Sunday 3 May 2015

Back to the physio

Several weeks ago, I stood up after a good long lunch in a restaurant and found my back was sore and stiff. It was quite uncomfortable for a few days, but after a week or so it was fine again. Then about 2 weeks after that I was mowing the lawn and as I bent down to pick up some grass, I felt the back go again. It was immediately very stiff and I went from fully mobile action mum to stationary old lady in a matter of seconds.

I decided it was time to visit the physio. I went to see one about 2 years ago and she was great. She gave me some stretches to do regularly, and I still do them, and the leg pain I had then has never returned, so I am willing to put my faith in her.

She informed me that it was a problem with a disc, and gave me the advice that in order to get rid of the problem once and for all, I basically need to not bend my spine forwards for 12 weeks. Part of this was the instruction: 'No sitting'.

So what fun. I can still stand, run, walk, perch, lean, and kneel as long as the back is straight at all times, and I am encouraged to bend backwards regularly, especially when lying on my front on the floor. But no sitting!

Luckily I don't have an office job, but am currently doing part-time teacher training. This involves me teaching trainees (easy enough to stand throughout), and observing them teach (now standing with my notes resting on an big old rectangular cassette player, on top of a table).

The other part of my week is working at home, previously sitting at a PC, but now standing with my laptop on some or other raised platform.

Wash basket workplace
For the last couple of weeks I have spent most of the day on foot (but while driving and going to the toilet, sitting is permitted - phew). I went to Cambridge for work and spent 3 hours there, 3 hours back standing on the train (occasionally resting a knee on a seat for parts of the journey), and I now eat all my meals standing, often with the plate on a raised box.

Lunch version (Pete has a lot of board games)

The most difficult parts of the day are cleaning my teeth - impossible not to bend forwards, and getting dressed - the children sometimes help me put on socks and tie my shoelaces for me. In the evenings, I tend to sprawl on the sofa, lying down but with a straight back.

The worst part of it all is, I can't ride my bike. The weather is improving and the kids are still at school, so I have time for long bike rides, but I can't because it's impossible not to bend forward on my bike.

However, the good news is, I can still run - hooray! Nothing too strenuous, and not too hilly, as I tend to bend forward when tackling an uphill. But I can run, and I think it actually helps. Walking is fantastic, and really makes my back loosen up and feel better.

So I've kept this up for nearly 2 weeks, and there are 10 to go. I'm seeing this as my next challenge, like training for a marathon. I just hope that in 12 weeks I'll be all cured! 

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Biking and Hiking

Over the last couple of months, I've done less running than usual but tried to stay active! From the start of 2015 I've been determined to do more cycling, as I'm usually disappointed by the small number of miles covered on a bike at the end of each year.

During March, the kids' school had an initiative where they were challenged to cycle or scooter to school every day for 3 weeks. If I joined them on my bike, they could earn points towards the challenge, and this culminated in a breakfast at school one morning - free food and drink for bikers!

So I was enjoying lots of cycling until I went for a ride at the end of March and got a puncture. I had to sit on the bike and slowly trudge it home over 3 miles and that was that for a while. I've just finally repaired it though (or at least Pete has), so will be back out soon!

Then we had 2 weeks of Easter holiday to enjoy. The whole family had time off work and school, and we went up to Derbyshire for a few days. We were lucky to see some fantastic weather, and the first signs of summer - hooray! So we did lots of walking and had a great time.

Intrepid hikers
On our first day there, we did not one but 2 hikes. The first was a loop from the Monsal Trail in Bakewell, up through hilly farmland and back down into the town. It was muddy and fun!

Heading down to Bakewell

After some lunch we went to the town of Buxton, where we walked up a hill and came out at this fantastic area of hilly land with a folly (Solomon's Tower) at the top. It was a beautiful landscape with wide views around the countryside and we went back again a few days later - we loved it.
Buxton Country Park
Great hilly landscape for playing and hiding!

