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.

cldE4VQZTze9+kUVUC6a4w
7%YSL37eQhKa1D4TbDELog
I’m quite impressed with the company as the owner sends friendly, personal emails and the packaging is gorgeous.

j9B93Zn3Q1+KXWJiDrjW2A
0PH8HBlVRl2gr60B%V%Lxw
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.

7c%qeKRzQGyqF7yHy8z+NQ
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!

CSTSs3WDQSGdrWDDofSlaw
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.

Ufh6DhZQRW2jon1iw6XifQ
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!).

YhQ1aBYpTX6NfIdB7DyB2w
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!

0gBdxuz1THC0i%7irQg7hQ
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!

S%IxJn1PTraUO+TcmTKvCg
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.

rBAxzJsoTzSqgFl9EWM7Qw
My favourite picture on them is the cartoon cats with unicorn horns!

sw6ABeZOTLWCgSCuuh9A9w
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.

IMG_0074
eRnsrTzvQSKzhsoM07hfEA
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.

cc8U83zFQCet7p%y4gmoHg
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 😂

oL9qR7clSGmu5KR+HBJzNQ
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…

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!
Do you like to wear patterned workout gear?
Read any good books lately?

Advertisements

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!

IMG_5447

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!

IMG_5515
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.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!
0647882E-6062-44D3-BD6F-381852603418

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!

IMG_5353
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!

IMG_5358

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!

IMG_5369
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!

IMG_5437
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.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Week In Review – Happy New Year!

Wow! I’ve now been writing these weekly updates for a year! What was originally going to be a short series of posts to document my training leading up to the 2017 Paris marathon soon became a permanent fixture as I enjoyed writing them so much. So here we go with the first update of 2018…

Monday – New Year Triple
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – light workout
Thursday – 5 miles
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

Monday was, of course, New Year’s Day and I was starting the year with not one but THREE runs! I already wrote a post with all the details (you can find it here if you missed it) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only did I have the satisfaction of getting the first 10 miles of the year under my belt, but I worked up a pretty decent appetite to enjoy the delicious steak pie we got from the local butcher. And to cap it all, Steve made another sherry trifle Well worth all the effort!

5DA0CB10-E8F7-47B4-9E9E-EDDBE771D905
IMG_5230
IMG_5231We later learned that 108 people did the Perth/Dundee double, but I was blown away by this stat from parkrun HQ:

fullsizeoutput_2373Tuesday was a little more indulgent and restful. It was Steve’s brother’s birthday so after a pretty leisurely morning we walked over there (the other side of town!) for a bit of a family gathering. A couple of drinks and some delicious party food was a nice way to round off the festive season.

On Wednesday a hint of “normality” resumed as Steve went back to work, leaving me to my own devices. Don’t worry though, there was plenty to entertain me! I had made plans with my friend from work to catch up over the break and at the last minute we discovered this would be our only chance. My friend lives in St Andrews and is a member of the leisure facilities at the Old Course Hotel. She has been trying to go for a swim every day and invited me to take advantage of a guest pass she had and join her. I got to use the awesome Roman-style pool which made me feel like a character in a Jane Austen novel “taking the waters” in Bath and she got the chance to have someone show her some of the machines in the gym as she hadn’t yet been in there. I think my favourite thing was going up to the rooftop spa. It was a crisp and sunny day and it felt amazing to be sitting in the warm, bubbly water whilst the air around was quite cool. Perfect! No photos as my phone was safely locked away, but we did get some nice views from the top floor when we had a coffee afterwards.

IMG_5234
IMG_5235Thursday was all about getting myself sorted out. I began the day with a run then had some errands in town later on. I have to admit it was one of those days when I had to persuade myself out the door to run as it was grey and cold, but I felt sure I would enjoy it once I was out. I picked one of my favourite routes and all was fine for the first mile until my legs reminded me about Monday’s endeavours. I ignored them and carried on, only to find myself caught in a rain shower about half way round. But once home, warm and dry I found that I had rather enjoyed the run after all. I knew it!

