First of all a quick hello to my new followers. I have absolutely no idea why you would want to follow my tales of self-mockery and woe, but you are very welcome. There is fat-free cake in the tin and a large canteen of black coffee on the stove. Help yourselves.

Since my last post I have been indulging myself with a few woodland runs. I’m not a huge fan of trudging along the roadside; it can be boring, slightly dangerous and not much good for my self-esteem. There have been times when I’ve been running on the road when I just wanted to stop and cry. I don’t know why. I think I’m maybe too hard on myself there, expect far too much and leave myself feeling deflated. On the trails it’s so very different.

On the trails I am surrounded by trees, cosseted against prying eyes, able to run without care. I run along looking at the trees, the flowers, sometimes the wildlife and feel free. The weather doesn’t even bother me. It can be lashing down or icy cold and I still enjoy the whole getting back to nature thing. It’s invigorating and, yes, it can be a tougher run, but it never feels like that. It  feels easier, freer, more stimulating. When you run on the road you can get lulled into a dreamlike trance, plonking one foot in front of the other ad infinitum. On the trails if you do that you’re liable to sprain, twist or break something. The ground literally keeps you on your toes, where you are supposed to be!

Of course my pace is slower, but (and this is the biggy) IT’S ALLOWED TO BE! How liberating is that? You get a harder workout, especially for your core, and you get to go slower! And not much slower really either. My pace on the road tends to hover around the 10 minute mile mark. I’d like it to be faster, but it’s not. Not yet. On the trails it’s between 10 and 11 minutes, not much different really. The only problem I have is that without getting in the car and driving to a park our local woodland only gives me a maximum of 3 miles providing I run there and back. I suppose I could run it twice, but I’ve never felt that I’ve wanted to.

Murphy, my Jack Russell, usually comes with me – which is an added bonus. I don’t like running him on the road. He’s a bit daft, tends to pull on the lead and stop right in front of me! I’m also wary of him hurting his feet on the tarmac. On the trails the ground is more forgiving and he will usually run at my heel after he’s checked the undergrowth for rabbits and the like. I enjoy his company and he loves to run.

We went out before work on Thursday morning. I only had half an hour to spare so opted to do just a couple of miles. With the walk to the woods and back that would be my 30 minutes slot used up. It was gorgeous; a sunny and warm morning, just delightful really. I ran happy and didn’t stop until  reached the turnaround point where I stopped for a few minutes to take photos. I thought I had the auto-stop turned on Runmeter (my Garmin was flat when I went for it so I made do with my back up GPS running apps) but I didn’t, so I probably ran a little faster than I’m giving myself credit for.

Today I convinced my husband to join me first thing. He was all for having a bacon sandwich, getting a few jobs done and then going running, just before we headed out to Carlisle. I know him well enough to know that the less important things (in his world) get squeezed out and that if we left the run until almost bus time, we wouldn’t be going at all! With the promise of a bacon roll in his head we set off at around 9am, not early but early enough for Sunday!

It was much colder than on Thursday and much, much windier. The sunshine was hidden behind some grey looking clouds, threatening rain. We left the dogs behind, much to their chagrin and headed out. My husband much prefers to run on the road. He finds running on the trails much harder than me. That said he set a good pace and ran for a mile without stopping, completing that in 10:46. At the turnaround we stopped to catch our breath. I was just saying that we hadn’t seen any deer when one crossed the path ahead of us! That is what running trails is all about. The return is always harder as it’s pretty much all up hill. With a few husband-determined walk breaks we did the last mile in 11:27, nothing to be sniffed at.

The jobs are all getting done and we’ve both got stacks of energy left. When we’d finished running my husband turned to me and said that he felt as if he could do it again and that is exactly how I always feel after a trail run. It’s fun. Full stop!

Practising my 5k with a mouth full of midges

Intriguing title, eh? Well it sums up my run last night. A practice 5k, along the shore road just before dusk. Really I should have known better!

For those of you unfamiliar with the famous Scottish midge, it’s a winged insect that bites and sucks blood from its prey. Sounds scary doesn’t it? Truth is the midge is a tiny creature, just 1 – 2 mm in wingspan, but when they herd together, as they tend to do, it’s like walking into a cloud.

Unfortunately I was running into them, but let me start at the beginning for apparently it’s a very good place to start.

Jeff Galloway, my guru, informed me that I had a 5k run to do at race pace, just to test  myself out. It was a lovely day yesterday, although I was really busy and at one point actually wondered if I was going to get a chance to run at all. However I did and at 6:30 pm I finally laced up my shoes and headed out. I had a few new items of kit to test out and my 5k was perfect for that.

