Thursday 30 September 2010

New routine

As September draws to a close Robbie's doing full days at school, Emma's started playgroup (or as she says 'paygooop'), and I'm firmly back at work 2 days a week. In the chaos of family life, we are settling in to some sort of routine.

When Emma started at playgroup about 4 weeks ago, I cycled there with her on the back of my bike (about 1.6 miles), then went straight for a bike ride in the sun. It's downhill most of the way there, which is great because she's quite a heavy weight on the back, and I obviously remove that weight before I come back uphill. Initially I thought these 2 mornings a week would provide an opportunity for an occasional cycle to complement the running.

However, with my foot injury, the cycling has become my main form of exercise. In fact it's my only form of exercise, apart from the odd bit of free weights in front of the telly to keep my arms toned. So every Wednesday and Friday morning, Emma and I strap our helmets on, zoom down to playgroup where I drop her off, and then I go for about 7 - 10 miles cycling.

My little passenger

I do enjoy cycling, but it's not the same as running, and it takes a longer period of time to get the same fitness benefit (time which isn't easy to find).

I went to see Ms Physio yesterday, and it seems as though improvement has occured! I'm not limping as much as I was, and she said that the original plantar fasciitis has more or less gone, and the pain I'm getting now has been caused by limping - mainly hobbling round 13 miles of the Great North Run, but also walking around every day. I've put strain on the tendons in my calf, and that's where most of the pain is now.

I've found that wearing a small heel on my shoes helps, as there is no pain there and I don't limp at all. Ms Physio has given me a little insert for the heel of my trainers, so I'm walking around with no pain most of the time! I'm still a long way off running yet, but I'm glad there's a bit of progress at last.

Meanwhile, I'm embracing my new sport wholeheartedly with a few purchases...

I miss shopping for running stuff, but this'll do!

Sunday 26 September 2010

An unhealthy weekend

Well I only cycled 16 miles this week, did no running of course, and very little walking, as I've been limping since last Sunday's run. Instead, I went out on Friday night to see my husband's awesome band play at a birthday party and had a couple of beers; went to the theatre on Saturday night and ate an ice-cream; then today we had a party for my Robbie's 5th birthday.

Plats Combinats, with Pete on guitar

I failed to do any exercise at all this weekend, despite the lovely weather, and today I pigged out on party food. There were apples and grapes on the table, but I chose to ignore them and went for mini sausages and hula hoops instead. It was great though; we had a couple of friends round with their kids, and Pete organised some serious party games. After some snacks, we shared out the birthday cake, and had a game of pass the parcel which involved a chocolate treat at every layer. Yum.

Birthday boy

So I've probably put on a few pounds this week, but I'm not going to worry too much about it. Hopefully I can shake the weight off with some hilly cycling and being more careful with what I eat next week. I am missing running, but trying to be sensible and let my heel heal in its own good time... Meanwhile, I can't believe my little baby is 5 already!

Fun and games

5 years ago tomorrow...

Thursday 23 September 2010

Big v Small

I'm talking about races of course.

When I got the opportunity of a place in the Great North Run, I was quite excited, and felt it was something I couldn't pass up. As a race with a ballot entry system, I knew it would be hard to get a place again. This was by far the biggest race I've ever been involved in - 54,000 runners, the biggest race in the UK, the biggest half marathon in Europe etc. I've watched the live coverage on tv a few times over the years, and knew I'd want to do it one day. (Of course I couldn't know that I'd be running it with an injury and a limp...)

So my expectations on Sunday were pretty high - not for my performance, but for the experience of doing this particular race. However, it ended up being a bit of an anticlimax, and I've found myself wondering why. Here are some of my reasons:

Why bigger isn't better
1. Accommodation - by the time I got my place at the beginning of June, all nearby hotels and B&Bs had been booked up for ages. The nearest we could find was over 30 miles away from the run, and it was still full of runners!

