Forget Snow White, I’m a Dwarf

SleepyToday I am Sleepy and I probably will be all day, with perhaps a touch of Grumpy.

Why? Because I’m currently trying to process the gluten to which my body has long since told me I’m intolerant. During my last visit to the doctor I mentioned that in addition to all my other maladies I am wheat intolerant and that my uncle has Coeliac Disease. Apparently the menopause can bring on CD, so my doctor was quite insistent that I get tested as soon as possible. Did I also mention that I was menopausal? Oh it just gets better and better!

Sadly being tested for CD entails me eating as much gluten-containing food as I can for two weeks and then having a blood test. I started on Monday and, at first, didn’t notice much of a change. I was surprised, because a lot of the time I feel ill almost straightaway after eating wheat products. It’s now day five and I could sleep for Scotland. Lethargic isn’t the word; I feel totally drained and I’m struggling to get going in the mornings, even to go to my beloved gallery.

I also have a permanent stomach ache, which is just making me feel rotten. It’s not bad enough that my back is sore no matter what I’m doing but, for the next two weeks, I know I’m going to feel…well…shit. There is no better word for it!

I’m trying to make the best of it, enjoying foods I’ve forgotten I used to be able to eat. Normal and cheaper foods; cakes, biscuits, pastry – real bread! My breakfast today consisted of Tiger Loaf, lightly toasted. There is a gluten free Tiger Loaf made by Udi, but it starts to fall apart after the first couple of days. This was real bread. But, as much as I’m loving retasting these foods, I’m hating this. Roll on next Sunday!

I finally have a date to meet with the neurosurgeon up at Edinburgh to discuss my spinal surgery. It’s not until the end of March, but that means that my surgery should take place before the middle of April. It’s giving me something to focus on as my stomach churns over and over. I’m not second guessing what he will suggest, but I have been researching options just so that I can be informed when he speaks to me. I expect they hate people like me with Google on tap, but I need to understand in order to process the whole experience without going mad!

Excuse me now, I need to stand under the shower for half an hour in order to wake up!

 

 

 

The Benefits of Ginger Tea

It’s Thursday. Today I went to see my chiropractor who was astonished by my progress since I last saw him just before Christmas. Clearly I not totally out of the woods; I’m still running short distances slowly and leaving two full days for recovery, but I’m much improved. I didn’t, for example, hit the roof when he applied pressure to my knee. He was able to work my IT Band without me swearing – those kind of small, but noticeable improvements.

I’ve worked hard, loosening off my IT Band and Sartorius using a combination of a wooden massager from The Body Shop and a battery operated hand held infra-red massager. Icing my lower back and hip has helped reduce the inflammation, but my revelation has been the drinking of Ginger Tea.

Ginger is a traditional natural treatment for inflammation, sickness, migraines, high blood pressure, asthma…the list was seemingly endless. Some scientific studies, especially into the effect of ginger on some cancer cells, is astonishing. However, I have been purely interested in using it to reduce inflammation around my hip. I bought some organic ginger and lemon tea bags and have used these in place of the tea I would normally drink during the day. It’s pleasant to drink and I’ve actually stopped having to take ibuprofen. I might just be ‘getting better’, but the coincidence is strong.

I’ve decided that I will run in Saturday’s Great Winter Run 5k. I will again struggle up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park, only to hurtle down the other side along with 5000 other mad runners. The weather forecast is chilly and breezy which, translated, means freezing and windy as hell. It’ll be half an hour of madness and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll make it round. It won’t be a startling time, but neither was last year’s with Plantar Fasciitis wreaking havoc. One year I’ll go to Edinburgh in January totally fit!

Me and hubby in 2012, crossing the line hand in hand!

We had planned to caravan over the weekend, but the weather warnings have meant we’ve had to cancel our booking and find a hotel instead. Not quite what we were looking forward to, but at least I get a rest from cooking and washing up!

Wish me luck!

The Edinburgh Marathon Festival Half Marathon 2014

OK, here it is, my appraisal of what went well and what didn’t from this last weekend.

To start off with I did everything right. I ran a good solid race, listened to my body (however achy it was!) and ran a sensible race. I finished and did so strongly, even if some parts of my race were quite tough going.

