7 For 2017 – Nearly There!

Well hello there October! Where did you sneak up from? It hardly seems like any time since I was setting my goals for 2017 and here we are three quarters of the way through the year. Time to check in and see how I’m doing (you can read my previous updates here and here).

1. Set some new race PBs
This one has been at a bit of a standstill since my success at the Inverness half marathon back in March, and with no race plans for the remainder of 2017, I suspect I’ve done all I can here. My main aim was to set a new marathon PB and beat that 4:05:07 that’s been hanging over me since Paris 2014. Unfortunately it was not to be, although I did make some positive progress. Back in April I was thwarted by the Paris heat, however did manage to run what was then my second fastest marathon time of 4:32:07 (yup, my PB is somewhat of an outlier!). I followed this up at the end of September with another try at the Loch Ness marathon, and while I still didn’t crack that elusive 4 hour mark, I did lower my 2017 performance to 4:18:10 (now my second-fastest). I’m not giving up though, and have already entered a spring marathon to have another try.
I had thought I might have a go at a new 10k PB (sub-50) but have not actually raced a 10k this year. I did, however, come tantalisingly close to my 5k parkrun PB of 23:14 when I ran a 23:19 a couple of weeks before Loch Ness. This was really pleasing as this was also a real outlier in my performance history so it was good to prove to myself that it had not been a fluke, even if the time is two years old! Now onwards into 2018!
Progress: 1/3 achieved; Improving picture

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IMG_39502. Run my 100th parkrun
This goal relies on consistency. I’ve missed very few parkruns this year, mainly planned misses due to post-marathon recovery, and still have enough of a cushion to achieve my 100th run before the end of the year. At present I’ve completed my 93rd, so just 7 more to go. Definitely achievable, perhaps by the start of December.
And my bonus parkrun goal is to achieve my 25 volunteer T-shirt. Thanks to my pacing duties this year I only have one more to go before I have that one all wrapped up.
Progress: On track

IMG_37133. Maintain my step goal streak
Back in July I achieved the first part of this goal – one full year of taking 10,000 steps per day. Now, I’m working on completing the second part of the goal – a calendar year of 10,000 steps per day. I’ve not yet broken my streak (currently at 472 days) so continuing the habit for now should be achievable.
Progress: On track

4. Read at least 30 books
This is now the goal that needs the most attention. I’m tracking my reading on Goodreads this year and, with 19 out of 30 books read, am 4 behind schedule to complete this one. This is an advance on the 25 books I read in 2016 and I did set this goal knowing it would push me. I had hoped the summer might bring me up to speed, but I now need to try and set aside a bit more time for reading. Watch this space!
Progress: Needs Attention

5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
The summer break allowed me to reset a bit on this one, and as soon as term began I made sure to prioritise rest right from the start. This meant trying not to allow my natural night-owl tendencies to take over and stay up too late on week nights, as well as scheduling an afternoon nap into my Saturday routine to help counter the busy week. It’s not always easy to fit in everything I want to do, but I am getting better at this one.
Progress: Much improved

IMG_38546. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
I’m really pleased with this one. Thanks to the Tough Girl 100 challenge I was able to make regular yoga much more of a habit for me, and enjoyed doing so. Things have faltered a bit of late thanks to the time pressures of being away on a trip, but now that I’m getting organised again I’m looking forward to adding some more yoga to my days. My favourite is some bedtime yoga to help me unwind and rest well, helping me with that goal too!
Progress: On track

IMG_41967. Blog more consistently
Another one that’s going well. I wanted to improve on my 2016 pattern by publishing at least one post per week IN ADDITION to Friday Finds. So far, so good. I think I’ve only had one late Friday Finds, but it has gone out every week. I’ve also published a Week in Review post every Monday, as well as many additional posts when I can. I’m trying to use school holidays to work through the ideas in my drafts and have posts scheduled in advance, but it definitely feels much more consistent than last year. Very pleasing.
Progress: On track

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A bit of a mixed bag right now, but then goals are there to be a challenge rather than a guarantee. I’ve definitely made positive progress towards each of these, and will do my best to achieve those I still can. Hard to believe that the next time I write about my goals will be a review at the end of the year! I wonder what I will achieve…?

