB (from this race) of 1:56 I was fairly certain I could squeak under 2 hours.

Before I knew it, we were being walked towards the start and past a piper. Steve took some photos as I couldn’t be bothered to pull my phone out and I was instructing him as to the photos to take!

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AFkyVosFSzuzu8JxGouiCAThere was a moment of confusion when we could see through a  break in the trees that the runners at the front had started and, of course, those further back started to run even though we hadn’t reached the start line yet. I never understand this. Surely we’re going to run enough during the race? And the confusion was created by the fact that so many people were running and I could hear lots of folk asking if we had crossed the start line yet, but since we had race chips on our shoes I knew that even though there was no gantry, the start line would be when we crossed a timing mat slightly further on so stayed calm and started my watch as I hit the mat.

The first half of the race, which is net downhill overall, takes place on trails which can be a little narrow at points and thanks to the recent rainy weather there were quite a few puddles. I knew from previous experience that it wasn’t worth worrying about pace in the first half of the race as the chances are you will be way off, particularly with a steep hill at the start of the 4th mile, but will make up lots of time once the course emerges onto the road as it’s pretty much all downhill through the second half of the race. I actually set my watch to show me the average pace rather than the current pace and amused myself with some “runner maths” to try and work out if I was on track for a sub-2.

fullsizeoutput_28faA fun moment came towards the end of the trail section as I became aware of runners backed up around a corner. It turned out that there was a puddle of such magnitude that there was absolutely no avoiding it and people were looking for the best way to approach it. Most were going around the edges (which were pretty squelchy) as there was clearly a deeper hole in one part of it and lots of people were falling down. Not wanting to hurt myself by stepping on something uneven that I couldn’t see (or have an impromptu ice bath), I also went around the outside, but still ended up in cold water up to my knees and with icy cold feet – a good incentive to run faster in the second half to warm up again!

Thanks to my choice of attire I was getting lots of shouts (everything I was wearing was actual running kit, I just thought I would have a bit of fun and embrace the feline theme of running for a cat charity!). Early in the race as we had a brief section on a road I heard a little girl say, “she’s dressed up as a cat!” and as we ran by Loch Morlich shortly before joining the road for the home stretch a spectator shouted, “well done pussy cat!” Most of the marshals also commented on my cat ears and gave me a big smile. It was really nice, if a little unusual!

Once out on the road around 7 miles in it was time to get myself moving a bit faster. My average pace had been showing about 9:27 and I knew that 9:09 would be 2 hour pace. With the slight downhill it felt easy to push on and although it crossed my mind to wonder if I could sustain a faster pace, I dismissed the thought and focused on running to feel. I was passing people and feeling good. I even managed to take my gels (I had one on the trail at mile 5 and planned a second at mile 10 with “a parkrun to go”) without choking myself!

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Splits from the trail section

I was noticing my average pace falling until it dipped under the 9:09 I was looking for and at that point I knew I could keep my legs turning over all the way to the end. An interesting thing about this race is that the mile markers are actually “miles to go” so they are counting you down to the finish. I had noticed in the second half of the race that the markers were a bit off compared to my Garmin and suspected the route was going to come up a little short. Thanks to my knowledge of the route, I decided to trust the markers and keep on pushing as my pace felt ok.

There’s a short, sharp hill to take us from the path we are on up onto the main road and back into the hotel complex, and as I came off the hill I glanced at my watch to see that it read 1:55. I knew my previous best time from this race was 1:56 something, but couldn’t remember what the seconds were. I tried my best to speed up as the finish line was in sight but the last 100m or so are over grass which was a bit soft and uneven so I couldn’t get quite the sprint finish I wanted.

I heard the announcer call my name as I crossed the line and headed through the chute to collect my water, shortbread (such a Scottish race haha!) and medal then return my chip.

NpnukYlNToyy7NRYe2SBdQI met Steve and we headed back inside to sort ourselves out and I took advantage of the opportunity to look up my previous time (1:56:35) and confirm that I had indeed beaten it. My chip time for this year was posted as 1:56:02. Those 2 seconds are a little irritating, but given I had only expected a squeak under 2 hours (and there were some slight holdups on the trail) I’ll take that. This now becomes my 2nd fastest half marathon time and only the 3rd time I have run sub-2. Pretty pleasing for someone who was certain she wasn’t in fantastic form! I suspect the lack of pressure or expectation meant that I ran well, felt comfortable and enjoyed the event. I felt really strong in the second half and looking at my splits that strength is confirmed so I definitely got my strategy right.

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Splits from the road section – definitely a negative split!

UntitledAnd so this remains one of my favourite races. It’s well organised, has a fun route and is very friendly. There are always people there that I know and the sections where there are spectators always have great support. It’s nice to run a race with a more local feel to it. I’ll try not to leave it another 5 years before I go back!

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4wGXTmvsReqkWr+0x7yOkAYou can read about my previous experiences of this race here and here.

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Week In Review – Always Have a Plan B…!

The first week of my October break presented an opportunity to press reset and get caught up on a few things. Yes, it would have been nice to go away somewhere, but on this occasion it was good to be at home. With a half marathon to run at the weekend, I took the chance to mix up a bit of training with some decent rest:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – 5 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – half marathon

Start as you mean to go on, I say. I don’t generally like to sleep in (although obviously don’t set my alarm for as early as a school day!) but it is good to have a lazy start to the day and I decided I wanted to spend the first week of my holiday getting back into a habit I had back during my Easter break. So when I awoke I headed for the kitchen to make a cup of tea which I took right back to bed to read for about an hour. The kittens quite liked this and after running around daft for a bit they settled down at my feet for a snooze. Bliss!

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Nothing better than a long lie with Gary!

I then spent some time on the afternoon on my “homework”. I’m studying this with my Advanced Higher class and felt in need of a re-watch of my favourite adaptation of my favourite novel. Such a hardship lol!

fullsizeoutput_28ccOn Tuesday I followed my tea and book in bed with a run – not totally lazy! I set myself up with a kind of “mini taper” into my race so headed out for 5 miles. It was nice to get out in daylight after early morning runs last week, and the weather wasn’t too bad either.

RAHqgPkQRIGW3ynzZZhW5AWhen I arrived home I could spy a red package through the glass and knew exactly what it would be – my annual subscription to the London marathon rejection magazine. At least the running jacket I got with it is pretty good.

zTGJBzEOSzWboebQdiEYVwGiven the numbers in the ballot I didn’t expect to get a place, but until that magazine arrives there is always a glimmer of hope that this might be the year. Still, with 7 rejections (and counting…) I know to have a Plan B in mind for what I’ll do when that inevitable “nope” arrives, and for 2019 I knew my Plan B would be to sign up for the Stirling marathon again. I really enjoyed it this year and liked how conveniently close to home it was, so by the time the day was done, this had happened:

fullsizeoutput_28cfWednesday was another rest day. I had a few errands in town so clocked up loads of steps walking there and back (after some time spent reading with my cup of tea, of course!). At least my mail was more pleasing as I got some new casual leggings – and got photobombed by the kittens when I tried to take a picture!

fullsizeoutput_28f8On Thursday I doubled up – run in the morning and Ashtanga yoga class in the evening. My self-styled “mini taper” called for a 4 mile run and this time it was even pleasant enough to break my shorts back out of hibernation. I do love it when I can still wear my shorts without freezing to death!

IMG_9861Yoga was, as always, great. I had been curious to see how I would get on with the headstand after my breakthrough last week – was it a one-off or could I actually manage the posture by myself? As it turned out, there was no need to be concerned as I once more moved into the headstand on my own. I didn’t hold it for as long, probably because  I rushed to straighten my legs out before I had my balance feeling as secure as last time, but now I know it wasn’t a fluke I’ll take more care to move into the posture more mindfully as I go forward.

Steve offered me a training session on Friday morning (at a time which still allowed me my “soft start” to the day with my book and tea!) so I headed over to the studio. I was reluctant to do anything that would make my legs feel heavy on the Sunday, so we used the TRX and Core Momentum Trainer to do some work on my arms and upper body instead. Somehow I neglected to take a picture during the session, but did manage to take a photo of the coffee I had afterwards. Not sure what that says about me haha!

