Thursday, 30 June 2011

Magic Mile

When I was training for my marathon over a year ago, I started listening to what was then a new podcast: Marathon Talk. It's light-hearted and funny, and touches on issues that apply to beginner marathoners as well as experienced runners. There's running news, training tips, listener results and experiences, and a guest interview most episodes. Although I have no current plans to run another marathon (not unless I get 2 feet transplants), I still enjoy listening to it, as the majority of topics and discussions are about running in general, rather than marathon running specifically.

Since the first episode, the presenters have asked every interviewee one question: If you could have 6 months of specific, injury-free training, how fast would you be able to run a mile? Guests have included Mo Farah and Ryan Hall (elites), as well as various coaches, physios and average runners, and they have compiled a leaderboard according to their claimed times. It's purely hypothetical, with guests making an honest best estimate rather than having to actually prove it.

Lovely Mo Farah - can run a mile somewhat faster than me

In the last episode I listened to, Marathon Talk announced a summer challenge: for listeners to spend 6 weeks training, and in the first 2 weeks of August to run a mile as fast as we can. You can then log your time on the website, and they will convert it into an age-graded percentage; there is a competition between UK listeners and Rest of the World.

I've decided to take up this challenge! I'd already more or less decided to limit my running this year to 10k distance and less, as I really don't want to risk further injury. So the idea of a completely new challenge related to such a short distance seems perfect.

So on Monday, I jogged 1.3 miles to the end of a long road with a wide pavement, stopped my Garmin, started it again, and ran a mile as fast as I could. It was not exactly a sprint - a mile is still a bloody long way, and I had no clue how to pace myself. The road is not great either, as it's quite hilly, but at least I don't have to cross over, turn around or change direction.

The start of my mile
- it does go downhill on the other side

Anyway, I ran the mile in 7m49s. This must be my fastest ever, as I did the same route and same run once before - last July when I was probably at my running peak. That time it was well over 8mins, so I'm very happy with that. I may be at my peak right now! Scary thought. On a less hilly road and with a bit of practice, I'd like to think I could run 7m30s. By the way, how do so many bloggers I read maintain this mile pace over half and full marathons? I have a long way to go.

On the podcast they are discussing a few speed sessions to help improve, so I'm going to have a go at that, and although I'm very busy and away a lot over the next month, I hope I can fit in some good running here and there. Bring on the magic mile challenge!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Weekly round up

Well I just typed this all out once and accidentally deleted it, so I'm going to be brief now!

Ran - 12.1 miles
Cycled - 12 miles

I had a couple of good runs and a really enjoyable bike ride, despite being quite busy with getting the house on the market.

Views from bike over the airport to the mountains

On Friday my parents arrived, and on Saturday, Pete and I went to our neighbours' wedding. They got married North of here, so we stayed the night in a B&B, while Mum and Dad looked after the kids at home. The wedding was perfect for us coming to the end of our time in Scotland, as it was very traditional. It was held in a castle, most of the men wore kilts and traditional dress, there was a ceilidh band with a caller (who tells you the dance steps), and Pete and I joined in with a few Scottish dances. It was fantastic.

The only downside was we stayed about 1.5 miles from the castle, and there was only 1 taxi in the village! So we walked there and back. That would have been fine, but I was wearing shoes with a heel, which I am so not used to. What with the walk and the dancing, my feet are still in shock now.

The worst thing that happened last week was that my bike got stolen. It was such a shock, as we live in a very safe, quiet village, and we've never had any problems before. It was in the shed in the garden, but the lock has been broken for about 4 years, so it wasn't secure. It's so frustrating as it isn't worth much money to anyone, but it was important to me, as I used it so often.

I've reported it to the police, and I'm hoping it might turn up, but it's unlikely. So no more bike rides for a while, and I suppose I'll be doing more running to make up for that.

Dressed for a hike

Thursday, 23 June 2011


I've mentioned in the last couple of posts that we are in the process of trying to sell our flat and move. In fact it's quite a big move - we're going from just outside Edinburgh, to Brighton on the South coast of England. This is just under 400 miles, and over 8-hours' drive away.

We are moving from the top arrow to the bottom arrow!

I realise that for some of my international readers our country is pretty small, but for us it's a big relocation. Pete and I have moved several times, and lived in Spain and Japan as well as England and Scotland, but this is the first time we've had to factor in schools and nursery. This is my priority now when looking for an area to move to, and it means that we need a new address by the time the English school term starts in September.