How are you getting on with your goals for 2017?
What would you still like to achieve this year?

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Week In Review – Vive La France!

Bonjour! I’m back home from France. It was a great trip, but definitely tiring!

As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL, but since last week’s post didn’t cover the full week thanks to my travel commitments (and lack of wifi to update the weekend’s events) I thought I’d begin this week’s post by filling in the gaps. Unsurprisingly, I have plenty of photos to share – this might be one to enjoy over a cup of tea!

The trip began in Normandy then we headed to Paris. Once home, it was time to get back to my regular routine (whilst also making sure to rest from the demands of a full-on itinerary and 40 pupils to keep an eye on!). Here’s the itinerary:

Saturday – travel to France
Sunday – explore Normandy
Monday – explore Bayeux then travel to Paris
Tuesday – Paris
Wednesday – Paris
Thursday – travel home
Friday – rest(!)
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – easy run

Saturday was a travelling day. While France is not really that far away, we had an early start to ensure we were at the airport in plenty of time (45 people to get checked in and through security!), then once in France we had a coach journey north to Normandy. An early highlight for the pupils was the presence of the Scotland football team in the departure lounge (a few were able to get photos). For me, arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport felt really familiar – I’m losing count of how many times I’ve been there now! – and I was pleased to find we had a great coach driver who not only drove us north, but provided some commentary and information about various things we passed as we left Paris, including the Stade de France.

IMG_4015Once in Normandy we headed to our base for the first couple of nights which is a youth centre opposite the most beautiful church tower.

IMG_4024We were hustled right in to dinner as we were a little later arriving that usual. The teachers had a most welcome arrival drink awaiting them, but I found the food a little strange – edible, but an odd combination. Fortunately, the meal was rescued by dessert which was these delicious pastries:

IMG_4017Our knowledgeable coach driver, who had stayed for dinner, told us they are known as Paris-Brest. Shaped like a bicycle wheel, they were created to commemorate the cycle race of the same name which began in 1891. I can confirm that they are delicious!

By the time we’d finished eating and been shown to our rooms, there was really only time to unpack the things we would need then start getting ready for bed. Of course the pupils were excited, and many had slept on the coach so felt wide awake, but I know how busy and tiring the trip is so was keen to get everyone to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday was all about Normandy. We began the day in the beautiful town of Caen exploring the Sunday market and the castle which was built for William the Conqueror. We had our packed lunch in the castle grounds then headed on to Arromanches, at the heart of the D-Day landing sites (Jour-J in French). We were there to visit the 360 cinema which has a powerful 20 minute film which gives a real flavour of events in June 1944. The cinema is above the town and from the elevated position we could see the remains of the Mulberry harbour which was created to bring cargo ashore during the D-Day landings. We then took the short walk down to the town and had a look around for a short time before heading on to our next port of call: the American cemetery at Colleville.

IMG_4036The cemetery sits above Omaha beach and was featured at the start of the movie Saving Private Ryan (two of the brothers whose story inspired the film are buried at this cemetery). We didn’t have much time there, but I found time to watch a short film in the museum which I had not previously seen, before having a look around the cemetery itself. It’s a very sombre place and the mood can be felt in the air. It always really brings home the scale of the sacrifice made by allied forces as over 10,000 crosses are in this location alone.

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IMG_4043We began Monday still in Normandy with a visit to Bayeux and the famous tapestry which depicts the events around the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It’s quite spectacular and intricate, 70 metres long and 50 cm high. I remember learning about the tapestry at primary school, and always remember the part where Harold is killed with an arrow through the eye. Ouch!

IMG_4065After the tapestry there was some time to explore Bayeux before our packed lunches. There’s a beautiful cathedral in Bayeux and overall it’s a very attractive town.

