Thursday, 1 December 2011

And back to running....

Well, my little rant about strike action seems to have kicked up quite a storm! Nearly 700 people have read that post. Anyone wanting to know more about the NASUWT's continuing action would be well advised to look at the union's website.

I haven't mentioned running for a long time. One reason I haven't blogged much recently was because I was trying to avoid ranting about the strike. In the end I couldn't help it, and it just spilled out of me and onto the screen. Better out than in, as they say!

I have been running, honest! No major races since the disaster that was the Great South Run, but plenty of runs around the village and into the town. I have had to learn to live with running after dark. This means I don't get to see my lovely country lanes and have to run along the pavements into town. I dread to think what I look like, plodding along in a high viz vest, with a flashing LED light on one arm and a head torch! At least I give the cars something to aim at. I don't like running in the dark, but I hate not being able to run!

I've been using my gym membership too. Once or twice a week I pop down there to make the yummy mummies look good! They are manicured and mascaraed (is that a word?) while I am a sweaty mess! I've started to do some high intensity interval training. It took me a while to work out how to set the treadmill, and I'm still not sure I've got the pacing right, but at least I am making the effort, and that has to count for something.

Last Sunday number one son and I took part in the British Heart Foundation Santa Jog. Complete with Santa Suits! A couple of parkrun regulars were there too. At the start a fellow parkrunner and I were muttering about how we'd 'just jog this one' and not really make an effort. That didn't last. As he later said, it must have been the fastest about face from 'Let's take it easy!' to 'Let's go for it!' in the history of running. To be fair, I don't think either of us really believed the other's relaxed approach. No.1 son did well! He went off really fast, and was at the front of the pack for a while .... until his horrible mother saw him ahead of her and decided that he'd have to wait a while longer to beat her in a race!

I keep pondering the idea of joining a running club. There is one that meets at the sports centre next to my school. I haven't yet summoned up the courage as I hate meeting groups of strangers, and my memories of being very unsporty in PE lessons at school are still very vivid. Maybe I'll join up. I'll ask around and see if there is anyone else at the school who is a member and see if I can pop along with them.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Industrial action.

Going on strike is something I never thought I would do. If you had asked me 10 years ago I would have put my hand on my heart and told you that it just wouldn't happen. Of course, 10 years ago I was probably knee deep in nappies and not being paid anyway - but that's beside the point.

I will be striking on Wednesday 30th November. I have endured some unpleasant comments from non teacher acquaintances who have made, in my experience, no effort to listen to my reasons as to why I, along with many of my colleagues in the NUT, are going on strike. Apparently I should be thankful for my 'short working day' and my 'excessively long holiday' which more than make up for the fact that the government wanting to increase (by 50%) my pension contributions while delaying the date at which I will be allowed to start receiving a much reduced pension.

I am not a mathematician, but I can use a calculator. I am paid £13.49 an hour if one assumes I work for 40 hours a week (clocking in at 8am and out at 4pm every day) for 40 weeks a year (because I get those excessively long holidays). How lazy I am! That is only 1600 hours a year and the OECD calculates that the average worker in the UK actually worked 1647 hours in 2010.

But there is a bit more to this than meets the eye. I could easily add another 30/35 hours to my total if I add up all the parents' evenings, pupil awards evenings I am expected to attend. Since the beginning of September I have left school at 4pm twice! On both occasions I had a train to catch and had to rearrange various after school activities to make sure I got to the station on time. On a daily basis there are house team meetings, department meetings, staff development meetings, after school detentions and revision sessions that eat into my evening. I consider myself lucky if I leave school before 5.30pm (having arrived at school at 7.30am).

I teach 9 different sets of children. The average class size is 30, so that is 270 books that need marking on a regular basis, to a standard that promotes the child's learning and enables them to meet their targets. Lessons do not miraculously fall into place without a certain amount of planning. I know I will get quicker at this, and that I will be able to reuse certain aspects of previous lessons, but planning will always be a huge part of a teacher's work load, especially if that teacher has children with special needs (be they struggling with English as an additional language or at the other end of the spectrum needing to be stretched beyond the other pupils due to their exceptional ability). I estimate, conservatively, that I do about 20 hours a week over and above the 'normal' school day. That's another 835 hours a year added to my total - taking my hourly rate of pay down to £8.67 before you even consider the days I have given up in the holiday to go into school to get my room sorted out, or given up at the weekend to help with trips, school fetes etc. That may be why I bristle somewhat when people mention my 'short working day' and 'lovely long holidays!'

Don't get me wrong. I love my job! There is no way I could go in every day if I didn't! And I do get to blow things up in front of a class of children who sometimes have the decency to look suitably impressed. I like to think I am getting to be quite good at it too. Teachers do tend to put themselves down a lot. We concentrate on the three children who refused to do the work rather than the 27 who got on with the task and were eager to do more. Teaching is increasingly target driven. I have targets to achieve based on how many GCSEs my pupils get at certain grades. If I achieve these targets I won't get a bonus, and I don't expect one as I am merely doing my job, but I do find it a bit annoying that the bankers, who did their job so truly appallingly badly that my pension is now being cut to help the government sort the mess out, still receive eye watering bonuses!

But, and this is a huge but, the main reason I am going on strike is not because of the pension issue. Having started teaching later in life I was never going to qualify for anything like the average teacher pension of £10,000 a year. I, along with the other members of the NASUWT, am concerned about the proposed changes to pay and conditions that the government want to introduce.

I worked hard to qualify as a teacher. I have a good science degree (upper second) and a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE). A PGCE is not an easy qualification to obtain. It is rigorous in terms of both the academic and practical content of the course. Many people fail to get a place on a PGCE course. A lot of people drop out as they discover it is not for them, and people often fail to meet all the standards needed to pass the course. It is a thorough preparation for teaching.

The unions fought hard to establish national pay scales that applied (note the past tense!) in all state schools. Meaning that schools could not refuse to pay teachers 'the going rate' due to budgetary concerns.

So I am worried when I read that Mr Gove wants school to be free to employ 'who they want' and pay them 'whatever they want.' Academies are leading the way, in that they no longer have subscribe to the national pay scales, 'Free schools' do not have to have people with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) teaching in their classrooms. Is this the thin end of the wedge?

The government want to remove the limit of observation of teachers, both in terms of hours and who can undertake the observation. At present the time is limited and observations can only be carried out by a qualified teacher. Being observed is part of the job, but it is a somewhat nerve wracking process requiring extra preparation and follow up for each lesson. The changes they are proposing change observations from being a tool for use in performance management to effectively putting all teachers in a situation where they are subject to competency proceedings all the time.

The government want to remove the hard won 'rarely cover' agreement that protected a teacher's planning and preparation time. Turning up to school thinking that you have one glorious free period to make a dent in the marking/planning/report writing/data inputing only to find that you have to cover a class because an colleague is off sick is soul destroying in the extreme!

We are constantly bombarded with new initiatives, new targets and curriculum changes, we are always trying to do more and more in the time available. Teachers, on the whole, are good at what they do (the ones who aren't don't enjoy it much and tend to leave!) and want to do their best for your child.

That's why I'll be striking on Wednesday. I want the best for the children I teach today, and the ones I will be teaching in 10, 15 or 20 years from now. And that is why I will, along with the NASUWT, be working to rule from 1st December. I am not lazy, workshy, or hugely left wing. I just believe that it is time we took a stand, in a way that has been legally and democratically mandated. I do not believe that my taking one day off will ruin the chances of my GCSE pupils any more than the trip to look at the Christmas market in Cologne last week would ruin their chances, or the numerous lessons that pupils miss due to other extra curricular activities.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

It's grim down south!

I ran this race last year and had been looking forward to running it again this year. Despite being a 45 minute drive away, and me not having a clue what Portsmouth has to offer apart from outlet shopping at Gunwharf Quays I still consider that this is a 'local' race. It is also the biggest 10mile road race in the world.

An early night last night, and an extra hour gained due to the clock going back should have meant that I woke up feeling bright and full of enthusiasm. I love races! And the morning of a race normally sees me buzzing about the house making a 101 last minute checks on my race day bag. But not today. Today I could barely drag myself out of bed. I moped around the kitchen, making porridge and eating painkillers - anything to try to stop the throbbing headache and general acheyness! I thought about pulling out, but I'd been looking forward to my last big race of the year for ages, and surely I'd feel better when I started, wouldn't I?