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The new “cordusio”. I think I ordered it because I thought it was a funny word!

The rest of the day was about as busy as things get during school holidays. First I had my flu jab (definitely want to avoid getting the flu!) and then I had my nails done which meant a good chat with my friend who does my nails.

Saturday, as ever, began with parkrun. I’m not always good at taking it easy when it’s not pacer day, but I was determined not to overdo things and risk having weary legs for the following day. I started out at a fairly steady pace and allowed myself to push on a bit as the run went on (securing a nice Royal Flush Negative Split) but still coming in at a slower (for me) time of 25:44. I had thought averaging 8:20-8:30 pace overall would be ideal so that was perfect.

IMG_9884Steve’s brother was away on holiday, but the Steve and I still went for a post-run bacon croissant before getting the food shopping done (such Saturday glamour!).

5xGLC%9CReanCYiH2wKjugI actually felt a bit “off”, kind of like I was going to get a headache but without actually having a headache. Not sure if that makes any sense, but I could feel my body telling me to have a nap so once home I had some soup then settled down for a nap. I did feel a bit better after that, but decided to take it easy and spend the afternoon watching a film. Time to break out Beauty and the Beast, because sometimes only a Disney film will do.

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As the evening wore on I began to realise that the reason I felt “off” was because my upper back and shoulders were tight and this was travelling up my neck and into my head. I got Steve to work on it a bit and began to feel a lot better. Good thing too since we were getting up early for our race!

We had decided not to stay in Aviemore the night before, and instead get up early to make the journey north into the Highlands – only about an hour and a half away and the roads are pretty clear at that time of day. We were away before 6:30am and got into Aviemore just before 8. I’ll write a separate post with all the details of the race, but it was all pretty familiar even though I hadn’t been up there since 2013.

This was my last serious race of the year. Anything else from this point will be more in the “fun run” category, so I also made it the last hurrah for my fundraising efforts. I teamed my Cats Protection running vest with paw print leggings (actual running leggings) and a hairband with ears (an actual running headband). It got me a fair amount of shouts and made a few people smile along the route!

DrgrJJvKTpCFm6VK7VXaegPost-race we tidied ourselves up a bit and on the way home called in to see a lovely couple Steve trains. They are in their 70s and so fit! I had never met them before but they had insisted we call in on our way home for a cup of tea, and despite being “race fresh” they were perfectly happy to sit and chat over some refreshments for a while and were so kind, waving away my apologies for not being at my most presentable! It was a nice way to break up the journey home and the cups of tea and choccy biccies were definitely appreciated!

The remainder of the day was pretty chilled and I headed to bed feeling really tired from the combination of an early start, racing a half marathon and having the long-ish car journeys as well.

When was the last time you needed to call on Plan B?
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The Daily Post – Animal

I really wanted this month’s blog prompt response to be something cat-related (since the wee floofs are very much on my mind right now) so when I found the prompt Animal it seemed ideal. Ok, so I often think about cats (actually, I think I might be becoming one 😹) but this year as a whole has been very cat-centric: I said good bye to Morven, I ran the Stirling marathon for Cats Protection, and now I have welcomed two new furry friends into my life.

Recently I was asked to write a piece for the local Cats Protection “Newslitter” (see what they did there?) and having received my copy this week, I wanted to share it here as well…

Bk3K8MwbT3C6+WBAqsnOdgMiles for Morven
It all began back in the summer of 2000. Fresh from university and embarking on the adventure of an independent adult life, I knew I wanted a cat to complete my cosy little world. Enter Morven, a tiny bundle of fluff and love I adopted from Cats Protection. Right from the start she was a mummy’s girl and she brought joy to my life every single day, staying firmly by my side through the very worst that life could throw at me.

Fast forward to 2016 when it became clear that something wasn’t quite right with my beautiful little girl. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, a condition that affects many older cats, but with a prescription diet and daily medications we were able to manage the condition and Morven continued to enjoy a good quality of life with plenty of love, comfortable places to sleep and a clear preference for curling up on my lap – even when I went to bed!

Morven’s condition was further complicated by the discovery of a mass in her small intestine midway through 2017. Again, medication helped her to sustain her quality of life. She was happy and fought bravely through every health issue until, in January of this year, her journey came to an end quite suddenly.

IMG_6660As it turns out, there is no preparing for the loss of a pet, even when you know in your heart of hearts that the end is near. As I came to terms with the loss of my best friend and companion, I knew that I wanted to do something positive in her name, to honour all those years of loyal, loving friendship she gave me. And what better to do than to support the charity that gave me that loving friendship all those years ago – Cats Protection.

I have been told many times that Morven was a lucky cat: she was loved, she had everything a (spoiled) cat could want and when she became ill I made sure that she received all the treatment she needed without question. I was her dedicated nurse administering daily medications, giving her subcutaneous fluids at home and becoming a bit of a “frequent flyer” at the vet!

But I know that not every cat is as lucky as Morven and the thought of a cat without a fur-ever home breaks my heart. If I could, I would adopt them all, but that isn’t possible. What is possible is raising funds for cats in need in this area. Cats who need food, litter, toys and veterinary care. Cats who deserve to be loved.

And so a plan began to take shape. I already had a place in the 2018 Stirling marathon and, at the point when I said goodbye to Morven, was beginning to train. The day after I lost her I went for a run. I no doubt looked a state with tears running down my face as I snivelled my way around the streets, but when I returned I contacted Fiona at Cats Protection Perth to tell her I would like to be a Cat Champion, to do what I could to raise money for the Perth branch though my running in 2018. #milesformorven had been born.

Becoming a Cat Champion was probably the best thing I could have done. At a time of year that was dark and gloomy, a time when I was grieving for Morven (how could such a small creature leave such a huge gap in my life?) I had a focus. Every mile I ran in training was another mile for Morven. Every penny I raised was going directly to Cats Protection to help them make a difference to the cats in their care and the thought of this was soothing. On race day, remembering how brave she was helped me to dig in when things got hard and I used the rhythm of my mantra – “Morven’s tough, I’m tough” – to keep my legs moving steadily. Crossing the finish line I knew I had done my best and done Morven proud.

YDBkbIBmRMW9SVArj30AGARunning the Stirling marathon provided the closure I needed to let me remember those years with Morven fondly rather than with sadness. More importantly, all the wonderful people who donated to my cause helped me to raise over £680 for Cats Protection Perth, funds which I know will help boost the “kitty”.

In October I will run the Aviemore Half Marathon as a Cat Champion and hope to increase that total further. In the meantime, I’m thinking it’s time to bring another furry friend (or two!) into my life and I know exactly where I’ll turn…

IMG_5348Of course, as my mum pointed out, the story will now have to continue with Sooty and Smokey…

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Race Report – The Stirling Scottish Marathon 2018

If you’ve been following along with my training since the beginning of the year you will probably know that I didn’t specify a time goal for this race. I was tired of constantly putting pressure on myself to achieve a time and then coming nowhere near it for a variety of reasons including injuries, weather and, for my last marathon, the stress of a very poorly cat and an emergency visit to the vet the day before. This time I wanted to enjoy the process (it is The Year Of Me after all) so my goal was simply to train as well as I could and then do my best on the day. That meant adapting to the circumstances and adjusting as I went rather than burning myself out chasing a time.

But I’m a runner. I had lots of data from my training so had an idea of where I might be and the last thing I wanted was to not do myself justice. And so I set myself “standards” rather than specific goals, benchmarks I could consider once I had a finish time rather than an extra pressure on the day. I wanted to have fun, to enjoy the race I had spent time training for rather than limp across the line ready to chuck my trainers in the bin.