IMG_5240I took a rest day on Friday and made use of the time to myself to do some tidying up and get the Christmas decorations all packed away. It always makes me sad to take the tree down, but at the same time it’s satisfying to feel that everything is tidy. I also got to grips with a bit of re-organisation of my bookshelves as I was keen to make a few changes but was worried about destroying my nail polish (I’m getting a bit high maintenance lol!). Friday was ideal as I got my nails re-done later in the afternoon. Even the festive nails have gone now, but at least I feel neat ready for the start of term.

IMG_5251One of my favourite things about the Christmas break has been the number of parkruns I’ve been able to do. The whole point is that there’s just one per week, but at Christmas and New Year there is the option of an extra run (or two) so while a break extending over three weekends should have resulted in three parkruns, over the festive period I’ve actually completed six! The last of the six was Saturday morning, however the course conditions weren’t too great so we used the alternative route which is two and a bit laps of the park on the path. It was supposed to be pacer day, but the RD decided to cancel the pacers given the conditions. The path was a bit slippy in places so I still took it easy, but I always enjoy the community aspect of parkrun and it was good to be running.

IMG_5300The rest of Saturday was the usual routine – coffee with Steve’s brother, food shopping and a relaxing afternoon at home. Oh the glamour! Although there was an exciting moment when this dropped through the letterbox:
IMG_5314It’s from a virtual race I entered to run 5k between Christmas and New Year. I definitely had that covered! (And yes, I did wear it around the house for a bit!).

Since Sunday was the last day I could have a leisurely start before the new school term, I took advantage of the chance to lie in bed a little longer all snuggled in with the cat before getting organised for my run. Rather alarmingly, my weather apps were telling me that it either was or would feel like -5C, so I got myself well bundled up in my cosiest running gear to brave the elements. The all terrain shoes got another airing as they’re best on frosty paths and I looked a little like I might be away to shout, “stand and deliver” and stop a carriage, but at least I was warm enough!

IMG_5316I ran 10k at a fairly easy pace and despite the cold I enjoyed the run. My fitness isn’t quite as I would like it to be thanks to being unwell in December, but it is what it is so I’m not going to worry about it. There’s nothing quite like a cycle of marathon training to sort out your fitness!

Now it’s time to get my head down for a new school term and a marathon build up. Let’s go!

How did you begin the year?
What is your next goal?

Week In Review – New Wheels!

Hello! I hope you’re well. This week was another busy one for me and not overly exciting on the running/fitness front, but still a lot of fun. Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for their weekly linkup.

Thanks to lots of things going on, I had to be pretty efficient with my time this week. Unfortunately by the end of the week my body was screaming at me to take a break so I listened (I know, who am I?!?) and made some changes. Here’s how things ended up:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – 5 miles
Wednesday – rest (parents’ evening)
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k rest

I suppose the general tone for the week was set on Monday. I had it in mind to go for a swim after work since there were no meetings. I also had to nip to the supermarket for a few bits and pieces. As things turned out, I went a little “off piste” with my shopping list!

In brief, I lease my car and my current agreement is coming to an end in March, however the garage had contacted me with an offer they thought I might be interested in which would mean changing earlier to get a better price. I agreed to go in and take a look at the car/run some numbers and the upshot was that in addition to porridge oats, honey and teabags, I also ended up buying a car on Monday! All that and I still managed to squeeze in a swim before heading home – efficiency at its best!

And to cap it all off, Monday was also day 500 of my step goal streak. That’s a lot of steps!

fullsizeoutput_22eaOn Tuesday I had a decision to make. I knew that thanks to a parents’ evening on Wednesday I could only manage one of my midweek sessions – either the bike or a run. I decided that a run would be of greater benefit and took advantage of our slightly earlier finish on Tuesdays to get out and run 5 miles. It was dark, of course, but I was nice and visible thanks to my flashing shoe light!