I left about half an hour earlier than last year, which meant that I got to Southsea Common about an hour earlier than I did last time! I sat in the car, reading my book, listening to the radio and generally trying to avoid the grey, miserable weather outside. About an hour before the race I met up with a fellow parkrunner at the start. Having a friendly face to talk to really did help, and the time passed fairly quickly. I'm glad we were in the first wave to start as it was jolly chilly standing around in shorts and a vest top!

The minute I crossed the start line I decided I was ravenously hungry! No idea why as I'd eaten a good breakfast, and a couple of bananas. Maybe it was my body thinking it was really 12 o'clock not 11 o'clock. As last year the race was crowded through out, but especially at the start. The road narrowed several times and I had to slow to almost walking pace a few times. I wasn't worried, I wasn't out to get a good time, for the first 8 miles I spent most of the time wondering when would be a good time to drop out, and after 8 miles I only carried on because it seemed silly to stop so close to the end.

My headache never let up, no amount of endorphins were going to shift that one (still got the headache now) and I can honestly say that this is the least enjoyable race I have run. I can't think of a single part that was fun! My throat ached, my neck was stiff and my legs were refusing to function properly and to make things even better it was drizzling! I lost it in a major way between mile 6 and 8. My speed dropped right down and I couldn't seem to find any motivation to pick it up. Coming round onto the seafront, and being hit by a blast of sea air seemed to bring me back to my senses. Either that or I realised that if I ran too slowly I'd spend far longer getting soaked and windswept!

At about 8.5 miles I spotted Richard at the Chineham Park Running Club supporters stand. Richard normally hurls 'friendly' abuse at parkrun on a Saturday, so the fact that he was saying encouraging things today convinced me that I must look at least as bad as I felt!

I crossed the line, eventually, in 1hr 27mins 37 seconds, which is over 2 minutes faster than last year, but I felt awful! I staggered back to my car, then realised I was going to have to eat something if I was going to drive home, so staggered back to find a hot dog seller! The drive home was slow due to all the road closures, but I did end up driving along one of the roads we'd run down - I have to say that I ran it faster than I was able to drive it!

Will I run this race again? Well, I have just entered for 2012, so I guess that's a yes, but I don't think I'll be running any race again when I feel 'flu-y!' I run because I enjoy it, and it is very hard to enjoy anything when feeling under the weather.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Bupa hypocrisy

I can't remember exactly how much I paid for my place in this year's Great South Run, but seem to think it was around the £30 mark. Whilst not being a huge sum of money, it is a sum that I am not prepared to waste. This being the case I will do everything I can to make sure I am there on the start line on Sunday morning.

According to the race information and, let's face it common sense, one should not run if one 'has or has recently had a cold or flu, have been vomiting, or had chest pain or otherwise feel weakened or unwell' in the lead up to the BIG DAY. This is all well and good, and the guidance goes on to remind one that the Great South Run will be back again next year.

It is possible to defer a place until next year. I looked into this thinking that at least I wouldn't waste my entry fee if I didn't feel up to it. But, but, but.... it isn't as simple as that. If you want to defer you need a doctor's note and it has to be done at least 7 days before the race - so no good for the last minute onset of a nasty bug. The doctor will probably want to charge £20 and anyway 'deferring' a place doesn't mean you just transfer your entry to next year. All deferring means in 'Bupa speak' is that one is guaranteed a place in next year's race if one chooses to pay for it all over again!

So the initial £30 entry (or thereabouts) will cost £80 if one chooses to defer! No wonder people run when they are ill/injured. No wonder those who are too ill/injured (or too sensible) give their race numbers to friends - despite the fact that this practice is 'prohibited' by the guys at Bupa Great Run.

Come on Bupa, you are supposed to be promoting running as part of a healthy lifestyle! As it is, I'll be running on Sunday, even if I still do feel under the weather. I don't want to waste £30!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Another week over, another race done!

It has been a funny week. The last week of half term saw me suffering from a nagging sore throat and general lethargy. I decided, for once, to take the sensible course of (in)action and hold back on the running. After my long run (10 miles) on Sunday, I went out for a quick three miler on Monday but after that nothing! Of course, this lack of activity meant that I convinced myself that I would be totally unable ever to run again. I was sure my feet would refuse to work and that I was doomed to walk around the Fleet 10k route rather than running it!

Saturday morning saw me at parkrun anyway! I may not have been running, but two of my boys were! One of them for the very first time and aged only 7! He managed the entire course, didn't finish last and is keen to run again next week! My biggest boy ran a PB, taking 58 seconds off his previous best! I was glad I pitched up as volunteers were thin on the ground and husbando and I were both roped in to help (husbando en route to hospital for a scan on his dodgy Achilles!)

Sunday morning dawned warm and sunny. The only clue that we are in autumn was the colour of the leaves on the trees! I headed off to Fleet, husbando, enjoying his first Sunday off since I started work, decided to take the children to the cinema. I had arranged to meet up with a friend before the race, and she was one of the first people I bumped in to. The second person I met was one of my pupils who was a volunteer marshall for the day! They do say it is good for pupils to see that their teachers are real people with outside interests, I'm not so sure I want my pupils to see me dressed in lycra though! Amongst the throng at the start was the ever so speedy John M with whom we chatted for a while, and I spotted the exceedingly tall Andrew W as we massed for the start - he didn't spot me as I am only average height so get lost in crowds! John and Andrew are regulars at Basingstoke parkrun and I did spot other regulars in Fleet too - but I can't namecheck them as I don't know their names! It is always nice to see a friendly face at a race.

The race was chip timed but, strangely, only had a timing mat at the end of the race. So time taken to cross the start was not taken into account in the final times. The race comprised 2 circuits of the famous Fleet Blue Triangle. The route is described as 'undulating' but felt fairly flat, the downhills were long and gradual, the ascents short but fairly steep. The finish was deceptively nasty though. Uphill for the longest '400m to go' ever experienced and a winding route through a carpark. I over took loads of people in the last 400m, partly due to the hill but partly due to the lack of clarity as to where the finish was. Lots of people seemed to have stopped in the last 50 - 100 m!

I saw three more pupils on the way around. Great to get support from them. One was shouting out "Come on 134, come on 258" etc., as I ran past he called out "Come on 13... oh Miss it's you!" And at the very efficient timing chip removal and medal distribution another of my pupils was helping out. Great to see young people volunteering at these events!

After the finish I bumped into John M, who had run a fantastic race! I was not hugely happy with my time. My Garmin had started beeping at me at around 4 K to tell me that it was 'Full' and that I needed to delete data. Not easy while on the move, so to stop it beeping at my I turned it off. I realised that I have become quite dependent on my Garmin to tell me how fast I am going. Without the information I just carried on at a comfortable pace, I knew I was under the weather, so wasn't too worried about times. My actual time was 50min 57 secs, which is 58 seconds over my PB. I do think that if I'd known my pace, and how close I was to my PB, I'd have pushed a bit harder and maybe cracked it!

The most demoralising part of the race was being overtaken by a man on crutches (or rather one crutch and one walking stick). He went off at a heck of a pace! At one point I was overtaken by a young man in plimsoles. I was on his heels for ages, watching his Achilles turn bright red as he ran! I decided that there was no way he was beating me - he was one of the people I overtook in the last kilometre!

A coffee and a catch up with my friend afterwards made for a perfect running morning (well, almost perfect, a PB would have been the icing on the cake!) We went to Cafe Giardino in Fleet. I have a discount card from the Basingstoke branch as we meet there after parkrun on Saturdays. I was stunned when the young man behind the counter had my coffee order (large, black Americano) waiting as I approached and was apologising that he didn't have any lemon muffins! That's what I call good service (well, apart from the lack of muffins!)

Not long now until the Great South Run! I am not officially running this for charity, but I have been amazed by the support UNICEF gave their runners for the Royal Parks Half Marathon, so I will wear my UNICEF vest to raise awareness if nothing else! If anyone does feel like sponsoring me, please feel free to click HERE!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

I learned something today....

It has been a strange week for me with respect to running. Sunday was great, but I woke up on Monday morning feeling as though I'd been one of Hugh Jackman's ill fated robots in Real Steel! I am blaming an afternoon spent walking around the shops after the half marathon for this rather than the race itself. I survived Monday at school, but just barely. At that stage of the term everyone was tired and a wee bit tetchy, and there were still two whole weeks until half term! By Monday evening I was cranky as anything, and although my body was aching I decided to go out for a short run. I managed 2 miles in just under 18 minutes, I felt better mentally, but knew that if I pushed it any more I'd suffer physically.

