Sunday, 27 January 2013

Not all miles are the same...

One of my favourite running routes has the advantage of mile markers, from the annual Alton 10 race, painted on the road.  With the exception of the 4 mile marker (which appears twice, once a bit early and once in the right place) they are all where they should be.  I know, I've checked with my Garmin!  But they don't all seem the same.  I swear that the third mile is well over a mile, it starts halfway up a hill and finishes after you pass through a village.  The other long mile is between the 7 and 8  mile markers - which should be wonderful as this is the highest part of the race with stunning views across the countryside.  It also has some lovely downhill sections, and on a day when it isn't blowing a gale you can really pick up the pace and fly along.  But it seems so long.  Conversely, the next mile seems short. No idea why, it just does.  And always will every time I run this route now.

Today's 10.5 mile run was lovely.  I downloaded an audiobook to make a change from music ('The Hard Way' by Lee Childs if you are interested) and set out, no need for gloves today.  In fact I needed my sun glasses and got a wee bit warm wearing long running tights and a long sleeved top!  There were far more people out and about than I saw last week.  Cyclists, walkers, horse riders and runners all taking advantage of the ice free roads, mild weather and the sunshine!  The rain overnight and early this morning meant that all the show had gone, the river had burst its banks (see photo) and most of the roads were more like rivers than tarmac!

I run this route regularly, the biggest hazard is drivers.  Slow moving farm vehicles are one thing, you can hear them coming from a long way off.  What provides more of a challenge is drivers who don't seem to realise that country lanes are not the place to be driving at 60+ mph around blind bends.  I've become quite adept at throwing myself into the hedgerows - in fact one of the advantages of running in the winter is that long sleeves and trousers mean less chance of nettle rash!  Today's highpoint was when I jumped up onto the muddy verge to avoid a HUGE puddle and an oncoming car only for the car to SPEED UP as it went through the puddle and soaked me from head to toe.  Nice. I was 4.5 miles from home at that point so had no option but to carry on.  If I want to go running and get covered in mud and water I'll go trail running.

Today's run takes me to just over 115 miles this year, a wee bit up on last year's total for the whole of January and, at least at this early stage, on course to meet my mileage target of 1200 miles this year.

In other news... I mentioned in an earlier post that I had entered the first Yorkshire Marathon.  I've decided to run this in memory of my friend Ali (that's him in the photo).  Ali's unexpected death, at the age of 42, back in November has left a huge gap in the lives of all who knew him.  He was a thoroughly good bloke, a real gentleman and fellow grammar pedant.  I still can't quite get my head around the fact that I won't see him wandering around town with a take out cup of coffee in his hand and his beloved, mad, dog Percy at his heel.

After talking to Ali's family, I have decided to raise money for a local charity, Cardiac Rehab.  This charity was started by a local doctor (and runner) and the methods the charity developed have been adopted by health authorities across the country.  I've set up a fundraising page HERE and would be very grateful for any donations you feel able to make.

Friday, 18 January 2013

I think I have caught the bug.

Yesterday, as I tried to convey the finer points of Newton's Laws of Motion to my Yr7 set 3 class, and the demonstrate the finer points of pedagogy to our new PGCE student, I kept looking out of the windows.  My lab is what estate agents would call 'double aspect' so I have a fantastic view of the scaffolding, the other school buildings and out into the countryside, but I wasn't admiring the view.  I was checking to see if it was snowing yet.  I wanted to go for a run, I really wanted to go for a run quite badly.  The prospect of snow may have been filling my class with excitement, but it was threatening to curtail my weekend running and I felt like a child who had been told I couldn't have my favourite treat -  it just made me want it more.

I sneaked out of school, slightly guiltily, as the majority of my colleagues were staying for the long haul of a Yr8's parents' evening, not teaching this year group gave me the chance to get out of school while it was still light for a change. It was still almost light when I got home, so I threw on some running gear and a head torch and set out.

It was snowing, not heavily, but it was starting to settle.  The roads were clear, but the foot paths were becoming more and more treacherous.  Every step was a calculated risk, and whilst it was not a relaxing run as I had to keep my wits about me, it was a challenging and enjoyable one.  Strangely (!) I didn't see any other runners out there.  They were missing out.  The temperature was around 0ÂșC but really, once you get moving you warm up pretty quickly.  Then it is just a case of keeping moving until you get somewhere warm!

