A cold Whiteley parkrun

I was meant to go to Brighton this week but sadly my lovely friend wasn’t very well so we decided to give it a miss. It’s a shame but I’m seeing her the weekend after and I want her to get better so it was for the best. That left me with a strangely free Saturday – one I hadn’t had in a while!

I considered joining some running friends to Alice Holt for a bit of an adventure but ultimately decided I’d quite like a bit of a lie-in and a run to Whiteley parkrun when a bunch of my Hedgie run club friends would be whom I hadn’t seen in a while. It was only 4.5 miles to Whiteley and I wouldn’t have to leave until 8am so that was great. The lie-in until 7.30am was much needed as well as I went to the cinema on Friday night and didn’t get back until gone 11pm! A very late night for me (#grandmastatus). I went to see Battle of the Sexes which was brilliant. And ate about 600g of pick ‘n’ mix… whoops.IMG_0978But anyway, back to parkrun. So I was out of the door (amazingly for me on time) at 8am and into the cold wintery morning. I was very much glad I’d put my running gloves on (my handy eGloves which I can use my iPhone with) and a long-sleeve top. I was wearing shorts but my legs are, in general, never too cold (well, let’s see how that continues anyway). The sun was shining and it was very frosty. The route was a lovely one that went past lots of fields and along country lanes, so a photo stop was a must!IMG_0979The day before I’d planned out the route and about 60% I was fine with as I knew the way, but then the rest required looking at road names and not getting lost… I had a piece of paper with a few directions written down. I thought I was doing fine as I got to the right road names but clearly it’s never that simple for me as I felt like I was going further and further from the direction I needed to be going. As it was now 8.30am and I was still about 1.5 miles away I decided to stop and check my phone. Yes that’s right, I was going the wrong way. So I turned around, kept my phone out and headed in the RIGHT direction.

I arrived, happily, not to long after and saw my Hedgie friends assembling (Transformer-style) in the car park. It was lovely to see them all, but they were all very cold. I was nicely warmed-up due to my run but as we hung about hearing the briefing (which included a lovely Hedge End Running Club shout-out) I was soon shivering like everyone else.IMG_0982My friend Mark was there and he’s super duper fast and he, very nicely, decided to run with me. I knew in my head I wasn’t going to run as fast as I had the previous week. I wasn’t feeling in the right frame of mine and I’m not a huge fan of the Whiteley course. Despite it being very flat, it’s very windy and there are a couple of sharp turns and it just doesn’t feel like you can get a good amount of speed consistently going. But anyway, excuses aside, we started running and Mark was chatting away to me. I could chat back at the start but wondered how long I’d be able to maintain the conversation as we started at 7min/miles.

It’s a funny thing as you begin to get more fit, speeds that a few months ago were really tough and barely maintainable were now my “fast but not that fast” speed. It works the same with endurance. At the start of a marathon training cycle, running 4.6 miles to parkrun and then doing parkrun can be quite a feat, but after weeks of solid long runs it now feels like nothing (can I stress how much I love where I am right now with my running and how I know it won’t last forever and it might all disappear in the blink of an eye. I know this all too well).

That said, it was hard to go much faster that morning. My answers to Mark during our conversation became shorter and eventually left to just bursts of random words through gasps. He was breezing along nicely beside me chatting easily about races and things like that (this being his easy pace considering his PB is sub 18 minutes). It made me remember those times I’d had conversations with people I’d been pacing and they said “Just talk to me and don’t expect a reply”… Oh how the tables had turned.

Whiteley is three laps and as we got fully into the second lap I tried to push a bit harder because “it’s only three miles” (a statement reserved for only certain times during the training cycle). There was a precarious moment during the start of the third lap where I couldn’t quite get the turning right and almost careened into a lady. I apologised and carried on, she didn’t seem to bothered thankfully! As we head to the end, Mark went on ahead and I clung onto his heels as best as I could. Then LITERALLY right at the end where the Finish sign points straight on and he decides to veer off left directly in front of me to where the old finish area used to be, almost taking me out in the process. Luckily neither of us tripped up but it was a bit hairy for a moment. It was somewhat amusing after the event and actually as we stood cheering other runners in something not uncommon! It was clear it was confusing.

