That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.

I happen to be a big fan of ‘The Sheep Pig’ by Dick King-Smith. I expect some people have never read the book, relying entirely on the film for entertainment, which is their loss. It’s a children’s book, but often some of the best books are. Their messages are simple. Good is good and bad is bad, that sort of thing. The film adaptation ‘Babe’ was excellent; often the sense of the story is lost in translation, but not in this case. Apparently James Cromwell, who played Farmer Hoggett in the film, became an ethical vegan (having been a vegetarian for many years previous) after playing the role and becoming so attached to the star. However, I digress. 

I had 12.5 miles to run today. It was my first long run since the Fleetwood Half and I’d been mithering all weekend about how I’d do. After experiencing problems with my breathing in my last race I didn’t want a repeat of that today. I chose a route which I’ve only ever run once, back in 2011, despite it being a nice route to run. It’s a good mixture of ups and downs and flats mostly off the beaten track. I thought it might help distract me if I was running somewhere different.

In the week my ifitness running belt arrived, so I had today to test it out. It came with two small bottles, which I felt might not be big enough, room for two gels and an elasticated pocket big enough for my phone and other bits and pieces. I can even clip my race number to the bottom it – no more pins, no more paper cuts! This also meant no Camelbak and no armband – everything could be carried around my waist! No more sweaty back (well relatively speaking), friction burns from straps and the ability to see how much liquid I’m taking on. It just had to not-bounce and the job was ‘agoodun’.

I waited until the rush hour had passed (an issue with running on roads, even here!) and set off in the cool of the morning. I wore my arm sleeves today for the first time all summer. It was nippy this morning, following a cloudless night, and arm sleeves seemed most sensible. Boy, I’m doing well on the thinking thing lately!

The route took me from the castle road (a short warm up walk from my house), through the village, looped around past the church and off along a rarely used single track road which  runs parallel to the shore up to Cummertrees village and then up away past several large farms before looping back along the shore road. 

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I ran at a pace set by my Jeff Galloway Half Marathon app, which automatically calculates a long run pace slightly slower than race pace. I was looking at running between 12 and 13 minute miles, but in actuality I was a bit faster than that. Which is fine. I must be doing okay.

I had forgotten to buy gels and so all I had in the house were some left over out of date 33 Shake chia gels. What choice did I have? I took a couple knowing that I’d only need one and a half if I split each one (taking at 4,8 and 12 miles). They were fine, too big for my fancy new belt though – so I had to wedge them in behind my water bottles. My water bottles were plenty big enough, each carrying 180ml, and I’d popped half a High 5 tablet into each for electrolyte and sodium replacement. I was taking a chance on the gels, but the juice would get me home if nothing else!

I have to say, my waistband was awesome! No bounce, no movement, it stayed on my hips (not an easy task), everything was accessible and safe and it was comfortable to wear. Totally recommended. I did notice a tiny bit of leakage from the bottles, but I think that may have just been residual juice in the lid after I’d taken a swig. 

Mine cost £25 from Start Fitness.

It was a steady run, but as the sun climbed so did the humidity. I was quite surprised to see that my Garmin data is saying 93% humidity today – which maybe explains why I had to stop at mile 11, just to catch my breath. I’d been doing okay up until then, with regular, planned walk breaks every 2.5 minutes, but once I’d run through Ruthwell village for the last time I started to cough and wheeze. I stopped and took some time to breathe deeply, filling my lower lungs as well as the upper, walked for a short time and then finished the run. I hadn’t taken my inhaler with me, so I was just taking sensible precautions. I made it home, but running that extra bit seemed unnecessary in the circumstances.

I finished my 12.5 miles in 2:26 – giving me an average pace of 11:46 min/mile. For a training run I’m happy at that. As I said at the start “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.”

 

It’s OK, I’ve found the ‘CTRL’ button!

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I don’t often feel quite as in control of my running as I did yesterday. Don’t ask me why yesterday was any different from any other day. Maybe it was the weather? Maybe it was what I was wearing? Maybe it was what I’d chosen to carry? Maybe it was the route? I don’t know, but I felt ‘at ease’.

I had my last long run before my next race to complete, 14 miles. I’ve run further, so 14 miles was just 14 miles – I wasn’t perturbed by the distance. I decided to run an easy route  (it was a breezy day, I didn’t need to push myself over hills as well) and, after some experimentation, I had settled on a run/walk ratio of 2.5 minutes to 1. It was going to be a steady run building up endurance, not a race to the finish. That can wait for a couple of weeks!

