Week In Review – Yoga, Yoga And More Yoga!

Confession: my name is Allison and it has been a week since my last run.

Having decided last weekend to take a time out to allow the tightness around my ankle to resolve, I reached this past weekend feeling like a could run, but with the Disneyland Paris half marathon next month I’m taking no risks, so decided to give it a few more days to feel 100% right rather than risking an injury. Just call me Captain Sensible lol!

I still managed to keep myself busy though – plenty of time playing with the kittens (and watching them sleep since they’re so gosh darned cute!), reading, working out in the gym and yoga, lots and lots of yoga:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 30 mins bike, brief swim and SUP yoga
Wednesday – 30 mins bike
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – Vinyasa flow yoga
Saturdayparkrun SUP yoga
Sunday – 1 hour bike

I’ve reached that point in the holidays when I’m gloriously relaxed and all the days kind of merge into each other (in a good way) so I actually just had to check my diary to try and remember what I did with myself on Monday. The answer was that I had some errands in town in the morning then a good friend from work visited in the afternoon. She said it was so we could have a catch-up (and we do normally try to meet in the holidays) but realistically she wanted to meet the kittens. True to form, the kittens put on their best display of cuteness, including purring, grooming each other and sleeping all curled up together, so she got the full effect!

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Their latest hidey-hole!

In the evening I had my Hatha yoga class, the first of several yoga sessions in the week, and I enjoyed continuing to build strength and stability. I’m definitely seeing how this is improving my yoga when I’m on the paddleboard and I’m still convinced this benefits my running too.

On Tuesday I decided it was time to get my butt in gear and do something that would work my cv system a bit more, so I walked down to the gym and spent half an hour on the bike. Steve had suggested that the movement would likely help my ankle and it was good to get my heart rate up a bit. I used the time to read some of my book on my Kindle (multi-tasking for the win!) which helps the time pass quite pleasantly even when I’m working reasonably hard.

Since I had some time, I headed down to the pool and swam a few lengths to see where I was. Surprisingly it was ok given that I haven’t had a swim in some time, and I remembered once again that I probably should swim a bit more often if I can.

In the evening I was booked into a SUP yoga session. The weather was a bit cooler and I suspected some rain in the air (nothing like last Saturday’s monsoon, thank goodness!) so I wore Steve’s full length wetsuit so I would be warm enough. It was a great class and with the conditions a bit better I was able to stand up on my board to paddle back in after the class again. I really want to keep building my confidence with this as I’m definitely feeling much more confident on the board in general these days (famous last words, right!).

Since I wasn’t running on Wednesday, I walked back down to the gym for another half hour bike session. This week was the first time I’d really been on the bike for a while and my poor rear felt a bit tender after two sessions in a row! I skipped the swim this time since I couldn’t be bothered with washing my hair, but did treat myself to a sauna before getting changed to head home. The remainder of the day was spent between time with the kittens, a bit of reading and some catching up on tv.

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4vzgY4IuTkWK886SH46YsAThursday was really chilled again. Steve suggested a trip out the farm shop to get some eggs and have a coffee, so I met him there and watched the ducks while I was waiting.

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U5RuRAFmQzOTyOKAXXhS+AI also decided that I need ALL of these!

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The rest of the day was spent mainly at home until it was time to head out to Ashtanga yoga. It was quite a busy class but since we are now including headstand in the session on a regular basis, I had a chance to keep working on it. I’m still working with my teacher on hand to spot me, but am just about able to move into it by myself now, and might actually be able to do more than I realise if I just had the confidence to try. I’ll keep working on it.

I was back in the yoga studio on Friday morning as there was a taster session of a new Vinyasa Flow class happening. The teacher was a guy we knew from when he worked at the gym I go to (Steve was based there before he had his own studio) and we both fancied giving it a go. The style of yoga was new to me, but the basics were very much what I knew, so although it was a challenging workout, I really enjoyed it and will likely go again at some point when it’s the school holidays.

