The Comeback Queen

This is how one of my runner friends referred to me today. I’ve been the queen for some time, apparently because in one photograph I looked slightly like Helen Mirren (from a distance and with a squint!) However today I was proud to be known as The Comeback Queen.

And the reason for that is very simple; today I ran my first 10k race in five years.

I chose the hardest of the 10k races I could. Why? Well I thought it would be a good gauge of how I am, fitness-wise. All of my training had been done on the flat, or fairly flat anyway. Running the many hills of Jedburgh was going to be a challenge and, if you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll understand that I don’t run from a challenge. Sometimes I run headlong towards it, ignoring all advice!

I won’t be sharing a blow by blow of the event. It was cold, windy, sunny and hilly (have I mentioned the hills enough yet?) It was actually perfect running weather, apart from the wind (and the hills).

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Before! I can’t tell you how nervous I was!

I ran Run/Walk/Run intervals, which I altered as I ran – the first time I’ve done this more than once in a race. It kept me on target, right to the end. If anyone was at all snooty about the fact that I was walking at regular intervals, they soon got to see my backside as I went past them!

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Coming into the finish straight

I completed my six point two miles in 74:07, which is just six minutes more than my slowest pre-op time. That is a great time! I am still overweight, carrying a stone more than I should be, so I’m looking forward to some faster running (although the recently consumed celebratory chocolate fudge cake might slow that accomplishment down a tad!)

 

 

One down.

What’s next?!

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.

 

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!

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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On being quiet and just getting on with it.

I take my blog writing style from the fictional Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City fame. Carrie, I feel, had that way of approaching subjects that are only important to a few select individuals and making them everyone’s latest big issue. My blog is read by few, probably appreciated by less, but is important, I hope, to one or two select individuals.

So, what is my latest big issue?

Not much, to be honest. I find myself blogging less about what I’m doing, even forgetting to blog about long runs, as the runs get longer and my free time lessens. As the title implies, I’m just running, getting the job done and getting on with life. And, sometimes, that’s all we can do.

(See, now that was a Carrie style metaphor for life. I can hear your impressed applause from here!)

I’m up to 11 miles now in my long run status in training for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Edinburgh at the end of my Easter holidays. I’m really looking forward to the whole Rock and Roll weekend. Hubbie and I have booked our wobble box (the caravan) into a good camp site nearby and I’m excitedly reading about the  many bands we will be listening both on the way round and in the after race concert at Holyrood. I will even attend an expo, my first proper expo! Even the Great North Run last year didn’t have an expo to attend, just a few races with one or two celebrities at the quayside. I can get my photo taken looking excited prior to the event – how cool. How very American! I’m secretly very envious of my US running pals who have fabulous pre-race, in-race and post-race photos. I get a pic taken in the caravan of what I looked like before and then a few blurry blob in-race photos to share. It’s terribly sad.

Last weekend I ran my 11 miles on the shore road. I was going to do two loops of my 5 mile circuit, but the weather has been so wet I doubted that the loop would be puddle free and, as regular readers, you will remember that a Scottish puddle is the equivalent of a pond elsewhere. Ducks swim on them. Dolphins have been spotted.

The weather was lovely, total running perfection. Calm, blue skies, sunshine and chilly. I went out fueled by porridge and banana and took an isotonic drink and a handful of dextrose tablets. I had downloaded a new running album, all rock songs, and was eager to see how they sounded. Although the original artists weren’t serenading me, it certainly wasn’t karaoke central. I was pleased by how well the songs fitted my pace and how good they sounded. If you want to download a bargain this is it: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/worlds-greatest-rock-runnning/id585790865

I ran fairly smoothly, although as usual it took me a few miles to feel comfortable. It’s as if I have a brief respite between feeling sluggish and then feeling knackered and the miles just whizz by, briefly. I was running at just under 11 min mile pace. I find running at below race pace tough. I’m meant to be building up my speed and seeing 11 min/miles on my Garmin really gets to me! I know that’s the point, long runs should be easy and are there to build up endurance and it shouldn’t frustrate me, but I’m just too competitive, so it does.

This week I’ve struggled with feeling “right”. I didn’t feel that my long run was particularly stressful. I recovered very quickly. I don’t seem to ache as maybe I should after a long run. I am tired, but I get no real muscle ache, just a bit of initial stiffness if I’ve been sitting for a while. Maybe I’m lucky like that or maybe the run:walk philosophy is keeping me injury free, I don’t know. Whatever the answer is, I’m not changing anything. It works for me. Anyway, what should have been an interval session on Wednesday got swopped for a recovery run and a short one at that. I’m meant to do two 45 minute runs in the week, a walk on Saturday and my weekend run. On Wednesday I could hardly put one foot in front of the other and ended up doing a measly 30 minutes and being really annoyed with myself. On Friday I knew that I was due for a straight 45 minutes run at above race pace and I knew I wasn’t ready for that either. I adjusted the speed (it’s easy done on the Jeff Galloway Half Marathon app) and this is what I heard:

“OK, I’m pleased that you are listening to your body. Let’s lower the pace.”

Isn’t that what we all need to hear sometimes? I actually did 30 minutes at 10.3 kph and the last 15 minutes at 11.3 kph, adjusting the pace on the hoof. And I felt good.

Today I have 800m intervals to do. I was toying with heading to a local track and doing them there, but there is a race on. So, unfortunately it’s an treadmill day. I say unfortunately because the weather is perfect for a long run and it would be great to get out there. If it stays like this I’m tempted to do a short recovery run tomorrow.

