Sunday, 31 October 2010

Internet safety 101...

... if you are meeting up with someone you only know online, make sure you do so in a public place!

Today I met up with someone who feels like an old friend! Carol and I met at Running4Women about a year ago, but our efforts to meet in real life have been thwarted by logistics and illness. When Stephen had to drop out of the Festival Place 5k due to 'flu I emailed Carol and asked her if she wanted the place, after resisting for a little while she said yes and, at long last, we got to meet up!

After the Great South last week it was lovely to take part in a small race. This is the first year this race has been held, entries were limited to 350, but I don't think there were that many there today - hopefully more people will take part next year. We set off at 9am, I had positioned myself with all the scarily fast looking club runners near the front of the field, and started off much too fast - but hey, it's only 5k and I wanted to get a bit of speed at the start.

The route took us out through Festival Place shopping centre, and out and around a pond at Eastrop that I didn't know was there (to be honest I didn't know there was a place called Eastrop until this morning), back to Festival Place, passing Wagamamas, up past the Haymarket, along the road by MacDonalds (and back) then down into Festival Place again for a final circuitous route around both levels before finishing back where we had started at M&S. I am 99.99% certain that we didn't run a full 5k! I am not certain of my time, as I forgot to turn my Garmin on at the start, and then forgot to turn it off at the end - but results are being notified by post, so will have to wait and see! I did glance at the clock, but wasn't really concentrating, and the time seemed far too fast to be my time!

All in all a fun little race! Would have benefited from kilometre markers along the way, but the goodie bag is fun! The Lush bath bomb and £15 Wagamama voucher are possibly the best things I have ever had in a race goodie bag! Well done to Vicky, and everyone at Alton Sports for organising such an interesting race.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Man 'flu!

It is half term and my husband has man 'flu! He has taken to his bed or, when feeling slightly less feeble or there is something he wants to watch on TV, the sofa. From here he coughs, splutters, sighs and moans, generally making the whole household feel miserable.

To be fair, he may actually be a little unwell, but I have spent too many years living with him having dramas over every minor medical issue that I can't be sure any more. And it must be remembered that I am not the most compassionate of people at the best of times! A rainy half term with most of us coughing and sniffling is not the time for an Oscar winning man 'flu production! I think I'd rather be ill myself than live with a man suffering man 'flu!

What little compassion I do have has been sorely stretched today. On a 'quick jaunt' to the nearest TKMaxx to see if they had sheepskin boots in my older daughter's size (they didn't), younger daughter had coughing fit in the car and managed to throw up over everything she was wearing. She ended up walking around the shopping centre in big sister's ski jacket (the only item of clothing in the car) until she could be bought a whole new outfit! On removing the cover of her car seat I noticed that it was cracked - so it is probably a good thing that she was sick, as I now know I need to get her a new one.

My entire day seems to have been spent getting in and out of the car, delivering and collecting people from various places. I foolishly ate two honey sandwiches for lunch and then tried to go for a run. I didn't get very far, as my body tried to cope with the wheat and sugar overload! Such a contrast to the lovely run I had yesterday, 4.2 miles running up a couple of hills but maintaining a respectable pace overall. I've decided to try to get to grips with hills. I can keep running to the top of every hill I have met so far, but I am so slow! I am sure that if I get faster at hills it will improve my speed overall.

One side effect of the man 'flu is that my husband will not be running the Festival Place 5k with me on Sunday. I am not a huge fan of 5k races, as I am not a fast runner. Anything sub 27 minutes will be good for me, although I would be surprised to do well on Sunday as I am still full of cold. I like longer races where I can relax and run at a steady pace, rather than the mad dash that a 5k race can often be. Hopefully Stephen will be on hand to take photos as I am finally going to get to meet one of my online running friends. Carol and I have raced in the same race once before, but didn't manage to meet up, and since then events have conspired to keep us apart. I am really excited to be meeting her at last!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

How to feel really old!

Got up very early today to pick up eldest son from a sleepover in a nearby village. I needed him home to babysit for his younger brothers while I took the girls up to London. I was rewarded by a beautiful sunrise. The iPhone camera doesn't really do it justice, but let's just say that red sky at morning really is a sailor's warning - it was rainy all day!