First off I’d treated myself to a hydration belt made by Asics. I had done a bit of research and this belt came up well recommended and none too expensive (always a factor for me) and so when I got a chance to try it on at Pete Bland Sports in Kendal the other week I jumped at it. It fitted well, snuggly on my waist and felt comfortable, far better than the old belt I’d bought from Lidl. The Asics belt cost me £15 and comes with a large water bottle in a quick draw pouch and has a secure and waterproof zipped pocket big enough for my iPhone, gels, keys etc…

..and the Kendal Mint Cake!

I was disappointed on visiting my local Lidl that the promised stock of sports bras had been completely bought out bar one bra that was too small. However, on a return visit my husband noticed an abandoned one on another aisle, obviously waiting for me to collect it! They also had some snazzy looking running socks in so I bought a couple of pairs of those too!

Fully loaded, I set off.

I waited until I was clear of the village before starting and Jeff gave me a countdown to get me going. The pace felt good at around an 8 minute mile when I was running, although I knew that after 4 minutes I would be walking. The target was a 10 minute mile pace. What I didn’t know until he said was that dear old Jeff was planning that the first half a mile was going to be a warm up to my 5k, not part of it! When the announcement came I was gutted! However, I restarted my Garmin and set off, again.

On the main part of the run I allowed my pace to be dictated by the beat of my running playlist, all carefully beat synched by LoLo, the makers of the Jeff Galloway Easy 10k app. The result was a reasonable sub 9 minute mile, except for a patch at the start  where I was fighting midges! Alongside of the road heading out there are woods and this is where the midges are happiest. I’d chosen the worse part of the day, dusk, and they were hanging around in swarms, just ready for me to run into them, mouth open. YUK! I really hate these little creatures flying around me. If they stayed in the bushes or even dodged out of my way I’d be perfectly happy, but no. I had wee flies in my eyes, up my nose, in my mouth – oh ugh.

Once I turned at 1.4 miles I was on the opposite side of the road and it was better. Not midge free, but better. And so was my pace. But I guess the damage was done. I was already on an average 10 minute mile pace and I was hoping for less than that. However, if I added my surprise warm up to the mix and subtracted the last half mile I probably would have had a lower average.

It matters not. It was a good run in the circumstances, my belt was great, there was significantly less bounce with my new bra and my feet were comfy.

Aside from chocolate and wine, what else can a girl ask for?

Ten Marathons Later…

My blog writing these days seems to be confined to those done on long car journeys. Here I am again, travelling back from Birmingham, iPad on my lap trying to recall what exciting running tales I have. This is more of an apology than an explanation, i.e. forgive me if it all goes awry.

Since retuning from our Lake District holiday my hubbie has decided that he would like to run more often and the lighter nights are allowing this. However his renewed interest in running has knocked my training programme into a cocked hat; how do I satisfy his enthusiasm and my need to improve? Basically I’ve decided that I can’t do both and if that means that my training programmes have to take a bit longer so that I can go running with the man I love, then so be it. Jack (remember my friend Jack) would say that I wasn’t committed, but he’d be wrong. I am a committed runner, committed to my marriage. That’s doubly committed in my book!

On Monday we ran a slow, but faster than last time, 2.5 miles. Just a there and back run in the cold sunshine. The sun was shining, but there was a cold wind blowing.

On Tuesday I decided that some speed intervals were required and so had Jeff Galloway. He drawled that today we will be doing some race pace intervals and, as the weather wasn’t good, I opted for the treadmill. I had put Jeff and his Easy 10k away, but now that the evenings are stretching out I have more time for longer runs and so out he’s come again. It’s nice having that structure. One of the other reasons why I’d stopped using the app was because it was pushing me too hard and I was becoming despondent. Scratch that. I was pushing myself too hard, as usual. I’d got my heart set on subbing 60 minutes for my 10k, from a 65 minute PB. Rather than aim for 59 minutes I was aiming for 55, attempting to knock 10 minutes off my time and I was near killing myself in the process! I am now wearing my sensible hat, have readjusted the app and it’s now set for 10 minute miles. With any luck one mile will be 9 minutes long! The difference, as I told my husband afterwards as we soaked in the hot tub (who needs ice baths?) was that I could easily manage the race pace sprints in the middle of the run, instead of struggling to finish them and sometimes even stopping to walk during them.