  • With a PB of 4:05:07 from way back in 2014 (and I’m not getting any younger!), my “unicorns are smiling on me creating rainbows in the sky” 🦄 🌈 goal had to be a PB. And if the stars really aligned 🌟 a sub-4 has long been my ultimate goal. I didn’t honestly think this was realistic just yet.
  • Since setting that PB the absolute closest I’ve come is my time of 4:18:10 from my last race – the Loch Ness marathon in September. Everything else has been in the 4:30/4:40 region so my B goal 🏅 was to beat that time. This was the one I thought was most realistic and anticipated something between 4:10 and 4:15.
  • Finally, my “the wheels have totally come off and everything has gone to 💩” goal was to finish smiling. I was going to be running on a beautiful route and I do love marathons, so why would I want to make myself miserable? I knew I could finish, so just had to make sure that whatever happened I chose to enjoy it.

Within all of that I had one sub-goal: no walking other than to take my gels (it just works better for me to walk for a moment then carry on running). In the past I’ve lost the mental battle a bit and allowed myself to walk in the latter stages of the race, especially once I knew my time goals had gone. This time I wanted to eliminate that and run my best time, whatever that may be. I knew I needed to keep my pace under control at the start so I would have a bit of energy for later then dig deep in the latter miles to the finish. To help me with all this, I changed the settings on my watch so I could see my average pace and make sure I kept it steady at the start. My basic plan was to keep it steady to 20 then see how I felt (wiped out, obviously, but if there was anything left to push on then I was going to try and push on).
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Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 19.30.43The night before I got my kit organised. Since I was fundraising I had my charity vest and paired it with my favourite Under Armour running skirt that I usually save for marathons as well as a couple of special extras. I had ordered a pair of bespoke trainer tags from Lucy Locket Loves, one featuring my blog name and one with the name of my 2018 charity challenge Miles for Morven. I had also ordered a beautiful silk wrap from Run Bling by Nicky Lopez. I had asked her to engrave it with Miles for Morven and add some paw prints and I was so delighted with it. I wanted to keep my reason for running close by and have something to inspire me simply by glancing down at my wrist during the race.

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S1a70fuwSTK66ERWetx1MgRace day dawned and the weather was exactly as expected from my stalking of the forecast all week: dry and cool. Perfect. All my kit was ready so I got up, had my porridge, got dressed then had a second bowl of porridge just to make sure I was well fuelled. After a quick coffee we hit the road for the half hour drive to Stirling.

jeZ6wZPYSi+Ht3H1I3DK4QWe parked in the event car park (basically some empty land) with Stirling Castle in the background and walked from there to the start area. This was well set up with lots of toilets and the baggage buses. I actually got straight into a toilet (unheard of!) then reluctantly removed my layers, put my bag on the bus and, since there were now queues, waited to get into the toilet again.

We had to make our way a short distance from there to the actual start line where one of those god-awful mass warmups was underway. We were both in the red (front) wave and there were officials shouting at everyone to get into the pens, but sadly they didn’t actually tell us HOW (this is my one quibble with the setup). There was no obvious way to get in and lots of people waiting so we did what many others were doing and scaled the barriers! I’m not a fan of doing this since I’m terrified of hurting myself right before the race is due to start, but I took my time and as I turned to step into the start pen, I felt the steady hands of another runner help guide me safely there. Runners are nice like that.

By this time it suddenly dawned on me that we were getting underway. I hadn’t switched my Garmin on and still had my throwaway top on (it was cold and I knew these were being collected for charity) but I miraculously got it all sorted out just as the countdown began – no hanging around at this race!

Despite all that I didn’t feel stressed or worried (although I did miss out on a start line selfie). I was calm and ready to settle into my pace, soaking up the atmosphere through those first few miles when everyone is in high spirits and there are conversations going on around you.

I settled into a comfortable pace, holding back so I wouldn’t go too fast and use up all my energy. I was steady and enjoying the first few miles, legs feeling good. We passed by the entrance to Blair Drummond Safari Park at the 4 mile mark, where we were greeted by this fun cheer squad:

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Photo from Blair Drummond Safari Park on Facebook

The next landmark was Doune Castle which is generally known for being used as a film location in Monty Python and the Holy Grail as well as, more recently, Game of Thrones. I did catch a glimpse of the castle and it looked really pretty.

Through Doune the crowd support was brilliant and I was still feeling good. I remember laughing at a sign saying, “If you collapse I will pause your Garmin” before heading back out onto the country roads towards Dunblane. There was a bit of a climb in this section, then a glorious downhill stretch through Dunblane (where Andy Murray grew up). I had really wanted to see the gold postbox that marked “Our Andy’s” Olympic gold, but I missed it. Steve thought there were people standing around it hence why I didn’t see it even though I was looking.

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I can’t remember where this was, but I really like the photo.

From Dunblane we followed the road towards Bridge of Allan and there was another nice downhill stretch before things levelled out. I was still averaging around 9:05 per mile and felt comfortable. The temperature was ideal, I was happy with my electrolyte drink and my gels (I actually didn’t use any of the on-course drinks or gels), there was a nice mix of sections with great crowd support and quiet sections where I could just enjoy the scenery and think my own thoughts (I had my Aftershokz headphones around my neck, but hadn’t yet bothered to listen to anything even as I went through halfway). It was simply a lovely Sunday morning run.

On the other side of Bridge of Allan is the University of Stirling where my sister studied for her degree. The route took us on a loop around the campus, starting with a bit of an uphill slog before a nice downhill run back out. That uphill felt tough, but as I left the campus and rejoined the road at around 16.5 miles I was doing ok and knew I would get my next gel at 20 miles so that was my target. It’s funny how these things become quite exciting during a marathon and I find myself strangely looking forward to the next gel, especially the double espresso one with caffeine I take at mile 15 – like having a mid-race coffee!

About a mile later, things felt a little harder but I was prepared for the mental battle this time. I had thought that I might put a podcast on when things felt tough, but instead I did something different. I had said that I was running this one for Morven and that when things felt hard I would remember my reason for running, the funds I had raised and the people who had supported me. My thoughts turned inevitably to Morven and I felt like I was drawing on her and the strength she had when battling illness in her last year. I know it’s hard for people who have never had a pet to understand, but Morven and I had a very strong bond so there was a lot of emotion tied up in this for me. As I ran, I developed a positive mantra which I kept repeating to myself in time with my foot strike and it helped to keep my cadence up. Before I knew it I was another mile in and gaining on a runner I knew from parkrun. I kept the mantra going until I took my gel at mile 20 then decided that I needed to get outside of my head for a bit. The weather had changed and it was raining so it was finally time to start my podcast to see me through the last 10k.

IMG_5348By this point, of course, I had no real clue where I was geographically. There was a sort of loop that we ran that took in some kind of bike path then we rejoined the main road and I remember a corner where there was lots of crowd support and I got a boost from a runner I know from a social media group giving me a shout. Since I had no on-course support with me, it was so nice at one or two points along the route to see people I knew and to get a shout from them to cheer me on.

From here, the road was on a slight incline. Ordinarily it wouldn’t have been too bad but at this stage in a marathon it felt quite tough. I spotted a race photographer so made sure to try and look like I was still running strong for the photos I would see later!

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Trying not to look like I’m dying (and probably doing a better job than the guy beside me!)

I always break the last 10k into “2 parkruns” with an extra gel in between. I opted to take my last gel at 23 miles then told myself I just had to keep moving forward through the last parkrun to the end. My average pace had been stubbornly drifting outside of my PB pace, but not too much so I was feeling confident that I could comfortably achieve my B goal by some margin.

At last the route brought me into Stirling and the final stretch to the finish. My legs were heavy and I felt like I was wading through treacle but I was still running. The hardest part was through the centre of Stirling (which reminded me very much of Inverness) as there were cobbles. People often express concern about the cobbles in Paris but I’ve never been bothered by those as they are actually pretty smooth and even. In contrast, the cobbles of Stirling were uneven and there were big ruts in some sections that made it difficult for weary legs, but I knew I had to be close to the finish as my watch had been fairly accurate to the course signage throughout and I was trusting that information.

