Sunday, 28 November 2010

It is official...

... it is bloody cold out there!

I set off for a run this afternoon in long tights and a long sleeved running top over my t shirt. I normally have to remove the top as I get too warm, but not today. I didn't plan to run very far, but, despite the cold, it was a lovely day to be out and about. Clear skies, lovely views - when my glasses weren't steaming up as I breathed out, and barely a soul about. The roads were very icy in places, so I changed my planned route to keep on roads that stood a chance of having been gritted in living memory. There were still huge icy patches that took some negotiation - I didn't want to think what would happen if I did a Bambi impression on the ice!

As I got to about 2 miles out I decided that I would turn back at the end of the next track. Most tracks on my running playlist are about 3 or 4 minutes long, so would add about a mile to the total distance I would run. As the next track started (on random shuffle) I recognised the opening chords of 'Champagne Supernova' by Oasis and groaned. Not only is it not a great song to run to it is also over eight minutes long! The trouble with goals I set for myself is that, if I fail to achieve them, I feel like a real loser! So on I went, and then realised that the last 3 minutes of the run would take me down a really steep hill, which would mean a really steep up hill start to my return half of the run. Luckily, just as the road started to really plummet downwards I spotted a footpath to my right and veered off down there instead - virgin running territory for me! I avoided the steep hill, but will wait until the ground has thawed out a bit before running down the footpath again - it was very rough going!

I ran 7 miles today in 61 minutes - I know some of you out there will be laughing at how slow that is, but it is the best I have run in a long time! I feel as though I am gradually throwing off this awful run of chest infections and colds. I still had loads of energy left as I got home, but my thumbs were blue with cold and the children needed feeding, so I called it quits at 7 miles.

Not sure how much running I will get done this week, I'm off to Paris for a flying visit - can't remember if I left trainers in France, and don't want to pack them if I haven't as I have lots to take with me and am going on Eurostar rather than taking the car over on the train.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Road Rage!

The road through our village is being resurfaced. The old road was a bit pot holed, but I would happily have lived with it to avoid the road closures that the resurfacing has caused - and we are only on day 4 of the work.

The letter informing residents of the work to be carried out is dated 18th November, and arrived on 20th November at around 2pm as the postman couldn't get here any earlier as the road was already closed. Rather than resurfacing one half of the road at a time, and using traffic lights to allow cars to pass both ways through the village, they are doing both sides at once. A two mile drive into Sainsburys is now 6 miles on single track roads with far too many cars using them - including delivery lorries and buses. I seem to spend most of my time reversing to the nearest passing place, and several people seem to have sense of humour failures at the thought of getting their 4x4s a bit muddy!

The situation could have been ameliorated somewhat if the workmen gave accurate information when asked, and didn't make us feel as though we were unreasonable in wanting to get into or out of our houses! Yesterday evening, in a hurry to get home so I could go out again, I asked a workman if I could bypass the blockage by going up one road and down another. "Oh yes!" he said, neglecting to inform me that there was a 40 minute wait at the bottom of the other road!

Argh! It makes me realise how much I rely on being able to jump in the car and get to places quickly! At some point tomorrow I won't be able to get out at all, but I have no idea when. Let's just hope no one needs to get in or out in an emergency.

If you came here because this is a running blog then here goes! I've been a bit depressed by my speed, or lack therof, recently! I have been stuck at around 9 minute miles for ages and what ever I did this is what I averaged on most runs. I've been adding some gym workouts to my routine, and the advantage of the dreaded treadmill is that it makes speed work easier. Yesterday I ran at speeds between 10 and 14kph (machine is metric only) adding in a couple of half kilometer 7.5% hills, and while it was hard work I managed it. 'Hills' seem easier on the treadmill because you can't see them.

Today I dithered about running - I'd either have to run through construction works (the smell of tarmac gets old fast) or along very busy single track roads. I chose the latter, and ran 4 miles in just over 33 minutes - faster than I have run for a very long time. Seems that the boring gym and treadmill work may be paying off!