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IMG_4079After lunch we were back on the road and heading to Paris for the remainder of the trip. Again, staying in a youth centre but more modern than the one in Normandy. We arrived in time to have a little time to relax before dinner, then it was time to head out.

Our first evening was spent in the Notre Dame area. We allowed the pupils some time to explore in their groups, so I opted to pay a visit to the nearby bookshop Shakespeare & Co. It’s a famous independent bookshop, traditionally English-language. Its location is close to Kilometer Zéro, the point from which all French road distances are measured. The shop is part of the rich history of ex-pat literary Paris in the 1920s and was a meeting place for the likes of Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Eliot. Today it’s still full of nooks and crannies inviting visitors to get comfortable and read. There’s even a resident cat whose favourite sleeping place is well defined!

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IMG_4124I absolutely adore this place and could easily spend hours (days?) there, but contented myself with a couple of books. You can ask to have your purchases stamped with the store logo, which is a nice touch and something I recommend if you ever visit.

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fullsizeoutput_229cTuesday was probably the most tiring day as we had no coach so were both walking and using the metro. It was also a day when there were public sector strikes, which ended up affecting our itinerary.

The first visit on the agenda was the Musée d’Orsay, a one-time railway station now home to a number of exhibits including Impressionist art. In the past we have visited the Louvre, so this was new. Unfortunately, just as we got there the museum was in the process of closing as the strikes meant they did not have enough staff. We gave our pupils some time to themselves to look around, take photos, buy food, etc while we made alternative plans and I drew on what turned out to be far more impressive knowledge of Paris than I realised I had as I was able to look at my map and come up with a plan almost immediately. All those Paris marathons were good for something!

IMG_4172We needed to do something that would not incur a cost (including additional metro tickets) so I created a tour of the area we were in. From the Musée d’Orsay we walked along the Rive Gauche past the bouquinistes to the Pont des Arts. This is the pedestrian bridge which attracted controversy due to the number of “love locks” attached to it. The locks have now been removed due to safety concerns, but it’s still a great bridge to cross as it’s quite spacious and there’s no traffic so you can take some time for photos.

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IMG_4231The bridge leads into the Louvre courtyard so we spent some time there taking photos around the iconic pyramid (and I decided this would be the the ideal location for some yoga photos!). I had thought of maybe heading into the Tuileries gardens next, perhaps even along to the Place de la Concorde to see the obelisk, however we needed to start heading to our lunch at a quick service restaurant close to the Pompidou centre so we made our way along Rue de Rivoli to get there.

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IMG_4196The afternoon was devoted to some shopping so we walked the group along to the Forum des Halles, a huge underground shopping mall. There has been a lot of work going on remodelling the area and it was fascinating to see how much it has changed. I didn’t really do much shopping, but did enjoy the chance to slow down a bit and spend some time in a nearby café.

Unfortunately, our evening was also affected by the strikes. We had been due to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but it was also closed. We had a bit longer to think about alternative activities and I suggested going along anyway to see the monument from ground level and spend some time on the Champs Elysées before walking along to the Trocadéro to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. This turned out to be an ideal solution – another score for all that time I’ve spent exploring Paris on foot!

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IMG_4219The pupils were pleased to see the coach again on Wednesday morning as they were so tired from the day before. Wednesday began with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. I ended up waiting at the bottom with a pupil who was unable to go up because of a fear of heights. I amused myself with a coffee and pain au chocolat for second breakfast!

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IMG_4241Once the group was back on the ground we walked across the road to the Port de la Bourdonnais where we had a one hour cruise on the Seine. I’ve done this a few times so didn’t bother listening to the commentary and instead just enjoyed the Parisian scenery and chance to relax for a while.

Back at the coach we had a quick packed lunch (it was a little chilly) before heading off again. We asked our coach driver to go around the Arc de Triomphe, which he did, then took a fairly scenic route to our next port of call all the while keeping up his very knowledgeable and interesting commentary.