I rested on Tuesday (well as far as you can rest with 5 children and a full time job!) and couldn't get out for a run on Wednesday because I had a parents' evening at school. What I didn't know was that there is a staff shower at school. In future I will take my running kit with me to school when we have after school events of this type and go for a run around the local ponds. On Thursday I escaped in time for a lovely, early evening run in the setting sun. I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world. I did catch a fair few flies! At least the cold weather of winter will mean fewer bugs over the next few months.

So, what did I learn today?

Well, I always have porridge for breakfast, but today I fancied a change. I had cereal and milk instead, and jolly nice it was too! I set off for parkrun (having had to scrape ice off the car before I set off) with the children in the car, feeling pretty good, if a little tired - my left ankle still thinks I made it do too much work last Sunday. I think that this is the first 'chilly' parkrun of the autumn - but at least it was beautifully sunny. I was absolutely fine for the first mile, and then I began to feel as though the contents of my stomach were curdling! I considered stopping, but it seemed a daft thing to do having driven all the way over to do the run in the first place. I plodded on, slowly, and was lucky to finish in just under 25 mins (24:50). A fellow runner tried to talk to me (as did my children) after the finish, but I couldn't concentrate on anything other than finding somewhere to sit down and regain control of my stomach contents! The humiliation of parting company with my breakfast in front of people is not something I want to tick of my BTDTGTTS list! Still, it is not a new PW (personal worst), I have merely equalled my previous PW!

As ever, thanks to the organisers and volunteers who make parkrun possible and successful. A friend asked me today (she was there for the second time) if I do parkrun every week. I think she thinks I am mad when I say that trying to ensure I get to parkrun is a priority for me. I almost cancelled a course as it has a 9.30am start in Birmingham on a Saturday, which means that I can't even do a local parkrun!

I'll be out for a long run tomorrow, so am hoping that the sunny weather lasts. I have Fleet 10k on the 23rd and the Great South Run on the 30th, so tomorrow will be my last long run before the Great South.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

A walk in the park?

4.30am is not my favourite time of the day, but needs must etc.! The Sunday train service is somewhat lacking in frequency and speed, and there was no train available that would get me to London in time to get organised for the start of the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Luckily, husbando was driving up to London for a bookfair, sadly he wanted to be there before 6.30am.

I set off, armed with a thermos of hot porridge and several bananas! By the time we got to London I was almost too nervous to eat, but managed to force some food down. I headed down to Hyde Park early, getting there at about 8am. It was raining. The thought of running just over 13 miles in quite heavy rain was not a joyous one! I made my way to the baggage drop and exchanged my bag for a wrist tag and a plastic poncho. The it was on to the UNICEF tent. As I walked in one of the wonderful coordinators recognised me from the UNICEF Facebook page - which was lovely. UNICEF had a huge marquee - just as well as there were around 450 people running for them.

I took myself off to the start line just after 8.30 - I'd much rather not do an organised mass warm up thank you very much! There were very few people at the start, I spent some time chatting to the guys from British Military Fitness who were running as pacemakers. When I entered this race I thought I might run it in about 2.10mins, and was placed in a starting pen accordingly. I had revised my expectations over the last few weeks, and decided to try to wheedle my was into the next starting pen. No one seemed to mind, and I had a lovely chat about parkrun with a gentleman from Wandsworth (local council there are unwilling to allow their ratepayers to use the Common unless money changes hands). It had stopped raining by now, but was still overcast and cool. Ideal running conditions!

The start gantry was fairly narrow, but once through there we could spread out a bit. I ran the first 3 miles faster than the first three miles of Paris-Versailles: 23 mins 27 seconds. The atmosphere was amazing. Between 5 and 6 miles we came back into Hyde Park and the route was lined with thousands of people, all shouting and cheering us on. I hit 10k in 49 mins 46 seconds, faster than my 10k PB.

I thought I knew Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens pretty well, but the course looped round and about so much that I became totally disorientated! I am 99% certain that I saw one of the mums from the children's school watching the race, probably at abound 7 miles into the race. Soon after this I saw a runner in trouble being helped by his friend. There didn't seem to be any race marshals or St John's Ambulance people around, so the next time I saw an ambulance (about 200m further on) I ran up to it waving my arms, shouting and pointing in the direction I had just come from.

I lost track of timings around now - pressed the wrong buttons on my watch somehow and couldn't work out how to get the display I wanted back - but I know that mile 11 to 12 was really hard work. I wasn't tired so much as bored! I had been playing cat and mouse with another runner from my local parkrun, and towards the end of the 11th mile I lost sight of him and decided that I'd not kick on too fast just in case he had developed a huge turn of speed and I would be in danger of killing myself trying to catch up! (He finished 40 secs ahead of me). I'd seen several people collapsed at the side of the route and I didn't want to join them. As it the way with lots of these races, you see the same people again and again. Two girls had been talking about entering a marathon in the first few miles as they dashed past me. I passed them at about 11 miles and asked them if they were still up for it!! We kept pace for a while, then , just past the 800m to go marker one of them stopped completely! Her friend told her to dig deep, I told her she had to finish - she was to close and if an old fart like me (I was probably 20 years older than her ) could do it then so could she! I hope she finished. Last time I looked she was plodding slowly on. I saw one man being dragged across the finish line by two of his friends. By about halfway through the race, all hint of rain had gone, and it was starting to get really warm - I think this took a lot of people by surprise and this could account for the number of people suffering.

Crossing the finish line, I noticed that the gun time was 1hr 53 mins 28 secs. Well inside my target time of 2 hours! The chip timing came through later at 1hr 52 mins and 6 secs. Thrilled is an understatement - although I do worry that I have set the bar too high to improve upon it! Once past the finish medals were handed out (see photo!) and chips removed. Then it was on to the goodie bag section. Possibly the best goodie bags in the world. Loads of stuff - Oreo cookies (full size packs) Hob Nobs, Shreddies, tooth paste, sports bars, drinks, tea bags etc.

After collecting my bag, I made my way to the UNICEF tent again, and got myself a free massage! Utter bliss! Food was laid on - but I wasn't ready to eat yet. That would wait until I met up with husbando. Even then I didn't think I was hungry until I started eating! The guys from UNICEF were fantastic! Great support and yet another goodie bag!

Walking down the stairs to Hyde Park Corner tube station was somewhat trickier than I remember it being in the past. I'd made the wrong shoe choice (going with the old pair that turn my toes numb rather than the new pair that don't turn my toes numb but just feel weird), and my feet were still protesting even though I was now wearing FitFlops rather than trainers! I met up for lunch with husbando at Carluccios - devouring my food and wine with gusto, before setting off for a little retail therapy. It was lovely to share a knowing look and a smile with other runners toting medals and goodie bags.

Hopefully I'll get to run this again next year. I love the support a London crowd gives its runners. I haven't run anywhere else in England (well in places and races big enough to draw a crowd) but the support in London is so much more vocal and enthusiastic than in Paris. Chatting with an Italian, who has run marathons and half marathons all over the world, informs me that the English crowds are the best!

Back to Earth with a bump now! It is nearly 10pm and I still have 2 more lessons to plan for tomorrow! Oops!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Shoe dilemma.

I bought new running shoes a couple of weeks ago. My old pair were well looking a bit knackered, my little toes kept going numb, and I was losing lots of toe nails. Toes going numb is OK, and infinitely better than the mile or two of 'very painful little toes' that precedes the numbness.

The new shoes are ugly. I know it isn't a fashion show, but who on Earth at Nike though that pale yellow was a good colour? They don't hurt my little toes though, so surely that is a good thing. But, but, but.... I've run about 20 miles in them now (including last Sunday's longish run) and, while they aren't uncomfortable and don't hurt my feet, they don't feel right. I feel as though I am running with my feet in a weird position when I run in them. I had them fitted by the lovely people at my local running shop and, when I looked at the video playback of me running on the treadmill, my feet looked as though everything was fine, it just doesn't feel that way!

I'm not sure what to do. I have the half marathon tomorrow, and I don't know whether to wear my old friends and suffer the pain (which at least gives me something to think about while running) or the new ones and feel weird for 13.2 miles! Apart from this, I think I am almost ready. My name has been ironed on to my shirt, I know roughly where I am going, have planned what to have for breakfast and when. All I need to do is get a good night's sleep!

