9 miles, in the bag!

Yesterday was a bit of disaster, planning wise. Today was the day to run, that was plain to see. And when I got up this morning and saw the sunshine, I knew I’d made the right decision in delaying my long run. The weather was so much cooler today, so much more settled – ideal for a run.

Of course I was well organized because I’d already organised everything yesterday! The Camelbak was juiced up, my Garmin was charged up and my kit was laid out (well, to be fair, it was lying in a heap next to my bed, but at least it was there!) I only had to throw everything on and head out. And that was what I did.

As I stepped out the back door it started to rain, but it was just big spots that weren’t going to come to much, and I was determined come hell or high water to run today. By the time I’d reached the main road it was dry again. The extra half a mile, it turned out, was just my warm up/cool down walks, so I had exactly 9 miles to do. My pace was being prescribed at 11 minute miles making it a steady run for endurance rather than speed. It was breezy so I decided on the shore road. It’s fairly level, but running against the wind can be a really good workout. I decided to leave my hills for a shorter run day.

The going was quite easy, even in the first mile. I was running 4 minutes at 10 minute mile pace and walking for a minute. It felt comfortable. My feet were also feeling the comfort of my Skecher Go Runs and this was going to be my longest run ever in minimal trainers. Do or die.

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My fan club!

Every now and again I ran through a pleasant shower, nature’s sprinkler system, so when I started to feel drips on my calves I didn’t really take any notice until, that is, the drips turned into pouring liquid.

Now I have to stop and assure you that, even at the grand old age of 48 (yes alright – almost 49) I have yet to make use of Tena Lady and have excellent bladder control. This was not “lady leakage” but something far more serious.

I stopped and took my backpack off only to find that the drink tube had become detached from bladder and I was losing valuable isotonic juice all over my back, leggings, legs, road. I hastily took the whole thing apart, trying to preserve as much liquid as possible, I was already 3 miles from home, and also rescue my phone that I was carrying in my backpack! Once I’d gathered everything together I’d managed to hang on to less than half my juice. It would just have to do.

Whilst I was rescuing my phone and as I was running so well I decided to tweek my settings on the Jeff Galloway Half Marathon training app so that I was running more and walking less. I set it so that I was running for four and a half minutes and walking for thirty seconds. In reality it felt like I was hardly walking which was actually quite reassuring. I’ve never run over six miles without using walk breaks of a minute, so reducing them by half was quite a step and I believe that I could, if I wanted, complete a half marathon without walking at all. If I wanted.

The benefit of talking regular walk breaks shows itself in my lack of injury as I have increased my mileage. I might ache a bit, but I don’t suffer from the same sort of injuries that I read other runners suffer from.

I completed my nine miles as the sun started to get hotter in 1:39 with fairly consistent 11 minute miles throughout. Next up is a cadence, interval and acceleration work out. I’ll give it a day and do this on Thursday, giving me Friday to recover, Saturday to run again before another long run on Monday.

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It’s all about timing

I love Snoopy!
I love Snoopy!

I should be sitting here telling you all about my wonderful 8 mile run this afternoon which, having patiently waited until heavy downfalls subsided, went particularly well in lower temperatures that we’ve been having lately.  Yes, that’s exactly what I should be telling you. The run didn’t go badly, it just didn’t go at all.

Just about the entire UK has been experiencing fantastic weather recently. Hot sunny days, no rain and scorching temperatures that have been competing with those in southern Europe, amazingly even in Scotland! Today saw the third day here of very heavy showers, which have been the cause of localised flooding. In between the showers, here at least, the weather rapidly returns to being lovely.

I knew that today was my long run day and I’d been relieved to see that the forecast predicted that the showers in the morning, which were pretty full on, would subside by the mid afternoon. Instead of attempting to run in the rain this morning (which doesn’t bother me, but as I run on the roads visibility for oncoming traffic is seriously reduced and, even though it is weather for ducks, I really don’t want to be a sitting one!) or run on the treadmill I decided to wait it out. I went into work this morning, started a new painting and came home in plenty of time to have lunch and then run.

