Week In Review – Bon Voyage!

All of a sudden it’s October and the end of term. I’m not entirely sure what happened to the last 8 weeks (although I suspect it was all just focused on reaching that start line at Loch Ness!). As you read this, I will be escorting 40 teenagers around Normandy and Paris, so look out for next week’s update with more details. For now, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my roundup of the last week.

Since this was the second of my usual two post-marathon recovery weeks, and I was getting ready to head off on a trip, things remained pretty gentle this week:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – travel to France
Sunday – explore Normandy

I felt much better on this Monday than I had the previous one, thanks to a restful weekend. Since I knew I would miss my Hatha yoga class on Saturday (and had paid for it as part of the block) I decided to go to the Monday evening class instead. It meant I didn’t have a huge amount of time to do anything else, but to be honest the time out to calm my mind and focus on me was just what I needed. Interestingly, I felt a little residual weariness in my legs when we held one of the postures for a long time, but I suppose that shouldn’t really be a surprise so soon after a marathon!

Tuesday was busy so “rest” may not be quite accurate. I had to dash out of school at the end of the day to make it back in time for my hair appointment. I usually get this done at the weekend, but thanks to a number of obstacles in recent weeks (including, but not limited to, my trip to Inverness) there had just not been a way to fit it in and I really needed a trim before going away. At least sitting in the chair chatting and reading my book was nice and relaxing.

Tuesday was also the day my rejection from the London marathon arrived. Luckily, I had a Plan B and got my entry in for the Stirling marathon as soon as I got home!

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Another rest day on Wednesday, but again not exactly resting on my laurels. This week I FINALLY made it back to orchestra (rehearsals began a few weeks ago) as I want to be part of the forthcoming concert. I was a little worried as I haven’t really played since the concert last November, but it was so nice to see my orchestra friends again, and I even made a decent job of sight-reading the symphony we were playing!

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Thursday was, of course, my Ashtanga yoga class. Definitely something I needed in the last week of term! There were only three of us this week, but I felt so much better in the postures than last week when my legs were still so weary – I even managed to work on Wheel a little more which is one of my goals.

By Friday I was probably running out of “oomph” but luckily it was the last day of term. It still ended up a rather busy day as I got everything sorted out for the two week break. Once home, I had scheduled a checkup at the vet for my cat (Steve’s in charge of making sure she has all her medicines while I’m away!), after which I had to get stuck into packing. I always feel like I take far too much on this trip, but the weather in France can be so changeable at this time of year, and with the regimented timetable of a school visit, going to buy new clothes (as I would if I was caught out on a holiday) just isn’t possible. Add to that all the additional bits and pieces I need with 40 teenagers in my charge and suddenly I need more than usual, but by some miracle I got it all done in time to head out to eat – starting with a celebratory end of term pint!

IMG_4011My other Friday news is that the medal for my Hogwarts Running Club virtual race arrived – year 4 of the Platform 9 3/4k. I’ve taken part in this every year and this year, the medal has a light so it looks like the front of the Hogwarts Express. Cool!

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Saturday was travelling day. We gathered in the school car park while it was still dark to head to the airport, and fly to Paris. From there, a coach transfer to our Normandy base for the first couple of days. However since all this took place AFTER I wrote and scheduled this post, I’ll need to fill you in on the details next week! For now, it’s au revoir from me…

How has your week been?
Are your training just now or enjoying some down time?

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Race Report – Loch Ness Marathon 2017

Finally. All I can say, is finally!

I first entered the Loch Ness marathon as part of my fundraising challenge in 2014, but injury put paid to my plans that year. Last year I thought it was time to try again…until a hip issue led me to the heartbreaking decision not to run. In 2017 it was third time lucky.

Entering this race is straightforward. I entered back in the spring and it’s first come, first served with no ballots or waiting lists. I received plenty of information in advance via email, although I knew roughly what to expect anyway in terms of collecting my race pack and what the finish area looked like thanks to spectating twice before as well as my experience of running the 10k in 2013.

Since neither of us fancied driving 100+ miles home after a marathon, we opted for the train. This put us in Inverness mid-afternoon with enough time to check in to our hotel and leave our bags before heading over to collect our packs and browse the expo.

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Race day logistics involve a bus trip to the start line, which makes for a pretty early start for a 10am race! Luckily our hotel was really geared up for this. There were signs up at reception telling guests to let staff know that they would be running and therefore looking for an early breakfast, which was at 6:30am. My alarm went off at 5:30am so I could take some fluids on and get into my kit.

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Heading down to breakfast, we expected some porridge, toast and maybe bananas. Instead, the full breakfast was available. Steve opted for sausages, bacon, etc but there was no way I could stomach that so early so stuck to my usual pre-long run staples of toast with nutella and a bowl of porridge. I also took a pastry with me to eat later on (I’ve run the Paris marathon after these so knew it would be ok).

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It was then time for some final preparations before heading to the buses which were on the other side of the park, beyond the finish line. We knew we would be on one of the last buses (it’s quite a fleet to get almost 3000 runners to the start as this is the only way to access the area on race day) and all the race staff we passed were really helpful in making sure we were heading the right way and keeping up a brisk pace. We still ended up in a big queue though!

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The bus journey took around an hour. We were a little slower as our bus struggled to get up the steep hills to the start line, however the weather wasn’t so great at this point and it was better to be on the bus than exposed to the elements, even if I was getting desperate for the toilet!

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Once there, it felt a little bit like being on the edge of the world as the wind whipped up and the rain came down. We got our stuff organised and had a couple of toilet trips (queues for the portable toilets were HUGE but there were plenty of dense trees and bushes to make a “wild pee” an option!

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As late as possible, we put our bags onto the baggage bus and headed to the start area to find a suitable position.

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There was the usual music and an announcer getting everyone in the mood, and then all of a sudden we were being counted down and off. I had expected that heartbeat music so de rigueur at races these days to make things tense, but there was no drawn-out ceremony here which was refreshing.

I have to say, a bit of me could hardly believe I was there. After two failed attempts to make that start line, and a lot of stress caused by my cat being very unwell the day before (the emergency vet visit before we left was not in the plan!) I had hardly dared to let myself believe it would actually happen, but here I was with 26.2 miles standing between me and that finish medal. And those 26.2 miles looked like this:

Net downhill, however the hardest part comes around mile 18, just about the worst possible time when all the joy of the downhill start is a distant memory!