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IMG_4255Soon, we passed the Moulin Rouge and got off the coach to make our way up the 270 (I think) steps to the Sacré Cœur. I had to go up them fairly briskly as some of the boys raced up and a member of staff needed to be up there to keep everyone together as they arrived. After a pause at the view point, we walked around to the Place du Tertre to enjoy the artists, cafés and souvenir shops. The staff sat at a café by our meeting point and I ordered a delicious bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée.

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IMG_4397Our evening activity was a visit to the Montparnasse tower and its panoramic observation deck. We made our way there on foot, and it was well worth it for the stunning views of Paris by night.

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IMG_4297Thursday was, sadly, the day we had to go home. I was up early to take one of our pupils to the airport as a family funeral required her to be on an earlier flight than ours. It was actually quite nice to have a couple of hours to myself and not constantly hear my “teacher name” followed by Are we…? Can we…? When are we…? Where is…? etc.

IMG_4307Back in Scotland our journey home took us over the new Queensferry Crossing (my first time) which was exciting, but by the time I finally got home I was exhausted so Steve treated me to a Chinese takeaway for dinner before I went to bed.

IMG_4320Unsurprisingly, Friday was a very quiet day. I slept a little later then usual, got unpacked and paid a visit to my parents before going out to eat with Steve. Even better, my favourite special was on so I had a lovely steak dinner 🙂

IMG_4335By Saturday I was ready for business as usual. What with my recovery weeks and the trip, I hadn’t trained since the Loch Ness marathon and was keen to get started again with a parkrun.

IMG_4336It was a lovely autumnal day, perfect for running. I had no expectations of time, but enjoyed moving my legs and pushing my body again. I ended up running really evenly and was quite surprised to finish in 24:41. Not too shabby after three weeks off!

IMG_4343The rest of the day was pretty relaxing as Steve was away, so I chilled out with the cat and caught up on some TV.

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IMG_4409Sunday was another return to the usual routine as I headed out for my second run of the weekend. Nowhere near as long as my marathon training runs, but a nice 5.5 mile loop at an easy pace to start reminding my body of how to run again. I felt sluggish at first, but by the end I could feel everything clicking into place.

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IMG_4408What a week! So strange to think that I started the week in France and ended it on my usual running route. Life is so funny sometimes! It was great to have some time in Paris, but now I’m ready to re-focus and get back to some regular training again.

Have you been on any trips recently?
How is your training going?

Friday Finds – 13th October

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.

Bonjour! I’m back from my trip to France and a little incredulous that it’s Friday again. Last Friday actually feels like weeks ago, and even the first days of the trip seem like they were much longer ago than they really were! Despite being away, I still have several finds to share with you tonight.

First, a story that struck a chord with me as it reminded me of some of my own experiences in marathon running. Dan Kapinus was keen to break 4 hours in the Chicago marathon and used his own data to help refine his training. What he hadn’t banked on was the hot conditions on race day, and no amount of technology could solve that for him. Having now made sub-4 hours my own goal (and suffered in the heat at this year’s Paris marathon) I can completely understand where he’s coming from.

One of the next big events on the marathon calendar is, of course, New York. This year the New York Road Runners have a new campaign featuring the slogan It Will Move You to promote the event. It’s designed to capture the emotions around the marathon experience, and I have to say that having watched the 30 second video in this article, I think it’s done that very successfully – I may not have run New York, but I’ve enough marathon experience to feel that familiar stirring of emotions as I watch the clip. Definitely a race I’d love to do one day…

This next piece fascinates me. I’ve always been fairly certain that I must look awful when I finish a marathon – tired, emotional, and aged. Looking at the before and after shots of runners at a 125k race, I can see that’s very much true. Everyone looks tired and their faces are more drawn, but the emotions of completing the challenge, of conquering physical limits, is written all over their faces. These pictures really do tell a story of everything that has happened in between and I love them!

