Superheroes everywhere

I do love a bit of fancy dress, you might have noticed. I don’t know why, maybe because it’s good fun and a laugh. So when it was announced (though not too widely it seems) that for Netley Abbey parkrun’s 5th birthday they’d be a superhero fancy dress I was all game.

My friend Mike decided to go as Robin and my friend Geoff decided to go as Batman. Well, I’d been Batgirl before so I hunted online and found that superhero females were somewhat limited. I could be Supergirl or Catwoman it seemed. Catwoman’s outfit looked far easier to run in (streamline if you like) so I went with that.My friend, Tom, was also joining me for parkrun on Saturday so I skipped setting the course up and picked him up at 8.15am. So I had a bit of a longer lie-in which was nice. Tom is a fairly new runner and had been doing Lee-On-Solent parkrun so I was chuffed to be able to show him Netley. Though Netley is a harder course than the lovely flat LoS!We got there to find not many people had embraced the superhero theme, which was a shame but kind of understandable as a few people had asked where the notice of fancy dress had been posted as they weren’t aware. *Sighs*

Photo credit: Sheryl James

But I didn’t mind. I love fancy dress regardless. I was going to run with Mike as we’re kind of around the same speed at the moment, though I’m perhaps a little faster. I didn’t want to go to speedy so it would work out well. All week I’ve been being very careful with my ankle and though it was feeling pretty much back to normal I didn’t want to risk it. I say this, but really I didn’t fancy running fast and the ankle was a good excuse 😉

Catwoman, Robin and Batman

Anyway as we lined up I lost Mike in the crowds. Tom stayed with me and was planning on “hanging on” for as long as he could. His PB is around 25 minutes.

As we started I just decided to run as I fancied, which turned out to be a fair clip in comparison to what I’d intended. My other friend, Mark, caught me up with his buggy and ran with me which was nice. He’s a lot faster so running my speed with his buggy was probably a walk in the park for him.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

It was nice running with Mark as we could chat and I could take my mind off the fact that I was running faster than I’d planned.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

The final lap I stepped it up a gear… I was thinking of all the cake at the end. As it was Netley’s birthday a cake sale had been organised (that info had been far more widely circulated…) and I was keen to get a few pieces.

I finished in 22:43 which I was pleased with considering how windy it was. I scanned my barcode pronto and then headed to grab some cake.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

I love this photo because it shows me in my happy place 🙂 The cake sale was to raise money for the defibrillator that we’re trying to buy, so I was only doing my good deed of the day really.I had a slice of Victoria Sponge (exceptionally tasty I must say. I had spotted this cake on Twitter beforehand and was glad to be able to grab a slice!), a white chocolate fudge slice thing and a white chocolate cookie. Pretty good haul! Though nothing like the five slices of the week before. The cake sale raised just over £366!! This is fantastic. Well done to all the bakers! The real superheroes of the day.

Tom did really well, coming in around 27 minutes which he was pleased with given how much more hilly Netley is compared to LoS and how windy it was. He showed me the bottom of his trainer afterwards; the sole was coming off! I told him off for wearing such old trainers, tsk!

After parkrun, showering and all that jazz I met up with my dad later in the day for a spot of Nando’s and a cinema trip to see Logan. I decided to change my usual whole chicken order at Nando’s and be slightly more healthy and opt for half a chicken and a Mediterranean salad.The salad was delicious. It had huge juicy olives, lots of sundried tomatoes and good chunks of feta. But I was a bit disappointed with the size of the chicken (I KNOW, I told you I’m greedy). My dad had gotten half a chicken with a side salad and a cob so we both felt we could share five wings between us 😉

And then we headed to the cinema…where I met a few more superhero friends.Logan was fantastic. Very violent but really different to the normal superhero films. I mean, I love X-Men anyway but this was very different.

The next day I met up with Robin Mike and we headed out for a long run together. I’ve become such a fan of running with other people again. Normally I’m like a lone wolf but having people to run with is a nice change, especially my long run. Running a long run with Mike is also good because as he’s slightly slower than me it means he keeps my pace in check.

I ran about half a mile to meet him and then we did a 5 mile out and back route through some fairly quiet country roads. The route was quite hilly though so a nice challenge at times. It was a great run and the miles flew by, as they always do when you run with someone else. I must do this more! Then I added a little bit more on at the end as I ran home to get to 12 miles (8:38min/miles overall pace).

Happily my ankle felt absolutely fine (as it did the day before) and I enjoyed a normal run without issues. Ahh what a novelty eh!