The first 5 miles were brilliant. I was running downhill, feeling fresh and surrounded by beautiful Highland countryside. I actually ran this in silence, enjoying my own thoughts and the atmosphere around me. There’s a short climb in mile 6, but this was around when I took my first energy gel so I was happy to have slowed down. The generally downhill trend continued to about mile 10 and my second gel, and as things levelled out I decided to put a podcast on to give me something else to focus on.

At this point I was 2 or 3 minutes ahead of my splits for a sub-4 time, however it had felt relatively easy thanks to running downhill and my hope was to have that time “in the bank” ready for the hill later on.

The next 7 miles are flattish, but there are some slight inclines and declines along the way, in fact the half way point felt on a slightly upward trajectory. I was still counting down the miles, aware that although numerically I was half way, the received wisdom is that “half way” is really 18 miles as you hit the hill.

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I lost a little time in this section, but was only a minute or two down on where I wanted to be, which would still have bagged me a PB. But then I reached Dores and THAT hill…

Race organisers had included some helpful signs: “slightly steeper bit ahead”, “wee bit hilly” and “keep calm and tame the monster”. Huh. But I trained on hilly routes and tried to include a hill towards the end of my runs. I was ready…or so I thought. I began the plod up what seemed the longest hill in the world, until I realised that I could probably walk just as fast. The hill beat me and I’m not ashamed to say so.

When the top of the hill finally came (after a false summit or two) it was great to point myself downhill again. By now I was way off the pace I wanted, but hoped I might be able to reclaim a bit of ground.

But it was not to be. On reflection, I think the hill was only part of it. The stress of a poorly cat on Saturday had affected my nutrition and hydration plans, not to mention the impact of feeling stress so close to the event. I hadn’t realised quite how much of an impact it had until I needed to tap into some energy that just wasn’t there. I’d had a gel with caffeine at mile 15 (double espresso, yum!) and had two gels left to take – miles 20 and 23.1 – but they just weren’t doing enough. I rallied a bit on some of the downhills, but as soon as it was more level or uphill, even for a short time, I just couldn’t sustain my pace. Still, there was nothing for it but to keep moving forward.

Finally, I was back in Inverness and the finish line was getting closer. Just before mile 25 you can hear the announcer on the opposite side of the river but I was prepared for this. Time for a final push to the line as the crowds thickened and you just HAVE to keep running: past the footbridge that would be a shortcut to the finish, over the main bridge, past the hotel and digging deep to find that last “sprint” to the finish.

Once over the line I needed to take a moment. I wasn’t sure how I felt – well, physically I felt tired and sore and as if I’d just run 26.2 miles, but I wasn’t sure where my emotions were. I leaned against a railing to compose myself then headed around to collect my medal, goody bag (the most Scottish goody bag ever – Baxters soup, Walker’s shortbread, Highland Spring water) and T-shirt before joining Steve who was watching out for me.

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I was soaking wet so opted not to hang around taking photos and instead shuffled over to collect my bag where I had some warm layers. There was a changing tent and I sat in there for a bit getting myself organised and sending some messages to say I was finished. Feeling better, I rejoined Steve to go and get our complimentary post-race meal: soup, casserole and bread.

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Having refuelled and composed ourselves, we did get some photos before heading back along to the hotel for our bags (and I had a change and freshen up in the toilets so I felt a bit more human before the train home).

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Soon after crossing the line I got a text with my official time of 4:18:10. It might not have been what I was looking for, but knowing that the marathon is a tricky beast, I had set 3 goals. My A goal was the PB/sub-4, my B goal was sub-4:20 and my C goal to be faster than in Paris back in April. B goal achieved and that is still something to be proud of (and it finally got me on the Marathon Talk podcast podium with second place!). I may still have a tantalisingly-close PB of 4:05:07 to beat (Paris 2014), but since then I’ve not exactly set a blistering pace with a 4:40:02, 4:43:39, 4:38:38 and 4:32:07. Bizarrely, that PB is a bit of an outlier in my marathon history, and until now that 4:32:07 from Paris this year was actually my second-fastest time. Other than my PB I have NEVER broken 4:30, so to go below 4:20, over a challenging course, is a good sign that the training is paying off. In entering this race I had wanted to see if training through the summer months so I was a) better rested thanks to the school holidays and b) better adapted to warmer temperatures, would make a difference. Added to that, I wanted to see if an elevation profile more similar to what I train on would suit me better, and I think my result is a clear yes.

I was also really pleased with my overall stats:

Position – 1145/2619
Females – 267/1025
Category – 148/484

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Overall the Loch Ness marathon is a great race and I can see why so many people rave about it. I may have taken care of unfinished business in finally reaching the start line, but I can see me returning at some point in order to get my revenge on that hill! And my time? Despite what I swore to myself in the last few miles, I’m already plotting my next 26.2 mile adventure, so watch this space…

Friday Finds – 22nd September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – A Confidence Boost!

After last week‘s “taper cold” it was time to get back to training again this week. I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ JessRuns ATL to share more details about my week.

Throughout my taper I try to keep the same pattern to my training, but ease back on the distance of my long runs. Here’s what happened this week:

Mondayswim rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – rest
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 8 miles

Although I was getting back to my usual training, I opted to begin the week with a rest day as I was still suffering from a bit of catarrh. I figured that would be aggravated by the pool chemicals (I get kind of congested for a bit after a swim) so opted for the hot tub and sauna instead. I did do a little bit of relaxing yoga before bed as the Tough Girl 100 challenge has made it a habit for me to do some yoga or mobility work every day now.

It was business as usual on Tuesday though as I headed to the gym for my usual bike workout. After a warm up it’s 10 reps of 40 seconds at max effort and 20 seconds rest, with a reasonable amount of resistance. The first one always feels easy but it definitely gets tougher as it goes on! I finished my session with some stretches and hip mobility work before heading home.

On Wednesday I chose to do a hill workout. I should have done this last week and been on 1km form drills, but decided to pick up the workout I skipped to help prepare me from the hills around Loch Ness:

There had been a bit of rain around all day but when I set off it was dry. Good thing I still wore my lightweight jacket though, as just as I was hitting the toughest reps in the set, the rain came bucketing down. Still, I finished the workout, even if I did look a bit of a sight afterwards!

