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?

Week in Review – Fight the Temptation!

In many ways the second week of my post-marathon recovery is the hardest. I know I need that time to make sure my body is fully ready to return to running, but at the same time everything feels ok and I start getting a bit itchy to get out there again – not helped by it being both the Boston and London marathons this week! Being back at work meant everything else felt “normal” so not having all my usual training made things seem a bit odd. It was a week of fighting the temptation for the greater good! I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share a roundup of my recovery week.

Having spent last week limiting myself to nothing more strenuous than walking and yoga, this week I began to reintroduce my usual training rhythm by including some light cross training. Here’s how my week ended up:

Monday – swim
Tuesdaygentle cycle walk
Wednesday – walk gentle cycle
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – walk
Saturday – Parkrun volunteer plus afternoon walk
Sunday – walk (after watching the London Marathon!)

Monday was the first day of term which is always a bit of a shock. These days I fall into “holiday mode” quite quickly and get so bound up in my “real life” that it can be a bit of a wrench to be back in the classroom. I was at least cheered by my calendar – even Gary Barlow is getting into the marathon spirit this month!

IMG_1511Since I would normally swim on a Monday, going for a swim after work helped to remind me of my own routine. It was nice to be back in the water, and despite a gap of a couple of weeks since my last swim, I felt I swam quite well. I took it nice and easy since this was technically a recovery workout and although I felt a little more tired than usual at the end, I knew that was the after effects of the marathon and length of time since my last swim so nothing to worry about.

However Monday may have been a bit much for me as I awoke on Tuesday with a scratchy throat and aches that didn’t lift all day. My eyes felt heavy and I didn’t feel like doing anything more than going to my bed. Since Tuesdays had previously been bike intervals, I had planned a gentle half hour cycle to get my legs turning over again, but decided instead to just have a walk in the fresh air then relax at home with some hot food and a nice bath before an early night. One thing that did cheer me up was the arrival of my April challenge medal from Virtual Runner. I had entered a cumulative challenge involving running the marathon distance across the month. I, of course, had decided it would be fun to do the whole thing in one go haha!

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IMG_1513By Wednesday the aches had gone but my throat remained scratchy first thing in the morning for the rest of the week. This meant I felt well enough for the cycle I had missed the day before. It felt good to get my heart rate up a little again, and I enjoyed sitting in the hot tub and steam room afterwards. On this day I was also cheered by the replacements for my end of term “casualties”:

IMG_1514I’ve not yet made a return to my PT sessions so Thursday was simply my Ashtanga yoga class. It was another great class for me and I could feel my legs becoming even more “my own” with every posture. I left feeling relaxed and better than I had done all week.

Ordinarily Friday is my rest day, however I’ve not exactly been over-exerting myself lately! The weather was nice when I got home so I went for a walk for 20 minutes or so to enjoy the extra daylight then waited for Steve to arrive home so we could head out to eat. After returning to work and fighting off what was likely a bug, I was more than ready for my Friday night beer and curry!

IMG_1519Saturday is parkrunday but my two weeks off running were not quite up yet so I was on the volunteer roster once more. This week I was on finish tokens which meant I had to check through them before the run started, but was held up in traffic, so enjoyed a bonus run from the car to get to the start! It felt really good to be running, albeit briefly, and I would have loved a bit more, but at least I know that the enjoyment will be there next week when I do run again.

IMG_1521Since Steve was away at a race further north and Hatha yoga hasn’t restarted yet, I decided to head out in the afternoon for a walk. I had a few errands but didn’t need to go into town so instead walked to the retail park, got a coffee then picked up the bits and pieces I needed before taking a different route home. I was probably out for a couple of hours but it was still a productive day.

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Sunday was London Marathon day and since it was also my last day “off” when it came to running, I had grand plans for a morning on the sofa watching the coverage. I love watching all the races from the elite to the runners in crazy costumes. It’s so inspiring and always makes me want to run another marathon! I spent the whole weekend feeling rather envious of those in London soaking up the atmosphere both at the expo and at the race, so would definitely love to get back there again some day. True to form the combination of the theme tune and inspiring stories had me in tears and keen to get back to running again. There’s just something about the London marathon that makes people lace up and get out there!

When the TV coverage finished I realised that I really should move so walked into town for a coffee and to do a little work for the blog.

IMG_1529Thanks to the time out I’m now itching to get running and target my next challenge. My recovery strategy is one week completely off, one week of light cross training then a week where I re-introduce some easy running so long as there are no issues such as injury or tight muscles picked up in the marathon. Right now my legs feel good and I’m looking forward to a couple of easy runs in the week ahead. I know to expect a slower pace, but I also know that I’ll soon feel like I have my own legs under me again.