It seems that I really have caught this running bug.  I've resisted for a long time, but there is no doubt about it, I am well and truly hooked on running.  Today I became, thanks to Husbando, the proud owner of a pair of YakTrax so now I can run with increased confidence in snow and ice.  Is it wrong to be excited about this prospect?  I also managed to acquire a rather snazzy pair of Gore running gloves - not quite sure how that happened, I have been surviving quite well on one pair of running gloves for quite sometime, but this pair is very lovely.

Tomorrow I hope to try out my new bits of kit at Newbury parkrun.  I am hoping that the roads are clear enough to allow me to drive that far.  A friend is celebrating his 100th parkrun and there are promises of cake.  Strangely this promise of cake excites me even though I have been avoiding carbs for several weeks now and know that I won't eat cake tomorrow.  I think the thought of cake makes me happy - almost as happy as the sight of cakes and without the guilt and calories involved in eating the cake!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The fear

I went for a run this evening.  I was very angry when I set out.  In fact I was so angry that my children assumed I had enjoyed a fantastic day at work because I pasted a fake smile to my face before I walked in through the door.  Normally I arrive home tired and in need of a hug and a cup of tea tonight I was downright furious,  but I knew it was unfair to take out my frustrations on my children, so smiled instead.  The reasons for my anger are numerous, and this is not the place to discuss them, but suffice to say I am a professional who would actually like to be treated as such, without having the rug pulled out from underneath her on a periodic basis.

In the privacy of my own room - which is a relative privacy as small people seem to think of a closed door as an open invitation to barge in - Husbando asked if I wanted him to come for a run with him.  'No I do not!' I replied, 'I want to run, listen to loud music and mutter rude words under my breath.'

So off I went.  As I ran I worked through all the annoyances of the day, thought about some of the lovely things about work - teaching is hugely rewarding and I really do love teaching.  I'd returned at the start of term full of enthusiasm and with loads of ideas that I wanted to try out.  Mountains of paper work, bureaucracy like I've never seen before and poor communication skills from management seem hell bent on killing my love of teaching!  I have decided that I shall do as I am told, not question anything, and not under any circumstances dare to show any initiative or original thought.

All this has nothing to do with the title of this post.  On my last few evening runs I've achieved something I've never achieved before.  Namely negative splits.  That is to say that the second half of my run has been faster than the first half.  I haven't made a conscious effort to do this, and I guess that one of the reasons it happened is that I started each run in a bad mood or tired after a day at work, but for whatever reason I am going to try to capitalise on it.  Intellectually I know that negative splits are an ideal way to run long distance races, but I've always had a fear...

....If I hold back over the first few miles maybe I won't have enough energy to pick up the pace for the final few miles.  I have always gone out as fast as I could and held on for as long as I could, and generally I've had a wee bit of energy left for a burst of speed in the last couple of hundred metres.  The only race where this strategy hasn't worked for me was the Abingdon marathon, and this was an occasion where I planned to start slow, but got caught up in the enthusiasm and dragged along by all the faster club runners.  Even then I can't be too disappointed, I knew that my first marathon would be a learning experience where my only aim was completion.

So, having unintentionally run negative splits on these short training runs, and achieved a fairly nifty pace for the last half mile, I am going to try to consciously run negative splits in some of my longer runs.  Hopefully as I lose some weight and regain some speed I may be able to record some half way decent times this year.  I've entered the first Yorkshire marathon it would be nice to clock up a PB....

Sunday, 6 January 2013

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday I was on a running high.  Very pleased with the miles I'd done this year, happy with my parkrun yesterday, and feeling pretty gung-ho about life and running in general.  I planned to run 10 miles this morning, around the route of the Alton 10.  I love this route, I have run it, and sections of it, on a regular basis since I started running.  It is not a route that many people like.  Something to do with the fact that there isn't a single bit of level ground in the whole 10 miles.  Yes it is challenging, but for every uphill you get a corresponding downhill, you get to run through peaceful country lanes, obviously not so peaceful on race day, and the views are simply stunning.