IMG_4718
IMG_4722No workout at all on Wednesday. Frankly it was just long as I left at 7:45am and didn’t get home again until about 8:45pm!!! All I had time for was a cup of tea in front of the tv then straight to bed.

As a result of an intense Wednesday, Thursday felt like it was just a continuation of the same day. I was knackered and couldn’t wait to get to my yoga class. For some reason our teacher wasn’t there and there was another teacher covering, but I’ve done a few classes with her before. I like her but her approach is slightly different so the class is never quite the same. Not a problem through as I still get my yoga fix and it can be interesting to get some different tips for progressing through postures.

On Friday we had an inservice day, which means the pupils were off and we had a day of meetings and planning. It’s not my favourite kind of day, but things improved dramatically at morning interval when one of the office staff brought her puppy in for a visit. Of course I was straight in for puppy cuddles (and lots of puppy kisses!) and headed into the next part of the day with a smile on my face.

Unfortunately, by the end of the day I was starting to feel the effects of the busy week. When I get really tired I tend to experience similar symptoms to the start of a cold – sore throat and aches – but listening to my body and resting quickly resolves it. In this instance, I cancelled my planned session with Steve and headed home to relax. I had a few things I wanted to get done but wanted a nap first so got settled in my favourite chair and closed my eyes, thinking I would nap for about 30-40 minutes. But when I opened my eyes it had been almost 2 hours!!! I DEFINITELY needed that sleep!

I was feeling better so Steve and I headed out to eat. I had thought it might be “steak week” (my favourite) but instead the special was a mixed grill. I wasn’t sure if I would manage it all with a lower training volume, but also knew that if Steve ordered it and I didn’t then I would regret it!

fullsizeoutput_22e9I didn’t quite finish the chips, but ate all the rest and it was awesome!

After a good sleep I felt much better on Saturday morning so saw no reason not to go to parkrun, but rather than push for a time I decided to run to feel and plan to be a bit slower. This meant finishing closer to 25 minutes than sub-24, but it was what my body needed that day. I also broke out the Salomon Speedcross shoes for the first time this winter – a definite seasonal marker!

IMG_4724
IMG_4725Post-parkrun Steve went into town to meet his brother but I decided to take some time for myself and meet him later on to get the food shopping. But first, I wanted to explore some of the events happening in town as part of the Christmas lights being switched on.

First, it was open house at the theatre. It has been closed for two (maybe three, I can’t remember properly) years for a major refurbishment/extension and since I worked in there as a student I was keen to look around the newly re-opened building. It really felt like the beautiful, refurbished auditorium I’m so familiar with had been put into a whole new building, but the updates are fantastic and offer so much scope for future events.

IMG_4729
IMG_4731After that I set off in search of reindeer but only found camels(!), ponies and donkeys.

IMG_4733
IMG_4737
IMG_4738I also went to watch a giant ice sculpture being created.

IMG_4739
IMG_4740My last port of call was less exciting as I went to the chemist to get my winter flu jab (amusingly, the pharmacist recognised me from parkrun and told me I had helped her on a pacer week. Apparently I had “gently encouraged” her!). After having the flu in 2013 I make sure to get this injection every year as I really don’t want to repeat that experience. I’ve never had a problem with the jab beyond a slightly achy arm, but this time I didn’t feel too great for the rest of the day (a known side effect), perhaps because I had been feeling a little run down.

But later in the afternoon I had an important appointment so had to pull myself together for that. Can you guess? Yup, I went to collect my car…

The garage is family run and always provides nice little touches to make you feel appreciated. I was given a glass of fizz (non-alcoholic as I had to drive home!), had my name on the big screen and my car was waiting for me in the handover bay all under wraps – exciting!

IMG_4741
IMG_4742
IMG_4743
IMG_4745I also got a lovely bunch of flowers to thank me for my custom.

IMG_4746It’s basically a newer model of the car I already had, and a different colour, but that’s ideal for me and it’s quite nice to have something to brighten up these cold winter days. I just have to work out all the entertainment system as that’s had an upgrade since my last car so is really the only thing that is different for me to get to grips with.

