A self-affirming 6.5 easy miles

Sunday saw the first real increase in mileage since I restarted my training following injury.  It was a lovely day, a truly lovely day.  The sun was shining, there was just a gentle breeze and it was a cool 5ºC. I decided to head down along the shore road, despite the fact that it was just 6 ½ miles and that I could have done a loop of my favourite route. Truth is, I expected (bearing in mind that it’s been a very wet winter) that the route would be flooded in at least a couple of places and I really didn’t fancy paddling this close to the birth of my new running shoes! They deserve to stay reasonably clean for a few more weeks, at least!

An idea of the amount of water we're coping with - this was a field when I started out, but the high tide and increased river height caused a flood by the time I was heading home!
An idea of the amount of water we’re coping with – this was a field when I started out, but the high tide and increased river height caused a flood by the time I was heading home!

I’m also just training for a finish; I’m not trying to get a PB. I have had a string of rotten half marathons, because of injury, weather and both, and I just need to finish comfortably this time and then build on that. An easy run along the shore road was what I needed, all I needed.

Jeff Galloway was in my head, as ever. His app gives me reassurance and guidance. I’m getting better at using it, altering my pace and walk/run ratios as I need. I also took time to look around me and enjoy my lovely day. I met a couple of friends who watched me run off and come back again, grass in hand. I do love horses!

My new neigh-bours!
My new neigh-bours! Groan!

I ran the first 3 miles reasonably well. It is still taking me that length of time to get into the rhythm of running. After 3 miles I’m more relaxed, possibly not as fast, but happier. I think forced inactivity has just put me out of step with my running spirit and it’ll take me a while to find it again.

I ran the 6.5 miles at between 11 and 12 min mile pace. Not fast, not far, but fine.

Since then I’ve been reading my running mags avidly. One of them has suggested using meditation and self-affirmation as a way of boosting self-confidence. This is a great idea for me because I do tend to doubt myself, especially on long runs. I tried it last night and I’m going to add this to my training programme. Basically I relax each muscle group from my feet up, then imagine myself walking down a staircase to a lovely familiar place and when there I tell myself that I am a good runner, repeatedly. When I’m ready to finish I count myself from three to one and open my eyes. I’m happy to give this a go and I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences with self-affirmation.

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Last news from me for this week is that I’ve decided to fundraise again this year. I’m booked into three half marathons, almost 40 miles of racing on top of many more miles of training and a couple of 10ks thrown in for good measure – I think if I could raise a bit of cash for a worthy charity that would be great. I decided on Diabetes UK  in memory of Tina, my friend who passed away recently. Tina had Type 1 Diabetes and to raise money in her memory would be a fitting tribute. Diabetes UK were delighted for the support and have already sent out a fundraising pack, including a smart technical running vest. As I have already secured my places in the three races I don’t have to raise a certain amount for them, but I would like to raise at least £200.

If you would like to help please click on the banner to go to my JustGiving page or follow the text donation instructions. Thank you!

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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.

 

The Other Half

That’s it – 13 miles done. Well actually that’s 22.69 km done, which is, according to my conversion app, 14.1 miles. Yaay, go me. That’ll be why it seemed to take so long!

My foot is officially killing me. I really struggled through that last session, still running for 7 minutes and taking 40 second walk breaks. It meant that although I was running for longer I could run a little slower. I still maintained 10:36 pace, which is faster than my best half marathon pace by far.

I will now rest up. I’ve stretched, dinner is cooking and I hear a bath calling my name. A wine bottle also seems to be trying to attract my attention, so I must see what it wants!

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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Running Like a Girl

A few weeks ago I replied to a random tweet sent out by the editor of Women’s Running UK magazine, who asked if tweeters preferred long or short runs. In an infrequent moment of clarity I replied that, generally speaking, I preferred a longer run, but that sometimes I had to fit in what I could and that running should complement, not antagonise, my life. Christina emailed me asking me for my address, a photo and my age because my words of wisdom had just won me a copy of Alexandra Heminsley’s new book ‘Running Like a Girl’. I was suitably chuffed.

Chuffed until the magazine came out. For those of you yet to cross the 50 age barrier I can tell you that being 48 is a long way from being 49, which is even further from being 50. I am a happy 48 year old, soon to be 49, but not yet. Imagine then my horror at seeing these words accompanying my words of wisdom in the July issue: “Julie Hollis, 49”

49!

What I’d like you all to do is read 48 when you see that. Just until August.

So anyway, ‘Running Like a Girl’ duly plopped through my letterbox last week and, of course, I was too busy to start it. It was also a real book, something that I haven’t read for a while. I tend to download books onto my iPad these days and read them in bed without having to put my hubbie through the ordeal of trying to sleep with a light on. However, we were away for the weekend on a chill out, relax all you can holiday, so I took my paperback copy with me.

Having started it on Friday night, I finished it on Monday evening – almost unable to put it down. It’s not often that I gel with a book as much as I did this one, but I found myself laughing in agreement at some of the things Alexandra had put herself through in order to become “a runner”. I recognised myself in the woman who found all the excuses not to run, who had severe worries about not making it to a real toilet before she had to squat at the roadside and who beat herself up over finishing times of marathons she had run, when in reality she had run a marathon! Suddenly my blog appeared in front of me with someone else saying the things I’d said, someone else feeling the same things I had, that I still do. I realised that I was not alone at all, there were/are probably thousands of runners, not just women, feeling the same things.

I wouldn’t say that I’m suddenly inspired by what I’ve read. Entertained, completely. Reassured, without doubt. However, it’s almost as though I’ve been given permission to behave in a certain way, to feel the things I have and still to be a valid runner and I’m grateful for that. Alexandra has split the book into sections, firstly dealing with her own tentative steps into running which developed into the success of completing a marathon alone and a second motivating a friend. This was such a great read – you felt privy to information that a friend would divulge to another. At points I found myself laughing out loud and nodding my head in agreement. The arrogance of some running shoe sales people and their off-putting attitude struck a chord, sadly. The book then went on to trace the history of women’s competitive running, some of which I knew from reading magazines, but was a pleasant read nonetheless and it certainly made you think about how privileged we are to be able to enter races willy-nilly. The final section dealt with all those stupid questions we are too embarrassed to ask!

If you haven’t guessed, I can thoroughly recommend this as the Bridget Jones version of ‘Running with Kenyans’ or ‘What I Think about When I Run’. It is fun, informative and unputdownable, as my husband will so testify!

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Click on the book to visit Amazon and buy it, download it – just read it!