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!

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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

 

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.

New Shoes!

After my 11 mile run on Monday I have been struggling with plantar fasciitis in my left foot. Through a combination of massage and pressure point relief I have been gradually working this out, although running has been sore this week.  I said in my last post that my faithful Brooks Ghosts have finally reached the end of their running life. Since August last year I’ve run over 650 miles and a majority, probably about 95%, of those were in the Brooks. So they’ve…wait for it…given up the Ghost!

Today I limped along to my local Nike Store. Near to where we live there is a Nike Outlet where you can buy last year’s shoes at massively slashed prices and as I haven’t got a huge purse at the moment I took a trip there today in search of some new shoes.

Much to my husband’s dismay I tried all of them on. Every neutral running shoe in the store in my size ended up on my foot and sometimes on both feet. I eventually narrowed it down to two shoes; The Nike Air Max Retaliate 2 and the Nike Air Free Run. Both fitted well (in half a size bigger than my usual size), were roomy across the toes (which I look for to avoid bruised toes and blisters on the sides of my feet), lightweight and were comfortable. To be honest I couldn’t choose between them. The Free Run had better arch support, but as they are aimed at mimicking a more barefoot style I expected this. The Retaliate had better heel support, but I expected that too.

In the end I chose the Retaliate 2. They were the first shoe I tried on and felt the most comfortable. However I may, due to the low cost, go back at some point to buy the Free Runs as well!

 

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I have intervals to do tomorrow. If the weather is really bad I’ll test out the Retaliates on the treadmill. If not then I’ll be running them in my trusty, dusty Nike Alvords on the trail! Seems I’m becoming a Nike Gal!

 

X Border Challenge 10k

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

15% charge left…

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

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

9%…this battery is naff…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, brace yourselves…the obligatory pictures…

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

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

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

Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

The Almosts and the Nearlys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Slow Running

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

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

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

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

Success concept.

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

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

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

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Hot and Sticky

A few years back an acquaintance, who plays in a popular local band, gave us a CD of their latest album. One of the songs, entitled ‘Sticky Vicky’, was about a stripper who owns a nightclub in Benidorm, Spain which they used to play at during the summer season. After having just finished a 6 miler in 19ºC heat and 80% humidity, I know exactly how she felt. Ewwww.

I Googled 'hot stripper' and this what I got!
I Googled ‘hot stripper’ and this what I got!

I’m following my pal Jeff Galloway’s 10k app again. Not the improver plan, just the get it finished plan – well he calls it something else, but that’s basically what it is. Get it done. I’ve got it set to 10 min/mile pace (ha ha) and 4:1 run:walk ratios. Today was a 10 minute “jog” or warm up run, followed by 20 minutes of race pace running and a 10 minute “jog” or warm down run, or thereabouts. The route was going to be about 6 miles so I chose my favourite loop that takes me up away from the village, climbing steadily for a mile and a half before working up and down a series of small hills and then steady running pretty much to home, although there are a few gentle hills to test tired legs towards the end.

The hills weren’t really so much of an issue as the heat and humidity. It’s a lovely day for a walk, but a bit too muggy for running and I always find getting my breathing sorted out difficult on a muggy day. I took a couple of puffs on my inhaler before heading out, but it took a couple of miles not to still be fighting with it.

In fact that thought popped into my head as I headed out. I always find the start of any run a bit of a battle, as if my body is resisting it in every way and I have to rise above the battle in order to finish. As an asthmatic, the initial half a mile is scary. Within a few minutes you feel your chest tighten and you start to pant rather than breathe. It’s painful and your instinct is to stop and take a few minutes, but in reality you are better to slow your pace and concentrate on running. Eventually your breathing regulates and you’ve come through it. I often find trail running more intensely scary in this respect; it’s perhaps because my trail runs tend to be shorter and faster. I have to believe that I am not about to die.

Anyway, back to today’s run. I ran the first 10 minutes steadily, hitting the walk breaks on time and wasn’t tempted to stop any sooner, despite my initial breathing difficulties. The faster section came in as I rounded the first hill, which was great – the terrain is better for faster running with a combination of flats, uphills and downhills. It’s not fast, but it is testing and I think that’s a better indicator of how well I’m running than maybe heading down a flat road. I would rather put the work in on the training and hopefully reap the benefits in races. That’s the theory anyway!