Once home I had really had enough so got my pyjamas on and got comfy in front of the tv, not really feeling my best.

On Sunday morning Steve headed off to run in a club event and I took advantage of the chance to have a lie in and a pretty lazy morning. I was feeling pretty much back to normal but had made the decision not to run and give my body a chance to reset. Instead, I put all my things back in my car then headed off for a walk in the crisp November air as I wanted to get a bit of fresh air and exercise. I maybe didn’t achieve lots with my day, but sometimes you need to take a step back and relax. I’ll catch up on everything else now I feel more refreshed.

IMG_4748
IMG_4747My week ended, as ever, with a nice bubble bath to set me up for the week ahead. It’s going to be another busy one!

How do you know when you need to slow things down or take a break?
Ever had the flu?

Week In Review – Back On It!

For the second week of my break from school, I had two main aims. Firstly, to get a bit of rest and recover not just from the term before but the jam-packed trip to France (not that I’m complaining about that one!) and to re-establish the routine, if not the intensity of my training. As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

With no immediate races on the horizon, I can enjoy a bit of easing off, but at the same time don’t want to lose loads of fitness. This week I wanted to get back to my usual routine, but keeping the intensity down for now. Here’s how things ended up:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike @ the gym
Wednesday – easy run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – trail run with Steve

Monday was a funny day. It was wet, unusually dark and thanks to a combination of debris from forest fires in Spain/Portugal and Hurricane Ophelia bringing Sahara sands north, the air had a strange, almost apocalyptic orange hue (which was even stronger the further south you travelled in the UK). All I wanted to do was curl up and hibernate, but I forced myself out the door to get moving and decided on a swim. I actually couldn’t tell you the last time I went for a swim. For a variety of reasons, I just haven’t been to the pool lately so I had no idea what to expect as I headed there (walking to make sure I got my steps for the day!). My swimming can be questionable at the best of times, however it felt not too bad and didn’t take me long to settle into a rhythm. It felt nice to be in the water again, and it helped my calves which were a bit weary from my return to running over the preceding weekend. Once home I had a lovely relaxing afternoon catching up with some TV.

On Tuesday I took myself back to the gym, this time to use the bikes. During my marathon training cycle I was doing intervals on the bike to help boost my fitness, however I didn’t want to jump straight back into those just yet. I did, however, want to feel my legs spinning round under me so decided on a half hour cycle. I got all set up with my Kindle in front of me (I wasn’t aiming to set any speed records!) and the time just flew by. I was actually enjoying my book so much that I decided to follow my workout with a coffee stop so I could read a bit more before heading home.

IMG_4412Despite really “only” having this one week to myself, I opted to sacrifice Wednesday to the greater good and headed in to work. I was conscious that I still hadn’t done anything about my wall displays since moving to a new classroom for this year and knew that if I didn’t go in we would be at the Christmas holidays with the walls still bare. My good friend was also going in so I took the chance to have a catch up with her too. I stripped the old backing paper off the walls, put some new stuff up and put up a few bits and pieces to make the room feel a bit more “mine”. It’s not quite done, but the hardest part is sorted out so it won’t take much to finish it off. The highlight was having a nice break at lunchtime when my friend and I headed out to a new café that opened up in the town and had a delicious lunch to power us through another hour or so of work.

Of course this meant that my run was delayed until the evening, just like during term time. What with my post-marathon time off and being away, it’s been a while since I had an evening run and despite it still being mild enough for shorts, I hadn’t realised it would be getting quite so dark before I was home. It will soon be time to dig out the high viz kit again!

IMG_4413In contrast, Thursday was fairly chilled. I took a walk down to the gym to start my day with a hot tub and sauna then went for a coffee to read my book again for a while.

