Sunday, 22 September 2013

Back to routine

Well the kids have now been back at school for 2 1/2 weeks and I've been at work for 2 weeks, so we are right back into the swing of things. Last week I had to finish writing some exam questions for another job as well as my teaching, and then I was asked to cover a class on Friday too.

This meant that something had to give, and yet again it was a planned bike ride. Although Monday was a day off, I spent the whole day writing on the laptop at home, only interrupted by the joy of food shopping - yay.  Then on Friday the weather was lovely and sunny, and would have been a great morning for cycling, but I could only look out of a classroom window and sigh...

But I managed to get loads of running in instead. On Tuesday I had a great long run of 8 miles - my longest distance for months. It was fine weather, and I really enjoyed the run. This was despite my thighs burning from Sunday's 10K. I was never sure if the agony of DOMS was from running uphill or the lethal downhill.

Anyway, it was a relaxed enjoyable run, and as I was plodding along, I suddenly realised how nice it looked. I was just running through a housing estate, and there is a big hill in the background which I've just got used to seeing all the time. It just dawned on me how pretty it was so I stopped and took a photo!

Nothing stunning, just a good, relaxing view!

Then on Saturday it was Robbie's 10th parkrun! As a junior, this means he will now receive a free t-shirt, and it's a little landmark in his running. Pete and Emma volunteered as marshals for the occasion, and we ran past them just before 2K, which was fun. Robbie was quite tired - he'd had PE and then swimming after school on Friday, and he was running around before the run started.

There was a another boy who looked a bit older than Robbie, and he was in front of us for he first half, then kept stopping to walk. Everytime we caught up, he started running again, as if he didn't want to be beaten. I hoped Robbie could beat him by running the whole thing, but Robbie just seemed totally oblivious! He just enjoys himself and doesn't worry too much about who's behind or in front of us, which is a great attitude really.

Anyway, we eventually passed the other boy with our slowly but surely approach, and Robbie told me at the end that he was glad he beat him, so perhaps there's a little competitive spirit in him after all!

It was a really nice run as lots of other runners and marshals really cheered Robbie on, saying things like 'Well done young man!'. A few regulars spoke to us at the end and congratulated Robbie, and I felt a real sense of community and friendliness.

I was hoping that I might get a chance to run one at my own speed soon, (all under 11-year-olds must be accompanied by an adult), but Robbie seems to want to carry on doing parkruns and I'm certainly not going to stop him! It's just great that he's so keen.

Despite it being a busy week, I ran 22 miles in total, which is my biggest for a while. It's about time I did some more focused training. Next week is going to be really busy too though, including a friend's birthday party, and then Robbie's birthday on Friday. I'll be trying to fit in a bike ride, and plenty of quality running...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Firle 10K Trail Run

Over the last few weeks I started to feel right in the mood to do a race. The last one I did was at the end of June, which was starting to seem like far too long ago. So I did a bit of googling, and eventually signed up for a local 10K.

The Firle 10K last Sunday was an accompaniment to the main event of a Half marathon, and there was also a 5K. The 'running festival' was held in the grounds of a stately home, and was in the middle of the South Downs - our local range of chalk hills and cliffs.

This meant it would be a very scenic trail race with beautiful views, with an obvious drawback - hills! This was probably the hilliest race I've ever run, and perhaps the steepest and longest hill I've ever attempted to run up in a race. I say attempted because I ended up walking quite a bit of it. This was the evil elevation:

When we arrived, it was a really lovely sunny morning and the atmosphere was great. The Half marathoners set off 30 mins before us, and we 10k-ers had time to enjoy the warm sunshine and the pretty scenery before our race.

Taken by Robbie
The race set off through the grounds of the home and was on a path at first. The path gradually became more gravel than concrete, and was tricky to run on in places. We ran out on to a road, and the climb began.

It was subtle at first - little ups and downs which were quite manageable. Then the hill got steeper and steeper. I kept running as much as I could, even when I was bent double and going slower than walking pace, I maintained the illusion of running.

But eventually it got the better of me. That hill was STEEP and LONG. I started to walk, and once I had, it was very hard to get back running again. I walked all the way up the road until we reached a drinks station, and the grass on top of the cliffs. While some suckers stopped for water, I broke back into a shuffle, and started to pick off some of the people who had overtaken me.

