Festive Fat Felling

It sounds far more adventurous than calling it weight watching, doesn’t it? I’m Festive Fat Felling!

Since last writing I’ve really stuck to my calorie reduced living. I’m not dieting as such; all I do is note down the calories in what I eat, try to stay around 1200 calories a day and drink plenty of water. Sometimes I’m just over and most times I’m just under. I’m still eating platefuls of delicious food and drinking my beloved gin and, most importantly, I don’t feel as if I’m dieting. For instance, tonight I’m having an Indian takeaway meal and I have plenty of calories left in the bank for a gin or two!

And I’m losing weight! So far I’ve lost 8lbs or half a stone in 13 days. I should know how much that is in kilos, but I really don’t care. I’m an imperial/metric crossover kid, still old enough to remember doing imperial maths at school and still young enough to remember being shown a 50p coin and gasping at its alien form. Some things I do in imperial measure and others in metric. It’s probably annoying but, again, I don’t care.

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I’m back at work and I have to admit that the three weeks I took off at Christmas have given me a false sense of wellbeing. When I do next to nothing I feel great. I’ve been back at work a week and I’m knackered. Not just sore, but very weary. I’m getting worn out by the constant pain and there is nothing I can do about it. I take the pills I’m prescribed and have a couple of (allowed, medically and dietary) G&Ts a night and then I try and get a night’s sleep. Those of you who have endured long term chronic pain will understand that there is no position of comfort for any length of time, whether it’s standing, sitting or lying. I’ve taken to sleeping with a pillow under my knees to try and take the pressure off my back. I can’t sleep on my left side because I still have bursitis and sleeping on my front hurts my back. So I try to move between lying on my back and lying on my right side as gently as I can. It hurts whatever I do so I rarely have a really good night’s sleep and that adds to my tiredness. Something else for me to moan about!

I’m really pleased, though, with my weight loss. I’ve said that I’ll try to lose a further 30lbs, with my goal being me being even lighter than I was when all this started. I might not achieve that and, to be honest, if I could just get back to my pre-injury weight, I’d be happy. Another stone would do that, so it’s not much to ask of myself and it would probably help with  my recovery post-surgery.

I’ve no news on that front. My doctor suggested a four month wait from referral, which takes me to April time. Whether that’s to meet the neurosurgeon and discuss options or not, I don’t know. I’ve scheduled a regular doctors appointment to keep on top of pain management and developments, which is helping me feel a little more in control.

Again, if anyone wants to befriend me on MyFitnessPal, I’m Paintergirl21. I’ve amassed a few very supportive contacts already from all over the world. We support each other’s achievements and give advice when its asked for.

And, as runners, we all know about motivation…

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My 3 Rs: Recovery, Reassessment and Reinvigoration.

After almost two weeks of enduring a cold and struggling to do much more than get through a day’s work, I’m ready to start running again.

At least I think I am!

I’m actually sitting here changed and ready to run, waiting on my iPhone charging before I head off…to the bottom of the garden and my treadmill. My cold is still firmly lodged on my chest and it’s causing me to cough, which of course affects my breathing. I frightened myself a week past Sunday when I ran the Fleetwood Half – I really shouldn’t have run feeling the way I did. But I did.

I’m heading out to the treadmill so that I am in control of the distance, the speed and the location. I’m trying to be sensible!

I’ve looked at my running programme and I’ve decided to follow the finisher’s plan again. I’m not in the right place (yet) to look at improving. So far every half I’ve done since doing the Great North Run in 2012 has been worse. I just want to finish one around the 2:20-2:24 mark. I’ve not been far away, but far enough to make me feel as if I’ve been running backwards for a while. And I realise that there are valid excuses for this; valid excuses don’t make me feel any better.

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The cunning plan.

So my plan looks a bit like this! Long runs of 4, 12.5, 4, 14 and 5 miles before my race, all at 2:30/1 ratios and 11 min/mile pace hopefully giving me a 2:24 race time.

I’m trying to lose a bit of weight so I’m watching my calorie intake and portion size and plotting these on the My Fitness Pal app. If I lost a stone I think I’d be happier as well as lighter. I don’t look in the mirror wishing I was a stone lighter, I look OK, but I feel as if I’m ‘hauling ass’ at the moment. I’m naturally heavy. I don’t look my weight, I don’t think. People are generally surprised to hear how heavy I am and I realise that I am probably more muscly than a lot of the people who are surprised.

I know I need to tone my core; I do keep going on about that! I will try. No promises on that!

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Lastly I am going to restart the Kinetic Revolution 30 Day Challenge in an effort to loosen myself up. It was working, but I had to stop. I will try and fit in the 15 – 20 minutes a day!

See you later!