So, what was my experience of the EMF Half?

It started very early on Sunday morning with a 4am start. Far too early a start in my opinion. I didn’t feel as if I’d had enough sleep; it had rained heavily all night and the noise wasn’t as relaxing as the pitter patter of gentle drops on the canvas – it sounded more like a drum being played all night!

After a breakfast of toast and jam and a cup of tea, we set off at 5am for the Park and Ride. When we arrived (a good 30 minutes early) it was lightly raining. The bus was meant to arrive at 5:45am and leave at 6, but didn’t arrive until after 6. We asked the driver about the tickets and if my husband would stay on this bus or have to get another to get him to the finish. “No idea!” said the driver, who looked completely hassled. He said he hadn’t even got an idea where he was going and was going to have to follow the bus in front. Great. You can imagine how relaxed I was starting to feel.

Our information pack had stated that our bus would go on a circular route, collecting runners from three Park and Ride destinations, starting with ours at Craigmillhall at 6, around to Sheriffhall at 6:15 and then to  Straiton at 6:30, arriving in the city centre at 7am. Instead our bus and the one in front went from Craigmillhall directly to the city centre.

When we arrived, after a very strange roundabout route, at Market Street we were told to disembark and make our way to the start. It was 6:30, we had an hour and a half to wait in the rain with no shelter and nowhere to go but the start. Luckily the start was clearly signposted; things were looking up. However, once at Market Street there were no other buses, no information and no one around to ask about the shuttle service to the finish. My poor husband was looking very concerned; maybe we could ask at the start?

The walk to the start took about 20 minutes. We wondered if we’d have been better leaving our car in Leith and catching an ordinary bus to the top of Leith Walk. It would have saved us a fortune (we pre-paid £16 for our two tickets) and we would have known exactly where we were going and at what time we needed to leave. We could have maybe enjoyed one extra hour in bed! Of course, at 6:50 the start was fairly empty – all the sensible people were still having breakfast! I did manage to make use of the portaloos whilst there wasn’t a queue, although as they’d been open all night it seems that the party crowd had taken advantage and the loo I chose stank of sick. Fab. My day was getting better and better.

We were told by Race Crew that my husband could catch a service bus to Musselburgh at the bottom of the hill, so after checking out the bus stops we felt a little better. He later told me that the bus stops had all been closed and the only way he managed to get a bus was because a little old lady who was also waiting for it stepped out in front of one and made the driver stop! He promises me that he didn’t push or even gently coerce her.

The rain started to get heavier and by the time we were asked to get into our pens it was really chucking it down. And so then they decided to delay the start for 15 minutes! Excellent. You have 10,000 wet and cold runners waiting open to the elements and you delay the start! When we eventually got away the rain had lightened a bit, but it was still quite windy. I had recollections of the last time I ran in Edinburgh at a half marathon – the infamous Rock’n’Roll 2013 disaster when the wind and rain was that bad it blew portaloos over and wrecked a concert stage. Surely I couldn’t be twice jinxed?

emf3

I had my Jeff Galloway Half Marathon app set for 3 minutes running and 1 minute walking and had decided that if I felt good after a few miles I could increase the running or decrease it if things started to go bad. I was determined to finish. Mile 1 was a healthy 10:21 and I felt that I was running well, although the route seemed to be really crowded at times. My third mile arrived after 32:31 minutes and I was comfortable with that, so I tried to adjust my app. I was easily coping with 3:1, 4:1 would be good. However, with all the rain, my armband face was misted up and I couldn’t properly see the phone screen. I clicked what I thought was 4:1 and carried on. I realised that I something was wrong when at mile 4 I tried to have half my gel and couldn’t manage just half of it on my walk break. I stopped and checked; I clicked past 4:1 and chosen 4.30:30 – no wonder my walk breaks seemed short!

emf_2014_half_edited

By mile 4 we were heading along the promenade and into the wind. I don’t mind the rain really, but the wind just zaps the strength out of your legs. We had 7 miles of the wind blowing on our faces, slowing us down. My Garmin splits tell the full story; I just got slower and slower. My 10k split was 69:05. My slow times weren’t helped by the fact that in a couple of places we had to slow down to a walk in order to cross roads through very narrow gaps whilst the traffic was being held up. It was really frustrating!