I got up late today, the last lie in of the holiday, ate some porridge and got ready to go.  I wore my new compression tights, and a lurid pink, fog defying t-shirt.  I borrowed Husbando's gloves because mine had, as normal, done a vanishing act.  Apart from the fog, it was a lovely day, reasonably mild with no wind.  It should have been a lovely run.  I'd been looking forward to it all week, it was one of my favourite runs and my last daylight run until next weekend.  What could possibly go wrong?

The first 2.5 miles from my house are predominantly uphill.  Not a huge, steep, steep hill, but pretty consistently uphill (with a wee short downhill to add interest).  So long as you take it steady it is fine, in fact when I started running I didn't even think of it as a hill at all, it was just where I preferred to run because it was prettier than running through the town.  Today it was a real struggle.  By the time I got to Binsted my legs felt massively heavy and I seriously contemplated turning round, but for some reason I didn't.  I kept thinking 'It'll get better, there's that lovely downhill soon.'  My mood wasn't helped by having to stop for frequent phone calls and texts from the children.

I plodded on.  And on.  As I did I tried to cheer myself up by remembering better runs of this route:  The lovely marshall at 5 miles with fruit pastilles, getting to 6 miles (on race day) and realising that I was running at the same pace I'd done my last 10k at and still feeling really strong - but it wasn't really working.  I stopped a few times, using passing cars as an excuse, but stopping for longer than strictly necessary.

At some point I realised that the same car had passed me at least twice.  It passed me a third time, and when I got round a corner it was stationary in the middle of the road.  I stopped about 100m away and fiddled with my watch, dug out an energy sweet, and eventually he moved on.  Only to have him pass me again - in the same direction (he'd obviously gone round the loop again) a few minutes later.  I was, for the first time ever on a run, a tad concerned about my safety.  I sent a text with the registration number to Husbando, and was very relieved when I got to a section of the run which seemed to be more densely populated with walkers and cyclists.

I was running slowly, I decided that, if I wanted to make it to lunch, I better curtail the run at 8.5 miles. It had taken me 1hr 21minutes to cover the distance - it only took me 5 minutes more to run the whole 10 miles last time I raced the Alton 10.  Still, there are good days and bad days, and at least I was out their running.

I suspect that, having got carried away with the exuberance of running every day and often more than once a day this year, I was just too tired.  Next Sunday's long slow run is in London, I am hoping for better things.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A wee bit of a break!

Going away for a few days when you have children is hugely different to those halcyon days when you could just throw a few clothes in a bag, make sure the house was locked and jump in the car.  Now going away is a military operation, although forces personnel are more organised than my rabble.  This week Husbando had to go to a book fair in York.  I like York and haven't been up there for a while so I decided to go with him.  The older two children arranged to visit friends and the younger three were being dropped off with my mother, who lives near Leicester, on our way up there.

So, I packed for all three of the children, I'd just finished doing this when Hubando called and asked me to look out some stuff for him, belatedly I threw a few clothes in a bag for me.  Mainly running kit to be fair, but we did fairly well, I don't think I forgot anything too serious, although my mother had to buy toothbrushes for the children.

Our favourite hotel was closed for the first night of our stay, so we spent the first night at an anonymous  chain hotel - the Marriott on Tadcaster Road.  Soulless but serviceable best describes it!  For our second night we moved to the wonderful Middlethorpe Hall - a gem of a hotel!

On our first evening Husbando and I went for a run together, about 3.5 miles around the outer perimeter of the racecourse, and getting a bit lost in a housing estate!  Husbando was coughing for NATO, he's had a nasty flu bug and it seems he isn't fully recovered yet.  A solo run for me the next morning, in beautiful sunshine, reminded me of why I love running, clear blue skies, new places to run, new challenges to overcome.

Last time I was in York there was no parkrun in York.  I'd considered driving over to Leeds, but decided not to as we'd been out drinking on the Friday night and I was a tad concerned that I might still be over the limit!  This time there was a parkrun right on my doorstep (almost!)  I love parkrun, but have to admit that I am happiest running at my home parkrun in Basingstoke.  I get nervous at the though of meeting large groups of new people.  In fact, on the 1.6mile run from Hotel to start line I almost wimped out several times, I had that horrible queasy feeling in my stomach that I get when I have to go to any event where there are lots of people I don't know.