Again, the rest of the day was pretty chilled – I even got a little time reading in the garden before a big cloud blocked the sun – and the kittens continued to work their cuteness!

IMG_8464I was originally to be a pacer at parkrun on Saturday, but my gut was telling me not to run just yet so I withdrew (where did all this common sense come from?!). That gave me a bit more time to myself in the morning before heading over to the activity centre for SUP yoga. It was another fantastic class and everyone there had been to the majority of the sessions so we were able to move into standing warriors (a little wobbly as there was some wind). I actually came the closest I ever have to falling in whilst moving into warrior, but I somehow managed to regain my balance and continue into the posture. I don’t think I would have been able to do that before so either my balance is improving or my core is getting stronger. Or both.

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Happy paddle board yogis getting ready to head out on the water.

I was able to stand on the board to paddle back, although the wind did mean I overshot the jetty and had to manoeuvre my way back! We also needed to help each other to take the boards out of the water as the wind was catching them like kites. It made me realise how used to it we’ve become – when we first started that would have been really intimidating, but now we happily work with the equipment and pitch in as we have a better idea of what we’re doing.

After the session we went for a lovely lunch in the cafe by the centre. They do really nice sandwiches and the weather was good enough to sit outside – although there were quite a lot of wasps around!

qpycGD0zSOuRkNHSsoM0JASince I was still not running on Sunday (the ankle had continued to make significant improvements but I was still playing it safe) I headed back down to the gym to have a longer cycle. This time I was on the bike for an hour (with my Kindle, of course) then headed home so we could get on with the rest of our Sunday chores. I’m rather hoping to be running again next weekend, so keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, KITTENS!

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What’s your next event?
Have you tried Vinyasa Flow yoga?

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The Year Of Me!!! – July Update

I can’t believe July is over. It’s my favourite month of the whole year (no work, a couple of weeks spent on a sun lounger in Florida, lots of relaxing…) but I suppose all good things must come to an end. Meanwhile, The Year of Me continues (as my birthday creeps ever closer!) and this is my monthly check-in with how I’m getting on with my goals to add positive habits and value to my life.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
I ran 4x per week when we were in Florida, however they were mostly runs of less than 4 miles and since getting home I’ve hardly run thanks to a slightly niggly ankle. As a result, my mileage is down a bit at just 41 miles for the entire month, however with 521 miles completed this year so far, I’m now just 100 miles from achieving my goal. This one has been all about consistency and hopefully the ankle issue will resolve quickly so I can get back out there.

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I’ve been able to turn my attention back to this one, especially since getting home and having the opportunity to go to more SUP yoga sessions, so I think there was only one week in the month when I didn’t manage 5 yoga sessions. I love how much stronger I feel as a result of this and it’s amazing to note my own progress within certain postures, especially on the paddle board.

3.Read at least 30 books
Absolutely storming it on this one! I read on both my flights, on my sun lounger, in my garden when we had good weather, in my comfy chair in the evenings, and have added 5 complete books to my count for the year (with a couple of others on the go alongside them). Getting involved in some online book groups has really motivated me to find more time to read and this, in turn, has helped me to ignore distractions such as social media (see point 8 below) and focus on something far more valuable.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I’ve probably not been so good with this one this month since I’ve been on holiday. That’s not to say I’ve been staying up late, indeed I’ve been making sure to keep to a fairly consistent schedule, but there has been no need for really early nights so for now I’m happy with my consistency as it means I haven’t become nocturnal or developed bad habits during my time off!

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I seem to have let this one go a bit, which is a pity. Shortly after arriving in Florida I actually sat and watched several Ted talks and fully intended to find some time to watch one every day, however the changes to my routine with being away then getting the kittens means I just never got back on top of this again. Such a shame as I really enjoy watching talks and following the suggestions that come up, so this is one to try and sort out as we head into August…

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
I think I’ve mostly been managing this one. I suspect that while we were away I maybe didn’t quite reach 8 episodes one of the weeks (I didn’t particularly count) and without a commute I haven’t had the same dedicated time to listen, yet I still feel like I am using my podcast player every day so would probably be surprised if I counted things up. I even found a couple of new shows to listen to, which is always fun!