Another video, this time from a most unlikely source for a running blog – US gameshow Jeopardy. In a recent edition marathon legend Ed Whitlock, who sadly died earlier this year at the age of 86, was featured in one of the “prompts” (for those unfamiliar, the “answer” is given first and contestants respond in the form of a question). Fortunately, the contestant knew the correct response!

And finally, we runners certainly do enjoy a challenge, but I for one have no plans to give this latest craze a go. American runners have started the “porta potty” challenge, which involves fitting as many people as possible into a portable toilet and filming the exit sequence. Apparently, upwards of 30 people can fit in there. I’m trying REALLY hard not to think about how they’re managing that as spending time in a portable toilet is not one of the most appealing parts of race day. I hope they’re trying this out before the toilets see too much use!!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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?

Friday Finds – 6th October

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

Happy Friday! It’s the end of term and I’m packing for my school trip to France, but never fear as I managed to put this week’s post together in advance!

This week is a big one in the calendar of runners here in the UK as the results of the London marathon ballot come out. For the majority, it was a rejection as the numbers entering the ballot far outweigh the number of available places, but given this one event has dominated my news feeds and social media this week, I’m going to begin with a potentially controversial article. I’m not sure if the writer is entirely serious in the ideas he puts forward, however the comments below it certainly made my blood boil. I’d love to know what you think:

Ok, so we might not all be troubling the top marathon runners any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take on a marathon (or marathons) if they make us happy. And what isn’t to love about the Marathon du Medoc – “for drinkers with a running problem”. I always think this sounds like a great event, so enjoyed reading this account of it in Runner’s World.

And speaking of the top marathon runners, have you ever wondered what it would be like to follow their training regime? Matt Fitzgerald decided to find out and became an honorary member of an elite team. Despite sustaining an injury, he is now tapering for the Chicago marathon this weekend and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. In the meantime, this piece is provides some reflection on the process.

Next up, an intriguing suggestion around age groups. While this is a US article and age groups vary a little here in the UK, the origin of this setup is something I’ve never considered, nor is the question at the centre of the article about what would happen if we could choose our age group based on how we felt. In reality I suspect that would cause chaos, but there are certainly days when we feel more energetic than others (and days when we feel like an 80 year old with a walking stick could go faster lol!).

And finally, dogs aren’t usually allowed on the Chicago marathon course, but an exception is being made for Gordon, a paralysed miniature Doberman who will complete the course this Sunday in his owner’s backpack! It’s all part of their fundraising for a an animal charity. I hope they both do really well.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

 

Plan B…

One should always have a Plan B (and C, and D, and E… there are lots more letters in the alphabet!) for when Plan A doesn’t work out. Back in the spring of this year we decided that Plan A for 2018 would be to enter the London Marathon ballot, knowing full well that it was highly unlikely either of us would get in, let alone both (both of us have been fortunate enough to run it in the past, but we still want to go again!). At that point there was no Plan B as it was so far away and we knew we had an autumn marathon to run (I entered the London ballot the same day I submitted my entry for the Loch Ness marathon!).

Cut to the closing miles of the Loch Ness marathon when I was deep in the hurt locker and swearing off marathons for good. You know how it goes – this is stupid; whose great idea was this anyway; I’m never doing this again; 10 is a good number of marathons to stop at; I hate running, etc. So you would think that when this arrived today I would’ve been relieved. Not so.

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You see within a few days of completing that marathon my mind was already turning to the future: what if I tweaked my training a little more? What if I tried a race a little closer to home? Could I go faster? By the end of the week I had already decided on my Plan B – The Stirling Marathon.

And so, within hours of receiving my 6th (yup, 6th – I know some people have even more than that) rejection from London, and less than 10 days after completing my last marathon, I put Plan B into action:

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Why Stirling? A couple of reasons:

  1. They’ve tweaked the course from the inaugural event this year so there is no need for shuttle buses or the bizarre loop system they had at the finish (no way would I remember which loop I was on at that point!).
  2. Stirling is less than 40 miles from where we live, so we can reap the benefits of having our usual pre-long run meal, sleeping in our own bed the night before, eating our usual breakfast at home and, most importantly, getting home again quickly to start the recovery process.