How long do you take off running after a marathon or goal race?
Are you training for anything in particular right now?

Week in Review – Time For A Tune Up

Things continue to be busy at work as the deadlines for coursework loom, but somehow I’m still managing to fit in my training around it all. Here’s my regular week in review, linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL.

Believe it or not, I actually managed to complete all my workouts on the planned days this week with no changes or omissions – I think that means a grand total of two “perfect” weeks since the start of January! I keep mentioning this as a reminder that sticking rigidly to a plan doesn’t always work, but I know I’ve made progress and am now stronger and fitter even with some shuffling around of workouts each week.

Here’s how this week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun plus Hatha yoga
Sunday – half marathon

Monday was the morning after the run before. I was tired (18 miles at the busiest point in the school term will do that to you!) but my legs felt ok. Weary, of course, but not really achy which was good. Still, it was nice to get in the water at the end of the day. I did find it a bit harder to get into a rhythm with my breathing though, probably because I had worked my body hard the day before, but felt much more refreshed for getting in the pool and having a swim anyway.

Tuesday is bike reps day. Nothing of note to report here, it was just two more reps onto the workout I did last week. It’s tough, but I’m tougher and I know I’m much stronger now because of working through these reps each week since late last year.

My Wednesday hill reps also formed my entry to a virtual race organised by Women’s Running magazine for International Women’s Day. There was something so inspiring about listening to my favourite podcast (The Tough Girl Podcast which had a special episode for IWD) and thinking about the #BeBoldForChange message for IWD that gave me that extra oomph for the one final rep that I’ve now added to this workout. Basically it’s the same workout as before (5-4-3-2 reps to a series of lampposts) but by adding one rep to the final lamppost I now run right up the hill. Even saving a little something for that last rep, I still managed to run some of the earlier ones a bit quicker again which is really pleasing.

IMG_0942On Thursday I asked Steve to take me through some exercises for my hips. I’ve had a sensation that there was an imbalance between them and wanted to make sure I addressed that given my history of problems with my left hip. The issue seems to be less that my left hip was weak, more that my right was taking over, so we worked through some movements to help even things up. After that I had a really good Ashtanga yoga class. There were just two of us again this week and I felt really strong and centred throughout my practice. Just what I needed!

Friday was my rest day. I always look forward to this as I’m so tired at the end of the work week, especially right now as so much coursework is due and we’re close to the end of a very long term. This week I had a few errands then, as usual, Steve and I headed out to eat. I DEFINITELY needed my beer this week! Usually I have a curry to eat with it, but this week there was a ribeye steak on the specials menu and I really fancied that instead. It was delicious!

IMG_0946Parkrun this week was a little different as the team had opted to switch to the alternate route since the grass section has been getting so boggy. The weather hasn’t really helped it to firm up, so giving it a rest for a couple of weeks should help a bit. The alternate route is two laps of the Inch which, as regular readers may remember, is a route that always makes a little piece of my soul die! On the plus side, it’s a flat and fast route and the conditions this week were grey but still, offering the opportunity to run well. Parkrun rules state that alternate courses should be a little longer than the regular route so that there are no PBs set that will be too difficult to beat on the regular route, but I was still presented with a bit of a dilemma: on the one hand, I knew I had a half marathon the following day so didn’t want to overdo it; on the other hand, I was really curious to know what sort of shape I was in over 5k as I knew the state of the grass had been slowing me down recently. In the end I decided to treat it as a tempo effort and run comfortably hard but with the knowledge that I could speed up at any point. I was therefore delighted to run each consecutive mile a little faster and to finish with my fastest parkrun time since August (23:39). A very encouraging sign for my fitness!

IMG_0947Next up was my Hatha yoga class which I always really enjoy as I find the stretching really helps to reset my body after my week’s training so I feel ready for my longer run on Sunday. I then continued the relaxing vibe with an afternoon on my recliner watching TV and taking a nap with the cat (she’s in charge of rest and naps, remember!).
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And then it was Sunday. This year we decided to enter the Inverness half marathon as a tune-up for Paris. Steve actually did this race last year, but I wasn’t at that point ready for the distance after my stress fracture so didn’t go up there. Like Saturday, I was unsure what to do. If I want a sub-4 hour marathon then my goal pace needs to average out faster than 9:09 per mile, so my target is 8:50-9:00 per mile. Since this was my tune-up, I wanted to make sure I could hold that pace, however I also knew that my half marathon PB of 1:56:35 averaged out at 8:58 per mile, so saw the opportunity to FINALLY run a new PB – it’s been my PB since 2012 after all! In the end, I decided to run to feel with the aim of running each mile at, or faster than, goal marathon pace. This would allow for slowing on hills but some faster sections downhill over the undulating course. I’ll be writing a separate race report, but spoiler alert, I got a new PB with my 1:53:03 finish! Delighted doesn’t even come close!