On our last day, we followed a walk from a paper guide. We traipsed through muddy forest, along a river with a waterfall and went up and up. Eventually we came out at a spot called Monsal Head where there was an amazing view down the valley below. It was spectacular, partly because we'd had no idea that view was coming!

Monsal Head

We popped in to a tea room before heading back, and it was a tough walk with steep climbs, but the kids did really well and didn't moan too much!

Steep climb
When we got home, we managed to fit in one more walk. This was along our familiar neearby cliffs, but a part that we hadn't been to before. We took a picnic, which was good fun, and had another lovely walk.
More steep uphills
Along the Seven Sisters

Monday 23 February 2015

February Challenges

For the last few years since I started running and blogging, I've always begun each year with a list of goals. I've had clear ideas about what I want to achieve and I've always managed to do at least some of those things. It's been extremely satisfying looking back at those goals at the end of a year and ticking things off the list.

This year though, I've been at a bit of a loss. Obviously I'm blogging a lot less these days, (due to other demands on my time), and that's made me less motivated to list my goals. In addition, I had such a good year of running last year, with a couple of hard won PBs (Half and 10K), and my highest ever mileage.

I've also been feeling as though I'd like to aim more for general fitness this year, rather than a narrow focus on running. Having finally achieved the goal of 1000 miles in a year in 2014 (after a few failed attempts), I'm not putting any pressure on myself this year to run far. In fact my mileage this January was 57 miles, compared to 70 miles in 2014.

Hopefully this can mean more time for cycling, swimming and core / strength work! (I must admit though, over the past couple of weeks I've really started enjoying my running, so I might change my mind again - ha!).

So over the last few weeks I've set myself a couple of mini-challenges.

1. Complete the 30-day shred!
This is the DVD I first did about 5 years ago, Jillian Michaels series of 20 minute routines incorporating cardio, strength and ab exercises. I decided to go through the whole 30 days, from level 1 to level 3, to improve my muscle strength and core stability. While I don't do every exercise as hard or for as long as recommended, I find most of it a do-able way of firming and toning up. I did it almost all the way through, but after experiencing some shoulder pain, I stopped with a few days to go. However, my biceps are like rocks and my flabby Christmas stomach has almost disappeared - result!

2. Stop eating chocolate!
Although I personally know people who have successfully given up chocolate or other sweet treats without resort to murder, I consider myself to be a serious chocoholic. Since I was a child, I can't remember ever going longer than about 48 hours without chocolate (and I usullay eat chocolate every day). But for some stupid reason, on 1st February, I thought I might try going without for a whole month just to see if I could. (Cleverly, I picked the shortest month of the year - January would have been far too long). It's been 3 weeks now, and with the help of substitutes such as plain biscuits and flapjacks, I've almost managed it. It's not been too bad, and for the most part, I have tried to eat more healthiliy overall, (although last week was half term and the kids and I indulged a bit too much).

Chocolate free pancake day
Just 1 week to go now...

The other February focus has been Brighton Half Marathon. About 2 years ago, a friend of mine (S) decided she wanted to run a race and raise money for charity. Her daughter, (in my daughter's class), has Cerebral Palsy, and she wanted to support SCOPE, a disability charity. She was not a runner at that point, so we started going out together, run-walking, and building up to about 3 miles.

Then she got pregnant with her 4th child - surprise! I ended up running the Half alone last year (we'd both already entered), and got my PB there. Meanwhile, S had a little girl in January.

Last summer we started training again. S built her running up again, and with a couple of other friends joining us we did lots of running round our home town, and S completed her first race with a 10K in October.

Gradually we added miles to our long runs. It wasn't easy as S has 4 children, aged 1 - 7 (including one with special needs), and 2 jobs, one of which is working late hours in a restaurant. She managed some of those long runs after working late the night before and getting only 4 or 5 hours' sleep.

