Week In Review – Stop The World!

What a week! Sometimes the world just feels a little too much and with lots to do and a cold doing its work on my immune system, much of this week outside of work was a real “time out” to give me a chance to recover. I may not have worked out much, but I’m still linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share how I spent my time and remind us all to listen to our bodies and take a rest when we need it!

Just to prove how little I did, here’s how my week turned out:

Monday – rest (parents’ evening)
Tuesday – bike @ the gym rest
Wednesday – short run rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 5 miles

Monday was always going to be a “rest” day as I had another parents’ evening. Unfortunately, by the time I was finished the demands of teaching all day and speaking all night had left me wiped out. Although I started the day feeling perfectly well, by the time I arrived home I was feeling stuffed up and rather hoarse. A cold had arrived and from that point on it was quite clear the cold was going to stay!

On Tuesday I had thought I might have a gentle cycle then sit in the steam room to clear my head – I even took my kit with me so I could go straight to the gym after work! – but by the time I was driving home this was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. The cold was making me feel exhausted as all my energy was going on teaching my classes during the day, so I decided to call it quits and head home for a relaxing evening catching up on some tv. Definitely the right decision.

I carried on in a similar vein on Wednesday as I knew I was just too congested to run. While my symptoms were technically “above the neck” and a gentle run would have been ok, with nothing specific on the horizon to train for, I knew I would benefit far more from the rest. No run, no orchestra, just another night cuddled in with the cat and watching tv. A little frustrating, but for the best.

By Thursday I felt a little more like getting on with things so went to yoga as usual. Theoretically fine, but as it turns out breathing through a congested nose whilst in downward dog is a bit of a challenge! I took it easy and didn’t push things so by the end of the class I did feel a bit better.

And by Friday I knew it was time to do a bit more again. Yes there was still a bit of congestion, but this was more the residual effects of the cold rather than me still feeling ill, so I headed over to the studio for a PT session with Steve as I knew this wouldn’t need much exertion and I could stop to blow my nose any time I needed to. Since I want to build a pre-marathon training base, we did some work with the TRX.

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IMG_4753After a good sleep on Friday night I was feeling pretty good on Saturday morning so there was no way I was going to miss parkrun. It was Perth parkrun’s 4th birthday and lots of runners were going in fancy dress (sadly I had no time to turn my attention to that this year, but sine the theme was “wacky runners” I decided this was a good day to break out some of my more “interesting” running tights). Due to the effects of some work going on around our usual route, this time we were on the alternate course which is 2 laps of the park on the tarmac path – no mud splashed on my nice running tights 🙂 It was also freezing cold so I picked thermal tights and cold weather gear to keep me as warm as possible.

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With a guest appearance by the cat!

Given I’d not run for a week I had no idea how I would feel so my plan was to start out easy then push on if I felt ok. This resulted in a huge Royal Flush Negative Split (8:38, 8:13, 7:56 and 7:10 for the last nubbin). It was never going to be my speediest day, but it was good to know that I was ok to run and could up the pace a bit without pushing hard.

I have to say, I never really felt like I got properly warm and was aware of the chill in the air the whole time. I had been worried that I might have overdone the warm clothing, but in the end I was glad of it all!

IMG_4755Run done and barcode scanned there was the much more important business of cake. All the runners had been asked to contribute something for the table so there was lots of home baking (ours was shop bought thanks to time limitations) but to offset the gluttony we were also donating to the local foodbank. Having listened to a talk from the manager of the nearest foodbank to where I work earlier in the week, I was utterly horrified at the numbers of people who were needing to turn to such facilities and how this compared to the donations they received. I duly went straight out to stock up on suitable items to donate. In the grand scheme of things I spent an amount that I barely notice as I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to not have to think about food bills, but everything that was donated by parkrunners this weekend should make a huge difference to local people at this time of year.

Back at the cake table, I chose something that bore a passing resemblance to the cake version of sticky toffee pudding and I was NOT disappointed (no photo as I was too cold to try and fish my phone out and was scared I might drop my cake which would have been a DISASTER!). I followed that up with a piece of mint traybake which was a bit like a minty brownie. Since I tend to run parkrun fasted, I basically had cake for breakfast. No complaints about that from me!