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
Not quite as last minute as some months, but last week I responded to the prompt Animal.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
In June I refocused on this one after letting things slide a bit, and of course things changed again in July. A bit more time on my hands meant more scope for idly picking up my phone and scrolling for no reason, but I have tried to keep myself in check on this one by making sure I have my book or Kindle nearby so that rather than picking up my phone, I pick up my book instead. Much more productive and enjoyable!

 

While July is my favourite month, it’s easy to lose all notion of routine during school holidays (not necessarily a bad thing!) and then things slide a bit. That said, I’m pleased with my month, especially my reading, and am looking forward to getting everything back on track.

How have you made the most of your month?
Read any good books lately?

Tunes on Tuesday – The Greatest

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

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Tunes on Tuesday post, but a parkrun experience earlier this year inspired me to write about this particular song.

The Greatest – Sia

Picture the scene: it’s 2 weeks before my goal marathon, I really want to run a sub-24 minute parkrun to reassure myself that my fitness levels are at their peak and it’s the last opportunity for me to do so before the race. 2 weeks prior to this, I had narrowly (and frustratingly) missed it with a 24:01 and had since continued to ramp up the miles (and thus fatigue) in my legs with 18 and 20 mile runs on consecutive weekends. Could I do it?

On that particular occasion, we were still running on our alternative course due to the condition of the grass on our main route. With the intention of pushing the pace, I positioned myself near the front and shot out like a rocket as soon as the RD said go! I’ll admit, I thought the pace was a bit nippy and fully expected to pay for a first mile at 7:33, but was still hanging on as I embarked on my second lap of the park. It was during this lap, as I wondered if (when?) my legs might turn to jelly some time soon, that my iPhone shuffled serendipitously to this song and I knew I could keep digging in to reach the finish line.

Uh-oh, running out of breath, but I
Oh, I, I got stamina
Uh-oh, running now, I close my eyes
Well, oh, I got stamina

When you’re pushing the pace hard, breathing equally hard and willing the finish line closer, hearing, “I got stamina” is a great boost. I remember thinking, “yes, I do have stamina,” gritting my teeth and pushing on. I actually smiled to myself at the uncanny ability of the Apple device to play just the right track for the moment even when on shuffle. How does it manage?

The chorus, too, has just the right message for running a hard race:

Don’t give up, I won’t give up
Don’t give up, no no no
Don’t give up, I won’t give up
Don’t give up, no no no

And it was exactly what I needed to hear. With less than a mile to go, the temptation was there to slow down. I was running fast enough that a slight slowing would still see me reach my sub-24 goal that day (runner sums for the win!), but a big focus for me through this cycle of marathon training had been to improve my mental game, to make sure I didn’t mentally give up when the going got tough. The repetition of don’t give up spurred me on as it emphasised just the message I was needing at that point.

The remainder of the lyrics also have a distinctly celebratory feel to them. They’re the kind of lyrics that put you in mind of a big, movie-style finish of rousing music, heart-stopping (possibly slo-mo) action and cheering crowds as you defy the odds to reach your goal:

I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive
I’m free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest
The greatest, the greatest alive
The greatest, the greatest alive

I know, I know, parkrun isn’t exactly the Olympics, but in that moment it was special to me and this is a great soundtrack to a visualisation, something I try to make use of as part of my mental training for an event. Even now, writing this a few weeks (er, months!) later, I can still picture exactly where I was on the parkrun course when this song began to play, still remember exactly how I felt and hearing the lyrics once more brings it all into much sharper focus. The mind is a powerful thing, and training it to believe that success will happen is a fantastic tool in your race armour.

