Week In Review – Me Time!!!

Hola! Finally a bit of space in my week as we enjoyed a two day break for “half term” here in Scotland. That meant just two teaching days, one inservice day and then a glorious four day weekend to relax, read and recuperate. Perfect!

Of course training was still front and centre (this marathon isn’t going to run itself, you know!) but there was a bit more room to get things done without rushing around all the time:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Swim + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

My week didn’t get off to the greatest start as I had hoped not to have to stay at school too late, but it turned out we had a meeting at the end of the day. By the time I got away I was REALLY ready for my Hatha yoga class. I decided this was a great time to try out some new kit to cheer me up. They both came from a website called Lucy Locket Loves and while I paid for the awesome Space Adventure leggings, the headband was a free gift as I volunteered as a product tester. I don’t normally wear this style of band but was really impressed as it was comfortable and stayed in place through the whole class. I loved how bright and cheery it was too.

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I’m quite impressed with the company as the owner sends friendly, personal emails and the packaging is gorgeous.

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The class itself was just what I needed to unwind – gentle stretching, relaxing music and dim lighting. Bliss!

We have an earlier finish on a Tuesday and I made a point of getting away pretty quickly. I headed straight for the gym to get my bike intervals done and since I had found the intensity level quite challenging last week, I took it down a notch in order to maintain the quality of my workout. I still worked hard as my red and sweaty grimace confirms!

sGuA6htqQ%uNhVnYJ99TuwThat evening I took advantage of my sister’s comp tickets for the current play at the theatre. It wasn’t a play I knew but was pretty powerful.

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On Wednesday we had our inservice day which meant no pupils, but a full day of meetings and planning. The real highlight of the day was the curry lunch laid on by the World Challenge group. They are preparing to go to Borneo and this formed part of their fundraising. It’s the third year in a row the curry lunch has taken place on the February inservice and it just gets more and more popular. It wasn’t the “done thing” to take too much on my first visit to the curry buffet, but I definitely didn’t hesitate to lead the charge and go back for seconds!

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That evening I got straight home to head out for a set of 500m form drills. I was a little wary as there had been some rather unexpected heavy snow in the morning and while most of it had melted away, there were still stretches of pavement that were slushy and slippy. I still set up my watch to do the intervals and decided that I would aim to do the workout but was prepared to ditch it for a steady run if the conditions weren’t good enough. As it turned out the first few intervals were over slippy paths but I was able to focus on good form while keeping the pace down, then as the underfoot conditions improved I was able to get some quality intervals in in the second half of the workout.

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I was also really entertained by this fantastic snow creation in our street (I think whoever built it must have used all the snow in the street as there wasn’t really much left!).

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I then had a really quick turnaround to get to orchestra. I’ve probably managed every other rehearsal this term which is a massive improvement on last year when I had to accept that I wouldn’t be playing in our spring concert, but this time I am going to make it.

After all that Thursday was a welcome relief. I actually allowed my usual alarm to go off just so I could have the pleasure of shutting it off and going back to sleep! I started my day with a walk to the gym to have a swim. Being able to take my time and with no other pressures on my day, I felt I got into a rhythm pretty quickly despite very little swimming of late. I really must try to fit it in more often moving forward. I spent the afternoon on some bits and pieces of tidying up then headed out to my Ashtanga yoga class in the evening. It was a small class again so once more we were able to try some newer postures, including working on our headstands. I’m really enjoying having the opportunity to try new things and am feeling the benefit of more yoga throughout the week.

I had an appointment in town on Friday morning so I walked there and ran a few errands before heading home again. After lunch I had my PT session with Steve and since my right shoulder was feeling tight (it flares up a bit from time to time) we did a lot of work to help that before some more specific exercises to help my running. As usual, we used the TRX and the Core Momentum Trainer. For the occasion I chose to wear my Wonder Woman leggings, because it’s good to feel like a superhero from time to time!

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Session done, I headed round the corner to have my nails done. I fancied something a bit different this time as I usually go for dark reds/purples. A sparkly silvery colour hit the spot!

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And then the weekend. Having already had a couple of days to myself meant I didn’t have a stack of things to do and was able to relax and enjoy myself. First up, of course, was parkrun. We’re still on the alternative course to allow the grass section to recover and to round off a week of madcap leggings I chose to wear my latest, and possibly maddest, pair.

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My favourite picture on them is the cartoon cats with unicorn horns!

