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?
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
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Week In Review – Frantic February!

Ah February! Slightly less dark and miserable than January, but as a teacher in Scotland, one of the busiest times in the teaching year – far too much to do and definitely not enough time to do it in! Fortunately, I know that taking time out for my training helps me to stay focused and be more productive, so I’m still managing to be consistent.

Here’s how the past week looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – Hill reps
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 12 miles

After Hatha yoga being cancelled last week it was great to get back on the mat for a gentle practice. I know that as my Sunday long runs increase in miles I’m really going to appreciate this time to stretch out and take some time for myself. And at this busy time of year, I think my long runs and my yoga time are really going to help me keep it together!

We had a meeting at the end of the day on Tuesday so I was later getting away from work. I headed straight to the gym for my bike reps (same workout, more reps) but skipped the swim this week in favour of getting home for a bit of time out. I’m conscious that I really have to take time for myself right now as in the past the stress of this time of year has led to me feeling really run down or, worse, getting injured. Even in years when I haven’t been training I’ve still felt awful, so my goals of resting, reading and doing more yoga are really helping me right now.

On Wednesday I had hill reps on my schedule. Thanks to factors such as snow in January, this was the first time in this cycle that my workout has been hill reps. I was conscious as I headed to my “favourite” hill that I hadn’t done this since before the Loch Ness marathon so wasn’t sure how I would feel. Steve gives me a workout that involves reps to various lampposts on the hill – more reps to the nearest ones then fewer to the ones further up the hill. It’s a real lung-buster but I know it’s helping me to get stronger and fitter so I keep asking for hill reps in my plan. Yes, I know I’m a weirdo lol!

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IMG_5537I had made sure to get away from work in enough time to complete the reps and get to orchestra. Our final concert of the year is a month away and I know that it’s difficult for me to get to every rehearsal (I actually didn’t take part in our spring concert last year as it was too stressful to make it to the rehearsals) but I REALLY want to play the music in this programme so I’m doing my best to make it work. I do really enjoy the rehearsals, I just need to get into a routine that allows me to be there.

Thursday was a rest day but not out of choice. I had a parents’ evening which kept me at school until almost 8pm and meant I couldn’t get to my Ashtanga class. I hate missing that class as it’s a real highlight of my week, but it couldn’t be helped. I had hoped to be home a bit sooner and had plans for an at-home yoga practice, but by the time I got back and had some food all I wanted to do was go to bed as time was marching on and I was knackered!

And this was followed with another rest day on Friday. I had a (long overdue) dental checkup (all fine) and Steve had an appointment in town so we just couldn’t co-ordinate for a PT session. After my visit to the dentist I headed home and got out my yoga mat. I’m still doing the Yoga with Adriene 30 day yoga journey as although I’m doing all of the days, I’m not doing them in 30 consecutive days as I work around yoga classes and maybe a day or two in the week when I don’t do any yoga (my goal is at least 5 times per week so it fits my plans). I felt refreshed and ready for a chilled evening afterwards.

Parkrunday (I believe some people call it Saturday) was grey and cold. It had been decided that we would use our alternative course which is 2 laps of the park on the tarmac path as we need to give the grass section a rest and a chance to recover a bit. We did this for a few weeks last year too. I had expected to be a pacer but this was once again called off so I was able to run as I pleased. As I listened to the briefing I was conscious of some rain, then realised that the rain had…substance! Yep, it was going to be a sleety one! I chose to run at a comfortably hard pace as I wanted to test my pace and I have to say it felt tough, although that might have been the cold air. I wore light gloves and my fingers were still so cold that they were really hurting – I couldn’t even stop my watch when I finished! If I look miserable in my photos it’s because I really was in some pain.

IMG_9629When my time came in I was pleased to note that my “streak” had continued – each parkrun in 2018 has been progressively faster. I’m not sure this pattern can continue any longer, but it has been interesting to watch the improvements as it’s tangible proof of improving speed and fitness, even if I am still slightly slower than I would ideally like to be. This year is about process rather than pace, so I’m simply enjoying seeing those times come down as it tells me I’m on my way towards my next marathon and the training is taking effect. From 27:20 on January 1st (although I did have TWO parkruns that day!) to 24:56 this weekend, I’ve taken a decent chunk off my times as I get back into training after that enforced time out through late November and a good chunk of December. Very pleasing.