IMG_4836After a few errands the rest of the day was pretty chilled, although I did hear that Santa’s furry friends were back in town so went for a look while we were there and was pleased to find that unlike last week the reindeer were in attendance (I think they might be tapering for the Big Night since they were just lying around eating!) along with alpacas, donkeys and pygmy goats (so cute!).

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IMG_4828I had another great sleep that night and awoke feeling great (if still a little phlegmy) on Sunday. I was keen to get back to normal and have a run but wasn’t sure how far to go. In the end I chose a route which would allow me to make a decision that would either result in 3.5ish miles or extend in a variety of ways to add a little more.

It was cold again so I layered up and through the first part of the run the ground alternated between covered in leaves and covered in frost. It looked beautiful.

IMG_4837In the end I chose to extend the run as I was feeling good and enjoying being out catching up with the Marathon Talk podcast (it wouldn’t be a Sunday run without Martin and Tom!) so ended up with 5 miles. I certainly could have gone on, but that felt right for this point in time.

IMG_4839Later in the afternoon we ventured out again to to enjoy the St Andrew’s Day celebrations in town. We were really just interested in seeing a bit of “bagrock” from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers who never disappoint.
IMG_4840Rather than some shaky phone footage, here’s a taster of their usual material. Performed live there’s also a singer, dancers and, of course, they wear kilts.

Overall a pretty quiet week, but I made up for it a bit at the weekend!

Would you run or rest with a cold?
Any exciting festive events where you live?

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500!!

This week I reached a blogging milestone…my 500th post. 500 times in the last few years I’ve committed my thoughts to the screen. 500 times I’ve hit publish. 500 times I’ve wondered if anyone would really read what I had to say! Who would have thought that yesterday’s Friday Finds could be so momentous?

I’ve written before about what I enjoy about blogging so I thought today I would dig into my archives and share some of my favourite posts from that 500. Perhaps there will be something in here you’ve not read before…

As the great Julie Andrews taught us, the beginning is a very good place to start. My first ever post back in 2011 detailed the beginning of my running journey and was followed up soon after with how I came to take running a bit more seriously:

In 2012 London hosted the Olympic Games and one of the legacy aims was to inspire a generation. As the new school year began a few weeks later, I considered whether or not there had been any impact on the younger generation in my classroom:

As someone who enjoys racing, I know that races can really only take place thanks to the fantastic army of volunteers who turn up to show their support. In this next post, I wrote about why volunteering at a race is so crucial:

In 2013 I was excited to get my first age category prize (although I had to travel a fair distance to get it!):

And just a few days later got my second one – and a first place finish in my age category!

I rounded off that year with one of my most popular posts – a farewell letter to a pair of worn out running shoes. If you run, then you’ll get it!

A nice companion to that is the love letter I wrote to running for Valentine’s Day in 2014:

2014 was a big year for me: Steve and I took on a massive fundraising challenge for Macmillan Cancer Support and once of MY biggest supporters was my friend Ian who helped out through his business. Without him and the generosity of his customers, I would never have raised as much as I did. I featured Ian in a guest post that year:

I also played the proud wife card and gushed a bit about Steve and his incredible achievements in supporting Macmillan.:

That summer, I reflected on my childhood summers and how that year compared. Spoiler: it turns out some things never change!

But that autumn I had to make a tough decision. Here, I wrote about that process and how I was dealing with it:

Another first for me was my first ever link up. I must have enjoyed it since I continue to link up regularly with Jessie even now!

In 2015 I introduced Friday Finds as a regular feature. Given that an edition of FF was my 500th post, I thought it would be fun to include the first ever here:

2015 was probably my biggest year for other reasons too. Having changed my 2014 challenge thanks to injury, I had some unfinished business and it was time to go bigger than ever. That year’s Edinburgh Marathon Festival is probably one of my best running memories EVER!