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I was certain that my parkrun streak of each week being a bit faster than the one before would definitely be over but somehow found another few seconds to keep it alive. So including the New Year parkrun double that makes my 2018 “streak” 29:16 (Dundee and a trickier course), 27:20, 27:01, 26:31, 25:34, 24:56, 24:50, 24:43. I was slightly faster this time last year but I also had a stronger starting point with more consistent training at the tale end of the year, so that just motivates me to keep working hard and see if I can keep improving and get back to sub-24 form.

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The rest of the day was nice and chilled – coffee and bacon croissants with Steve’s brother, food shopping and some quality time on the sofa catching up on some reading. I finished reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and can highly recommend it.

On Sunday morning I got myself moving fairly sharp to head out for my 16 miles. I wanted to not only run my usual pattern of 2 easy, 1 harder with good form, but to break the bad habit I’ve been forming of having to stop for road crossings that could be avoidable. This made the run feel harder as I think I’ve been relying on those stops, but overall I was a little quicker than a comparable run this time last year so that’s a positive sign and I know the consistent running will make me stronger for race day.

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Once home and showered/fed we headed off to Edinburgh (hence why I wanted to be out a bit earlier). Steve has been planning to upgrade his iPad ever since I got mine in the summer but was waiting until he got his new phone as he knew he could trade that in against the new device. Today was the day to go and sort it all out and there was no way we were going to go to Edinburgh after a 16 mile run and not visit Hotel Chocolat for a hot drink. This time they had Easter specials (perhaps a little early, but who am I to judge!) and the picture on the sandwich board sold me before I even walked in the door! I ordered the Hot Crossed Caramel Hot Chocolat (the caramel was mixed with almond, orange, cinnamon and molasses. Delicious!) and yes, it was the chocolate bunny on the top that sealed the deal for me 😂

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By the time we’d done all that and driven home again I was pretty tired as my Sunday is usually pretty chilled after my long run. Good thing I had those extra days to relax beforehand!

And with that, another week came to an end. Apparently there are now 10 weeks until the marathon…

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Friday Finds – 16th February

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.

It’s Fri-yay! You would think that having a couple of days off work would mean I would be super-organised with my Friday Finds post, yet somehow I’ve contrived to be very busy (doing nothing of note) and find myself getting to this a bit late in the day – oops! I’ll perhaps be a bit briefer in introducing this week’s articles.

Let’s start with some geekery (and we all know I love a bit of running-related geekery!). Ian Williams of website Fetch Everyone has used the data uploaded to the site to update the formula for predicting marathon finish times, his assertion being that the old formula just didn’t seem to work for most runners. Realistically there’s no sure-fire way to predict as the marathon is a rather unpredictable beast, but it’s still interesting to look at the numbers and work out the possibilities.

Of course arguably the greatest marathoner of them all is Eliud Kipchoge, who has contrived to come to my attention several times this week through some interviews he has done. He may be the fastest marathon runner in history thanks to the Breaking2 project, but it’s good to know that he still struggles with the stairs the next day like the rest of us!

Taking a slightly different tack is this piece from The New York Times about challenge races. It’s US-based, but the principle remains the same regardless of where in the world you are. From my own (limited) experience of taking on such challenges, I have to agree that it does provide a new level of challenge, one in which it’s no longer about pace but more about keeping on going through multiple races or up flight after flight of stairs. For those who are looking for something new, a challenge race/event might just be the answer.

But for many running is not about racing lots (although that can be great fun) but about chalking up experiences. Yes, a race can be an experience in itself, but what about all those training runs to prepare? This year I’m trying to focus more on the the process rather than the outcome so this article from Trail Runner Magazine really resonated with me. I’d love to know what you think.

And finally, with a “significant birthday” looming this year (I know, hard to believe I’m 21 already 😂😂😂) I’m thinking about how to mark the occasion so my eye was caught by this article in The Guardian. I must say, running my age in km or miles all at once would be a little further than I would want to go on a weekday in term time (damn you increasing age!) but perhaps a variation where I run my age that week or run my age in minutes might be more do-able. What would you do?

Happy reading!
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Too Much To Do!

The annual “crunch time” that is February continued to rumble on this past week as I had ANOTHER parents’ evening and two sets of report cards to write.  It would all be fine if I didn’t have to teach as well lol!

Fortunately I was still able to fit in most of my training and find a bit of time for myself in there – experience has taught me to do what I can to avoid overload at this time of year!

