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)......