Monday, 14 July 2014

I should do this more often

For some reason, when I woke up this morning, I was randomly reminded that I told my friend Heather I'd run the Great Scottish Run half marathon with her in October. Well, not with her. She's super super speedy and I get overtaken by walkers when I run. But in the same race as her.

Having told her this on Facebook several weeks ago (while still on a high from the Great Edinburgh Run) I immediately forgot about it until this morning, when I suddenly realised that the 5th of October is a whole lot closer than it sounds, and I counted the weeks in my calendar…twelve. The exact number of weeks in most half marathon training plans. Better get started then.

So I chose a training plan (I'm using the Bupa intermediate half marathon plan - I thought the Bupa beginner 10-mile plan worked brilliantly for the GER) and got out there. 30 minutes later I'm back, pretty proud of having managed 2.8 miles in 29 minutes when I've only run once since the beginning of May. Obviously, I'd be prouder if I'd managed to keep my running up even though I didn't have an event to train for, but I can't do anything about that now. And, considering my legs weren't all that happy with suddenly being made to run for half an hour after 2 months off, I really enjoyed it..I should definitely do this more often!

I'm not sure the intermediate plan is going to be right for me - it involves four runs a week, and will supposedly take me from 3 miles to 6 within the first 3 weeks…eek. However, I've mistrusted training plans before and they've always worked, so I'll see how this one goes, and drop down to the beginner one (or mix-and-match a bit) if I'm struggling.

In other news, my resolve not to spend money on things I don't need was severely tested yesterday when I saw these:

These and loads more utterly brilliant book-related slogan tops are sold by Activate Apparel and I really, really want them all! I'm a big fan of slogan Ts to work out in. Yesterday I played a tennis match in a top that said "It's a pleasure to beat you." Sadly, the effect was somewhat ruined by the fact that I lost.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

A few random thoughts out of the blue

So, it turns out that when I don't run much, I don't blog much either. Or maybe it's that when I don't blog, I don't run. Either way, very little of either has occured in the last 2 months - no blog posts and only one short run. Oops.

There's been a little bit of tennis though. A few lovely league matches out in the evening sun, for instance. Evening matches at the end of long summer days are basically what tennis was invented for, as far as I'm concerned. There's just nothing more lovely in the world.

Admittedly, it becomes slightly less fun when the matches are unfriendly - we've encountered some blatant cheating this season, including playing against a doubles pair who kept putting the same player in to serve, game after game. The weaker player of the two had only served once by halfway through the second set, but sadly when we confronted them, they just told us we were wrong. In un-umpired, un-refereed matches there's not much you can do about that. We still won, anyway. As usual, we've also come across our fair share of dodgy line calls, which usually make me laugh, to be honest. I mean, it's hardly Wimbledon - is there really any need to cheat?

Speaking of Wimbledon, this is the fortnight of the year when I pretty much never get anything done. Why would I want to do anything productive or useful when I could be sitting on my sofa watching white-clad warriors giving absolutely everything of themselves on the beautiful green lawn of Centre Court? As it happens, I've been too busy this week to see any tennis at all, but I'm making up for it today and I'm writing this while letting Serena Williams and Alize Cornet inspire me with an amazing 3-setter in the third round. I keep shouting at the TV - I'm not sure Lovely Husband is too impressed.

In other news, I'm really, really trying to eat more like an adult and a keen tennis player/runner and less like a student. After a long day at work it is just so easy to order a pizza or pour a huge pile of pasta into a pan, but it's become abundantly clear lately that, although I still eat like I'm in my early twenties, I don't have the metabolism I had then! I played doubles with a 13-year-old this week, who thought it was hilarious that I kept calling myself "old and slow" but next to her, I really felt it!

So I'm trying to introduce more fruit and veg and dismiss some of the junk from my diet. I've also noticed how little protein I eat so I'm working on that too - maybe, just maybe, living on carbs is why I'm always so tired…? I'm finding Pinterest and health and fitness blogs incredibly useful in finding new ideas for quick and easy recipes  - I've recently developed something of an obsession with sweet potato wedges, and this afternoon when I was suddenly really tired, I made a smoothie instead of a coffee. Well, the smoothie did have a shot of espresso in it…I guess it's all about baby steps.


Monday, 5 May 2014

Liverpool Spring 10k

Ingredients for a perfect Bank Holiday weekend morning: hot cross buns for breakfast, a 10k run through a beautiful park and a friend to chat with the whole way round. The Liverpool Spring 10k is aimed at "joggers, plodders and club runners" and I was really looking forward to experiencing a proper Liverpool welcome at this friendly race around Sefton Park.

I spent Saturday at work basically dreaming about the pasta bake Helen had promised to have ready when I got to her flat, where I was spending the night. After a long day at work, dinner did not disappoint, and nor did the gossip! After an early(ish) night we breakfasted on tea and hot cross buns and crossed the road to Sefton Park, where the start area was already filling up with a combination of highly experienced-looking club runners, fun runners, charity runners and their supporters.