In other running news..... Well, I've been tapering, so not a lot of running has been happening this week just two shortish runs to keep me ticking over. Part of the problem with tapering is that I worry about losing fitness, another part is that I spend the time I would have spent running looking at yet more races I could enter. I am thinking that if I stick to entering 10ks where I am not worried about getting a PB then I won't need to taper. I may sign up for a localish one in October....

I volunteered at parkrun today. Being a free event they rely on each runner volunteering at least 3 times a year. I like volunteering as it makes me feel as though I am really a part of parkrun. Not sure I'll be asked to put the kilometre markers out again, as the 2k marker was miles off and the 3k marker managed to detach itself from its post and was last seen flying in the wind! I blame my age! I still have no idea how long a kilometre is - although a fellow parkrunner did point out that I should try to think of it as 1/5th of a 5km race..... helpful that!! J came with me again, and the younger children played in the playground while he ran and I stood around in the cold 'volunteering!' He is getting faster, and starting to enjoy the post run buzz! He has decided to do parkrun as the physical part of his bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award and is hoping that regular volunteering at parkrun will count for his voluntary work commitment.

Right, must plan what to have for supper tonight, and get an early night.... Wish me luck (and stamina!) for tomorrow!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Wake up Mrs!

Yesterday morning I ran to breakfast!

I set out at about 7.15 to run 8.5 miles to Farnham, where I planned to meet husbando for breakfast at Côte. I'm glad I set out early, because the weather got very hot pretty quickly. I'd never run this route before, but had driven it a fair few times so was confident I knew where to to. I set off through the villages, listening to my music and enjoying the sun. I overtook a parked car, soon after I passed it it passed me, carried on for a wee while and then stopped. I passed the car, it then overtook me. I was starting to get just a little bit freaked out by this, wondering if I should stop and go back the other way. Just as I was about to do this the driver leaned out and asked if I needed a lift - it was the owner of our village shop who was out delivering Sunday papers!

Most of the route was on country lanes, or roads with pavements, but there was a section, probably about 2 miles, along an A road with no pavement. You'd think 8am on a Sunday morning would be fairly quiet, but it was incredibly busy! I would have sped up a bit - but it happened to be an uphill 2 miles! Still I arrived safely and was rewarded with eggs Benedict for breakfast while sitting in the sun!

I am tapering for the half marathon on Sunday, so have not done too much running this week, just 4 miles on Monday and 3.35miles today. I think that will be it now as the next few days are busy. I'm volunteering at parkrun on Saturday - I know that I wouldn't be able to 'take it easy' and it isn't worth the risk of injuring myself!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Heatwave central!

Wow, what a week we have had weather wise! Summer seems to have arrived a wee bit late this year, just as I was thinking of packing away my summer clothing for the winter.

After a busy couple of days catching up on 'stuff' after last weekend in Paris, and mindful of the fact that I am supposed to be tapering, I haven't managed too much running this week. A couple of 4.5 mile runs in the evening sunlight were really magical, and reminded me why I love running so much. Beautiful scenery and a chance to be out in the fresh air enjoying a stunning sunset. I bought new running shoes early in the week and am trying to get used to them. I know they aren't fashion accessories, but this pair are seriously ugly and a nasty pastel yellow. That said, my toes feel better in them so that is a good thing! I'll try them out on a longish run tomorrow and see how they feel before making a decision about what to wear for the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

This morning dawned sunny and warm and number one son and I set off for parkrun. Due to the set up for the Basingstoke Half Marathon tomorrow we were at the much loved (!) alternative venue on the Crabtree Plantation. Was great to see a fellow parkrunner celebrate his 100th run! Well done Colin! I'll get there one day - but have a LONG way to go. I had an equipment failure today. Just before the run started I noticed that my Garmin had frozen. I didn't have time to sort it before the start, and couldn't remember how to sort it as I was running - so spent a fair amount of time fiddling with it while trying not to trip over! I found it quite unnerving not to know how fast (or slow!) I was running. The sun was beating down, and the hills were quite punishing - I think I am fairly happy with the steady 24.34mins that it took me today. I'm going to have to dig through the results to try to work out how fast I ran it last time. I was overtaken by a runner pushing a buggy... that isn't demoralising at all....

Thanks, as always, to the organisers! And good luck to all the parkrunners who are taking part in the Basingstoke Half Marathon tomorrow.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Paris - Versailles, revisited!

Those of you who know me know that it doesn't take much to tempt me to Paris! In addition to the well known cultural attractions, I can visit friends and eat and drink well! The end of September sees another attraction too. The annual, 10 mile, Paris to Versailles road race.

Last year the race fell on husbando's birthday, so I bought him his place in the race as a present! Well, what do you give the man who has everything? This year husbando is injured and decided about a month ago that he wouldn't be able to run. I offered the place to a friend who lives in Paris who had expressed a mild interest in running and was all set to start the race with him. The loser was to buy lunch! Sadly, Neil was a little too enthusiastic in his training and managed to damage his knee, so his doctor would not give him the medical certificate that is required by the French race organisers.

I was undeterred. Despite having had nightmares about the big hill I had been looking forward to this race. I travelled to Paris from work on Friday, spent a relaxing Saturday morning with friends, met Neil for lunch, walked too far in new boots (in unseasonably hot weather) and got huge blisters on the soles of my feet and spent Saturday evening eating pizza and drinking red wine with Cerys and Paul. A 12.30am text message from my darling daughter requesting a recipe for birthday cake disturbed an otherwise good night's sleep and I woke ready and raring to go on Sunday morning.

The first thing I noticed as I left the house was that it was warm! It was 8am and I didn't need my jacket! The RER into Paris was full of other runners, all clutching our kit bags, race numbers and fiddling with timing chips. At this point I began to feel a bit glum. I had no one to share my excitement/nerves with. I couldn't follow the conversations of those around me, and it felt very lonely.

Arriving at the start, I stowed my bag and made my way to the start. Over 20,000 people lining up in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower is quite a sight! Thankfully I had my iPhone with me, so had some music to listen to to pass the time. About 5 minutes before the race started, as competitors were jettisoning unwanted jackets, tops and water bottles, I was suddenly walloped on the side of my head by a half full, 2 litre bottle of evian! I was so glum by this point that I just burst into tears. I sent husbando a text message telling him I was fed up and miserable and that I wanted to come home. He told me to get a grip!

Pretty soon we were off. I like the start of this race. It is first come first over the line, but they start you in waves of around 150 every 30 seconds. I started out quickly; running the first three miles in a time I wouldn't have been too upset to run my Saturday morning parkrun in - 24 minutes! I knew I had to slow down, but also wanted to get a bit of a speedy start before the hill that I knew was coming. Last year this had slowed me down considerably. I had been ill, so it was understandable, but I wanted to do better this year.

The hill, when I got to it was not quite so awful as I remembered!
Yes it was long, yes it was steep, (look at the profile below if you doubt me) but I managed to keep plugging away! I overtook a fair few people. I was looking for the shade all the time as it was hot and sunny without a hint of a breeze. I grabbed water at every water station and made myself drink the entire bottle. It was so warm! It was unexpected too - the weather in the lead up to the race had been typicaly cool September weather. I saw a fair few people suffering and being helped by the pompiers, and at a couple of points we runners had to move onto one half of the track to allow the ambulances to pass. At around 11k in I was starting to get bored. I love chatting to people for a wee while on a long run, but couldn't do this as my French is limited to talking about monkeys in trees and my aunt's pen being on my uncle's desk! I did some maths and realised that I could run the rest of the race in a pace of 10 mins/mile and still beat my previous time - just. I had to give myself a stern talking to just to make sure that I didn't coast for the last few kilometres. A hill at Viroflay surprised me with its intensity
but luckily one of my favourite hill songs came on - ELO's 'Mr Blue Sky' and that kept me going! The field was crowded throughout, which meant I missed a lot of the kilometre markers. I assumed I had missed the 15k marker as I'd forgotten how long the final approach up towards the front of the Chateau is, it being slightly up hill is particularly cruel!

I remember noting that the gun time on the clock was three whole minutes faster than my chip time from last time as I threw myself across the finish line - I'd done it! I looked at my watch and saw that I'd done it in 1:26:22! The 'official' time came in at 1:26:21 - pleasingly palindromic - which is 7mins and 14 seconds faster than last year and 43 seconds faster than my previous 10 mile PB.