The weather was perfect for a long run. It was, as I’ve said, a bit breezy, but as the wind was blowing on my face for the first seven miles I had the reassurance of knowing that on the way back it would be pushing me home. The temperature was also cooler than of late with the sun was just occasionally peeking through heavy clouds. Spot on long run weather. This would be the first long run I’ve managed to do in a oner for ages.

I had decided to ditch the chia gels I still have in the cupboard and look for something else. I left it late and ended up at Holland and Barrett just before they closed on Sunday afternoon. I chose citrus High 5 Energy Gels which I carried in the big side pockets of my new Ron Hill trail vest.  I also tool my Camelbak with 750ml of water and two High 5 Zero tablets. I had my Garmin…oh, and I wore my iPhone on my arm. I’m starting to feel a bit weighed down, I must admit! I bet if I ditched the lot I could run faster!

I tried not to pay too much attention to my pace, but instead just focus on the beat of my music and try and settle into a good rhythm. I didn’t want to try and run at my race pace and if I look too closely at my Garmin I start to speed up and this affects how I finish. I needed to start steady and finish strong. I looked only at the distance I’d run, just so that I knew when to turn home. I was, however, bang on pace and when Jeff Galloway said “You’re half way” I really was.

I took my gels (perfectly placed in my side pockets – easy to grab, no zips getting stuck!) at 4, 8 and 12 miles. They were more liquid than others I’ve tried, which made them easy to take. I just used them instead of water and ended up with 500ml left in my Camelbak when I finished. I’ll put less in next time. They were also very easy to open.

Until now I hadn’t looked at my Garmin data. My pace was fairly consistent throughout, although my first mile was predictably faster! I just can’t help myself! I find this all very reassuring; I felt good as I ran. I wasn’t slowing up and I wasn’t speeding up – not too much anyway. My running pace was 10 min/mile pace which, of course, was brought down by the walking intervals. It was an easy pace and I can see myself either being able to up that slightly in a race or lengthen the run. Running for an extra 30 seconds at that pace should be achievable.

I just beat the torrential rain we endured yesterday afternoon, it hit as I put the key in the door. I have a feeling I was being looked after.

After running I stretched out, made myself a lovely plate of scrambled (free range) duck eggs and toast and ran a very hot bath. I spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out with the dog, who appreciated the fact that I was stationary for longer than a few minutes, and icing my Achilles which had been a bit sore when I was running. Today I don’t feel as if I ran 14 miles yesterday, so something is definitely right!

What I’ve learned from this run is that I need to worry less about my pace and just keep it consistent. I can speed up from the half way point if I feel like it. I now have clothes and equipment which I feel comfortable in and which I’ll set aside for Fleetwood in two weeks. My only issue (and it’s a small one) is that my armband is rubbing, causing a burn mark. I was looking yesterday at something I can wear underneath it as a barrier, rather than spend more money on another armband. Maybe just some BodyGlide would do the trick.

So, in the meantime I must…

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Running Home and Away

Last week hubbie and I went away to Oban, on the west coast of Scotland, for a few days R&R. We had decided, at the start of the summer, that taking a few short breaks would be less disruptive to our businesses and lives than taking one long holiday. We had already visited Coniston in the English Lake District for a few days at the start of the school holidays and Oban was our next destination. Mindful of how I worried about running in Coniston I contacted the Oban Runners via their Facebook page prior to leaving, just to check out some routes. They recommended a 6 mile loop around a loch about a mile away from where we were camped which sounded perfect.

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With views like this I might forget to breathe! ©Julie Hollis, 2014
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Gorgeous weather has followed us around the north of Britain!
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The only piece of road I ran on!

I was, however, meant to do a 4 mile run on the Monday we were away, with one of the miles timed. After a reccy walk on the day before we discovered that the route between the campsite and the loch ran mostly along a disused railway track and was almost completely off road. It was ideal. Instead of running around the loch (and believe me I was sorely tempted) I decided to run out for two miles and then run back. It meant that 3 miles were largely in the shade of trees and, with the weather so warm even first thing in the morning, this was important. It also meant that I could do my warm up mile to the loch and then do my timed mile along the loch shore (which was pretty flat). For once I had it planned to perfection! The only possible fly in the ointment was that the shower block closed at 10.30 for cleaning, so I needed to be back before then in order to get cleaned up!

 

My warm up mile was a nice easy one at 10:40. I’ve been running 2:30/1 ratios because these seem to suit me at the moment so imagine my surprise at seeing my fastest mile of the year at 9:22 pop up! I was gobsmacked. This must go to prove that there is truth to what Jeff Galloway says – walk breaks can help to make you faster. I ran an easy two miles home at 11:32 and 11:08, making it home before the showers closed!