Once in London we had a lovely stroll through Harrods, much squealing of delight by a 4 year old let loose in the toy department. She was particularly thrilled to meet Tinkerbell in Christmas World!

After a cup of tea for me, juice and dough nuts for the girls, I allowed me to be persuaded to go to Abercrombie & Fitch. I began to wonder about the so called 'dire economic climate' when we had to queue for about 15 minutes to get into the store! We walked past the same naked hottie posing for photos with the teenage, female customers and entered into a living hell! Dark, hot, really crowded, loud music and smelling like my teenage son's bedroom after he has applied liberal amounts of aftershave!

We eventually found an overpriced hoodie that madam liked, and went to find a cashier. I was stunned at the length of the queues. Teenagers were throwing piles of vasty expensive clothing at the cashiers. I would think twice about spending so much money on a sweatshirt for me. (This was a belated birthday trip for my older daughter, so she had birthday money to spend). Where do teenagers get so much money from? We queued for longer than I would consider queueing for a ride at Disneyland! The difference being that at Disney they tell you how long the queue will be and you can choose whether to join it or not, today we'd invested so much time in queueing and had no idea how long it would be until we got to the front, so we just waited and waited! Still, the birthday girl is happy with her purchase, and I will never go back in there again!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Monday, a day of rest?

Monday seems to be traditionally a day for rest for runners. We do our long, slow run on a Sunday and have Monday as a recovery day.

Or that is the theory. Today is also the first day of the school half term, so we didn't even need to get up early this morning. However, things never seem to work out the way one plans. I have spent a lot of time ferrying various children to sleepovers and parties, catching up on the laundry, which means that at some point later today I shall have to catch up on ironing and I still haven't replaced my wonky ironing board and gardening.

Those of you who know me 'in real life' know that I am not a natural gardener. I love sitting in gardens, I love looking around pretty gardens, but I am know very little about gardening and do not yet feel I am middle aged enough to take it up as a hobby! My mother-in-law assures me that I will 'grow into' gardening one day.

Because I like looking at gardens I love going to the Chelsea Flower Show and the Hampton Court Flower Show, I've been going for a few years now, Hampton Court normally sees me being soaked or surviving a mud bath, but at Chelsea the sun has always shone. Not only does one get to see beautiful gardens, look at very expensive garden furniture and gadgets, but one also has the opportunity to drink lots of Pimms or Champagne. This is dangerous! I should not be let loose near any shopping opportunity when I am ever so slightly tipsy!

At one of the shows last year I ordered 110 tulip bulbs from Bloms Bulbs! The display in the Floral Tent is always stunning, and up until this year I have managed to resist buying any for myself, but this year I let rip, filled in the order form and then went to get another drink. Not giving the matter another thought until the box of bulbs was delivered a couple of days ago!

Our garden is quite small, mainly used for playing football and drying washing! Space is somewhat limited. I scratched my head wondering where I was going to put them, and then identified a space of scrappy grass at the side of the house between the road and the pavement. I had forgotten that we have about an inch of topsoil on top of chalk, which makes digging holes, even small ones, really quite tiresome! I have spent this afternoon planting 70 bulbs in a hopefully random way. Younger daughter was 'helping' to position the bulbs, so it will be interesting to see what comes up where! I have another 40 to go, but need to find a space for them to go. I also need to get the feeling back in my hands.

Roll on April/May when my garden should have a sea of beautiful tulips and remind me not to go mad at Chelsea next year!

And now my 'rest break' is over! Got to go and pick up a child then come home and make supper.

Enjoy the holidays!

Sunday, 24 October 2010


Set off bright and early, with my neighbours, for Portsmouth today. The weather was lovely, crisp, blue skies and very little wind, ideal running conditions. The atmosphere before the race was friendly which made the wait for the start a little easier to endure. The organisation was...odd! 23,500 people were taking part, and we were split into three waves, orange, white and green. Normally these waves are organised so that the fastest runners go first and the slower runners start later, and starting waves are often sub divided so that within the wave the same thing happens. This avoids having to constantly having to change direction to avoid the slower moving person in front while at the same time trying not to get in the way of the faster person who is trying to get past you. But this wasn't the case today. I am a faster runner than my friend, but she was in the first wave and I was in the last one, and the waves were not subdivided. Unlike a lot of other races the bunching and crowding did not ease up as the race progressed: I worked my way through most of the green wave starters by about mile 3, but then I caught up with the slower runners of the white wave - so I was constantly running around people and slowing down to avoid collisions. There was no way you could pick a pace and stick to it for more than a few meters at a time.