IMG_4428Once home, I got settled on my comfy chair and got lots of cuddles from my cat (I think she missed me when I was in France last week!) until it was time to head out to my Ashtanga yoga class. I missed the class last week as I wasn’t home in time and was really looking forward to getting back to it. I thought I might feel a bit stiff and tight, but I actually felt really strong. I’ve been working on “wheel ” rather than yoga bridge and have previously only managed to hold the posture for a breath or two before lowering back down. This time, I managed 4 long breaths and felt fairly strong throughout. Great progress! This posture has been a challenge for me as I have a limitation in the movement of my left arm after breaking it as a child. Generally it doesn’t cause me too much bother (I’ve had more of my life with the issue than without) and I can adapt around it, but there are some things it makes difficult, and the initial set up for wheel is one of them. I am pretty tenacious though, so I won’t let it beat me!

IMG_4432On Friday I had another relaxed start to the day catching up with a few bits and pieces around the house before going down to the studio for a PT session. My right shoulder had been a bit tight all week so I wanted to work on my upper back mobility (we used my old favourites the broom handle and Core Momentum Trainer as well as a bit of TRX) on top of some work on my knee drive and hip mobility. Again, it’s been a while since I worked on these so it was good to get back to things. Steve, of course, has not forgotten how to disrupt my post-workout selfie!

IMG_4433
IMG_4434Later that afternoon I headed out for a walk as I knew I hadn’t taken enough steps and maintaining my streak is one of my goals for the year. The weather was nice but I was a bit lazy and wasn’t really feeling like going anywhere, but as soon as I got outside with my podcast I was quite content to keep on walking until it was done. Who wouldn’t enjoy beautiful scenes like this right on their doorstep?

IMG_4442
IMG_4443
IMG_4447
Saturday morning began in comic fashion. I was lying awake, not quite ready to get out of bed yet, with the cat snuggled on top of me when Steve came upstairs. He had brought the cat her medicine and I made a joke about how I had hoped he was maybe bringing me a nice cup of tea in bed. A few minutes later he returned with a cup of tea so I stayed in bed a little longer to enjoy it before getting up and organised for parkrun.

IMG_4450Parkrun was a bit more “cross country” this week. There was a huge puddle across the path that was unavoidable and the grass section was generally pretty soft. I think it will probably be like that for a while now as we head into winter. I actually don’t mind it like that anymore and go splashing through all the puddles, resulting in mud splattered up my legs and the need for a towel on my car seat before I drive home! I was pleased with my result though as I ran a fairly even pace and was about 20 seconds faster than last week. Not quite back to peak form, but I’m happy with where I am right now.

IMG_4451
IMG_4452Once home I had a really nice chat with Sarah from Tough Girl Challenges. I’ve written a few times about my involvement with the Tough Girl Team and how listening to the podcast has helped me, so it was great to have a catch up with Sarah. We’ve never actually met but kind of feel like we have. Maybe one day we’ll manage!

Next on the agenda was getting my nails done as they had really grown out (this seems to be a pattern for me!) and I wanted the polish freshened up ready for going back to work.

IMG_4463

Sunday began with another cup of tea in bed (that husband training is going well lol!) then I got up and dressed ready for an early-ish run. Last autumn Steve and I got into the habit of going on a trail run together on a Sunday morning. With no looming races on the horizon, it was a great way to round off the year, spend some time actually running together and make use of the huge benefits of trail running – change of terrain, strengthening of the ankles and a great way to build a solid base ahead of spring marathon training. From our front door we can be on a trail in about two minutes. The route we picked for this first outing was 2 miles more or less uphill to a mast (not very attractive sounding, but the views are stunning) then a blast back down again to get home.

IMG_4498
IMG_4496
IMG_4476
IMG_4479A bit of a lung-buster in places, but a great run and I love seeing all the autumn leaves on the ground and splashing through the muddier sections. We’ll no doubt do a bit more of this in the coming weeks, probably venturing across the river for a hillier run (with an even better view!) as we progress. It’s a great way to change things up and get off the same old road routes for a bit, whilst also providing benefits for the next phase of training. I can highly recommend it.