Speaking of which, a few weeks later I wrote a post pulling together some of my favourite running memories:

Throughout 2015 I became a parkrunner, having immediately fallen for its charms after my first event. A year later, I summed up just what is so special (for me) about a free weekly 5k:

2016 was a strange year as we moved house and I probably didn’t blog as much as I should. Our trip to Paris that year did inspire a couple of posts though:

This was followed later in the year by a joint post with Jessie as we considered some linguistic differences between US and UK running:

Another very popular post came late in 2016 when I was once more forced to make a tough decision. There was a lot of emotion when I wrote it and I can still remember just how sad I felt:

This year, I’ve probably written more regularly than ever. A fun post at the start of the year was inspired by the book Your Pace or Mine and took the form of a record book:

I also marked “Marathon Day” by chronicling my own experiences with the big 26.2:

Which has a nice companion in my marathon tips:

In fact, I wrote a few posts this year offering some tips and advice:

As well as reflecting on the life-changing impact of yoga:

A couple of highlights were when I was interviewed for a podcast (so cool!):

And my first ever international parkrun experience:

More recently, I summed up what it’s like to taper for a marathon. Anyone who’s ever tapered will understand!

And as a counterpoint, a little bit of the aftermath:

Which brings us up to date. The posts I’ve chosen have highlighted some memorable moments as well as some reflections on training, racing and life. In amongst that there have been plenty of training logs, race reports and general musings so I’ve really enjoyed looking back through my posts and remembering all of the varied experiences that inspired the posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed indulging me by following along too and will join me for the next 500…!

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?

Week In Review – A Musical Interlude!

Hola! It’s been a super busy week for me, especially over the weekend, so I had to be quite creative with my time to get some workouts squeezed in. Let me share the details as I link up, as ever, with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

I’m keen to get a bit more focus in my workouts as I begin to build a strong base ahead of my next round of marathon training, however that wasn’t possible for all of my workouts this week. Here’s how things ended up:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike @ the gym
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

Yes, my week did begin with a rest day. I was quite tired from our trip to Edinburgh last Sunday, and with an after school meeting I just couldn’t summon the energy to do anything else. Aside from that, I wanted to pay a quick visit to my mum who, following a mishap on holiday in Tenerife, has torn her hamstring and is not very mobile right now. A colleague had given me some magazines to help keep her entertained and I wanted to drop those off as well as hear about her visit to the doctor that day. My mum is generally quite fit and healthy so I’m sure this will heal well, but right now she’s needing some painkillers to help keep her comfortable as even sitting is a bit tricky right now!

I did, however, get back on it on Tuesday. I’m still not sure how best to use my Tuesday bike workouts and need to get Steve to give me some kind of progressive structure to follow again, but for this week I simply set up my Kindle and pedalled hard for half an hour. I actually covered slightly more distance that the previous week with the same effort so it is still a useful gauge of fitness. I’m reading a really great book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell all about the factors which influence success, and I’m finding it really interesting so the time seemed to pass quite quickly (it’s also a sneaky way to maximise my time and catch up on my reading goal for this year!).

Wedneday presented a bit of a problem: I had intended to leave work at the end of the school day, but ended up staying for almost an hour beyond that. I had an orchestra rehearsal (the final Wednesday before our concert) which I definitely wanted to be at and spent some time in the car debating whether or not to go for a run. In the end I decided I had to go for it as I’ll miss out next week thanks to a parents’ evening at work. I just had to maximise the benefit of running a short distance. Basically, I had to run hard for 20-25 minutes as that’s all the time I had. I chose a route and just went for it, getting home within my target time and being very efficient with getting some food organised while I showered and changed. Miraculously I was ready for my sister picking me up and enjoyed a great rehearsal.

IMG_4694Thursday was a little less manic in that I managed to be at home for longer than 8 minutes before my yoga class. I’m so convinced that yoga has made a big difference to my running, my flexibility and my strength that I try to prioritise getting to this class and it’s rare that I miss one. I felt good throughout and since I want to progress to more than one round of Wheel, this week did it twice but for a shorter amount of time so that I could feel what it was like to push myself up into the position twice (the bit I find hardest due to the limitation in the range of movement in my left arm). I did start to drift off during the relaxation at the end though, thanks to all the rushing about in the days before!