The medal has to be the nicest one I have seen. It is the International Year of the Forest. (Who knew? Not I!) The inscription reads "je respire les feuilles des arbres qui de mon souffle bruissent" and bablefish doesn't give me a satisfactory translation - so if you can translate this please add it as a comment below!

I'm back home now, and feeling far more positive about the whole experience than I was yesterday afternoon. I'm really pleased with the improvement in my time. Hopefully I'll get to run this race again next year, but I won't do it if I have to run it alone. I've been out this afternoon to buy new running shoes. The new ones are UGLY, and yellow, but hopefully they won't cause the pain in my little toes that I've been enduring and I may not lose as many toe nails! It is the first time I have bought anything other than Asics for a long time. I have just under 2 weeks to get them ready for the Royal Parks Half Marathon.....

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Just a quick up date!

I'm doing a tricky taper for Paris - Versailles and the Royal Parks Half Marathon. This makes me cranky. I miss the stress relief that comes from going out for a run in the evening. I think we often confuse mental and physical tiredness. Sometimes I can come home from work feeling as though all I want to do it go to bed and sleep for a week, but going out for a run reinvigorates me.

I've been just about keeping up with my running now I'm at work. I can't run as often, so I try to concentrate on the quality of the runs, hill work and speedwork have been the order of the week! On Saturday, at last, I got a PB at parkrun! 23.16mins for 5k. It was a strange morning, we set off in a light drizzle and finished in blazing sunshine! Typical British weather. I wasn't aiming for a PB, it didn't feel as though I was running faster than normal, and I didn't look at my watch for the last half circuit of the park. To say I am thrilled is a mild understatement! My oldest boy came with me, and while he still finds it hard he is starting to enjoy it.

Sunday's 'long' run was a mere 11.01 miles! Cutting back a bit for the taper. I tried to take in what I thought was a long hill, but it turns out that, while it is fairly steep, it was only about half a mile long! The weather was 'changeable!' I got soaked and roasted in the space of an hour and a half!

Work is tough at the moment. So much to take in, so much to do in addition to the actual teaching - at times it feels as though the teaching is a minor part! The paper work is endless, and I spend an age each day logging behaviour (good and bad) on the computer system. This last bit is tedious in the extreme as it is time consuming, but not particularly intellectually taxing. It is the sort of job one could do sitting on the sofa, laptop on knee, with something mindlessly entertaining on the TV in the background. Unfortunately it has to be done sitting in school at a computer connected to the magic cables that connect all the computers to the mother ship (or whatever they link in to)!

My house is a tip, the children (mine) are playing up due to the huge changes me being back at work has made. I am hoping it will all be worth it and that everything will settle down soon!

Saturday, 10 September 2011


(Apologies for two posts in the same day, but I am going to post this to the Basingstoke parkrun Facebook page, and people there might not want to read my ramblings about my first week at work. If they do feel so inclined, they can read all that nonsense here! )

So, after my first week in full time employment in 16 years, which necessitated getting up at 6am and doing prep work until late every night (think midnight most nights!), what else would I do on a Saturday morning than get up at 7am and head on off for parkrun? Given that I had collapsed, exhausted, into my bed at 9.30pm last night and that the alarm didn't sound until 7am one could argue that I had not only had a lie in, but I had caught up on some missed sleep from earlier in the week. It didn't feel like that. Especially when I had to fend off short people from about 5.30am. They may have thought it was nice to come into my bed proffering 'cuddles' but I was not impressed!

Still, by 8.20am I was in the car, and by 8.50am I was at War Memorial Park ready, if not eager, to get started. The weather was deceptive. It appeared that it would be quite chilly, but soon became warm and humid. I set off at quite a pace, as is my (bad) habit. It isn't that I plan to do this, it just seems that I can't help myself! I pulled myself up after a few hundred metres and slowed down a bit. Glancing at my Garmin had told me that I was running at a speed well below 7 minutes per mile, and I knew I couldn't sustain that!

It was hard work today. After the first complete circuit I considered stopping. I've never felt like that before, but I really hate running through that wooded bit, and the thought of having to do it again was almost too much! What I did instead was to decide that, as there was no way I was on for a PB today, I might as well take it easy. Relax a bit, run for the sake of running and all that malarky! I was yawning as I was running - so knew that tiredness was a big factor in the way my legs were feeling! I coasted around the second circuit, my Garmin says that I ran the middle mile in a pace of 8.21 minutes per mile. I only accelerated when my nasty, competitive streak reared its ugly head!

I was running past the play area when I heard footsteps approaching, accompanied by heavy breathing. A quick glance over my shoulder revealed a pink shirt. I decided I wasn't going to let yet another lady overtake me! I'd been coasting, so I had some reserves in the tank. I waited until she drew level, paced her for a few strides and then accelerated. Coming up through the dreaded wooded area, I passed a few more people, and managed to finish in 24.08 minutes - not too shabby for an off day when I wasn't expecting any thing special!

Coffee afterwards was lovely. It is nice to have a few minutes to relax and chat about races run and races planned. It seems to me that there are a hard core of 'coffee regulars' meeting every week. If you are reading this and haven't been along for a coffee yet please do think of doing so. Cafe Giardino do the best lemon & poppy seed muffins I've had for a long time!

Congratulations to all those who got new PBs today! Thank you to all the volunteers. What would I do without parkrun to look forward to every Saturday?

One week in....

.... only six weeks until half term!

So, I've survived my first week as a real teacher! I've met all bar one of my classes, sent a child out of my classroom for the first time ever, and set detentions for more children in one week than I did in my entire teaching practice!

I am exhausted! This has been the most hectic, tiring week of my life. Monday was an inset day, spent listening to lots of reports presented by people who didn't seem to think it would be nice to mention who they were or what their role was (despite the fact that this came after 10 new members of staff being introduced). Tuesday and Wednesday were mainly spent with tutor groups - getting all the admin sorted, settling in the new year 7s etc. with lessons in the afternoon only. 4 lessons in one day with the same group of pupils is trying to say the least!

On Thursday afternoon I was somewhat surprised to spot the head teacher at the back of my class, mid way through a bottom set year 11 lesson on ionic bonding. This class contained the sort of children who are mentioned at staff meetings and about whom meetings are convened to instruct teachers in ways of dealing with said children in such a way that does not end up with the teacher being attached to the white board by a chair leg through the heart! The head liked what she saw, thankfully!

I got out for a run on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings - it was a necessity rather than a pleasure! Either I went for a run or I risked killing someone! Only short runs (4 miles approx. each) but one of them was up the bl%dy, b@st@rd hill - so hopefully that is good preparation for Paris to Versailles later this month!

Number one son went back to school on Thursday, the same day husbando decided to decamp to York for the York bookfair. He seems happy with his new teachers and classes. I can't believe he is starting all his GCSE subjects already. He has been moved up a set in Maths - so is very happy about that! The other four children go back to school on Monday! That should be a fun breakfast/school run time in out household.

I think I am looking forward to work on Monday. As I said at the start, there are only six more weeks until half term!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

I knew I needed a run....

...because the last thing I felt like doing was going for a run!

I had a longish run on Sunday (10miles) after running 5 miles on Saturday (3 for parkrun and 2 to collect the car), and then started my new job on Monday. My head is in a spin! So much to remember, and so many meetings have been attended. I think I glazed over for a lot of them. I've only taught two classes so far, and they were quite disjointed as we needed to sort out books, pupils in the wrong lessons, etc. etc. As the week goes on I am hoping to feel more at home in my new lab.

Driving home today I wanted nothing more than to curl up and go to sleep, but I knew that I'd feel better after a run. It didn't help that it was wet and very windy out there, but I got changed and went out. It was amazing how much better I felt for a bit (well rather a lot) of fresh air. One thing about teaching that I hadn't anticipated being an issue, is that one spends all day inside! I'm just not used to that. I ran just over 4 miles and came home in a much better mood!

I was going to blog about BUPA and their races - but that will have to wait for another day (I need my sleep)......

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Why do I run?

It has been a funny old week for me. I ran 12.5 miles last Sunday and felt very pleased with myself, well on track for Paris - Versailles and the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I had a rest day on Monday, and set off for a 6 mile run on Tuesday without a care in the world. Before long I was in tears! My calves were agony, every step was painful and I was too far from home to do anything other than continue. I did curtail my route somewhat (to 4 miles) and the pain in my left calf did ease off, but my right calf continued to scream at me every time I put my foot down. I got home, stretched, strapped on an ice pack and hoped for the best. I set out again on Wednesday, thinking that everything was OK, but the same thing happened, and I hobbled home. I spent the next two days 'resting,' got husbando to do some massage and set off for Parkrun on Saturday morning without too much worry.