Which brings me to Sunday Runday. After a cutback last week it was time to start ramping up the miles again, beginning with a 12 mile run to kick off the month. Conditions and circumstances in January prevented me from returning to my Loch Ness training method of running every 3rd mile faster, but it was an approach I liked and found successful so I was keen to do it again. Thanks to much brighter, crisper conditions I was able to do that and was pleased to find my average pace comparable to a similar run in my last training cycle. I may not have quite the short distance pace I’m looking for just yet, but my longer runs don’t seem to be suffering. My legs felt good afterwards too so I must be adapting well to my training.

IMG_5544So all in all I’m pleased with my progress so far. I’m trusting the process and just enjoying the ride, so to speak. There are still a few hurdles to overcome this month, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can continue to get fitter and stronger.

How is your training going?
How do you measure progress? Is it about the outcome or the journey?
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Week in Review – No More Snow

I wasn’t really sure what to title my post this week. It was just another January week of darkness, rain and wind, with me out training anyway. But after getting so much enjoyment out of my snowy runs last week, the sudden melting of that snow was probably the thing that stuck out the most.

Here’s how my week shaped up:

Monday – Hatha yoga rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

Monday didn’t quite go to plan as my yoga teacher had a bit of a family emergency so the class was, understandably, cancelled. I ran a few errands then did my own yoga session using the Yoga with Adriene 30 day journey I have been following. Not quite the same, but I still got some yoga in.

On Tuesday things were a bit more productive. As part of my role supporting a probationer teacher this year I had volunteered to join one of the panels offering them mock interviews in school ahead of their first proper teaching interviews which are coming up. It was really interesting for me to be on the other side of the table and I think I learned a lot from the process. Thanks to our earlier finish on a Tuesday I still had plenty of time afterwards to get to the gym for my bike intervals then followed this up with a swim. Having felt a bit rusty last week, I thought my swimming felt much better this week. Smoother and with less intake of water. Time will tell if this was a fluke or if I’m actually beginning to get the hang of it!

Sadly Wednesday didn’t quite pan out again. I got caught up in some things at work (there are what seem like a million mock exam papers to mark in a really short space of time!) and knew I couldn’t fit everything in. Since training is my priority, I had to miss my orchestra rehearsal but I’ll make sure I get there next week. My Wednesday workouts have been a little disrupted with the snow, so Steve told me to do another set of the form drills I did a couple of weeks ago, this time adding on two further reps. It was a REALLY windy day (Storm Georgina apparently) so it wasn’t an easy run, but since the drills are about form rather than pace I was still able to do it. I certainly knew about it in the last rep which was on a slight incline AND into a headwind. Character building I’m sure!

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The windswept look lol!

Thursday was, of course, my Ashtanga yoga class. I was really feeling in need of it to clear my head as I had been tying up the loose ends of vet bills and insurance payments related to my cat – not easy but it had to be done and yoga was exactly what I needed to settle myself down again. There were some beginners in the class so some parts of it moved a little slower, but I was really pleased to manage a full round of Yoga Wheel, a posture I was working on throughout 2017. Next is to manage 2 rounds as we usually do 2 or 3 rounds of a back bend and I tend to mix Wheel and Bridge in my practice.

I ended up with a rest day on Friday purely down to logistics. I fit my PT sessions around Steve’s paying clients, but had an appointment to get my nails done (badly needed, they were such a disaster and far too long for me) so our diaries just didn’t match up. This meant a home yoga practice for me again before we headed out to eat.

IMG_5451For some reason Steve fancied a dessert and since I’m a team player I wasn’t going to let him eat alone and made the sacrifice to have a sticky toffee pudding.  The things I do for love lol!

IMG_5452After a good sleep I was up and ready for parkrun on Saturday morning, wearing my new Mr Men/Little Miss running tights (apparently I’m developing a leggings habit but the mad patterned ones I’ve been buying are really cheering me up and let’s face it, at this time of year I’m manny in work clothes, running clothes or pyjamas!).

IMG_5455Since the ground was so soft the decision was taken to use an adjusted version of the route (we missed this a couple of weeks ago as we were at the vet). Basically it means avoiding the quagmire of the grass section and returning on a different section of grass (which is in much better condition) just behind where we normally run. It adds very minimally to the route, but is realistically faster as the ground is in better condition.

It was one of those days fairly common in Scotland where there is a headwind no matter which way you turn and I was starting out easy as I had been working through a slight niggle in my right leg (all good, just the effects of a movement pattern that needed adjusted so it’s fine now thanks to Steve’s intervention). I got a bit faster as I went on and was initially a little disappointed with my 25:34 until I remembered that last winter was very much the same with the effort level not really giving the return when it came to pace. It’s really best to forget about pace and just run to feel at this time of year so when the better weather comes the benefit will be there. When I received my result I realised that this was actually the fastest time I’ve run since the “parkrun year” began at the end of November, and on a slightly longer course. Not only that but each parkrun since the 1st January has been getting gradually faster so the training effect is in there, I just have to pay attention to it.