IMG_4485
IMG_4487
IMG_4482

IMG_4484The rest of Sunday was pretty chilled. The earlier, shorter run created a bit more time in the day to relax before my return to work the next day. Things are going to get busier again!

How do you mix up your training?
Do you prefer roads or trails?

Week In Review – Birthday Week

That’s right, I had a birthday this week. Funny how the older we get, the faster the birthdays seem pop up! Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details of my week in training and life.

As well as being my birthday week, this was also the first full week of teaching for the school year (last week I had two days without pupils first). I’m still getting back into the swing of things but managed to fit in the most important parts of my training plan:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
FridayPT session rest
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 18 miles

I hadn’t been sure if I would manage a swim on Monday as I had a meeting after school then a sports massage a bit later which would squeeze my time a bit, however as it turned out my massage therapist had to reschedule so I had plenty of time for my swim. As is becoming a regular occurrence, I managed to arrive at the gym when there was an aqua fit class on in the main part of the pool so everyone who wanted to swim was in the “fast lane” and I had to adapt a bit to work around that. I still got my lengths done, but they felt quite interrupted. I’m not sure if my swims lately have been top quality workouts, but since the main purpose of them is active recovery from my Sunday long run, I’m not too bothered about that.

Tuesday was my birthday, but weekday birthdays tend not to feel so special as it’s business as usual. Since a) it was a school night and b) Steve had a late finish, he told me that he had planned a weekend celebration instead (although he didn’t tell me what. To be honest, good food a nice glass of wine and a nap suits me!). At work I was given a lovely card and some flowers, and we enjoyed a bit of cake at lunchtime to mark the occasion. When Steve arrived home he told me that he had been trying to find some kind of nice cake or pastry to get me as a treat, but couldn’t quite find what he was looking for. Instead, he brought me a “cruffin” (croissant/muffin). The texture was that of a croissant, the shape that of a muffin and there was some strawberry and champagne jam inside. It was delicious and as you can see, the cat fancied sharing it with me!

C1EDEC2E-FA97-4826-9562-3B566549F9DC
IMG_3669Workout-wise, I still headed to the gym for my bike workout. It’s not my favourite workout of the week as it’s a hard session, but my current workout only takes 30 minutes which feels much more achievable. After the bike I spent a few minutes in the hot tub to relax then headed home to eat.

My Wednesday workout this week was hill reps again. I last did these two weeks ago and with the work I’ve done since then, I definitely felt stronger this week. It was a bit later before I got out since I stayed at work late to finish some things up, but even then it was still quite a warm (for Scotland) day. I took this picture arriving home at 7:45pm in my shorts and strappy top, still feeling perfectly comfortable. I wish we could have more weather like that!

IMG_3678Thursday felt a bit rushed. The cat had a follow-up at the vet, but the only appointment I could get with “our” vet was only an hour after the school day finished and it can take me about 40 minutes to get home at that time of day – tight, even if I left with my pupils, a rarity! Luckily, Steve was free so he offered to meet me there with the cat. This meant I could drive straight to the vet without having to go home and chase the cat around, and madam got door-to-door chauffeur service for her trouble lol! She was given a couple of injections to further improve how she’s feeling, but there’s no need for concern right now. I guess neither of us are getting any younger 😉

Once home I didn’t have long to get myself changed and organised for Ashtanga yoga, but I was keen to go as the week felt busy and I really wanted the time to focus on myself, clear my head and stretch my body. It was a good class and there was a woman there completing her observations to go with her yoga teacher training so we all had a few more adjustments than usual, which I’m fine with. I chatted to her at the end of the class and she mentioned that I had a good practice as I have great strength. I think I quite like someone telling me I have strength, so that made me happy.

On Friday I had to make a change. I was going to have a PT session with Steve, but with the 10k race he organises taking place this weekend, he had to meet up with some people to go over details. The only option was to try and go earlier, but that just wasn’t feasible as I actually needed to finish up some things at work before leaving. In the end I said just to leave it rather than getting stressed about a session and stayed at work for a couple of hours after the pupils went home. I was tired, but was pleased to get some things sorted out. My reward was our usual Friday night date for some food, and this time I opted for the chicken curry which I haven’t had for a while.