But as the hill started to even out as we reached the top of the cliff, there was a new problem - WIND! It was very blustery up there and it was right in your face all the way along the top of the cliff. The views were great though - the sea to our left and the sprawling countryside to our right.

I seem to be standing still!
In the above picture, there's a woman in red and she was running with a clubmate in the same vest, and they had passed me on the way up the hill. As we ran along the top of the cliff, I was getting closer and closer to them. Another woman in purple caught me up and we ran together through a field of cows. They were all sitting down and we had to run right past them up close, it was a bit scary.

At the end of that field there was a gate which we had to open, and the 2 women in red, the purple one, and me all went through it together. Just after that - finally - it was DOWNHILL time! I was desperate to make up for the time I'd lost walking, so I absolutely threw myself down the hill. Within a few metres I was way ahead of the purple woman and one of the women in red. At this stage half-marathoners were catching us up too, so I kept hearing footsteps behind me, which made
me keep speeding!

I really went for it down that hill, and I'm just glad I didn't fall down it. It was punishing on my legs, and when we got to the bottom, I realised how tired they were.

One of the red women was in front of me, but suddenly she stopped and waited for her clubmate, shouting encouragement. As I ran round the muddy paths back into the grounds where we'd started, I knew they were behind me but I didn't know how close. I tried to put on a burst of speed, but for once my legs did not respond! They were completely knackered!

Smiling at Pete and kids
As I turned a corner towards the finish shute, I saw Pete and the kids waving and shouting at me. At this point I tried to sprint for the finish, and while it wasn't much of a sprint, I did manage to accelerate a bit. I beat the women in red as you can see above, but the faster one probably would have beaten me if she hadn't waited for her friend.

As I ran past, Pete got a photo that makes me look fast. Trick photography!

At the finish there was a canvas bag, a voucher for a local running shop, a medal and a cup of tea - lovely! It was a really well organised event, and the official results were out that evening. I came 46/99 runners; 8/51 women and 5/21 vet women. My time was 59m06s (slowest 10K since my first one in 2009), but the time is irrelevant really as it was so hilly. I'm really happy with 8th female, although I think I could have stopped walking and started running sooner on the hill!

Nice medal!
We were lucky with the weather (the black clouds were gathering as we left and it rained in the afternoon), and it was a really well-organised event. I would probably do it again, but I might need a bit of hill-training first!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Magic Mile and runs with the kids

I've been a listener to the Marathon Talk podcast for a few years now, and every year around September, they have a Magic Mile contest. The idea is to train for and then record 1 mile as fast as you can run. There are no prizes and the competition is just there to motivate you - it's all about fulfilling your own potential.

The first time I tried this was 2 years ago, when I recorded 1 mile in 7m26s, then last year I managed 7m08s. This year I wasn't really expecting to go any faster, as I haven't done any speed training for ages. I've been running quite sluggishly and not enough, and all my shortest runs have been at Robbie's pace - a good 2-3 mins per mile slower than my fast pace.

But I just had to have a go, so last Thursday (the last day of our lovely summer, it turned out), I jogged to a local park. It was really hot and there was no shade in the park, but at least it was more or less empty of people. I started my Garmin and ran as hard as I could.

All the time I was mentally rehearsing my excuses for running slowly - it was hot, I hadn't trained, I'd jogged too far as a warm-up, I was on grass etc. But I kept going and when my Garmin beeped and I stopped it, I couldn't believe it - 6m56s!!! I never thought I'd go under 7 minutes so I was delighted. I was on a high all day after that! Now I'm wondering what I could do on a track with some training...

On the following Saturday it was parkrun as usual, and this was Robbie's 8th. Due to a fair being set up for later that day in the park, the route was a different one - an out and back run on the path. This is also known as the PB route, as there are no sharp turns or muddy grass banks to negotiate. It was also much cooler, as summer had begun to disappear by then - sigh.

Anyway, it proved to be a PB route for Robbie - he shaved 34 seconds off his previous time with 33m18s - Whoop! Only 2 more runs and he gets a t-shirt....