20120421-082939 PM.jpg

With that under my belt I arrived at school on Wednesday to discover that the Olympic Torch Relay fundraiser that I thought was the following week wasn’t. A quick duck home to collect my gear and I was running laps of the grass playing field with primary school children. 7 laps equalled a mile so whatever I did had to be in multiples of 7. It was hard enough remembering how many laps I’d done of the running track the other week without having wee voices asking “How many laps have you done Mrs Hollis?” Running on grass is not my favourite,no matter how forgiving it is on the knees. It is a strength zapper. I wasn’t timing myself, but I did 5 miles in about 45 minutes. The school as a whole, with two other adult long lappers and some walking parents, achieved a total of over 270 miles, the equivalent of 10 marathons far surpassing their target of 5 marathons, one for every ring of the Olympic emblem. Their achievement can be seen on the official Olympic countdown site.

Some of the children hadn’t realised that I really did run; they looked at me with semi-scorn beforehand, not wanting to believe it. Afterwards some of them were incredulous that I’d run 35 laps. Some congratulated me with a pat on the back! Actually I was secretly pretty pleased with myself too. I’d arranged to run alongside a seasoned runner, a friend who is SO encouraging of my efforts that I was delighted to run with him. George has been a runner for as long as I’ve known him. It’s a standing joke that George wears some garish get ups and runs with headband and sunglasses regardless of the weather. He gives every race his all and can be heard puffing tothe finish line before he is seen, much to the concern of his wife! Before the holiday I’d joked with Linda, his wife, that we should coordinate headbands only to be presented with a special headband on Wednesday morning! George is my anti-Jack pill. George was ‘fresh’ from the Rock and Roll Half in Edinburgh the weekend before but that didn’t seem to slow his pace. He had a steady pace and I kept up with him for most of the way, stopping only for a swig of juice and two short walks. I ended up just one lap behind him and as he is a 50 minute 10ker that was good enough for me.

Since then I’ve not run. I will do at the weekend, but last night I travelled with my family to attend a funeral today and tonight we’re travelling home. Life gets in the way and it’s ok, my running is a pleasure and I will treat it as such.

Long Runs in Unfamiliar Territory

Running the day after having run the day before isn’t something I often do, but as it was such a nice day yesterday I just felt that I should get my long run out of the way.

That’s not quite what I mean; I enjoy my long runs, even though I find them challenging. What I really mean is that the weather here in The Lakes has been so changeable that running when it’s good is a total plus! I’d actually forgotten that I’d run the day before. What I did remember was that we’d walked a good 5 miles around Kendal with the dogs and that my hips were still feeling it. The 2.5 miles I’d done with Grant was nothing in comparison. The different muscle groups used for walking and me being quite unused to long distance walking meant that I was a bit sore. Following my 10k training app again Jeff Galloway told me that I had almost 9 miles to do, including warm up and cool down walks.

I don’t know this area at all. Plotting a route wasn’t easy as our map wasn’t detailed enough so I resorted to using online maps and getting an idea of what roads went where, although I didn’t have the facility to print anything out. I decided to run north from the campsite, along the path as far as it went and then turn back and head into Kendal.

I was totally unprepared. I had bought a sports drink, but it was a low calorie one and I hadn’t anything remotely sugary to help my energy towards the end of the 9 miles. Just before I headed out I grabbed a pound coin and popped it in my back pocket. At least I could buy something.

Running north turned out to be a bit of a disaster; the path running alongside the A6 lasted maybe a quarter of a mile tops before taking a turn into a lovely little church high on a hill. Oh well! I turned round and headed back past the campsite entrance and towards Kendal. I ran the first mile in 9:41.

Once I was in the town things started to slow down. I’ve never really run in a town before, certainly not during the day. There were cars, vans and people everywhere to avoid. I found myself dodging pedestrians, dogs on leads and stopping to cross roads. I tried to keep to quieter routes, but it was going home time for many shoppers and workers. I ran the second mile in 10:17 and the third in 10:52. The views along the river were lovely and I stopped to take a photo at one point, just to prove how nice running in the town was, despite the millions of people and traffic getting in my way! Well hundreds maybe…

I ran up into the town centre, passing by all the shops I’d seen the day before. It was still quite busy in the centre despite it being late afternoon. On the way down from the town centre I ran past a Holland and Barrett and quickly hit pause as I went inside to find some jelly babies! I eventually found some Dextrose tablets for 75p (remember I’d only taken £1 with me) and handed over my somewhat sweaty coin with apologies to the assistant. For some bizarre reason I felt that I needed to tell him that I had another 4 miles to run, maybe excusing myself for coming in mid-run! I must stop doing that! I feel daft as soon as I open my mouth! Mile 4 – 10:47.