As long as I remain running injury-free I’ve decided to do the London Marathon. I have a Good For Age place and was wondering whether to defer until next year as it was so close to Tokyo. But as Tokyo went well and, ankles aside, my recovery has been good I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. I’ll keep a watchful eye on any niggles that crop up or feelings of over-training but otherwise I’d love to do it. Again, no time goal but just to tick another Marathon Major off the list and FINALLY get London done.

How was your weekend?

What superhero would you choose to be?

Does your parkrun ever try and raise money?

Not the weekend I wanted

This weekend didn’t fully go as I’d planned but it was still a good one. As is standard for running and me, after doing those ridiculous runs straight after the marathon (the seven miles, then the nine miles off-road in Swindon) my ankle had become slightly swollen and very stiff.

If I’m entirely honest, I felt it start to faintly niggle on the first run… then I continued to run the 3ish miles in Bristol, then the off-road run in Swindon. I mean I really only have myself to blame. Especially straight after the marathon. My body, so delicate and sensitive, was clearly still getting over the marathon and though I felt fine didn’t appreciate jumping back into the mileage so quickly. WHY DON’T I LEARN? WHY DON’T I EVER LEARN??

I tried running on Thursday evening but it just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t painful but just very uncomfortable and stiff. So I stopped – I had nothing to gain to keep going. Finally being sensible! But too little too late. This meant my weekend of running, of which I had parkrun planned and a long run with a friend, was cancelled. Humph.

I still went down to Netley though to volunteer and see everyone as I hadn’t been for ages. It was nice to chat about the marathon and to see the usual crew.It was annoying not to be able to run but I enjoyed cheering everyone on and then being the funnel manager. I’ve never done the funnel manager job before (basically you stand there ensuring that people don’t overtake each other within the funnel so everyone gets their right barcode. You check with the timekeepers and the people handing out the barcode every now and again to make sure the numbers are corresponding). To be honest it’s quite a boring job.

And as more and more people started finishing, cakes started appearing as quite a few people had their milestones that day. I watched with envy as the tins were passed around but I couldn’t leave my post… The run director who saw me looking longingly over took pity on me and said I could go and grab some quickly (he himself had a stack of three so he could hardly stop me if I’m honest ;-))

In the end I had FIVE different bits of cake: half a chocolate cookie, a chocolate brownie bite, a delicious chocolate traybake thing, a chocolate crispy thing and, for a change, a lemon shortbread. I felt quite sick as it started to settle! The run director declare me volunteer of the week for this feat, teehee.

Then I had a tiny bit of bread pudding in the cafe that was going spare. Look, I can’t be trusted around so many different cake options!! I have no self-control.

I’d planned on having breakfast after parkrun and heading to the gym but in the end I obvious didn’t need breakfast and just headed straight there (I was in my gym gear already).Trying to get as much wear out of the t-shirt as possible 😉 Not that anyone at the gym cares at all! I did about 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and then some upper body strength work, such as lateral pull-downs, cable face pulls, lateral raises and rows. I felt very well fuelled!

Later I went to my friends’ house for dinner and a movie night, which was great. They made slow-cooked pulled pork with potato wedges and I brought salad. They’re trying to lose weight (they’ve both done so well so far!) using SlimmingWorld so everything was really healthy and tasty.We attempted to watch a film but in the end we were chatting through it so just gave up and chilled. It was a nice easy evening catching up with good friends. They’re also going to help me host my Divorce Party. Yes, that’s actually going to happen 😀 I’m officially divorced and I think that deserves a bit of cake and a knees-up.

Sunday I was meant to go for a long run with a friend… but this obviously wasn’t the wisest idea. I saw my sports massage friend, Kyle, the day before and he’d loosened things up for me and had done a bit of acupuncture to it so it did feel better but I was advised to give it a day or two.

So after a lazy lie-in I headed to the gym again. I did an hour on the elliptical machine this time, and it felt good to get a sweat on. You might be wondering why I bothered now that I’ve done the marathon…but I have a potential goal coming up and as long as my niggle disappears and I remain uninjured I think I can manage it. But we’ll see. More on that another time.

After that I did some leg strength work, such as goblet squats with a pulse (these BURN), some high rep/low weight Romanian deadlifts (for muscle endurance), some cable glute kickbacks and randomly worked on my bench press. I’m feeling really good about my strength increases in this area. I remember a time when I could barely manage any weight.

Though I didn’t get to run it was a nice chilled weekend where I could catch up with life admin and housework, having spent the last few weekends all about the place. So not a complete loss!