However, I noticed that the house could do with a bit of a tidy up, so out came the vacuum. Then I noticed that the washing had finished its cycle in the machine, so I hung that out. Then I went to see my hens and noticed a clump of red mite, so out came the mite killer spray. Then I noticed that our bed sheets could do with changing, so out came the bedding. I think you are catching on.

Before I knew it is was after 3:30 and I still hadn’t ventured out. By then the sun was shining and the temperature had risen. It was now or never! I quickly got changed, organised my juice and reached for my phone.

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On turning on my Galloway training app, I suddenly realised that I was not due to do an 8 mile run, I was due to do a 9.5 mile run which would take an hour and three quarters. It dawned on me that I simply wouldn’t have enough time to run and then come home, cook, eat, shower and get out for a concert which starts at 7:30 at a venue which is an hour away! The only thing running  was time and it was running away from me!

So, being pragmatic, I decided that I would postpone my run until tomorrow. I decided that whatever the weather I will run in the morning, even if that means running as many safe miles as I can on the road (a quiet, hardly used route) and finishing off on the treadmill. With my running done I can then go to work in the happy knowledge that I’ve done my long run, albeit a day late.

So, not wanting to say I’ve wasted my time, I am presently dying my hair a delightful shade of copper blonde (that’s ginger to you) and writing this blog! Dinner is “identified” and the ingredients have been sourced. Hopefully this time tomorrow I will be back with news of my wonderful 9.5 mile run! Until then, sayonara!

X Border Challenge 10k

This is a race to see if I can write up this report before my laptop battery fails as I’m  currently typing this sitting in the comfort of my garden hammock and I’m loathed to get out and fetch my charger.

15% charge left…

Yesterday my semi silent coach and I headed across the border into England for the finish of the X Border Challenge 10k. Read on. All will become apparent. We were confused as well.

At the finish, located at Kingmoor Park Estate, was the event registration area and baggage drop as well as a series of buses to take the competitors to the start line back across the border at Gretna! It sounded crazy, it seemed crazy, but it worked.

9%…this battery is naff…

There was ample room for parking, loads of appropriate signage and well informed staff handing out timing chips and numbers. It was one of the smoothest operations I’ve seen. Once I’d collected my number, safety pins and chip I went back to the car to sort myself out with sunscreen and plenty of drink. I’d elected, given the high temperatures, to take an electrolyte replacing drink with me in my Camelbak hydration back pack. It would save me worrying about getting dehydrated and having to carry water. I took 500ml of isotonic lemon and lime from Morrisons. A couple of puffs on my inhaler, a squirt of sunscreen and I was good to go.

7%…I’m now running on reserve battery power! I think I’d better go and get my charger…there, sorted. OK, where was I?

Ah yes, I kissed SSC and got on the waiting bus. It soon filled up and we were on our way down the motorway service road, back to Gretna. The guy I sat next to on the bus had done the race twice before and so knew the routine. Apparently we would be dropped off at the Garden House Hotel from where we’d start and could use their facilities. Proper toilets! Imagine that people!

I nervously started talking to people I didn’t know, probably coming across as a total loon! I saw a couple of runners wearing Crook AC shirts and randomly asked them if they knew a friend of mine who ran in the club only to be assured that “everyone knows Paul!” That’s quite a reputation you have Lord Smythe! I asked them to tell Paul that they’d met the Queen (long story short – Paul thinks I look like Helen Mirren – I don’t, but it’s nice of him to think so and I don’t argue with him!)

I also got talking to a couple of trail runners who convinced me to have a go at a trail race and finally to my friend Nicola who I’d only discovered was running the race the night before. We chatted until the runners were called to the line.

On the word go I immediately lost sight of Nicola – she just disappeared and I just ran on at a slowish pace (so I thought). I was determined, given the heat (it was getting on for 20ºC as we left Gretna) to stick rigidly to my run:walk system until the last mile. It meant I was running faster, but I was getting a proper walk break in between where I could refuel and recover.

I must have passed Nicola on the first hill up out of Gretna because on my first walk break I saw her run past me. I hadn’t seen her, but there were 550 entries, so I guess I’m allowed to miss one person! I apologised as I passed Nicola on my next run break, saying that I was going to start annoying her with my yoyo running style, but that was the last time I saw her.