emf2

Once we’d reached Musselburgh at mile 8 I wondered where we were going to be heading – the finish was just a mile from where we were. The route took us tantalisingly close to the finish and lead us away for two long miles before turning us round for the last two miles. What we had was two lanes of traffic, us heading away from the finish watching those who had rounded the turn and were ahead of us running on the home straight. It was demoralising; I had no idea how far I needed to go before I had to turn – the road seemed to stretch on forever.

Eventually, half broken, I made the turn. It was better being on the final stretch, far better looking at the anxious faces of the people on the other side than be one of those anxious faces. It was even exhilarating when, at mile 12, the elite marathoners passed us on their way out. I am so very pleased that I had made the turn before the elite men passed by! They didn’t get a chance to overtake me – I was able to clap them on and get a slight lift from their wonderfulness.

With half a mile to go I was struggling. I think I’d hit the wall and I was half running, half walking – knowing that I only had a few hundred metres to go. All of a sudden I made a left turn and there, like an oasis, was the finish! Amazingly I found my legs and sprinted down the bouncy castle like matting to cross the line in 2:34:17. I had come 8773 of 9652 runners. There were a thousand people slower than me. Awesome!

Once I’d crossed the line I went to get my medal and goodie bag. Despite the fact that the organisers had asked for T-shirt size, there were no medium T-shirts left, only XS, L and XL. I hunted about for a bit and then decided that a large T-shirt would do. I got my photo taken with my medal and wandered out to find my husband.

We’d decided to meet at the family reunion section, but neither of us could find it. Instead I headed for the beer tent, knowing that he wouldn’t be too far away from a free beer sign! I wanted to find the Diabetes UK tent and say hello. There were five main charities and many more smaller ones, Diabetes UK being one of the smaller ones. I didn’t get a post-race massage, but I did get thanks, an additional medal and a goodie bag. They’d even laid on sandwiches, fruit and water. It was getting on for 11am and we headed away to get the shuttle bus as the last one left at 12.

It was a tough walk, mostly uphill, to get to the park and ride car park. At one point I had to stop; my poor muscles were weeping! Once we reached the car park we joined a massive queue, not knowing where the queue was heading or what we were queuing for! There were a few buses parked up, but no one was there directing the queue. It turned out that the two buses we were queuing past were our buses, but no one knew until we overheard the driver saying where he was heading next. All of a sudden his bus filled up!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and eating and I’m happy to report that I suffered no real ill-effects of my run. I went for a walk along the prom this morning, met a marathoner still proudly wearing his medal 24 hours later, and I’m feeling fine. You’d never really know that I’d run a half marathon the day before. I wondered if I’d really pushed myself hard enough, thinking that maybe if I’d pushed harder I’d be hurting more today, but I think I just prepared myself well and did all the right things afterwards. I stretched immediately, had a post run soya milk shake (for muscle repair), ate an apple (anti-inflammatory properties) and continued to stretch out gently throughout the afternoon. I know that at miles 12 and 13 I could give no more, so to think I’d not tried hard enough is just silly. I think I was a victim of the weather again, sadly. One day I get another ideal race, like the Great North Run was, and get close to beating that PB.

One day!

Blingtastic!
Blingtastic!
A nice wee collection!
A nice wee collection!
The Diabetes UK goodie bag (less the apple and sultanas, which I ate on route!)
The Diabetes UK goodie bag (less the apple and sultanas, which I ate on route!)
The back of my technical tee.
The back of my technical tee.

Will I do this race again? The answer is simple. No. For so many reasons I didn’t enjoy this experience. It was far too busy a race, the route was far too narrow in places and in some sections we were actually stationary. The getting to and from the start and finish was a total nightmare. It took far too long and was far too disorganised. The race itself was great – the weather couldn’t be helped. I’m destined for smaller races, even if I’m last I think!