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Heading down to the gym, on a perfect running day – sacrilegious!

Race Report: Fleetwood Half Marathon

I’m sitting here in our luxury accommodation listening to an adverse weather report on The Bay local radio station. What a difference from yesterday.

We’d been promised dull and cloudy weather and low temperatures, but that wasn’t to be. It was, in truth, a perfect Bank Holiday Sunday, warm and sunny and still – perfect for strolling with an ice cream along the promenade, not necessarily for running a half marathon.

We’d arrived at Knott End, just across the estuary from Fleetwood, on Saturday lunch time. The camp site was small and perfectly formed, with more than adequate showers, clean toilets and within walking distance of the shops. Now a well-oiled machine, we erected the trailer tent and awning within an hour.

I’d found, through the internet, some gluten and nut free ready meals by a company called Ilumi and had chosen enough for two meals. This saved my usual panicked race around a supermarket I didn’t know searching for something I could eat! The local ASDA provided us with some ‘meat’ for sandwiches (Quorn Roast Chicken style in my case, not so Quorn in hubbie’s) and some bread rolls and we enjoyed a late take away chip shop lunch as we headed home. It’s all carbs. I was bulking up, literally.

Truth be known I was struggling to eat anything. I’d acquired a cold in the week and by Friday I was feeling quite bad. As an asthmatic I have to very careful when I get a cold because the symptoms are exacerbated. I’ve ended up with severe chest pains before, with which I probably should have gone to hospital, but I’m the type to battle through illnesses rather than ask for help or get medicines. This information will come in handy later. Read on.

When we settled down in the evening to have our first Ilumi meal (Moroccan Tagine for me and Zatar Chicken for hubbie) I felt as if I could be sick. The only thing that kept me eating was the fact that these meals weren’t cheap! I couldn’t waste them! However as I ate I did start to feel better and by the end of the meal I was feeling okay. My stomach hurt and I wasn’t comfortable, but my cold felt better. Maybe it would be alright after all.

I decided that a walk with the dog might help, so I harnessed him up and we left, joined by hubbie. I’d said at the start that I didn’t feel up to a long walk and was trying to conserve energy for the race. We ended up walking about three – four miles and I was totally exhausted! My legs ached, my head hurt and I was tired. One strange film later we hit the hay.

Full of enthusiasm for another race (it’s like childbirth, you forget how awful the previous one was) I was dressed and breakfasted and ready at just after 8. We had a thirty minute drive round to Fleetwood itself, but we’d checked out the venue and knew that we had plenty of parking. There was no panic. And, right enough, we were able to drive straight to the start and park in a semi-empty car park. This was so different from the debacle of larger events. No getting up at silly o’clock, no trying to negotiate unfamiliar public transport, no worrying about where to leave bags or where to meet up with loved ones. I collected my number (no chip) and joined the toilet queue.

The race started at 10 with a crack of a gun firing.

The Race

The course consisted of ever increasing loops of the same roads. Mostly we ran along the pedestrianised promenade, with gorgeous views of the sea. This, combined with joining the parallel public road, gave us the first 6 miles of the run. People sitting at the start got to see us run past three times in all. On the third loop we were taken right along the promenade towards Cleveley. By then the temperatures had started to climb and I’d taken to wetting my headband at water stops in an effort to stay cool.

I’d started off well: mile 1 – 10.05, mile 2 – 10.34, mile 3 – 10.40. I was running 3/1 run/walk ratios and trying to keep as close to 10 minute miles as I could. When the temperature started to climb I started to struggle to breathe a bit, so I reduced the ratios to 2:30/1. Obviously this affected my times, but at mile 6 I still had a reasonable 10k time.

This is where it started to go pear-shaped.

I was running as close to the promenade wall as I could so that I could benefit from the shade. By the time I got to the mile 8 marker I was starting to gasp at the end of run intervals and the walk intervals just weren’t long enough for me to recover my breath. Suddenly things started to go dark and I was seeing stars – I knew that if I didn’t sit down and get my inhaler I was going to pass out.

Having an asthma attack is difficult to explain, unless you’ve had one, because it all happens so fast. All I can say is that I managed to get my inhaler out as I sat down, had a couple of puffs which I didn’t think would do anything because I didn’t feel as if I’d actually taken a proper lungful. Several runners slowed down to ask if I was okay and offered to get a steward. I thanked them, reassuring them that I’d be okay once my inhaler kicked in, although I had no idea if I would be!

After a minute or so I was able to get up and walk and I continued running a little bit after that. I was well behind pace, but, by this point, I’d put aside any thoughts of running a PB! I just focused on finishing.

The course took us away from the shade of the prom wall and into the full glare of the sun. Runners around me were struggling. I was now running with the limpers and those walking more than they were running. I did make up a lot of places in that time, but again I’d had to reduce my run/walk ratio to 2/1. I was struggling too.