IMG_5460Post-parkrun I was getting my hair cut so missed out on the coffee and bacon croissants this time. I’m already looking forward to next week!

Since this was a cutback week, my long run was “just” 10k. Since I felt well rested I decided to get up and go quite sharp so as to create a bit of time in my Sunday. I was out the door before 9am and we were actually out on our Sunday errands before noon. Unheard of during training! I took it easy on my run and enjoyed one of my favourite loops close to home which involves a few challenging hills but also the fun of a nice long downhill stretch. Lovely!

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IMG_5520Then with all that time I was able to relax, tend to a few household bits & pieces and generally relax ahead of another work week.

How is your training going just now?
Has your parkrun course been affected by the weather?

I’m running for Cats Protection this year in memory of my cat, Morven.

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The Daily Post – Friend

Friend (noun): a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

These days “friend” means many different things. There are the friends we’ve known since childhood, the friends we make through our interests or work and the “friends” we make online. But what does true friendship look like?

For me, a true friend:

  • is there for you no matter what
  • listens without judgment
  • gives unconditional love
  • knows when you need comfort
  • shares mutual trust and respect
  • is loyal
  • is good fun
  • makes you happy
  • helps you to be your best self

True friendship is a beautiful thing indeed, and perhaps it doesn’t only come from our human friends but our furry/four-legged friends too.

Morven was my best friend. For over 17 years she was by my side. Many believe cats to be aloof, yet I knew she loved me unconditionally, trusted me to the extent that even while in pain at the end of her journey she let me handle her, and she always knew just how to make me feel better when I was sad or sleep when I was tired. I have so many wonderful memories of the games we played, the moments we shared and the “conversations” we had. It’s hard for me not having her around and I’m trying to adjust to the hole she has left in my life.

Not everyone can understand the bond we share with our pets, but those who do know that they are a big part of our lives, a member of the family. When we lose a pet we grieve in the same way we would if we lost a member of our family. That grief is hard, yet I wouldn’t trade in all the years of love and companionship for anything. No matter what other cats come into my life, Morven will always remain my special girl, my first cat, and nothing can ever change that.

Run free my special girl. I’ll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge when the time is right.

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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 – 8th 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.

With my head still very much in “marathon mode” and the spring marathon season well underway, it seemed appropriate to bring you a “marathon special” on Friday Finds this week. Whether you’re tapering for 26.2 or simply planning to watch a marathon on tv, there are plenty of interesting articles around just now.

First up, an article I shared on social media around this time last year, which was probably part of the growing impetus to begin the Friday Finds feature. Given that most non-runners (if non-magical folk are “muggles”, does that mean non-running folk are “ruggles”?) believe that those of us who run 26.2 miles are mad, I was intrigued to find that research suggests marathon runners might in fact have a greater capacity to learn and remember. In other words, marathon runners are smart! It’s all to do with the bodily processes which help to fuel our runs efficiently also being responsible for improving our memories. Although not, it would seem, our memories of the pain we experience in the last few miles otherwise why would we keep going back for more?

Next up, the rather more controversial topic of marathon pace. While this is another older piece, it tends to resurface every marathon season and stokes the debate a little further. The crux of the debate is whether or not there should be a place in marathons for slower participants, with many arguing that if someone takes longer than 6 hours, then they didn’t really “run” the marathon and their achievement is not worth the same. To me, this is ludicrous. 26.2 miles is a long way, regardless of how long it takes someone to cover the distance, indeed it probably takes a lot more strength and determination to be on the course for 6 hours rather than 3. As far as I’m concerned, if someone completes the course within the individual race’s advertised cut-off time, then they should have the same right as anyone else to wear their medal and T-shirt with pride. I’d love know what you think about this one.

Marathons are increasingly becoming a way for people to raise funds for a charity close to their hearts, and when it comes to events such as the London or New York marathons, running for charity is often the only way to secure a place. But the need to raise funds adds a huge pressure above and beyond the pressures of training, so if you’re fundraising pot is in need of a little boost, here are The Guardian‘s top tips to help you smash your target. From experience, social media is a great way to keep your goals in the forefront of people’s minds, and with regular updates people are more likely to donate, particularly around the weekend of your event. If you’re fundraising this year, then I wish you all the very best.