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All finished off with a post-run yoga sequence.

Thursday, unfortunately, was an enforced rest day. I signed up to attend an event at work where there were going to be some interesting presentations, but it meant that I couldn’t get back in time for my Ashtanga yoga class. I actually got home around the same time that I would if I had been to the class, but a lot less chilled out. I rectified this with some bedtime yoga to help me sleep.

Friday was another busy day. I contrived to miss lunch as I was catching up with a former pupil (playing fast and loose with my nutrition a week out from the marathon!) so felt quite hungry by the end of the day. I grabbed a snack of some pretzels, but still had lots to do as the cat was due at the vet for her booster vaccinations then I headed down to the studio for a PT session with Steve. As usual, using the broom handle and Core Momentum Trainer (which matched my top!) to work on upper back mobility, hip mobility and knee drive. After all that I was ready for my Friday night meal at our “local”!

IMG_3801By the time we’d eaten and I’d taken care of the cat’s evening medications, I was exhausted, resulting in my first Friday Finds failure of the year (I did get it posted on Saturday though). I could hardly keep my eyes open so headed to bed and was asleep in an instant.

I woke feeling much fresher on Saturday morning. I slept about as late as I could get away with to still have time to get myself ready for my morning activities. It had crossed my mind that this would be my last real “blast” at parkrun for a while as next week I’ll use it as a shakeout run ahead of the marathon then I’ll have a couple of weeks off before I run again. It’s been irritating me that I’ve not quite managed to run faster than 23:39 for this parkrun year (which ends late November), a time I set in March and had hoped to better during this training cycle. Apart from (theoretically) being at my peak fitness, I’ve become much more adept at understanding my performance at different points in the month and knew that hormonally this would likely be my strongest weekend of the month for a speedy run. Time to go for it, and the arrival of the medal from a virtual run I had entered gave me further motivation just as I was leaving the house.

IMG_3888But as I jogged to the start line I wasn’t so sure. I was a little sluggish and wasn’t sure I would be able to turn my legs over fast enough…and then the run started. I fell into a rhythm and everything just seemed to flow. I was focused on my knee drive and the form I’ve been working on in my drills. I wasn’t sure if I could hold it, but wanted to try, and as I saw my mile splits tick by, I knew that I could keep pushing and beat the 23:39.

Coming in to the finish I still felt like I was running smoothly – Steve even commented on how “controlled ” I looked, and when I saw my time I was stunned. I had expected about 23:30, but had absolutely smashed it with 23:19!! Not only my best this year, but my 2nd fastest EVER. I had actually come to believe that the PB I set a couple of years ago (23:14) was some sort of rogue result as I’ve never run anywhere near that sort of time before or since. My best times are mainly in the 23:4X region, with just a couple of 23:3X, so that PB was a real outlier…until now! Having believed I could never get anywhere near it again, I was thrilled with my time. Furthermore, when I ran that PB I pushed so hard that I felt ill for the rest of the day. I remember my heart beating out of my chest and being forced to slow towards the finish rather than having a burst of speed. I actually scared myself. This time, I felt no different to any other hard run and recovered quickly. With the marathon next week, this was the perfect time for everything to come together and it’s really boosted my confidence ahead of the race.

IMG_3852This week there was also a special treat of some homegrown apples on offer courtesy of one of our parkrun regulars.

IMG_3807I had mine later with some peanut butter. Yum!

IMG_3855Absolutely buzzing, I headed off to Hatha yoga where I did manage to settle down thanks to the chilled music, relaxed work on the floor and lovely flowing sequence we did. Perfect!

I then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon, with a “cat nap” of course, to make sure I remained as well rested as I could.

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I actually wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my run on Sunday morning. Would I pick a distance and map out a route, or pick a route I fancied and just go with whatever the distance was? In the end, I decided there was a route I really wanted to do and figured it would be a little under 8 miles, so added a loop near our house to bring it up to a just over the 8. After all the weeks of big mileage, 8 miles seemed to go by in a flash and felt pretty easy. It was also really nice to take in a short section along one of my favourite paths.

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I still finished the session with my usual stretching, mobility exercises and 10 minutes of legs up the wall (if you haven’t tried this, you should – it was a game changer for me!).

And now I guess that’s more or less it. A couple of workouts in the week ahead, but other than that “the hay is in the barn” and all that. My update next week will cover race weekend and hopefully all the miles I’ve put in will pay off. I feel as ready as I’ll ever be and keen to toe the line by Loch Ness on Sunday. Wish me luck!

IMG_3881What are the signs you look for to know you’re ready to race?
Any goal events soon?

Week In Review – Back to School

I guess it had to happen. Those 6 weeks off school have a tendency to fly by and before you know it the new school year is starting. It was a bit of a shock to the system and I was definitely pretty tired by the middle of the week, but my training continued more or less to plan. Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

Here’s how my week ended up:

Mondayswim rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – 1km form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
FridayPT session rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

You’ll notice a couple of changes in there, so let me explain…

Monday was the first day of work for me. Staff began with two days of inservice training so no pupils until Wednesday, but still lots to do and a long day of reflecting on exam results, planning for the year ahead and getting organised. It was nice to see colleagues again, but the day felt long compared to being at home (funny that!). I had an appointment in the evening to get my nails done so rather than rush to squeeze in a swim I decided to postpone it until the Tuesday and enjoy a relaxing evening instead.

IMG_3609It was another inservice day on Tuesday and this time we had a training session in the afternoon which was quite interesting. I then headed to the gym to repeat the same bike session as last week. This session is all about intensity rather than volume of reps, so the actual workout won’t change, I’ll just work to my max effort on each one so how that feels will vary. Unsurprisingly I didn’t perform quite as well as the previous week when I was sauntering in feeling super well rested, but I know I still worked hard and that’s what’s important here. After a few minutes of mobility work I then headed for the pool for a quick swim. I had to dodge round people but it was nice to be in the water after a hard workout.

On a Wednesday I’m focusing on form with alternate weeks of either hill reps or 1km drills. This week was the drills. In all honesty it was the last thing I felt like doing after the first teaching day of the year, but I also knew I would feel better for getting out so got changed and set off. I had a 10 minute warm up then 8x 1km focusing on form (knee drive and arms) with 90 seconds recovery. Not only did I get caught in a heavy rain shower, but my chosen route had some lengthy inclines so some of my reps were pretty hard. Job done and in bed at 9:30pm since I was so tired and am making a point of prioritising rest right from the start of the school year rather than waiting for the exhaustion to creep in!