Did it work? It most certainly did as I finished with a time of 23:26 that week. Running sub-23:30 is fairly exceptional for me (I’ve only done it on 2 previous occasions) and it was exactly what I needed heading into my marathon taper. And while I know a big part of that success was the consistency in my training and the hard work I put in over weeks and weeks through the winter, some credit also has to be attributed to this song, as without it I may have backed off the pace and allowed my mind to give up once more. Instead I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of mental training and the tools we can use to help us out.

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

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

Friday Finds – 20th July

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.

Hola! Friday once again (edit: it’s now Saturday – blame the jet lag!) and this time I’m back home in Scotland. It’s kind of weird to think that just a couple of days ago I was in the Florida sunshine! It was a great holiday and I hope you’ve had a great week. Let’s kick off the weekend with a few interesting articles…

First up, an interesting story about prize money as one ultramarathon is offering a financial incentive to set a new course record. As the article notes, money is likely to either motivate more people to enter, or provide a strong reason to train hard. But could it also lead to more underhand methods of performing well, something that so far seems to have stayed out of such events? What are your thoughts?

Related to this, Martin Fritz Huber’s piece for Outside examining why we attach such importance to time “barriers”. It’s funny how we can become obsessed with these times, whether elite or not – note that recreational runners who are close to a time e.g. 4 hours in the marathon are recorded as slowing less than others during the final kilometres. From my own experience in Stirling earlier this year, I can see how that would be true as I pushed on when in the past, with any hope of the time gone, I definitely slowed more. Times certainly aren’t important to everyone, but to those for whom they are, it’s easy to become obsessed!

And on the subject of time, I was intrigued by this piece from The New York Times about the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes. From their analysis of Strava data, it seems that the claims of a 4% improvement in race times may actually be accurate, and for me, that could equate to shaving around 8 minutes off my marathon time! Of course that only works if a) you can actually get hold of a pair of the shoes, b) are prepared to pay the hefty price tag and c) they actually suit you, but that’s mere detail! I must admit, I’d be interested in trying a pair on to see how they feel.

Another interesting study came from the IAAF who analysed biomechanical data from the 2017 World Championships in London. It’s fascinating to read about the differences between and within athletes which lead to their success and I’d love to learn even more about this.

And finally, since it was World Emoji Day earlier in the week, Canadian Running magazine put together a week of marathon training in emojis. Sunday definitely looks like my favourite. What’s yours?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 6th July

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.

Happy Friday everyone! This week I’m coming to you from the Sunshine State of Florida with a few articles to share.

Since I’m in the heat and the UK is still experiencing a heatwave, I’ll start with this rundown from Outside about how the warmer weather can affect our bodies, as well as some reminders about the most sensible things we can do to beat the heat. I’ll still run while I’m here in Florida but the distance will be less and I fully expect my pace to be slower, which is fine with me. The most important thing for me is to make sure I head out for my run early while it’s still comparatively cool and the humidity hasn’t built up to full strength. I’d love to know any other warm weather tips you have.

While I’m enjoying the downtime there’s a pretty high chance I’ll also enjoy a few naps as I recharge my batteries (regular readers of the blog might remember that my last couple of weeks of the school year were largely fuelled by naps!). I therefore read with interest Alex Hutchinson’s take on some recent studies into the impact of naps on athletic performance.

For those who have been watching the football (soccer) World Cup, it may have crossed your mind to wonder just how far those players are running during the course of a match. According to Runner’s World, a whopping 7 miles! Check out the article to see how some other sports compare.

I also enjoyed this Strava blog which, with its focus on consistency rather than focusing on the end result, really resonated with me as I have been focusing on process over outcome this year. It’s worth a read for anyone who has been finding themselves overly fixated on recent performances.

And finally, if your running nutrition relies on carefully measured sports drinks and a schedule of gels, remember it wasn’t always that way. If we go far enough back in time then athletes were often fuelled by alcohol! It perhaps sounds tempting, but I don’t think I fancy dealing with the dehydration!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

The Year Of Me!!! – June Update (Half way there!)