2. Traffic - there was a lot of it all weekend. Pete had to drop me off near the start very early to beat the jams, and then when he tried to drive to the finish, he kept having to turn back as a lot of the roads were closed for the race. We also had a bit of a queue to leave the car park afterwards.

3. Congestion - the run itself was insanely busy. For the whole 13.1 miles it was difficult to get past other runners, and there was an lot of elbowing out the way going on. It was also really hot from the heat coming off of other runners!

Apparently I'm in this photo!

4. Inexperienced runners - I don't want to sound like a running snob, and I'm aware that I'm not exactly a serious athlete myself, but the trouble with people who don't run year round in other races is that some of them seem to stop and walk just after the first mile marker. Obviously that's fine - some people walk the whole thing - but if you're going to start walking at mile 1, don't start the race in a pen with people aiming to finish in 2 hours! I couldn't believe how many walkers I had to dodge so early on, especially with it being so crowded.

5. The finish - it was so busy and we were shepherded from one place to another. I wanted to go back down the course to meet Pete and the kids, but spent ages trying to find the way out. Different officials gave different directions, and eventually I had to run across the race, which was still full of runners.

6. Cost - ok, so I didn't actually pay it as I had a charity place, but big races charge some ridiculous prices compared to smaller ones. Charities often put a huge minimum amount of sponsorship that you have to raise too, and of course it's difficult to get an entry without finding a charity to run for.

Some good points
1. The crowds - for me, by far the best thing about bigger races is the fantastic support. I don't think there was a single stretch of this race that wasn't lined with crowds cheering us on, giving out sweets, food and drink, spraying the runners with a hose etc. They can really make such a difference, so thanks to you all!

2. The goody bag - I suppose you get what you pay for, but at least after a big race you usually get something to refuel with, a medal, and a t-shirt. I like to get these mementos to remind me of the day.

Featuring the Tyne Bridge, which was the best part of the run.

What do others think? Big events or local races? Whenever my foot allows me to, I'll be looking for some smaller runs next - no more than 500 runners if possible!

Monday 20 September 2010

Great North Fun

On Saturday morning, I went to Tesco to get some lunch, and my foot was so sore when we left, I was seriously considering not going to the race. But I knew how depressed I'd be to stay home and watch it on tv, so we bundled into the car and headed south.

The drive down was very slow and frustrating - no motorway, just busy A roads. Some of the scenery around the Scottish borders and Northumberland was stunning though. Anyway, we got to our hotel after about 3 hours. Despite being about 30 miles from Newcastle, it was full of runners. The nearest accommodation is probably already booked up for next year's run.

The restaurant in the hotel was all booked up, so we went just down the road to a Pizza Express - probably my favourite big chain restaurant. We all had pizza, the kids were quite well-behaved, and I also had chocolate fudge cake and a lovely glass of white wine. No point worrying about race preparation when your foot is buggered! We all went to bed at about 9.30pm, although I had a very restless night with not much sleep.

Sunday morning the hotel was doing breakfast from 5.30am to accomodate the runners! That seemed a bit over the top though, and we wandered in at about 7am. I had 2 bowls of cereal, tea, orange juice and 3 croissants (it was 'all you can eat'). We got to the car just after 8am, and popped to the supermarket for painkillers and safety pins, which I'd forgotten.

Pete dropped me off in Newcastle at about 9am. It was raining quite consistently, and was fairly chilly. I had no idea where I was, but just followed the crowds of runners. After about 20 mins of walking, my foot really started to hurt, so I slowed down a bit. I must have walked a couple of miles or more to the start. It was about an hour to start time when I got there, so I had plenty of time to queue for the delightful portable toilet. Everyone was coming out saying 'Ugh, just don't look down'. It was disgusting.

