Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Half marathon training strikes again

I'm (supposedly) in the throes of half marathon training again. After a very haphazard attempt at getting my mileage up for Bacchus last month, I've now got my sights set on the Gosport Half on 16th November, my third year running this race.

Thing is, I'm tired. And cold. And I've felt like I might be coming down with a bug for weeks.

Training has been on my mind a lot lately - I've been running marginally more than I did over the summer, but I've probably done about one of the prescribed runs from the FIRST half marathon plan that I used this time last year and loved. Every time I get out for a run I'm glad I laced up, and I'm looking forward to the race. But when I'm tired, cold and hungry on the bus home at 7pm, I just can't motivate myself to go out and run 1600m intervals.

Also, I just bought these and don't want to take them off.
I've been feeling a bit stressed about getting my planned runs done, and it finally hit me last night that I'm being ridiculous. I don't need to do an interval, tempo and long run each week. Goodness, I could probably manage a half marathon on two runs a week if I wanted. In fact, if I can't hack a half marathon right now or just want to try it with no training, that's OK. Without realising I've headed straight into the territory of making something I enjoy (running, and running races) into a stressful slog. Maybe I shouldn't have dismissed some of the nuggets of wisdom in a personality profile I received last week: "Lucy sometimes feels less than adequate when she thinks of the effort of living up to her own high standards of perfection." I dismissed it thinking it means "Lucy thinks she's rubbish" (I don't, I think I'm pretty awesome and a special snowflake) but maybe it means "Lucy often thinks she did well but could do better". Oh yeah, now that rings a bell.

Truth be told, I love a good interval run when I've got the energy, but right now I just haven't. My job is mentally demanding and with the commuting it makes for a long day. I'm firm on wanting to still make the most of my time (more on that another day) but that doesn't have to mean that I run myself into the ground. I can't change my commute until I can drive and I don't want to change my job, so I have to go AA-style and change the things I have the power to change. I can amend the stupid training plan and aim to get out there for two or three gentle runs a week, the kind that will energise and relax me without exhausting me further. I don't have the mental battle of a tough training schedule in me and the moment and that's OK.

Has anyone else struggled with this?

'Adventure golf' last weekend with my family: Possibly my new sport of choice.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Week in review: 22-28 September 2014

I've been really enjoying reading other people's recaps of their previous week recently, and decided there's no better way of jumping on that particular bandwagon than beginning with a the middle of the following week. 

It's also helpfully highlighted that I have no idea what I did on Monday last week. These days if I don't have anything scribbled in my planner or in Google Calendar, it's pretty much a retrospective blur of wake up, bus, work, bus, eat, sleep. Ah, the high life.

On Tuesday I had a fun evening at Run the River 2014. and you can read my race report here. I originally planned to leave work a bit early to make it there in time, but decided in the end to book a day off as I had some annual leave kicking around. I had a lovely little day at home and spent a good few hours doing nice relaxing things and then a few hours getting productive around the house. As the nights are drawing in, it was a pleasant surprise to spend some time at home in daylight!

My orchid even put out three flowers in 24 hours for the occasion!
On Wednesday I got the train one town along after work to watch Good Morning Vietnam at The Rex. The Rex is an art-deco cinema that first opened in 1938 and it's an astonishingly plush and beautiful place to go for a film. I'd actually never seen Good Morning Vietnam before and absolutely loved it, albeit with a certain amount of sadness about the circumstances. Apparently the film can only be shown on 35mm film because of its age, so not many other cinemas have the facilities to show it.

Thursday saw me have my second to last driving lesson with my current instructor as she's finishing soon ready to have her twins, who are due next month. I've got some way to go before I'm ready to take my practical test so I'm sad to see her go but of course it's for exciting reasons.

When Friday finally came along I was already dreaming of a lie in, so I opted to do my long run that evening rather than wake up on Saturday to do it. I managed a 12.3 mile run home down the canal, which was rather slow and ungainly if I'm honest, but it gave me a chance to decompress from the week and I arrived home tired but happy. It was my first time running more than a mile or two with my Omm rucksack, so I guess that slowed me down a bit.

On Saturday I was grateful for that lie in, and some time in bed with coffee and a good book. My house received the thorough clean it's been pining for for a few weeks, and even the hamster got some nice clean sawdust. Between relaxing for a while and running some errands, it was evening before I knew it and my lovely brother and sister-in-law arrived to visit. I didn't want to spend time faffing in the kitchen so we had one-pan salmon and Nigella's amaaazing instant chocolate mousse for dessert. I can't take credit for making it amazing as it's a straightforward recipe, but I do love it. I recommend adding some raspberries if you try it, and defrosted ones work fine. I nearly had the genius tweak of also substituting some of the dark chocolate for the Bourneville Jamaican rum version, but it turns out that has raisins in it and you will feel a bit silly when you have to filter out the raisins once the chocolate's melted. Ahem.