Wow! Half of the year gone already! That means I’m half way through The Year of Me, adding positive habits and value to my life. I’ve been checking in every month with an update on how things are going.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Looking at my Strava stats, I’m still ahead of the game on this one. I’ve really been enjoying my running this year and certainly haven’t been “chasing” mileage, so it’s pleasing to feel that I have been consistent through the first half of the year.

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I am doing much more than 5 minutes of yoga (classes are an hour and home practice in the region of 15-30 minutes) however throughout this month there have still been a couple of times that I just haven’t managed to practice on 5 days. I’m putting that one down to everything else getting in the way and am looking forward to refocusing on this one during the summer holidays.

3.Read at least 30 books
So happy with this one. Like my running, my reading has been really consistent and I’m pleased that I’m still ahead of schedule. I’ve read a fair amount of non-fiction but have some novels lined up ready. With a summer holiday coming up it will be interesting to see what I manage to add to the total in July…

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
Although my end of term exhaustion may suggest otherwise, I have actually been pretty good with this one. It’s been good to get to bed a bit earlier, and on the mornings when I chose to go for an early run it definitely made a difference!

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I think there were  a couple of weeks when I didn’t fit this in, but I think in the main this one is going well – I even watched a couple with one of my classes as they are going to be doing some work using Ted talks next term! It’s such a great website full of interesting talks and also a great classroom resource for me.

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
This one I KNOW I’m doing well with. Left to my own devices I would probably listen to podcasts non-stop and now that I’ve caught up on the backlog from my favourite shows, I’m now catching up with a couple of other ones I enjoy. I just love listening to interviews with interesting guests and often learn something new from what I hear. Perfect!

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
Ok, so I was a little bit last minute again, but in June I responded to the prompt Summer.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I’ve made an effort to improve on this after feeling I was being sucked back in to using my phone too much again. I’m trying hard to leave it alone when I’m reading or watching TV and am trying to return to the habit of carving out specific moments during the day to check my notifications. Things will be different when I’m not at work, but already I feel so much better for doing this again.

Half way through the year and things are looking good. Now it’s time to refocus a little and see how things go in the second half of the year…

How are you getting on with your goals?
What habits make you feel happier in life?

 

 

The Year Of Me!!! – May Update

I’m a little later with this one than I wanted, but better late than never! 2018 is the Year of Me! A year of adding positive habits and value to my life. Each month I’m checking in to see how it’s going, so today it’s my May roundup.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Despite beginning the month with a couple of weeks off to recover from the Stirling marathon, I’m still ahead of schedule with this one. I may have only run about 27 miles, but by the end of May I had brought my total to 404 miles for the year, keeping me ahead of the pace.

IMG_67082.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I’ve written frequently about how much I’m loving yoga and in May I added SUP yoga to the mix. But despite that there were definitely a couple of weeks in May when I only managed to practice yoga 4 times in the week. It sounds so easy to fit in just 5 minutes, but some of my work commitments really interfered and I suspect this may continue into June. I’ll need to think about how I can address that since yoga really helps to calm my mind when things are busy so it’s even more important to try and carve out time in my day to go to my mat at those times.

IMG_65553.Read at least 30 books
My reading dropped off a little in May and I’m fairly certain this is what happened last year too,  however I did still read a further 2 books, bringing me to the halfway mark of this particular challenge ahead of schedule. I’m really looking forward to having a bit more time to devote to reading from late June through the summer and have already got a reading list prepared!

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I’m still very conscious of getting to bed early, however I definitely find this one harder in the summer months. Even when I’m tired exhausted, the lighter evenings mean that my body just isn’t getting the signals to wind down and sleep. With work getting increasingly busy, I must make more of an effort to get to bed early more often to balance this out.

5.Watch at least oneTed/Ted X talk per week
I’ve kept up with this one well and watched a variety of interesting talks. I only wish I could find more time to watch talks and this is another thing I’m looking forward to in the summer as I can probably watch a talk most days. Bliss!