And now I have to set off insanely early to get to school to pick up the children..... wish me luck, I may be sometime!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

It's that time of year again!

Not only is it now dark by mid afternoon, meaning that, unless I want to go out dressed like a Belisha beacon complete with head lamp, I have to try to go running during the day, it is also starting to get a wee bit chilly.

It is not so cold that I can go out wearing a windproof running jacket, or even a long sleeved top over my t-shirt, and it isn't really cold enough for long running tights either, but it isn't warm enough not to wear them. So, I set off on my run cursing the cold, trying to warm up frozen fingers my retracting them as far up my sleeves as possible, swearing that I will turn back at the first corner as it is inhumane to expect anyone to run around in such dreich (I had to look that word up as I've never written it down before) conditions. Pretty soon, about a mile in maybe, I begin to overheat, and then have to contend with removing a layer without strangling myself on my headphone cables or accidentally removing too many layers and finding myself at the side of the road in just my bra!

To be honest, I am not sure that it has ever been cold enough for me to run in a jacket and/or long sleeved top without it being so cold and dangerously icy that I would not venture out. The roads are all beginning to get slippy with fallen leaves, no more crunching through the leaf fall, it is more a case of treading carefully to avoid falling arse over tit down a slippery slope.

Despite the cold, today's run was fun. Two and a half miles gently up hill followed by two and a half miles back home again. I almost didn't go out. I'd intended to go to the gym, but left the house on the school run without a water bottle or my headphones, so came home again, and was about to change out of my running kit when I spied my neighbour returning from her run. I was guilted into going out, and I'm glad I did!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A surprisingly good run!

Husbando left for London at 5am this morning, and I rolled over and went straight back to sleep until about 9am. Small people may, or may not, have climbed into bed with me to try to persuade me to make breakfast, fix broken toys, sort out arguments, but I was oblivious to them all! Not sure why I am so tired at the moment, maybe it is because the weather is so dark and miserable.

When I eventually surfaced I made breakfast and supervised homework while wrapping presents. My middle child has been given some really lovely maths homework this weekend, involving making 3D shapes from card, but while he is very good at the measuring and cutting out we are rather scuppered by the sticking of the card. Pritt Stick just isn't doing the job. A trip to Waitrose later today better yield some stickier (but hopefully non messy) glue.

Up against the clock, as ever, I realised that the only way I was going to get a run in today was to go while one of the children was at a party. So, after dropping my youngest son at a party being thrown by two girls in his year at school and featuring the Animal Man, I set off.

This was new running territory for me. I know the area, but only to drive around, but I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go. I knew that I could do a nice loop, but thought that it might be a bit short on distance, so added a bit on at one end! The route I took went gently uphill for the first 2/3rds and then fairly steeply downhill. I had forgotten to put my Garmin on before leaving, so had no idea how far I had gone until I got back home, and only a rough idea of how long I had taken (about 48 minutes). I was thrilled to find I'd covered nearly 5.75 miles! It was a lovely route - despite constant rain, and I would like to run it again, but if I run that loop starting from home it is nigh on 13 miles! A little further than I need at the moment. On the other hand, parking and running is an option - and the challenge of running up the steep hill and down the gentle slope would be good.

Got to dash off now - the madly gay social whirl that is my children's life is never ending, and I need to drive my younger daughter to a party at a soft play area. What fun! Wonder what her party bag will yield? This morning's contained popping candy - I've been transported back to childhood!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Hot stuff, or how to amuse construction workers!

The weather has been against me this week. Several rainy days have resulted in my retreat to the gym. I've been elliptically cross training, power plating and treadmilling away for about as long as I can stand the boredom! I have ameliorated the dullness of running on the treadmill by whacking the gradient up to 7.5% and running up hill as fast as I can for as long as I can, which means that it is all too knackering and painful to be boring!