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym plus sports massage
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 14 miles

Going to a Hatha yoga class on a Monday evening is proving to be a great decision. Monday can be a bit of a shock to the system as it is, and as my mileage increases I can find myself quite weary as the week begins. I’m finding the yoga class a great way to take some time for myself and the timing means I don’t have to rush about in order to get there. This week we were in a new venue as my teacher has been looking for the perfect location for her yoga and pilates classes. I really liked the studio space she found – easy to access, nearby parking and it felt really chilled with low lighting and peaceful pictures on the wall. This week was a trial to see how the venue fared and I suspect it’s going to be a permanent move. No arguments here!

IMG_5545On Tuesday I worked a bit later to try and get on top of some of my reports. When I arrived at the gym I realised I hadn’t checked my training programme to see how Steve was progressing my bike reps this month and yup, you guessed it, a longer work interval but the same rest as I have been doing. The number of reps came back down but I found the last couple a bit of a challenge so dropped the intensity level by one in order to get a quality workout.

IMG_5546With a sports massage booked I had no time to squeeze in a swim but I’m hoping to pay an extra visit to the pool when we have our half term weekend next week. The massage was just what I was needing to flush out some of the tension beginning to build up in my legs and it helps to keep me feeling as fresh as possible throughout the training cycle.

Wednesday was the parents’ evening. I was already miffed to be missing a run and this was compounded as due to the way the two evenings had been organised for this year group, I had far fewer appointments and, unfortunately, they were really spread out so I was in for the duration! I made use of the time in between appointments to get some more reports done (I proof-read them the next day just in case!) and although mentally worn out at the end of the day, I felt better for making a dent in my workload.

Of course I felt pretty tired all day Thursday as a result, but I had my Ashtanga class to look forward to. There were only 2 of us in the class and both of us go regularly so that meant the teacher could move a little more quickly through the sequence than when there are less experienced practitioners in the class. As a result, we were able to try some postures we don’t normally do which was great fun. I particularly enjoyed having a go at a headstand and was able to hold it for a few seconds with the teacher helping to support me. Something to work on perhaps…!

I spent as much time as I could on Friday working on my reports and when the school day finished (we’re a bit earlier on Fridays) I decided to stay and get the last 10 done before the weekend. I’ll still need to proof read them, but it was such a relief to get them all written as I know there’s plenty more work to come this term! I did, however, have to sacrifice my PT session with Steve as I needed to be home to take delivery of a parcel (my new phone and I had missed the delivery driver twice already – oops!). Not ideal, but another example of how it’s ok to skip the odd workout when life gets in the way without it being a total disaster!

The rest of the evening was nice and relaxing and after we had eaten Steve discovered an unopened bottle of mulled wine from Christmas. Just to prove we’re still rock ‘n’ roll we not only had some, but served it in Christmas mugs. Party on!

IMG_5551On parkrunday we were still using the alternate course on the path just like last week. This time the conditions were a bit better (no sleet or painfully cold fingers!) but I was doubtful that I could maintain my current streak of each parkrun in 2018 being a bit faster. I’m not delusional and know it has to end some time, in fact I’ve been fairly certain for the last couple of weeks that I had reached my current limit there, but as it turned out I had a few more seconds in me so my 24:50 kept the streak alive. I was a little miffed to lose my Royal Flush Negative Split by just a second though – gah!

IMG_5603Steve’s brother was busy but the two of us still headed into town for our post-parkrun bacon croissant which was satisfyingly well filled this week. Just the thing!

IMG_5605The rest of Saturday was spent getting my new phone set up (something I actually quite enjoy) and making sure I was logged into all my apps again. My dad always takes my old phone so he’s excited to be getting an upgrade too!

Of course we finished the day with Steve’s homemade pizza, this week a belated celebration of (Inter?)National Pizza Day on Friday. I don’t know what TV programmes my parents are watching over in the States, but just about every day my mum sends me a text informing me of the random holiday being marked (my favourites so far include Spaghetti Day, Book Your Travel Day and Hugging Day). This time I actually already knew about Pizza Day as I had entered a virtual race to mark the occasion. Yes, I did enter because the medal was shaped like a slice of pizza. Wouldn’t you?