Speaking of which, I was back to rushing around again on Friday. I had two things I definitely needed to do and one desirable extra. First, I needed to collect the cat’s medicine from the vet, then I had an appointment to get my nails done, and I was hopeful of squeezing in a PT session with Steve after that. I did manage all of it thanks to some impressive time management on my part, but it did mean that Friday Finds just didn’t happen and went out later in the weekend. Sometimes something has to give and I prioritised what I had to do.

IMG_4695The PT session was good. I asked Steve to give me some exercises to help with my upper back mobility as my right shoulder has still been feeling a little tight, and also to help me to build a good strength base to support my forthcoming marathon training. We began with the usual mobility exercises using the broom handle, then used the TRX after that, returning to some exercises I probably haven’t done since he moved studio. I found this really interesting as at one point I stopped to ask if I was doing it right as the movement felt different. It turned out that I was actually performing the movement better thanks to the improved strength, flexibility and balance that yoga has given me. Good news!

I had known all week that Saturday was going to be super busy and there wasn’t much I could do to mitigate that. The day began, as ever, with parkrun. It was a bright but chilly morning and I decided to test out my fitness. I was running comfortably sub-24 minutes before the Loch Ness marathon, but with time off and some easing back since then my best of late was 24:20. I would love to squeeze in one last sub-24 before the end of the year, but conditions tend to be less than conducive to that as it’s more likely to be windy and the half mile or so over the grass can get pretty muddy. This was all about seeing where I was and working out if this goal would be possible. Imagine my irritation, then, to finish with a time of 24:01. So close! Still, it’s an encouraging sign and tells me that although I’ve scaled back some of my training recently, I am still improving my fitness with shorter, faster runs and some hard cycling on the bike at the gym. Watch this space to see if I manage my end of year mini-goal…

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fullsizeoutput_22d3Post-parkrun I had time for a quick shower then headed off to get my hair done. I had all my stuff ready to go and was accompanied by my violin as I was going straight from the hairdresser to our final orchestra rehearsal before the concert that night. I was prepared to be late to the rehearsal, but actually ended up there in good time and it was great to hear our repertoire being played in the venue where the acoustics are a little different to our rehearsal room!

IMG_4699Usually my Saturday evening is spent in my pyjamas, curled up with the cat and a cosy blanket watching TV. This time I was scrubbed up with my hair done (I’m usually pushing it a bit on hair washing by Saturday!) and make up on. I felt tired when I went home to eat between the rehearsal and concert, but as soon as we went on stage the concert adrenaline kicked in and I was ready to go.

IMG_4700I really enjoyed playing so need to work out how I can continue to fit in my weekly rehearsal and my training up to our final concert of the season in February.

After all that activity I allowed myself a bit of a lie-in on Sunday morning, then got organised for a run. Steve’s still having an issue with his calf so a trail run together was out of the question. Instead, I decided it was time I went for a slightly longer run (i.e. longer than 4 miles!) at a steadier pace so came up with a loose plan for 10k. This put me in town just as the High Constables were lining up for the council officials to walk from the council chambers to the Remembrance Day service and it looked quite a sight! (The High Constables are a society dating back to 1830 with a common interest in upholding the history and traditions of Perth and all of whom have sworn allegiance to the Queen. Their primary duties involve parading on civic occasions at the request of the Provost and Council of Perth and Kinross).

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IMG_4710I also stopped by to see my favourite riverside pals as I made my way home again.

IMG_4711I had covered my watch with the sleeve of my top so I would have no idea of pace and could just run however I felt. This was interesting as I probably ran much faster than I would have done if I’d been looking at my watch. My average pace was just outside of 4 hour marathon pace, however this was skewed by the last mile being uphill and most of the run was much faster than that. An interesting experiment that I may repeat some time.

IMG_4715Thankfully I found some time in the remainder of the day to relax a bit. It was a rather full-on week and I can’t see that changing much in the last few weeks of the year. I shall have to be vigilant about finding time to relax whenever I can.

Do you play a musical instrument?
What are your current running goals?

Week In Review – Winter Begins…

With the clocks going back last weekend and the calendar turning over to November, I guess I have to accept that winter has officially arrived. I don’t enjoy colder weather, but I do enjoy snuggling up under a cosy blanket and looking forward to the festivities of December. In the meantime, I’m continuing to get back into the swing of regular training, but without any pressure. There needs to be some downtime after two marathon training cycles this year, so while it’s important to train, if something else comes up then I’m not going to stress about it. Join me now as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL  (they’re both ran the NYC marathon this weekend so I hope they had an awesome race!) to share more about my week.