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Scrubbed up for work in the morning…

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…an absolute state in the evening!

I felt much fresher on Thursday morning after a good sleep and having already seen most of my classes could feel myself slipping back into the teaching routine. Still, it was great to get to my Ashtanga class and have a bit of time to focus on myself. It felt really good to switch off, stretch out and relax.

Usually on a Friday I have my PT session with Steve, but this week we cancelled as I needed to take the cat to the vet. Regular readers will know that she’s 17 now and has some age-related health conditions. She’s been great right through the summer but as soon as I went back to work she had a bit of a dip. It’s likely an infection so a course of antibiotics should clear it up. But having been back at work for a week and been worrying about her, by the time I got back home I could feel that I was exhausted and made the decision to take another nap. Best decision ever as I felt refreshed afterwards and ready to head out for some food.

Saturday was, of course, parkrun day and it was the nationwide #teamparkrun event which I already wrote about here. Having become much better at charting patterns in my performance and listening to my body, I went into the run believing that this could be one of my best parkrun performances of the year and then did what was needed to make that happen. My time of 23:42 is just 3 seconds slower than my best for the year (from mid-March when I was training for Paris) and leaves an interesting conundrum: did I run that time because I was right that it could be one of my best of the year, or did I run that time because I believed I would run well? Perhaps it’s a bit of both…

IMG_3617I really loved parkrun this week thanks to a strong performance, the atmosphere created by the #teamparkrun event and, perhaps my favourite bit, having the chance to try on an Olympic medal!

IMG_3649On Saturday evening there was a street party in our neighbourhood with the opportunity to bbq, meet some neighbours and have a drink. With a long run planned for Sunday morning this wasn’t ideal, but I went for about an hour before scuttling back inside to read my book (yes, I’m a bit of an introvert and the whole thing was far too people-y for me!). Steve stayed a little longer, but I really want to focus on rest since my return to work coincides with the longest runs on my schedule. I had an afternoon nap but was feeling pretty tired again so did some relaxing bedtime yoga then headed to bed for about 10pm.

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Nap buddies!

And then it was Sunday…

It all started well enough. The sun was shining, I felt rested and was looking forward to 16 miles on country roads. I tend not to use these routes in the winter as they can be really miserable and lonely, but in nice weather I love the peace and quiet. Since Loch Ness has an undulating (translation: hilly) course, I want to make sure I train on similar terrain. My plan was to use the same approach as my other long runs in this cycle of 2 miles easy and 1 mile hard (focusing on form and intensity if this happened to coincide with a hill).

Leaving the house the first part of my route took me uphill for a while before a slight levelling out and a downhill section. There is also a rather well-known (to local runners) buzzard towards the top of the hill. Lots of runners have experienced being attacked by this bird, usually around February when it’s protecting young so I didn’t expect any problems today, in fact I didn’t even think about it. How wrong I was!

I was running up the hill enjoying the sunshine, listening to my podcast with my brilliant new open ear headphones when I felt something hit my head. Thinking something had dropped from one of the trees overhead, I looked up in time to see the underneath of the bird flying right in front of me. Uh oh!

Knowing Steve had previously been attacked by the bird and ended up with a cut on his head, I realised I had to act. But what to do for the best? My only instinct was to get out of there fast so speeded up to a pace more suitable for parkrun than a Sunday long run as this bird circled round and round really low and got my head at least one more time, maybe more. It was really intimidating and my heart was racing thanks to the fright and the pace I was now running. I was also waving my arms around and shouting to try and scare the bird, but it just kept screeching and coming round again. By the time I was clear of its territory I had lost a hair clip and the hair tie holding my hair back had been pulled practically all the way out. I checked my head but there was no sign of any blood or a scratch, however even hours later as I type this I can still feel where its claws came down on my head.

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It’s in there somewhere!

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The look of fear straight afterwards.

In reality it was probably over really quickly, but at the time it seemed to go on forever and I definitely felt under attack. Heart pounding, I had to make a decision. The last thing I felt like doing was carrying on with my run (I had run 1 mile out of my 16) but I had even less desire to turn around and head back down the hill past the bird again to get home. So I posted a quick Facebook message to warn anyone else planning to run up that way and carried on. I knew I could cut off the road further along and head for home, finishing with about 8 or 9 miles, but if I was going to run on then I might as well go for my 16 miles.

What followed was probably one of the most mentally challenging runs of my life, not even cheered by the loose sheep which tried to race me down a hill (for reference, those things are speedy!). In retrospect, I was probably running on adrenaline to begin with, then in a degree of shock. I found it really hard to settle into my run and it felt more challenging than it should have done. I’m not ashamed to admit that I stopped a few times, but I did carry on and finish it. Eventually.

IMG_3659That’s probably the only time I’ve ever really been scared on a run, because I had no control over the situation and knew that if that buzzard wanted to hurt me it could. I feel lucky not to have any cuts from its claws and was definitely shaken up by the whole experience. I don’t think I’ll be running on that particular route for my remaining long runs in this training cycle!

The rest of the day was a bit of a struggle. Apparently the whole thing took a lot out of me and I felt really tired. On the plus side, I finished my run (with the same average pace as previous weeks) and proved that I can keep going when my brain is trying to shut it down – good mental toughness training. Now it’s time to move on. New week, new training…

Have you ever had a close encounter with some wildlife on your run?
What’s the scariest experience you’ve ever had when running?

#teamparkrun

Ah my beloved parkrun. Today, 19th August, things were made even more special by a UK-wide event in partnership with UK Sport and The National Lottery – #teamparkrun.

Here’s the gist of the event:

“On Saturday 19 August 2017, following the World Athletics Championships in London, the UK’s National Lottery funded Olympic and Paralympic athletes are teaming up with parkrun to encourage the nation to get active with #teamparkrun”

You may remember that last August, following the Olympic Games in Rio, returning athletes took part in a celebration called I Am Team GB which not only welcomed home our athletes who had performed so well, but encouraged the nation as a whole to be more active. Around 60 GB athletes took part in parkrun events that day, and this year’s event, backed by Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Wales, Sport Northern Ireland, The British Olympic Association and Paralympic Association as well as a number of governing bodies, was designed as a thank you from our National Lottery funded athletes for getting behind them. At parkruns across the country this morning, those athletes were right behind us this time as they volunteered as tail walkers. Nobody finishes last at parkrun so this event highlighted how inclusive parkrun is.