What’s your favourite position to volunteer at parkrun?

What do you do to cross-train when you can’t run?

What did you get up to this weekend?

A parkrun fail and trying new things

This weekend gone I headed up to Cheltenham. I’ve only been there once before for like a day to see my friend Shell so it was nice to see it again for a bit longer. It’s a lovely place – though strangely has lots of white buildings and lots of buildings with columns on, which to me is the height of poshness 😉

And clearly Cheltenham is very posh as they even have their own Wholefoods! Wholefoods is obviously a lot more popular in the States, but we have a few mostly in London and this random one in Cheltenham. Obviously I had to pop in there for lunch on Friday between working.

The salad bar was obviously a lot smaller than the amazing America ones and I was told the burritos were amazing so that’s what I went for. There was a little Mexican food stand where you could have burritos or quesadillas made up for you there and then with your choice of fillings. I went with a chicken, rice and extra guacamole burrito and it was HUGE. It was jam packed full of filling. So tasty. I also had a cheeky rocky road slice afterwards as well. I pretty much needed a nap afterwards though I was so full…but back to work I went!

On the Friday night I did a (beginner’s) salsa class. This is a bit crazy for me as, being ridiculously clumsy and generally an awkward person, I’m not a natural dancer. That said, I did ballroom dancing at school (in preparation for our prom) and I loved it so I was quite excited to give it a go.

Awful photo sorry but I tried to take it discreetly at the beginning!

Well, I wasn’t terrible. I was surprised at how quickly the instructors went through the steps but after a few attempts it was easy to pick up. I mean, I was rigid and awkward but I didn’t step on any toes. I think that’s a success! The guys stood in a circle and the girls would dance with one and the move on to the next after performing a certain move (very basic moves!). One guy, who later told me he was actually another teacher, laughed at my “furrowed brow of concentration”. Well I was concentrating! I might need to aim to not try and look at my feet the entire time I suppose… I’m keen to try a few more lessons, but we’ll see!

Then Saturday morning was going to be the Cheltenham parkrun. Annoyingly though I woke up to -5 temperatures and a Tweet from my Cheltenham-based friend saying it was cancelled. I’m very grateful for his Tweet (thanks Mat!) as otherwise I would have just gone there without checking and then been disappointed and very cold. So instead, a bit of shopping happened instead. I re-planned the run to be after lunch so I had a nice light Greek salad lunch in Patisserie Valerie, which I’ve never been to before but was really lovely (though can I just say, the salads are not filling for lunch. Not for me anyway. I was still hungry and would easily have had one of their very tasty looking cakes afterwards had I not needed to be careful of my run later).

I hate leaving my run until later but realistically it made sense with fitting it in the weekend and the fact that in the morning the paths everywhere were so icy and dangerous. I’m pretty sure I spent quite a significant portion of Saturday cold. At first I thought I was going to wear my compression socks and shorts but after feeling so cold all day I decided to go with leggings and compression socks. Luckily my leggings were long enough to cover my knees so I didn’t have that awkward knee exposure look 😉The run went well. I didn’t really intend to go very fast but as I was so cold I just wanted to get warm so I pushed the pace. I got to two miles and found I was really struggling though and thought maybe best to slow down a bit! I slowed a little and told myself I could take it easier.It did feel good to get a bit of a tempo run on as I had intended to blast parkrun that morning. I’d heard that Cheltenham parkrun was really flat and I was sad I missed out on seeing what time I could currently do. It wouldn’t have been crazy fast but it’s always nice to have a “check in” run to see what paces I’m hitting. I need it have a long think about how I’m going to approach Tokyo and this would have been handy. But I got in a longer run and was able to pick up the pace so that was good. I guess that just means another trip to Cheltenham to eventually do their parkrun! 😉

I ran around Pittville Park which is where the parkrun is located anyway and it was a really lovely run. I did a couple of laps and aside from dodging dog walkers and small children it was a perfect runner’s route next to a lovely lake (pond?) and trees.

That evening I saw the new M Night Shyamalan film, Split, with James McAvoy in it. It was brilliant. Well, I know that his films have never reached the lofty success of the Sixth Sense but I actually really like his films (though there are a select few I haven’t seen like Lady in the Water and the Light Bender thing…). I loved The Village, Signs, Unbreakable and The Happening. And I love James McAvoy. There also might have been a tub of Ben and Jerry’s (Cookie Dough) that was snuck into the cinema…thankfully outside was cold enough for it not to melt prematurely in my handbag!

