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!

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!).

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Scrubbed up for work in the morning…

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…an absolute state in the evening!

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

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

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

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

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

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Nap buddies!

And then it was Sunday…

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

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

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

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

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It’s in there somewhere!

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The look of fear straight afterwards.

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – Making it Last

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

Here’s how my week looked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – It’s All In The Hips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s not all glamour this marathon training!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – Getting Back On It

Another week already? This week has been all about getting back into the groove of my training in preparation for the Loch Ness marathon at the end of September. Linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share all the details.

At the end of term I cut back my training a little as I was so exhausted and kept things fairly minimal while I was away in Florida. Now that I’m home, I need to re-establish my routine and get down to some hard work so I’m ready for the marathon. Here’s how my week looked:

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

The pool at my parent’s place in Florida is quite small and I can swim from one end to the other in one breath, so arriving at the gym on Monday the first thing that struck me was how big the pool seemed in comparison! Unsurprisingly I felt a little rusty at first, but I soon felt my rhythm returning and was able to swim reasonably well. Unfortunately the lane was a little busy so I did have to wait at the ends quite often to allow the swimmer ahead to move up the pool a bit before I could go. I do feel like the controlled breathing has helped my running and swimming in general is giving me a good workout without any impact.

Since Monday was a sunny, warm (for Scotland) day, I headed into the garden with a book for a while in the afternoon, before going to get my nail polish changed. I loved the sparkly gel polish I had on for my holiday, so decided to get a different colour of sparkly polish since technically I am still on holiday, even though I’m at home 🙂

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On Tuesday morning I had a sports massage booked. I may not have been running high mileage, but I still like to have the “maintenance” of a monthly massage to keep my legs ticking over nicely and deal with any tight spots before they have the chance to become an issue. This meant leaving my workout until later in the day, and I arrived at the gym at around the same time I would if I was working. Tuesdays are always bike reps, and Steve had told me to stick to the same intensity and work/rest intervals as I was doing before the holidays (I peaked at 20 reps in the last week of term). The plan was to asses where I was fitness-wise for these right now so Steve could decide how to progress the workout. He told me to aim for 10 reps, but if I found it hard to drop the intensity on the bike. If, however, I found it ok I should do 12 reps. Not going to lie, I expected it to be tough, but 10 reps felt just a little too achievable so I went for 12. It was getting tougher in the last 2, but I still knew I could have gone on if the session had called for it. I must be a bit fitter than I realised!

The remainder of Tuesday was nice and chilled, getting kitty snuggles and reading my book. Bliss!

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I awoke on Wednesday to the predicted miserable weather, and while I don’t object to running in the rain, I did think it would be much nicer to run my hill reps in the sunshine, so trusting the forecast that the afternoon would be better, I decided to wait until later in the day. And I’m so glad I did! By the time I headed out the sun was splitting the sky and there was a bit of warmth in the the sun – something I’m a bit more used to right now after running in Florida! I headed back to my usual hill and did a session of reps to the last 3 lampposts – 3 reps, 2 reps then 1 to the furthest away. It felt tough and my breathing was pretty ragged at the top of the hill, but comparing my reps to what I was doing back in June (the last time I did any hill reps) was pretty favourable. A reader recently got in touch to ask me to include a bit more about hill reps in one of my weekly recaps, but I think I’m going to write a separate post on this. In the meantime, hill reps serve several purposes for me – speed work, improved strength and better technique as the incline forces me to drive my knees forward and use my arms more. Tough, but worth it!

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I finished the day with a Hatha yoga class. My usual Saturday morning class isn’t on during the school holidays, but my teacher has recently begun another class in the clubhouse of the golf club that’s practically on my doorstep. I was really keen to get to a class so thought I would head up there. It was so nice to be led through a class and give my body a good stretch. I think I slept really well after it too!

Thursday was pretty chilled. I ran some errands during the day then in the evening I had my Ashtanga yoga class. I’ve really missed this while I was away and the class was cancelled last week (the day I got back home) so I’ve missed 3 weeks of class. Steve had a rare Thursday evening free as his running clubs hadn’t re-started yet so he decided to join me, but had to meet me there as he was teaching a class right before. It felt so good to be back in class again, even if I was a teensy bit rusty, and I could feel the flexibility returning to my body with every posture. Steve enjoyed it too. Making it to a class regularly just isn’t an option for him right now, but he does do a lot of mobility work and similar postures as part of his day-to-day routine.