After being so busy in the week before, here’s how this past week worked out:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike @ gym
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – Edinburgh trip

I decided on Monday that rest was the most important thing as I was feeling tired. I was at work later due to a meeting then rather than go for a swim I headed straight home to get comfy. I was actually so tired that I went to bed before 9pm and was asleep shortly after. Wow!

As a result, I awoke on Tuesday morning after 8.5 hours of sleep. I was refreshed and ready to go! When I finished work I went to the gym and got set up on the bike with my Kindle again. I started a new book and pedalled fairly hard for half an hour. Often I like to go down to the sauna after this but this week preferred to head right home and spend some time with my cat as she was a little under the weather again. This also meant that I could be in bed at a reasonable time once more.

Wednesday is still a running day, even if the distance has been a little shorter of late. This week I had longer to fit in my run before orchestra so decided on a similar loop to the one I had done the previous Sunday (a bit under 4 miles). It felt good, but was the first run of the winter that was properly dark from start to finish. Time for a bit more high-vis!

IMG_4570By Thursday I was really looking forward to Ashtanga yoga, but found myself a bit behind schedule and was worried I might not make it. By some miracle (and spending less than 10 minutes in the house to get changed!) I got there in time. It was great to have some quiet time after rushing, and I was pleased to hold “Wheel” for the full 5 breaths again. Definitely improving at that one!

Friday was another rest day, this time because the cat had a check-up scheduled at the vet. She was much better than earlier in the week, but she hadn’t been in to see the vet for a month and I wanted to review her meds as well as make sure she had a check to see if there had been any change in her health conditions. We did make a small tweak to one of her meds, but other than that she was about the same which was good news. After that I enjoyed a relaxing evening of heading out for some food with Steve then relaxing in front of the TV with a glass of wine (and the cat!).

IMG_4573I awoke on Saturday to a crisp morning for parkrun. As the first Saturday of the month it was pacer day and I was the 28 minute pacer. I was also volunteering for the 25th time which means that I will shortly be able to claim my 25 volunteer T-shirt 🙂

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IMG_4577As usual I was a little bit quick, but by less than 20 seconds which is not too bad, and had a lovely run. It’s nice to run at an easier pace and I enjoyed chatting to several others as I made my way around the course. It was a bumper event with 336 runners (a new record for us) which was great to see.

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IMG_4620Post-run Steve and I got changed then headed into town to get some shopping (after a scone and cup of tea that is!).

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It was an early start on Sunday to drive through to Edinburgh as Steve had a place in the men’s 10k. It was a chilly morning but bright so we had great views as we drove over the new Queensferry Crossing.

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IMG_4648Safely parked, we made our way over to the Royal Mile via Starbucks for a caffeine hit and toilet stop.

IMG_4651The plan was for me to set off as soon as Steve was ready, but before the race began, in order to reach the finish line at Murrayfield Stadium before he finished. I set off with a podcast playing but wasn’t even past the castle before I got a call from Steve.

IMG_4653It turned out that as he warmed up he was getting a problem with his calf and had decided not to race. Probably a sensible decision. I returned to meet him and suggested that since it was just around the corner we (really I!) should pay a visit to the Harry Potter shop Diagon House which had opened in the summer. It’s on the street that is thought to be J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley and I’ve been desperate to visit, but back in the summer the queues were massive!

IMG_4654Inside, I was spellbound and passed some happy time taking photos and browsing the merchandise. I bought a cloth bag with a picture of Harry Potter in cat form, as well as a couple of postcards for my classroom.

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IMG_4660After that we went for a coffee (and the first mince pie of the season!) then had a look in the Apple Store before heading over to our favourite place – Hotel Chocolat. Their products are amazing and there’s a nice cafe. They also had festive drinks on and we had the most amazing salted caramel and clementine hot chocolate. Yum!

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IMG_4683Then with all that chocolate goodness inside us we headed back to the car for the drive home as we were both in need of a nap after the early start (and I hadn’t slept too well the right before).