IMG_7263The race starts at lunchtime so despite a big breakfast and pre-race banana, we were both starving and made a bee-line for McDonald’s afterwards. Not exactly healthy, I know, but ok as a post-race treat for some fast energy until we got home. It was a long drive back so we finished the day tired but happy (Steve got a PB too).

IMG_0962So as weeks go, this has to be a good one. I recovered well from my 18 miler, ran a solid time at parkrun then followed it up the next day with a half marathon PB. Now to see if I can convert that into a marathon PB next month…

How has your training gone this week?
Any PBs to share?

‘Your Pace or Mine?’ Follow Up: A Running Record

In my recent review of Lisa Jackson’s Your Pace or Mine, I noted that the final section of the book is given over to the reader to use as a record of their running. I really liked this idea, but since I read the book on my Kindle rather than in paper format, I didn’t have the opportunity to fill my record in. Instead, I thought it might be fun to write up my record book (to date) as a blog post. It’s going to be a long one so put the kettle on!

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Favourite Race Photo
I have a few photos that I like: some from mid-race, some post-race medal shots and some of me leaping around like a loony after a run. But when it comes to actual race photos, my all-time favourite is this one from the Paris Marathon in 2016. I was undertrained thanks to being stopped in my tracks by a stress fracture at the end of 2015, but on race day I was injury-free and determined to get out there and enjoy a self-conducted running tour of my favourite city. I ran it my own way, stopped to take photos and enjoyed a buffet of orange segments, sugar lumps and that pink sports drink they hand out that acts like rocket fuel! When the photographers snapped me in the finishing straight, I looked like I’d had an awesome time, even though I was completely exhausted and my legs were begging for mercy. Sometimes you just have to forget your race goals and go out there to have fun.

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Name
Allison a.k.a The Running Princess

Date When Started Running
I don’t have the exact date for this one as my diaries from that part of my life are not all that detailed. That said, I can remember the day itself clearly. It was the beginning of term in August of 2005. We actually started on my birthday that year and it’s entirely possible that it was actually on my birthday that I went for my first run. My friend who is a PE teacher (and at the time we were car sharing for work as well) took me to the local park and told me to start running at the pace I thought was about right. Predictably, I set off far too fast and didn’t get very far at all. My friend then sorted out my pace and so began weeks of building up the length of time I could run before having a walk break (which had to be shorter then the running time). The first time I ran all the way round the park (about a mile and a  half) without stopping was my first big running milestone.

Age When Started Running
I was just about clinging on to my twenties when I took those first tentative steps, however I was in my early thirties before meeting Steve and venturing beyond the odd slow 5k plod.

Reasons Why I Run
My first ever blog post was all about why I run, but I suppose that was really only about why I started, not why I run now. At first it was all about a personal challenge and wanting to raise funds for charity in memory of my gran; now, running is a habit. In many ways it continues to be a personal challenge as I look to improve my times or push myself in new ways, but even without that challenge I would still want to run and it only takes a spell of injury to remind me of how important running is for clearing my head, helping me to manage stress, releasing endorphins and giving my thoughts some clarity. I love how running makes me feel both mentally and physically as it helps me to keep sane as well as fit. Running makes my body lean and strong. And it also makes me hungry! I love the appetite running gives me and surprising people with exactly how much food I can put away!

IMG_0605Proudest Running Moments
Running has given me lots of opportunities to feel proud of myself, so narrowing it down to just a few was a bit challenging! Here are some of my highlights:

  1. Completing my first ever marathon in Paris in 2010
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  2. Running my first ever sub-2 hour half marathon at Aviemore in 2012
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  3. Topping the podium for the first time ever when I won my age group at the Cool Summer Mornings 5k in 2013
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  4. Running my marathon PB in Paris in 2014
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  5. That time I ran 4 races in one weekend at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2015
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  6. Finishing as second female and ninth overall!) in the Caped Crusader 5k in 2016
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‘Dreaming Big’ Goals (Races, Places, Times)
I love this heading. A chance for me to think about the things I would do if there was absolutely nothing to stop me. I would love to run all the marathon majors, something which isn’t an option for me right now as they don’t all fit in with my school holidays. I’ve run London, but would love to go back again with a Good For Age time. Right now that would be sub 3:45, a full 20 minutes faster than my current PB. We are dreaming big though! I would also love to do a Run Disney race. I know there’s a half marathon at Disneyland Paris now, but my ultimate dream would be the Walt Disney World marathon. My sister has done this, but again I’m held back by my school terms. Finally, there’s this year’s goal of some race PBs: if I’m dreaming big then it’s a sub-4 marathon, a sub-1:55 half marathon and a sub-50 10k. My other dream is to run in Central Park. It doesn’t have to be a race, I’d just love the experience of lacing up my trainers and heading off for a run in such a famous location.