We’re fortunate enough to have an Olympic athlete right here in Perth – the swimmer Stephen Milne who was part of the silver medal-winning 4x200m freestyle relay team. He also won silver in the same event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Stephen came to Perth parkrun last year for I Am Team GB and returned again today to be tail walker.

IMG_3615Our event began with a rather longer than usual run briefing as we thanked the volunteers, acknowledged those with milestone runs and heard a few words from both Stephen Milne and our local MP Pete Wishart who had also come along in support of the event. There was a huge turnout, no doubt due to a combination of #teamparkrun, a beautiful morning and the cancellation of our nearest parkrun event which brought a lot of visitors to us. We now have a new attendance record of 303!

There were also some photos taken. Everyone else was getting ready to run but I spotted the photo op and sidled in at the back – parkrun ninja lol!

fullsizeoutput_20cbSlightly late, we were counted down by our MP and were off. I had it in mind that I could run well today and found I naturally slipped into the form I have been practising during my recent form drills. I ran the first mile rather quickly and slowed a bit over the next couple of miles, but felt strong throughout. Perhaps like last year I was inspired by having an Olympic athlete around and was really pleased to finish in 23:42, a pesky 3 seconds outside of my best time this year. However I felt good and think I might still be able to find another few seconds before my marathon at the end of next month.

I really wanted a photo with our guest tail walker so waited around the finish, cheering on other runners and chatting to people I knew.

IMG_3618And then my chance came. I got a lovely photo and, as a bonus, managed to get a shot of me wearing the ACTUAL OLYMPIC SILVER MEDAL (last year I only got to feel the weight of it while its owner was still wearing it). Of course I did my standard medal pose. It’s pretty heavy so I’m not sure I’d have managed a jumping shot 😉

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IMG_3649#teamparkrun was a fantastic event. Parkrun is always friendly and inclusive, but I’m quite sure the presence of Olympic and Paralympic athletes drew more people to parkruns around the UK today – after all, how often do you get the chance to say you were faster than an Olympian haha!

IMG_3633Thank you Stephen Milne for contributing to a fantastic event today.

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Photo: Stephen Milne on Twitter

Did you take part in #teamparkrun?
Ever tried on an Olympic medal?

Week In Review – Making it Last

How can my summer break be over already? I swear we only just finished school for the summer! This week I made sure to enjoy the last moments of time off (with my marathon training getting priority!) so join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for their weekly linkup.

Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps + Hatha yoga
Thursday – PT session
Friday – rest day
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 14 miles

I made yet another attempt to find a decent time in the afternoon to hit the pool, and yet again got it wrong. I’d no sooner slid into the pool at my gym when I realised there was an instructor setting up to give a kids’ swimming lesson in the lane. Upon enquiry, she told me she was starting at 3:30 and her pupil actually arrived poolside at that moment. I manage to squeeze in half a dozen lengths in the short time before the lesson began, then I had to switch to the main part of the pool and take my chances around those doing the heads up breaststroke, the inexplicable people who seem to swim with their body in a vertical position, and the group of children squealing for their accompanying adults to watch as they took turns to jump in (pretty sure jumping in isn’t actually allowed as the pool isn’t all that deep and isn’t big enough to require a lifeguard). Needless to say, after 20 lengths of dodging round then all and having to stop at the end to wait for space, I headed for the sauna instead!

Tuesday was a bit better. I headed to the gym to get on the bike and following our experiments with different sets over the last couple of weeks, Steve gave me a new workout to do in order to progress what I’ve been doing on the bike. For this workout I took the resistance level of the bike up one then had 10 reps of 40 seconds at max effort with 20 seconds recovery, with a warmup and cool down on either side. On the first rep it felt pretty straightforward as my last set of intervals were a minute long, but I had 30 seconds recovery and the resistance was lower, so by the time I was a few reps in I could feel the weariness creeping into my legs. Not that long a workout, but it felt very effective!

IMG_3460On Wedensday it was back to hill reps. My plan going forward is to alternate hill reps and the 1km form drills I did last week, so this week I had hills. Goody! I’ve only done one specific hill workout since returning from Florida and it was using the last 3 lampposts on my chosen hill (3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep). Of course Steve likes to challenge me (it’s “character building” apparently!) so it was back to all 5 lampposts on the hill (5 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps and 1 rep to the last one). The hill starts out fairly gently so the 5 reps to the first lamppost feel fairly easy, but there’s a sting in the tail as the hill gets steeper as it goes on so the last few reps can be pretty tough and I always hit my max heartrate for the session on one of the last 2 reps when it’s at its toughest. Although I’ve done this workout before, the focus has changed from being all about the speed, to thinking about the knee drive and form I’ve been practising in other workouts. I found that while it definitely felt like I was working hard to really drive forward with my knees, I was probably a couple of seconds slower on each rep, but Steve said that’s what he expected so no problems there.

IMG_3470Wednesday evening was possibly one of my favourite workouts of the week. I headed up to the clubhouse at the golf club for a Hatha yoga class, and since it was a really nice evening we decided to go outside. Cue much hilarity as we basically had our mats rolled out by the second tee (it’s ok, we had permission and all the golfers were further round the course by this time) and a few comedy moments as some golfers nearby shouted “fore!” just to see us all scramble for cover! It was a great laugh as well as being a lovely stretch out and it was so nice to be outside in the sunshine, lying on my mat with hardly a cloud in the sky above. Bliss!

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IMG_3524I switched my Friday PT session to Thursday this week as I had plans on Friday. I headed down to the studio on Thursday morning and worked through the mobility drills we have been using in recent times. After the issue I had with my left hip last September, I’ve made a point of working on hip strength and stability ever since. These days that is being covered by the work we’re doing to improve knee drive and upper back mobility and I definitely think the Core Momentum Trainer has contributed to an improvement in my upper back mobility, especially on the right where I tend to carry a lot of tightness. After working through some exercises with Steve, I returned to a drill I had done at the start of the session and Steve was falling about laughing at the shock on my face as I moved through a greater range of motion than I had just half an hour earlier. Not bad for a piece of kit that reminds me of a giant maraca or a baby’s rattle lol!