After so long in the planning, the race finally rolled round yesterday. It was a lovely sunny morning, and we chatted and enjoyed the atmosphere, which was fantastic. It wasn't all plain sailing - S stopped for a loo break at about 7 miles and we lost at least 5 minutes while she queued for the loo. Then she started to struggle around 9 miles and nearly started walking, but I persuaded her to keep jogging. Then she totally amazed me by getting a second wind around 11 miles! We sped up and almost sprinted to the finish!

It felt so emotional to finish together, especially as it had been so long in the planning. We did it faster than I'd expected in 2h36m, and S raised over £300. With all her comitments I was really pleased for her, and today she's already talking about doing it again next year!

As for my next challenges, I'll be chocolate free for another week, and then I'm running another Half next Sunday. I'm only doing it as some other friends are running, and because I've done it for the last 3 years in a row and I'd like to keep that up.

Then I'd like to look at my 5K PB. I can focus on that without haivng to do lots of long runs, so it should fit in well with doing other things too. I'm going to try to eat more healthily too, and fully intend to go for a swim one of these days...

Sunday 18 January 2015

2014 Rundown - Goals met???

Well, well, well, it has been a long time since I last posted, and much less blogging was done last year than in the previous years. I suppose I've just got busier. I'm now working from home quite a bit doing lots of writing at the computer, and I suppose that the last thing I want to do when I take a break is more writing on the computer.

Anyway, it would be rude not to finally get round to looking at those goals I set way back at the beginning of 2014.

1. Run 1000 miles
I did it! Yay! My third year of attempting this goal and I got to 31st December with 1001.8 miles in the bank - whoop! It wasn't easy, and I often had to run rather than bike and keep my eye on each weekly total. At times it was a bit of a pain. I managed not to get injured all year - probably down to not doing a marathon and running consistently, not increasing mileage of long runs too much. I was really happy to meet this goal!

2. Cycle 500 miles
Not a hope (368.8). Tried this in 2013 too, and was way off. Last year the running took precedence. I can either go for one or the other, not both!

3. Strength training and stretching
I was pretty good with the stretching. As I get older it's a must, and I think doing at least a few stretches after running helped keep me injury free last year. As for strength training - not so much.

4. Do more swimming and master front crawl and breast stroke
Absolutely not. Again, running was the priority, and my swimming continued to flounder. Needs more work...

5. Keep injury at bay
Lucky me! (See goal 3 for how I managed this).

6. Complete loads of parkruns and get my 50 t-shirt
I ran my 50th parkrun on 29th March and have been wearing my 50 t-shirt ever since! (Well, at parkruns anyway). I've tried to count and it looks as though I did about 40 parkruns last year - not bad going. Certainly much more than any other year. I'm now at 79, so 21 away from my 100th. (Sadly our local parkrun was cancelled yesterday (for the first time) due to ice! so the 80th waits for another week...)

7. Run a parkrun somewhere else
Yes! Robbie and I ran in the Queen Elizabeth parkrun (local to Pete's parents); Pete, Robbie and I ran at Havant (also near Pete's parents); and all 4 of us ran in Edinburgh when we visited Scotland. I had done Edinburgh before, but it was new to the others. Then in November, I visited my sister and dragged her along to her local parkrun at Colchester; and during our Christmas visit to my parents, Pete and I ran Chippenham parkrun! So 4 new locations in 2014, 6 in total - whoop!

8. Run a parkrun with Emma!
Emma did 14 parkruns last year! However, she doesn't really enjoy it and has been getting slower and less happy about it, so we're going to let her have a break! Perhaps she'll enjoy it as she gets older, she's still only just 7 (6 in 2014).

9. Run 8+ races
Just about - I think I did 9 races in 2014 - phew!

10. Run 4 Half Marathons
Not quite, I only ran 2 Half marathons. But I did run a 10 miler and a 15 mile race as well, so I think they kind of count too. Kind of.