2yW%4W28T%W90AXKvgShugAnd then it was Sunday. 14 miles on the schedule and it was another bright but cold morning. I plotted a route fairly similar to last week’s and used the same pattern of running every third mile faster, with a focus on good form. There were some points when I felt a little sluggish, but I suspect that’s a reflection of the busy week and missing my midweek run rather than anything else, and my overall average was still where I wanted it to be so I’m not giving it any more thought. It’s still all about the process and part of the process is runs where things feel a bit tougher. I know it will all come together when it needs to.

IMG_5607Later in the afternoon we headed out for our usual Sunday afternoon coffee and Steve bought me a Valentine cake. It must be love!
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The Valentine theme carried on through dinner as we indulged in our M&S Valentine Dine-In meal:

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Salmon, avocado and prawn starter

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Rack of lamb with garlic & rosemary crust served with triple cooked chips (rack of lamb supper? 😂)

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Black Forest rose dessert

I even did my very best to taste it all and not just inhale (the runger is getting real now!). The deal also included a small box of chocolates and a bottle of prosecco so it was good value and all delicious. A lovely way to end the weekend.

How is your training going?
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
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Friday Finds – 9th February

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.

Friday! And a most welcome one at that after another loooooong week! Time to get the weekend started (at long last) with a few bits and pieces I’ve been reading this week.

I’ll start with a rather philanthropic story my sister sent me. I knew that many races collect up the throwaway clothes runners use to keep warm before the start of the race – a practice particularly true of marathons – launder them and donate them to charity. I never really thought about how much they were actually collecting until I read this, though. I suppose I always imagine it to be a few bags, but with thousands upon thousands of runners in some bigger races, there’s massive scope to collect a hefty amount. And that’s exactly what is being reported about the Walt Disney World marathon weekend. Across all the races that weekend over 13,000lb of clothing was collected! To be honest, I had no idea what that really meant but the ever reliable internet tells me that it’s not far off 6000kg! That’s a massive charitable donation, but I wouldn’t really fancy being in charge of the laundry!!!

Also catching my eye was this piece from Canadian Running magazine. Of late I’ve been changing my use of social media to avoid having my precious time sucked away, yet when I do log in it’s generally to interact with select groups I am involved with. The writer of this piece seems to share my view that while there is a lot of time wasting content out there, there is also value to be found…so long as you are selective in who you follow! What do you think?

In a similar vein (and from the same source) comes this short discussion of coach Mario Fraioli’s philosophy on training. This really resonates with me given my goals this year to focus more on the process and prioritise rest and self-care.

But I also couldn’t resist including something a little more inflammatory this week. I have been getting excited over the field for this year’s London marathon and the prospect of world record attempts, however Martin Fritz Huber, writing for Outside, takes issue with the use of pacers. It’s an interesting debate, and perhaps his idea to have different records for paced and unpaced records has some merit, but for now I’m simply excited to see some of the best in the world fighting it out along the streets of the capital.

And finally, I recently found myself quite excited to try a couple of new flavours of energy gel (marathon training is thrilling that way 😂) so was amused to find I’m not the only one obsessed with the flavours. Step in Runner’s World who have “selflessly” tested all of the flavours from prolific brand GU to create the definitive listing of the best (and worst!). Based on some of these flavours, perhaps it’s time I gave this brand a go!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Frantic February!

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

Here’s how the past week looked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is your training going?
How do you measure progress? Is it about the outcome or the journey?
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Friday Finds – 2nd February

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.

Hello and welcome to February! I hope you’re ready to attack the new month with enthusiasm. I’m here to bring you your first instalment of Friday Finds for this month…

I think we have to kick off with the story everyone has been talking about this week – Strava. Back in November the popular app/website (if it’s not on Strava then it didn’t happen, right?) launched their latest heat maps, an interactive map showing the most popular running/cycling routes worldwide. To be honest, it looks really cool! But this week it became apparent that military personnel were inadvertently revealing the location of their bases by uploading their workout data, leading Strava to release a statement. It seems to me that some users’ privacy settings might need a bit of attention!

There’s more news from the London marathon this week. UK readers will likely remember the big story from last year’s race came not from the elite race but from the club runners right behind them as Matthew Rees stopped to help David Wyeth, a complete stranger who was struggling in the finishing straight. The moment was televised and drew a lot of attention, including Wyeth’s running club offering to pay for Rees to run in the 2018 race. And run it he will, but alongside Wyeth. The two have become good friends since their paths crossed in London, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them featured on the TV coverage this year. I love when running brings people together and makes good things happen.