High points of the race include running through the Historic Dockyards (I've never been to Portsmouth before, other than a shopping trip to Gunwarfe Quay), overtaking Superman and the view over the sea front for the last mile and a half. Low points include being hit by a flying water bottle on the A2030! Apparently this had been an issue in previous years, local youths think it is amusing to throw half empty water bottles (just after the water stand) back into the crowds of runners. As they are on a bank at the side of the road they have a good position to aim from. It is not so amusing when the bottle hits the side of your head when you are least expecting it! Another low was having a coughing fit so severe that I had to stop, lean on the barrier and wait until I could breath again before continuing.

I am gutted with my time. My Garmin says I ran 10.08miles in 1h 29m 54s, and I was sure that I was well and truly across the finish line before I hit 'Stop.' I was somewhat disappointed with this time as I know I could have run faster, given a clear route through the race, but at least it was sub 1h 30m, so I was utterly despondent when I found out that my official time was 1h 30m 11s!

Ho hum, there is always next year, and who knows, I may even manage to do a race next year when I am healthy! That will make a difference I hope. And it was fun, really it was! I still had plenty of energy to up the pace for the last 200m as I threw myself across the finishing line.

Friday, 22 October 2010

I've praised them before and I'll praise them again!

Back in June I was obviously feeling a bit flush and decided to splash out on a lovely Garmin Forerunner 405. I loved it to bits, I really liked being able to see where I had been, how my speed varied as I hit hills etc. On Tuesday however it decided that it had worked hard enough and died on me! Not great timing as I was hoping to have it for Sunday's race, much easier to look at my watch to see how slowly I am running than to have to do complicated mental calculations while trying not to run into the person in front of me!

I idly sent off an email to the 'contact us' button on the Harrod's Sweatshop website, explaining that the watch was dead, that I no longer had my receipt, and mentioning that I was gutted as I was running on Sunday. I didn't expect to get a reply within minutes, but I got one. The manager of the department said that they normally send gadgets away for testing to see if they can be repaired when they are more than a month old, but as I needed mine for Sunday he would make and exception and do a straight exchange. All I needed to do was pop mine back into the store and collect the one he had put to one side for me! Hurrah! Now all I needed to do was plot a trip to Knightsbridge!

I dashed up there this morning after school drop off, and once again mourned the emigration and holidays of my shopping buddies! I really do need to recruit some more partners in crime. It may be far more efficient to shop alone, I bought new over knee chocolate brown boots from Russell & Bromley, nail varnish, chocolate, socks and a high viz running vest, exchanged my Garmin and managed to get back to the car park in less than an hour, but it is no where near as much fun!

I've been home a while now and set up my new Garmin. I am going to have to leave calibration of my foot pod until after the race, as I won't run again before Sunday, and don't want to risk messing up my timing of the race by trying to do two things at once! I just need to get organised now, I have letters to iron onto the front of my running vest, I need to attach the timing chip to my trainers, find a suitable bag and label it, locate safety pins and pin number to vest, etc. etc. etc.!

If I could get rid of the cough and sore throat before Sunday, that would be a bonus!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Hail hurts!

The weather here has been beautifully sunny all day. Stephen and I set out for a short run this evening and the skies were still blue. They remained blue until we were about as far from home as we had planned to be. Then the heavens opened and within seconds we were drenched. Five minutes later the hail started! Ow, ow, ow! Thankfully I was wearing 3/4 length running tights and a t- shirt rather than shorts and a vest, but those hail stones really stung.

My beloved Garmin decided to pack in this evening - I am not a happy bunny! I went to put it on this morning and it was as dead as a doornail, refusing to charge at all. It was strange running without being able to tell exactly how far I had gone and at what pace. When I got home I resorted to MapMyRun and reckon that we covered 3.5miles at an average pace of 8mins 8secs per mile - which is much faster than normal, so maybe the hail made us run faster.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Cautiously optimistic...