Sunday brought with it a cooked breakfast (of course) featuring some tomato and garlic sausages from the local butcher, which I felt pretty smug about. After a low key morning at home we headed to the Natural History Museum in Tring for a few hours. I had no idea it existed until I moved to the area, and hadn't ever been, so that was fascinating. We stopped off for lunch down the road afterwards, and then I had to reluctantly let my visitors head off home. Until next time!

Obviously this happened

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Run the River 2014: Race Report

What: Run the River 2014 (10K)
Where: Tower Bridge, London
When: 7pm, 23rd September 2014
How long: 54:48

I'd been looking forward to this race for ages, so I was excited last week when it finally rolled around. The kind folks at TeachFirst offered me a place a while ago and I jumped at the chance to run a London race, particularly as I've been wanting to fit in a 10K. TeachFirst is a charity tackling educational inequality - they believe "that a child’s background should not limit the opportunities they have in education and in life".

TeachFirst run a Leadership Development Programme for those who want to work, train as a teacher, and undertake leadership training at the same time. It was something I seriously considered when I was graduating in 2009, so I have a lot of admiration for the work TeachFirst do. I didn't end up going down that route but I would definitely recommend checking them out if you're looking for that kind of opportunity. Back in January I signed up to do a charity skydive in September so I'd already committed to raise money for that this autumn, which meant I didn't fundraise for TeachFirst this time around. I'm keen to support them going forward though, starting by using the Give as you Live application which is downloading as I type.

I love that this was a 7pm race because seeing it get dark as we ran, and then seeing London all lit up, was pretty special. The start line was a 5 minute walk from London Bridge so nice and easy for me to get to after my train from Hertfordshire got in to Euston. The race pack included all the info I needed, but of course I ditched the map in favour of following other runners clutching their race numbers. That does mean I've got no idea if there was a changing area (I didn't spot one) so after I picked up my race t-shirt I treated a few nearby runners to a view of my turquoise and pink Shock Absorber number while I quickly changed into it. It was a rather warm London night to run in a cotton tee anyway, let alone with a tech vest underneath.

The race got off to a prompt start at 7pm, as far as I can tell, and we were roughly in groups ordered by expected finish time, though I don't think that was enforced at all. I went into the race with many patient thoughts in my head - we all know it usually takes a while to settle amongst runners staying at a similar pace to you, and it was very crowded as well. I employed a fair few mindfulness reminders (thank you Headspace) along the way as it would have been easy to get frustrated in the crowds. I can totally understand why the pavements and roads weren't closed - it was central London, after all - but I did feel for the unsuspecting commuters who got caught in the middle of 3,000 runners. I did well not tripping over any bystanders, runners or bollards, though on the first lap of the route I darted the wrong side of the barrier on Tower Bridge and ended up running in single file on the small patch of curb right next to the road. Not the nicest experience, and I made sure not to do the same thing again the second time round.

The second lap of the route meant that the 5K runners had disappeared and I'd settled into a bunch of runners going at a similar pace to me, so it was a more relaxing lap. I didn't have many time expectations going into the race...I figured that a PB should be achievable because my last 10K was 57:12 last year, three weeks after my first marathon, not feeling sprightly at all. I finished Run the River with a pleasing sprint to the finish line and came in at a chip time of 54:48. I'm pleased with that PB!

My vital stats came to an impressive 6.49 miles, which I thought was quite a margin over 6.2 miles considering that I've been closer to the target distance in half marathons, but it serves me right for weaving in and out. My Garmin has my lap splits at 8:37, 8:31, 8:32, 8:19, 8:28, 8:29, 3:56. I do like a bit of a consistency, so I'm chuffed with that.  I have the elevation gain as 361 feet overall which sounds about right for a flat course with a few sloped bits.

My running since Giants Head Marathon at the end of June has been lacklustre at best, and July and August were my lowest mileage months since I started running nearly 2.5 years ago, so I honestly thought I might crash and burn if I pushed myself. It's given me confidence to have got a PB, and now I'm trying to train a bit harder for the Gosport Half in November.

The only negative aspect to the race for me was collecting my bag at the end. The bags were in groups of 100 in the baggage tents, but there were no industrial lights so I felt sorry for the volunteers trying to find bags with torches and phones. I queued for 40 minutes before I got near the front and the volunteers had started calling out the numbers as they found bags. The kind woman in front of me helped me shout loud enough to be heard when my number came up, so I scarpered after that and rushed to the train home (via a tasty M&S stop). Obviously this part of the race does need some improvement so I'm trusting that TeachFirst will sort it for next year.

Obviously I still stopped for a photo...