The next day I left to drive home and, because I needed to get a long run in, decided that I would do it as soon as I got in to stop any temptation to avoid it. I also cleverly bought a whole chicken from Waitrose from a services and popped that in the oven so when I got back it was pretty much done and my flat smelt amazing.The run went really well. My shin only very slightly niggled (progress, progress). I was worried that having run the day before might cause my shin an issue but it felt alright. I also felt really good in terms of my fitness. I effortlessly remained around the 8min pace without feeling it was a push so that was comforting.I won’t be running at that speed for the marathon but it was nice to feel comfortable for 10 miles at that pace. I planned my route so that it was my usual 6 mile route and then another usual 4 mile route so I could break it up in my head. It worked perfectly. Then I got home and enjoyed carving up the freshly cooked chicken. A food coma promptly commenced 😉

When do you prefer to get your runs/workouts done? I always prefer the morning.

Have you ever been to Cheltenham before?

Have you ever done a salsa/dance class?

Everything is good

January is the worst month of the year, I’m sure most of us we’ll agree. Conversely, however, I’m starting the year feeling pretty good.

To be honest, I shouldn’t really be in such a great mood. My leg is still feeling a tad niggly and my runs aren’t going as smoothly as they should this close to the marathon (sorry this is such a boring repetition right now). There’s no pain or horrendous discomfort, but I know in myself it’s not perfect and running twice in a row or pushing out the mileage or number of times I run in the week would definitely be risky. Not only this but my longest run for a fair few weeks (months!) is six miles. Seven weeks out to a marathon this is not ideal.

That said, I’m a glass half-full kind of girl (which is one of the reasons I have so many adult fails as I just presume things are going to work out and neglect to double check or consider contingency plans). I’ve got a general fitness, I’ve run seven marathons before, I have seven hours to complete it… I mean, it could go terribly let’s be honest. My leg could really start to bother me and walking could even eventually be an issue. I might DNF my first marathon. I might be in the middle of a foreign country I’ve never been to, knowing no one, half-way through a marathon I can’t complete, in tears. I mean, that’s the worst case scenario and if it happens it happens. The silver lining is that it’ll make for a great blog post 😉 In a very schadenfreuden way, failures and mishaps are sometimes a more interesting read than someone who succeeds. Obviously I don’t want to fail. More than anything, it’s a bloody expensive failure. And also, having a marathon meltdown isn’t that fun when it’s actually happening to you.

Foam rolling like a trooper

Marathons aside, mentally and physically I’m in a fantastic place.  I feel strong and healthy. Though I’m not running regularly, at the gym I’m lifting heavier weights and feeling strong. I’m still maintaining a level of fitness through running two-three times a week as well as some of my own spinning sessions and steady-state elliptical machine.Long-term readers may remember some frustrations I had a year or so ago about my body basically failing me in certain ways. Things have changed, for the better! I’ve put on about three pounds over the year – which I know isn’t massive and is probably a mix of muscle and fat. I mean, my weight probably varies a few pounds either way but long-term I’ve remained at the same consistent weight. It seems be a nice happy point for me and it’s clearly helped bump me in the right direction to feel and be in optimal health. I feel happier where I am at the moment and really like how I look and what my body can do. My main intention is obviously not lose any weight when my running increases but I’ve got a pretty good handle on this.

Key things that I’ve found that helped get me here:

  • Eating good food and lots of it. I tend to be fairly healthy during the week and then relax at the weekend. If I want cake, I’ll eat it. If I want a takeaway, I’ll have it. I don’t restrict anything but I am conscious of what I’m eating in general. I eat lots of good fats, complex carbs and protein. I’d say my diet is probably more protein and fat heavy though than carb-based. And I’ll tend to time my carbs around when I’m running to get the max benefit. But I do eat a lot, as I’m sure you’ve seen by now! I’m a three course kinda girl 😉 Essentially, I don’t worry about what I eat as throughout the week it all balances nicely.
  • Sleeping enough. I get up ridiculously early in the morning to go to the gym (3-4 times a week, lifting weights). I try not to stay up past 10pm and I find that works for me.
  • Minimising stress. In general my life is not that stressful. I enjoy my job, though my commute sucks at times. I’ve just come to accept some days are good and some days are bad – learn to control the controllables and don’t worry about things are out of your control. I have a great network of friends and family so when life does get hard I’m fully supported. I know I’m very lucky and blessed in this respect.
  • Being sensible with running. Running is a stressor and clearly my body is sensitive. So not training for a marathon all year round will help. After the spring I will be spending the summer and winter just enjoying running and entering races I fancy, but not a marathon. The training for a marathon is a fairly long and arduous process, one that my body might appreciate not doing all the time. I will be running marathons in the future, obviously, but it’s no longer as big a priority as it used to be.