The weather today is beautiful! Crisp, blue skies, with no breeze. Yes, it is a tad chilly outside, but nothing a thick sweater or a bit of gentle exercise can't deal with. The looming Great South Run has been preying on my mind. I am still coughing like mad, and was about to defer my entry (for the first time ever using a bit of common sense) when a envelope of cash was pressed into my hands at school pick up. This was the charity share proceeds of the Year 4 cake sale, 50% of the takings go to the PTFA and 50% to a charity of the year group's choice. So now I felt I had to run and raise money for CLIC Sargent who do great work with children suffering from cancer.

Just one little snag..... I haven't been well enough to run properly since Paris and, let's be totally honest about it, I wasn't really well enough to run then! I can't believe how long I've had this chesty problem for, but it is getting rather boring now! Either side of Paris I had a week off running - not so much as a gym visit, gentle jog or run for the bus, and since then I have just been going out for short runs and taking it easy. I haven't been further than 5 miles since Paris. I was beginning to worry about whether I could physically cope with a long run.

Today I decided to put myself to the test. I ran 8.5 miles (over part of the hilly Alton 10mile course) in a fairly respectable time of 1hr 16minutes. The weather was beautiful, the scenery beautifully autumnal, and I had the lovely Stephen Fry in my ears for the first 4 miles, followed by the delicious David Tennant, so the miles passed pleasantly. I only stopped to cough a few times on route, which seemed to alarm passing cyclists somewhat, and was toying with the idea of running the extra mile and a half to make up the full 10 miles (a flat stretch, past my house, through the village and back again) when I saw my children waving madly at me as they walked back from the swings. Never mind, I know I could have done the extra distance.

Now I intend to take it easy for the next few days. Some short runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then nothing until the big day. I am a bit miffed that my plans for training sensibly and effectively (lots of speed and hill work, cross training etc.) have been neglected as I struggle to do the bare minimum, but at least I don't feel totally unprepared.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

First Impressions

I have a school for my final teaching practice! I'll be starting there in January, a full year after I was due to the placement at another school. The first school dropped out due to staffing issues, and finding another school within a reasonable distance has been a nightmare.

Yesterday I put on my smart shoes, smart casual skirt and jacket and pootled off for a day at the school. The school is judged to be 'outstanding' by OfSTED, and has around 1200 pupils. The buildings are a huge contrast to the last school I was in, shabby single storey blocks dotted around a campus - I shall be hoping for dry weather in January or remaining in the science block from dawn until dusk! The science department doesn't have the resources that my last school had, but achieve comparable results. The teachers I met seemed friendly and approachable, a lot less defensive than some others. The atmosphere in the staff room was relaxed. I am not sure it this is because I feel as though I am on a slightly more level playing field as I approach the final hurdle or if it is just a more friendly school!

It was good to be back in a classroom and working with children. I was working with a group of pupils and realised how my questioning technique has changed since I started training, my questions were automatically more open than they would have been at the beginning of this adventure! The deputy head (responsible for PGCE students in the school) asked me how I felt about this final placement. I said that the rational part of my brain knows I can do it, but part of my head wants to run screaming for the hills! If I didn't feel nervous then I think I would be doing something wrong. I know I have loads still to learn, but figure that I'll be learning all my teaching life.

I'm going to have to have a rethink of my working wardrobe. I felt very overdressed even after I took my jacket off! I think long jumpers/tunics and leggings may be the way to go. And I must get my own lab coat and safety goggles!

Teaching practice is going to mean a reduced running schedule, so it is probably just as well that I didn't get a place in the London Marathon, and I'll have to defer my Brighton Marathon place. I hope that I'll still be able to manage the Bath Half - I've been looking forward to that for a long time.

Training for the Great South continues.... I didn't have much time today, so did a short (3mi) run in just over 25minutes. I am still coughing for NATO, although I hope that the cough is on its way out. I have an offer of a lift down to Portsmouth with my lovely neighbour and her husband (who are both running), and my race pack arrived today which is always exciting! Bit confused about the pen allocation though. I gave a predicted finishing time based on the time I ran the Alton 10mi in (hilly race, 1hr 30mins) and have been placed in a slower starting pen than my neighbour who is predicting a time of 1hr 40mins! Ah well - who knows how they work these things out anyway!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sunny weather!