IMG_3684I got up a bit sharper on Saturday as I had some logistics to sort out. The Hatha yoga class I go to was starting again, however the studio has moved to the other side of town and I was trying to figure out the best way to get between parkrun and yoga without having to pay a fortune for car parking or spend ages in heavy traffic. My decision was to drive to parkrun and use a car park that is very inexpensive, leave the car there and walk over to yoga (I thought this would take about 20 minutes) then go back for the car once Steve and I had finished our Saturday errands, about an hour after yoga ended. The sticking point was that the car park was likely to be busy due to an event taking place at the sports centre, so I wanted to get down early enough that there would still be spaces.

Fortunately, my plan worked out well. I got a space and didn’t have too long to wait for parkrun. It was quite warm first thing in the morning, and I know some people found that tough. It’s a while now since we were in Florida, but I’m still finding that I deal with warmer conditions ok. What I found tough was the grass section as there had been some rain during the week. The surface of the grass was slippery and while most of it was firm, the sections which are muddy puddles in the winter were a bit squelchy, some of them rather deceptive so it made for trickier running. I was only a few seconds slow than last week, though, with 23:48 so I was happy with that.

IMG_3686After parkrun I returned to the car, changed my shoes and socks, grabbed my stuff for yoga and headed over to the new studio. I was there in plenty time so was able to change clothes, freshen up a bit and be on my mat ready to begin relaxing in savasana. I’ve missed my Saturday morning yoga so it was really nice to relax and stretch after the run, setting the intention for the remainder of the day to be chilled.

And it was chilled. It didn’t take us long to complete our errands, then after lunch I set myself up to catch up on some posts, sort out some online purchases I’ve been meaning to make and, most importantly, take a nap (with the cat. She’s a napping champion!).

IMG_3687

Runner hair, don’t care!

Sunday began with my long run, and thankfully it was much less “eventful” than last week! I picked a route for my 18 miles that would entirely avoid the Big Scary Buzzard, the only issue being that since I’m running a faster pickup every third mile, I knew some of those would fall on big hills. As it turned out, this included the toughest hill on the route. Oh well!

fullsizeoutput_2108Other than that, it was quite pleasant. The weather was good, I saw a red squirrel (not a common sight) and chatted to cyclists and horse riders. I was tired when I was done and my legs definitely felt weary, but it felt like a good run overall.

IMG_3690After trying to take a photo  (Steve couldn’t help more of his messing about!) I had to keep on going – shower, food, errands then get changed for the promised birthday treat.

IMG_3694All I knew was that we were going somewhere nice, that there would be good food and that the table was booked for 6pm. The early time intrigued me, but then I’d run 18 miles so knew I would definitely be ready for food. Other than that, clueless. Steve did say that he made a booking based on something I had said recently. and it took me until we were almost there to finish racking my brains. I had a recollection of discussing a meal and saying it would be fantastic after a super long run, but couldn’t actually remember what venue I had been talking about…until we got there.

IMG_3698Steve had booked high tea at the hotel where we had our wedding reception. High tea is awesome, but I’m conscious that some of my readers may not have any idea what that means. Allow me:

History tells us that “afternoon tea” was a kind of stopgap between meals for the upper classes. It consisted of tea, scones, finger sandwiches, etc served whilst sitting in low, comfortable chairs. Working classes also adopted the tradition, but needed something more substantial after a day of hard graft, so would take theirs at a “high” table alongside savoury food, usually something filling, as their main evening meal. High tea is now an entrenched part of the culture, but more as a special treat and can vary around the country. In Scotland the savoury food is usually “pub grub” items such as gammon steak, steak pie, scampi, etc served with buttered toast and tea then finished with scones and sweet treats. To be honest, the savoury food is very much the sort of evening meal (often called “tea” in Scotland) that people of my generation and before would often have growing up – I can even remember tea being the drink my dad would make with our evening meal as his mother always did that. Now, it’s probably the sort of thing that younger generations may not have heard of, let alone tried. It would be a shame for it to disappear.