Today, although it was not bright and sunny after last night's gales, was at least not lashing it down, so I decided to brave the great outdoors, and intended to set out on one of my favourite routes to a neighbouring village and back. I had forgotten that we are being resurfaced! The snow last spring added yet more potholes to the already impressive collection around the village. This is going to involve the road through the village being closed for 6 days towards the end of the month, but in the build up to this the road to the neighbouring village is being resurfaced.

As I ran towards the 'Road Closed' sign I realised that I could run my favourite road without fear of death by dippy woman driving 4x4 while chatting on mobile 'phone, and checked with one of the workmen that I would be able to get past the area they were working on and then set off. I had to squeeze past a few HUGE lorries and engage in a bit of banter with the construction guys, but was soon past the area they were working on, and running down the middle of a gloriously empty road.

Coming home was a different story. By this time they had spread new tarmac on the road and were rolling it flat. Running on the freshly rolled road surface felt amazing! It was so smooth, warm and with a little bit of give in it, running on the freshly spread, but as yet unrolled, tarmac was a bit more tricky - sticky, lumpy and a lot warmer! Had to keep moving or I might have stuck to the road surface! Cheers from all the guys working on the road as I ran past them.

Back home to bake cakes for yet another school cake sale (Reception class this time), and then to ice them. I'd been icing them using a normal, fabric icing bag up until now, but Laura aka Village Wife, recommended some disposable ones from Lakeland and I have to say that I am very impressed with them. Being plastic they do
not allow all the icing to ooze through the fabric and make greasy messes everywhere. I love making cup cakes as it seems so much less hassle than having to grease or line a big cake tin and they are so much more fun to ice. The children's favourite icing is a cream cheese one (although they don't tell their friends it has cheese in until after they have tried it). Dead simple to make - 300g icing sugar, 50g butter and 125g of Philadelphia beaten together for about 5 minutes until it is all smooth and gorgeous. I think my original recipe demanded that I sieve the icing sugar, but I've never bothered. I can't stand the mess that icing sugar makes when sieved - coating everything in the kitchen with a fine dust.

Tomorrow looks like rain again, and Sunday isn't looking much more promising. I can't bear the thought of doing my long run on the treadmill, so may have to dig out my wet weather running gear!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

'Good at Games?'

Sorry to bore you with a second blog post in a day, but the thoughts are whirring around in my brain, so I thought I would commit them to virtual paper and see if that made any sense of them and whether any of you had any thoughts.

It has only taken until half term for my 11 year old daughter to declare that she 'hates PE' at school. This is from a child who previously enjoyed PE lessons at primary school, occasionally comes running with me and has taken part in a few 'Race for Life' 5k races (completing the distance in a respectable time and running all the way).

So what has changed?

At primary school, PE seems to have been largely non competitive. Yes, there were a couple of school teams, but the majority of lessons were 'fun' rather than highly technical. The children, at her old school, were taught by non specialist teachers, so although technical elements and rules of play were covered they were not the be all and end all of each PE lesson. There was more emphasis on getting outside, moving around, having a good time etc.

PE lessons at secondary school do not seem to have changed much since I was at school (although they no longer have to wear scratchy PE knickers and heavy wool jumpers that stink like a rotting wet sheep the minute they get wet). The emphasis is on skills, skills and more skills, and then selecting the girls who are 'good at games' for various teams. For most of the girls, hockey is a new game and they are having to learn it from scratch, so I do not dispute that they need to learn the skills. In cross country they are not given any advice on how to build up to running continuously, some of them will never have run 3 miles in one go before and my daughter reported that several girls were in tears as they finished.