My first mile came in at 9:17, which was pretty fast. It didn’t feel that fast.

The course ran alongside of the north bound M6 motorway. It was reasonably flat, just a couple of hills and a couple of long rises to contend with. I found myself yoyoing with a group of women who called themselves “Plodders and Proud” amongst a few others who just seemed to accept that I would be running and walking. I kept right out of the way when I was walking, looking over my shoulder at each change in pace. I hate it when folk just stop in front of me so I wouldn’t dream of doing that to anyone else!

As we ran it got hotter. The clouds that we’d had at the start quickly gave way to unbridled sunshine and the breeze that wafted across the Solway soon got blocked by hills. It was like running in a furnace.

I tried to keep to my LoLo beatpace – my songs were telling me when to plant my feet although one or two songs were difficult to fathom. I found that I was running ahead of schedule, which lifted my spirits. My second mile came in at 10:04.

After that the heat and lack of breeze started to wear me down a little. I still ran with commitment to the end of each run segment, but my miles started to slow down. Mile 3: 10:41, mile 4: 10:57 and my slowest mile, mile 5: 11:09. It was still good enough though to put me within spitting distance of my best 10k time of 62 minutes. I saw that at 55 minutes I was under a mile to the finish so I just ran it as best I could.

As I turned into the industrial estate I could see my husband’s smiling face. He shouted me on “Not far to go, you’re nearly there!” and I ran on. I expected to just turn into the car park, but the course led us agonisingly around the back of the estate, out of the breeze and in full glare of the sun, for an extra 4/10 of a mile. However, along that extra bit were members of the RunGeek team, finished runners, their families and, I’m guessing, some people who just like to be nice. They clapped and cheered us on for that last wee bit and as I approached the line I was called across it by the commentator.

Officially my chip says that I did the hottest 10k ever in 64:57 and finished 340th. I’m actually very pleased with that. I’m not sweating the time because I did plenty of sweating to get it! I got a very nice medal and a goody bag full of things I could actually eat (save the 10p bag of Haribos that SSC got).

Now, brace yourselves…the obligatory pictures…

Me and the Bling!
Me and the Bling!
Said Bling
Said Bling
Yon Goodie Bag!
Yon Goodie Bag!

All in all, despite the heat, this was a great race to be part of. The organisation was second to none and the entire experience was positive. I’ll definitely be back next year, although next year I’ll be cuter with my application and make sure that I enter this and the Great Cumbrian Run on the same day so that I can get my £11 discount. I’m still smarting from not being allowed a discount, despite missing the start of the deal by a day.

Today I’m a bit sore. My left heel is bruised, I think, and my quads are aching from the effort. Going down the stairs in the shops this morning was a painful reminder of what I had achieved yesterday! A bath will fix that later. My heel pain though is more of a concern. At about mile 4 I noticed that my heel was hurting and tried to transfer my weight more to the front of my foot as I landed. This may have been down to tiredness, maybe my posture and gait had altered as I started to falter, but I am seriously considering retiring my Ghosts after 350 miles in favour of a new pair of somethings. In the meantime I might just try longer runs in my Skechers, having only done 4 miles in them at the moment. The fact that they make me run more mid foot might help.

Inspiration

I often get inspiration from reading articles in magazines, from reading books and blogs, usually all written by ‘real’ people. When I say ‘real’ what I mean is people who don’t have 24 hour gym membership, a personal trainer and no need to do anything else. People, like me, who have a life beyond running, but to whom running is an important factor.

I’ve just finished catching up with a particularly inspirational blog, written by a chap who often takes time to come here and encourage me. Take a look at OldRunningFox’s blog – Gordon is in his 80s and didn’t start running until he was older than I am now. His race times are amazing and I’ll be lucky to even come close to some, but, inspired by them, I will try!

In reading Gordon’s latest few entries I suddenly realised that I have a place nearby for practising intervals. I’m not yet sure how long it is, definitely 200m at least, and it’s not totally flat, but near enough. It’s a road, but a rarely used one. The most I see on a run is maybe a tractor, just one, or maybe a Land Rover. Just farm traffic going between fields. It’s two miles from home, so a decent warm up run there and cool down run back. If time is short I can drive and park up in a gateway.