The fatigue didn’t really set in until between miles 3 and 4 when the sun came out. Until then the sky had been cloudy and I’d taken my hat off to get a bit of wind in my hair and cool me down. When the sun appeared I had to replace my hat and get a bit of shelter, especially as my forehead caught the sun yesterday. I was drinking water from my Camelbak and hadn’t taken anything else. I figured that a good breakfast on top of all the carbs I had yesterday were fuel enough and water would do. The Camelbak allows me to sip small amounts, which is probably for the best. I’m sitting here now drinking pints of water and I’ll soon be as big as a barage balloon; I couldn’t do that on a run!

I ran on, not even looking at my watch – I had no idea what pace I was running. I just decided that I was running 6 miles and if I did that in an hour and a half I couldn’t care less! It was hot and sticky and I was trying to run 4 miles at 10 minute mile pace. At one point I thought it was raining, but in truth the sweat from my pony tail was getting flicked about and was landing on my hands, feeling like rain.

I was overpace by a long way. I realised this when Jeff started to do a count down when I still had a mile to do. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been behind pace, usually I’m ahead of it. This is the difference between me running at 10k pace and running at 13.1 mile pace! I am not a fast runner!

Mile 1 was completed in 10:55 – that’s my warm up pace supposedly.

Mile 2 was the start of race pace and was finished in 10:25.

Mile 3 : 10:38

Mile 4: I was starting to suffer – 11:08, it shows!

Mile 5: 11:36 I was, by now, on the slow down run.

I ran out of Jeffness by this point and was just running on my own at a slow pace just to clock up the miles.

Mile 5:93 : 11:26 Just glad to finish and walk home!

Overall I did 5:93 miles in a respectable 67 minutes. I’m OK with that because it was warm and it’s actually taken me until now to stop perspiring! Writing my blog before my shower means that I’ve cooled down enough to take it when I’m done!

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On another note, I started core exercises again, but I’m having to stop them. Within a couple of days my neck has started to show signs of strain and I think there is more to it than just bad posture. This last time I was very aware of my posture, but the pain this weekend has been quite bad. I even ended up at the Chinese health shop for a quick 10 minute neck and shoulder loosen massage on Saturday morning and spent Saturday night lying on a massage cushion. One of my vertebrae is so sore now I can hardly touch it! I’m putting ibuprofen gel on that and I’m researching core exercises for people with neck injuries as a way round the problem. I won’t let this stop me, so I need an alternative path. Googling core exercise for neck injury spouts up many links – I just need to work my round through them.

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Firsts, Lasts and A Loose Goose

That’s it! I’m done.

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Sunday saw me finishing my half marathon training programme with a nice, short 7 mile run. It was meant to be 8 miles, but I had a hissy fit a few nights before when checking my Jeff Galloway app.

I downloaded the app last year and followed the finisher’s plan. It worked really well and, without killing myself, I managed a 2:22 Great North Run. This year I opted to follow the improver’s plan. This meant doing lots of interval running, which near finished me off – especially the 12x800m ones! On the original plan my longest run was 14 miles; on the new plan it was 17 miles. I did all this and, at the end of the day, made no improvement at all. So last week I looked again at the finisher’s plan and discovered that when I input my pace (11 min/miles) the predicted result was exactly the same. I was killing myself for nothing.

I’ve decided that I’m happy being a finisher for the time being. I would rather enjoy my running than feel that it is a task. So instead of finishing on 8 miles I ran a paced 7 miles. I took my Camelbak and, once I’d worked out how it all fitted together, it was great. Nothing jiggling about my waist, nothing in my hand, just a back pack holding a small bottle of juice and my gloves (when the sun came out!)

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The following day I went for a sports massage. My first ever sports massage. Those of you who have experienced a sports massage will understand when I say that it was a mixture of pain, more pain and pleasure; the pleasure comes when the pain stops. It’s a necessity though. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt that my legs have become heavier and stiffer and no amount of stretching would alleviate that. I talked to my beauty therapist who told me that she was also trained in the heavier techniques, over and above a Swedish massage.

We concentrated on my gluteus, IT band and calves. I was prepared for pain because my chiropractor has offered it as part of my therapy with him; I knew what to expect! I won’t go into gruesome detail; I survived, albeit feeling a tad bruised two days later! I definitely feel looser. My calves and Achilles especially feel less tight. Had I not had a meeting tonight I would have tested those loosey, goosey legs on the trails! Tomorrow will have to do!