Anyway, there was good entertainment at the start as the announcer was really good. Eventually we started to shuffle forward in our pens, and I got to the start after about 20 mins. A quick look at Ant and Dec and I was off! I was so nervous, as this was the first time I'd tried to run since I hurt the foot. I had a funny limping gait at first, but as I got into it, it felt ok. The crowds were huge and the atmosphere was good, and I couldn't believe it when we got to mile 1 - it flew by!

I'd rubbed ibuprofen gel into my foot, and taken a couple of Nurofen, and I think that helped with the first few miles. My pace was around 9.30 min/miles, but I think mile 2 was 8m54s, so it wasn't all too slow!

In fact I was feeling ok. After mile 4, my phone was ringing, so I stopped to a walk while I spoke to Pete and reassured him that I was still able to move. I carried on feeling fine, and when I got to a sign which said 'Half Way Point', my Garmin said 1h01m. I was amazed, and started to think I could get a good time after all! I surged forward, and ran a really fast mile and a half.

But somewhere around 8 miles, I started to feel tired. It wasn't just the foot slowing me down, but I felt undertrained, having not run at all for 2 weeks. Then someone turned off in front of me, and I tripped over his leg - with my bad foot of course. It started to hurt straight away, so I soon stopped for a drink and to take more painkillers.

I walked a few times in the next few miles. Eventually I got to the 12 mile marker, and there was Pete and the kids! I waved, and did something I never usually do in a race - stopped for a chat! I must have been there for about 2 mins, then pushed off, and tried to speed up towards the finish. It was still so crowded though - it was hard to get past people.

As I crossed the finish line, I slowed to a walk. I really didn't care about my time, and I haven't looked it up online yet. My Garmin told me that it wasn't good - but this race was about finishing, not getting a PB! (It was a Personal Worst actually).

Anyway, I got my medal and my t-shirt (which is quite a nice one), and I made it. This morning my legs are really aching, and my foot is quite painful, but not as bad as I'd anticipated. I'm off to see the physio, and then I think I'll be out of running for a while... a shame, because this run reminded me how much I love it!

Mile 12 - looks like I'm hobbling!

Thursday 16 September 2010

3 things a runner shouldn't do...

1. Run a race with an injury that needs rest.
2. Run a race in brand new trainers that have never been run in before.
3. Run a race while drinking a drink never tried in training.

Great North Run here I come!

I went back to Ms Physio today after a week of on/off pain, and my heel not really getting any better. She massaged it with hands and then ultra-sound thingy, and then she strapped it all up again like last week. She asked if I was still planning t
o do the GNR, and I said yes. She didn't advise me not to, and she didn't even look disapproving, but she said I should make an appointment for Monday, as it will probably be sore after the run.

Good news now, and I bought some new trainers! Woo! Obviously I haven't been able to run in them yet, but I have been wearing them round the house a lot.

Check out these beauties...

The drink thing is less of a problem, although I meant to try it on a couple of long runs. The other long races I've done provided Lucozade Sport (orange flavour - not bad), but in Newcastle, we get Powerade. Luckily, they sell it in vending machines in the College where I work, and I often see students drinking it during classes. Why they think they need an isotonic sports drink to sit at a desk for 2 hours I can't imagine. None of them even take the stairs to class... I tried it today, and it tastes about as good as it looks.

Mmm, made of pure blue...

Anyway, I've decided I have to do the GNR as it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I don't suppose I'll get a place again (it's a ballot entry). I'm going to go for the atmosphere and the experience, and aim to get round at a decent jogging pace, spotting as many celebrities as I can.

Then, after this weekend, I'll obviously have to rest my foot for a while. I'm going to stop running for as long as it takes to get rid of this bloody injury, and take up cycling as my number one new hobby for a few weeks / months. It's going to be crap, but I'll have to try and be patient for as long as it takes.

The sub-2-hour half marathon will one day be mine - not yet, but eventually!

Monday 13 September 2010

No running...

Nothing to report in terms of running this week, and my foot isn't feeling much better. I'm starting to wonder how and when I will get back to normal...