Steve’s cousin had told us she would be at a cheer point for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau not far before the 26 mile mark and I spotted her leaping out to give me a big cheer as I turned a corner to be faced with what looked like a mountain. Yes, someone thought a 600m uphill finish would be the perfect grand finale to the route! I was willing my legs to move faster but I think the Central Governor had taken over long before and was refusing to let me go any quicker until an actual finish gantry was in sight. I could hear everyone around me react to seeing the hill and we were all exchanging a few words and groans about it. I had stopped my podcast when I got into Stirling as there was a lot of crowd noise and that meant I could soak up the atmosphere in the final sections of the race.

As I got closer to the finish I began to spot some familiar faces from Perth in the crowds and got a few shouts then, praise be! The finish gantry! The Central Governor relinquished control and my legs began to move again. As I ran into the finishing straight the opening bars of the YMCA began to play over the loudspeaker and hilariously both the girl ahead and I saw fit to join in with the actions as we ran along. I could hear a roar from the crowd each time we flung our arms up into the ‘Y’ and I just loved that atmosphere as I ran to the finish.

20x30-SSMC3090Crossing the line I had the usual wave of emotions, but managed to keep it together as I exchanged a few words with the girl who had been ahead of me as I had been using her as a kind of pacer for the last part of the race. I was grinning ear to ear from a great race and keen to get my official time as I knew it would be a few seconds faster than my watch.

I was handed my goody bag which contained my T-shirt, medal and assorted other bits and pieces, including a packet of spaghetti!?!

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jR1NmIv%R5+J7jGWZKh59gSteve was waiting at the end of the finish funnel and he had already collected my bag from the bus so I didn’t have to shuffle across the field to get it. The sun was shining so I fished my disposable poncho from my bag and spread it on the ground so I could sit down, have my recovery drink and gather my thoughts. I even managed to get up again all by myself (thank you yoga!) to get a couple of photos.

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YDBkbIBmRMW9SVArj30AGAAnd that official time? In case you’ve somehow missed my shrieking about it in my last Week in Review or all over social media, it was 4:05:40. A mere 33 seconds outside of my PB, making it officially my 2nd fastest marathon ever, and well inside that B goal I had set myself. I’d say that’s a good morning’s work. One or two people have asked if I’m disappointed not to get a PB and my honest answer is no. This race was never about a PB, it was about a process. It was about seeing how I would run when I listened to my body and removed the pressure of time. To run that time whilst still enjoying the race and never feeling like I was really struggling or that I couldn’t do it is testament to the training I have done and the approach I took. I also met my sub-goal of no walking other than to take my gels whereas in the past I would have taken walk breaks as soon as I realised the chance of meeting my A goal was gone. When I reflect, I truly believe that in many ways this is my best performance ever even if it isn’t my fastest result. It doesn’t always have to be about the time on the clock, but it should be about the time you have.

fullsizeoutput_252cOverall I really loved this race. I used to only want to run big city marathons but this was a wonderful experience for me and I would happily sign up to this race again in the future. It’s well-organised, has a fantastic route, great support and, crucially, is close to home. I do love the opportunity to travel for a race, but nothing beats home comforts when you’re preparing to run 26.2 miles.

Stirling marathon: you were great.

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Week In Review – Here We Go!!!

Yes, indeed. Race week has rolled around once more, and with it a whole new level of maranoia in which my Pocket Bac was attached to me (because the germs wanted to hunt me down), I thought my calf hurt (it didn’t), I thought I was getting a cold (I wasn’t) and I generally wanted to be enveloped in bubble wrap and shut off from other people 😂

IMG_0497Sadly, that wasn’t possible so I had to go to work as usual in the germ factory of many many young people (hence the Pocket Bac lol!) as well as complete my last, gentle workouts ahead of the marathon:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – RACE DAY!!!

For me, taper weeks are all about continuing with the routine of my workouts but dialling down the volume a bit as the race gets nearer. That way I don’t go totally crazy but make sure I feel fresh and ready to go on race day. All my key workouts were in place this week, but the running was much more minimal so as to save my legs for the big day.

I began the week with my Hatha yoga class, which is always a gentle stretch out but with options to add a bit more intensity or work on strength. I often do choose different options, but I imagine my class the day after the marathon will see me choosing all the easiest options there are. Maybe spending the whole class in savasana?

On Tuesday I headed for the gym straight after work. My bike reps have been increasing in number by 2 reps per week up to 20 before changing the resistance level of the bike, and this week was 20 reps at my current level as a finale to this cycle of training. While that sounds like a lot, it was still early in the week and was a non-impact workout so it was fine to do this given that the rest of the week was going to be pretty gentle. There was something very satisfying about completing this set and rounding off all the hard work I’ve been doing – 20 reps at an intensity level I would barely have managed 1 at back in January (and for those wondering, yes I did get the bike I like!).

7qb9STY4RamPdw43%andpwI usually alternate form drills and hill reps on a Wednesday, but this week stuck to the drills. Last week I did 10x 1km so this week dropped it back to 6x 1km. Including my warm up and cool down that gave me less than 6 miles so was an ideal workout to keep my legs ticking over and allow me some sections of faster running to satisfy the urge created by having fresher legs. I’ll admit the first couple of reps felt a little hard, but they were mainly uphill and it was a bit windy so I felt great after that.

IMG_6423Even better, I got home to find that one of Steve’s clients had baked him a carrot cake. Cake = carbs so I had a slice with a cup of tea after I ate. It was delicious!

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ABzSp9IJQySiLBgFpMFEeQThursday was Ashtanga yoga. I was pretty last-minute getting there thanks to some unusually heavy traffic, but soon settled in and enjoyed the class. I was super careful not to overdo things and asked for support in my headstand as I didn’t want to risk taking a tumble, but I really wanted to stretch things out and clear my head so this was ideal.

By Friday a rest day was in order. I had as restful a day as possible then did a short Yoga with Adriene video so I would feel like I had a little activity. We then headed out to eat as usual and I decided I fancied the curry this week. Yes, that is a beer you see but I always have a beer on a Friday and it’s important to do everything the same in the days before the race, right?

P5pvTi1RQPmx0I77c4JftgBefore I knew it, parkrunday was with us once more. I knew I shouldn’t do too much so drove there, paid for a parking space at the park rather than walking/jogging from a free space further away and treated the run as a shakeout run. I decided that averaging out around a 9 minute mile would be good and so a time absolutely no faster than 27 minutes (but probably nearer 28 minutes) would be ideal.

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National Superhero Day = Wonder Woman leggings

I positioned myself a bit further back behind crowds of people with the strict instruction to myself not to weave about, then tried to settle into my pace. I felt fresh and ready to go, so the taper had done its job. I actually managed 9:08 for the first mile (well done me!) then caught up with someone I’ve not spoken to in a while so ran with her for a bit to have a chat. This took in the grass section (yes, we were FINALLY back on our main route!) and kept my pace down to 9:20. I did speed up a little in the last mile to 8:50 and allowed myself to kick it up for the last tiny bit for a faster finish, but overall I did get my planned average with 9:03 and a 27:55 time. Perfect!

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Photo from Perth parkrun facebook page. No, I didn’t spot the photographer 😂

I spent the remainder of the day sitting down/relaxing as much as possible and got all my kit sorted out for Sunday morning as I knew it would be an early start so wanted to be as organised as possible.

KcAAk30YTEShARkyD8rauwDinner was carb loading with some of Steve’s amazing pizza (he used to be a pizza chef before he trained as a Personal Trainer – useful!).

GQ0+1AHHTuyAIak76RHv6QThen I had a nice bath to help me relax and sleep well. It felt so strange actually being at home the night before a marathon. Almost like I wasn’t really doing it, which was good as I felt relaxed.

N4LTpq5eQGaRUjfbpkyidQI’ll write a separate post soon on the race itself, but anyone who follows me on social media or knows me in real life will probably already know how it went. My main goal was to do the best I could under whatever circumstances presented themselves on the day. Turns out my best was 4:05:40. That’s only 33 seconds slower than my PB (set in Paris, a much flatter course than Stirling!) and I really wasn’t expecting that. Had you twisted my arm last week I would have suggested between 4:10 and 4:15 as my likely finish time so I’m absolutely thrilled with this. I guess it just goes to show what’s possible when the pressure is removed and you trust in the process. More on that in a future post.