To be honest, Friday started out pretty chilled too (rest is my summer holiday priority!). The cat joined me on the bed and I spent some time cuddled in with her and reading a bit of my book. But even I can’t spend all day lazing about so I got my act together, tackled a job on my to-do list then headed down to the studio with Steve for a workout. We were mainly focusing on upper back mobility, hip mobility/knee drive and, for a bonus, several of the exercises also targeted core strength. We used both weights of Core Momentum Trainer, the Vipr and the good old broom handle. I definitely knew about this one the next day!

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Trying to take a post-workout selfie Steve kept messing about and trying to put me off, resulting in this gem of a photo series (he’d done it so many times already that I managed not to react this time, but his face tells a story – you can practically see the cogs turning as he comes up with his latest mischief lol!).

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Saturday, as ever, was parkrun day. I was still pretty jet lagged last Saturday but still managed to run 24 minutes flat so thought I should be able to take my time below 24 minutes again now I’m better rested. When we set off it looked like it might rain so I left my sunglasses at home, but just a few minutes later when we arrived at the start the sun was coming out. Typical! What followed was a part dull, part rainy, part sunny, part windy parkrun. They do say you can get all 4 seasons in one day in Scotland!

I set out quite hard, probably too hard as the first mile ticked by in 7:30 (and that was me slowing down a bit after the start!). I knew there was no way I was in shape to hold that pace, but pushed on as fast as I could. The second half of the run was into the headwind, so that combined with the fast start meant each mile was getting slower, but I rallied at the end for a fast finish and crossed the like in 23:51. Not quite my fastest this year, but my fastest since May, so I’m pleased with that.

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After parkrun we had breakfast with Steve’s brother and his wife before they set off on holiday on Wednesday. We then chilled out for the afternoon before heading back into town for the annual highlight that is Soul Food at the Southern Fried festival (I wrote a little bit about last year’s festival in this post). The food was delicious as usual, especially the Coca Cola cake. Amazing!

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We walked there so we could both enjoy a beer, then decided to round off our evening with a wee gin and tonic on the way home. I do love summer holidays!

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Sunday means a longer run and this time around I’m wanting to try something different with my long runs. I built endurance in the early part of the year through running slowly on long run days, then before the summer break I capitalised on this by dropping the mileage back to around 10 miles and running a bit faster. Now, I’m thinking a bit more about pace and running every third mile faster (with the other miles fairly easy). Steve has used this before quite successfully, but it did mean a re-think of my planned route as I was going to hit a fast mile on a long, steep hill. Not useful! In the end I reversed the route and it worked pretty well.

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We then took a trip through to Glasgow as I wanted to make a purchase and whilst there we treated ourselves to an amazing frappé at Hotel Chocolat. Mine was salted caramel brownie. Yum!
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We also came across this little gem. I don’t think it would work for a cat, but I bet at least one person reading this now wants one lol!
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It felt good to be getting back to some consistent training again this week. Now to keep making progress so I can smash it at Loch Ness!

How has your training been this week?
What’s your summer goal?

Week In Review – The Final Countdown!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – Are We There Yet?

The last full week of the school year (the final week is shorter as we finish on Thursday lunchtime) was a busy one with a day out of school on a course, a school show to see, and the initial preparations for a move of classroom. What with all that and my decision to ease off on running for a few days to help settle the issue in my right leg, I feel like I didn’t train as much even though realistically I only missed one midweek run! As usual, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly roundup.

Having already made the decision not to run midweek, my schedule looked like this:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 4-5 miles

The week began with me out of school for a one day course. Next session I’m going to be taking on the role of supporter/mentor for a probationer teacher and needed to attend a training course to learn more about the role and the various things that need to happen for that probationer to become a fully registered teacher at the end of the year. The course itself was really interesting, but I must admit that at this point in the year it was an awful lot of new information to take in and the room we were in was pretty warm. Still, I did have the additional advantage of being able to head straight home afterwards rather than get caught up in anything else so was in the pool by 5pm swimming my lengths. It did feel really refreshing after being so warm all day and I felt much better when I got home so decided to head out for a walk after dinner (it was a lovely evening and I still had some steps to get to reach my 10,000 target!). I’m so lucky to have this practically on my doorstep:

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On Tuesday I had 20 reps of my bike intervals to do. Regular readers may remember that each cycle goes up to 20 reps before changing, so this is the peak of the current cycle. I chose the same bike as last week and started out very interested to see how my leg would feel. Interestingly, this week’s 20 reps felt easier than last week’s 18, so clearly the extra rest made a difference, which I found encouraging. I then followed this up with some mobility work and stretching before squeezing in a quick sauna to finish off.