Most Memorable Races
I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories from racing, but I think I’m going to pick my “firsts”:

  1. My first ever “proper” race – the Kinross 10k in 2009
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  2. My first ever half marathon – Aviemore in 2009. Memorable because Steve proposed the night before so all I can remember of the race is running along lost in thoughts of wedding dresses, possible venues and the most fun way to tell my parents later that day!
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  3. My first ever marathon – Paris in 2010
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  4. My first ever experience of the Paris Breakfast Run in 2014
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I’d also like to include running around the race circuit at Knockhill for the Graham Clark Memorial race, running over the Forth Road Bridge as part of a 10k race, and, of course, that time I ran a 10k PB (by one second!) at the Great Scottish Run then proudly announced my achievement to one of my running heroes, Paula Radcliffe!
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And although not technically a race, I’m including an honourable mention for parkrun during the I Am Team GB weekend when I got to meet a local Olympian and see a Rio medal up close.

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Favourite Running Motto/Mantra/Race Sign/Motivational Quote
My favourite mantra is “I can, I am, I’m strong” which I came up with for my first marathon. I had picked up an injury and seemed to be surrounded by people telling me that running my marathon was impossible. My mantra was a way to fight back against all the people saying, “you can’t” and remind myself that anything is possible.
I don’t often remember race signs, but I do love seeing all the firemen out in force in Paris with signs slung from their ladders declaring “les pompiers sont avec vous” (the firemen are with you). As for a motivational quote, it has to be this one:

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Funniest Running Moments/Favourite Stories Heard on Runs
Well, there was that time I got charged at by some scary looking cows whilst taking part in a trail race. Unfortunately the race route was such that I then had to run back through the same field on my return. Thankfully the cows had moved on to another part of the field by then!
There was also the time I did the Edinburgh Winter Run around Arthur’s Seat. It was freezing cold and as I came down off the hill it started snowing. I thought this was absolutely hilarious so the official photos showed me laughing like an idiot in the middle of a blizzard!

Favourite Medals/Race T-shirts
Funnily enough, I have a fair few of these! After a bit of thinking, I’ve decided on the medal and finisher’s T-shirt from Paris in 2010 (my first marathon), my London Marathon medal and, as a collection, my 4 Paris Marathon medals and the commemorative T-shirt I bought to mark the 40th edition last year. As a bonus, I’m also going to include a medal from a virtual race – the Platform 9 3/4k from the Hogwarts Running Club, an event I’ve participated in 3 times now.

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Charities Fundraised For and Amounts Raised
Since I began running to raise funds for charity, you’d think I would know exactly what my total is. But I don’t. Back then donations were made by sponsorship form, however I think across the 3 times I’ve run the 5k Race For Life I’ve probably raised around £150 for Cancer Research.

An early example of my signature "medal pose"!

In 2011 I pledged my support to a local charity, PKAVS (Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Services). They provide support to a number of different groups, perhaps most especially known for supporting young carers. I was inspired to help as a friend works for the charity and listening to her describing the challenges some people faced made me feel I should do something about it. Working alongside the charity, we set up the idea of “going that extra mile”, with participants joining teams for the Edinburgh Marathon Relay. Most were new to running and Steve put on weekly training sessions (often aided by moi) to help everyone prepare. For me, it was actually an extra 26.2 miles as I committed to running both the London and Edinburgh marathons which were just a few weeks apart. It was my first really big challenge which I completed, with a PB (since beaten) in Edinburgh and a total of £800 raised for a good cause. It was a real family affair as Steve also ran the marathon while both my dad and my sister were in relay teams.

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More recently, Steve and I took on an even bigger challenge when we decided to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support following our experiences of seeing family members and others close to us battling cancer. In 2014 I was supposed to run 3 marathons (Paris, Edinburgh and Loch Ness) however injury forced me to withdraw from Loch Ness and replace it with an all-new challenge: cycling! I took to two wheels and completed Cycletta Scotland which had Macmillan as the title sponsor. In 2015 I decided to take care of my unfinished business by running the Paris marathon for Macmillan in order to complete that triple marathon challenge I had set. But, being one who never does things by half, I also decided to go bigger with my cycling and take on the Etape Caledonia. I then rounded off what was basically a spring challenge by taking on the Edinburgh Marathon Festival – 5k and 10k on Saturday then half marathon and final leg of the relay on Sunday (logisitcs meant it wasn’t possible for me to go from the half to the full marathon). With over £5000 raised in 2014 (with massive thanks to my friend Ian and his clients for their support) and a further £1000 in 2015, that made a grand total of over £6000 raised for Macmillan. Phew!