IMG_6499Post-race it was nice to be home quite quickly, showered and enjoying some food. Chinese really hit the spot!

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M+nb6+u1SfyoL8KQLkNQCwThen we shuffled to the pub down the road for a celebratory beer before heading home so I could have a nice hot bath with epsom salts before bed. Rock and roll!

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Rehydrating like a pro!!

As marathon weekends go, it was a great one!

8wkBqBnaR86Qh+sG9Dr0mAWhat’s your favourite post-race food?
Would you prefer to be in a hotel or at home the night before a race?

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Week In Review – Music And Excitement!

Oh what a week it’s been! It may have been the first week of a new school term, but from Thursday to Sunday everything was so exciting it was like Christmas for me! It was also the second week of my taper, the one when I tend to start noticing that sluggish feeling creeping in, but there was still a decent week of training (and some extra “rest” to combat a busy week). Here’s how it all looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

A new term at school meant a new block of my Hatha yoga class. Although I have cultivated a decent home practice this year, I still enjoy going to my classes and miss it when it’s not on or I can’t go. It was so nice to be back on my mat in the lovely studio and I marked the occasion by giving my new leggings a whirl. I had a “whale” of a time! 🙄

ekUjbTiQQwqC5YKWYSe7tgTuesday had me back on the bike at the gym. Someone was on the bike I like (surely not just me that has preferences?) so I had to go on one I’m not so fond of. I know technically the bikes are all the same, but I’m sure the tilt of the seats differs a bit and the resistance doesn’t always feel the same even at the same setting. I’m still not sure if my workout felt tough because I was on a bike that feels “harder” or if I was just feeling a bit sluggish and tired. The important thing is that I got it done, event though my legs and my mind were telling me I couldn’t. Tenacious is my middle name!

Then on Wedensday I had a set of form drills to do. This time it was 10x 1km and I definitely felt sluggish. My calves were weary and my right hip was bothering me a little (it’s fine now, just a mobility thing I had been working through and a bit of phantom taper tension). At one point I thought I might bail out early but felt better as the run went on so completed the set.

3tRee26CTCeyXgtH1B4kSQIt was a super-quick turnaround as I got in the door at 6:30pm, showered, changed, ate and was ready for my sister to pick me up for an orchestra rehearsal that started at 7:30pm. Someone in my section had seen me out running and was most impressed that I had managed to juggle everything. To be honest, squeezing in a rehearsal at this point wasn’t ideal, but it was a one-off due to our concert from early March being postponed because of The Beast From The East. I figured I could manage one rehearsal plus I knew I had factored this into some extra rest and recovery at the end of the week to balance things up.

Thursday was probably the absolute highlight not just of the week but of my year so far. Back in October it was announced that GARY BARLOW would be performing in Perth as part of his solo tour and, since everyone knows he is my favourite, there was no way I was going to miss this. My sister sorted the tickets out and I was prepared to forego Ashtanga yoga for one night in order to see my beloved Gary (although I did some at home before I went). Oh boy was it worth it! I don’t think my sister really appreciated how good it was going to be, but there is just something so special about an artist who usually commands massive stadium audiences and huge venues to be in a far more intimate venue. We had seats but I was on my feet throughout and managed to notch up around 2000 “steps” just dancing and waving my arms about at my seat! I LOVED it!

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Yes, we bought the same T-shirt!

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fGA90h7vSwWCCFAfe7pTIwEven better, I appeared on Gary’s Instagram. Sort of😂:

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fullsizeoutput_24c1Of course this meant that I probably had the least amount of sleep I’d had all week, despite being home at a reasonably civilised hour, yet I felt amazing on Friday with songs going around my head and still on a high from the concert buzz. I took a rest day and went to get my nails done all ready for the race next weekend.

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All about the bling!

Originally my plan for the weekend had me doing parkrun on Saturday then 8 miles on Sunday, but since I was so excited about watching the London marathon, I knew I would need to move things around a bit. I contemplated getting up early to run my Sunday miles before the TV coverage started, but with the concert on Saturday night (and an afternoon of rehearsals beforehand) I knew I would want to rest so decided on getting some solid miles in on Saturday instead. I duly ran the scenic route to parkrun, took part in the run, then rook a different scenic route home. 10 miles total for the day.

Fb%Cfn5jQTGlNRBJB3giRAI definitely felt better than on Wednesday, but felt like “marathon pace” was about all I could manage on my run down. Perhaps because in my mind I was running much further, or because I was listening to Marathon Talk, my standard “long run” podcast, I just didn’t seem to have much more oomph. I really expected to run about 26-27 minutes for parkrun, but rallied a bit to get a 25:15, having been getting gradually faster throughout. I’ll take that!

Steve and I ran home together (he had left before me to go down as he wanted to do some drills) and at first my legs felt a bit heavy form the faster running, but I soon settled in and felt comfortable by the time I got to my front door (which I ran past twice to make sure I got my 10 miles – runner problems 😂)

I spent the afternoon rehearsing on the same stage Mr Barlow had been on two nights previously. Sadly no evidence remained of his presence, but it was still cool to think about it like that. Then after a short break to go home and eat, etc, it was back for the concert. We played a great programme including some movie music – The Magnificent Seven, The Jungle Book, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. Great fun!

Choosing a rest day on Sunday meant I got a decent sleep then transferred myself to the sofa in time for the coverage to begin. What an incredible morning of racing, despite less than ideal conditions for it. Now I’m feeling inspired to go out and do my best when it’s my turn next Sunday.

IMG_0496In case you weren’t aware, I’m running for the charity I got my cat Morven from back in 2000. I still miss her tremendously after saying goodbye back in January and decided to do something positive in her memory. When I find myself in a rough patch, I will be remembering Morven and using this to help me push on. If you would like to help, you can read more here. Every penny makes a different to the lives of cats without a fur-ever home.

Did you watch the London Marathon?
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Week In Review – Reaching the Peak!

It’s been a lovely, restful week off work (despite yet more snow!) and it’s been nice to have a chance to recharge the batteries while still maintaining my training. This week saw me take on my longest run in this cycle which seems ideal when I’m pretty well rested! Here’s how it all turned out:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 20 miles

I began my week the same way I ended the last one – reading my book in bed. It was such a lovely, relaxing start to my day that this quickly became my routine for the week: alarm at 7:30am, kettle on, then back to bed with a cup of tea to read until around 8:30am. Bliss, and so good to take the time for myself.

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I highly recommend this book

Since I knew I wouldn’t have my Hatha class in the evening (it’s term time only) I was happy to continue my home practice, however was saving that until the early evening. To get a bit of movement into my day I walked down to the gym to relax in the hot tub and sauna then spent the rest of the day chilling out at home. With term time always so busy, it’s important for me to have some quiet time and catch up on myself a bit. There was a bit of a spanner in the works later in the evening when we had a couple of power cuts, but thanks to some battery-operated lights and some candles, things were pretty cosy and I was able to read a bit thanks to my trusty head torch!

n5AhHhVATLmjWDLhA9xTDQTuesday began much the same, but this time I had an actual workout to do as there were more bike reps on the schedule. I got these done in the morning so I could enjoy the rest of my day (and take my time having a sauna afterwards!). It was quite chilly though and I spent a good part of my walk home wondering why I STILL needed to wear my hat and gloves! Definitely ready for some better weather.

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Working hard!

6AtKhEC2RZmGUm1i5B9H6QSadly that better weather seemed pretty far away on Wednesday as I awoke to MORE snow. Thankfully not too bad this time, but enough to disrupt my run. I had planned to warm up then run 10x 1km drills. I toyed with waiting until later in the day but there was no guarantee things would improve so in the end I bundled up and went for it.

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fullsizeoutput_2471For the first half of my run the roads and path were pretty slushy so each drill was more an exercise in not falling over, but some of the later drills were a bit more as they should be as I hit some paths that were much clearer. Typically things did clear up a bit later on but when I’m on holiday I always prefer to get my workout done in the morning. Oh well, yet another “character building” run in the snow!