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
I was concerned that without the lengthy runs of marathon training that I might not keep up with this one, but I still found plenty of occasions to listen to podcasts. I listen when I take my morning walk, in the car home at the end of the day and while doing chores (as well as when I’m running). I’m now totally up to date with my favourites and have listened to one or two episodes of other podcasts that sounded interesting. To be honest, i’d happily listen to podcasts all day if I could.

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
I returned to a written post with my (rather last minute!) response to the prompt Volunteer.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I really don’t know what to say about this one. I’m trying not to use my phone so much, especially in social situations and when watching TV, yet I have a nagging sense that it’s creeping back in a bit. I think I’m needing to take a step back and try to find better ways to keep up to date with the groups I’m involved in and the social media for this blog. Probably I need to set aside particular times of the day for this, however at a time of year that can feel a bit chaotic, it’s difficult to impose a bit of order on things. This is one I really think I need to focus on a bit more as the school year draws to a close.

Despite some slips, I continue to think the Year of Me is going well. I can’t expect to meet all my goals every single day/week/month and need to accept that there will be times when things don’t go exactly as I would like. What’s more important is to keep on doing these things I’m enjoying and look for more ways to fit then into my life.

How is your 2018 going?
What positive habits add value to your life?

When You Wish Upon A Star: A Magical Announcement…

Now that my spring goal race is in the past, my thoughts inevitably turn to what’s next. No longer do I race for the sake of it, preferring to make races work for me rather than shoehorn them into my schedule, but I do like to have both a spring and autumn goal to work towards. Spring is usually a marathon, but in the autumn anything goes – another marathon, a half marathon, going for speed over a shorter distance – the possibilities are endless.

But this autumn is going to be special. Those of you who know me in real life, or follow my Facebook page (and if you don’t, feel free to join the conversation) may already know why as I’m so excited about it…

This year, I celebrate a milestone birthday (I’ll keep which one to myself!) and that was one of the drivers behind my decision to make this The Year of Me!!! I wanted this year to be about the processes, not the outcomes; to add positive habits and value to my life; to have exciting experiences. And that’s exactly what this autumn will bring.

By some miracle Steve managed to pick up on my subtle hinting (i.e. tagging him incessantly in relevant posts and sending informative emails about what I would like to do to mark my special birthday 😂) and, due to some questions of logistics, he recently revealed to me what we will be doing…

I’M GOING TO DISNEYLAND PARIS TO RUN THE HALF MARATHON!!!

Yup, shouty capitals because I just excitedly shouted that at you. The number one item on my running bucket list has long been to take part in a Run DIsney event. My sister and both of my parents have taken part in events at WDW in Florida but I have never been able to as they all fall during term time, one of the drawbacks of being a teacher. So when I heard a couple of years ago that there was to be an event at Disneyland Paris I knew it would be my chance to fulfill that dream. For the last couple of years we were committed to the Loch Ness marathon on that same weekend, but this year it’s finally going to happen. (Did you really think I was going to go a whole year without running in/near Paris???).

Greetings from 2005!

Despite the fact that I have a Florida trip coming up in just a few weeks, I’m already thinking ahead to DLP. I have visited there once before but it was waaaaay back in 2005 in what I now refer to as “another life” and I know it has changed a great deal since then. We have a package which includes our race bibs, accommodation, park entry and race photos. It will be a whirlwind visit as we’ll be flying over on Friday evening and returning Sunday evening to fit in with work (a random Disney weekend in the middle of term!) but I know I can make the most of it and will be tapping my sister for tips on must-do attractions since she has visited more recently and, as a former WDW and DCL cast member, is bound to have some good advice! As for the race itself, Steve has grand plans to be competitive and is hoping for a good time. Me? I fully intend running a half marathon personal worst as I’ll be stopping for lots of photo ops, enjoying the scenery and soaking up the atmosphere. I’m fairly certain it’s the kind of thing that will make me want to cry tears of joy as I run along Main Street and round by the castle. It actually gives me goosebumps just thinking about it and there are sure to be A LOT of photos – I’m even thinking it’s time to purchase that Go Pro I’ve been wondering about…

I’ll be doing THIS!!!