The view after my Magic Mile! Loch Creran is a beautiful and tranquil place.
The view after my Magic Mile! Loch Creran is a beautiful and tranquil place.

I know that run walking isn’t for everyone and my efforts are often met with a mixture of confusion and disapproval in races, but using these methods I’m getting faster and recovering from injuries quicker. I can easily sustain 9 minute mile running in the two and half minutes when I have to and walking for a minute adds surprisingly little to the overall pace. Basically it works for me.

Yesterday was my long run day again and I was down for 12 ½ miles. The weather seemed to have cooled down a tad from the furnace we’ve been living in for the past month or so (I’m not complaining, but it has made training difficult for this pale skinned Celt!) and I was looking forward to some cool running. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be and despite setting off early I was thwarted by the heat yet again. At 3 ½ miles I decided to turn back, making 7 miles and then run the 5 ½ later when it would have hopefully cooled down again. Despite the weather the 7 miles were bang on long run pace, one minute slower per mile than race pace. When it became clear that I would be running in the dark before the temperature and humidity reduced I opted to complete the run on the treadmill. Fanned and entertained by Star Trek Voyager, I ran the rest of the 12 miles at a slightly faster pace.

This morning I knew I’d almost run a half marathon! My quads, hip flexors and abductors were all complaining when I moved, but a long walk with the dog solved most of that. Whilst walking I was able to stop and take some photographs of the trail where I tend to do my short runs. The trail has changed such a lot over the last few months, with entire sections of the forest removed by the timber workers, it’s really quite odd to see.

On a nutrition note I’ve decided to ditch the chia seed gels I’d been trying. This is for a few reasons; they are expensive, have a short shelf life (great for long distance runners, but out of date by the time I need them) and they are bit too gooey for me. I’m still looking for something, but in the meantime I’m using a combination of Dextro energy tablets and jelly beans. Any ideas on this would be appreciated.

 

 

Can I have a quick word?

I’ll be brief. This is my day off and I really should be enjoying the weather, sitting on my patio with a mocktail. I have a pile of ironing threatening to take over my spare room (so big that I am actually considering charging it rent) and a list of jobs as long as my arm. As I said, it’s my day off.

Today I was down for a 9 mile run. As it’s been so warm and so humid I decided to get up early and run before it got too hot. At least that was the plan. I got up early and was ready to leave at 7, but then got distracted by emails and left just before 8. It was already warm, with not a cloud in the sky, and I knew that my route along the shore left me with little shade. Being a fair-skinned lassie I’m just not built for sunshine.

As ever I was using my Jeff Galloway/LoLo Half Marathon app for iPhones. I’d set it for 4:1 run:walk intervals and 11 min/mile pace. This would translate to just over 11 min/mile pace as it was a long run (short runs adjust the other way – it’s all very clever!) What I wasn’t expecting was for Jeff to announce that today it was a 9 ½ mile run. Half a mile extra – really? That’s just too much to ask. My short circuit route had proved too long for two laps, so I’d chosen to run along the Bankend Road – a there and back route – so adding on that extra wee bit wouldn’t matter.

I managed to maintain a fairly even pace, although it did get quite warm and I must admit to stopping to shelter now and again in the shade of the few trees along the roadside. I also have to admit to stopping to fill up my FitSip which I’d managed to empty on the run out. Luckily a local smallholder was just at his van when I passed and agreed to let me fill up the now empty bladder. On hot and humid runs longer than 6 miles I need my Camelbak. No question. By the time I was within a mile of home I’d emptied the FitSip again. I don’t tend to drink a lot on runs, but it was very warm.

The last mile and half were tough as I was constantly climbing away from the shore; not by much, but by then I was tired and hot and I’d had enough for today, thank you! That extra half a mile was the killer, of course! I clicked stop at 1:47:40 giving me 11:21 pace. I was about two minutes slower than my app expected which, given the heat, is fine.

Post-run I feel good, although hay fever has my eyes itching like mad. I would rather not have a massive pile of ironing to do as well as the weekly shop, but I’m a wife and mother and them’s the breaks!

Running doesn’t define me; it simply refines me.

 

 

Running Long and Tapering Down

Today saw my last long run of this training programme. After today I’m on the taper.  And, to my relief, I’m feeling…

G-R-R-R-E-A-T!

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The weather forecast for today was dismal, so imagine my surprise to see sunshine and blue skies this morning. The weather gods were obviously smiling, so, after a breakfast of porridge, bananas and honey and having done my email duties for the morning, I set off. I had decided to run a tougher route than just along the fairly flat shore road. It’s my 4 mile loop which, if run again, becomes a 5 mile loop. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but if you take into consideration that if I’m doing a 4 mile run I walk to warm up and cool down adding the extra distance. If I run right round it’s 5 miles. Honest it is.