GLldtfZcTfWYrRp7ILOvKgAnd Steve took me to the farm shop cafe for a malteser slice and hot chocolate in the afternoon. Yum!

1O1mLmOYSoeCS6h34iHHFwThursday saw me back at the gym for my morning hot tub/sauna then in the afternoon I took a walk about mile up the road to meet Steve for a coffee. A new branch of a coffee shop chain had opened in the business park there so we thought we would take a look and have a coffee. The interior was nice and they have a drive through, but I think they have a bit of work to do on staff training as it took several different people to work out how to put the correct order through and a queue quickly formed behind us – oops!

Later in the day I had my Ashtanga class which I always really enjoy. We worked on our headstands a bit again and this week I managed to briefly hold my balance (without my legs straightened just yet) before taking a tumble. Don’t worry, I was fine as I realised I was going over so was able to land safely and the teacher was there. I definitely felt more confident with moving into the posture thanks to having done it with support in previous weeks, so I guess I’ll have to expect a few tumbles while I work on perfecting this one. Definite progress through.

On Friday morning Steve was able to fit me in for a training session so I headed down to the studio with my boxing gloves again. It was a tough workout of punches, ducks, press ups, burpees and sit-ups, but I did notice that I was performing better in my boxing than before. Yet another marker of progress, but I knew I was going to feel it the next day!

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This was after, hence my tired face!

Thankfully it was pacer day at parkrun so I “only” had to run 28 minutes, a comfortable (for me) time. We had hoped to maybe be back on our main route but the grass is still sodden so it was another week of laps. Clockwise again. Hilariously, despite taking several photos of the pacers before the start, we didn’t get a single one where we were all facing the same direction 😂

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There’s always one 😂

It took me a while to settle into the pace as the trees on the first part of the route stop my watch getting a good signal, but soon I was on course and had plenty of energy to pose for the photographer.

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I had a great time chatting to people, giving advice and helping them to run a bit better, crossing the line in 28:04 – pretty close!

IMG_6203When I got home I was pleased to find some interesting post. I had been following the incredible story of a cat called Meatball and when a virtual run was organised in his name to raise funds for the same local Cats Protection branch that I am fundraising for this year (details in the link at the bottom of this post) then of course I jumped at the chance to do my bit. And the good news is that Meatball is now doing well.

UntitledThen Sunday was The Big One. My 20 mile run. I got a bit distracted over breakfast as I found a live stream of the Paris marathon coverage and got caught up in watching that – in French! I followed a good bit of the commentary and was amused to note that as I looked at the footage and distance markers, I knew EXACTLY where on the course the runners were and could picture the scene. An interesting thing they did was set the women’s race off first for the first time in this event. Then started the men’s race 16 or so minutes later. It seems an odd gap, but it was the difference between the winning male and female times last year. This meant that both the male and female races finished together – in fact the lead man passed the lead woman about half a kilometre from the end and there were only a few seconds between them reaching the finish line. Instead of one lonely male runner finishing, there were several athletes running in at the same time which made for great viewing. I really liked the way this was done and the coverage which had a lot of split screen so you could watch both races at once. It will be interesting to see if other big races follow suit.

Once the elite races in Paris were finished I was ready to head out the door for my own run – and I FINALLY got to run in my favourite skirt that I like to race in. Without gloves!!!

bfXpB4MzRX6WvRtmS9pwSQThe plan this time was a 2 mile warm up then 3 sets of 4 miles at marathon pace/effort with 2 miles recovery. It did feel harder than my 18 mile run last week, but then I ran that after a couple of “easier” weeks so taking on 20 just one week later (and with my Friday workout still in my weary muscles) it’s quite right that this felt harder. That’s no bad thing since I’ll need to be ready to run on tired legs come race day. There were actually only 2 “harder” mile splits that I missed and both of those featured an incline, so overall I’m pleased with how it went and am now hoping that with fresher legs in 3 weeks I’ll be able to perform well.

IMG_6253Post-run (and lunch!) Steve and I headed out to the farm shop for some eggs and figured we might as well have a scone in the cafe while we were there – it would be rude not to! I’d love to tell you how is tasted, but I gobbled it up pretty quickly…

G4hsWGTDTd+K+MkxKNkOSQThen as soon as we got home we had the oven on ready to replace all those calories burned with another fine plate of carbs and chips 😂 Got to love the marathon appetite!

v83oSWIKQ%K%%KPztTg3uQDefinitely a good week of training. A hard week, but a good one nonetheless as I was able to keep going even with the accumulation of fatigue in my muscles. Now let the taper commence…!

IMG_0492Have you had any more snow?
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Week In Review – Made It!!

The term from January to Easter is always the hardest in schools – there are mock exams to mark, copious amounts of coursework to support, final exams to prepare for and all this takes place in seemingly endless darkness. It’s a pretty long term, even with those “bonus” days off we had thanks to The Beast from the East and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever make it to the finish line But his past week was the last of the term. I finally made it to our spring break!

If you’ve been following my training since the turn of the year then you’ll know that the weather has not always made it easy, but I’ve managed to be both consistent and flexible. As a result, I’m starting to feel like all the pieces are slotting into place. Read on for more about my training for the final week of March, which looked like this:

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

My Hatha yoga class is only on during term time, so this was the last class in the block before the two week break. So nice to stretch out and re-balance after my long run the day before and the accumulated stresses of the term. Since the turn of the year I’ve been doing a lot more at-home yoga to complement the classes I go to, and I think that’s one of the puzzle pieces that is contributing to how strong I’m feeling right now. I’ll miss the class during the break, but will definitely be doing some yoga of my own to maintain the habit.

On Tuesday I was back at the gym adding a couple more reps to the interval workout I’m doing. I’m still always staggered by the fact that something I would not have been able to do in January is now achievable (tough, but achievable) for me. It’s a great way to get a measure of progress as a similar effort yields stronger results and I love being able to track those improvements.

s0bIvegFQxyd31MfEGLN8wWith the clocks changing in the UK last weekend, Wednesday was the first evening run in this training cycle that took place in daylight – and it was hill reps. That’s right, life and Mother Nature have allowed me to string together some consistent Wednesday night training for at least 3 weeks in a row and I need that now to ensure I keep finding improvements in my strength and fitness. I continue to have a love/hate relationship with hills – I love that it’s a reasonably short workout, but boy are those uphill bursts hard work. If you ever find me wheezing at the top of a hill, it’s safe to assume I ran there hard!

5g76J9dZRC2ooUgJXz4JIgThursday was the last day of term. I’ll admit I was really digging deep for the energy to get there and as I drove home at the end of the day I could feel a tiredness I hadn’t felt in a long time. I suspect this was my brain letting my body know I could finally relax and acknowledging how tired the term had made me (as a side note, I once tried NOT training for a marathon during this term, expecting to feel a bit less tired and if anything I felt WORSE without the time for myself and regular hit of endorphins. An interesting observation!). Luckily it was a yoga night and it felt great to round off the term on my yoga mat. The class was small so we did a little more work on headstands (I can do it with support but am not yet able to hold a headstand by myself. One day!). Post-yoga I had made an appointment to get my nails done and decided to change things up a bit with a more neutral colour (I usually go for deep reds and purples). I did ask to have a shimmery topcoat on the ring finger of each hand just to keep things interesting, though!

lSfTmckMTB+h8NIF9GgjqgThe following day was Good Friday, hence it being the first day of our break. I decided to take things easy and gave myself permission to be a bit lazy. I made myself a cup of tea and took it to bed with me to spend a little time finishing off my book. I then tidied up a few bits and pieces before taking a walk to my gym. I only wanted to use the hot tub and sauna, but walking there meant I got a bit of fresh air and movement in my day.

ysvZ8ql+TAmCtQEWKgOkfQI had originally planned to head over to the studio for a PT session later in the day, but due to the combination of Easter weekend traffic and an accident, the roads were gridlocked and Steve said it wasn’t worth trying to get over there. Instead I had a nice chilled afternoon and did a bit of yoga. I also came across this while scrolling social media. Your Running Princess is in an advert again. I feel internet famous 😂

fullsizeoutput_2458And in other news, my race number for the marathon arrived. Eek!

uipLxz3uRdasNq5b10UKNQSaturday morning was a bit miserable looking, so I decided to brighten things up with my asymmetric leggings for parkrun. After a good run in Perth a couple of weeks ago, I had thought I might be in a position to run a bit better so was ready to go for it. We’re still on our alternative course as the grass on our main route remains far too boggy to use given the numbers we have these days, and this week we were running the laps clockwise. Last time we did this there was a pretty strong headwind but this time it felt a bit better.