We weren't planning on getting round very fast. Helen's currently doing the busiest job in the world, so her training hadn't been very consistent, and I was still on a high from my 10-miler last week and was happy just to get out and enjoy an easy-paced run, so we positioned ourselves towards the back of the pack and amused ourselves taking start line selfies until the start of the race.

It turned out to be a lovely race. There were plenty of supporters, cheerful marshals, a samba band and lots of gorgeous scenery in and around Sefton Park. Helen and I chatted all the way round, which made the miles fly by. It was the first race I've ever run with someone else and, although it drops a race's PB potential somewhat, it's a lovely way to spend a morning!

To be honest, I'm not sure whether this race would ever be likely to hold much PB potential, even if you don't amble around taking the odd walk break, as we did. There are quite a few narrow areas on the course and, even at our speed, we spent a fair amount of time weaving around other runners - my Map My Run app thought I ran nearly 11km overall. Having said that, it's a beautifully flat course, and if you start near the front it might be possible to get around quite smoothly. 

We picked up the pace a little bit in the last few kilometres and started picking off plenty of runners in front of us. As we approached the finish line the route became absolutely packed with supporters, and to make myself heard I had to shout at Helen to sprint for the finish line! We crossed the line together in 1:11:39 and picked up our medals, technical T-shirts (huge because all the small ones had already been taken) and goody bags. While the medal is always a brilliant thing to pick up, my favourite thing was the sherbet dip dab in the goody bag - nice touch!

All in all, it was a fantastic race - well organised, really friendly, and genuinely aimed at all abilities - the winner (who went whizzing past us just before we reached the 6km mark - he was already at 9km) finished in 31 minutes, and there were still people being cheered across the finish line when we were walking home half an hour after finishing. Definitely a race to add to my diary next year!

Thanks to Helen for providing most of the photos in this post - I am a rubbish blogger who cannot take a selfie and only managed to take about 3 photos the entire day!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

10 miles - done!

Woohoo! I'm so chuffed - I not only ran the full 10 miles of the Great Edinburgh Run on Sunday, but I loved every second of it!

We got to Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon, checked into our hotel and went for what was supposed to be a little stroll down to the start/finish area to make sure I wouldn't get lost the next morning. The "short" stroll actually turned into a mammoth hike up and down most of Edinburgh's many hills (it turns out I'm rubbish at booking hotels that are close to start lines - it looked close on the map!) but we eventually made it to Holyrood Park and checked out the lie of the land before wandering back up the Royal Mile to carb-load on pasta at Bella Italia. Then we caught a cab back to the hotel, and chatted to the driver about his experience running the Edinburgh marathon in 1982. His advice - don't go off too fast!

After a restless night my alarm woke me at the distinctly un-Sunday-ish time of 6:45. I left Lovely Husband sleeping and took myself down for breakfast, where I failed magnificently in my bid to force some porridge down. Normally my favourite breakfast, I just didn't fancy it that morning. I managed a bit of yoghurt and half a cup of tea and then woke Lovely Husband up, pinned on my race number and we headed off!

Trying to make up for my lack of breakfast I nibbled on half a Cliff bar on the way to the start, and made it there in time for a quick portaloo stop before nipping into the back of the white wave pen just in time for the start of the wave. As I crossed the start line, the only thing I could think about was the taxi driver's advice, so I slowed right down and let the entire wave pass me - I was literally right at the back. We set off around Holyrood Park and up the first hill - a nice gentle one to lull us into a false sense of security. I knew Lovely Husband was going to be waiting around the 2-mile mark and, sure enough, there he was, camera poised, just before the mile marker. I posed for photos as best I could while running, and then headed off towards one of the two really steep hills, up Cannongate. I was so happy to be able to keep my speed going up the hill, even though runners from the wave behind me were starting to catch me up and overtake me by this point.

My favourite part of the course came next - past the Scott Memorial and the National Art Gallery before heading to Greyfriars to meet Greyfriar's Bobby. A man running alongside me, who must have been in his 70s at least, made a quick detour to give Bobby a pat as we ran past - I didn't need to as I had already made sure of my own luck by visiting him the evening before.

I walked through the water station at 3.5 miles to give myself time to get a Shot Blok and some fluid down, and then picked up my pace again. Lovely Husband had clearly studied the course map, because he was waiting at mile 5 to shout encouragement as I ran past. I was still feeling brilliant at this point, and was starting to overtake a few people on the hills, although I was still being overtaken by far more people from the wave behind me. There were a couple more steep hills in the second half of the course and I started to become a bit more tempted to walk up them - but was stopped every time by the realisation that if I kept running I could overtake some of the increasing number of people who were walking the hills! In the end, with the exception of the three water stations, I ran the whole course.

Between miles 6 and 7 we got to run past some of the faster runners heading for the finish in the opposite direction, including a couple dressed as a bride and groom (who are getting married next weekend - how cute is that?!) and a rock band.

I had really expected everything to fall apart somewhere around the 7-9 mile mark. I knew there was one last climb along the side of Arthur's Seat at 8 miles, which I had really been dreading, but in the end I barely noticed it - the hills in the town were far worse! And the absolute best bit of the course was still to come - a completely downhill final mile which ended up being my fastest of the race! I absolutely flew down the finishing straight and crossed the finish line (where LH was, of course, waiting) with a fist pump and the biggest smile on my face! My chip time was 1:45:26 - a real surprise given my uneven training and very exciting given all the hills.