I absolutely love the village we live in now, and I'll be really sorry to take the kids out of the school here, which is fantastic. But since we had the children we've thought about moving down to England to be nearer all our parents, and Pete has managed to get a transfer from his current job, so we're quite lucky. In Brighton, we'll be much closer to most of Pete's family, and able to visit my parents and my sister a lot more easily than now. So although it's going to be hard saying goodbye (we've been in this area for 6 years), it's probably the best for all of us in the long-term.

For the moment, this means lots of decluttering, tidying, and packing, as we try to get our flat ready for sale. It should go on the market next week, so we need to be ready for viewings. I'm still trying to fit in as much running and cycling as I can, but there's a lot going on at the moment, and only one more week of school until the end of term in Scotland.

Added to that, our neighbours are getting married on Saturday, so my parents are coming up to babysit while Pete and I go a bit further North for the night. The weather has been cool and very wet recently, but apparently there has been snow forecast for up in the mountains! I don't know what I'm going to wear then, but it will be a nice break from all the redecorating and packing I've been doing this week!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Last week round up

Thanks to all who left lovely comments after last Sunday's post about the trail race. Pete had told me that when he saw me run past at about 2 miles in, he counted 20 runners behind me. When I checked the organisers' website for the results, I was 134th out of 154, so he was spot on!

Well I've had another busy week. I had to be a bit creative to fit my workouts in last week. On Monday I had time in the morning for my usual bike ride, and did about 8 miles in the wind. Then I had pilates class that evening. I'm really enjoying that, although I'm still new to it, and often find myself stuck in some position I can't get out of, or unable to move my limbs in the right way. I'm sure it's helping my running posture a bit at least.

Then I was working on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This was a one-off week of invigilating exams, but it meant that I missed my usual free Weds morning. I had planned to run on Tues before work, but I had a bit of foot pain after Sunday's race, so I decided it was better to give it a miss. Anyway, Pete was also away on business from Weds to Fri, so I couldn't run in the evenings or mornings. I managed my next run on Friday morning when Emma was at playgroup, then came a busy weekend!

After getting home late on Friday night after a delayed plane ride, Pete got up early on Saturday morning to take the kids to Manchester to see their cousins. They were all out of the house by 7.15am. Sounds good, right? A free weekend with the place to myself? Well, yes, but I had work to do. As we are planning to put our house on the market and move soon, I needed to paint the kids' bedroom. It had multi-coloured walls before, but I spent most of the weekend subduing it to a nice bland magnolia. I also packed up a load of toys while there was no-one here to complain.

I did manage to fit in a short run on Saturday afternoon, and a cycle on Sunday while the paint was drying, so the stats didn't end up too bad:

Cycled: 17.1 miles
Run: 6.1 miles
Pilates x 1 class

...but not great either.

We still have lots to do in the house, and over the next few weeks, I foresee that packing up our whole lives and moving could really get in the way of running, biking, pilates and the gym, but I'll be trying to fit in as much as I can to keep me sane.

More appealing to buyers than bright blue and lime green, apparently. Anyone looking for a small flat near Edinburgh?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Best laid plans

Oops! I had a blog post planned for yesterday all about how I've been working more than usual for the last few days, and how I've had very little time to do much else. Then last night, after work, picking the kids up from the childminder, and a meeting with an estate agent, I found myself driving to the other side of Edinburgh to the Sick Kids Hospital. Robbie had got some bark chip in his eye at school, and although the teachers had managed to get it out, he was still complaining of a sore eye hours later.

Anyway, we saw a lovely doctor who put some dye in his eye (yellow, he loved it), and found a scratch on his eyeball. She gave us some antibiotic cream and said it should be fine in a few days. I'm not sure how serious it really was, as after she had put the dye in and looked at his eye, Robbie said he felt much better, and that the medicine had made everything 'fine'. He failed to realise that he hadn't had the cream in yet.

I'm sure the parents amongst you can imagine, or have experience of, the joy of trying to administer cream to the eyeball of a 5-year-old. So far we've managed to get plenty to stick to his eyelashes, but I'm not sure that's doing much good.

I did squeeze in my first run since Sunday this morning. It was great. I aimed for a steady pace, and ended up running my fastest 5k since August (excluding the parkrun race) with a time of around 26m40s. Not bad for a jog round the block! I'm hoping to do the majority of this week's miles in the next 2 days...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Dechmont Law Trail Race

I had a great time this morning! This was a really enjoyable race, despite the very undulating course and some patches of mud, and I can't wait to try another trail race!