HZANdVo2Tca4Eq6cOXNwRAI thought I was lined up quite near to the start line, but somehow ended up stuck behind some slower runners and it took a bit of time to find some space at the start. After that, I felt like I was flying. I kept waiting for my legs to turn to jelly or my CV system to give up, but it didn’t happen and I was able to pass a few people (mainly guys, some of whom didn’t seem to like being passed by a girl in mad leggings!). I had hoped to maybe sneak under 24 for the first time this year, but with the slower start this was not to be – 24:01 so just missing out. Oh well! A little irritating, but still my fastest this year and another Royal Flush Negative Split. I’d says that sub-24 is in there and it would be great to be back in that kind of form before the marathon at the end of April. Watch this space!

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IMG_6086On Sunday I had 18 miles on my schedule and it was a cold but bright morning. I decided to repeat the same route and workout that I did for my previous 18 mile run earlier in March so I would have a point of comparison. The first 2 miles were a warm up, then it was 4x cycles of 3 miles at/faster than marathon pace and 1 mile recovery. Last time I just missed my pace on two of the faster splits as those miles included an incline, but this time I not only got it on all of them but some of the splits were faster. I was surprised at how achievable the whole run felt overall and as I stopped my watch at 18 miles I definitely felt like I could have gone on. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s a great reminder to trust the process and allow all the training to come together. Hopefully it’s all coming together for me at just the right time as I only have one more long run to do before I cut back for my taper. Where did that come from already?!

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IMG_6106Post-run I enjoyed some time chilling out with my free coffee (thank you Fitness Rewards!) and cracked open my chocolate bunny. I think I earned it!

enaBpDLuSyyvGezHMJaGVAAnd I replaced the calories I’d burned with this awesome plate of carby goodness 🙂 Gotta love marathon training!

o2v+tkOVSK+bWLzFwBgulgTell me how your training/racing has been going lately.
How did you earn your Easter treats?
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Week In Review – Spring’s Not Sprung!

Last week I was rather hopeful that spring might be on its way. Thinking back to previous training cycles for spring marathons I was convinced I usually get into my running shorts in mid to late March, but apparently this year winter intends to cling on a bit longer. How long has it been since Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow? Darned groundhog!

29313813_10156193020316354_7809144258102820864_nAnyway, although the weather might not be spring-like just yet, there’s still a marathon to train for and this week saw another pretty consistent week:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday20 miles 12 miles

It was so good to be back in the yoga studio on Monday evening, stretching out my body after my 18 mile run on Sunday. I have to say, my legs actually felt ok. Weary, of course, but no real pain or tightness. That said, I wasn’t looking to head out for a run again just yet so yoga was perfect!

On Tuesday I hit the gym for The Big One – 20 reps of my current interval cycle (Steve always has me build up to 20 reps of whatever work/rest interval I’m on before either changing the pattern or the intensity). I wasn’t really looking forward to it and knew my legs would have to work hard after Sunday’s efforts, but it actually went by fairly quickly. I try to divide the session into smaller chunks of 3-5 reps (depending on how they divide down – look at me with the sums!) and mark each set with a sip of water before gearing up for the next one. Completing a workout like this always makes me feel strong since I know I couldn’t have done it a few weeks ago.

Bike reps are always followed on Wednesday with some kind of run, ideally hills or drills. Sadly my Wednesdays have seen quite a lot of disruption during this cycle. There were a couple of parents’ evenings and an evening out, which were factored into the plan, but there were also 3 Wednesdays when there was snow and 2 of those were nights when I should have been doing hill reps and had to change tack. This week, for only the SECOND time in this cycle, I was able to do a hill workout. Same hill as usual and reps working from the closest lamppost to the bottom up to the farthest away at the top: 5-4-3-2-1. Thankfully all my other drills and long runs have boosted my fitness so I was able to do it despite the lack of specific hill work, but it was tough. Mind you, that’s kind of the point as that’s what will make me stronger and fitter!

wNo1XQx8SBqcmc9regAFwwBy Thursday I was more than ready to get back to my yoga mat and working through the Ashtanga sequence. It was a really nice class again and I felt good throughout. Just what I needed.

Then on Friday I was able to squeeze in a PT session with Steve. We’ve not managed this every week, but I’m getting plenty of work on strength and flexibility from my yoga practice (2x classes per week plus Yoga with Adriene videos on 3-4 other days of the week) so it’s not a big concern. With this in mind, Steve asked me what kind of workout I wanted to do and luckily I had thought ahead. The last time I was in we did some boxing to help energise me and I really enjoyed it (I used to go to a kick boxercise class and had forgotten what fun it could be) but hadn’t enjoyed wearing the gloves Steve keeps at the studio – other people’s sweat, ewww! I had managed to locate my own gloves and took them with me to the studio, so got in another fun boxing workout.

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Q9tJmW2KQOOKS7xb8F3KDwOn Saturday we awoke to rather miserable weather. Apparently we were experiencing the Mini Beast from the East, and while I had understood that the snow would be heading for other parts of the UK, I was expecting it to be really cold again. What we got was cold and windy with some hailstones and light snow. Perfect parkrun weather!

T6VbTw8AS8WBI0agjWKUvwSo once more it was winter kit on and down to the North Inch for the run. Still the alternative route, but the “usual” one heading anti-clockwise around the path. I hadn’t been expecting much as I thought there might be some residual weariness in my legs and there was a bitterly cold cross-wind, but despite having hailstones blown into my face (bonus: free facial 😂) I felt strong and was passing people I would normally expect to be slightly behind. As I stopped my watch I was delighted to see 24:10ish (my fastest since mid-November) and around 30 seconds faster than my best time of 2018! No idea where it came from, but it’s a powerful message that even in tough conditions all my training is starting to fall into place and I’m running well. Fingers crossed that continues!
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q2HWQkctQPuiem3sq4eBnAeutANBNQQzScDZwFsMkY6gAnd as an added bonus, I managed another Royal Flush Negative Split. Love it when that happens! I think this is the first fully sub-8 minute/mile parkrun in ages as up to now I’ve had at least the first mile at 8:XX. Progress!
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By Saturday evening there was little sign of the morning’s snow/hail, but things changed overnight and looking out the window on Sunday morning it wasn’t looking quite so good. Enough snow had fallen to have a layer over everything and fat flakes were continuing to fall on and off. Checking the weather apps I was informed that there was going to be some pretty “interesting” weather through the morning, with temps around freezing but feeling a few degrees below, further snowfall and high winds. And we had 20 miles on the schedule!

5YAvly3pQP6dOpPXkM8MUAAt first I sat plotting out a possible route and looking out my gels, etc with the intention of going ahead, but then Steve (who NEVER backs out of the planned run) suggested that since some nearby running events had been cancelled due to the conditions, maybe sticking two fingers up at it and heading out for 20 anyway might not be the best idea. It was clear we wouldn’t be able to include any faster intervals, work on form or do anything other than plod around with the aim of staying upright whilst being battered by the wind and stepping carefully on the snow. So we decided to cut it back to 10 miles. We bundled ourselves up in winter kit (again) and Steve was out the door a few minutes ahead of me.

KHm3hW8%QcCuqKOQkN03hASince we had planned to run opposite ways around a similar route, we did meet each other out there, having enjoyed sideways hail, snow being blown into our faces so we couldn’t see a thing, and a hellish headwind. Every time it seemed to be easing off, it returned with a vengeance to make a pretty slow pace feel much harder than it should. Definitely character building! Steve said he might extend his run a little depending on how he felt, so with that idea in the back of my mind I carried on.