Once I’d come off the High Street I had no idea which way to go. I carried on along the main road following my nose, realising that the path I’d chosen was running parallel to the A6. Eventually, on a walk break, I asked a lady if I could cut through onto the Shap Road. She gave me a really complicated route that I had no hope of remembering especially as it would take me through an industrial estate. We then got chatting (eventually I remembered to turn off my timer!) and she asked me if I was training for anything. When I told her that I was working up to running the Great North Run it turned out that she has herself run in the GNR in her twenties. I explained, as she wasn’t that much older than me, that I hadn’t been running for long, just a couple of years. I said I needed to cover another 4 miles that day which put a totally new complexion on the route she recommended. She said that there were some lovely routes roundabout but to get me across to the A6 I should go via Burneside. With vague instructions I thanked her and headed off. Mile 5 – 12:12

I hadn’t gone far before I had to stop and check my Maps app, just to see that I was on the right road. I was. I had been told that the route was quite, and I quote, “uppydowny”. Understatement! The first hill, before I’d even reached Burneside village, had me walking. It wasn’t the last hill to do that! At least I was still running on paths.

Once I reached Burneside I had to cross the road and turn right. My friend had described this as a cut through that could be a bit of a Rat Race and that I would have to run on the road. There ws a path part way along the road though and I used that until it suddenly disappeared into a housing estate, leaving me to climb a wall to get onto the road! I crossed over to see if the path continued on the other side, but it didn’t. The dilemma of an unknown route! Mile 6 – 11:20.

The cut across was quite a nice road, even though it was definitely on the large side of being uppy and downy! It wound its way around farms and homesteads, over rivers and across towards the main road. As I reached the main road, after climbing a double hill, Mr Galloway said that i had 2 miles to go. As I hadn’t switched on the iphone GPS I didn’t know how accurate this was or exactly how far I actually had to run, my only issue with the app. Planning a route isn’t easy when you don’t now how far you need to cover. Mile 7 – 11:23

I could see the pretty little church on the hill ahead of me; I’d come out above the campsite with at least a mile to go. I’d been popping Dextrose tabs for the last couple of miles and I was starting to tire with all the stops, starts and hills. I decided to run down past the campsite entrance to Morrisons and back. That should just about do the mileage I needed. The wind was against me again, but by then I felt as if I was barely running! Mile 8 – 11:19

As I reached Morrison’s Jeff told me that I was on the last mile. I knew that that included a cool down walk so running back up to the campsite was my last half a mile. I turned and started back up. I was tired out. The A6 is a busy road and the further you get out the faster the traffic comes at you. I’d just picked up my pace when a lorry sped by and the gust of wind that followed it blew my running cap clean off my head, taking my earphones with it! I slowed down to sort both out before finishing my last 0.41 mile in 11:40 pace.

I completed my 8:41 miles in 1:32:38, giving me 11.00/mi pace overall. I had hoped to get under 11 minute mile pace, in fact I had hoped to crack 10 min/mi, but with all the stopping and starting that running an unknown route brought I should be happy with what I achieved. I am. Honest I am!

Pains, Paths and Positives

This week I have been holidaying in the English Lake District, just outside the small town of Kendal to the south of the lakes. We’ve often passed through Kendal, but rarely stopped, so pitching camp to the north of the town seemed like a great chance to explore the town and roundabouts.

We were staying at the Camping and Caravan Club site just off the A6. It’s a nice, small site with around 50 pitches, although be warned – some are grass only i.e. without electric. Luckily for us, even though I’d booked a grass only pitch, there was still one hook up available when we arrived.

The weather has been typical Lake District; fine, drizzle, fine, hail, fine, heavy rain – you get the drift! It hasn’t been cold though, just a bit damp now and again! We both brought our running gear with us and finally got a chance to run on Tuesday morning. It was all I could do to convince my husband that we should run before eating the bacon roll breakfast he was intent on having. He seems to think that he has to fuel up before every run. If you could see him you’d realise that he has plenty of onboard fuel and eating more before every run is the last thing he needs! We headed out in overcast, but dry conditions.

As soon as we got out onto the man road the wind hit us. At least it would be on our backs on the way home! We had the luxury of running on a path the full length of the road into Kendal – nothing like what we’re used to back home! Almost immediately hubbie started to complain of a muscular pain across the bottom of his stomach which later seemed to travel down his legs as he rain. He said it was quite sore and had to stop a few times. I was concerned because it sounded like a hernia type pain, but know him well enough not to show my anxiety. I was happy to stop when he needed to rather than make him run through what sounded like bad pain. As it was we weren’t running that slowly, although stopping to cross roads was a bit of a pain in itself. We ran into the town and did the shortest loop I could find for him before heading back up towards the campsite.