Wednesday’s rest day came at quite a fortuitous time as I decided this would be the day that would best suit me to go and see our school show, Billy Elliot. We have been very lucky to get the rights to stage the schools’ version of the show and are the only school in the country to have the honour. Two boys were cast as Billy and performed on alternate nights so each had two shows. I have to say, I knew we had some talented pupils but watching the cast sing, dance and act to highly professional standards was phenomenal. They were in turns funny, dramatic and emotive, with me almost in tears at one part. It was just amazing and I felt so proud of them all, but particularly the ones I knew from my recent senior classes who have grown into fine young people ready to move onto the next stage of their lives. Sob!

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I’m incredibly glad I had the chance to see the show, but my goodness I was tired on Thursday after the later night! Thankfully I had my Ashranga class that evening and it was just what I needed to stretch out and relax. I DEFINITELY drifted off during the relaxation this week!

Friday was another rest day. I was heading off for a post-school coffee with my colleagues and a former colleague who retired this time last year. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we headed to the cafe at a nearby fruit farm. I really enjoyed my tea and peanut butter slice (yum) but couldn’t resist getting a punnet of strawberries to take home as well.

Having done lots of mobility work through the week to sort out the tightness in my right leg, things were feeling much improved. There was no longer any tightness at all in my calf and just a slight sensation of it around the back of my knee so I decided to go ahead with parkrun so I would have a comparison with last week. After a week off running my legs, of course, set off at a suicidal pace which I had to reign in, but there were no issues with my leg this time and I was pleased to finish in 24:15 – better than I expected and not too far off where my fitness has been recently. Very encouraging.

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Saturday Hatha yoga classes are finished for the summer, but I did devote some time throughout the remainder of the day to further mobility work so I can finally overcome this issue in my leg and get back to some longer runs. No yoga did mean I could join Steve for a post-parkrun coffee and bacon croissant though 🙂

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Since everything had felt ok on Saturday, a Sunday run was back on the agenda so long as I kept the distance down to between 4 and 5 miles. Steve set out early for his final big training session before Ironman 70.3 next weekend and I had a more leisurely start before heading out on a loop which I thought would be about the right distance. It turned out to be 4.8 miles which was perfect and my leg still felt ok when I was running so all the work I’ve been doing has clearly helped. It was a bit cloudy but I still felt warm so did all my post-run stretching in the garden – including legs up the wall, which this week was legs up the fence! I’ll not manage a run next Sunday, but hopefully things are getting back to normal for me now.

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So that’s another week over. Listening to my body and taking the extra rest has made a difference and hopefully I won’t need to miss any more runs. Fingers crossed that by the time I return from my holiday later in July my body will be ready to ramp up the training again as I get ready for the Loch Ness marathon.

How has your training been recently?
What sessions make you feel strong?

PS Did you see my posts for Tough Girl Challenges this week? I wrote a piece for National Writing Day to encourage more women to have a go at blogging and make their voices heard (you can read that here) and a piece encouraging others to take up running as part of Women’s Sport Week (which you can read here).

Week In Review – A Bit Of A Battle

Sometimes running is brilliant: you glide along effortlessly and complete every workout with ease. Other times running is tough: your legs feel like lead weights and even an easy run seems difficult. Writing a weekly roundup means I can get a balance of both, sharing the good weeks and the not so good weeks. Most of this year so far has gone well, but as we approach the end of the school year and I find myself both physically and mentally exhausted, the chances are much higher that I’ll have a tough week. I’ve been feeling the creeping tiredness for a couple of weeks now, but to be honest this past week has been a real battle so I need to listen carefully to my body and adjust my training for the next couple of weeks to account for that. Read on to find out more as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share more.

If you’re a regular reader then you’ll spot the changes in the plan for the last week straight away:

Mondayswim sports massage
Tuesday – bike intervals @ the gym + swim
Wednesdayhill reps easy run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday8 miles rest

The change on Monday was expected. I had my monthly sports massage booked and knew I could only fit a swim in beforehand if I was away from work sharp. But this week we had an after school meeting so there was no chance! My legs have been feeling a bit weary so I was looking forward to the massage and certainly felt fresher afterwards.