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Biggest Challenges Overcome in Races
Generally speaking, my biggest challenge is injury. I have completed marathons despite being in a great deal of the wrong kind of discomfort (I’m looking at you Lochaber Marathon of Pain!) and also when undertrained as a result of injury. This is why I believe I’ve never truly demonstrated what I’m capable of over 26.2 miles.  But the fact that I’ve completed those races demonstrates that I can overcome challenges, usually with an altered goal.

Races With Best Snacks/Entertainment/Crowd Support
Without a doubt the best snacks have been at US races, particularly the Cool Summer Mornings 5k which often has post-race hot dogs, pretzels, beer, etc despite the fact that these will be consumed around 8am! The Chocolate Sundae Run, while a bit of a boring route, did have the draw of ice cream at the finish line! I also enjoy the on course “buffet” at the Paris Marathon as they lay out raisins, sugar lumps, sliced banana and orange segments. I can say without a word of a lie that those oranges have been the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted and a sugar lump late on the in race provides a fantastic boost to get you moving.
IMG_6102 When it comes to both entertainment and crowd support, the title needs to be shared by both London and Paris. I run with one earphone in so I can tune into my music if I need to without having to faff about, but I have absolutely no recollection at all of actually listening to my playlist in London thanks to all the various places blaring out music along the route, the wall of noise in Canary Wharf and the unwavering crowd support in the final stages along the Embankment when every fibre of your being is screaming to stop but every time you do, someone shouts at you to keep on going. In Paris there has always been phenomenal support from “Les Pompiers” but perhaps not as big a crowd as in London. That all changed in 2016 when, probably in an act of defiance at the atrocities that have taken place in the city in recent times, the streets were lined with supporters cheering the runners on and fighting back against those who commit such terrible acts. Paris also prides itself on the huge number of “animations” (entertainment) along the route. There are an assortment of bands in just about every genre you can think of from rock and pop to a bit of German oompahpah and the always fun samba bands. Many have dancers as well and the lift the entertainment gives the runners is visible.

Favourite Fancy-Dress Outfits
Running in fancy dress is not really my thing, but it has happened:

  1. Taking part in a Santa Run every year
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  2. Wearing my kilt for both the Perth Kilt Run and the Paris Breakfast Run
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3. Celebrating our parkun’s birthday with fancy dress. So far a beach party theme (in November!) and a superhero theme. To be honest, I quite enjoyed running as Supergirl!
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Most Beautiful Places Run In
I live in Scotland so beautiful places to run are often just a few minutes away and I love nothing more in nice weather (it can be a bit miserable and lonely when the weather isn’t so good).
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Away from my standard training runs, the Lochaber Marathon was beautiful, even if I didn’t really enjoy the race thanks to an injury flaring up. And of course, there’s my beloved Paris. What a beautiful city to run in !
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Countries I’ve Run In
Scotland (obviously), England (London Marathon), France (Paris Marathon), USA (training runs and events in Florida every July). I’m really going to have to work on adding to that list!

Cities I’ve Run In
6/7 of the Scottish Cities: Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness
London
Paris
Davenport, Florida
Winter Park, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Clermont, Florida

Marathon Majors Completed
Only London. One day…

Friends I’ve Made Through Running
Running has brought a lot of people into my life, from those I’ve trained for marathons with (connected for life!) to those I consider my “parkrun family”. Running also led me to blogging and there are several people I’ve come into contact with through blogging that I would probably never have met otherwise like Jaynie, Danielle and Kyla. It’s also what ultimately brought me to the Tough Girl Tribe and the fantastic women there. Running is such a fantastically inclusive community and provides a shared experience to base a friendship on or just start a conversation. Just one of the many reasons why I love it.
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Personal Bests (Time/Date) 5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2, Ultra, Tri
I’ve got these listed on my Race History tab, but here they are again:

5k – 23:14 @ Perth parkrun 2015
10k – 50:14 @ Great Scottish Run 10k 2015 (aka That Time I Met Paula!)
13.1 – 1:56:35 @ Aviemore Highland Half Marathon 2012
26.2 – 4:05:07 @ Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris 2014

Race Record
This is a list that could go on for a while! All my race reports since I started the blog are under the Race Reports tab, but to summarise (and account for those pre-blog years!):

5k x 33 (inc Christmas events)
Parkrun x 66
5 mile x 2
10k x 20
10 mile x 3
Half marathon x 13
Marathon x 8
Other distances (e.g. EMF Relay, CHAS Devil Dash) x 10

Total = 155 events (89 if you don’t count parkrun) – phew!