The route home was slightly uphill, but with the wind behind us it was fine. As I started on the last mile I could feel myself wanting to run on so I opened up a little, leaving hubbie behind, but close enough for me to stop and administer whatever first aid a hernia stricken patient might need!

4 min run : 1 min run
Lap 1: 10.25/mi
Lap 3: 10:28/mi
Lap 5: 13:35/mi
Lap 7: 12:09/mi
Lap 9: 11:00/mi
Lap 11: 11:42/mi
Lap 13: 11:59/mi
Lap 14: 10:39/mi – I ran on through the walk break

2.85 miles 34:47.19 (12:11/mi)

Positive thing – even though we stopped often for ‘pain breaks’ our pace was still faster than last week’s pace. It’s all good!

It can snow now

That was the best run I’ve had in ages!

As snow reports were showing the snow line approaching I felt it best to get out there this morning. It was dull and overcast when I set off; not very promising at all. As soon as I turned the corner though I realised just how windy it was. A strong and cold north wind was coming straight down the country…straight at me! I’d opted to reverse a route I enjoy to give a try at approaching some of the hills from the other side, just for a change. I’m pleased now that this is how I ran it because although I had the wind on my face early on, it was on my back coming home. There’s nothing worse than running into the wind when you’re tired.

I had set off with the intention of following Jeff Galloway’s Easy 10k app, although I haven’t done it for a while and most of the work I’d done previously was on the treadmill. I didn’t know where to start; if to restart it, carry on from where I’d left off or pick something in the middle. In the end I just chose a run with a distance close to 4 miles.

Unwittingly I’d chose an interval session, one which always shocks me when Jeff announces that we’ll do a set of race pace intervals with a minutes rest in between. Oh fine. Why not! It’s howling a gale, but yes I’ll give it a shot!

And so, whilst battling the wind, I really tried to achieve race pace for 4 minutes at a time. By race pace I think I’am aiming for between 8 and a half and 9 minute mile pace. With the minute walks that should be around a 10 minute mile. Mr Garmin shows that I was a bit slower than that, no surprise really. The huge gap in my time was when I was stopped by a lorry driver asking for directions!

I realised that Jeff’s session was only going to last for just over half of my run – I’d picked a session of just under 4 miles, fair enough, but that included warm up and cool down walks. I decided that once it got to the cool down walk that I’d just change to my ipod and run the last mile or so home as it’s mainly downhill and I knew that I would be wind assisted.

I stopped to do the switch over and for the first time ever I thought that I might be sick. I’d been coughing a lot during the run, probably because of the wind not really allowing me to get a proper breath, and I was feeling pretty rough. I tried to put the thought out of my mind and sipped my water. My iPod fired up to The Pretenders and ‘Chain Gang’ and I was off on the home stretch.

I find music really inspirational and when The Who and ‘My Generation’ started I found my pace quickening. I slowed a little for KT Tunstall’s ‘I Don’t Want You Now’ but then along came Elton. ‘Saturday Night’s for Fighting’ is one of my favourite running songs and as I looked at my Garmin I realised that if I kept up the pace I was running at I’d better my pace for my last 10k, the one I’d just done on a track! I was stoked that even in the wind and going up and down hill I could actually go faster than I had just going round and round. I went for it, finishing my last mile with a negative split and a smile. My fastest pace was 6:53.

Sitting here now the wind has really picked up. It’s beautiful out there – bright sunshine, blue skies, but I’m pleased to be in here and finished. It can snow now!

Avg Pace
Summary 51:34.2 4.75 10:51
1 10:45.8 1.00 10:46
2 11:22.0 1.00 11:22
3 11:11.3 1.00 11:11
4 11:04.4 1.00 11:04
5 7:10.7 0.75 9:34

Before it snows…

They’ve been predicting snow here for the last week, but, as usual, nobody has chosen to take any notice – preferring instead to adopt the Chicken Licken stance when it does indeed start to snow. It’s not snowing here and it might not. We are heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream here on the west of Scotland and that tends to make snow light and short lived.

20120403-084845 AM.jpg

Whatever happens I’m heading out this morning to get about 4 miles in. I’d rather run outside in the light rain (as it is now) than run on the treadmill because of heavier rain or sleet. Plus I have a whole rack of housework to do and doing my run first will put me in better fettle for that.

I’m just fuelling up with some porridge and sultanas and I’ve donned my old Asics, just in case the route is wet. It’s been dry here for ages, but the route I’m going to be running tends to flood easily and I think it’s been raining for most of the night.

So, some gulps of tea and I’m off. See you all later!