The difficulty of gaining a place in one of the marathon majors has, it would seem, led to some runners going to extremes in order to take part. The practice of “banditing” the race (i.e. copying someone else’s number and running with it) has been widely reported over the last year or so, particularly around the Boston marathon, and this week another cautionary tale has emerged for those seeking entry to this “holy grail” of marathons. I first came across this story via Jessie at The Right Fits who wrote a post about another blogger named Gia Alvarez. Alvarez qualified for the Boston marathon on two occasions, but was unable to run. Last year, she gave her place to another runner (which I believe is against the rules of this race). When Alvarez tried to use this runner’s finish time to gain a place in this year’s event, she found herself banned FOR LIFE from the Boston marathon. While it may seem extreme, there are rules in place and given the number of people working really hard to get a Boston qualifying time (BQ) there has been a lot of anger around this particular case. It’s always a dilemma when you can’t run and know someone who would love to take your place, but I would always advise checking with the race organisers to see if you can transfer the place. It’s not just about rules, but safety as well, as the details held need to match up to the person running, just in case there should be a medical issue. Again, I’d love to know your thoughts.

And finally, what would you do if you found yourself a little peckish towards the end of your marathon? Take a gel? Maybe have some jelly babies? You probably wouldn’t opt for a burrito and a beer, yet that’s exactly what one runner in the Knoxville marathon chose to do at the 20 mile mark. At first I thought this might be an April fool, but the story wasn’t shared until several days later, so I guess it must be true!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 22nd January

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.

With time a bit tight this week (more on that another day) I’ve decided to bring you something a little different. It’s still Friday Finds, but this week it’s the “Friends and Family” edition. The fates have presented me with a number of pieces involving people I know, and this seems like an ideal time to share them with you…

To start with, a very sensible piece on the tricky subject of choosing running shoes, courtesy of my podiatrist who has recently added a blog to his website. There are many conflicting views on how best to choose the ideal shoes, however after a lot of trial and error (and a few injuries!) I now tend to make comfort the over-riding factor in making my choice rather than more “traditional” methods which have not really been successful for me. My belief is that if the shoes feel good on my feet and I feel I could run and run in them, then in all likelihood I will. Perhaps worth considering the next time you’re in the market for a new pair of running shoes.

Next up, if you’re preparing for a marathon this year or fundraising for an event, then The Scotsman recently published a couple of pieces to help you out. In the first, there are a number of useful suggestions for boosting your fundraising pot, including a contribution by  a friend who works for Triathlon Scotland. Having spent a great deal of 2014 and 2015 fundraising, I definitely agree that many of these can make a big difference to a fundraising total:

And in the second, contributors including my very own husband provide some handy tips to help with preparing for a marathon. There’s certainly more to consider when training for an event than “just” running, and these tips might be particularly useful for first-timers as well as providing a timely reminder to those of us who are no stranger to the distance.

And finally, I recently read this post from the 5×50 challenge which I took part in last year. It concerns a local runner who used the challenge to kickstart an activity streak that he feels has made a massive difference in his life. While we may not all want to take it quite as far, the idea of regular activity is definitely a positive one and this example shows how we might go about incorporating more activity into our lives.

What this tells me is that we are all surrounded by people who are well-placed to give us advice on all manner of things. And you yourself might be able to use your experiences to help someone else in running or some other activity. You just never know!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

2015: An End of Year Report

Unbelievably, another year has ticked by and now we are all locked in “Crimbo Limbo”, an odd time of year when we’re not entirely sure what’s going on and most small talk (after the obligatory comments about the weather!) begins with, “did you have a nice Christmas?” then segues seamlessly to, “anything planned for New Year?” ( in case you’re wondering, my answers are “yes, thank you” and “no, just a quiet one”). It’s a time of year when we inevitably begin assessing what we’ve done with our lives over the past 12 months and consider how we might make the next 12 even better, so what better time than now to look back over my challenges from 2015 and think about some of my personal highlights..