At mile 10 I hit the road, literally. Hyperventilation caused another attack and I had to sit on the kerb for a few minutes whilst my inhaler did its job. I’m not the most patient of people and a couple of minutes felt like an eternity.

I decided to just get back. Forget the time. I decided to run/walk 1/1. I could manage a reasonable one minute run without gasping. It was my new plan.

I caught up with a woman in obvious discomfort. We chatted as we ran and she said that her foot and hips were hurting. She explained that she had a little boy and with no one to look after him had had to do all her training on a treadmill. She wasn’t road-ready. I sympathised. Some runners can be so dismissive of barriers to running. Instead I said that I was run walking, if she wanted to run with me. We ran the last two miles together, using my Gymboss timer to beep runs and walks.

We were within a mile of the finish when some smart Alec ran alongside us asking “Have you two been disqualified for running too slow?” Considering that we were far from last and well within the course cut off I was annoyed by his glib attempts at mockery. “Get stuffed!” I shouted back. “Go and annoy someone else!” I couldn’t believe that anyone would be so unfeeling. It was obvious, from the way she was running, that my companion was really hurting and was incapable of running faster. I daren’t run any faster! This idiot didn’t spur us on, he just appalled us. Coupled then at half a mile to go with the bloke who shouted “I’m 75 and I finished ages ago!” you can imagine how rubbish we felt. I think I swore at him.

I must admit that I could have run the last two miles faster. The ratio was fine and I was easily running my minute, but my companion simply couldn’t run any faster. I tried increasing the pace, but I kept losing her and at that point I felt that she might not finish. I could have run on and made up some time, but my heart told me to stay and help. What would you have done?

We crossed the line together, hands held aloft. We weren’t last by a long chalk and we had finished. My Garmin says 2:41, but I’m guessing when I collapsed it went into auto-pause. I don’t really care.

I collected my medal, met up with my hubbie and we trundled back to the campsite. I felt awful. The trip back was uncomfortable and even though I’d eaten a banana after finishing I knew that wasn’t enough. By the time I’d shakily managed to make a sandwich I was well past it. I was struggling to eat the roll and ended up just eating the Quorn chicken! After that, a hot cup of tea and a shower I felt fine and we walked to the local pub for a pint or two.

Today my cold has landed firmly on my chest and has turned into an infection (I won’t share how I know that, it’s not very pleasant!) I’ll now have to watch that this doesn’t get worse.

Lessons Learned

Lessons learned? Well for one, despite everything, this was a good race to do. It was friendly (mostly), easy to get to and from and cheap to do (£17). I didn’t get a goodie bag, but along with your medal there was ample bananas, cheese crisps, wagon wheels and water to collect. I didn’t get a T-shirt, but I usually pay extra for those anyway.

On a negative I was daft to run with a cold. I realise that now. I realised it at mile 8 and mile 10 when I was lying at the side of the road. I’m asthmatic and I shouldn’t ignore that. I also need to have a post run meal ready so that I can just eat. I usually have a soya milkshake and an oat bar, but remembered neither. I was a wreck by the time we got back to the campsite and my hubbie was too Inexperienced to realise it. He thought because I’d eaten a banana I was fine.

I’m annoyed by the comments passed by others as we ran. My hubbie witnessed another incident where a steward shouted at a woman to “RUN!”, going on to tell her that it was a running race and if she couldn’t run she shouldn’t be competing. The steward was worried about how long she’d have to stay if people had resorted to walking. Unsurprisingly the runner turned on the steward; my husband thought she was going to hit her! Do slower runners need that kind of abuse? It does make you wonder about entering smaller races where you might be at the back. It also makes me worry as a Run:Walk:Runner – am I opening myself to abuse if I’m seen to be taking walk breaks?

We’re just home and until now I hadn’t emptied my Camelbak of its remaining contents. To my horror out of the 0.5l I took more than half was still there. In my attempts not to drink too much I may have drunk too little. This is the drawback of the Camelbak; hidden on your back there’s no way to see how much you’ve drunk. All the way round I was trying to make sure I had enough water by limiting my intake. In reality I had plenty and should have had more. This too may have contributed to my unwellness. I think I may have to go back to wearing a waistband with bottles I can see through!

I think, if I’m well enough (!) I’ll do this event or another organised by the Fylde Coast Runners next year. I’d hate to judge an event by one bad experience mostly caused by my own lack of wellness.