The afternoon tea at this particular hotel is fantastic, but it’s been a couple of years since we had it. After 18 miles, I could think of nothing better to eat!

We had a gin and tonic when we arrived then were shown to our table where there was tea and toast being served (what is it about hotel toast? Yum!). At first I couldn’t decide what main dish to order but eventually went with gammon steak as that’s what I had mentioned when I said what a great post-long run meal it would be. I was making jokes about asking them to swap the salad for a fried egg (I had been distracted by egg and other all day breakfast delights in some of the other dishes on offer) but when the order was taken I was asked if I would like my gammon steak topped with pineapple, fried egg or both. Winner!

IMG_3697
fullsizeoutput_2107After that huge plate of food (which I polished off) there was a tier of scones, cream scones and a giant meringue each (also all polished off). They kept brining fresh tea so I was awash, then we had another gin and tonic before our bus home. It was just the perfect thing for that particular day and I loved it.

IMG_3700

IMG_3696

Trying to look like a normal, well-presented person rather than someone who just ran 18 miles and wants a nap (but I did wear compression calf sleeves under my jeans!)

Having the early booking (high tea is served around that sort of time) was a real advantage as we were home fairly early, and since Id been on the go all day I opted to head pretty much straight to bed so I could have a really good sleep. Rock ‘n’ roll!

IMG_3704

Who needs a duvet when the fluffiest cat in the world insists on sleeping on top of you every night!

All in all, a great week. Training went well and Steve chose the perfect way to celebrate my birthday so I was really happy.

Have you ever had a high tea?
How did you celebrate your last birthday?

Week In Review – Back to School

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

Here’s how my week ended up:

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3610

Scrubbed up for work in the morning…

IMG_3611

…an absolute state in the evening!

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3654

Nap buddies!

And then it was Sunday…

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

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

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

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

IMG_3656

It’s in there somewhere!

IMG_3657

The look of fear straight afterwards.

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – Making it Last

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

Here’s how my week looked:

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3521
IMG_3522
IMG_3524I switched my Friday PT session to Thursday this week as I had plans on Friday. I headed down to the studio on Thursday morning and worked through the mobility drills we have been using in recent times. After the issue I had with my left hip last September, I’ve made a point of working on hip strength and stability ever since. These days that is being covered by the work we’re doing to improve knee drive and upper back mobility and I definitely think the Core Momentum Trainer has contributed to an improvement in my upper back mobility, especially on the right where I tend to carry a lot of tightness. After working through some exercises with Steve, I returned to a drill I had done at the start of the session and Steve was falling about laughing at the shock on my face as I moved through a greater range of motion than I had just half an hour earlier. Not bad for a piece of kit that reminds me of a giant maraca or a baby’s rattle lol!

IMG_3528
IMG_3538I arrived home to another cool medal from a virtual race. Love it!

IMG_3542
IMG_3546In the afternoon I had some “back to school” errands in town then I met Steve for an ice cream. This was Honeycomb caramel cup. There were small caramel-filled chocolate cups throughout it. Absolutely delicious!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – It’s All In The Hips

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3394

It’s not all glamour this marathon training!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3403
IMG_3407Later that afternoon I had to walk up to my parents’ house and I definitely felt some weariness around my hips after all the work this week! Whilst at the house I realised that there was tons of rhubarb in the garden so headed out (in the rain!) to pick some before I left. I usually make some stewed rhubarb with it as Steve likes it with his breakfast and I quite like it with some Greek yoghurt. It’s not good to have too close to a run though, unless a sprint finish to the loo is what you fancy lol!

IMG_3415

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

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

IMG_3416

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

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

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

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

IMG_3457

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

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

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

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

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