All in all, a pretty good week rounded off with a brilliant weekend, at least for me!

Are you a Harry Potter fan?
Any exciting plans for the festive season?

Week In Review – A Busy One!

Some weeks are pretty quiet, others are super busy and this week has definitely been a busy one! Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share more.

Part of the busy-ness came from the start of the new school term which began with some observations by a team visiting from the local authority. Not quite an inspection, but an opportunity to prepare for future inspections. On top of that I had some things in the diary but still wanted to fit in some training to keep things ticking over. Here’s how it looked:

Monday – sports massage
Tuesday – bike @ the gym
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – short run

After getting back to the pool last week I had to skip it this week as I had a sports massage scheduled. Normally I would squeeze in a quick swim beforehand, however I needed to use this time to have some food as I was heading straight from the massage to meet my sister at the cinema to see a screening of The Princess Bride. It was so good to see it on the big screen, and everyone there clearly knew it well as we were all reacting ahead of some of the lines, but I’m trying to gloss over the fact that it was being shown to mark the film’s 30th anniversary, as that makes me feel really old!

F9FB4E95-CDCC-472E-A577-2BD650E33C42I was back to it on Tuesday with another 30 minute cycle on the bike at my gym. I quite enjoy getting myself set up with my Kindle and pedalling hard while catching up on some reading. I can’t do that when I”m doing intervals so take the chance when I’m not. sometimes you just have to multi-task to get everything done!

Wednesday was one of those super busy days. I’m committed to going to orchestra rehearsals each Wednesday until our concert but am keen to fit a run in as well. Usually this will be fine (it’s only in the short term) but this week I had an appointment in town so it was after 5:30pm before I got home. Somehow I needed to run, shower and eat before my sister picked me up a little after 7pm. Challenge extended…! I was changed and out the door super fast with a loop in mind. I knew it would be less than 3 miles but planned to attack it hard since there was time pressure. I wanted to be back by 6:15pm and was home at 6:12! I stuck my dinner in the oven while I showered and changed, then finished it just as my sister texted to say she was on her way. Yes it was rushed, but I was impressed by my own efficiency.

IMG_4511After all that I was grateful for my Ashtanga yoga class on Thursday evening. It was a busy class this week but it felt great to stretch and relax. Even better, I managed “Wheel” for a full 5 breaths, which is what I’ve been working towards. After managing to hold the posture for 4 breaths last week I felt confident I could manage more – perhaps it’s all about belief rather than strength? Next is to manage more than 1 round as at present I switch to yoga bridge after that.

Usually Friday is pretty chilled but this was another busy day for me. As soon as I got home from work I Changed and headed over to the studio for my session with Steve. My right shoulder was still feeling a bit tight so I wanted to do some work around that. I had also noticed something in my right foot/ankle that needed a little tweak. Nothing painful, more a minor functional movement issue. We did some exercises to address it as well as doing some work on the TRX.

IMG_4518Afterwards I was straight home to change (again) and headed out to grab some Chinese food before heading into town. It was the opening night of the Women of the World (WoW) Festival with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in conversation with the founder of WoW and some teen girls who were very articulate and had thought carefully about the issues they wanted to discuss. The focus was on gender issues rather than political ones. I really enjoyed it and am hoping to write a bit more about the festival overall.

IMG_4520I had bought a weekend pass for the WoW Festival and wanted to attend sessions throughout both Saturday and Sunday. The first one I wanted to go to on Saturday was at 10:30am, so I had some logistics to figure out to make sure I could get to parkrun as well. To avoid car parking issues, I walked to parkrun carrying a bag with a change of clothes which I kept in Steve’s car while I ran (he had been away earlier for a PT client). I ran hard, but was a little hampered by strong winds. On the plus side, only losing 3 seconds on last week’s time tells me I was running better and it was the conditions that prevented a further improvement. I’d love to manage another sub-24 before the end of the year, however conditions now can make that tricky.