Basically, having tried running a hillier marathon, I now want to try running one practically on my doorstep. It’s high time I added a bit of variety to my marathon list (50% of my 10 marathons have been in Paris!) and I’m looking forward to trying something new. It might even be an option for us to check out the course in advance so we are a bit more familiar with what to expect.

So that’s Plan B. Now there’s just the small matter of making sure I recover well from Loch Ness before enjoying a bit of pressure-free running to build a strong base ahead of ramping up training in the new year. I imagine race day will be here before I know it!

If you’re still considering your Plan B, this post from last year includes a few suggestions for when London says ‘no’.

Have you ever run the London marathon?
What’s your next big goal event?

Week In Review – Eat, Sleep, Repeat

I consider the rest and recovery from a marathon to be just as important as the training prior to the race, and this week was ALL about recovery! Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

This week, my plan had very little variation:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – sports massage
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun volunteer
Sunday – rest

Spot the pattern lol!

The only word I have to describe Monday is “interesting”. I was sore, I was tired and I was hungry. I also had to go to work, but since everything that was going to make my day veeeeery long was my own fault, I just had to suck it up and get on with it! I consider it a win that I reached the end of the day without any irrational behaviour or tears (from me or my pupils!) and stayed reasonably alert through our after school meeting. I had a free lesson in the afternoon and was well and truly caught having a second lunch (to add to the assorted other things I had been clocked eating throughout the day!) to try and address the calorie deficit the marathon had given me. It was a pretty sedentary day though, and while the rest was good, sitting still for too long also leads to the body seizing up like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, so I knew I would have to move a bit more at the end of the day. Once home, I headed out for a walk which served the dual purpose of getting me moving and ensuring I reached my 10,000 steps for the day. Not so pleasing was the fact that it was getting rather dark by the time I got home and it wasn’t even that late. Winter is coming!

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I felt a bit better on Tuesday, but realistically I knew I was going t feel tired all week until I could get a proper rest at the weekend. During the week after a marathon I limit myself to nothing more strenuous than a walk or some yoga, and try to rest as much as I can. I also make sure to schedule a massage to promote recovery in my legs and had this booked for Tuesday. In order to kill two birds with one stone, I walked down to my massage then Steve picked me up so we could go and sort out some food (we didn’t exactly find time for a proper food shop for the week!). Rather than wander around the supermarket feeling uninspired, I suggested a Chinese takeaway – after all, I didn’t run 26.2 miles to celebrate with a salad! Our nearest takeaway is run by someone Steve was at school with and he is known for his unique take on some dishes, including some fusing Scottish and Chinese ingredients. I had one of these dishes which is noodles with chicken and Stornaway black pudding (I request some broccoli in mine as well). I know not everyone fancies the idea of black pudding, but it really is delicious.

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After surviving another work day on Wednesday, I headed home to take another walk. I was feeling the difference in my legs from having the massage and to help even further I decided to have a bath with Epsom salts. Steve was working fairly late so it was nice to relax in the warm water and catch up on the first episode of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, my favourite TV show, which I had missed while we were in Inverness. The bath also made a big difference to my legs and I really wished I could have fitted it in a bit earlier in the week.

Thanks to the bath my legs really did feel much more like my own on Thursday, although I really couldn’t believe it was still only Thursday and became increasingly convinced that someone had sneaked an extra day into the week. I think it was called “Maraday”. Thursday is my Ashtanga yoga day and although I didn’t feel at my most flexible, I knew this was really going to help reset my body so went along. I took it easy through the first couple of sun salutations until I felt things loosen up a bit, and took easier options on the balance poses since my legs felt weary, but by the end of the class I felt renewed (another win = I managed not to fall asleep in savasana!)