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I suppose it all started this time last year when I set out my challenge for 2015: one marathon (hopefully with a PB), one cycling event, and a frankly crazy weekend of multiple races, all completed by the end of May. After being hampered by injury in the second half of 2014, I didn’t want to plan any further ahead than that, preferring a cautious approach to my race plans, and it paid off – despite a strain to my left quad affecting the final weeks of my marathon training, the only plans I had to change were my expectations of a marathon PB, instead setting out to simply complete the race and have fun. It may not have been my greatest ever marathon finish time, but I finished it, had fun and, in the words of one friend, “became the selfie queen of Paris!”.
Paris Marathon done and part one of my challenge complete √

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Next up was the cycling event, and with my strained muscle preventing me from running, I got a bit of bonus time in the saddle, even going so far as to enter an extra event as a warm-up the week before. I may sound quite flippant about it all now, but in reality this was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. You may recall that I only began cycling in the summer of 2014 and bought my first road bike that autumn just before my first ever sportive, now here I was contemplating an 81 mile event which went over a mountain! I found the whole thing really daunting – the distance, the climbs, the risk of mechanical failure and the risk of rider failure(!) – yet somehow I managed it. The weather was apocalyptic (up on that mountain was particularly horrendous!) but both my trusty steed Trixie Trek and I held it together to cross the finish line of the Etape Caledonia and complete the second part of the challenge.
Cycling, done! √

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But I think the real stand-out moment of the year for me has to be the third part of the challenge. Back in 2014 Steve became infamous for his challenge to complete all 4 races of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, a feat involving lots of running, a very swift half marathon and a willing friend with a motorbike. I was incredibly proud of what he achieved that weekend, but also intrigued. It may have been a long, long way to run, but Steve seemed to really enjoy it and get a real buzz from the experience, so when I was looking for something new to do, my thoughts turned once more to Edinburgh. I knew that my race pace versus the event logistics would rule me out of mimicking Steve’s challenge, but thought a variation might be possible: rather than going from the half marathon to the full marathon (the bit the logistics made impossible for me), what if I then went on to complete a leg of the team relay instead? From that seed of an idea, the concept began to take shape, and at the end of May it all came to fruition: I ran four races in one weekend, I got treated like a rock star by Macmillan, my chosen charity, and do you know what? I loved it all!
Four races, two days, one challenge completed!! √

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Edinburgh challenge completed 🙂

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The spoils from the cycling part of my challenge…

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…and the running bling from Paris and Edinburgh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In taking on this challenge, I learned that I am even more tenacious than I knew. Funnily enough, the marathon was the “easy” bit (not often one calls a marathon “easy”!), with the cycling posing the greatest challenge and Edinburgh being a journey into the unknown in terms of keeping on going. Yes, there were tough moments, that’s what makes it a challenge, but the pride in knowing I completed it will stay with me forever. Why did I do it? For one thing, I felt I had unfinished business from my 2014 challenge, so decided to extend it for another year. I feel a sense of satisfaction in completing what I set out to do, and am thrilled to have raised a further £1000+ to add to my total from 2014, bringing my grand total raised for Macmillan Cancer Support to over £6000! That’s £6000 that will make a huge difference to the lives of those affected by cancer and I want to thank everyone who has supported me in any way as I completed my challenges over the last two years.

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But this year wasn’t just about the challenge, I also had a lot of fun: I discovered the joy of parkrun; I continued to dabble in learning the front crawl; I completed both the Jantastic and 5×50 challenges; I had a fantastic trip to Florida, where I even won running prizes; I ran lots of real and virtual races (as well as creating my own!); I won some competitions; I tried out some new training ideas; and there was that time I met Paula Radcliffe, a real highlight!

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Oh yeah, and there was A LOT of bling!

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Top L-R: Great Winter Run 5k, Cool Summer Mornings 5k, Chocolate Sundae Run 5k, Perth Kilt Run 5k, Perth 10k. Middle: my prize for being in the top ten female finishers at the Chocolate Sundae. Run Bottom L-R: Scottish Half Marathon, Great Scottish Run 10k, Mo Run 5k.

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Virtual Runs L-R: 4th July Weekend 4 miles, Platform 9 3/4k 2015 (and the 2014 equivalent I was able to acquire later), Back to the Future Day run

Another mini challenge I set for myself was to complete at least one Virtual Runner UK event per month. With a final haul of 14 medals, I’d say I definitely achieved that one too!

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In total I’ve run 648 miles this year, my highest annual mileage to date, and cycled 270, a bit less than last year. I also found a great graphic to represent my total mileage for the year at Veloviewer, which uses your Strava profile to collate the information:

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Apparently. I climbed Everest this year!

All in all, I’ve had a fantastic year. I hope you’ve enjoyed following it all on the blog and will continue to follow my adventures into 2016. Remember you can also connect with my page on Facebook and use the links on the right hand side of my homepage (if you’re viewing this in a browser) to subscribe to the blog and never miss a post. But for now, I wish you all a very happy new year. Here’s to 2016!