Education has undergone vast changes since I was in school in the 1980s. The mass media frequently talks about 'dumbing down' and it has taken me getting to this stage in my teacher training to realise that although it may look this way to the casual observer, this is not the case. The way we access knowledge has changed vastly since I was at school. When I was 11 the teacher knew everything, and acted as a gatekeeper for that knowledge. If I wanted to find something out I had to find a book with that information in it or find someone who knew the answer. It made sense for us to be able to recall lots of facts. The fact that we could recall lots of facts did not mean that we understood what the facts meant - I passed Physics A'level without much actual understanding of what it was all about, but I did have the ability to remember laws, facts and equations.

Today's children can access knowledge with a few keystroke on their mobile 'phone. What the teacher has to empower them to do is to evaluate the quality of the information they have found and enable them to manipulate their newly acquired knowledge. There is little value in students memorising dozens of equations for a science exam when they will never need to remember them again - much better to provide them with the equation and then teach them how to manipulate if for their own purposes.

And so back to PE in school. The emphasis should be on teaching children to be happy and confident in their bodies, to be able to use their PE skills to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It should not all be about getting on to the school team and therefore being 'good at games' or not getting on and therefore having a miserable time as an also ran! I never thought I would be blogging about the importance of non-competitive sport as I don't have a non-competitive bone in my body, but here I am! It strikes me that the PE department is the only place in school where Darwinian rules still apply. Schools no longer post test results on a notice board for all to see who is top and bottom of the class - this has been recognised as being demotivating for those who struggle, but in PE we have those who make the team and are 'good at games' and those who, by default, are not and who then grow to resent PE lessons and whine to try to get notes from Mum to get them 'off games.'

Maybe schools should look at the gym industry and look at what 'grown ups' do when they want to get and keep fit. Pilates, yoga, spinning and aerobics would be great skills for children to learn and totally non competitive. I don't know the answer. I just know that so many children, especially girls, seem to get turned off sport by school PE lessons. If this country is to begin to tackle the growing obesity problem we should be seeking ways to encourage enjoyment of physical activity, not making it something that children endure while at school and then give up all together as soon as they leave.

Last night I did something I've never done before!

Now that I have your attention, I will begin!

Yesterday saw 80% of the children back in school, just the pesky teenager left at home on an InSET day. He'd had two friends over for a post trick or treating sleepover so none of them surfaced until mid morning. I went out leafleting for our shop, hoping that they wouldn't burn the house down while I was out.

I selected Crondall as my destination for leafleting, a lovely village with two interesting looking pubs, some very big houses and a higher than average quota of yappy, snappy dogs! It took me about two and a half hours to blitz the village, a task made slightly more pleasant by listening to Michael Caine reading his latest autobiography 'An Elephant To Hollywood' via my iPhone. His reading style is very odd. I have loved listening to Stephen Fry reading his autobiographies, to the extent that I don't think I'd want to read his work now - far better to hear the words from the man himself, but it almost seems as though Michael Caine is unsure of what he is reading. The diction is not always great, words are sometimes slurred and he seems out of breath at times. Still, it is an interesting listen, and whiles away the time.

The rest of the day was spent catching up on various things that had been neglected during half term, packing up parcels for eBay, paying bills, that sort of thing, and all too suddenly it was time for the school run again.

By the time I'd picked up all the children from school and got home again it was nearly 5pm and getting very dark. I hate dark evenings, but feel that to move away from using GMT would be sad, so can't wholeheartedly support the Lighter Later campaign.

So now we get to what I did last night that I've never done before, and this is a running blog, so you shouldn't be surprised to find it has something to do with running! I went for my first ever run in the dark! I've been out before and come home when it is getting dark, but never before have I put on a high viz (bright pink with reflective stripes) vest and set out in the dark, knowing that I will have to stick to pavements and areas with street lamps. It was an odd experience, I ran slower than I normally would - probably because I was not able to see where I was putting my feet, and there were no other runners out and about. I have a head light on my birthday wish list, and hope that this will help me see more clearly as well as being seen more easily. I am going to have to investigate new routes through the town to see if I can find some interesting and challenging routes to keep me motivated over the winter. It certainly beats running on the treadmill at the gym!