The Final Countdown

Here I am, three days from the first half marathon of 2014. I’m feeling pretty good, if truth be known. With 14 miles under my belt from last Monday and a further 5 from yesterday I’m on target for a good finish. I’m not planning on breaking any records, but I am planning on crossing the finish line before the sweeper bus catches me.

Who am I kidding? I’m on target for a 2:20 half which, if I can get close to, I’ll be happy. I’m presently running 3:1 run:walk intervals and doing my trail runs at a faster 1:1 ratio in order to work up some speed. The trail running is definitely making me stronger and more confident.

So far as my kit bag is concerned I’ve got my running number which is a rather scary 39890! Over 40,000 runners? I’m hoping that at least 20,000 are full marathon runners who won’t be starting until I cross the line! Dodging runners was one of the reasons I started entering small races, so we’ll see how this goes.

With my racing number came a sample of High 5 Zero, which I’ve written about before. I was pretty impressed with it, so I’ve bought a tube of tablets. I can just add a tablet to my water, rather than have to cart a juice bottle around. I contacted the 33Shake guys about how to use the chia seed gels and their advice was a bit of a revelation. They said use one per hour of running. So I’m looking at using one and a half. If I break the mileage down I could either do half a gel at 4, 8 and 12 and have half left over or do 3, 6, 9 and 12 and use the lot. I think I’ll call that on the day. At least I now know that I don’t have to try and eat an entire gel at a time, so I’m pretty glad I asked! I’ve also bought some beetroot juice to try. This is meant to be a good boost, but I think I’ll try it tomorrow first – just to be sure!

My running kit is sorted. I tested my Diabetes UK vest yesterday and it’s fine. No chaffing or riding up; I shall be burn and embarrassment free. I will probably wear ¾ leggings, ones which I know are comfortable. I could do with some sunglasses. My trusty Fosters IronGirl shades have departed to sunglass heaven, thanks to one arm falling off. Whether I get some replacements in time, well, we’ll see. Lastly my shoes could do with a clean after my 14 mile dirt run the other week. Leaving them to dry so that the dirt would dust off hasn’t really worked.

I’ve checked the weather forecast and it’s saying humid (93% humidity) and cloudy, turning to light drizzle  about 10 am. It’s still a few days away, so that could change. I’m happy with that though, except for maybe the humidity. I need to remember to take my inhaler!

So that’s it then. I’ve spent the last hour locating my paperwork, gazing quizzically at the EMF website and checking the camping arrangements. I’ve discovered that we need to get to the Park and Ride for 6 am (yes, that’s 6 in the morning!) and that I’ll get dropped off at the start whilst hubby and hound get taken straight to the finish. Undeterred by those arrangements, my husband is seemingly quite happy to wander the streets of Musselburgh for three hours or so. There must be a car sales pitch there, or a boat yard or something of that nature. Jeesh!

emf_2014_half_edited

Lastly, my fundraising is going well. I’m up to £150 at the moment. That’s £50 over my race target, so I’m happy. If, however, you want to add to that, here are the details again!

http://www.justgiving.com/Julie-Hollis3

 

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!

Tony03

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!

 

 

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.

Gearing Up for a Great Run

On Saturday I’ll be running in BUPA’s Great Winter Run in Edinburgh. It’s a race I’ve done for the last couple of years, chaperoning my reluctant running husband around the demanding route up and around an extinct volcano in Scotland’s capital city. ‘Chaperoning’ isn’t maybe the best word I could pick – ‘bullying’ is probably more apt. Poor Grant. At the end of the first race in 2011 he said he thought he would die, after last year’s he thought he was going to be sick. How annoying, then, that I looked (and felt) as if I could run it again! Last year he announced that enough was enough, he wasn’t a runner (even though his 5k PB was an impressive 32:19 – not bad for someone who only trained for this race) and next year he’d be support crew. Although I miss bullying him (although I’m sure I can find other times/ways to do that), I’m quite pleased that this year I will be running my own race.

However this week has been a bit of a anti-climax. Our 16 year old Collie dog, Badger, has spent the last couple of weeks quickly deteriorating health-wise and our usual plans to make a weekend of this race went straight out of the window. He was our priority. We changed our plans to travelling the two hours to Edinburgh early on race morning and then coming home immediately afterwards. My son would be on hand to watch him whilst we were away. Sedated anyway, having suffered repeated seizures since before Christmas, he didn’t go far or do anything for that matter.