I had all the children with me as a fire at a local battery recycling plant was belching out vile and acrid smoke. My oldest ran with me, while the younger four sat in the car watching a DVD! I seem to have lost my Parkrun mojo, I can't match the speeds I was getting earlier in the year, but I will persevere! I did consider not completing yesterday's parkrun - but having made the effort to get there, not finishing doesn't really appeal.

This got me to thinking about why I run. When I started running I did so to get fit and lose weight, I didn't worry about speed and distance, it was enough that I was out there, in the fresh air and getting fitter. Now I think I might just be worrying too much about pace and not relaxing enough and just loving running for the sake of running. This morning I made a conscious effort not to look at my watch while I was running. I knew I didn't want to run too far or too hard (in deference to my poorly calf) and roughly knew the route. It was fun and I covered just over 6miles in about 52 minutes.

I'm going to take it easy for the next week - short gentle runs rather than long ones!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Hurry up and go slow

I'm not sure what it is about Saturday morning, but I find it incredibly hard to get my arse into gear! Staying in bed for an extra ten minutes seems so much more appealing on a Saturday than any other day of the week. Given that Basingstoke parkrun starts at 9am, getting there on time shouldn't really be too much of a challenge, but it often is. Basingstoke isn't that far away, and it shouldn't take too long to get there, but sometimes it does. The A339 is a twisty road, much loved by motor cyclists with a death wish and tractors. Getting stuck behind a tractor will slow you down as there are only one or two places where you can overtake. Often the road is closed at these points, with an lengthy diversion in place, as a motorcyclist has tried to overtake unsuccessfully. To ensure one gets to the start line for 9am I have to leave by 8.30am. 'People' know this. Specifically 'people' who say that they want to run with me and 'people' who want a lift part of the way to work. 'People' should help lower my blood pressure by not faffing about and making me think I am going to be late. I hate being late. I'd rather be an hour early than 2 minutes late.

Luckily the traffic gods were smiling at me (metaphorically speaking, I no more believe in the traffic gods than any other deity, but can see the advantages that placating a traffic and/or parking god would have) and I made it to the start of the race despite leaving a little later than planned. The weather was warm and sunny (although it is raining as I type) and we all set off for out trot around Basingstoke's War Memorial Park. I'm beginning to think that 5k isn't really my distance. I can't seem to get any faster, and it is somewhat demoralising to say the least. I didn't even check to see what position I finished in this week, so will have to wait for the results.

As I had to go into Festival Place to pick up cinema tickets for Monday evening, I decided to be brave and go along for coffee at Giardino's with the other parkrunners. An open invitation is issued to everyone at the start of the race, but I think it takes a lot of courage (well it does for me anyway) to go along to something like that. Maybe established parkrunners, who regularly partake of coffee (and the best lemon muffins I've had in a long time) should start asking people personally if they want to come along. It was nice to chat, talk about races we're entering etc. with other runners.

As an added bonus, a new Apple store has opened in the shopping centre. They had hundreds of staff in the shop (I don't think I am exagerating) and where making a huge deal of it - cheering every time a customer came in and handing out free t-shirts. I got quite excited in Sports Direct as they had my favourite trainers at a very good price and a lovely colour (purple), but was soon disappointed when they didn't have my size! I'll have to look on the internet later and see if I can find a pair somewhere.

Back home now, and it is raining. I have to deliver the car to the shop and then I'll run home. thankfully it is only 2 miles. That will take my mileage to just over 32 miles this week, not including the 12+ miles I've walked while delivering leaflets.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

How rude!

It has been a while since I have blogged - summer holidays are a busy time, and while I keep thinking of things to say here I don't seem to get enough time on the computer to actually type anything out. I need to make some more time at the computer so that I can actually start planning some lessons for the term that starts in two and a half weeks.

Running has been going well, I've been doing Parkrun every week and am beginning to get to know the faces (and names) of some of the regulars. It makes a difference to be able to chat to people before and after the run. Still struggling to beat my PB, but never mind! I've been upping the length of my Sunday run in preparation for the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Last Sunday I got to 12 miles in about 1hr 50mins, which sounds OK, but was in fact possibly the most miserable 1hr 50mins of my life! At about 8 miles (and therefore 4 miles from home) I really wanted to stop running, but had no other way of getting home, no available shortcuts and so had to carry on plodding on. Despite feeling awful when I got home it didn't take me long to recover and I was just about fit enough to endure Horrid Henry: The Movie with my two youngest children later in the afternoon.

I ran on Monday, rather than resting, just to check that my legs still worked! They did, just about. I ran a bit further on Tuesday and then ran two short (2miles and 2.7miles) runs today. This brings me to the title of this blog post.

It was raining today. When running in the rain there are more hazards to consider. The road surface can be slippery, there are puddles and people with umbrellas to avoid. Overhanging trees are a wee bit lower due to the weight of the water on the leaves and are prone to dumping a load of water on the unsuspecting runner underneath them. It is harder to see - especially if one is wearing glasses. I was happily running along, dodging puddles, ladies with umbrellas and low hanging branches when three 'yoofs' on their came towards me on the pavement and shouted 'Get out of the way old lady!' I replied that they should get off the pavement and was told to 'F*ck off and get a life!' These boys were all in their mid teens and seemed oblivious of the perfectly serviceable cycle lane right next to the pavement. I don't doubt that the cyclists were safer on the pavement, especially as none of them were wearing helmets, but forcing pedestrians into the cycle lane is really not on!

Gosh, I sound like a middle aged Daily Mail reader.....

In other news... Husbando has decided that he can't run Paris-Versailles due to his knee injury. I emailed the race organiser and easily transferred his entry to a friend of mine who lives in Paris. The race is on! Last person to finish buys the other lunch! It is a shame that the Great North Run organisers cannot do the same. I can't do this race as I have far too much on, but the organisers will not allow me to transfer my race entry to someone else. Thousands of people were disappointed not to get a place in this race, and I have a place going begging. Dire consequences are threatened for giving away places, and the race number has my name in BIG bold letters on the front to discourage this. What a waste! I don't suppose there is anyone out there with my first name who wants to run the Great North in about 2 hours? I guess if the person didn't collapse/need medical attention/turn out to be speedier than a speedy thing from speedy land and finish in the first 3 then no one would ever know, but I'd be really worried that something might happen to them and the bib number would have all the wrong information!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Where have all the children gone?

No, do not fret, I have not misplaced my brood! They are still hanging around like left over turkey after Christmas! Over the last few weeks I have been out and about running (yay!) and pushing leaflets for husbando's shop through the letterboxes of residents in nearby towns and villages. This is a thankless task, enlivened only by the sport of avoiding yappy, snappy dogs, completing the Krypton Factor challenge required to open some of the gates I encounter and having an occasional peep in through the windows into someone else's kitchen.

But this is the summer holidays, and the weather has (with the exception of today) been glorious. It occurs to me that I should be tripping over bikes on garden paths, running the risk of being knocked over by a child chasing its sibling around the garden with a water pistol and having my enjoyment of the audiobook on my iPhone interrupted by much jollity, shrieking and shouting. Yesterday I was out leafleting for over two hours, it was sunny, I was in a residential area that had the trappings of small people: swings, slides and trampolines, but I didn't see a single child playing out!

I do sometimes feel guilty about the amount of noise my lot make when they are in our garden, but I'd much rather they were doing that than sitting inside and missing all the lovely weather!

Running has been going really well. I've run 25 miles so far this week, the heat has made it really hard going at times, but I've just taken it a bit slower and carried on. I can tell you that hoovering up the children's left over pizza and Haribo sweets just before going out for a run is not a good idea, however good it tastes at the time! I did wonder if I'd have time to go running today as I was up in London for a seminar for newly qualified teachers. Travelled all the way up there and then sat down next to someone who lives about a mile down the road from me. It was a good seminar, most of it common sense, but some good pointers on behaviour management and preparing for that all important first day. I am 98% excited and 2% terrified - or is it the other way around?

Monday, 1 August 2011

Town mouse or country mouse?