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And now it’s your turn! Either write a post of your own to create your record book or share some memories in the comments below. I can’t wait to read them…!

A Runner’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Wow, another year gone by already! I hope you, Mrs Claus and all the reindeer are well. Did you enjoy the protein bar and electrolyte drink I left out for you last year? You need to fuel properly for an endurance event like your annual trip around the world! I do hope you’ve recovered well, trained sensibly and had a good taper for this year.

I’ve been really enjoying my running lately and am looking forward to all the festive runs I missed out on last year due to an ill-timed injury. With a spring marathon on the horizon, I’m working hard to get my body ready and am trying a few things I’ve not tried before like yoga and trail running. Since it’s December now, you’re probably anxious to start getting the sleigh ready for your trip (now there’s a strength workout getting all those gifts loaded up!) and since I’m sure I’ve been very good this year, there are a few things I’m hoping you might have on there for me…

Something I’d find really useful is a new yoga mat. I bought a very basic mat to get started with as I didn’t want to spent lots of money until I knew yoga was something I wanted to commit to. Now, I’d really love a higher quality mat like this one from Lululemon. It comes in really nice colours, like my favourite purple/pink shades, and looks like just the thing to help me continue my yoga journey.

On the running front, there are so many things that would help me to feel good when I’m hitting the roads and trails. I’ve got my eye on the new J Crew for New Balance kit, especially this top which comes in my favourite striped design (and would pair beautifully with these tights from the same range). There’s nothing like a Breton stripe to get me in the mood for running in France!

If we’re in for a cold winter (and we’ve already had a particularly cold snap) then keeping warm is crucial. Last year I spotted this Odlo top with a built in face mask when I was perusing some kit reviews and have really fancied it ever since. I’m also interested in the new parkrun jackets which have just been announced. I wear my parkrun Tshirt to just about every parkrun I do, but if it gets super cold then a jacket would be a brilliant way to keep showing my support for parkrun.

And speaking of cold weather, one of my biggest worries is always slipping on icy, frosty paths. I certainly don’t want to take any risks, but if trying out some different shoes means I can avoid the treadmill on icy days then I’ll be very happy indeed. Recently I tried the all terrain version of my go-to 5k/10k shoe the Adidas Glide Boost, and now I’ve discovered that there is an all terrain version of my favourite long run shoes, the Ultra Boosts. I found the all terrain soles really grippy and was able to complete my workouts with confidence that my feet wouldn’t slide around – they even helped me to a good finish in the parkrun points competition – so it would be great to have another pair so I can continue to rotate my shoes and ward off injuries.

With all the changes I’ve made in my training, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to race a bit more in 2017 than I did this year. I love trying to improve my times and have amassed quite a collection of medals. Each one is a memory and I love being able to display them all on hangers in our new home. Unfortunately, I’ve run out of room on my current hangers so need a couple more to give me a bit more hanging space. I will use new hangers to extend my current displays so my requirements are quite specific. This one in both black and sparkling plum will be exactly what I need to match my current hangers and the extra space will give me the motivation to earn some new bling and fill them up!

So that’s my Christmas wish list Santa. I do hope you’re able to bring me something from on there and make me smile on Christmas morning. I’m off to choose a healthy snack to leave out for you so you can refuel properly and avoid hitting the wall on your most important night of the year.

Love to everyone at the North Pole,
The Running Princess

PS No sponsored content or affiliate links here, Santa. These are the things I would truly love to find under my tree this year. What are you hoping to find under yours?

I Am Team GB

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Readers in the UK are probably aware of the I Am Team GB celebrations taking place around the country today, but for those elsewhere, or those who may not have come across it, I Am Team GB was created to help get more people active. The entire nation was invited to join our returning Olympic athletes today, 27th August, to say, “I am Team GB” and create the nation’s biggest ever sports day.

The day was brought about by The National Lottery, a main sponsor of Team GB athletes and their training, and ITV, a commercial television broadcaster. One of the most interesting things was that for one hour, at 9:30am, all ITV channels were switched off, to encourage more people to go out and get active. Sports clubs and venues around the country offered free sessions throughout the day for people to go along and try something new. People were also encouraged to do their own thing and get active by taking the dog for a walk or cycling with their kids. It didn’t matter what the activity was, as long as it got you moving.