After my 10k race on Sunday I start my half marathon training again. And this time I will faithfully do my intervals. I want to get faster, even if it’s by seconds. I’ll reserve the treadmill for absolute necessity only and concentrate on getting my little legs rotating a little faster!

Find Gordon’s blog at http://oldrunningfox.blogspot.co.uk/ – I rarely recommend a blog, so please check it out and prove my conviction!

The Almosts and the Nearlys

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For the last two weeks, this has been my running track. As you will have gleaned from my last post, we were holidaying in the north of Scotland in the Sutherland town of Brora. It’s a beautiful part of the world and this holiday we were blessed with fantastic Mediterranean-like weather. We were camping just the other side of the dunes from this wonderful beach which was exactly two miles long from end to end (actually it would have been slightly longer, but at the far north end you had to pick your way through rocks, so it wasn’t worth trying to include that in running mileage.)

Depending on the heat and my mood I would run between 2 and 4 miles every other day and walk the same every day. Despite the excess holiday eating and drinking, I’ve put on no weight. It’s all good and I actually also have a bit of a tan, as much of a tan as a lass with celtic colouring can amass!

I’m home and back to earth a bit this week. On Monday I set off a little bit too late in the morning to get a comfortable run in before the heat started to build up. I had been messing about with miles and app settings whilst on holiday and was expecting a 6 mile run, but ended up doing a 5k ‘race’ with a warm up, so about 3.5 miles, instead.

I didn’t really think about which route to take and found myself running along towards the shore, which is relatively flattish. My beach running legs felt pretty good and the warm up, once my initial asthma shock had subsided, was fine. I reset my Garmin and gave the 5k my best shot. I did the first mile in 9:17 and I’m pretty chuffed with that, but in truth I was struggling to breathe properly. I think I need to run a mile before I can properly breathe, so trying to exert myself before that is probably a no-brainer.

As I started the second mile it became apparent that it was getting very warm, very quickly, and that I was running on a road with no shade and in full glare of a very angry sun! I tired very quickly and the second mile came in at 10:32.

I realised that despite this I was very close to getting a sub-30 minute 5k time, so I tried my hardest in the last mile. I think at this point I probably needed some support, someone there egging me on and I probably would have done it, but as it is I did the last mile in 9:51 and finished my 5k in 30:54.

In the circumstances I’m not displeased with this. I haven’t done much speed work lately and I’m obviously capable of slightly better than this on a cooler day, so with some groundwork I’m not far away from getting under my target. I’m off to do some speedwork this morning, but just on the local playing field because it’s quite a journey to the nearest track and I guess I have to compromise.

Compromise is a big word in our house at the moment. It’s become the subject of some conversations revolving around what we want and actually what we can presently manage to have. In order to be a successful teacher, artist, wife and mother I have to make compromises and often it’s my running that gets compromised. If the difference between running and not running means running on a playing field instead of the ‘local’ running track 10 miles away, then I run on the grass and grin and bear it. I have to.

Yesterday, free from gym membership (I struggle to justify the cost, but I’m starting to realise the benefits of a air-conditioned gym this weather!) I worked out on our decking, using my makeshift gym equipment. As I’ve mentioned before I am desperate to strengthen a somewhat pathetic core, but I have neck problems when I do regular crunches, regardless of how I approach them. My neck soon goes into spasm and I end up spending an additional £25 at the chiropractors getting fixed! I’ve been gathering some exercises, mostly from my running magazines, working on cross-training and core conditioning.

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Armed with a kettle bell, a gym mat and two tins from my larder (chopped tomatoes and mushroom soup, to be precise) I did two lots of 15 reps of squat jumps, superman stretches, back lunges with rotation (weighted), single leg running arms (weighted) and toe taps. I couldn’t do the resistance band exercise I wanted to because some bugger has nicked my resistance band! I’ll look for that for next time! I also did 1 minute of kettlebell exercises, working my cardio as well as strength building (figure of eights, single arm shoulder press, single arm swing, single arm row, single leg bend). I found the exercises where I had to balance on one leg and complete the movement really difficult and at the end the sweat was dripping off me! I still need to find more exercises to exercise my core without having to lift my head, so that’s a priority.