I've run a few 10ks before, but I have never been so happy to put my medal around my neck as I was after my first 10-miler - I wish I could wear it to work! I'm already thinking about how much quicker I might be able to run the same race next year, and I'm busy planning bigger and better things in the future - I think my first half marathon is on the cards!

Big thanks to my Lovely Husband for driving me to Edinburgh, keeping me company all weekend and being Official Photographer.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

4 days to go!

4 days until my longest race ever! I know it's only 10 miles, which counts as a short midweek run to most of the people whose blogs I read on a regular basis, but it feels pretty scary to me. Exciting scary, though. And fun scary. But still scary.

Running hasn't really happened in the last week, which probably hasn't helped my nerves much. I was so tired after 3 long days at work over the Easter weekend that getting out of the door in running shoes this week has felt about as easy as climbing Everest. I finally got out (to the gym because it was too late and dark to run on the roads) tonight and ran a bit over 3 miles, which felt pretty easy, so hopefully the miles I've already banked are going to pay dividends this weekend. I'd like to get one more 5-ish miler in before the race, but I've got tennis training tomorrow night and a match on Friday so it's only going to happen if I feel fresh enough that the extra miles will help build my confidence, rather than just tire me out.

In the meantime, I'm getting prepared for the weekend. In a moment of wondrous, completely out of character organisation, I laid my race kit out on the spare bed this afternoon - all the bits I won't need before then, anyway. I'm currently living in fear of forgetting something really important (shoes seems to be the most likely candidate) so the more I get packed before Saturday, the better. 

I'm also trying to remember to hydrate, eat sensibly (which mainly involves avoiding looking at my massive stash of Easter eggs) and get plenty of sleep. My somewhat haphazard training will only get me round so fast, so if living like a nun for the next four days will buy me a few extra seconds/minutes (or just make my legs scream less on the hills) it'll be worth it!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Good things that have happened this week

1) We won our first tennis match of the season! In fact, we pretty much demolished the second team 10 sets to 2. We were obviously terribly sporting about it afterwards, but we're all pretty chuffed about it, to be honest. One of my worst tennis memories ever is being decisively beaten by the second team three years ago. It hasn't happened again since, but they're a very good team so the possibility is always there, and it's great to have avoided disaster for another year. It was a great match actually. My partner and I had sooo much fun - we laughed pretty much right the way through it, which is the way I like to play doubles! I also fell over and accidentally did the splits.


I did not look like Kim Clijsters. I wasn't even as elegant as Jelena Jankovic. I got laughed at quite a lot.


2. I ran 9 miles this morning! 9 miles! And it wasn't even that hard! Only one more long run to go before the race, and I'm finally beginning to believe that I'm going to do this. I might even manage a respectable time. Whoop! Also, it was a beautiful day for a run, which makes me believe that summer's finally coming. Weeks and weeks of long days and light evenings, just made for tennis matches, barbecues and long walks and runs…am I getting too excited?

3. I've booked our hotel for the Great Edinburgh Run. We're staying near the castle, which means there'll only be a short walk to the start, and we'll be perfectly situated to do some exploring before and after the race. I can't wait!


4. I've entered another race. My friend and I will be doing the Liverpool Spring 10k in Sefton Park on 4th May a week after the GER. I'm really excited about running with my friend, and Sefton Park is a lovely place to run so it'll be a fantastic day!


Sunday, 6 April 2014

It's not just the race that's hilly

Training for a race entails some serious emotional highs and lows that I really wasn't expecting. In the weeks leading up to my last post I was getting increasingly depressed about how little running I was fitting in. On the day of my last run I was seriously down about how difficult and tiring it was to run 4.7 miles. Today, I ran my furthest distance ever  - and loved it!

I don't know what made such a difference. I was practising fuelling, so maybe it was the Shot Blok and water I was taking every 30 minutes or so. Maybe it was the fact that I stopped to walk every time I fuelled. Maybe it was the fact that, after a spa day and a lovely catch up with the girls yesterday, I was just less stressed about everything. Or maybe it was a combination of all of the above. All I know is that I covered 7.7 miles and, even though I stopped to eat and drink twice (and for a loo stop!), my average pace was still the same as my last few runs because my actual running pace was about 15-20 seconds per kilometre faster than usual. Amazing. I'm so happy and I'm finally feeling positive about not only getting round the Great Edinburgh Run, but finishing with a smile on my face!

In other news, the summer tennis season starts this week. Trying to captain a tennis team made up of a mix of super-experienced club players and super-talented juniors (plus me) has been one of the biggest challenges of the last few years for me, and the team hasn't really done better than medium-well for the last few seasons. However, this year we've got a fantastic team and an enthusiastic new coach so I'm optimistic about our chances! This week's match is the "local derby" against the club's other ladies team, so we start the season with the Big One…the honour of our team is at stake!