Another runner with a challenge ahead is Colin McCourt. If the name seems familiar then it’s because his 2017 challenge to break 16 minutes in the 5k featured in a post back in November. Now, he has set himself the new challenge of a sub-2:30 marathon by the end of 2018. He may be a former GB international competitor in the 1500m, but the marathon will be a very different experience for a man who has never run longer than 90 minutes before! His first marathon will be London, so I suspect he’ll also make it into the TV coverage – I’m already so excited to watch this year’s event!

Speaking of challenges, many people have set themselves the challenge of walking 10,000 steps per day. In fact, with so many people using fitness trackers/apps, it’s something the majority of us are keeping an eye on. But journalist (and doctor) Michael Mosley, in a programme for the BBC, claims that perhaps this isn’t the measure of health so many believe it to be. That may shatter the illusions of many, but I must say I feel much better when I move more and that must be important too. I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

And finally, runners often find strange things when they’re out putting in the miles, prompting Runner’s World to ask readers to share some of theirs. Some of them are truly bizarre and you have to wonder how these items came to be left/lost. What’s the strangest thins you’ve ever seen on a run?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

The Year of Me!!! – January Update

As I set my goals for 2018 I declared it to be The Year of Me i.e. a year of developing positive habits and adding value to my life. In the past I have checked in with my goals on a quarterly basis, but since this year is more about the processes than the outcomes, I’m aiming to provide a short update at the end of each month to keep myself accountable and see how I am getting on.

1. Run 1000km (621 miles)
I’ve completed every run on my training schedule for January and it looks like I’ll finish up with 70-something miles. In 2017 I ran 67 miles in January so I’m already up on that. So far so good!

IMG_53742. Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I’m loving this one. Currently I go to 2 yoga classes per week – Hatha on a Monday and Ashtanga on a Thursday. I signed up to Yoga with Adriene‘s 30 day yoga for January and have been doing that on almost all the other days of the week. It’s tricky to fit in on a Wednesday if I’m going to orchestra, but overall there are very few days in January that I haven’t done any yoga. I’m already feeling the benefit of it so this is definitely a valuable habit to create.

3. Read at least 30 books
Currently finishing up my 4th book of the year which puts me ahead of schedule. I think I was ahead at the start of 2017 but fell behind so I’m hoping to avoid that this time. Over the last week or two I’ve tried to carve out a bit of time in the evening to read a little before going to bed (where I always read to help me fall asleep) so if I’m able to continue that then I might find time to read even more books. That will definitely make me happy!

4. Be in bed by 10pm at least three times per week
I wasn’t sure if I’d be very good at this one, but I’m finding that as I settle down to read I’m more inclined to head upstairs and get ready for bed around 9:30pm. I’m using the sunset feature on my Lumie light to help me wind down and can be asleep just after 10. Right now I’m feeling pretty well rested but this is a busy term so I’ll see how that progresses.

5. Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I’ll admit to missing this the week I said goodbye to my cat as I was too unsettled, but I did make up for it by watching 2 talks the following weekend. So far it’s mainly been short talks but as this habit grows I’ll hopefully find more time for the longer ones I have saved in my list. There are just so many good talks out there that I want to watch!

6. Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
I’m actually about 3-ish weeks behind on most of the podcasts I listen to, but am getting back into the swing of listening to them daily and have so far listened to 8-10 per week. I know this will increase as my long runs get longer plus I want to get back into the habit of a morning walk as that really sets me up for the day, so that will give me another chance to listen to something.

7. Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
This month I knew I would write about Morven so responded to a photo prompt titled Friend.

8. Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I’m happy with how this is going too. I’ve stopped looking at my phone when I wake up which means I’m actually ready quicker and take a few minutes to check emails and notifications over breakfast. I then largely ignore my phone until I’m home for the evening and do the same thing BEFORE I settle down to read. Being more into my book means I’m less likely to get sucked in by my phone at bedtime so this is probably having a real impact on my rest, my reading and my bedtime, which will in turn benefit my running. Brilliant!

January may not have been the happiest month for me as I said goodbye to Morven, but the positive habits I have adopted have helped me to cope by providing a routine and adding things I enjoy/benefit from to my life. Now to build on this in February…

How are you getting on with your goals for the year?
What positive habits have you created?