I will be fueled today by porridge and banana (I’m typing this whilst waiting for it to “land”) and a sports drink made by my son who has been studying sports nutrition this week as part of his B.Tech course. He has made a cheap and nutritionally equivalent sports drink out of orange juice, lemon juice and salt. It tastes fine and lacks added sugar that shop bought ones have. I hope that it works; I have a gallon of orange juice in my fridge. Maybe I should worry more about being a guinea pig. Last night I dined out prior to a concert on Beans in Tomato Sauce (which, I know, sounds like a can has been opened, but was actually very nice) served with boiled potatoes, green beans and carrots. I won’t divulge the starter and dessert. That’ll just spoil the picture you have of my carb and protein high dinner. Instead I will leave you with a video of the band we saw last night. The world’s greatest rock and roll ba-ha-ha-hand.

The Last Post

Here I am on New Year’s Eve 2012, bracing myself for 2013.

2012 – such a year!

  • I’ve continued to beat personal bests at all distances from 1 mile to 13.1 miles.
  • I ran my first Great North Run, in a very respectable time, along with 40 odd thousand others.
  • Every race I’ve run before I improved on this year.

So 2013 has much to live up to.

I’m currently planning my racing year, avoiding big races as much as possible, and concentrating on doing more for less. Entering races is a costly business and, as much as I enjoy racing, I have to think about balancing the books!

Today I did my last run of 2012. I ran with my semi-silent coach come reluctant running husband at his improving pace for exactly 20:13 minutes, inspired by my running friend Paul Smith who had just run 20:12. One run for the old year, the other for the new one.

So, I’ll leave you there, with grateful thanks for your support during 2012 and wishing you all a very energetic 2013!

Fitting in Short Runs

As we approach Christmas (and thank you, by the way, WordPress for my snow! <if you read this after the festive season, there was snow…honest) fitting in any running is becoming increasingly difficult.

This week we resorted to running the third of a mile length of the village which is lit by street lights enough times to get 2 miles out of it. Incredibly boring running, but running nonetheless. Needs must!

Today is our only day off together and, in an ideal world, should be a long, easy run day. In truth it will end up being a short, just fitted in run as we are trying to get our house looking slightly more finished looking. Having just dismantled a chimney and put up Christmas lights, we are now about to fit a kitchen cupboard and erect a spare bed, whilst moving furniture around the house like one of those sliding puzzles!

I’ve been researching marathon training. I bought Jeff Galloway’s marathon book and set this against my diary. There is no way I will be marathon ready for the Blackpool marathon in April. I worked out that I would have to start today on week 9, an 11 mile run, and, not having run any decent distance for a month or more, that would just be silly and begging for injury. So, if I am going to do this marathon, I need to look at doing one later in the year. At the moment the Loch Ness Marathon is high on my list, although I’ve heard that it’s a toughie and the flat nature of the Blackpool 26.2 was seemingly ideal for my first try. I’ll keep looking, but would appreciate any ideas for marathons which aren’t too far away from south west Scotland! I think I might do the Blackpool Half though. In fact, there are many half marathons beckoning from the events guide of Runner’s World! If I don’t end up doing a full marathon then maybe this could be the year of multiple 13.1s!

Goodbye Low, Hello High

OK, so here I am at the end of what was apparently my ‘rest week’. I guess I’ve never called it that before; to me rest means rest, not just lower mileage. So in my eyes here I am at the end of a low mileage week. There, that’s better.

Pedantic Pete gets it right!

So this week has me looking forward to 11 miles at the weekend, after two short runs in the week, one of which I’m just about to go and do.

Last week I did my two short runs, one on the treadmill and one through the mud in the woods, as well as a longer run. I had to leave my shorter long run (pedants unite!) until Monday as I was busy on Sunday right through until late. I mapped out a route using roads I know well, but haven’t run in that order before. It kept me on my toes trying to remember the route, but it was a nice run. I look at friends routes sometimes, ones who live in towns and cities, and see no elevation to speak of, just flat road running. I just don’t have that luxury. My “flat” running is never close to being on the level. I always have hills, no matter which way I go! The only way I wouldn’t would be if I ran the village half mile up and down. B.O.R.I.N.G. So I looked at what I could run and came up with this:

 

It’s a 4 mile loop that is as flat as I can get. It looks pretty good, doesn’t it? Deceptive though. Look at the same elevation in Garmin Player:

That’s the run I know!

In any case, that’s as flat as it gets, which is fine – at least I’m hill ready!

I did my 4 miles in a steady 44:12, which gave me a nice pace of 10:25. I set off too fast, I know that. I was listening to ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ by the Manic Street Preachers and couldn’t find the right pace. Sounds silly, but there must be an odd beat to it. My first mile was 9:40. I’m supposed to be running my long runs at 11 minute miles, but only the last two were that slow. I’m not worrying too much about that.

Today it’s still raining after an almighty downpour last night, so the treadmill is getting a hit again, although I’m tempted to run it all on the incline. I’ll see how that goes! My treadmill has a manual incline of, we think, about 5% which might be a bit much for the whole run at 10 minute pace. I can see me jumping on and off the belt doing mid-run adjustments!!

I’m also picking up an exercise bike tonight, which should help with my cross training.

So, 11 miles on Sunday. I’ll see you on the other side!