Husbando and I had a bit of a falling out the other day. We often do, but this one was about running, more specifically the route we should follow. I am a creature of habit. I go to the end of my road and, given the choice, turn left 9 times out of 10. This takes me along country lanes and through neighbouring villages. Husbando would turn right, which takes him into our small market town, and normally on a route that takes in the industrial estate. This adds some friction to the 'which way shall we go' debate. He says that my route is 'boring' with nothing to distract him, he likes the buildings and the cross streets. I love my country lanes with ever changing hedgerows, animals to spot, roadkill to identify and lots of glorious views. I can think of few things more boring than running through an urban environment day after day! That said, more often than not husbando gets his way, although I do extract a small amount of pleasure from making him run the route 'in reverse' - apparently the direction I go is the wrong one!

This week's running has got off to a good start. After just missing out on a PB on Saturday I decided to draw a line under that and look forwards. I got up early(ish) on Sunday and had finished an 8.5 mile run by 9.45am - when it was starting to get very warm! I covered the loop part of the Alton 10 road race - lovely countryside and a wee while since I had run that way so lots of things had changed. Speedwise it wasn't a great run, averaging just under 9 min/mile, but I put that down to not having had a proper breakfast first. After a full on day of children's parties, spectating at a pony club event and drinking champagne I went for a 'quick run' with husbando. 2.7miles into the 'urban jungle!' My legs felt very heavy at the start, but that soon wore off and my pace was much better than for my morning run. Today I toyed with the idea of having a rest day, but I think I will have a couple of days where I can't run due to travel commitments, so went out for a nice easy run. I ran 4 miles with an average pace of 8.18 min/mile - very pleased with that as it didn't feel like hard work despite the temperature being about 26 degrees!

I am having 'issues' with my running shoes though. My feet feel fine while I am running, but I have already lost one toenail this year, and both my little toes hurt. I foresee another trip to the running shop in the near future, I just wish running shoes weren't so expensive.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The ever elusive PB...

I set off for parkrun this morning with a bit of a spring in my step and hope in my heart. Maybe this week would be the week, the one where I smashed through my previous PB, or even shaved a second off the time. I didn't run yesterday so that my legs would feel rested today, had an early night, woke up early enough to have a leisurely breakfast so that I wouldn't arrive at the start line stressed and still trying to digest my porridge! I was feeling inspired by the amazing Mo Farah (*) who recently set a new British record for 5k of 12:53:11 - surely thinking about that would get me round in super quick time?

The weather was lovely this morning, number one son was up early enough to come with me and I felt pretty good. I set off quite fast, probably too fast, but I was enjoying the feeling of speed. I couldn't maintain it though and soon settled back into a more comfortable pace. I was aware that I was being overtaken by people I normally overtake, and those of you who know me will know that I have a nasty competitive streak that doesn't like that happening! I couldn't do much about it though! My watch told me that I was still running along at a goodish (for me!) pace and I was still hopeful that even if my position slipped I might squeak a PB. As I passed the finish line for the second time I made fun of Race Director Richard in his luminous jacket with his clipboard, and my maternal instincts meant that I did slow down to ask a young boy if his ankle was OK (I'd seen him trip earlier and he was running strangely on it) so maybe I lost a few seconds there - that's what I'll say when the results come in and say that I have just missed out again! I did apologise to the lady handing out the chips, for swearing as I crossed the line, looked at my watch and realised that I was about 2 seconds too slow!

But, parkrun is about more than just getting a PB (honest it is!) It is about being part of a community and connecting with other runners, so I am not too upset. As fellow parkrunner Ian commented my running is consistent - so that is something I suppose! My son will have a new PB this week - I think he cut at least 3 minutes off his previous time and finishing with a really strong sprint.

After taking the boy home, I drove the car down to husbando's shop as he is off to an auction this afternoon. I took advantage of the lovely weather and ran the 2 miles home. An afternoon of taxi-ing children around and continuing the gargantuan task of clearing out the cupboard under the stairs beckons!

* Mo Farah and his wife took part in the Bushy parkrun today. You can see a snap of him here.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Still here!

It has been a while since I've blogged, and it is not because I have nothing to say that I have been silent, I've just been a bit down in the dumps and didn't really want to share the gloom with you all!

Running is going reasonably well, I've clocked up a fair few miles this week and am starting to up the distances of my long run in the build up to the half marathons I have planned in the autumn and spring. On Saturday I ran 3 miles at Parkrun and another 3 miles with husbando in the evening. Was odd running twice in one day and, because I seem to have misplaced a pair of running shorts, relies on efficient washing and drying of running kit!

Today I decided against running, much as I would like to go out, because I want to be rested for parkrun. I am getting cross with my inability to set a new PB! Number one son has stated his intention to come with me.... we shall see whether he makes it or not! He's not done any running since last time he came with me.

I entered the Royal Parks Half Marathon today. Despite all my promises to myself not to to enter races on a charity ticket and therefore commit to raising money, that is exactly what I have just done! I'd been unsuccessful in the public ballot and really wanted to run this race. So now I just need to raise £550 for UNICEF. It is a great charity, so if you feel you can please spare a few bob please click here ! Thanks to my mum and sister for getting the ball rolling! I'm hoping to run this race in around 2hrs, my last 10 mile race took me just under 1hr 30 (1hr 27 I think from memory) on a hilly route, so this should be an achievable target.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

No PB this week!

Despite assuring me that he would be running Parkrun, I failed to rouse my 14 year old from his bed this morning, so set out alone. This did mean that I could catch up on last night's episode of 'The Archers' on the way over to Basingstoke.

The weather, for once, was lovely! Bright sunshine and a gentle breeze augured well for good run and, looking at the results, there were many personal bests recorded today. I thought I was on for a PB too, but I'd misremembered my previous best time and may just have slacked off a little towards the end when I thought I had it 'in the bag!' As it happened I was 9 seconds too slow. I did finish in my highest ever position in both the gender and overall rankings - so not too bad a show. I don't know whether to be glad not to have set a new PB to beat or not!

We seem to have had the best of the weather this morning - it has clouded over now, and looks to me as though it will rain soon. I reckon that I'll get wet when I go for a run with husbando later today. We're not going far, just a short run and not too fast. I need to try to do a long run tomorrow - but I'm not sure when I'll get the time.

In other news, my older daughter was 12 yesterday! I think she had a good day, with a trip to London, then a trip to the cinema with her friend followed by Nando's and a 'sleep' over. The girls went to see the latest Harry Potter, while we went to see 'Bad Bosses' which is one of the best films I have seen this year!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The first week of the holidays!

It is the first week where all the children have been on holiday and they are already on a TV and computer ban for appalling behaviour! I am hoping that being forced to find something more cerebral than the idiot box will help them to play nicely together. It isn't going terribly well at the moment. It could be a very long summer holiday and parenting involves a lot more input from me if they aren't transfixed by a screen.

Running seems to have taken second place this week with so much going on. I've only managed to get out 3 times so far, running 3.5, 4.2 and 6.1 miles. Husbando came with me on the last run. He hasn't run for over 6 weeks due to a knee injury so he came with me for the first mile and a half before turning back. I got to just before the 3 mile point and a new track came on my MP3 player, I considered not turning back until the end of the new track, but was thwarted by the pavement on a busy road ending. Just as well really as the track was really long and took me 0.92 of a mile to complete, so would have added almost 2 miles to my run!

Earlier this week I was surprised by a car! I always try to stay aware of the traffic, especially when running on roads without a pavement, but this one took me totally by surprise. It was a Lexus Hybrid thingy, and was obviously running in its electric mode. I've heard these cars referred to as 'cat killers' (as cats, snoozing under the cars don't hear the engine start) but never really realised how quiet they were! This one almost drove me off the road!

I've got no races planned now until September. I may have to see if I can find a race that will motivate me over the holidays, although getting a few minutes away from the children is often motivation enough!

Saturday, 16 July 2011


As I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, my oldest son recently announced his intention to do Basingstoke parkrun with me today. I asked him, last night, what time he would need waking up so that we could leave the house at 8.30am and was told to wake him at 7.30am. I did this and then went downstairs to make my breakfast, he wandered in to the kitchen and then vanished... back to bed! At 8am I went back upstairs and asked him if he was coming with me or not, he muttered under his breath, but got up and was ready to leave on time.

The weather was miserable! A typical British summer day! There was a constant drizzle interspersed with heavy showers and a bitingly cold wind. Waiting for the race to start was grim. I managed to persuade the boy to take off his track suit bottoms and sweat shirt and leave them in the car, and we headed off for the start.