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IMG_3538I arrived home to another cool medal from a virtual race. Love it!

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IMG_3546In the afternoon I had some “back to school” errands in town then I met Steve for an ice cream. This was Honeycomb caramel cup. There were small caramel-filled chocolate cups throughout it. Absolutely delicious!

IMG_3550I did have a disappointment that evening though as I arrived at the yoga studio to find that my class had been cancelled. My teacher isn’t local and her train had been cancelled so she was unable to get there and nobody else was able to cover at short notice. I had been looking forward to the class but there was nothing to be done so I headed home and made use of the time to make some French onion soup and stew some of the rhubarb I got from my parent’s garden.

IMG_3551On Friday morning I had an appointment for my “back to school haircut” then I met some friends from work for a bit of lunch and a catch up. I hadn’t expected to be able to join them when the idea of lunch was first floated, but when they decided to come to Perth I realised I could just make it. It was a bit of a rush, but I enjoyed a lovely lunch of a chicken burger with prosciutto and guacamole. I love this dish as the “burger” is an uncoated chicken fillet and the addition of the prosciuotto and guac make it really tasty.

IMG_3552Of course I still had my usual Friday night date with Steve at the pub down the road, but rather than having another burger (I’ve been loving their chilli burger lately) there was ribeye steak on the menu so I picked that as I had been craving that particular combo for days.

IMG_3554Just before heading out I received a notification that it was my 6 year blogging anniversary (blogiversary?) so we marked the occasion by having dessert. As far as I’m concerned, sticky toffee pudding is the ONLY dessert worth considering!

IMG_3555And then it was parkrunday (some people call it “Saturday”). I know that my performance goes up and down at different points in the month and expected this to be my most sluggish performance of the month, certainly not under 24 minutes. I expected something like 24:15 or so, so imagine my surprise when I crossed the line in 23:54! If that’s what I did on a day when I didn’t think I was running at my best, I’m curious to see what I can do over the next few weeks when I’m feeling a bit more at my peak!

IMG_3604Post-parkrun Steve and I refuelled with a coffee (him), pot of tea (me) and a scone each. I had my favourite berry and white chocolate. If you’re ever in Perth, I might divulge where to go and sample this culinary delight for yourself.

IMG_3600The remainder of Saturday was pretty chilled. I had an afternoon nap (definitely something to make a habit of as the school year begins – I need to stay as well rested as I can right from the start rather than waiting for the tiredness to catch up with me) and watching the athletics. What a shame Mo Farah couldn’t get just one last track gold medal, and it was so sad to see Usasin Bolt pull up in his last competitive appearance. On the other hand, it was amazing to see the GB 4×100 relay teams performing so well. We’ve had the talent in those teams for a while now but they’ve not always been able to take the baton safely round the track so this was a real triumph.

We also enjoyed a cheeky glass of fizz to celebrate the cat turning 17. She was about 6 weeks old when I adopted her and as a rescue cat her exact date of birth is unknown. I just counted back six weeks from when I got her and declared that date to be her birthday!

IMG_3605Sunday was long run day and I’m still using the principle of running 2 easy miles then 1 harder mile where I focus on form. I was feeling sluggish from the start and not at my best, but I knew there was no reason not to run, I simply adjusted to run by effort rather than by the numbers on my watch. Great mental training to push on when things feel tough and another 14 miles in the bank for Loch Ness.

IMG_3606Over the last 6 weeks I’ve had the chance to relax and recover, had a fantastic trip to Florida and got serious marathon training underway. Part of me feels sad that my holiday is over, but a very wise person once told me not to be sad that something was over, but be happy that it happened at all. I’ll try to remember that as I spend the first couple of days of the week sitting in meetings and getting ready to begin then next year of teaching. With a bit of luck it will be next summer before I know it!

What is your faavourite workout?
What’s been your summer highlight (so far)?

Week In Review – It’s All In The Hips

We’re still playing around a bit with the content of some of my workouts, but this has been a great week of getting to grips with some different forms of training. Not only that, but the World Championships Athletics has now started and I know I’ll be glued to that for the next few days! As ever, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

In general, the pattern was the same as ever. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – 1km drills + Hatha yoga
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 12 miles

As always, the week began with a swim. I find this a great way to recover from my weekend runs, which helps to both boost my fitness and make me think about my breathing. This week, unfortunately, wasn’t such a great swim for me. The pool was busy (I had spent a good chunk of the day at work getting my new classroom organised for the start of term) so it was really hard to get into any sort of rhythm. I also think they might have adjusted the pool chemicals and my nose felt quite blocked throughout the swim, making it hard to get my breathing right. I have noticed this before, so if you’ve any tips that might help then I’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, in all honesty, was a bit of a disaster. It was really wet in the morning so I decided not to go to the gym until later on. During the holidays I tend not to use my car unless I really have to as I spend so much time driving to and from work during term time. What I’m now noticing is that in bad weather I’m more likely to either delay an outing or re-think my clothing for the conditions rather than get in the car instead. Things seemed better later, just a few brief passing showers, so I set off. About half way to the gym the rain started, but rather than ease off it quickly became Florida-like monsoon conditions. I know we get a lot of rain in Scotland, but nothing like this with drains instantly overflowing and rain bouncing off every surface. I was stranded under a bus shelter for ages until it eased off and I moved on, but I was soaked through and realised that I had a problem: all I had was the clothes I was wearing and the clothes for my workout. If I did my workout I would either have to walk home in sweaty gym clothes or put my rain-soaked clothes back on (including very squelchy shoes and socks!). Neither option was appealing!

IMG_3380Steve was free so I got him to pick me up and drive me home. Once there I got dried off, put my gym clothes on, grabbed the things I needed and drove to the gym. It was a case of walk in, do workout, drive home. By the time I got there the workout was the last thing I felt like doing, but it’s good mental training to carry on when you’re head isn’t in it and I got the bike workout done.

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It’s not all glamour this marathon training!!