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See that haze in the top right? That’s the drifting hail/snow blowing sideways!

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Apparently I look like I’m in “The Blair Witch Project” 😂

To be honest I didn’t think I would do any more and simply arrive home with 10 miles banked. My legs felt heavy and weary, probably due to the ploddy (for me) pace – often I actually find it easier to go a bit quicker but it wasn’t the day for it. But as I emerged from a side street close to home I saw Steve up ahead and wondered if I could close the gap between us. I did get a little closer, but not enough for him to realise I was there and since it was clear he was going to run a short out-and-back to extend his run, I decided to do the same since the burst of speed had made my legs feel much better. I ran a mile up the road and looped around to return along the woodland path. I love running in there and it was nice to see families out taking their kids sledging. This little addition meant I arrived home with about 12.25 miles, albeit rather slow ones.

There’s a bit of me that feels a little short-changed as I actually was looking forward to the run, but I also know it was the right decision to cut it back today as it would not have been 20 quality miles. I’ve done 18 and still have 6 weeks to go until my marathon so there’s still time to adjust the plan a bit if need be. Perhaps a valuable reminder for us all that being a slave to the plan is not always productive. Sometimes life gets in the way (or in this case Mother Nature) and we need to be flexible. Have I trained to the letter of my plan? No. Do I feel marathon fit? Actually, yes. Nothing to worry about then!

IMG_5895I still think the weather must be broken though!

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L-R Dec 2016, Feb 2017, Mar 2017, Mar 2018. Why no shorts yet???

Did you have more snow/winter weather this weekend?
What adjustments have you had to make to your plans recently?


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Week In Review – Normal Service Resumes

And just like that, the snow was gone! After a pretty epic snowfall and a great deal of disruption (continued into Monday) with above freezing temperatures and some heavy rainfall, the snow is all but gone save for the odd random miserable looking patch. Now everything just looks a bit grey and soggy. Oh well, perhaps spring is on its way…

But regardless of weather, marathon training continues and I was pleased to put in a pretty solid week of running despite work pressures (a coursework deadline which couldn’t change but was affected by our snow days). Here’s how my week ended up:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + sports massage
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 18 miles

Monday was a bit of a strange day. The schools in the region where I live were all back to normal after the snow, but I teach in a neighbouring region which had been worse hit and there were a lot of difficulties organising school transport and getting pupils safely to school. In the end the schools were shut to pupils but open to staff and since my journey is on main roads I had no problem getting in. It was actually quite a nice way to ease back into routine after our “bonus” days off and I got a lot done in my classroom that I hadn’t expected to get to for a while yet. I headed home at the end of the day knowing that I had no yoga class (there was never going to be a Hatha class this week as my teacher had another commitment) so I did a Yoga with Adriene video and enjoyed a restful evening before the coursework onslaught.

In order to support pupils with the deadline and make sure I was keeping up with checking all the work they had completed while school was cancelled, I decided to stay later at work as much as I could this week. I was able to stay for a good hour or so beyond lessons on Tuesday then headed to the gym for my bike reps. I had the same focus as last week to try and pull UP on the pedals rather than thinking about pushing DOWN and had an additional 2 reps to do. It’s a tough workout but I can feel the difference it makes to my fitness without the constant impact that, for me, often leads to injury. No time for a swim unfortunately as I had my monthly sports massage booked and with staying later at work I had only left enough time for my bike workout. The massage was great and was probably well-timed after all that running about in the snow last weekend!

For once, my Wednesday run went ahead as planned (these have been rather disrupted this training cycle thanks to a few weeks where I had planned not to run due to other commitments and at least 3 weeks where there was snow so could only do a steady run rather than hills/drills) although I was at work a bit later again. This week I had form drills to complete – 1 mile warm up then 10x 600m focusing on good form. Despite some gaps in my Wednesday training these went well, presumably helped by all those long runs I did with every 3rd mile faster/focusing on form.

YU0CrHaAQLS6B8Kxx6P%ZgOn Thursday I was pleased to have my Ashtanga yoga class. I missed this the previous two weeks (I had a parents’ evening a couple of weeks ago then the following week class was cancelled due to the snow). There were some newer yogis in the class so we simply worked through the asanas from the primary series that we normally do, no opportunity to work on my headstand this time. Still, it was great to be back in the yoga studio and I really enjoyed the class.

Friday had to be a rest day as I had an appointment to get my nails done (they were a bit of a disaster thanks to playing in the snow followed by all the work I did in my classroom at the beginning of the week). Steve had offered to do a PT session afterwards, but I thought it would be getting a bit late for him to hang about the studio and I had an errand before going home, so made it a rest day. Probably for the best as we’re in one of the annual “pinch points” at work and since the body can’t tell the difference between work stress and training stress, making sure rest is a priority is important to avoid injury/burnout.

XB02xfRrQX2kFjQKq25zzAAs parkrunday rolled around again, we were still on the alternative course as thanks to the melted snow and heavy rainfall, the grass section was completed saturated and churned up. For variety, it was decided that we would run the double loop course in reverse this week. It initially sounded appealing, but in the end was not the best week for this decision as there was some pretty heavy rain and one of those “Scottish headwinds” (a headwind in every direction – how is this even possible?!?!?). On the first lap I felt like I was working quite hard, much harder than the pace my watch was giving me, but I was still surrounded by all the same people I usually am so just went with it. In the end I managed another Royal Flush Negative Split and with a finish time of 24:49 was just 8 seconds slower than a couple of weeks ago when I ran my fastest this year. Given the conditions, I’m pretty happy with that, even if I did look like a drowned rat when I finished!

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IMG_0421Post-parkrun I headed home for a really quick shower before a brief stop at our neighbour’s house. He had run his 200th parkrun that morning and had invited people round for a cup of tea and cake/biscuits afterwards. I couldn’t stay long but had enough time for a quick chat, cup of tea (always awesome after a chilly parkrun) and one of his homemade biscuits which were marking the occasion.

O1X8cb7FRPWX0eNkHQ2T6wI then had to speed off to go and get my hair cut before getting on with the usual Saturday errands of food shopping and catching up on various jobs. Probably fir the best oterhwise I might still be there eating biscuits 😂.

Sunday was, as ever, my long run. I had 18 miles on the schedule and Steve had put something different into my plan. Having done lots of runs with every 3rd mile quicker, now he wanted me to do sequences of 3 miles at marathon pace and 1 mile recovery. Thing is, I’ve set no time goal for this race as I’m all about the process this year. Since sub-4 has previously been my goal, I decided to make my target pace for this run around 4 hour marathon pace and decided on a range of 8:50-9:10 since the route would be undulating (which I still think is a euphemism for hilly!). I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sustain this, but still wanted to give it a go. I took the first 2 miles as a warm up since they were mainly uphill, then settled into the pattern. At first I found myself running much faster than goal pace so it was an interesting exercise in controlling my pace in order to save something for later, but overall I was really pleased with the results. The recovery miles were super-slow and I just missed the target pace on 2 of the quicker miles, but this was because of an incline that’s encompassed the end of one mile and the start of the next – I just focused on running at the same intensity and only missed the pace by 10 seconds and 2 seconds respectively, which was pretty good! I even managed to hit my target in my last cycle which was miles 15, 16 and 17 so that’s encouraging. In many ways this run actually felt easier than last week’s 14 miles which came on the back of 7.5 the day before and were, of course, over the snow.

fullsizeoutput_242aWhen I run 18 miles I always feel near enough ready to run the marathon, but with a few weeks and more long runs still to go, it will be interesting to see how things progress for me. I’m still not setting a time goal though! I just want to see what happens when there’s no pressure.

IMG_5880Sunday finished in a pretty chilled fashion with a trip into town for coffee, some TV and lots of food before my usual Epsom salt bath. Lovely! And my legs didn’t feel too bad either…

How is your training progressing?
Do you have any time goals right now?
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