IMG_0988Awkward selfies for the win

My time was 21:13, a solid fast time for me lately! Considering I was feeling it at the beginning I’m really pleased with that, and first lady. Whiteley parkrun splitsHappy days.Then, after a brief catch-up with my running friends, my dad picked me up (yes, a fantastic perk of living at home).IMG_0993I got ready quickly as we were heading to Chichester for some Christmas shopping – a tradition we tend to do every year. Chichester is just so lovely at Christmas with their decorations and lights. First port of call was brunch though! None of us had had breakfast so we were all ready for something tasty. We headed to The Fat Fig, where I’ve been before and is just so lovely.IMG_0998My dad and me ordered the large English breakfast and my mum had the more reasonably sized poached eggs on toast with bacon. My dad did make the statement that he’d never imagined one of his daughters would be capable of eating the same large fry-up as him. He was proud, ha!IMG_1001I appreciated the separation of the beans from the rest of the meal (I hate bean contamination) but I was sad there was no black pudding. I also don’t like hash browns so they got left behind, but everything else was hoovered up.IMG_1003And then we were off for a spot of shopping!IMG_1008We tend to go to Chichester every year before Christmas as a family, a tradition I really enjoy. I know it’s only November but I do love how Christmassy everything was. And especially free Christmas snacks in shops!IMG_1005Mulled wine and mince pies! Lovely. I believe this was White Stuff (one of my mum’s favourite shops).

And we obviously had to go into Montezuma, the amazing chocolate shop. We were delighted to be offered a free sample as well. Hotel Chocolat however did not give out free samples (which is surprising as they normally do) so we were a bit disappointed 😉IMG_1013It was very cold walking about but nice that it was sunny rather than raining. And then we headed home, glad to be back in the warm car.

That evening I had a solid dinner and watched Bad Moms with my mum (free on Amazon). We wanted to see Bad Mom’s Christmas bit thought we should probably see the first one beforehand. It was alright – a good mum and daughter film, but honestly Mila Kunis looks FAR too perfect all the time to be playing a so-called busy and stressed out mum. It did annoy me a little…even when she was hung-over she looked amazing!

Then I was off to bed ready to get up the next day for a long, long run at the On The Whistle Festive Frolic event.

How was your weekend?

Are you feeling Christmassy yet?

Do you have any Christmas traditions for where you go shopping?

The madness of a looming marathon

There’s nothing like an impending marathon to get you going. Even when it’s chucking it down with snow…

I must have been the only person in the UK who was unaware it was supposed to snow on Thursday evening. Sure I’d heard about the “thundersnow storm” but I hadn’t really connected it with reality – I mean surely that’s just in Scotland, right? So when I packed my gym bag in the morning to take to work I merrily threw in my usual pair of shorts and didn’t think twice. I normally wear shorts, I normally warm up. Totally fine.

Then I got to work and everyone was talking about how at 4pm snow was going to start. Er, what? And lo and behold, as 4pm hit so did buckets of snow. But when you have a marathon very soon (February) and you’re hugely under-trained (longest run 6 miles at this point) and you need adequate spacing of runs to not re-niggle the injury you’re only just getting over…well, you have little choice but to put those tiny shorts on and get out there and run.

It was fully throwing it down as I headed out, to the point I couldn’t really see as I had to blink so much due to the big fluffy snowflakes hitting my eyes. And the floor was already coated in a a thick dusting of snow. So foot placing was precarious, as were corners. I was soaked and cold very quickly and this encouraged me to run a bit faster, but not too fast to risk falling over.

I got several odd looks from people sheltering under bus stops waiting for their bus and commuters in their cars. But I strangely quite enjoyed it. I felt like a warrior. My legs were freezing, which is never happens to me, but it wasn’t terrible. I was only going three miles so I knew it would be over soon.When I finished and walked the last bit to get to my office, a guy sheltering near the door stared at me incredulously and said, “you’re absolutely mental”. I pretty much agreed.
People left in the office laughed at me when I said it was a bit nippy out. My legs were so pink and I was drenched! It took pretty much my entire commute home (an hour’s journey) to warm up again. I stood in my shower on full blast and full heat basically searing off a layer of my skin to get warm again. But I’m glad I went out. It was a good run. I felt strong, my shin felt good and it’s all miles towards Tokyo (albeit only three but hey it’s all relative here for me!).

There’s nothing like a big goal or deadline to get you motivated and focused. And I’m being really sensible (I think!). I’m only running three times a week, and two of those runs are three miles. I might bump one of those up to four (ooh go crazy, eh!). And then I have a longer run at the weekend, and no consecutive running days. It seems to be working.