Yesterday, though, we made the sad decision to let him go. The seizures weren’t improving, the drugs weren’t working and the dog he once was, the happy go lucky bouncy Collie, was disappearing behind a veil of age inflicted maladies. We didn’t want that, for him or for us. He crossed the Rainbow Bridge last night. And we miss him.

Hesitantly and tearfully we are remaking plans. Today is a beautiful and calm day – the first for a while here in south west Scotland. I have my running gear on and my wee dog, Murphy, is desperate to get out and run with me. Once upon a time Badger would have joined us, but eventually it became apparent that he simply couldn’t keep up anymore. Try as he might. The dog that saw my running obsession start five years ago will today join us in spirit. And I know he’ll be there. Only this time he will be able to keep up, unfettered by old age, arthritis and lung congestion. Today’s run will be for him. And I can’t stop the tears from flowing.

Badger Big Dog - run free
Badger Big Dog – run free

We’ll travel to Edinburgh tomorrow and I’ll be fuelling up at Bella Italia at the Ocean Terminal, where they cater for those of us following gluten free lives extremely well. Hubbie and Murphy Dog will form Support Crew on the day and I plan to run 3:1 ratios up and whatever I can down the hill. If I can get close to my 30:32 5k PB I’ll be happy. I haven’t trained much – thanks to Christmas, New Year and that ever present Plantar Fasciitis – so whatever I achieve will be gratefully received! My foot feels good at the moment and Monday’s trip to my chiropractor helped loosen that calf and Achilles Heel off further.

Hopefully it will be a Great Winter Run!

When is your first race of 2014?

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.

 

Last time I was in Edinburgh, I was running up hills.

After more than a month now of quite serious foot pain as a result of plantar fasciitis, I’m starting to feel tired of being injured. The night splint I’ve been wearing, albeit uncomfortable, has helped a great deal and meant that my first steps in the morning aren’t painful. However this week we are taking a couple of days of R&R in Edinburgh, splint-less, and I’m struggling. Yesterday afternoon we spent strolling around shops and today walking through the old town and I’m suffering now. I’ve actually spent the last couple of hours lying in the hotel room, foot elevated, eating chocolate, resting up for the evening.

I bought my running gear with me, thinking that I could do a few Auld Reekie miles, but that looks unlikely at the moment. I’ll see how I feel in the morning, but my foot is simply too sore just now. We even walked past Run 4 It today, walked past without even crossing the street! I’ve never done that before. The mind is willing, the soul is aching, but the body is weak. It’s depressing, really depressing.

I think the time has come to seek out professional help so I’m going to look for a podiatrist. The cost might be more painful than my foot, but ultimately worth it. I don’t think that I can go on like this for much longer.

Edinburgh Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon

Oh.My.God.

After making light of yesterday’s forecast, expecting much lighter wind speeds and for the predicted rain to have passed over, I felt a tad embarrassed walking down through the cobbled streets to the start of this half marathon. We had decided not to try and drive into town, but leave the car at Leith and bus it as close as possible to Holyrood. With the start at just after 9, we’d been told to arrive an hour early to allow for any hold ups. Ordinarily this would have been fine, but today the weather was rebelling. Wearing only a soft shell jacket for protection, I was drenched by the time we reached the bottom of the hill. Not the best scenario an hour before a race and with no shelter to take.

As we rounded the bend at Holyrood Palace, the full force of the gusting wind hit us. This was not going to be a pleasant experience or a personal best race. My first stop was to visit the toilets whilst the queues were still short. After finding a portaloo that the wind hadn’t already blown over, we headed across to the field.

I had filled a rucksack with as many things as I could think of that might help me at the before the start and at the end of the race. Nestled at the bottom of said bag were a couple of foil blankets collected from previous races and stored away for days such as today. Amazingly warm for such a thin piece of material and waterproof. Result.