11. PB at 10K and Half marathon.
Big fat YES and my proudest achievement (along with 1000 miles)! Way back in February I killed Brighton Half in 1h56m31s, taking 2 mins off my PB, and in November maybe my greatest running EVER was in the Brighton Brook 10K which I totally nailed in 49m26s, also knocking 2 mins off my PB. This means my PBs for Marathon, Half, and 10K were all completed along the same stretch of seafront in Brighton - nice and flat and speedy!

So a good year of running, not so great for cross-training. I'm a bit uninspired at the moment, so I need to think carefully about goals for 2015, but I think they'll be less running based and aim to be a bit more well-rounded. Watch this space...

Monday 17 November 2014

Brighton 10K - Goal achieved!!!

So this summer I started thinking about my 10K time and thought I could probably run faster than my PB of 51m17s. I did a bit of speed training (only a bit of intervals and tempo runs) and in September decided to go for a sub 50 mins 10K. I attempted this in the Bexhill 10k, but for various reasons, I ran neither sub 50 mins nor a PB.

Shortly after that, I entered the Brooks Brighton 10K - a much bigger race with over 3000 runners, but a flat one, all along the seafront in Brighton. A few days later, a friend (V) entered too. She has been running less than a year (although she's very fast), and this would be her first real race.

My plan was basically the same as it had been in September - start at about 8.03min miles and try to hang on. I wasn't interested in a 52 min run, so I was happy to either get a PB or crash and burn (e.g. 56+ mins) trying! I knew I had to go for it from the start and run consistent splits.

I'd never done this race before, and hadn't realised how big it was. At 9:30am yesterday (16th November) just over 3000 of us lined up in the start area and we were off. There was a bit of jostling and our speed was often controlled by people in front of us. V decided to try to keep up with me, but we thought we would probably lose each other in the crowd during the race.

The route was east along the seafront for about 2K, then turn around and run west on the same road for about 6K, then turn again and finish where we started. As it was so flat, the biggest issue would be exposure to the wind along the sea, but luckily for us, it wasn't too windy at all.

The start and finish
Because of the route (people running back towards us on the same road), it got very crowded at certain points, and I was frequently frustrated at having to run around people. Despite this, V and I managed to stick together most of the way, and whenever I lost her among other runners, she eventually re-appeared behind me!

I felt strong, (if a bit asthmatic) as the miles went by and I was keeping a constant eye on my garmin. The first mile was 8m02s, and from then on, my average pace was usually between 7m59s and 8m04s. Whenever it dipped below 8m, I reigned it in and tried to keep consistent. There were some km markers along the route too, and every time I saw one I switched my garmin display to overall time, and made sure I was always on target. At each km marker I was about 3 - 5 seconds inside 50min pace! I really was totally reliant on my garmin for the whole race.

As we got to about 8K, I knew that I just had to keep going at the same speed and I should make it, but I just didn't know how accurate the garmin and the km markers were - it could be a matter of a few seconds that would be the difference between under or over 50 mins! In the final km I could see the finish approaching. I was so tired and at times I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds so that when I looked up the finish was a bit closer!

A few hundred metres from the finish I knew I was close to 50 mins, so I really dug in and tried to speed up. It was only at this stage that V dropped back and I finished a little way ahead of her. I crossed the line, paused my garmin and crouched down to catch my breath. I was knackered, but my watch said 49m26s - YES!!! Pure happiness.

Later we got our official stats. V was just 10 secs behind me, in 49m36 - incredible for her first proper race! It has taken me 5 years (and 11 10K races) to get from 60 mins in my first 10K to sub 50mins! My position was 1220 out of 3173 runners; 303 out of 1503 females and 128 out of 599 in the F35 - 45 age group - some good looking stats there!

My mile splits were as follows:
(and 6.50 pace for the last 0.2!)

Very happy with that. We didn't take any photos and the official ones aren't out yet, so here is a picture of the rather nice medal!

I'm going to take it easy now for the rest of 2014, and aim for slower runs but keeping the distance up. The question now of course is whether I can go any faster next year?!