The run starts with a first mile which is mainly uphill. I always find that tough when I start off; my legs aren’t properly warmed up and my calf muscles are still too tight. However, I soldier on. After that the route undulates with some good hills to climb and descend. It’s a good route and I prefer to run a loop than go there and back. The only issue with this route though is that it tends to flood and yesterday we had some pretty nasty rain. I was expecting the worse.

The worst bit wasn’t as bad as I had expected, although as this road is being used as a diversion route for a farm which is cut off at present thanks to roadworks, it has suffered a bit. The road was pretty broken up in parts, with massive holes on either side; I feel sorry for the folk who live round there. The holes, predictably, had filled up with mud and rainwater and with the increased farm traffic the sloppy mud was being distributed all over the road. It was unavoidable and my lovely Brooks trainers are no longer quite as lovely; they are drying as I type, in the hope that the dirt might brush off. We’ll see.

I had taken with me my 33 Shake chia seed gels and my Camelbak with ¾ of a litre of water with a High 5 Zero tablet in it. I had been just using water, but I felt that I needed an extra boost. The High 5 Zero tablets had been sent out by the Edinburgh Marathon Festival organizers with my number, so I felt duty bound to try them out and I liked them; not too juicy tasting, salty if anything, and gentle on my stomach. I was a bit concerned when I got home though to discover that I had almost all of my ¾ litre left – I’m not drinking enough. I need to watch this, especially if I’m racing in warmer weather.

I planned to take my gels at miles 4, 8 and 12 but after mile 8 I forgot and ended up taking it at mile 9 instead. In the end I just didn’t bother taking the third one – I was managing fine with what I’d taken. Maybe the drink was helping there. I like the chia seed gels, but they are a bugger to swallow in a hurry when you’re a bit out of breath. I always take them on my walk breaks, but I inevitably run out of time. If I’m honest this is putting me off them and I’m wondering if I can do anything about it. I might contact the makers and see what they suggest.

By mile 8 the forecast weather had arrived and it was throwing it down. I stopped to call my son at home as I’d left two machine loads of washing on the line and knew that it would be soaked again by the time I’d run the last of that loop home. I decided at that point to head home and complete the run on the treadmill. The wind had picked up and the rain was extremely heavy – it wasn’t worth slogging out another loop. I may be mad, but I’m not crazy!

Having set up Star Trek on the DVD player I set off to boldly go (again) and boldly went with the Voyager crew. I felt surprisingly good and even ended up increasing the pace in the last couple of kilometres.

With my 14 miles complete in about 2:39 I had a rushed lunch of scrambled eggs, toast and humous and a strawberry soya milkshake and a quicker shower before heading into town to do the weekly shop! As a result, I haven’t sat down much, which might explain why I’m feeling so good! I honestly don’t feel pained enough to have run 14 miles – maybe that will come tomorrow!

But I hope not!

So now the taper begins. I’m pleased to have run my last long run before the race – I’m looking forward to saving my legs a bit. I’ve got two 30 minute runs to do this week, then a 5 mile run next Monday and two final 30 minute runs and then it’s race day!

After last week’s podiatrist downer I have some good news. I went to see my chiropractor (he of the Vulcan death grip) and told him what the podiatrist had said. When I got to the part when I relayed that I’d been told basically to give up running he stopped me. “Don’t give up running,” he said “Running has given you so much. Strength, confidence, achievement – don’t give up!” It was what I needed to hear. All athletes get injured. I don’t have the financial backing that elites have, but I do have a very good chiropractor who listens to how I’m feeling and helps me. Sometimes I need to work through injuries and having his support, as well as Jeff Galloway’s running plans, help me do that.

After all, if a 14 mile run leaves me feeling like Tony the Tiger, I’d be daft to let that go!

 

 

Running into the Unknown – A Yorkshire Adventure

We’re having a few days away, camping not far from Ripon in North Yorkshire. It’s rather beautiful and we are being blessed with some glorious weather. We’re testing out our newly acquired trailer tent, having sold our caravan in search for something lighter and so more usable with the older cars we use during the classic car season. This little unit will be home to us on several weekends throughout the year, starting now and ending in October, so we needed to make sure it had what we needed.

So far we are very pleased with our comfortable and cosy trailer tent, which probably somewhat annoyingly I have named Trixie. Until it has a name, it’s not part of the family. Trixie was towed here by Etta, driven by Grant.