For Wednesday, Steve had something new up his sleeve for me. Rather than another set of hill reps, he wanted me to do some form drills. We’ve been working on knee drive in my PT sessions, so now this was being incorporated into a run as well. I had a 10 minute warm up, then it was 6x 1km drills, focusing on knee drive and arms. Basically, running with really good form. After each rep I had 90 seconds recovery. The first rep began well but as I approached a road crossing I had a most unfortunate encounter with a swarm of midges and had to stop while I hawked and hacked. Pretty sure I still swallowed a couple. Let’s call that “bonus protein”! The second and third reps were great as they were mainly downhill and I felt like I was flying. The last part of the fourth and first half of the fifth were uphill so by the time I got to the last rep I was digging deep, but this was the reason I had six to do as Steve knew from his own experience that after that the form would start to go and then the workout would have little benefit.

IMG_3395I had a short cool down after the last rep then a really quick shower and change before heading off to meet Steve. Some friends of ours are going to Florida later in the year and were feeling a bit overwhelmed with planning everything so we offered to sit down with them and talk through some things/answer questions/give recommendations over a cup of tea. I really hope they found it useful. Perhaps I should seek an alternative career as a Central Florida holiday planner/guide (I’d be happy to offer personal tours “in situ” lol!).

I finished the day with a nice relaxing Hatha yoga class up at the golf club again. I was feeling sleepy from a busy day (I ran quite early compared to what I usually do in order to fit everything in) so this was just what I needed.

On Thursday I had a little indulgence when I met Steve at a coffee shop after some errands. They were offering half price frozen drinks so we tried the double chocolate cookie mocha. I can confirm it was good!

IMG_3399My main workout was my Ashtanga yoga class. It was a small class this week and all people who go regularly so we were able to flow quite quickly through the postures and try something new at the end of the sequence. I felt good and am pleased with my progress in one of the postures that I wanted to work on.

Friday began with a PT session. More work on my knee drive, hip mobility and upper back mobility. Like last week I used both weights of Core Momentum Trainer and the broomstick. We also finished with some short hopping drills to consolidate the work on knee drive.

IMG_3402I got home to find that the medal from my July virtual challenge had arrived. I do like it when this happens!

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IMG_3407Later that afternoon I had to walk up to my parents’ house and I definitely felt some weariness around my hips after all the work this week! Whilst at the house I realised that there was tons of rhubarb in the garden so headed out (in the rain!) to pick some before I left. I usually make some stewed rhubarb with it as Steve likes it with his breakfast and I quite like it with some Greek yoghurt. It’s not good to have too close to a run though, unless a sprint finish to the loo is what you fancy lol!

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The evening was spent enjoying the first night of the athletics, including an incredible run from Mo Farah. I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

Since it was the first Saturday of the month that meant it was pacer day at parkrun. This time I was pacing 27 minutes and knew I was aiming for about 8:45 per mile. It was a beautiful, still day (great for PBs!) and I found myself slightly ahead after the first mile. No big deal as it can take a bit of time to settle into the right pace. Just before the turn I found myself alongside a runner I’ve seen a couple of times now and exchanged a few words with. She said hello and asked what time I was pacing. A couple of minutes later she spoke to me again and said that she was running parkrun as the last part of her long run but she was starting to struggle and asked if she could run with me. At that point I decided just to focus on helping her rather than getting my pace spot on. So I fell into step beside her and just started chatting (I was not even very sure of her name but now I know lots about her and her running plans). As we got closer to the finish she told me she was so glad I was there as she had been on the point of giving up and slowing right down, but having me there had kept her going. I may have ended up about 30 seconds faster than I was supposed to run, but it felt so good to know that I had helped someone. That’s something I really love about parkrun – that sense of community and meeting new people all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if she now became one of the people I speak to regularly at parkrun.

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Steve was away all day so no photographer for my jumping shot this week!

Once home, I got myself settled to catch up on the morning session of the athletics, then when Steve got home later on we watched the evening session together. What a shame that Bolt didn’t have his fairytale ending with another gold medal, but the women’s 1500m is shaping up to be an incredible final. Even the cat was glued to the TV!

IMG_3427Sunday is all about the long run. Currently I am aiming to run every third mile faster, so 2 “easier” miles followed by a harder mile. Last week I tried to do this by aiming for a particular pace, but the route I chose for this week’s run was rather undulating and I knew a couple of my faster miles would not be on flat terrain. Instead, I focused on maintaining good form and keeping up the intensity in the faster miles, using the first part of the following mile as recovery.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 18.41.51As the session went on I increasingly found it harder to run the slower miles as my body was becoming accustomed to the faster pace and better form of the faster miles and although these were harder on my CV system, I actually found myself looking forward to that faster blast. I did not expect that!

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Yes, I have become so fed up of my hair that I found a way to tie it out of my face into the world’s smallest ponytail for the run. The Florida heat and humidity has sent it on a mad growth spurt and I can’t wait to get it cut at the end of the week!

I got home from my run in time to see the last part of the men’s marathon at the World Championships (an awesome run from Callum Hawkins) while I cooled down/stretched and then squeezed in a quick shower before what was a very exciting women’s marathon with Alyson Dixon leading for a good chunk of the race. A very enjoyable way to relax after my run, safe in the knowledge I had already done the hard work for the day.

And I rounded off the week with my usual “recovery bath”, accompanied by the magazines I brought back from my trip to the US. Bliss!

IMG_3459Overall, this week has had a lot of focus on form and I’m hoping to build on that in the coming weeks so that my target marathon pace begins to feel easier.

Are you watching the World Championships?
How is your training going?

Friday Finds – 7th 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.

I’m in a different time zone this week so if you were expecting this post a bit earlier – sorry! Despite travelling (and generally being unsure of what day it is) I do have a few articles to share with you this week.

First, the results published on Women’s Running of an interesting study into finish times in American runners. I’ve noted before that studies have shown a “slowing down” of runners in general, and have heard this on a number of different podcasts. Presumably this has to do with the rise of mass participation and more people taking part who would not be considered “elite”. What’s notable from this study is that the slowing is NOT a result of more female participation, but it does seem to correlate with the increasing weight of the population at large. This study is solely about US runners and it would be intriguing to see if it held true in other parts of the world as well.

These days we often come across information about companies offering to analyse our DNA and provide information about our athletic potential. But does this actually work? I read with interest this piece from The Guardian in which the writer delves a bit further into this topic.