IMG_4522As soon as I finished I grabbed my bag from the car and headed over to the festival venue where I had a very glamorous change in the toilets and made it into the session with time to spare. Not bad! I then had a great day listening to discussion of various women’s issues and browsing the stalls from an assortment of organisations. My favourite was the one selling “empowerment pants” and I couldn’t resist buying a pair – like superhero pants but for wearing when you need a reminder to be strong, I loved the idea!
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Sunday saw me awoken early by the cat, who was having an empty for bowl crisis! The clock by my bed said just after 6:30am so I got up and fed her in a bleary-eyed state before returning to bed as I didn’t need to be up just yet. I awoke naturally around 7:15, well-rested but a little confused as my phone alarm had not gone off…until I realised that the clock by my bed had not gone back when the clocks changed overnight, unlike my phone which knew the “real” time was 6:15! After a busy week I was going to benefit from an extra hour of time 🙂

I used that hour to sort out a few bits and pieces in the house before heading out for a short run. Steve needed to do a road run as he has a race next weekend, but I just wanted to get out for half an hour or so, as I knew overdoing it after a busy week would be a bad idea, especially since I was heading back to WoW afterwards.

IMG_4549I had plenty of time to run, shower and have a good breakfast before heading into town for the first session of the day at 10:30am. I then enjoyed a second fantastic day of talks, debate and workshops, as well as connecting with someone else I only previously knew from a Tough Girl connection.

It was (mostly) a brilliant week, especially the WoW festival, but I must make sure to prioritise some rest in the week ahead to make sure things don’t get on top of me in the coming weeks. Any excuse to put my feet up for a bit!

How has your week been?
Have you ever been to a WoW festival?

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?

Friday Finds – 20th October

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

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to an awesome weekend. I’m here as usual to kick things off with a selection of interesting articles I’ve come across recently.

I’m going to start with the sort of data analysis I love to geek out over, so if you love stats and cool graphs, this one’s for you! Back in July I drew your attention to a study suggesting American runners are getting slower. Now, the same team has dug a little deeper to see how each US state compares, with some interesting results. Although I’m in the UK, I do love this kind of thing and often wonder how other parts of the world compare. What I found of particular interest was the comparison of male and female times in different states, and the breakdown of participation – there are some states where more women participated in the studied marathons than men – awesome! There is a calculator at the start which allows you to plug in your times and see how you compare, and I’ll admit to being quite pleased with mine! Have fun checking it out!

On the subject of marathons, I’ve previously written about Derek Murphy from Marathon Investigation whose mission it is to seek out and challenge people he believes to be cheats e.g. those who cut courses (like in the recent Mexico City marathon) or those who have faked data or bandited a race. And banditing is the subject of this next article. For those unfamiliar, it’s the practice of copying someone’s race bib from those excited, pre-race social media posts then making their own to gain access to the race. The piece is interesting in that it gives the “bandit” point of view and includes some comments suggesting it’s not that big a deal. Ok, so it’s not a major crime, but a marathon place can be expensive so I’d be pretty upset if I thought people were avoiding that, and even more so if the presence of so-called bandits led to a shortage of medals or other race goodies for those who had paid for a place and were therefore entitled to them. Definitely a debate that could rumble on, and I’d love to know your thoughts.

My next find is one of those ones that comes from a fairly unlikely source for a running blog – music. Regular readers may know that I dabble a bit in playing the violin, an instrument I learned at school and in recent years took up again in order to play in a local symphony orchestra. This past week I came across this piece reporting on an article written by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. In it, Marsalis sets out his twelve ways to practice and notes that this can apply not just to music but to studying, sports or any new skills. I have to say, from reading this I can see the connections. In a way, it’s the kind of thing I try to do when trying to help a pupil see how they can transfer skills from their hobbies or other interests into their school work. The article contains a link to the full original text:

One of the things that running is guaranteed to give us is stories. Chat to any seasoned runner and they’re bound to be able to regale you with tales of all kinds of triumphs and mishaps. With that in mind, I really enjoyed this piece from Motiv Running by ultra runner Dakota Jones. It tells of a mishap when language, race waves and chocolate croissants collide…

And finally, I make no secret of the fact that the treadmill is not my favourite piece of workout equipment, only to be used when running outside is absolutely not an option. But one runner has taken treadmill training to a whole new level. Don’t try this one at home!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

7 For 2017 – Nearly There!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – Vive La France!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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