I was a bit concerned yesterday, as it rained constantly from about 11am until the evening, so I thought the course would be very muddy and slippy. In fact there were only a few muddy parts, and my trainers came away pretty unscathed. The weather this morning was fine, although quite cool, and I couldn't decide whether to leave my jacket on for the race. In the end I left it off, and of course I was warm enough after a mile or so.

Heading up to the start

I'm not sure how many runners started, but it looked like over a hundred, and we started on time with a bagpiper playing us up the hill. I positioned myself at the back, and didn't hear the starting whistle, but suddenly everyone was off.

Within about 2 minutes, I was at the back of the field, and the majority of runners were already a long way in front. This was mentally quite difficult - in popular road races I'm used to being in the middle of the field with plenty of people behind me, but this race I was ahead of only about 20 runners. There was a very strong temptation to go too fast and try to keep up, but I tried to reign it in and stick to my own pace. I found it quite tough, but after a mile or so, I was really only aware of a few men behind me and a woman just in front.

As we got to the top of this hill, you can see a lady in pink, who had overtaken me, and I am in black behind. Just behind me was a woman in a brown t-shirt, with whom I battled throughout. She walked on the steepest uphills (including the bottom of this one), but then caught me up on the downhills.

Anyway, I managed to look happy, even after this hill:

It was an extremely hilly run. There was no real flat, it was all up or down hill, and some of the hills went on for ages. I found that I could overtake or increase my lead over the brown shirted woman on the uphills, but she would catch me up on the long downhills, where I got a stitch. At two points, we had to cross a footbridge over the motorway, and the bridges were very steep. I stopped to walk as Ms Brown came up behind me, but then she stopped as well.

We kept changing position, but the woman in pink pulled away from me about 3km before the end, and I couldn't catch her. In fact the last few kilometres were quite tough. I had no idea what was coming next (it was generally hills), and the km markers seemed out of time with my Garmin. When I saw '1km to go', it gave me a burst of energy, but then we had to go up a long hill, and it seemed like a very long kilometre.

Finally we reached a peak, and I saw the finish line at the bottom. I charged down as fast as I could, leaving Ms Brown in my wake - ha! I crossed the line, and checked my Garmin. As I had seen during the race, this was not 10k. I had only run 5.8 miles - 9.3km. My time was 54mins34s!

Considering the course, I was quite pleased with an average pace of 9m23s per mile, and I'm not too bothered about the course being short, as I wasn't taking it particularly seriously as a 10k. After the finish line, there was a table of goody bags, and then some drinks, and the all important clootie dumpling! This is basically a spicy fruit cake - it was a great post-race snack, and you can read more about it here if you wish!

Also in the goody bag was a token, saying that I had won a spot prize! I was quite excited about this, especially as I knew I wasn't going to win any prizes fro running! We went to the prize table where you could choose from a selection, and there were a lot of people there - Pete pointed out that it seemed that everyone had received a token! Anyway, I was quite pleased to pick out a fuel belt:

We also were given a 'race memento', which turned out to be a small dish, engraved with '10th Anniversary DECHMONT LAW 10K 12 June 2011'.

Not the most exciting race bling perhaps, but a nice souvenir.

So it was good fun, I really enjoyed racing, but I felt utterly shattered afterwards. I would definitely recommend this race, and with its friendly atmosphere and organisation (apart from the measuring), I would do it again.

Huge thanks to Pete and the kids, who clapped and cheered me on, and Pete did a great job as race photographer too. I definitely must do more trail races!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Race plans

I've only gone and entered a race! It's a local 10k, and it's actually a trail race, rather than road. This will be my first trail race, so I've got no idea what difference that will make to my ability or my time.

Anyway, while I'm still being careful about the amount of running I'm subjecting my complaining feet to, I've decided to just stick to 5ks and 10ks for the rest of this year (probably). Anything further might risk injury, and I don't want to go there again.

Sunday's race is going to be small. It's organised by a local club, and there is a very real chance that I could finish last. At the moment, according to the website there are only 66 runners signed up, although they will accept entries on the day. So as I've never run a trail race before, and I've only managed 1 run of this distance since coming back to running in February, my 'A' goal is simply not to be last! I suppose I'd also like to run around 56 minutes or so, but I don't know how hilly the course is, or much about the terrain, so I'll just have to wait and see.

I'm really looking forward to a friendly, small, local race, especially since I received a confirmation email from the organisers. I was delighted by the first paragraph:

Hi Liz - just a quick note to thank you for entering our wee race. Please collect your race number on the day from the folks manning the 'Pre-Entries' table in the games hall inside Deans Community High School. Changing and showers are in the school and there's a cafe and swimming pool if you fancy. Mind and leave room for the clootie dumpling at the finish...