Yesterday I had a long run to complete, 11 miles into territory I wasn’t really familiar with despite having holidayed here a few times now. I bought an OS walking map of the area and downloaded a mapping app using the site wifi (all mod cons!) and planned a circular route from the campsite through several villages and ending up just outside the next village – the plan being that Grant would then come and collect me.

I set off quite late, after 5, once the heat had gone out of a surprisingly warm sun. My 11 miles were paced to take about 2 hours 15 minutes and the sun was due to go down at 8ish. It was tight, but I was sure I’d make it back before I needed a torch!

The route was gorgeous, taking me through some very pretty villages and past some very expensive looking houses. My first 3 miles were ok. My half pace is set for 10 minute miles, so my long run pace should be about 12-13 minute miles. I did the first three in 10:51, 11:26 and 11:25. At mile four I arrived at the first village, Bishop Monkton. From there I messaged hubbie that I’d arrived safely and that I had just 7 miles to go. I took my first chia 33Shake gel and headed off, following the ducks down the brook which runs through the village. I spotted my first and, as it had it, only fellow runner on the route – a rather athletic looking chap running the other way. I said hello, but got the chilly impression that had I not smiled and said anything my presence would have been ignored.

From Bishop Monkton I headed for Burton Leonard. The route was at this point quite undulating, no huge rises or falls, just nice quiet roads. However the hill up to Burton Leonard was a bit more of a challenge, but I put my head down, shortened my stride and just got on with it. My body felt good, quite strong and with no real aches or pains. I could feel my Achilles stretching, but it wasn’t painful.

From Burton Leonard I headed for Copgrove and on to Staveley, constantly checking the little scrap of paper onto which I had scribbled the place names and a rough map. I had also photographed the OS map with my phone as an emergency back up – I wasn’t going to get lost!

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Miles 4 to 8 came in as follows: 11:35, 11:58, 12:22, 10:55 and 12:20. From that you can see which were the hillier miles! At mile 7 I was flying. I felt great and the ground just seemed to melt away under my feet. My runner’s high!

When I reached the outskirts of Copgrove I stopped to take another gel. I’d managed to find a rubbish bin in Bishop Monkton to dispose of the last gel packet, but I had to hang onto this one until I was in the village centre. I see far too much litter around when I’m running; I hate it. If I can’t dispose of it properly I take it home, no matter how inconvenient that is.

Copgrove to Minskip was a slog, a real slog. It seemed to be a never ending climb, one hill after another – all good practice, I’m sure! but not really what I needed at the end of a long run! Miles 9 and 10 were 12:08 and 11:58. The last mile was torturous and, to make it worse, I’d hit the stop button on the Garmin by mistake and lost some time. However as I’d planned out the route before hand I knew exactly where to stop. When I reached the road end Jeff Galloway announced I’d “done a good job!” I wasn’t that far out. My pace on my last mile was 12:30.

Overall I did the 11 miles at 11:44 pace, with which I am very happy. It was lovely running through places I didn’t know, seeing sights I hadn’t seen before and going slow enough to have a good look. The weather had been perfect and I had plenty of light left to complete the run safely.

I walked/jogged to the end of Minskip and rang hubbie to come for me. It was another couple of miles or so to the campsite at Roecliffe and it would have been quite dark by the time I got back if I had walked. Not only that our last meal was lunch at about 2pm. It was now well after 7pm and I still had dinner to cook!

Today I’m a little bit stiff. My heel is a bit achy and without a freezer compartment of a fridge I have no ice packs. Instead I settled for a walk into Boroughbridge to work out any lactic acid and a limp back when I’d obviously done far too much! I do have some lovely photos though!

Tomorrow I’m due for a 30 minute run which I might do into town and back. We walked along the canal today which would be lovely for a run with the dog. We’ll see!

The Silent Runner

I may have been quiet over the last few weeks, but I’ve still been running. My Achilles heel problem quietly subsided leaving me with a tight calf, but that’s all. My lovely chiropractor has identified two trigger points on my calf and worked on those last week whilst I bit down on the treatment bed, but ultimately relieved the tightness.
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I’m back up to 9 miles and with six weeks to go to my first half marathon I’m feeling pretty strong. My speed is slowly coming back and my endurance is good. I’m running 2:1 ratios on trails and 2.30:1 on the road. This might sound odd but I’m happier running faster for short periods than slower for longer. I’m permanently running fartlek! I’m planning to increase the running intervals on longer runs. My shorter runs are either off road or on the treadmill, depending on what I can manage to do.