Week in Review – No More Snow

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

Here’s how my week shaped up:

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

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

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

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

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The windswept look lol!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday Finds – 26th January

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

Friday again! It’s the last Friday in January and hopefully some lighter evenings (and better weather!) are on the way. For now, here are some bits and pieces for you to curl up with on this chilly January evening…

Given the time of year, you might be forgiven for having ditched your New Year’s Resolutions already. Motivation tends to dwindle quite quickly, hence the frequent failure of resolutions. But what if there was something else you could do to help those motivation levels rise? That’s what Brad Stulberg discusses in his latest column for Outside, which reinforces the idea of creating habit. Once that habit is created, motivation levels matter much less.

Also from Outside comes the Sweat Science column by Alex Hutchinson. For those of us worried about becoming injured, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the better rested we are, the more robust we will be – no brainer really! As soon as I’ve finished this post I’ll be heading to bed to make sure I get plenty of sleep to help my body repair and ward off injury.

One of my favourite TV events, and one which is often the inspiration for others to start running, is the London marathon. In recent years it has taken place after my marathon and I’ve enjoyed a lazy morning on the sofa watching the action. This year will be a bit different as I’ll be on my final Sunday run before taking part in the Stirling marathon, however following the announcements of this year’s elite competitors I’ll be making sure I time my run so I can still watch the races unfold. It was already looking pretty exciting with a head-to-head between Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, but now things are really hotting up with the news that Mary Keitany is targeting the World Record which has been held by Paula Radcliffe since 2003. She’s probably the runner who has come the closest, so this will be a great story to follow. I’m excited already!

Something slightly different comes from Tony Phillips in his column for Runner’s Radar. Since 2010 Phillips has been running at least a mile each day and uses his column to reflect on what that journey has taught him. This column is about leadership and is a reminder to us all that being a leader isn’t necessarily about charisma and public speaking, but listening to others and believing in them. Taken that way, we all have leadership potential, and since leaders are also great influencers, those of us who run are in a position to influence others frequently. But do we all see ourselves that way?

And finally, if you’re looking for some entertainment than why not check out some of the stories Runner’s World has gathered together that gently poke fun at the running community. It’s one of those cases where many are funny because they’re not too far from the truth!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Positive Action

I want to start with a thank you to everyone who has been in touch with kind thoughts since I shared that I had to say goodbye to my beautiful cat last weekend. I really appreciate all your messages.

As a result, this past week was strange but I found it helpful to have my training routine. It gave me a focus and helped me to make some decisions (more about that at the end of this post).

I have continued with regular yoga (most days that I didn’t have a class) and my week ended up like this:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps + a swim
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

Monday was, quite frankly, awful. I was a bit of a tearful mess and while I did manage to keep it together to teach my classes (a welcome distraction) by the time I got to my yoga class I was definitely feeling emotional. I knew that yoga would soothe me and I always feel better afterwards. I did, but in a different way. People have said to me before that yoga can release emotions, that they have found themselves crying during their practice, but since it’s always made me feel relaxed and happy, I was convinced it wouldn’t have that effect on me. Turns out, it is possible to shed a few tears in downward dog without anyone realising! I suspect the release helped though.

I felt a little better on Tuesday – I even risked some mascara (although realised on my drive to work that it may have been a mistake!). After work I headed to the gym for my bike reps. There had been a little snow around but nothing as I drove back and headed towards the gym. By the time I had changed and emerged from the changing room, there was heavy snow falling outside! I added two reps to the set of intervals I completed last week and already felt stronger completing them. After that I went for my first swim in AGES. It was perhaps not my best effort, but by the end of my session I was feeling like I was getting my rhythm back again.

There had to be a bit of a change on Wednesday because of the snow. I was supposed to do some hill reps, but thanks to a bit more snow during the day, Steve told me the underfoot conditions just weren’t good enough for my planned workout but that a short run in the snow would be possible. I got myself all bundled up in winter kit and headed out. It was tough going as the snow seemed to sap all my energy, but I loved it. There’s something invigorating about running in fresh snow that can’t be beaten. It was only as I was running that it crossed my mind I could have gone to the gym and run on the treadmill instead, but I think the fact that I never even considered that as an option tells you how I feel about that!

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IMG_5354Orchestra was cancelled because of the weather so post-run Steve and I were able to eat together then watch a little tv. I’m still finding things like this a little difficult as I’m so used to the cat curling up on my lap as soon as I commit myself to a seat. That’s going to take a bit of getting used to!