On my way to the start I met the run director, Steve, setting up the finish funnel, and tied my kit bag to the fence near the finish.  I jogged around to the start, arriving very early and waiting, for what seemed like an eternity, by myself.  Just before 9am runners started to appear from nowhere.  I chatted to a man who had lost 11 stone through running and walking and was there to do his first ever parkrun, a nice man called Roy who had read my post on the York parkrun Facebook page came up to me and introduced himself.

There were lots of shiny new trainers in evidence this morning, lots of them Christmas presents or sale bargains, but there were a lot of first timers there as well, and one visitor (little old me!) Soon we were off, the course is 1 and 2/3 laps of the service road just inside the race track.  It is flat and on tarmac, which makes for a fairly fast run - I was about a minute and a half faster than my fastest recent parkruns, still too slow form my liking, but I'll get there one day.  After Basingstoke and Alice Holt, it was odd to run a course where you could see exactly where you were going to run for the next kilometre!  The race course is also well used by locals walking their dogs.  I have no problem with parkrunners running with dogs - as they all seem to be well behaved, intent on running and happy to totally ignore me.  But, and it is a big but, I am not a dog person, dogs seem to think I am tasty and edible, and I tend to be very wary of dogs, especially if they are not on a lead!  And I've never seen so many non parkrun dogs at a parkrun venue!

After the run I had the best cup of coffee I have had in a very long time.  The Poppy Coffee Company Van did sterling work supplying coffee, tea and hot chocolate to sweaty parkrunners.  We were lucky with the weather - mild and dry - and people hung around for a post run chat, but I should imagine it is a different story on a cold, wet and windy morning.  I met a couple of runners who I 'know' from the Fetcheveryone site - always great to put a face to a screen name!

I don't think there is every any chance of me becoming a parkrun tourist, but I am a third of the way to completing one of my resolutions - to run at three different parkruns (in addition to my home run) before Easter!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Hello 2013!

Goodbye 2012, and what a year it was.   Most of it good, some of it bad, but what doesn't kill you just emotionally and physically scars you for life makes you stronger!  In 2012 I ran more miles than ever before, 1181 miles as opposed to my previous maximum of 880, and ran further than ever before, finishing my first marathon, and yes I do mean first.  I will run another marathon.   I've run 42 parkruns, which surprises me because I feel that I am there every Saturday!   I have had two nasty fall, my knee still hurts (and has some impressive scaring) from the first, and the second saw me on crutches for 6 very long weeks at the start of the summer.

The glimmer of speed that was starting to emerge in 2011 was thoroughly quashed by these injuries and, let's be honest, by the consequent weight gain.  How I managed to run 26.2 miles still amazes me, surely a case of mind over matter, especially in the final few miles.

Today I started the year as I plan to go on, with a parkrun and then another 3 miles on my own, later in the day.  I ran with my youngest boy, we went slowly, running at his pace.  I love encouraging my children to run.  So far the boys are fairly keen, my youngest tries her hardest, but isn't quite up to the challenge of 5km yet, and carrying her on my back is very hard work.  My 13 year old would only run for a bus, or if Josh what's-his-name from The Hunger Games was waiting at the finish line.  Five of us were there today, with Husbando (recovering from 'flu) taking photos, one of the strengths of parkrun is that it is something that the whole family can take part in.  It doesn't matter how fast or slow you are, everyone will make you welcome.

So, goals for 2013...  I'm not sure really.  What is more important than any target is that I remember why I run.  I don't run to be faster than another runner, or beat a certain time.  I don't particularly run to lose weight (I must be the only person ever to train for a marathon and not lose any weight), and I don't really run for any of the many health benefits.  I run because I enjoy it.  I run because I always feel better after a run than before hand.  Just getting outside and running in the fresh air, especially if you manage to get out in daylight, is such a boost.  The countryside around here is beautiful, even if does include more than a few challenging hills.

I've entered a few races, and am toying with the idea of entering a few more, but I'll wait and see how I feel in a week or two.  I will, of course, carry on with parkrun - I should make it to 100 runs this year and at least one of my children should make it to 50 parkruns.  I may get to somewhere near my PB, but even if I don't I know that I will have great company both on the run and for a coffee afterwards.

Happy new year to you all.  And keep running.  Or start running - who knows, you may find you like it!