I’ve been testing out my chia seed gels and apart from them being a bit chewy, they are great! I’m getting into the habit of taking them regularly on long runs, taking only water with me rather than taking sports drinks. They are quite big, that’s the only drawback. I can fit two into my armband, I might manage three, but then I’ll be stuck. However three might be enough if I follow advice and take one on the start line.

Tonight I did a 30 minute trail run, about 2 1/2 miles, accompanied by my little dog and my mountain biking hubbie. I went out quite quickly, but backed off a bit coming home mainly because it’s mostly uphill and that places extra stress on my heel. I’m being sensible, looking at the big picture and listening to my body. It was a good run, a stronger run again. In fact each time I go out I feel stronger, faster, better. It’s a relief after months of injury.

Next Saturday, quite unbelievably perhaps, I have an appointment with a podiatrist. I walked past his door this morning and doubled back thinking it was about time I saw him. I explained that I was a runner coming back after injury and he asked me to come back, bringing my running shoes, orthoptic inserts and anything else I’ve used to help me. I’ll get the tow bar on the car then…

This week we’ll be testing our trailer tent in Yorkshire. I’ve got an 11 mile run on Monday, so I’ll be looking at the quiet roads and planning a route (and taking a map!) I’ve treated myself to some nice new Karrimore running vests, so I’m hoping the weather will be warm enough to wear them!

On the fundraising front I’ve managed to alter my page so that it doesn’t just follow the EMF Half. Instead I have a challenge page and I’ve raised £65 so far. If I raise £100 per race I’ll be happy, so I’m not far off the first target of £100 for this one. A bit of promotion wouldn’t go amiss, I suppose!

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www.justgiving.com/julie-hollis3

A Cautious Running Tale

After last week’s disastrous run and subsequent enforced rest (yes, I was a really good girl and actually put my feet up all week – I was really THAT worried!) I was more than a bit concerned by the prospect of today’s eight miler. Although R.I.C.E. and massage had helped loosen and heal my calf and Achilles so that walking was no longer painful, I hadn’t tried running since Monday last; a full week had passed by. I was finding that I could largely cope during the day, but coping left me tired out at night. I even passed up a party on Saturday, which isn’t like me at all. I was  being ultra cautious.

So this morning I decided, after asking opinion on Facebook – my Jiminey Cricket – I opted for a treadmill run on the basis that whatever happened I would only ever be just within crawling distance of home! I also opted to run:walk 1:1 ratios – that’s one minute of walking to every one minute of running. I was going to finish without beating myself up; last week I’d had to take time off work because of my injury and I wasn’t doing that again!

Mr J C  aka my Facebook friends!
Mr J C aka my Facebook friends!

Having set up the DVD player (Star Trek Voyager season 2) I also set up my Jeff Galloway app for the speed and interval calls. The pace was incredibly slow, I don’t know why. It was asking me to run at 8.9 kph, a pace I’ve never run at. I sped it up to 9.7 and then straight to 10.3 where, apart from a short time when I thought I was doing well and cranked it up to 11.3, it stayed. I wasn’t out to do a fast eight miles – I was just out to do eight miles and survive it!

Four kilometres in I got the chance to try my new gels from 33 Shake . These are made from chia seeds – the super powerade that the South American Indians use to fuel their running. The gels come in a pouch in a dry form, to which you carefully add water (or juice), shake up and leave to gel for 10 minutes and then they’re ready to go.

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Apart from being a bit crunchy (being used to smooth and sticky sugary gels) the chia gels are great. These ones taste slightly of vanilla, Madagascan vanilla to be precise. They took maybe a bit longer to consume than a normal gel, but not by much, and I had no unpleasant after taste or indigestion. They are gluten and dairy free and also vegan. I had been a bit worried about the coconut palm sugar, being also nut intolerant, but the 33 Shake guys were very helpful and explained that there is actually no nut in the palm sugar. It’s just sugar.

All in all the gels proved a great success. I took one at 4km and another at 8km. Normally I wouldn’t had been so gel hungry but I’d had a bad night after a gluten reaction to something I’d eaten and that had left me “empty” – ask no more! I didn’t get a super strength reaction having taken the gels, but I was left with loads of energy, so I’m classing that as a win! I’ll get to test them more as my mileage increases. What I can tell you straight away is that they are easier to open (with a plastic cap that screws back on afterwards – I’m not one for littering the course, empty gels go back in my pocket!)

I can’t tell you much about my run. It lasted for just under two episodes of Star Trek. When I tried to increase my speed my knee started to complain, so I backed off and completed the run comfortably. I wasn’t being a hero today!

I’ve cooled down and stretched out, enjoyed a massive chickpea and avocado salad. I’m feeling pretty good and I’m looking forward to a trail run on Wednesday, fingers crossed.