Anyway, I did have a couple of very different but equally enjoyable bike rides last week. On Friday morning I went for a spin in the local country estate, where I do a lot of running. I know my way round the usual paths, but as I was on my bike, I thought I'd do a bit of exploring and find some new routes. I went off down one path, and ended up at a private house, so turned round. Then went up another path, which turned into a steep hill. It was pouring with rain then, and the hill started to get very muddy. Eventually I thought it was too slippery, so I went back the way I'd come.

I tried to head for the main road, as I was getting soaked and starting to feel really cold, but ended up in a field. I was starting to wonder if I'd ever find my way out, when I finally got on the right path. It was such a relief to head home! I felt like I'd had a good workout though, with so many hills.

You can see on the Garmin map where I kept finding dead ends and turning round.

Then yesterday was a completely different day. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I normally would have been heading out for a long run, so I thought I'd better take advantage of the weather and get on the bike instead.

I headed over the bridge and into Fife, and had a spin round Rosyth. I hadn't been there before, and the views across the Forth were lovely. There were loads of people about enjoying the sunshine but it was very windy on the bridge, and tough going in places.

Blue skies in Fife

So last week I ran 0 miles, but cycled just over 30 miles. I'm enjoying the cycling, but I'm really missing running - can't wait to get my heel better and get back to it.

Views from the bridge

Thursday 9 September 2010


Well, I had an appointment with Ms Physio on Wednesday morning and I had to greet her once again with the familiar cry of 'Hello, I've got a new one for you!' I keep thinking that one day I'll be injury free and won't need to make a next appointment, but before one injury goes away, another always appears.

Anyway, we put sciatica and knee problems on hold while she had a look at my foot. She gave it the usual mauling and some sort of sonic massage or something, which made my foot go numb and tingly. It was like painful pins and needles, and I actually said out loud 'You've paralysed my foot!', which made her laugh for ages! It was not at all pleasant. Finally she taped it up, and told me not to do any running and as little walking as possible, and to buy some new trainers. At least I wasn't gutted about that last one.

The tape is really tight, to support the heel and arch, but she said it'll probably peel off after 48 hours.

So no more training, and I'm just hoping that it'll be improved enough to attempt the Great North Run in less than 2 weeks. I just want to be a part of the occasion now, rather than go for a fast time. Fingers crossed...

Meanwhile, if you fancy a laugh, have a look at these two jokers. My husband and a friend have decided to start a blog about their weight-loss challenge. Now, personally, the motivation for me to lose weight and keep it off is all there in how I look, how I feel, being able to wear size 10 clothes etc. But this pair (being male), have had to make a competition out of it, to inject some more effective motivation.

This means that while I'm trapped in the living room feeling grumpy that I can't run; Pete is popping out for a jog round the block at every opportunity. When he puts his mind to something, he's very strong-willed and determined, and I am proud and impressed by his commitment. But at the same time, I'm FED UP that I can't run. Grrrrrrr....

(But I am excited about the upcoming trip to the running shop for new trainers - YAAAYY!)

Monday 6 September 2010

Disaster strikes!

I was feeling pretty positive this week after last weekend's fantastic run, and I tried to push myself to run fast on Tuesday and Friday's 5ks and Wednesday's 6-miler with Jog Scotland. I think I've made some good progress with my pace recently, and I wanted to keep it going. They were all good runs, and I also fitted in a 9-mile cycle on Friday morning, which was really nice.

Then on Saturday evening, I had runs of a much less pleasant sort which, suffice to say, meant that by the time I got up to run my LSR on Sunday morning, there wasn't much fuel left in my stomach! I had breakfast though, and headed out with a plan to do about 14 miles. At 2 weeks before the GNR, this should have been my highest mileage, and last long run before a taper from next weekend.

I was quite tired, having had a few nights of disrupted sleep (courtesy of my darling daughter), but the first few miles went pretty well - around 8.50 min/mile pace. I wanted to average around 9 minute miles to get near 2 hours for 13.1 miles again.