He hasn't been running, or done any form of exercise really, for well over a year. This is not through choice, but due to a nasty bit of abdominal surgery that has left him in pain for a lot of the time. He is getting much better now - either that or we are getting the cocktail of painkillers right at last, and is wanting to do 'normal' things again now - and what could be more normal than wanting to get up early on a wet Saturday morning to go and run around a park with a load of strangers and your mum?

Thankfully Euan got us off and running fairly quickly. I messed up my Garmin again at the start, so set off while trying to work out what to do with wet fingers! The boy kept up with me for about the first 500m and then I lost him. The photos in this blog post have been grabbed from the parkrun site (thank you to whoever took them!) He looks just like his dad did in photos of him running at the same age! I remembered how much I hate running in glasses in the rain (and cursed the fact that I am running so low on contacts that I'm only wearing them for 'best'), I was fine on the straight bits in the open, but the curvy bits in the shade were a bit of a challenge. Still, I finished just 20 seconds slower than my PB.

My son finished less than 7 minutes later, in 30min 27sec - not bad at all for a first run after over a year of no exercise at all. I think I am going to have to watch out as he will be leaving me behind before too much longer! He has stated his intention to come again next week - hopefully we'll have some better weather by then!

Friday, 15 July 2011

I don't know how they do it!

Yesterday, after a trip up to London, husbando and I went to the gym. His knee is still causing him lots of problems so he is not running on the road right now. As I've mentioned before, I am not a huge fan of treadmill running, but quite like using some of the kit at the gym. I decided to run to the gym, meet husbando there, do a bit of a workout and then get a lift home with him.

When I formulated this plan, from the cool interior of my house, I hadn't banked on the temperature still being about 25C and, to be honest, I didn't really realise how warm it was until I was halfway up a huge hill. (Running straight to the gym is too short a distance so I had to add in a diversion). I arrived at the gym, having covered two and a quarter miles in just over 18 minutes, dripping in sweat. But that doesn't matter, does it? Because the gym is a place that you go to to get hot and sweaty isn't it?

Well that's what I thought. But it seems I am wrong! As I fell through the doors and launched myself in the direction of the water cooler I was aware of disapproving stares from two twenty somethings who were on the cross trainers. I have to admit they looked pretty good. Matchy-matchy gym kits and pristine trainers coupled with perfect hair and beautifully applied make-up. There was not a bead of sweat to be seen! Husbando happened to be on the cross trainer next to them, and as such was able to overhear their comments! Apparently wearing 'any old' running vest which doesn't match ones running shorts is not the done thing... and how could I turn up at the gym looking such a mess?

I compounded my sins by choosing to use one of the two power plates. I didn't realise that they were reserved for the beautiful people. They came over to use the other about 10 minutes after I had started my routine and muttered about me 'hogging' the machine, and how it wasn't fair that they had to take it in turns when they wanted to 'work out' together!

I really don't know how people like this get/stay so slim. Maybe they work out in secret so that no one can see the sweat. Maybe they only go to the gym to see if they can pick up men - I can't see any other reason for wearing that much make up at the gym, but really girls, the picking around here are pretty slim!

Anyway - rant over! The school holidays are upon us! My oldest son finished school today, so no more school runs until September. I am so happy with his new school - he is a different child, the school couldn't be more helpful, if I send in a query it gets answered the same day, the head teacher wrote to me today saying how well he is settling in, and how she hopes he will be very happy in the school. Such a change from his previous school! Mind you, the entire senior school is smaller than his year group at the old school!

Tomorrow is Basingstoke parkrun again. Apparently my firstborn child will run it with me - given that I haven't seen him out of bed on a Saturday before noon for a couple of years I will wait with baited breath to see if this happens!

Monday, 11 July 2011

"Results coming soon"

Is there anything more disheartening than the above phrase? Well of course there is, but today I have been checking the Cranleigh Runners website at every opportunity to day, and the message is still the same!

I've been inside all day today, at my new school, teaching the odd class here and there to release the head of department so that he can get the timetable sorted. I am eager to know what classes I'll have so that I can start thinking about what to teach them. I came home, via my oldest son's bus stop, picking him up and stopping at Tizzy's for a quick coffee with husbando before heading home. We headed out to the garden and I noticed that my son nodded a greeting towards a group of people sitting at one of the tables. They totally ignored him. Turns out that they are the maths department from his old school. He only left last Tuesday - surely they haven't forgotten him already!

We quickly moved in from the garden, as there was a plague of flying ants. Normal ants are bad enough in my opinion, but flying ants are just vile! The entire maths department trooped past our table later, without even acknowledging us!

The flying ants put paid to my plans for a run. I do not fancy swallowing one of those! I still have my gym membership, so headed off there instead. The gym is supposed to be air conditioned, but walking in it was not noticeably cooler than the rest of the building. I ran 3.3 miles in 25 minutes of the mega boring treadmill. Physically I know I could have gone further, but mentally I was bored rigid! I spent a few minutes on the PowerPlates stretching out my calves before heading home. On leaving, I mentioned to the receptionist that it was rather warm in the gym, but was informed that I only felt warm because I'd been working so hard! I tend to think that, when I am paying a small fortune, the least that they could do is keep the room properly cool!

Before heading home to discover that we seem to have an ant nest in the understairs cupboard... it is spewing forth a stream of ants, both winged and normal! I am going to have to clear out the cupboard when I next get a free day. For now I am going to spray noxious chemicals in the general area and home that it kills the ants rather than the humans!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

We like medals we do!

A wee while back a friend I met via Running4Women asked me if I had entered the Cranleigh 10k. Of course I hadn't at the time, but it was only the work of a few mouse clicks to rectify that! Today I woke up to torrential rain and wondered if I had lost my mind to be even considering driving all the way to Cranleigh just to run a race! Needless to say, drive to Cranleigh I did - I didn't feel I could drop out as I knew that Carol would be there expecting me to turn up. I stopped for petrol about 8 miles into my journey, and at this point I should have realised my day was not going to go entirely to plan when I could not remember my PIN. I changed all my numbers to be the same, but the girl on the checkout talked to me when I was 2 numbers into the sequence and my mind went blank. I walked away, had a think and tried again - nothing.... walked away, tried to think of anything but the blasted number and approached the machine with apparent confidence... and got the number wrong! I didn't have much cash on me, and didn't want to leave myself cash and cardless for the rest of the day, so had to fill in a form and promise to go back within 7 days!

Looking on the bright side, the weather improved as I got closer to Cranleigh. I found the venue, went to the loo, found Carol, had a chat, went to the loo and then we made our way to the start line. The start was organised into anticipated time zones, so at this point I said goodbye to Carol as we made our way to the relevant sections. I sorted out my Garmin, all ready for the off.

As I passed the start line I hit the button on my Garmin, and obviously messed it up, as I froze the damned thing! I spent the first 5 minutes running, in sunglasses, under shady trees, trying to remember how to reset it and then muster the degree of co-ordination necessary to carry that out while running along a narrow, and fairly crowded, track.

The field of runners thinned out pretty quickly, and for much of the race I felt as though I was running on my own. I have never taken my MP3 player to a race, as I like to engage in a bit of banter with other runners, but there was not much opportunity for that at this race, and at times I really would have welcomed some music. Support was thin on the ground too - although the marshalls were friendly and encouraging and two dogs barked like mad as we ran past their gate! The route was mainly flat, with the notable exception of a clamber up a railway siding and a reasonably steep, but mercifully short, hill which was over a fairly rough track. I am not a fan of off road running, I know that trails are better for you in that you get a more varied run, and the ground isn't quite as hard and unforgiving on your joints, but I don't like mud! As I'd left home in a downpour I hadn't remembered to take an antihistamine. This was a mistake! Even more of a mistake than normal as the farms we were running over were home to horses. Thankfully I had my water bottle with me so could pour it over my face to try to stop my eyes streaming.

I have no idea what my finish time was, I think I was the 13 woman to finish and about 81st overall - but have no idea how many runners there were in total! And I think I finished in under 52 minutes, but those details will have to wait until the official results are available! After the race the race organisers were dispensing orange squash as well as water - I haven't had orange squash for years and years and it was quite delicious!

Back home to children and housework! Scouting around under my desk I discovered that someone had, at some point, unplugged the chest freezer. After checking that the tip was open on a Sunday, I gingerly opened the freezer... and closed it again very quickly! We don't use the freezer very much at all, as our fridge-freezer has a large freezer, and it takes up a lot of space, so the decision to bin the whole thing was an easy one. I now have a space that is crying out for a smallish bookshelf so that I can fill it with yet more books!