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What have been your highlights of 2015?
Do you have any challenges lined up for 2016 and beyond?

An Overwhelming October

After some tough times in August and September, October offered much more positivity and I found myself rather busy. I began the month by volunteering at parkrun in order to save my legs to race in the Great Scottish Run 10k the following day. That particular Saturday was International Parkrun Day, a day to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the very first parkrun. I was barcode scanning and enjoyed congratulating runners as they finished.

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If you’ve been reading the blog recently then you will already know how much I enjoyed the Great Scottish Run, the highlight for me being the chance to meet Paula Radcliffe. Paula has long been a hero of mine and that experience even overshadowed my new PB! We also enjoyed catching up with our friends from Macmillan and posing for some photos:

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And I was greatly amused by this tweet from Traffic Scotland with a shot from the traffic cameras on the Kingston Bridge!

In the days after GSR I received the not unexpected news that I had not been successful in the London Marathon ballot. I have to say that on this occasion I wasn’t really disappointed as I already have my entry for Paris 2016 sorted out. I would, however, really like to run London again in the future so continue to enter the ballot in the hopes that sheer persistence will eventually pay off. On the plus side, my Spiderman magazine was accompanied by this year’s “consolation prize”, a long-sleeved running top. I rather liked the one I got last year and have worn it quite a lot to go to and from PT sessions, etc. This one looks to be pretty good too, although I’ve not had a chance to wear it yet.

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But for me the real high point of my October was the school trip to Normandy and Paris, an “intimate” gathering of 44 (4 teachers and 40 of our pupils). As always it was a real whirlwind of a visit, but I loved being back in Paris, soaking up the atmosphere and thinking back to my last visit earlier this year for the marathon. By the time I came back I was exhausted, but ready to start focusing on a new training programme to prepare my body for the demands of marathon training proper in the new year.

For those wondering what we get up to on the trip, here’s a bit of a photo dump with some memorable moments:

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I bought these almost as soon as I arrived. When in France…!

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This tribute to WW2 soldiers was not far from our accommodation in Normandy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stunning views from above Arromanches looking down to Gold beach.

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Omaha beach below the American cemetery. Very sobering to think of the events which unfolded there on D-Day.

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A simple but poignant memorial at the American cemetery

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I never tire of taking photos of the Eiffel Tower!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A beautiful sky above the Sacré Cœur

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Some unexpected hill sprints in Montmartre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A visit to the famous Shakespeare and Co bookshop. If you’re a bookworm then I highly recommend it!

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A return visit to Bertie’s Cupcakery. Amazing cupcakes and another of my recommendations near Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Arc de Triomphe by night (there are A LOT of stairs to get to the top!)

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The Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling. I love seeing it like this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, we crammed in rather a lot, so by the time I got back I needed a bit of rest. However that didn’t stop me heading to parkrun that weekend. Not only did I have an October virtual 5k time to run, but it was Perth’s 100th event and there was no way I was going to miss out. Having run almost exclusively in shorts/summer kit until I went away, it was a real shock to wake up to a decidedly wintery day and find myself hunting for winter kit. I still throughly enjoyed the event, took it easy since I was tired and enjoyed a bit of cake at the end. Perfect!

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Looking cold and tired before the run!

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My October medal

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Amazing cake – and it tasted fab too! Pic from Perth parkrun Facebook page.

Whilst in Paris, I also discovered that I had won a twitter competition and my prize was an Absolute 360 tech T-shirt. I hadn’t come across the brand before, but a few people seem to be trying out their compression kit and I certainly found my T-shirt (not compression) really comfortable to run in:

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The remaining highlights of October included Back to the Future Day, in which I got completely over-excited, geeked out over my favourite film and earned a really cool virtual race medal!

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And finishing as I began, with parkrun. It was Hallowe’en and there were lots of decorations and things set up around town as part of the celebrations. Typically, I couldn’t resist a photo!

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So there you have it – parkrun, Paris and prizes! Looking back, it was a really busy month, but I also used my October break from school to have a bit of downtime from my training. I think it’s important to have a proper break from training a couple of times a year in order to allow the body to recover and hopefully avoid overtraining/injury. I had a couple of weeks off in the spring after the marathon, and even though my autumn races were shorter, I wanted to recharge my batteries ready to begin a new cycle of training. Now I’m back at work I’m settling into the routine of my new training programme and looking forward to building up a solid base of strength and fitness over the remaining weeks of 2015. I can’t wait!

How was your October?
What are your plans/goals for the remainder of the year?