PS, when I got home, the kids had made me a card to congratulate me on my PB!

Friday 31 October 2014

Races with a difference

This month I've done a couple of races but neither of them have been PBs and in fact they both involved running well within my comfort zone. The first was run with friends and the second with my husband, and they were both great experiences.

On 12th October there was a local 10K organised by a new-ish local running shop. There were 150 runners, a few marshals and it was run along the seafront. Over the summer I've been running with a couple of Mums from school, both of whom are quite new to running. One used to run a bit as a teenager, and she's pretty speedy, but the other had a baby in January, has never run before and is juggling trying to get fit with 4 kids and a job.

So they both decided to enter their first ever race with this 10K (my 10th 10K!). I was a bit concerned that we might actually be last as it was such a small field, and we almost were! But all our families came to see us and the kids played on the beach with their Dads while we ran.

Feeling cold pre-race
It was all very sociable as I saw a few runners I knew including parkrunners and one of the teachers from school! We called out to people and the three of us chatted away as we ran the whole thing together. We also met a 75-yr-old man who told us all about his running past and the fact that he races every weekend and travels with his wife to do so. Our pace was 10.47 overall, which is quite a bit slower than my marathon pace, so obviously it was very comfortable.

It was tricky at times to keep to that pace, and I had to keep holding myself back to help my friend who had never run further than 5 miles before.

Near the finish
 But it was really good fun and nice to do such a sociable event!

We finished in a time of about 67 minutes (only about 5 or 6 people finished behind us) and got a medal at the finish. I was very proud of my friends for completing their first race and furthest distance!

Then 2 weeks later I had a very different race - the Great South Run. From 150 runners to 25,000, and this was televised with an elite field and a completely different event!

Started by Olympic and Commonwealth hero, Jo Pavey
Pete and I had planned to run this together a while ago, then he hurt his ribs on his bike and couldn't run for a few weeks. He did very little training, but managed an 8-mile run a couple of weeks before so decided to do it.
Ready to start
He decided that we should run nice and easy miles up to about mile 7, then step on the pace if he felt ok at that point. We started right at the back of the last group to start, and put in a couple of miles around the 11 min mark. In fact we even had time to stop for a tourist pose as we ran through the historic dockyard and past HMS Victory!

Doesn't look like he's in the middle of a race!
It was so crowded we were constantly having to dodge people and run around them, and there were walkers right from the start. But as the miles went by, we were feeling fine and doing about 10.30 min miles. When we got to 7 miles, Pete said he felt good and we started to speed up a bit. We ran mile 8 in 9.52, then really started to get faster.

It was good fun as we sped past most of the pack and we both had plenty of energy left. Mile 9 was 9.16, and the last mile we ran in 8.24! I think Pete was much fitter than he thought and could have run a lot faster overall if he'd wanted to. But it was his first time running 10 miles, so our finish time of 1h47m was pretty good! (Only 20 mins slower than when I ran it 2 years ago!).

In November I'll be running a 10k at my own pace I hope, and making my second attempt at a PB (after failing to get one in September). I'm looking forward to pushing myself in that one!

Monday 29 September 2014

Disappointment - a 10K

I signed up for this race a while ago, and had decided to go for a PB. Over the last few weeks I've been adding a bit of speed work to my running - intervals, tempo runs and the odd hill - although it's been somewhat ad hoc and I haven't followed a proper training plan. It's been working though, and I've increased the average pace of my training runs a fair bit. I realised that I had been running too easy a lot of the time, and no wonder that my 5K and 10K PBs were so long ago.

To be specific, I ran my 10K PB in summer 2012, when I did 2 races in about the same time - 51 mins 17 secs. The second of those was the Bexhill 10K, which was the same as this race, although the route has changed since then.

So my aim has been to get under 50 mins. I think this is achievable, and I've been training to run 8 min per mile pace to do this. Recently though, I have been really tired (due to work and various busy-ness), and I haven't been able to maintain 8min/mile pace for anything longer than 3-4 miles in training runs.