We sought out shelter behind the Run 4 It tent, along with a few others, and waited for the start to be called. A very long 40 minutes later I stripped down to my vest top and sleeves. Looking around me, most people had opted for long sleeves, several layers and waterproofs. I was there with no sleeves, one layer and three quarter leggings. Was I mad? After kissing hubbie goodbye and giving my shivery, wet dog a pat, I headed off for my corral.

Finding my corral proved difficult and I ended up in corral 7 by mistake. The guy beside me assured me that it wouldn’t matter, so I stayed put. I wasn’t alone. I didn’t realise, but our numbers started with our corral number and there were many others in corral 7 with numbers starting with 8, 9, 10 and even 11. I stopped worrying. With the weather conditions taken into account, where I started was insignificant.

I had Jeff Galloway’s Half Marathon app playing on my iPhone and my Garmin for back up. Our chips were in our numbers, which meant that there was no faffing about with lace chips, far easier. When I crossed the line I hit my app/watch and I was away.

Starting in the faster corral actually worked out better for me. I tend to run faster during my run intervals than other people running the same overall pace as me, so I found that I was better paced being further up the field. I made sure that I kept right out of the way during walk breaks, because I know how annoying it is to be confronted by a line of walkers. I also quickly realised that my vest and arm sleeves were perfect. I was warm within minutes.

Mile 1 : 9:44

Even in the town the wind was dreadful. Combined with rain the conditions were some of the worst I’ve endured. In terms of people running, it was certainly more comfortable with only five thousand runners on the roads, rather than almost forty thousand in the Great North Run. Mind you, I still managed to get tripped up around mile 2, although how it happened I’m still not sure. I was going for a space, got through it and then all of a sudden someone ran right into the back of me. I’m fairly sure that I am easy to see, so how she managed that I don’t know.

Mile 2 : 9:56

What I soon discovered was that my trip had caused my juice bottle to fall out of my waist pack, a bottle full of SIS juice designed to last me the entire race. I was annoyed and a bit worried. I couldn’t remember what isotonic juice was on offer and wasn’t sure how it would suit me. Perturbed I stopped to collect water from the first station and, in an effort to calm myself down, I stopped at the portaloos behind the water station.

Mile 3 : 10.10

I was pleased with my pace, despite stopping for a toilet break (although the watch may have auto-stopped for this, I didn’t check and can’t until I get home.) However this joy was soon to cease. We had reached the shore and the wind and rain were waiting for us. The route took us down onto the promenade. I didn’t think the wind was too, too bad, but the long hill before dipping down to the shore was relentless.

Mile 4 : 10:09

I took my first energy gel at mile 4, following the pattern I’d set down at the GNR. The Powerade gels were a little thicker than others I had been having and needed washing down with water. Around mile 4 we were offered isotonic juice IN CARTONS! I’ve never seen this before. They were terrible to use, with juice spilling out from the open top. I quickly emptied my water bottle whilst on a walk break and filled it with the juice. I don’t drink a lot on runs these days, but I needed to know that I had enough to see me through.

Once we turned off the promenade the wind hit me. And so did the hills. Oh, and the rain, I almost forgot the rain. This combination was a killer. We hit hill after hill during mile five with the wind hitting us face on. My pace showed the effect.

Mile 5 : 11:21

Mile 6 was no better. Hills, wind, rain. Lots of all of these.

Mile 6 : 11:37

On the downhill stretches, and there were one or two, I just went with it and ignored walk breaks in a bid to regain some time. I knew I was going to be close to my GNR result by now as I was averaging a 11 minute mile. Knowing that I needed to speed up when I was confronted by the elevation and the weather was starting to get to me. I had to focus on running for four minutes as close to my race pace as I could, even when I was running up hill. Not easy.

Mile 7 : 12:14 (my worst mile)

As I finished mile 7 I took another gel, and on seeing that the organisers were giving out the same gels, I snaffled one to replace my bought one. Cheeky! By now we were climbing back up towards Arthur’s Seat. It’s a long and steady climb, eventually rewarded by a long downhill stretch to Holyrood Park. I, again, ignored the walk breaks and used gravity to push me on down the hill. I could hear Jeff Galloway counting down the miles and it sounded as if I wasn’t far off pace, but as I’d lost sight of the 2:15 pacer, I didn’t know how far away from this I was.