I go to Florida with friends in two weeks and I really have no idea how the running will go but I’m going to aim to do two big runs out there. I say “big” runs but we’re talking 13-16 miles, though it could all change. Basically I’m fully winging it. I hope to do the parkrun in Orlando again as well. The two friends I’m going with are the friends who have just got into running and parkrun. And incidentally they are the friends that laughed at me for doing the Orlando parkrun the last time we went. Ha! How the tables have turned now 😉

But I’m still feeling positive – if not maybe in denial? Either way it’s all good. At least when I’m running Tokyo I can look back fondly on this 3 mile snowy run and remember what I warrior I am 😉

Have you ever run in snow?

What’s the worst weather you’ve ever run in?

What do you wear during winter exercise?

Back to parkrun and training like a girl

Happy Monday everyone, didn’t the weekend just fly by?

Well, I’m back in the running game again after a bit of time off. I feel raring to go again after reigniting my running mojo and my shin/calf feeling a whole lot better. I ran three miles on Monday evening and then six on Thursday. Both of those runs felt really good. I’ve obviously lost a lot of speed and endurance, as is natural with taking time off, but it didn’t feel like I was really struggling or that it was such a shock to the system, which was pleasantly surprisingly.

This is probably due to the fact that I retained some level of cardiovascular fitness through using the (very dull) elliptical machine. I find this machine soo dull but I’d watch YouTube while I was on it and it definitely helped pass the time!

Anyway, so Saturday morning saw me at Netley parkrun for the first time in ages.   Ordinarily I’d have probably kept going but volunteering even if I wasn’t running but I’ve been really busy recently. I felt very bad when I saw the core team set-up guys and they jokingly saifd, “who’s this stranger, then?”. But they welcomed me back, thankfully.

Though it was very cold that morning! I do prefer it cold and dry then wet and warmer but it’s still tough to be outside walking around for an hour before you start running. I forget how easy parkrun is when it’s beautifully sunny and warm… the winter months are definitely a trying time.img_6765We’re now on the winter course, which is slightly different to last year’s winter course due to the construction work happening on the chapel. This means we run part way on the grass round the chapel. Huge piles of leaves cover the route though so we had to do a bit of improvising to clear the way…img_6764We used the signs as brooms to sweep away the leaves. Oh the things we do for the love of running!

I had sensibly worn long trousers and different shoes to set the course up, then headed back to my car to take them off and switch to my trainers. I wore shorts, which was very nippy! But I knew once I got going I’d be alright. I’d stayed over my parent’s house the night before and annoyingly had forgotten my socks so had to borrow my mum’s. She lent me some lovely sparkly ones (the photo doesn’t really show)…img_6767The start area is a bit more cramped and as I hadn’t done this course before and I wasn’t aiming for a fast time, I just wedged myself somewhere in the middle. This proved a little bit of a mistake as I was then hemmed in amongst a a lot of people not really my speed. But really it didn’t matter as I managed to get round them as we broke out into a bigger space.

The run felt a lot harder than my previous two runs and I guess that’s because it is a hilly course (two hills you do three times) and I was very cold going into it and din’t warm up until mile two. But mainly because I’m unfit in terms of running.img_6766

One of my friends said afterwards to me that he noticed I wasn’t in my usual area of the field – I was a fair way back from where he’d thought I was going to be. I’m not that bothered because, as long as my training goes OK, I can look back at this and see how far I’ve come. It’s always fun seeing the progression and working hard to get better.capture

 

 

 

My time was 23:59, so just squeaked a sub-24 which I’m happy with. I definitely hope to do some speed work this marathon cycle but I’m going to allow a few weeks of getting gently back into things to avoid re-niggling!img_6782So a successful parkrun! It was so nice to be back and see friendly faces again. Though it’s invariably cold and miserable in the winter, parkrun is definitely still worth going to!

The next day I went to the gym in the morning and got in a good workout. I did 45 minutes on the elliptical machine and then did a chest and shoulder workout. I imagine my strength workouts will have to take a backseat very soon but I was really chuffed to get a personal best for my bench press.img_6811Chest is not an area I used to train at all (“I’m a girl” was my excuse). But I soon realised that in order to be a more balanced athlete in terms of strength and muscle I need to train my entire body. I train my back so why not my chest? And I’ve felt it hugely help with my other lifts too.

After my workout I showered and got ready to meet my parents for a Nando’s and a cinema trip. We saw Allied which was alright…very, very cheesy but not a bad way to spend an afternoon after you’ve eaten a lot of chicken!