The Bling

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Aftermath

I contacted the event organisers via Facebook, explaining what had happened and immediately received a phone call. They were concerned, apologetic and assured me that they would do what they could do to prevent the things that happened to me from happening again. It’s a new and encouraging club and I would hate for other runners to be put off by the behaviour of three people (all probably nothing to do with the club!) out of a cast of hundreds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, in the meantime I must…

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Running Home and Away

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

New Challenges

30 Day Challenges

I’m on a mission to make myself a better runner, both physically and mentally. My mission has meant that I’ve  taken up James Dunne, performance coach, on his 30 Day Challenge. James follows me on Twitter and when I saw the link to this free resource on Twitter, I had to go and see what it was all about.

James’ website summed up why I need to try this, and probably you do to:

If many years of coaching experience has taught us one important fact, it’s that there are a number of key exercises and drills that 99.9% of runners and triathletes will benefit HUGELY from, if performed on a regular basis.

The irony is that most runners simply don’t do this type of training. Without it, they’re left more susceptible to injury and constantly fall short of their true potential come race day!

This is exactly why we’ve created this 30 Day Challenge…

Each day we’ll provide you with a specific 10-15min set of targeted techniques, drills and exercises, chosen to Transform Your Running over the coming month!

(taken from http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/30daychallenge/)

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? I started yesterday with day one, exercises aimed at my hamstrings, adductors and hip flexors. They aren’t easy, which probably proves that I’m doing them right, with 3 lots of 20 reps of each exercise. On top of this James also has some fab proprioception exercises for people, like me, who have poor co-ordination skills but also aimed at everyone who needs to improve balance and motility and I guess that’s most of us!

Today I did day 2 which was all of these exercises again plus an additional flex which I found disturbingly difficult! I used to go to regular yoga classes and this particular pose was a nice finishing off pose. Today it near finished me off! I’m not sure why – maybe I’m just older and stiffer, but the low back mobility cross stretch was hard going. I’m hoping that this will improve as my flexibility does.

I’m also following the Plank Challenge from Tribesports, doing an increasingly long plank hold for just about every day for a month. It looks like this:

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I might struggle to get past a couple of minutes, but my abs deserve some attention!

Training Again

I’m back on course for the next half marathon on my list, the Fleetwood Half. I’ve booked a campsite nearby and adjusted my diary so that race day is actually race day. This means that I’ve come in at Week 5 with a 6 ½ mile run and yesterday was Week 6 Day 4 – Magic Mile day! I left running until later in the day so that I could honour a chiropractor appointment in the morning and then spend some quality time with my hubbie. My quality time also involved visiting my favourite running shop and buying a couple of new running tops. As my husband had just bought a recovery truck, my £26 worth of bargains went uncommented upon. I know how to bide my time!

It was 6pm before I headed out to run. The weather had by then improved and it was a lovely calm evening. A perfect running time. I chose a fairly flat route and my cycling hubbie decided to come with me, after a little persuasion. My warm up mile felt incredibly slow, but as I’ve readjusted my app and am now back doing 4:1 run:walk intervals I let it ride and slowed my pace. The timed Magic Mile started just as we reached the flattest part of the route, which was ideal. I ran the first half a mile well paced at about 6 – 6 ½ mph according to hubbie’s bike computer. On second half I tried to lift my pace a bit and was encouraged by hearing that I was running faster. I was between 6 ½ and 7 mph, not much faster, but still an all important negative split! I completed the mile in my fastest time of this year of 9:58. It’s not startlingly fast, I realise this, but it’s the fastest I’ve done since returning from injury and it’s under a 10 minute mile. It’s progress. And progress is good.

The run back was a slow affair, with my pace dictated by the app. I was happy to just jog back – I’d done my hard work for the day!

Ode to the Chiropractor

Simon, a follower of this blog, my running and my art, has rekindled an interest in haiku – the Japanese poetry form. I used to write a lot of haiku and have taught countless children how the syllable patterns worked, but lost the time to write them. I use the traditional teikei 5-7-5 pattern, although I know that this is a bit outdated for modern haiku writers. It suits me.

Last night, on the jog home, I paced out this poem – an ode to my chiropractor.

My chiropractor

Whose instruments of torture

Ensure pain means gain.

I’m sure my chiropractor will love it – I’ll make him a calligraphed copy!

As it happens my visit this month was fairly low-key. My calf muscles are behaving and aren’t too tight. My neck and shoulders were, as ever, stiff, but his new machine (looking and sounding much like a nail gun) pummeled them into submission. The only new twinges are coming from my left knee which is starting to sound as if I am receiving regular injections of Rice Krispies. Some pain across the front of the knee when I’m relaxed caused some chiropractic concern and I’m icing it following some cross-friction treatment. It doesn’t bother me when I’m running, just at rest, so I’m not worrying too much.

Other than that I got a clean bill of health – I am a picture of running fitness, so long as your picture looks like this!

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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?

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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!

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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!

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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!