When Friday rolled around at long last the only thing I was still feeling was tired. Friday is a short day in our timetable structure and I have some peaceful, chilled out reading periods in the afternoon which help to ease us all into the weekend. I had an appointment in town when I got back so parked a little out of town and walked there and back to get a bit of movement (and steps!). This also gave me the chance to sort out a couple of quick errands to save some time over the weekend. By the time I got home I was STARVING so was really happy to find that when we headed out to eat it was time for my favourite special of the month – steak. And since we were celebrating the completion of another marathon, we opted to have dessert this time. I didn’t need asking twice. Nor did I need to look at the menu as when I know a place has my favourite dessert on the menu there are no other options: sticky toffee pudding.

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I was awoken early on Saturday by the cat who, in direct contrast to last Saturday when she was ill enough to warrant an emergency visit to the vet, was in fine form and wished to alert me to the fact that she required some breakfast. I tried going back to bed (with her in tow now that her food needs had been met) but ended up just catching up with messages on my phone as I couldn’t get back to sleep. In a way this suited me as I was down to volunteer as timekeeper at parkrun and was considering walking down for a bit of exercise, so this gave me plenty of time.

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Steve up to his usual tricks!

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It was the 200th event for our parkrun and there was a huge turnout of 300 people on a beautiful Saturday morning. Post-parkrun I headed off to do a bit of shopping for my imminent school trip to France (with the marathon done I felt a bit more able to turn my attention to this) then met Steve, my brother-in-law and his wife for coffee and a bacon croissant before we got some proper food shopping done. I then enjoyed a really relaxing afternoon catching up on some TV and blogging, which really made me feel like I had got my rest back on an even keel. I even FINALLY got round to tidying away all the kit and things that I hadn’t sorted out (with a little help from a now fully recovered cat!).

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Sunday is usually long run day, but not the Sunday after a marathon. Instead, we took advantage of what has become a rare Sunday “off” for our now-traditional post-marathon breakfast out. We headed into town for a delicious cooked breakfast then Steve dropped me off to get my nails done (I couldn’t go to France with my 3 week old manicure which was beginning to chip and peel!).

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Later in the afternoon we walked back into town for our Sunday coffee and enjoyed the last of what had become a relaxed and restful weekend. Exactly what we needed. I, of course, finished the weekend with my Sunday evening bath where I always enjoy a bit of reading and a glass of wine. Lovely!

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Now I have just one week of the school term to go before heading off to France with 40 teenagers. All of a sudden it feels like that has come around quickly, but I think with everything so focused on the marathon I just hadn’t thought about what was to come afterwards. At least I didn’t have to go with my post-marathon funny walk lol!

How has your week been?
Any trips or races coming up?

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 – 29th 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.

Happy Friday! I don’t know about you, but I’ve found this an incredibly long week – couldn’t possibly be anything do to with running a marathon last weekend though 😉

While I was running my marathon on Sunday (full race report to follow) the eyes of the marathon running world were firmly fixed on Berlin, where Eliud Kipchoge was hoping to lower the mark in the men’s marathon. This result of this race was actually one of the things I checked when I was sitting down to eat after my race, and I’ll admit to a little disappointment that Kipchoge didn’t quite make it. Still, his efforts gave rise to a number of follow-up pieces from respected writers in the field looking at his training (just in case you fancy following his training programme!) and the factors which may have prevented him setting a new record. I can’t imagine the fact that I missed my goal too will cheer him up, although it’s definitely comforting to know that even the best runners don’t always achieve the times they want!

Although written before the race in Berlin, this next article is an interesting reminder of the difference between physical and mental barriers. It sets out the theory that mental barriers are much bigger than physical ones, that the belief something is possible makes it much more likely to happen. This is something I can definitely get behind: the mind is very powerful and belief can have a massive impact on achievement.

Anyone who has run a marathon knows that they are tough, however there are many runners who enjoy even longer, tougher (sometimes multi-day) races. And as with anything “out of the ordinary” to the typical non-runner, the big question is usually, why? A question academics at the University of Cardiff have attempted to answer. Interestingly, their findings suggest that the pain experienced may actually be one of the draws, along with a degree of escapism and simply having a story to tell. I may not have any desire to run an ultra, but I do understand that sort of thinking.