Quite honestly, this is a fantastic idea, and to make it even more attractive, many events were lucky enough to be visited by an Olympian, something sure to provide further inspiration. And my chosen event was one of them…

Parkruns around the country, while already free, were getting into the spirit and celebrating #IAmTeamGB this weekend. Perth parkrun was one of many lucky enough to be visited by an Olympian, in our case swimmer Stephen Milne who was part of the silver medal-winning 4x200m relay team. Stephen was born in Inverness but has lived and trained in Perth since he was a young child, so he’s our local Olympian. It had been announced in advance that he would be attending so I decided this was a fine time to dust off the replica top I bought in 2012!

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I arrived about 10 minutes before the run start and spotted our visitor straight away – the Team GB tracksuit and silver medal adorning his neck was a dead giveaway! He was chatting to people and posing for photos, mainly with children. Obviously, I made sure I got a photo too!

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There were a good number of people there and the atmosphere felt different to usual. I find our parkrun, as I’m sure others are, to be very friendly and positive, but today there was even more of a buzz in the air. I spent the time before the run briefing chatting to someone I’d not spoken to before and everyone seemed really upbeat. Of course our visitor was introduced during the run briefing and everyone gathered in closer than ever, especially when we became part of an enormous selfie…

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Can you spot me? I’m in there…!

Photo: Stephen Milne on Twitter

After that, it was business as usual. My intention was to run a bit easier this week as I have a 10k race tomorrow, however as soon as we started I realised that my body had other ideas. Fuelled by coffee and inspired by the Olympic spirit, I was gliding along (or at least that’s how it felt to me) with a spring in my step, but when the first mile ticked by in 7:26 I realised I’d better slow down a little! I did, but was still running sub-8 minute miles and ended up crossing the line (which today was marked by some festive bunting) in 23:36 – my fastest time this year and the closest I’ve ever been to that lofty PB of 23:14 I ran around this time last year. Maybe we should have Olympians visit us every week!

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Post-race and floating along on a runner’s high, I was able to get another photo, and this time I asked if I could have a wee feel of the weight of the medal. One or two others had done this before the race and had reported that it was really heavy, but I was still surprised by just how weighty it was. Far heavier than any medal I’ve earned so far!

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I had to dash off for my Saturday yoga class, but had a fantastic morning, probably one of the most memorable parkruns ever, and couldn’t resist a few bonus jumping shots before I left:

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Anyone taking part in #IAmTeamGB today was encouraged to use the hashtag and post their photos on social media. In the afternoon I was delighted to receive the following response  from The National Lottery on Twitter:

What a great surprise and a fantastic way to round off what was a brilliant initiative, a brilliant parkrun experience and a brilliant way to spend a Saturday.

Thanks to Stephen Milne for coming along and inspiring everyone, and well done to all our wonderful Team GB athletes.

Did you take part in #IAmTeamGB today?
Any Olympians near you?

Race Report – Cool Summer Mornings 5k 2016

Regular readers will know that every July Steve and I pack a few bits and pieces and head over to Florida for a couple of weeks. And despite several people, rather inexplicably, telling me to “try and not run too much” (???) while we’re away, we prefer to seize the chance for some early morning workouts before it gets too hot, followed by some serious sun lounger time. We also like to try and race a couple of 5ks and ever since 2012 the July race of the Cool Summer Mornings series has been a feature of our holiday plans. This year would be our second experience of the new route which was introduced last year (you can also read about our experiences in 2013 and 2014 on the previous route) and since I knew I was in better form than a year ago (based on parkrun performance) I was looking to beat last year’s time of 25:58 and, hopefully, win an age group prize.

Experience has taught us to set off early for this race, which takes place about half an hour away in Clermont. Our race was due to start at 7:35am, however there was also a triathlon and duathlon ahead of that, so we wanted to be there in plenty of time to get a parking space, collect our race packs and queue for the toilets. As it turned out, the car park was pretty busy but we got a space ok then walked over to packet pickup which is always really straightforward. Bib numbers are assigned alphabetically, so 4 out of the 5 of us (mum, dad, my sister, Steve and I) had consecutive numbers, making it really easy to collect them all together.

After collecting our race packs our usual routine is to head back to the car to get organised: pin on our race numbers, attach the timing chips to our shoes and gather up the various bits and bobs we would be taking with us. We then made our way back towards the start area via the toilets (which of course had a big queue!).

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The races in this series are always themed and the July race tends to have a pretty patriotic theme. This year, it was First Responders (ie what we in the UK call the emergency services) so there were loads of first response personnel around supporting the event, including a massive fire truck with an American flag hanging from the extended ladders (this reminded me of how supportive the Paris fire fighters, or pompiers, are of the marathon each year).  I took a few photos then began getting organised to run!