So, what now? I’m looking for another half marathon for sure. I have the bug. There are two on the horizon, one local, one in The Borders. I’m wondering about another in between then and now. 5ks and 10ks on Sundays or evenings are few and far between, but I’ll find something! What I would like to do, though, is make greater use of my GoRun minimal trainers. I want to see if running more naturally will help improve my running style and pace.

In Ever Decreasing Circles

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It’s Easter Sunday. I’m sitting with my feet up, belly not as full as I would like of Easter egg, relaxing after my longest run ever. I may not be able to get up again, but I thought sitting was the right thing to do at the time.

My training schedule asked for a monster 17 miles today and I’ve been psyching myself up for it all week. (I know 17 miles might seem a long distance to some of you, but for me it is. 17 miles represents the longest distance I’ve ever attempted.) Last night I sorted a route, charged my iPhone and Garmin and ate a very large spinach and potato curry. After last week’s tech disaster, I wasn’t planning on any mistakes today.

Hmmm.

My route was my favourite loop north of the village, following quiet single track roads for 5 miles. By adding in two extra bits on two laps of this route I got my 17 miles without too much trouble. At least today I knew where I was going.

Despite the cold (about 3ºC when I set off) I decided to wear three quarter leggings and a vest top. My secret weapons were the arm warmers I had bought at enormous cost (about £4) from Lidl a couple of weeks ago. They fitted fine, were very comfortable and certainly did the job of keeping my arms warm.

The route isn’t easy; the first mile is a continuous climb from 100m above sea level to nearly 200m. Once that’s by with the route becomes easier, with a few short climbs followed by sharp descents. There is some flattish running too, but the best thing is the view. I run through farmland, three small villages and overlooking the Solway Coast. The snow which fell heavily last weekend hasn’t quite melted away and the Cumbrian hills, together with our local Criffel, are still snow covered. As I ran along the lanes snow was still piled up along the sides, showing signs of being pushed there by tractors.

Criffel, with a dusting of snow.
Criffel, with a dusting of snow.

 

The Cumbrian Hills in the distance.
The Cumbrian Hills in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started off steadily, helped by the pace of the music I was listening to. I wasn’t looking to match the 11 minute/mile pace my Jeff Galloway Half Marathon app was predicting. All, really, I wanted to achieve was a reasonably paced 17 miles. Finishing in under 3:30 hours would be fine. My first lap was the longest at just over 6 miles and I was chuffed to finish the 6 in 65 minutes. I knew that I was running well when 3 miles came in at 36 minutes.

As I set off on the second lap I felt that the air was cooling down. The wind was picking up and recently all of our weather has been coming from the north, making the air even colder. At one point I had to lift my neck tube over my mouth because the cold air was starting burn my throat.

At mile 10 came the first disaster. After pacing me wonderfully, all of a sudden the music stopped. My iPhone was totally flat. I think it’s time for a nice, new battery for my beloved phone! The present one is 4 years old, so I suppose a new one is due. However, that left me pacing myself after 10 miles – not an ideal situation. It also meant that I’d lost Jeff Galloway and his coaching. I was left trying to time the 4 minute runs myself, which wasn’t easy. Looking at my Garmin every few minutes was distracting.

When I got to mile 12 I decided to try and use the intervals on my Garmin. Unfortunately, in trying to get this option working, I managed to reset the timer. I knew, from previous experience, that my 12 miles were safely stored in the watch’s memory so I didn’t worry too much and, of course, I knew exactly where to stop my running having preplanned the route.

At least on the third shortest lap I now had 4 and 1 intervals beeping at me, leaving me to just focus on running, hard as that was becoming! At times I felt as if I was barely doing more than a very fast walk, but I kept plodding along.

I finally finished the 17 miles in 3:27, 3 minutes within the self imposed limit I’d set. I’m happy with that.

That’s my final long run before the Rock and Roll Half Marathon on the 14th. I won’t say I’m unhappy about that – I think I’ve had enough just now! A couple of recovery runs before the race sounds wonderful! As I ran along on the final lap I wondered what it would be like to be 16 miles into a marathon, with 10 miles left to go. Suffice it to say I’m not really looking at entering a marathon any time soon!

In a meantime, look at the cool medal I’ll be adding to my bling collection!! I can’t wait!!!

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