How sweet is that? A clootie dumpling is some sort of Scottish cake, by the way. I can't wait. I would so much rather do this sort of race than a great big city event with thousands of runners. The only drawback is that there might not be any slower fun-runners for me to beat. I'll be posting about how it goes on Sunday, so check back here if you want to know what the clootie dumpling was like...

Monday, 6 June 2011

Weekly / Monthly round up

Finding the time to squeeze this post in has been proving difficult over the last couple of days. We are hoping to move house in the near future, which has meant that hundreds of little jobs have suddenly arisen all round the house. I've been so busy this afternoon, that I can either settle for a brief blog post, or it'll be no dinner before Pilates, and as you can probably guess, dinner always wins.

I know that May is a long month, but even taking that into consideration, I have ramped up some good hours of exercise, making this my best month this year. Stats:

11 runs = 38.4 miles
9 bike rides = 74.4 miles
3 Pilates Classes
3 Gym visits

I'm really pleased with these totals, as we had almost a week of school holiday in there too.

As for last week, I only managed 1 bike ride, but ran 3 times, as well as a short run on the treadmill in the gym. And finally, I ran over 6 miles at last! This was my third attempt to complete a 6 mile run, one having been thwarted by a sudden downpour, and the other by steep hills, strong wind and weak legs. I ran on friday morning, which was the hottest day we've had in a long while (over 22 degrees C!!), and beautifully sunny. I can't pretend I felt fantastic, as I remember struggling at times, but I finished feeling great, and so happy to see that number 6 on my Garmin!

It ended up as 6.2 miles in 56m33s, with an average pace of 9m02/miles. What a relief to know that I can still run that distance after all!

Hot and very sweaty after the run

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


I am confused.

After 6 months of tedious injury that stopped me running, I want to do whatever I can to prevent the same thing happening again. But what exactly should I do? When I started getting heel pain, I went straight to my tried and very trusted physio, but for a long time we didn't seem to make any progress. She spent a lot of time working on my lower back, which she pinpointed as the cause of most injuries, and we tried local massaging, taping, and eventually orthotics.

I didn't notice any obvious improvement, until February this year, when I managed a few runs without any heel pain. Great news, but I am none the wiser about what helped the recovery.

Since then, I've been continuing with a few stretches that Ms Physio gave me, along with loads of others I've got from the net (mainly from other bloggers). I've also continued to not cross my legs when I sit down, to wear shoes all day and hardly ever go barefoot, and to wear the orthotics at all times. But I don't know if any of this is actually helping.

Recently I've had a lot of discomfort and pain in my feet - in the tops, not the heels - of which I really don't know the cause, and after the last few runs, there has been some slight reoccurance of the dreaded heel pain. I really can't stand the thought of not being able to run again, and Pete has said he would find it hard to put up with too - apparently my usual sunny demeanor was replaced with some grumpiness, although I find this very hard to believe.

I've been reading on various blogs about barefoot running and minimalist shoes, and while a large part of me (my brain?) thinks that this is just the current fad and in a few years it'll go out of fashion, I have found some of the things I've read quite convincing. For example, I can see that strengthening the foot could help prevent injury, and that this is not going to happen by constantly protecting it in highly cushioned shoes. I also feel that heavy heel striking might not be the ideal running style for my injury-prone heels.

So I'm beginning to wonder whether my orthotics are doing more harm than good. Could they be causing the discomfort in the top of my foot? And what sort of shoe should I be wearing?

With all these dilemmas in mind, I paid a visit to the running shop this week. I didn't know if I wanted a more cushioned shoe, or something more minimalist. I've found that my last pair of shoes (Saucony), have been pinching my toes, and I don't find them very comfortable.

Anyway, I spoke to the guy in the shop about all my issues (poor man), and he videoed me running on the treadmill and showed me my many running faults. I ended up with a softer, more maleable shoe, which he thought would help correct my wonky gait.

This is the first time I've ever bought new running shoes and not thought that they were a thing of beauty. Behold, the monstrosity:

Actually they don't look too bad there, but look away from the next picture if you are of a sensitive disposition:

AAARGH! So I tried them out on the treadmill this morning and they felt very comfortable, but afterwards I had a few pains in the side of my right foot. That didn't last long though, so I think I'll probably keep them. I'm still confused, so I guess I'll just play it by ear for now.

(Apologies to anyone who has these Nikes and loves the look of them).