I don’t have a Fitbit, but I do use a tracker and am becoming more and more interested in sleep patterns. I’m convinced that most of the time I don’t get enough sleep, and the results of a recent study into Fitbit users seems to confirm that I’m not alone, with the average user getting less than 7 hours per week. We seem to exist in a world where not getting enough sleep is revered, but this is not healthy and I for one am aware that I need to do something about this.

I also enjoyed this piece from Outside looking at how we know when we should stop running competitively and the impact that decision might have on us. Is it all about times? Is it about injury? How can we give up something that has been a huge part of our lives? I’m sure it’s something many runners of different ages and abilities ponder from time to time.

And finally, we all know the running commmunity is incredible, and this was once more demonstrated when a runner in the process of moving house had a huge number of medals stolen from her. The running community swung into action and she has been reunited with a number of her medals already. If you need a feel-good story then this is the one for you.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – The Final Countdown!

I made it! As I write this the school year is over at long last and I’m settling into “holiday mode”. Read on for a bit more about life and training in the last week of term as I join Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for their weekly linkup.

As usual, I followed my established routine for the week (for the most part):

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

On Monday I was feeling pretty exhausted. My brain was fried from the demands of the year, especially my recent exam marking which is enjoyable but takes a lot of brain power. I was also a bit daunted by everything I had to do in order to move classroom before the end of term. Getting into the pool for some gentle lengths was exactly what I needed, and I took it fairly easily as my whole being has been screaming out for rest! My swim always makes me feel refreshed though, so it was a worthwhile visit.

Admittedly, the last thing I felt like doing on Tuesday was a set of bike reps, however I also knew that this was the last set of reps before heading away on holiday and a repeat of last week‘s set. The knowledge that it was the last one and that I had successfully completed the same workout the week before gave me enough motivation to get to the gym and work my way through the reps. Finishing felt like such an accomplishment! After hitting the mats for some stretching and mobility work, I headed to the sauna to relax and unwind for a bit.

Last week I skipped my Wednesday run partly to allow the tightness in my right leg to settle and partly because I had a prior commitment. This week my leg was much better, but it still didn’t seem like the best idea to be doing a set of hill reps. Instead, I decided on a short run, but somehow getting myself home from work and organised for a run seemed to take forever. I was definitely procrastinating, but knew a run would make me feel much better. I told myself I could either run a 2.5 mile loop or a 3.5 mile loop – one meant turning right at the bottom of the road and the other left. Of course as soon as I got to the bottom of the road I was settling into the run and turned left for the 3.5 mile loop. This left me feeling energised for the remainder of the evening.

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Thursday was the day I had been waiting for – the end of term! It was a half day and I headed into school knowing that I could get the classroom move sorted out quite quickly. I had already packed up the contents of both my classroom and the one I was moving into, so simply gathered a crack team of movers (pretty much any pupil who turned up in my classroom!) and got the whole thing done really quickly. I still have to go and sort out where I want everything, but that can wait until later in the holidays.  By the time we finished up at lunchtime I had already taken over 7000 steps just from marching up and down the stairs with boxes! I spent the afternoon getting a few things organised at home before heading to my Ashtanga yoga class. I LOVED the class this week. I don’t know if it was that end of term feeling or if it was something else, but it just felt really good. I mentioned it to my teacher who said that she had felt it too – like everything just flowed really well that night. I guess sometimes you just get classes like that. Whatever it was, it was such a nice way to begin the holidays.

On Friday morning I had intended to sleep a bit longer, but my body had other ideas, pre-programmed as it is right now to wake early. Still, being up gave me the chance to do some tidying and organise my life a bit before heading to the gym to relax in the hot tub and sauna before taking care of some pre-holiday errands. A relaxing day made that night’s meal with Steve even more enjoyable!

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Saturday was in some ways a little different. Steve headed off to Edinburgh to get organised for his Ironman 70.3 the following day, while I headed to parkrun where I was the 27 minute pacer. Once more I was a little fast, finishing in 26:46, but I know I helped some people so that was great. It was a really busy parkrun and we got a new attendance record of 295 runners!

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After getting showered and changed I walked to the hairdresser for my holiday haircut and reached my step goal on the way back home. That brings me to a full year of reaching my step goal and that makes me really happy. More about that in my forthcoming update on my 7 goals for 2017.

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I also took delivery of the medal from a virtual race I had signed up for. Wonder Woman is ALWAYS going to sell it to me!

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The rest of my day was pretty relaxing, then Steve arrived home (complete with sliced hand from a sharp rock he got up close and personal with whilst checking out the swim course!) in time to eat then he had to get the last of his gear ready for an early start on Sunday.

I declined the chance to leave with him at 4:30am (!!!), instead getting a couple more hours of sleep all snuggled in with the cat. We had worked out that there was little point in me being at the swim start as it would be so hard to actually spot Steve or work out what was going on and much more interesting to watch the bike and run. After some checking of various options, I got the first train to Edinburgh at 8:50am and walked the short distance to the finish area at Holyrood Park (where the 5k and 10k of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival take place).

I arrived just in time to see the first finisher cross the line then battled for a bit with the online tracker to try and work out where Steve might be. In the end I discovered that there were some problems with that tracker and found another one that was a bit more helpful. Having established that Steve was out on the bike course (I was afraid I might have missed his transition to the run) I watched the first female finisher as well as the podium ceremonies (I got a bit too close to the women’s one and got splashed with champagne – cue me spending the rest of the day smelling of alcohol!).

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I then made my way back over to the transition area and was able to spot Steve coming in then got some photos a few minutes later when he emerged from the transition tent.

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The run course was three laps but I sought some shelter from passing showers during Steve’s first lap then caught him on the second.

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There was then just enough time for a cup of tea (the weather had by this time completely forgotten that it’s July and I had several tops on!) before taking up my position to get a photo of his finish – a respectable 6:19:48!

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I have to say, it was a bit strange watching the event. I knew the swim had been shortened due to the weather conditions and the bike course certainly wasn’t for the fainthearted, so spent the first part of my spectating thinking NOPE, not for me. But the more I watched delighted athletes crossing the line (and of course I was watching running, a familiar discipline) the more I thought “maybe one day…” and now feel inspired to refocus on my swimming again as I feel my progress here has stalled a bit. What I’m doing complements my running well enough, but it could still be much better. Let’s see what the next few weeks bring there…

Would you ever try a 70.3 triathlon?
What sporting event scares you the most?