In other news, the “mad pooper” story I included last week continues to make the headlines. In a couple of now deleted videos, a spokesperson for the runner in question made reference to some mental health issues as a result of a brain injury, further complicating matters. It looks like this particular story is not over yet, and it doesn’t seem like we’re going to get to the truth of it any time soon.

And finally, do you ever watch a film and laugh at the unrealistic nature of any scenes involving running? Well it seems you’re not alone as Hannah Hartzell, writing for Women’s Running, is clearly fed up of the way Hollywood portrays our favourite sport. Have you got any other examples to add to her list?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

The Day After The Marathon…

26.2 miles is a long way on foot – heck it’s even a long way by car! – so running a marathon is always going to have an impact on the body. It’s one thing to race a 10k and go about your life normally, but there’s nothing quite like a marathon to take you (physically) from hero to zero. Here’s how the day after tends to go…

You get a special advance preview of old age
Waking up the morning after the marathon everything tends to feel fine…so long as you don’t move! Simply rolling over has been know to result in a weary muscle complaining, which means when you are finally forced out of bed (usually by the need to visit the toilet, the need to eat or the need to get ready for work) things can get pretty interesting. It’s at this point that you’ll find some scamp has messed with your legs overnight so they are now on backwards, your knees are reluctant to bend and your quads are a little disgruntled. Falling out of bed is a distinct possibility, and any forward movement will probably be a waddle. You might have run 26.2 miles the day before, but now reaching the kitchen for your morning coffee with have you out of breath!

Stairs are not your friend 
You’ll be convinced that either your home/workplace now has more stairs than previously or that someone has inflated each step to a greater height overnight. Climbing stairs feels like an Everest ascent and going downstairs has you contemplating a stair lift! If you’re at home then I recommend crawling up the stairs, and either going down backwards or on your bottom. At work either avoid the stairs completely (this is the day to take the lift!) or suck it up and tough it out – wearing your medal or finishers’ T-shirt can help to explain your sudden inability to move normally and constant grimace.

Compression socks for the win!
For me, this is the one thing I have to do to make a difference. I run the marathon in compression calf sleeves, put compression tights on afterwards and sleep in compression socks or calf sleeves. As I began drafting this post I had gloriously pink compression socks on under my work trousers and was quite surprised none of my pupils commented on the flash of pink around my ankles! Studies may be inconclusive on compression gear, but it definitely helps hold me together and feel better – and if nothing else I feel like my legs are getting a gentle hug all day!

Simple tasks are harder than usual
Getting out of bed, getting dressed, getting from A to B…all things that should be pretty straightforward, right? But the day after a marathon you’ll not only fall out of bed but you might need help to get dressed (I was almost defeated by my compression socks this week!) and if you have to get anywhere then leaving a bit earlier is a must – old ladies with walking sticks will pass you, the bus stop at the end of the road will seem to be miles away and you REALLY don’t want to have to “run” for the train! And if you are unlucky enough to have to go to work, don’t expect the most productive of days (but on the plus side you can tell EVERYBODY how you spent the previous day!).

There isn’t enough food in the world!
You carb loaded diligently, topped up your energy with an array of gels and inhaled some sort of post-race meal (could have been a burger, could have been pizza, chances are you didn’t exactly savour it!) but there’s still a calorie deficit to address. This is the day that healthy eating takes a back seat – nobody ran 26.2 miles to eat a salad! Instead, your meal plan is more like:

  • breakfast
  • second breakfast
  • morning snack
  • lunch
  • second lunch
  • afternoon snack
  • dinner
  • evening snack
  • supper

People will look on in awe as there never seems to be a moment when you’re not stuffing food into your face and seem to be putting away a frankly obscene amount. No promises you’ll be full, but it’s amusing seeing people’s faces as they observe feeding time!

And somewhere in all of that you start looking at your race photos and wondering when you might do it all again!

What are your post-marathon memories?