So yeah. I’m feeling pretty happy right now. Mentally over the past year I’ve become a lot more happy in myself and confident. It’s nice that that’s also being reflected to how I feel and how my body functions.

What are important things for you in terms of reaching optimal health?

How much sleep do you get?

How is January for you?

Training for a marathon on minimal running

Over Christmas and New Year I didn’t do a whole lot of running. While it’s super frustrating to still have this shin niggle, I wasn’t too bothered.

It helps, obviously, to have a lot of distractions going on with meals out, seeing friends, going to the pub and spending time with people I care about. I’ve never felt so – what’s the best word? – indifferent about an injury before. Yes it sucks and of course I’d love to run but it’s kind of an annoyance that I keep batting away as I get on with other things.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not entirely sure this is a great way to think considering my impending marathon in February but hey ho. I’m enjoying a”putting my head in the sand” kind of mentality because there’s not much else I can do.

I am running but I’m not running nearly as much or as consistently as I should (for marathon training). Ramping up quickly and steeply would frankly be very stupid. So I’m pootling along doing the odd run here or there. I’m supplementing my lack of running with cross training so it’s not all doom and gloom but it’s the pounding on the legs that I kind of need to experience. All the cardio fitness in the world won’t help if my legs get tired and worn out after 10 miles.

That said, the running I am doing seems to be going OK. I left it a week after the Christmas parkrun to run again as I wanted to be super sensible. I got some acupuncture and a massage from my friend Kyle which definitely seemed to help. Instead I went on the elliptical machine and bike – either doing steady state cardio or short sharp sprints with recoveries. I quite enjoyed being at the gym and not having to rush about like I do when it’s super early in the morning.I could do my cardio first and then do my usual weights. It meant for a longer period in the gym but seen as how I wasn’t running it made sense. Plus I really enjoyed it. I like the gym and feel like it’s my “happy place” right now. And a lovely woman gave me a really nice compliment one day by saying I had a fab body and clearly worked hard. That was nice because, well, yes I do kind of work fairly hard so it’s nice someone doesn’t just assume it’s good genes or not eating – like so many people have said to me before. Cue dramatic eye roll whenever someone says that to me.

On New Year’s Eve I headed down to Netley for parkrun. My leg felt really good and, though I was nervous, I was keen to get out and run. I pushed the pace more than I did at Christmas. It felt quite tough and towards the end I was near my limit.

Photo credit: Glenn Tyreman

I found the hills tough going but luckily I had a few people around me to keep me going – though they did sprint off at the last bit effectively ditching me! 😉

Photo credit: Glenn Tyreman

I was quite pleased with my time: 23:13 (the fastest since August, but that’s not a particularly good feat seen as how inconsistent my running has been for the past few months!).I was more impressed with my negative split. I mean the start was fairly awkward because I was stuck behind lots of people, having positioned myself too far back, but then that helped stop me going too fast. I did feel fairly shattered by the end. My niggle felt fine though the entire run and at the end so I was more pleased with that than anything to be honest.

My next run was Monday. I had a great weekend of eating lots of good food and celebrating New Year’s Eve but felt ready to go in the morning after breakfast and doing some chores (those oh so fun “back to work” style chores that get left to the last minute). The run felt amazing! My legs felt smooth and it felt comfortably tough but enjoyable. I listened to some random music and just felt in the zone. The weather was crisp and cold but lovely and sunny.To be fair, the route I took was fairly flat so it was easier to push the speed but I was really pleased with being able to maintain a faster pace. I mean, I couldn’t have run much further at the pace I was going but it was nice to blast out some speed. Probably not entirely sensible I guess with the old niggle but it felt fine during and after so I’ll take it!

So basically my plan of attack for this looming marathon is to try and run three times a week. Probably two of those runs 3-4 miles and then a longer run at the weekend…But we’re not talking any crazy 18 milers. I’ll be lucky to get to 16 miles I think. I’m just going to take each run as it comes. The goal is to be able to run the marathon – at what pace I frankly don’t care, but just to not be injured or suffering through any pain or discomfort (asides from the usual marathon-induced fatigue). It’s a big ask but I’ve just got to be sensible!

Did you run over the holidays?

Have you ever had to do a negative taper for a marathon? Which is effectively what I’m going to be doing!