On Tuesday I felt pretty tired. I probably hadn’t slept enough and at this point in the year I really need as much rest as I can get. My bike intervals were a repeat of last week‘s workout and I headed to the gym a little unsure of how I would perform, but ultimately able to complete the set. I then slotted in a quick swim afterwards. No time to relax in the sauna or anything this week as I wanted to get straight home and log into the marking system so I could catch up on some work there, but due to some ongoing problems with the system I had to wait.

Despite needing to sleep, I decided on an early start on Wednesday to finish my exam marking. By the time I got to the end of my working day I felt exhausted and knew that hill reps would be a mistake this week. Instead I opted for an easy run, but even that was a struggle. I was warm, tired and could feel a niggling tightness in my right calf that just wasn’t settling down. Even worse, something happened that I rarely have any bother with: I got heckled. I’m confident enough in my running not to let that bother me, but it still made me angry that some yobs (who were frankly behaving in a dangerous manner weaving around a busy road on their bikes, causing drivers to take action to avoid hitting them) thought it was ok to ride by me and shout abusive comments about my running just to amuse themselves. I know this happens to many runners much more frequently and I’m lucky that most people around here are very supportive of runners and cyclists, but it is NEVER ok to behave in this way. Fuming already, I was tipped over the edge when I got to the bottom of the hill leading to our street and while waiting to cross the road a driver wolf-whistled at me. Seriously? Again, not acceptable. It was a warm day so I was wearing shorts and what I wear is MY decision based on being comfortable, not an invitation for someone to objectify me. These events, combined with the emerging issue in my calf, put me in a bad mood for the rest of the night.

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Trying not to look too angry for my selfie!

Thursday brought me a much-needed moment of calm with my Ashtanga yoga class. I really needed the time to focus on myself and reset both body and mind. My right calf was still tight, but stretching it out in yoga felt good.

I rounded off the work week with a rest day. The cat had a checkup at the vet on Friday and I just didn’t have the energy for any more – apart from anything else I had completely lost my mind and agreed to mark some additional exam papers which were now available to me and I wanted to get a start on them. It felt so good to have the work week finished and enjoy our Friday night meal out!

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On Saturday morning my calf felt OK (Steve had been helping me to work through some mobility exercises to target the source issue) so I decided to give parkrun a go. Everything felt fine in a warmup jog and as the run began my legs wanted to go quite quickly. Sadly, it didn’t last. Within about half a mile I could feel the tightness creeping in again so backed off the pace and kept my mind tuned in to my leg so I could monitor how it felt. Weirdly, the tight spots kept moving around (Steve later explained that this is because I’m feeling tension deep in the leg in my peroneal muscles, but it’s stemming from an imbalance in how my body is moving on that side right now). I was able to finish the run, but my pace just got slower and slower as I was feeling like the plug had been pulled put. Yet despite my feeling that I had run badly, whilst waiting to have my barcode scanned another runner complimented me on what a “lovely runner” I was. It just goes to show that even when everything feels awful, it doesn’t always show in your form!

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I wasn’t in a “jumping shot” kind of mood!

After parkrun I had the final Saturday morning Hatha yoga class until August. I let my teacher know that I had an issue with my right calf, but to be honest the postures we did felt good and helped to ease the tension. Once home I completed my exam marking then went for a nap. For TWO HOURS! That just shows how exhausted I am right now. I only woke up because Steve shouted to say that my dinner was ready! I then enjoyed a relaxing evening catching up with some TV before bed.

During that tough parkrun I made the decision that Sunday should be a rest day. No point in running further given I had problems in a 5k – much better to rest and resolve the issue quickly rather than escalating the problem so I can’t run for ages.

Steve headed out for a brick session for his half ironman training and I tidied up a few things around the house before walking down to the gym for a relaxing sauna to help me chill out. I was already feeling better from having a bit more sleep and even my leg felt improved from the rest.

Later in the afternoon it was a visit to my parents since it was not only Fathers’ Day, but they are about to head out to Florida again. We haven’t visited them in a few weeks since I’ve been marking and even though we’ll be joining them in Florida shortly after they arrive, it was good to catch up on a few things. We sat in the garden since the weather was good and dad even brought out the beers. Check out the koozie he put mine in!

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Looking ahead, I know I need to dial back the training through the remaining two weeks of term so that I can run strongly through the the summer and get my body ready for my Autumn marathon. I’ll let you know next week how it’s all going, although I’m feeling optimistic that the issue in my right calf can be easily and quickly resolved.

What are your summer training plans?
How do you know when it’s time to back off training?