My preparation for the race was terrible! This race always falls around Robbie's birthday, and he turned 9 years old the day before the race. According to his wishes, we spent that day walking around a theme park and queueing for rides - LOTS of time on our feet. For dinner, we had a huge pizza and birthday cake - less than ideal race fuel!

Happy birthday!
So I just had to go for it. I decided at the start that I would go out at 8 min/mile pace and try to hold on. I wasn't really interested in running a 53min 10K, so I would either hit my target, or crash and burn, but I wasn't going to settle for anything easy.

I had 2 goals then - A - run sub-50mins; B - run a PB (under 51m17s). Pete asked what my C goal was, and I supposed it was to run close to those times, which I haven't done for a long while. The last 10ks I've done have been trail races, so this was the first road 10K for 2 years.

The race started at 10:30am, and it was ridiculously hot for September. We set off along the seafront, and within a few minutes I was shocked at how hot it was. I started sweating, and within a couple of miles I decided that I would look out for a water station and pour the water over my head (I don't normally bother with drinks stations in a 10K).

Contrary to what it looks like - the start (me in purple t-shirt)
We continued in the roasting heat on a course that was totally unshaded, until we got a to a turnaround point. As we came back in the opposite direction, there was a fairly string headwind. At first it was wonderful, and it really cooled me down. But it also slowed me down, and became quite difficult to run into. My pace started to drop. After a confident first 2 miles, the next 2 miles were a struggle.

As we went past the start/finish again, it was the half way point. I heard an announcement that drinks were on the left, but as I heard it, I saw people giving out cups of water to my right! It was too late and I had missed the (tiny) drink station. I felt gutted, but tried to push it out of my mind and keep on running.

Then came the hill. Most of this race is really flat and fast as it's along the seafront, but there is a steep hill just before mile 5 which you run up, down the other side, turn around and run up and down again. I'd forgotten how bad it was. As I reached the hill I was almost ready to give up. I felt exhausted, and as it went up and up I was almost walking. A male runner offered me some water, but I didn't want to take his bottle and chuck it over my head, so I declined. He advised me to take deep breaths - I think I sounded pretty bad at this point!

Mile 5-6 was 8m59s - horrendous! That was the worst bit. As we came back down the hill, I could see the finish in the distance and I focused on it determinedly. There were so many negative thoughts in my head; 'I didn't get a drink', 'I didn't see the kids and Pete', 'there are no km or mile markers', 'the weather is too hot for this', 'the hill has ruined everything' etc.... but I pushed them out.

I gave it what I could to get to the finish, and crossed the line feeling that I had given my best. I knew I hadn't beaten my PB, and later found out that my official result was 51m37s.

Not delighted
It just wasn't the day for me to go under 50 mins. I saw a runner I know from parkrun, and she's always much faster than me, and she only finished a little way ahead, so I took this as a good sign! My stats were 69 / 218 runners; 7 / 89 women; 2 / 13 in my age group. Those figures make me feel a bit better.

The figures that make me despair are my mile splits:
Mile 1 - 7:52
Mile 2 - 8:03
Mile 3 - 8:17
Mile 4 - 8:19
Mile 5 - 8:59!!!!!
Mile 6 - 8:31
0.2 - 7:32

Average pace was 8:18, which is so far away from the 8:04 that I wanted, it's hard to believe. Aargh!

Anyway, apart from me, there were also a couple of kids races which Robbie and Emma did. Emma ran in the 1K and Robbie ran in the 2K - (there were only 2 of them in that race, but at least he came 2nd)! I don't know their times as they're not on the website yet, but I was proud of them both for taking part.

Now, inevitably, I'm scouring the Internet for another 10K - I'm feeling a bit disappointed but I know I can run faster on a flatter course and a cooler day. I'll keep trying for that pesky sub-50mins!