Anyway, I started feeling heavy legged and sluggish around the 5th mile, and during the 6th mile, I had a bad stitch, so I stopped to walk for a bit, and swig some water. I started running again, but I felt tired and it seemed to be such an effort to keep going. I decided to cut the run short, and aim to complete at least 7 miles before walking home. I had to force myself to keep going for a while, but when I reached 7 miles I felt a bit better, and decided to run, rather than walk home.

When I got home and stopped the Garmin, it read 8.5 miles - considerably less than the planned 14. However, I felt philosophical about this apparent failure. I'd been missing a lot of sleep, and after the tummy trouble as well, it wasn't that surprising that I didn't run well. Despite a couple of stops to walk and jogging slowly at the end, I still averaged 9.11 mile pace. I still felt confident that I could get my sub-2 hours in the half.

As I cooled down, I became aware of pain in my right foot. I'd noticed this in a previous run, but only as a slight niggle, and while running, it was only a minor complaint. But after I'd had a bath and got changed, I realised how sore it was. It hurt to put weight on it, and I was walking with a limp! It didn't get any better yesterday, and so today I went to see the Doctor. He told me what I had already worked out from running books and websites - plantar fasciitis.

What a cliche - a typical runner's injury! As I haven't suddenly increased my mileage and I'm not overweight, I wondered whether my trainers might be at fault. Luckily, I've been recording all sorts of boring information (like the purchase of new trainers) in this blog, so I looked back to check how old they were, and found that I'd bought them in March. When I checked my Garmin stats, I saw that I've run nearly 450 miles since then, so they are probably in need of replacement.

So, what now? I've got a physio appointment on Wednesday, so I'll see what she says, but I definitely won't be running this week at least. Hopefully I can recover enough in 2 weeks to get to the start line, but I'm not sure about getting to the finish. At least I can look forward to a trip to the running shop for some shiny new ASICS.

Meanwhile, I'll be trying to keep weight gain and loss of fitness at bay by getting on my bike. Now Emma is at playgroup, I have 2 free mornings a week, and last Friday I used the time to cycle through the grounds of a nearby country house. It was really enjoyable, so I hope I can do more of that in the next few weeks. Time to focus on the positives...

Dundas Castle as seen from my saddle

The path through the grounds

Thursday 2 September 2010

Regrets - too few to mention

Thanks to Char for nominating me for an award this week!

My task is to answer the following question: if you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you and what would it be?

Well one of my mottos is something I read in an interview with comedian, actor and all round braniac Stephen Fry, which is 'Never regret the things you've done - only the things you haven't', and I honestly think that if I could change anything in the past, it would have all sorts of unknowable repercussions for the present, so I tend not to regret.

However, I do look back at my shy, unconfident teenage self and think, why did I worry so much about what other people thought? I wish I had been stronger and more self-confident. I really hope Robbie and Emma don't waste time trying to be liked, like I did, and have enough belief in themselves to find their own paths, rather than follow others.

Apart from that, though, I'd rather concentrate on influencing my future than thinking about how I could have changed my past! And looking to 2 1/2 weeks in the future, my race pack for the GNR has arrived! My start pen seems to be right in the middle, and it looks as though the whole area will be so congested, I don't know how we'll get there, where to park, how to meet up etc. It will be insane!

Still, I will just be concentrating on running faster than 9.09 min/miles, and leave the organisation to my support crew (Pete).

That's a big number

Meanwhile, I should nominate some other blogs for the award, so here it is:
*Roo - My Weightwatcher and Fitness guide* because she is doing so well with losing weight
Fit and Fabulous after 40! because I enjoy reading her blog and comments on my blog!
Kitschy Coo because she's so clever and talented and a good friend
One Crazy Penguin because I enjoy reading her blog!
Little Running Wife because she's already achieved something incredible and is still going!