Then we found out that at the fair later that day, there would be a 'Junior parkrun' which was only about 1km. Emma is always wanting to join in our runs, but at 5 years old, she's a bit young for the full 5K. (She also often moans that she is tired when we walk 0.5 miles to school...) So at lunchtime we were back in the park ready to run again.

It turned out that it was really for children aged about 9-11, but they said Emma could run if I ran with her. I was wearing jeans and normal shoes, but at least they let me leave my handbag behind for the race! It was pretty funny - a group of older boys sped off and then all stopped and walked after a couple of minutes. Robbie ran his second parkrun in one day, and Emma managed to run the whole thing without stopping to walk - unlike the 11-year-old boys!

It was just a shame the event hadn't been publicised - I'm sure a lot of kids whose families are usually at parkrun would have come if they'd known in advance. I'm glad Robbie and Emma see running as fun, and something they still want to do - proud of them as usual!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

New toy!

A couple of weeks ago it was the end of an era when my beloved old Garmin Forerunner 305 finally gave up the ghost and had to be replaced. Pete had bought it for me in December 2009 and it was invaluable as I trained for my first marathon the following May.

After the marathon I had got so used to it, it became unthinkable to go for a run or bike ride without the Garmin to accompany me. I like to record all my training and the Garmin is just the easiest and best way to do it.

Anyway, after a run 2 Sundays ago, I got home and the run data just wouldn't upload. Of course this was quite usual with my poor, aged, unreliable Garmin, but what was unusual was that I tried over and over again with no success, in fact it almost always stopped at 85% done. It was odd that it got to the exact same stage each time, and I began to see that something was wrong.

Then I found that it wouldn't turn on unless I did a 'hard reset'. This happened every time I tried. I still managed a couple of runs where it worked fine during the run, but I had to upload it manually. It seemed just a matter of time before it conked out altogether, so I started browsing online for a replacement.

A few days later, this arrived:

It's fab so far, and I love the way it looks.

Advantages of the FR10 over the old 305:
1. It uploads in about 5 seconds as opposed to 2 minutes.
2. So far, the computer recognises it when I plug it in and doesn't claim 'No devices found'.
3. It doesn't keep crashing the computer.
4. It sits happily in the cradle for uploading and recharging, so I don't have to (for example) balance a chair leg on it to hold it in position.
5. It's smaller and neater on my wrist.

1. It doesn't have a multi-sport mode. However, I can easily use it on a bike ride and change the info from 'run' to 'bike' on Garmin Connect when I've uploaded it.
2. You can only see a small amount of info at one time, so if I want to see my pace or what the time is, I have to push a button. Not a big deal.

There were lots of other functions that the old 305 had of course, but I never used any of them, so I won't miss them. I really just want something to measure pace and distance. And I like to see a wiggly line on a map of where I've been. 

So, so far so good. There were so many problems with the 305, I just hope the 10 keeps working as efficiently and brilliantly as it has done up to now.

Farewell, old (and really rather knackered) friend!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

August Rundown

Despite it being the summer holidays and having most of my time taken up with entertaining the kids, I did actually manage to get a fair amount of running done in August. There was one week when I only ran 12 miles, but that was when we went camping, and spending each night lying awake in a tent with the kids left me too tired to run. Apart from that though, I did ok:

Ran - 18x = 76.3 miles
Cycled - 2x = 20.6 miles 

Parkruns - 4
PBs - 1 (For Robbie!)

So I was pleased to keep the running ticking over last month. The 2 bike rides were both commutes to work as I went in for 2 Saturdays, and that's the only way I could get out on my bike recently.

Robbie and I ran 4 more parkruns which means he has now done 7 in total! He's still enjoying it, and on 10 th August, he ran a PB of 33m52s! I tried to push him a bit as we ran, and I think it was the promise of 2 pieces of cake if he beat his previous times, that really spurred him on. He's really not a competitive person at all, so I was surprised the following week when he asked if I could push him on again. The next 2 weeks he ran under 35 minutes, which was better than all his previous times of over 36 minutes. 

Unfortunately I had to work last Saturday so we missed parkrun, but we're hoping to do the next 3 weeks, so he'll reach the milestone of 10 runs.

Now it's almost back to school time, and I'm kind of looking forward to getting back into a routine, and building up the miles. I've got a few races I'd like to do, so it'd be good to get stuck in again!

With Granny and Grandad