The weekend will begin with a visit to the Run Disney Expo to collect our race packs and spend a fortune on stuff (oh the stuff I’m going to want – best start saving now!) but for the moment the most important consideration is to sort out my costume. Much like wearing ears in a Disney theme park is a rule, there’s absolutely no way on this Earth I’ll be taking part in a Run DIsney event without dressing as one of my favourite characters. I already have some ideas but will keep the details under wraps for now. Instead, I will leave you with a video which gives a taster of what’s in store for my greatest birthday gift EVER!! (Life goal = meeting a tracksuit-clad Mickey Mouse).

Have a magical rest of your day!

Have you (or would you like to) taken part in a Run Disney event?
Any Run Disney or DLP tips for me?

The Year Of Me!!! – April Update

Another month gone in what is shaping up to be an awesome Year of Me! 2018 is all about the process rather than the outcome and how I can add value to my life. I’m checking in each month to keep myself accountable and see how I’m getting on, so here’s how things went in April.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Another successful month of running, culminating in the Stirling marathon. I did rearrange things a bit one weekend so I could watch the London marathon on tv, but I still completed all my runs. I finished on 127 miles for the month and 377 for the year so I’m over half way there. That said, May will be a lot lighter on miles as I’m taking a couple of weeks off and when I start running again it will be pretty low mileage so it’s good to have a bit of a cushion built up.

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
Still loving this one and feeling strong from regular yoga. Despite not having one of my classes to go to for a couple of weeks during the school holidays (it’s a term-time class) I kept up my home practice and easily fell into a daily routine using my favourite Yoga with Adriene videos.

3.Read at least 30 books
I’m doing so much better with this one than last year. Thanks to getting involved in some online reading groups (and my new-found school holiday habit of starting the day reading in bed with a cup of tea!) I’m still ahead of schedule with this one and still managing to find time to read more often. I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and have been loving filling my mind with adventures and interesting facts.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I was so good at this in the week before the marathon, heading to bed as soon as the “bedtime” function on my phone told me it was time for bed. I’m not always quite so diligent, nor am I keeping any kind of record, but I’m certain I’m getting to bed by 10pm quite often as it has become a great way to maximise my reading time.

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
It has become my habit to watch a talk at the weekend, however part of my routine during the school holidays was to watch one every day. I loved this and only wish I had time to do this more often as for every one I watched I think I saved about 3 more to my list for the future!

6.LIsten to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
There’s nothing like the peak weeks of marathon training to provide a chance to listen to lots of podcasts. I’m pretty much all caught up on episodes of my favourites now and have a few random episodes of other ones downloaded to give them a try. I feel like I learn so much from podcasts and you never know when that knowledge might come in handy!

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
Another photo prompt this month as I published my response to Rise/Set.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
It’s difficult to judge this one. Having time off work inevitably meant I used my phone more, and of course I used it a lot in my post-marathon euphoria, but the rest of the time I am being more careful about mindless use of my phone. I’m trying to be really present and focused if I’m watching tv, rather than getting sucked into a pointless scroll and missing things. I’m also trying not to pick up my phone so much when I’m with other people as I know it actually really annoys me to see groups of people “together” but all sitting silently staring at their own screens. The phone (and social media) has a place, but I don’t want it to replace actually living life and experiencing the world. Right now, this is probably still the one I need to be a  bit more conscious of.

Overall, I’m still pretty happy with how things are going. I’m creating positive habits and definitely feel like I’m adding value to my life through the routines I’m creating. The Year of Me is going well!

How are you getting on with your goals for this year?
Do you prefer to read fiction or non-fiction?

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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