On Sunday I have my next race, the X Border 10k, which starts at Gretna and takes us along the M6 service road to Kingstown in Carlisle. I’m looking forward to this. I’ve even prepared myself for being last across the line, although my semi silent coach assures me that I won’t be!  I’m not sure how well I will do. My 10k pace doesn’t seem to have increased much, but it’s not decreased either. I have no expectations of the course because I’ve never run it before, so I’m just going along and will do what I can. I might surprise myself and knock a few seconds off my road 62 minute 10k time! That would be lovely.

dual-offerAfter that I start my half marathon training again in readiness for the Great Cumbrian Run in October. Again it’s not a race I’ve done before, so we’ll just go and see what my little legs and podgy body can do. Who knows, by then I could have transformed into a racing whippet.

 

Running with the Stars

My husband describes me as a star struck teenager. That’s not quite true, but I have been riding on the crest of a celebrity wave since yesterday.

We’re on holiday, staying at a campsite at Brora in Sutherland. It’s 50 odd miles north of Inverness and 40 odd miles short of John O’Groats, so not far off the top of the country. We arrived on Thursday and went for an exploratory walk out of the campsite to be greeted by a beautiful, fairly clean, sandy beach beyond the golf course that lies between the campsite and the shore. Please don’t tell anyone how wonderful the beach is because every time I’ve been down there it’s been deserted. There’s two miles of brilliant running when the tide is out, four if you turn round and go back. Apparently there’s another mile if you head up to the golf course.

On Friday morning I donned my Sketcher GoRun minimal trainers, collected my eager to run Jack Russell and headed beachwards. Unfortunately the tide was in and this made running quite difficult. It certainly slowed me down, especially when the sand was either too dry or too full of water. Finding a middle ground was difficult. However I persevered and managed a reasonable 5k in 35 minutes without trying too hard.

I wondered about heading out on Saturday as well, but as my hip flexor has been really tight of late, I decided instead to spend the day doing some walking and stretching. We walked two miles along the beach and a further three into town and back.

On waking on Sunday morning I could see that it was going to be another scorcher (we’ve been experiencing wonderful weather in the UK over the last few days) and decided that an early run along the beach was the best idea, so again I donned my GoRuns and hitched up the dog. We ran south along the beach to its farthest point before you have to turn towards the town and from there I could see a runner heading along the cliff towards us. Murphy hasn’t been very well behaved when he sees people on the beach, I don’t know why other than the one guy he did run after was walking in a really aggressive way – arms and legs flying about. I was wary of him chasing the runner (and perhaps biting him) so I kept an eye on how far behind us the other runner was. He wasn’t making up much ground, but by then I was throwing a few intervals into the mix, effectively stopping and starting. I decided to stop, put Murphy on the lead and let the runner past.

But the runner didn’t pass. Instead he stopped and came across to chat. And when he did I suddenly realised that I was talking to Ally McCoist, the ex-Scotland soccer player and the now Rangers manager. He asked me how long the beach was and, after me acknowledging who he was – OK, I admit it, I told him I was a big fan – we chatted a bit more before he shook my hand and ran on. The dog wasn’t at all bothered by him, so I chanced it and let him off the lead and followed Ally along the beach. By the time he reached the end of the beach I’d caught him up again and so I asked if he minded me running back with him as our pace was so similar. We chatted as we ran, about our families, the team, running and such-like. It was a very pleasant run and I wondered if should run at this easy pace with a partner more often. I felt comfortable and happy to run.

I left Mr McCoist’s company half way back to get back to the campsite, although I was happy for the company and the pleasant chat. Ally came across as a nice bloke, easy going and, well, ordinary. He wasn’t a “celebrity” in the bad sense of the word. He asked me as many questions about me and my life as I asked him about his (although I was careful not to be intrusive – I’m sure no one in his position likes being grilled about his personal life. I restricted my questions to his professional life.) We shook hands again and told each other how nice it was to meet each other. I wasn’t starstruck, just happy to have met a nice guy to run with.