The Great Winter Run 2014

The downhill section!
Pic from greatrun.org

That’s it – the first race of 2014 is well and truly under my slightly expanded festive belt. This race has become a bit of a pilgrimage for us. The 5k I had entered was part of a much larger festival featuring some world class cross country running. Unfortunately this had meant that the entire event had been moved back a week due to TV scheduling, something which had also meant that it wasn’t worth opening my gallery after the Christmas break for a day only to close it again the next day! I know that I wasn’t the only runner who would have preferred the run to have been on the previous weekend. I hope next year that it is moved back!

We arrived at the hotel in Leith, some two miles out of the city centre, late on Friday afternoon. After checking in we went across to the Ocean Terminal (which houses shops, department stores, a large cinema complex and many restaurants) and headed for Bella Italia where I knew I could get gluten free pasta and pizza. A mixed bean salad and lemon risotto was a welcome pre-race meal – filling and packed with energy. We retired early and, having turned off the noisy ventilation, enjoyed a good night’s sleep. My only worry was sleeping in. I’d set my phone alarm to wake us up, but as it was a new phone I was worried I’d done something wrong! I hadn’t and we were eventually woken by “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.” It was a cold, frosty but clear morning with ice on the ground and bright sunlight bouncing off the buildings around us.

We’ve got the journey to Holyrood Park down to a fine art. The 35 bus runs every 20 minutes, collecting us from immediately outside the hotel and deposits us a short walk from the park just 10 minutes later. I’d decided that catching the 10:08 bus was cutting things a little fine and so decided on the 9:58 bus instead. The race wasn’t due to start until 10:45 and I didn’t need to check my bag in as I’d put what little I needed in my rucksack and hubbie would hang onto that for me. We wandered around a little bit, but the grass was very muddy after a huge amount of rain and it was very cold. Rather than risk getting chilled I went into the baggage drop area to take off my jackets, put my phone arm band on and find a silver foil sheet from my bag to wrap around me. These are amazingly effective and more than made up for me losing two coat layers.

By the time I’d wandered to the start area the warm up had already started. I entered the back of the green corale and joined in with what I could (whilst hanging onto a silver sheet). Before I knew it the hooter had been hooted and we were off!

I’d set my Jeff Galloway 5k app to 9 min miles (which was pushing it a bit for both me and the course!) and running 4:1 intervals. The predicted finish time it had given me was just under 29 minutes. If I was fitter this might be possible, but truth is I’ve had to rein my running right back recently. This has just about cured my Plantar Fasciitis, but also left me gloriously underprepared for anything!

You run along for a quarter of a mile and then you start to climb. And climb. And climb. And climb. In fact you basically climb for three quarters of a mile going from 40m up to 125 m in that time. It’s tough and I’m incredibly envious of those people who can run the whole thing. I managed to stick to my run:walk schedule for the first two intervals, but then I got caught behind slow runners and walkers. I do wish that they would, like I do, think about others  trying to get around them and move across to one side. The path is narrow and it’s packed. If you get folk running slowly, especially with running partners, they effectively form a slow moving wall in front of you. After a walk break I was stuck behind a wall and tried to run on the sift grass to the right of the path, but this just zapped my strength and I ended up walking again not long afterwards. Next year I’ll keep right across to the left and see if that helps!

elevation

My first mile reflects the hill climb, the running walls and all too frequent walk breaks and came in at 12:19. Although the climbing continues after the first mile it does so at a lesser pace. I managed to pick up my pace and stick to the set walk breaks. And enjoy the views! On the climb all you get to see are loads of backsides! Once you get to the top of the hill the whole of Lothian opens out in front of you and you feel as if you are on the top of the world. Enjoying the view also gives you chance to enjoy the race. Mile 2 came in at 10:31. Better, but my average pace was still over 11 min/mile pace.

The views from the top are amazing! Pic from greatrun.org

However the best bit about this race is the last mile. It’s downhill. Well pretty much all downhill. Flat out downhill. Magic! I picked up my heels and leaned into the hill and went for it as safely as I could. I felt good. No heel or calf pain, but a little hip pain in my right hip. It was nothing that was going to slow me down. My best pace was 7:04 min/mile.

The last third of a mile is on the flat and I must admit I was tiring out. Last year I had my hubbie to spur on to the finish and this spurred me on. This year it was all about me. I had to focus on catching someone ahead of me, so I randomly chose a  girl ahead and raced to catch her. Amazingly I caught her as we crossed the line. My last mile was 8:34, one of the fastest miles I’ve ever run.