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Dead on time, the race started and I set off. I was unsure what pace I would be running, as my only run in the Florida heat so far had been a couple of days earlier (the first morning after we arrived) and that was a slow paced run, more designed to help me to acclimatise and get my body into the right time zone than anything else. After a long haul flight with a super early wake up call, I wasn’t exactly at my best! So as I set off, I was surprised to find that I was moving at my usual parkrun pace from at home. At home, I can near enough maintain that for the whole 5k, but I knew that in hot conditions it would be a different story. That said, as we started the sun went behind a cloud, making the air feel a little cooler and when my watch alerted me to the fact that I had run a mile, I found I had covered it in 7:49 – new territory for my Florida running!

Photo - Sommer Sports Facebook page. If you look carefully, you may just spot me!

Photo – Sommer Sports Facebook page. If you look carefully, you may just spot me!

The course is an out and back along the waterfront trail, with the turn at around 1.5 miles. There is a water station at the one mile/two mile point, so I was able to grab a cup of water to pour down my back as I passed by (the cloud over the sun made a difference, but it wasn’t exactly like running in Scotland!). Shortly after this, I started to see the lead runners heading back and was able to high five Steve who was fairly far up the field. I also saw dad, who wasn’t that far ahead of me, but he was in a world of his own and missed my wave!

Once round the turn, it was back the way I had come. This is usually the part I find toughest as I’m heading into the sun, and of course it didn’t stay behind that cloud for the entire race!

As I began the return leg I was struck by how many runners seemed to be behind me, many just out for a sociable run/walk, many in fancy dress. I’ve found races in the US much more open to slower participants, particularly walkers, than in the UK (although parkrun caters for all). I somehow managed to miss my sister, but she says she waved at me (I guess I’m just like my dad sometimes!) but spotted my mum just as I reached the water station. After pouring another cup down my back, it was time to dig in. Mile two was a bit slower at 8:20 and I was really starting to feel warm!

The giant flag suspended over the finish chute by the fire truck meant that I could see where I was going for some time. I knew that I would have to run past the start line and veer right onto the grass to finish under the gantry. With about half a mile to go I could feel my body protesting – I was hot, tired and wanted to stop, but I also knew that I was on to achieve my target of beating last year’s time so cajoled my legs into carrying on. Mile three 8:24.

As I approached the turn onto the grass, I could hear Steve shouting at me about another runner behind me. Last year, I had something left in the tank to speed up, but this year I’d gone all out and really didn’t have anything else. I ran as hard as I could to the finish, crossed the line and stopped my watch. I had wondered if I might manage a sub-25, but it looked like I had just missed out on that. Still, I was DEFINITELY faster than last year by a huge margin so it was just a case of waiting for the chip times and seeing if it was enough for a prize.

I was given my medal by a nice police officer, collected a bottle of water then paused to double over and recover before returning my chip and making a bee line for the cooling tent.

Photo - Sommer Sports Facebook page

Photo – Sommer Sports Facebook page

Feeling cooler, Steve and I helped ourselves to a can of beetroot juice then took some photos before joining the queue for food. Like last year, there was a ticket attached to our race numbers to get food, but nobody took it from us. Funny the things you can manage to eat at 8:30am when you’ve been up for ages and run a race!

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We also had a drinks ticket, so once we’d eaten we joined mum and dad in the queue for a beer then just hung around until the results were published. I got a print out of my provisional time – 25:02 – and was delighted to find that this put me in second place in my age group. I was even more pleased as I knew that prizes from this race are pretty quirky (my previous hauls have included a hand painted tile and a branded pint glass) and this year was no exception – they were fire engines and I REALLY wanted one!

Photo - Sommer Sports Facebook page

Photo – Sommer Sports Facebook page

It always takes a bit of time until the prize giving, and with so many age categories that itself can take a while (especially since dad would be one of the later categories and won his age group, as did Steve). Eventually, though, we were all set with a haul of three fire engines between the five of us so headed back to the car for the journey home.

Photo - Sommer Sports Facebook page

Photo – Sommer Sports Facebook page

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Once back, I finally had a chance to investigate the contents of the goody bag I had been given at packet pickup: race Tshirt, Hammer gel, hydration tablets, teeny tiny towel and some leaflets. There was also some shaving gel and deodorant, which I gave to Steve. And of course, I had a pretty chunky medal and my fire engine!

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I was also able to get a proper look at the results and learned that apart from being 2nd (out of 51) in my age category I was 13th female out of 334 and 44th overall out of 526 finishers. Pretty pleasing stats and, like last year, a race with more female than male participants which I find really interesting. This race continues to grow in number (well over 500 now) and there can be the odd hiccup, but overall I enjoy it.

Roll on 2017!
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