I am still coughing, and am really bored with it now! Running is tough when struggling for every breath, but I have a race in two weeks and am stupidly unprepared for it.

After my aborted foray up Brockham Hill on Monday I decided to hit the gym on Tuesday. I wanted to do some interval training on the treadmill, but it took me so long to work out how to programme the machine that I gave up and used one of the machine's preset programmes. My idea of intervals is 40 - 60 seconds really, really fast with a few minutes of comfortable running in between each sprint to recover. This wasn't an option on the machine at the gym, but I did manage about 30 minutes before terminal boredom set in. I also did a quick session on the Power Plates, mainly squats, but throwing in some ab and upper body stuff too.

Wednesday saw me running outside again, just over 3 miles on the Basingstoke road, followed by a huge coughing fit and lunch in the garden at Bottega dei Sapori with Stephen and Dupé. We have been enjoying fantastic weather, it was really hot in the sun.

Thursday was a rest day, more because we were busy than because I had planned it that way. Stephen and I went up to London to drop off some books and have lunch with a friend. Thursday evening is quiz night at The Weybridge. We had a huge team this week, and would have come first if not for me messing up a question in a wipeout round. As it was we came second and won a £30 food voucher (first prize is £50 cash).

I ran again on Friday, trying to step up the distance a little and managing just under 4 miles. Every time I set out to run I would be full of hope that this time I would enjoy it, but Friday's run was as miserable as every other run since Paris has been. I am really worried about my ability to run 10 miles in two weeks' time.

Today it is sunny, bright and warm again. I set off for a run with The Fry Chronicles on my iPhone and a determination to take it easy and have fun! I ran a very slow 5.25 miles (9 minute miles) but did enjoy it and felt that, had I not needed to get back to look after children and make them lunch I could have gone of for a few more miles, so all hope is not lost! Maybe I'll even shift this cough before the Great South Run....

In other news.... I have a teaching placement arranged at last! I don't start until January, sadly, but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am off to spend a day at the school on Tuesday and hopefully I'll be able to arrange a few more days there before my official start. I'd like to spend some time with the lab techs to see how that side of the department works, as well as making a start on some of the (many, many) tasks that the OU want completed and deciding what focus my research project should have.

In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather, coffee with friends, being available to pick up children from school etc. All activities that will be curtailed once I am back in school.

Monday, 4 October 2010

It isn't going well!

On days like today I have to remind myself that I do love running! I may have finished the course of antibiotics with only the mild side effect of constant nausea but without succumbing to thrush, but I am not 100% better yet! Admittedly I only sound like I have a 20 a day habit now, rather than the 40 a day habit of a week ago, but things really aren't working as well as they should be.

This wouldn't be a problem if I wasn't due to run The Great South Run on 24th October. I've done two 10 mile races this year without adequate training, and was hoping that the third time would be the exception. I have less than three weeks, well two if I am to taper properly, to get myself race fit. So far it is not looking good.

On Saturday I ran two miles. It was the first time I had run since Paris to Versailles. The route was flat and although I ran it in under 17 minutes it was not a good run by any means! I had to will myself to lift my legs, my chest was screaming at me, this was a case of mind over matter to get me home.

I didn't run yesterday, instead I went out to lunch with Stephen at Côte Brasserie in Farnham, where we decided that sharing the foie gras as a starter was a diet option. It was the first time we had been there, and would recommend it. It would have been lovely to sit outside, but the rain was bucketing down.

This morning I pulled on my running shoes and headed out again. I wanted to run up Brockham Hill and back, but just could not do it! I got halfway up the hill and thought I might die, or be sick, or both. At this point, for once, I took the sensible option and decided to run back down the hill, so my planned 4 mile run was actually only 2.5 miles!

I think I am going to have to plan some nice, flat runs for the next week. Maybe throw in a bit of speed work on the treadmill at the gym (I hate speed work and I hate treadmills so that should be fun), and not think about hills until next week.