My medal and T-shirt
My medal and T-shirt

My 3:13 miles came in at 32:34.2 Garmin time, 32:35 chip time giving me an overall pace of 10:25 min/mile. I am happy with that. If I’d had less time off through injury, trained more and covered more miles I might have been a little disappointed not to get closer to 30 minutes, but instead I accepted the time gratefully. I’d knocked 4 minutes off last year’s time (chaperoning my hubbie), run my own race (pretty much) and not suffered any real pain as a result. Today I’m a bit stiff in the right hip flexor and unsurprisingly my quads are aching like mad! I’ve done  30 minutes of yoga this morning which has helped with the muscle ache and stiffness. At least the aches show that I tried very hard!

I received an excellent Goodie Bag as ever, complete with a T-shirt and medal. Unfortunately there wasn’t one thing in the bag I could eat – everything either had nuts or gluten in it! Hubbie thinks that it’s Christmas all over again!

The Goodie Bag!
The Goodie Bag! Full of gluten and nuts – arghh!

We didn’t stay to watch the cross country. We had to get back to the hotel so that I could shower and vacate the room before 2pm. As it was we were out before 1 o’clock and then went for a very cheap lunch at the Handmade Burger Company in the Ocean Terminal. I’d been given a voucher for a £1 burger which meant that we only paid full cost for one meal. On the menu there were a few gluten free vegetarian/vegan options and I chose a chickpea and quinoa burger – which was delicious. Highly recommended!

Will I do this next year? Yes, of course! It’s expensive for a 5k, but not as expensive as some events I’ve recently seen advertised. I’m determined to conquer that climb! I’d love to knock a minute off my time, at least! Above all I like the fact that we are in a city I love. We make a weekend of it – enjoy relaxing in familiar places, visiting favourite haunts. It’s not just about a race; it’s about tradition.

2014 – Bring It On

As the first day of 2014 it’s a very dull, rainy and windy one. Which is a terrible shame. I had high hopes last night in the local pub of doing fantastic things today. However I’ve long since found that plans made in the pub, Guinness in hand, are often poorly done. Instead I have cooked a hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie and started planning my race calendar. If you want my gluten free vegetarian recipe, please ask. It is delicious, even served with aging Brussel Sprouts.

After much deliberation and despite concerns about training inflicting further pain, I’ve picked three half marathons for 2014. I’ve chosen, and for very different reasons, the Edinburgh Marathon Festival Half,the Fleetwood Half Marathon and the Great Cumbrian Run.

2014 Races

The Edinburgh Half is part of a bigger running festival which also includes a 5k, 10k, a full marathon and a Team Relay (amongst other things). Last year I did the Rock’n’Roll Half in Edinburgh. It was a terrible weekend and I struggled in vain to better my GNR time on the day in gale force conditions. This year the organisers have decided to move the event to the end of June, possibly in an attempt to avoid bad weather (although as this is Scotland that mightn’t be possible!) This year, however, I thought I’d treat myself to a more PB friendly course and do it a month earlier when the weather might be a little cooler. I’ve gone the whole hog and booked the caravan into Silverknowes and bought us Park and Ride bus tickets to get us to and from the start and finish.

The Fleetwood Half Marathon takes place on the weekend after my 50th birthday so it will be my first of my fifth decade. Really I should be looking at lovely hotels and booking myself a pre and post race massage, but I’m guessing I’ll be checking out the local campsites and settling for a brisk rub down with a fluffy towel. This is known as racing on a tight budget! I don’t know much about this race at all.

Last year, in great pain, I completed the Great Cumbrian Run. This year I’m determined that my 13.1 miles won’t be as uncomfortable. It was nice to do a local half marathon (most of the local ones seem to take place on a Saturday and I have a gallery to keep open) and take in places I’d visited before in less arduous conditions. I’d like to run through the villages with more of a smile than a grimace! So that was on my ‘To Do Again’ list.

I’ve got a few other shorter races on my list – Kilomathon 13.1k, X Borders Challenge 10k (Gretna to Carlisle), Gallovidan 10k (Dumfries), Jedburgh 10k – but I haven’t entered any of those as yet. I think if I concentrate on completing three half marathons without huge problems that will be enough.

Goals

On my Daily Mile profile there is a section entitled ‘Goals’. Last year it said something like ‘To run a 5k in less than 30 minutes, a 10k in less than 60 minutes and to PB my half time”; this year it says simply

“To run my own race and not care what anyone thinks!”

That’s the only resolution I’m making, the only goal I’m setting. I’ve spent far too long worrying about what others say and think. This year I intend hold my head high and do my own thing, at my own pace.