How was your weekend?

Are there parts of your body you either don’t train or hate to train?

Do you run during the winter?

What to Wear When Running in Winter

Winter running can seem like the most unappealing type of exercise. You look outside and it’s dark, cold and probably wet. Nothing is less desirable.

But it is true what they say: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. The one thing that winter running has above summer running is that it gets better the longer you run. If you’ve ever run on a beautifully sunny day you’ll know how hard it can suddenly become after that first mile. You start to get hot, the sun is beating in your face, you sweat, you’re thirsty… it sucks basically. But at least with winter, though it may look pretty rubbish and miserable, once you get going it’s actually not too bad. As long as you’re prepared.

When it comes to what to wear for winter running, you really do have a lot of choice. The temptation is of course to wear lots of layers so the minute you step outside you’re not cold at all… but within a mile you’re ridiculously warm and sweating. Ideally you want to be cold before you get going, because you will warm up. That first mile might feel horrendous but it does get better.

To give you some tips and guidance for what you could wear for running in the winter, I’ve teamed up with Decathlon, the sports products company.decathlon-winter-run-gearI tend to graduate my running outfits as it gets colder and colder. So for the beginning of winter I’ll probably choose a long sleeved but fairly thin layer, like the Alenji Kalenji Elio long sleeved jersey.kalenji-kalenji-elio-womens-long-sleeved-running-jersey-broken-pinkHaving a half-way zip is ideal because you can have it done right to the top as you start but then undo it as you get more warm to provide a bit more ventilation. Also, having thumb holes in the sleeves is a great compromise when it’s not quite cold enough for gloves. Ideally you also want a top that has reflective bits on it, especially as the nights and mornings get darker.kalenji-kalenji-evolutiv-womens-running-jerseyThe Kalenji Evolutiv jersey is a step above providing more protection from rain but also has a handy ventilation section where you can uncover the arms and/or chest. You can see in the first picture of the three tops with the arms and chest done up (middle picture) and then how it looks when unzipped (photo above). This is great for those who can’t make their minds up what to wear!

Obviously keeping warm and dry is a high priority for runners, but so is being seen and keeping safe. Having high-vis gear on is essential when it’s pitch black outside. Yes you’re probably running on the pavement and there is street light but by making yourself visible you’re doing yourself and everyone around you a favour. When you run across a road, or run towards a pedestrian, it’s essential to be seen to avoid any nasty collisions or accidents.kalenji-ekiden-light-jacket-yellowThe Kalenji Ekiden jacket is a great lightweight high-vis jacket that can definitely help with this. It’s not too thick to be overbearing, heavy or too warm, but it will protect you from the wind and rain while making yourself visible to those around you.decathlon-winter-running-gearFor most of the year I’ll stick with wearing shorts as my legs never get that cold. But when it does get really bitter then I’ll switch to either a pair of capris or long length leggings. There’s nothing worse than numb legs!!kalenji-ekiden-warm-womens-running-tightsThe Kalenji Ekiden running tights are inexpensive (£9.99!) and perfect for those really cold days when you just can’t face bearing your legs.

But the one thing I cannot be without are gloves during the winter. The rest of me might be sweating and seriously hot, but my hands never warm up. I wear gloves pretty much November onwards.kalenji-retro-reflective-gloveThe Kalenji Retro-Reflective gloves are great because not only will they keep your hands warm but they’ll also give a bit more high-vis to your hopefully already high-vis’ed up outfit ;-)And in terms of running accessories, I’m a huge fan of wearing lights. Either a head torch (though I do find this annoying as they always tend to bob about on my head) or by attaching some sort of LED to my clothing.

kalenji-kalenji-run-lightThe Kalenji Run Light is a handy way to make yourself super visible. You just put it over your top layer and you’re good to go. It provides visibility up to 20m ahead of you and it comesw wth a rechargeable battery (though it does last 5 hours). What I really like is that it has rear flashing lights as well, so you’re fully covered.

So basically my key points are:

  • Be seen, either using high-vis clothing or lights (ideally both)
  • Avoid wearing thick layers; you want to be cold when you begin because you will warm up
  • Look for material that is wicking and will protect you from the rain and wind, like a light-weight jacket
  • Wear gloves

How do you stay warm during winter running?

What are your top running accessories?

How do you stay visible running/exercising the dark?

**Full Disclaimer: I was given a Decathlon voucher to spend in their shop in return for this article. All opinions are my own.**