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Delighted to be running with me, as you can see.

As you can imagine I was eager to get back and tell my husband who I’d been running with. So eager I managed to walk across a fairway with golfers teeing off. Oops. They missed me and I’m here to tell the tale!

The rest of the day was spent watching Andy Murray win the Wimbledon Men’s Title and Vettel win the F1 German Grand Prix and feeling decidedly unwell. After returning from my run we had a sausage breakfast. When I ate mine I sensed something was wrong, they just didn’t taste quite right. Subsequently I spent too much time on the loo or curled up in a sleeping bag yesterday afternoon and evening. I feel better today, although I’ve put my 8 mile long run on hold until later or maybe even tomorrow when my strength will have built up a bit more. I don’t think that I have enough in reserve at the moment.

Where I run depends on the tides. I could do several lengths of the beach or I could venture out into Brora. I know that it’s three miles into town and back, but I still need another five. I may have to buy a map or get a decent interweb signal at a local cafe in order to research possibilities. Heading out blind, I’ve found, isn’t a good idea when you’re running in an area you’ve never really been to before.

In the meantime I’m enjoying the sun and the peace. Life is grand.

Slow Running

I would have liked for this post to have had a different title. Maybe ‘Faster Running’ would have been good or ‘Really Fast Running’ might have been nice or I would have settled for ‘Better Than Last Week’. However none of these are true. I seem to be getting slower rather than faster. My little legs (and they do seem to be getting smaller, soon I’ll be running on my backside) are feeling very heavy and every step I take is laboured. I do wish I could get out of these physical doldrums.

I’m still following the 10k training programme in an effort to reduce my 10k race time, but I think I’m wasting my time. The last couple of weeks have seen me struggle to fit in both short runs, leaving me relying on improving my pace based on one long run and one short one. It ain’t happening folks! The long runs at the moment consist of a 10 minute warm up run, followed by between 40 and 60 minutes faster run and finishing with a 10 minute cool down run. Today I did 45 minutes for my long run which, with my 20 minutes of slow running, was meant to allow me to cover 6.75 miles. I didn’t even cover 6. On all of my training plans prior to this I’ve been bang on or ahead of time on the app, this time I’m struggling to keep pace and if I can’t do that I will be struggling to hit pace on my next race.

I could just say that this isn’t important, that I did 6 miles today and that’s 6 mile banked. I know that is exactly what I would say to a friend in my position. I know it because I say it all the time. Words come easy. I wish that running came as easy, but it doesn’t and I have to work bloody hard to achieve what I do. I just don’t feel like I’m working hard enough at the moment and I’m disappointed with myself for setting a target and falling short of it because of the easy excuses I’m making. I need to shape up and get this under control.

Firstly I need to be honest with myself. In my head I’m a sub 10 minute miler over 10k, but my legs and lungs are saying otherwise. On a good day I can do 10k in 62 minutes. That makes me a just over 10:00 minute miler. I think I need to change the settings on my app and start enjoying some success, instead of constantly beating myself up when I don’t finish as fast as I would like!

Success concept.

Tomorrow is the last day of school and after that my semi silent coach is whisking me away to northern climes for some R&R, which in my case will hopefully stand for Running & Relaxation. With the prospect of a nearby harbour for hubbie to stare at to keep him occupied, gazing longingly at boats he hasn’t a hope in hell of ever owning, I will be free to get my running back on track. That’s the plan.

On another note I’ve been looking longingly at charity places for the Great North Run and have to keep reminding myself that I’m not running for charity this year. It’s not fair on my lovely friends, asking them to keep digging deep just to satisfy my urge to run 13.1 miles between Newcastle and the coast. I am backing away from the magazines and websites…

I’m hoping that next time I write, which will be whilst I’m on holiday, I will be writing in a more positive frame of mind, extolling the virtues of running either a) whilst on holiday b) on the beach c) with more realistic aims in mind or d) naked (apparently there is a nearby nudist colony, so who knows!)

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