By now I’d decided that finishing below 2:30 would be nice.

Mile 8 : 11:31

We hit the town again, which meant more hills. Yaay.

I will never moan about the Great North Run course again.

Ever.

People had generously dotted pretty much the entire route, offering encouragement as these mad runners ran past. Considering the weather, I think that these folk deserved a medal as well!

Mile 9 : 11:32

Have I mentioned the hills?

We ran down through the Grassmarket and, inevitably heading down will mean that we will have to climb again. By now I was totally pissed off with the hills! I just couldn’t get a good pace going and I knew that I still had it in me, just not uphill anymore.

Mile 10 : 12:09

By the time I reached the town centre I was glad of some level running at last. My legs felt tired out by all the climbing they’d done, but were happier to run on the flat for a while. I was starting to yoyo with the same people, all of us were doing a combination of running and walking. I was pleased to see that there were running club people around me, making me feel a little less useless! I knew, as well, as I had about half an hour of running left, so I tried to up my pace.

Mile 11 : 11:51

Running across the Royal Mile meant that I wasn’t far from the finish. The course the took us down past The Mound, past Waverley Station and into Princes Gardens. I have to say that this is one of the nicest routes I’ve run, if you disregard the hills and the weather! The architecture and the sights were lovely, taking me through areas of Edinburgh that I didn’t know at all. I spotted some lovely looking restaurants, although I doubt I’ll ever find them again!

Mile 12 : 11:46

From mile 12 on the going was easier, mostly downhill and sheltered. I started looking out for hubbie and dog, but didn’t really expect to see them until the end. As I headed down Cannongate I knew I was nowhere near my Great North Run time of 2:22. I was disappointed, but it was a tough race and I’m not going to give myself a hard time over missing a PB. Doing a sub ten minute mile at this stage of the race was fabulous. I felt strong at the race end.

Mile 13 : 9:58

As I passed the palace the wind hit me again, but I pushed on through it, distracting myself by looking for my family. I found them just before the finish straight. I was aware of someone trying to overtake me and, spurred on by the sight of the finish, I sprinted for the line – which probably surprised me as much as the other runner!

Mile 13.13 : 9:08

I crossed the line at 2:25:10, well I think I did. There were three lines! I didn’t know which one to stop my Garmin at, so I went for the last one, just in case. Bearing in mind that I’m not sure whether my watch kept going when I was on the loo, I don’t think it really matters! I will get my official time in due course, but whatever it is, I’m happy with what I did.

I enjoyed the run, but wasn’t expecting the hills. The weather made the hills impossible and apparently everyone was affected with even the elite runners coming back slower than expected. My medal, well, see for yourself!

20130414-045423 PM.jpg

I’m tempted to say it makes up for the hills and the weather.

After the race it seemed that the weather had caused far more chaos. The bag check tent was in danger of collapsing, so no one was allowed in. Instead bags were being collected by staff members and handed out, so you can imagine the huge resultant queues. The stage for the after race concert had been devastated, the wind having ripped the stage sides to shreds. The concert was cancelled. As I passed the portaloos I noticed that even the massive urinal loos had been blown over.

Luckily I’d given my bag to hubbie to look after so I only had to collect my tee shirt. The organisers had done well offering a Brooks technical tee, which is wonderful.

20130414-050100 PM.jpg

The walk up to Leith Walk for the bus was hard work! As if I hadn’t seen enough hills!! The bus journey back to Leith was wonderful. I had a seat all the way home. Warm and comfortable.

Sitting here now in the caravan, having enjoyed a hot shower, a lovely lunch and the Chinese Grand Prix, I think we’ve got a great set up. We leave tomorrow for home, not racing home tonight because I don’t work on a Monday. I’m looking forward to vegetable frittata, new potatoes and salad and a nice glass of wine in celebration of the toughest race I’ve run…so far!

EDIT.

I’ve just sat and read this through and realised that not once have I mentioned the bands that were playing along the way! Just about every mile was marked by a rocking band, spurring us on. It was great to listen to and I just regret that we weren’t able to enjoy the concert at the end.