Thursday was cold and there was still snow on the ground, but I was really looking forward to my Ashtanga class. I’ve been doing a little yoga most days this month and feel stronger and more focused because of it. It felt so good to work through the Ashtanga poses (the class I go to works through about half of the postures under the guidance of our teacher) and there were no tears so I was obviously feeling a bit more at peace with the events of last weekend.

On Friday I was back at the studio with Steve for a PT session. My focus is on exercises that will benefit my running, principally by improving my strength and mobility. For me this means working around my upper back, my hip mobility and knee drive so this week’s session included the TRX, bar bell and Core Momentum Trainer. Quite tough on my arms so I was feeling it afterwards!

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Guess who jumped in the shot again!

Still in need of cheer, I decided to break out one of the other pairs of leggings I ordered recently. These ones depict my favourite Disney movie (and favourite Disney princess!) so they did make me feel a little better. Clearly the key to cheering me up is new workout leggings – the crazier the better!

IMG_5355As we went to bed that night we were aware that a number of parkruns not too far from us had already been called off so we weren’t sure what the morning would bring. Ours was provisionally on, but it was 50/50 depending on how much the snow/ice froze overnight. Saturday morning was cold (below freezing again at -4C) but thanks to a light dusting of snow the course was runnable and we were able to go ahead on the usual route. Clearly not a day to run hard, so I decided to ditch my earphones, ran at a comfortable pace and enjoyed the experience. Running in the crunchy snow, I’m finding, is something I rather enjoy and it seems that 183 other people agreed with me!

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IMG_5373In the picture below, there are two paths hidden. Our route takes us initially to the right then returns from the left. No sign of any path right now!

IMG_5434I felt invigorated after the run, as well as pleasantly surprised at my time. Once I was more sure of my footing I got progressively faster to finish with the revered Royal Flush Negative Split and, having expected to be around 27 minutes (a 9-ish minute mile feels good in these conditions) I did it a bit quicker.

IMG_5393As usual it was a quick freshen up at home then back out to meet Steve’s brother for our Saturday coffee. The place we like to go to always shuts for a couple of weeks at the start of the year but was open again so it was back to the bacon croissants. I really missed those!

IMG_5433The rest of the day was pretty relaxing. Steve and I headed out to the farm shop for some things in the afternoon and decided to stay for a mint hot chocolate and scone. Both were delicious!

IMG_5435 I also spent the whole day with a fairly persistent earworm…

I awoke fairly early on Sunday, had some breakfast (porridge with honey is my choice right now) and got organised to run. The snow was still there (not enough change in temperature for it to start melting) so rather than worry about my planned approach of every third mile faster, I simply decided to run. I knew that I wanted to re-visit the woodland path I ran on last week as part of my run so I could see it in the snow and getting there by a slightly different route meant that my run would total 10 miles.

IMG_5438I ran to feel and largely ignored my watch as pace was irrelevant. At this point in training a run is a run and I’m convinced that running in the snow is making me stronger as I’m working hard on changeable terrain. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed my run and would have happily gone further. The woodland path was lovely (no heron this week though) and I passed so many dog walkers and families out enjoying the snow (quite a few with sledges). What a great way to start the day!

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IMG_5439It may have been a strange week, but these snowy runs have really made me feel a bit better as I’ve enjoyed the change of pace and scenery. The cold air has cleared my mind and while I’m still sad and missing my wee cat, the pain is easing.

Another reason for this is the decision I made about how to channel my energies in a positive way moving forward. I got my cat from Cats Protection, a charity which seeks to create a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs, when she was just 6 weeks old. She had been found living under a shed, presumably abandoned, and I loved her from the start as we quickly formed a tight bond. It breaks my heart to think that there are so many cats who don’t get that opportunity, and while I will likely bring more cats into my life in future, I can’t give a home to all of them. What I can do is raise funds to help improve the lives of cats in the care of Cats Protection. CP will never put a healthy cat down and will do whatever they can to find the cats in their care a loving home. But this, of course, takes money. In 2018 I will be dedicating my miles to the memory of my cat and raising funds for my local Cats Protection branch. It just feels like the right thing to do and I know my cat would approve.

First up is the Stirling marathon, where I will run in a CP top. Having this motivation will help to get me out the door on the coldest days and work towards my next goal. I’d love it if you could support me by making a donation. The equivalent cost of just one cup of coffee could enrich the life of a cat who deserves some love. Thank you.

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