It was a shame to end the night rather restless, especially as I got home later than I expected, but I'm so glad I popped down to London for the race and I'd definitely consider doing it again. I haven't done many 10K races and enjoyed the focused time of pushing myself, knowing that I'd be stopped and snacking in less than an hour! Maybe it's different for Londoners, but running around the city centre really put a smile on my face. Thanks TeachFirst!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Start where you are

Yesterday I found myself sniffling slightly over a picture of an onion. I say picture, it was actually a hastily drawn sketch of an onion done with a biro and it looked pretty suspect to begin with. The tears in my eyes were a bit awkward as I didn't have a tissue on me, and I was trying not to admit that I needed one. Plus, I was worried about my shiny new nose stud and whether bursting into tears was going to hamper the healing process.

So, where were we? Back up a week or two, when I emailed the brilliant management consultant I spend some time with at work, asking for a catch up session on time management and prioritising as I felt like I needed to work on that. Let's not pretend that I wasn't looking for a couple of quick fixes. I know it doesn't work that way but man was I looking for a snazzy new way of writing my 'to do' lists. But no.

Instead, an onion sketch, and the metaphor that the tightly layered bits at the centre are the core of our personalities. Sure you can poke around at the looser, bigger outer layers and change a bit here and there, but those centre bits are pretty fixed. For a little perfectionist like me, working with those centre bits and finding ways to be comfortable with who I am and how I need to work is what it's about. So no quick fix needed then, but a bit of introspection instead.

And with it, the bit that put the paper-onion-tears in my eyes. The reminder that I am who I am, and that that's why I'm here. That I need to play to my strengths because they are why I'm here, not for me to ignore them and change to be someone else.

Oh. Right then.

It's not the first time I've heard that recently. I've been reading Kristin Armstrong's book Happy Ever After over the last few weeks and have been powerfully reminded several times that we are not called to do things that require a totally different person or past to what we already possess. That makes no sense. Totally different perspective from Kristin, but the same principles.

The 5k I ran tonight was better than the 8.493576 miles I probably should have run as half marathon preparation because they're the miles I actually managed to run. The 15 minute phone call with my dad was better than the day I could have spent with him because the logistics wouldn't have worked and I'm seeing him Saturday at any rate. Looking after my body now in this month is still awesome because a month ago I just couldn't hack any more food prep.

I am always for aspiration, always for improvement, but goodness me am I increasingly recognising the need to be grateful for where I am, what got me here, and for the knowledge that wherever I go from here doesn't require me to transplant myself into the body of an extrovert who has never eaten an extra slice of cake and didn't tick off divorce by 25. So you know, I guess I can get on with being me.

I watched my wonderful twin brother get married at the weekend and blinking through my tears at their beautiful ceremony made me realise I've been a jerk all the times people have asked and I've gone "Ah, I dunno if I'd ever get married again, I dunno how I feel about the whole thing". Because that's not who I am - I love a good wedding, I love the vows, I love watching people I know and adore promising all sorts of beautiful things, and I love seeing family and friends bonding over the happiness of it all. I stayed on the dancefloor most of the night, clapped through the speeches, drank a fair bit of the gin, and came out of the weekend thinking "Yes! Let's go do this thing called life." Now, if you'll excuse me, I need a little nap in preparation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hanging out with nuun

There may be torrential rain outside my office right now, but I think it's fair to say that the usual issue for me at the moment is staying cool in the summer sun. I overheat and also burn very easily in the sun, so I generally spend the summer months (even in the UK!) trying desperately to drink enough water and remember to apply my factor 50 sunscreen, even when I'm only going to be in the sun for approximately two minutes. I quite often burn just walking 4 or 5 minutes down the road at lunchtime from the office, which obviously I handle like a grownup by sulking as I apply aftersun later on..

I feel like I overheat particularly easy too, and the summer sees me drinking even more water than usual - and I'm pretty good with 2 litres or more every day anyway. When I recently saw nuun tweeting about needing bloggers to try out their hydration tablets, I was rather enthusiastic with my reply. I've already tried a few nuun flavours so I jumped at the chance to try some more, and the lovely folks over there sent me a little package that weekend. Ironically I ended up running home from the Royal Mail delivery office with my parcel on a horribly warm morning, so that highlighted my requirements nicely.

So how did I get on? Last week arrived and I knew that my ill advised 3pm Sunday afternoon run in the sweltering heat was going to need a fair amount of hydration. Enter nuun:

For runs that don't require a whole hydration pack, I use my trusty Hilly waist belt bottle carrier. Happily it seems to fit most sizes of bottle so I popped in my new nuun bottle and an orange tablet, and I was good to go. A word to the wise - let the tablet completely finish fizzing before you put the bottle cap on. I was impatient and didn't quite do that, so I got a bit of orange nuun squirted in my face when I opened the bottle on my run and the pressure had built up. I like to keep things classy on the run at all times!

Five miles in the sun was a great example of how much nuun can help because I felt pretty thirsty almost immediately, and I felt better as soon as I started sipping. I run with plain water fairly often and I'm savvy enough now to notice the difference. I finished the whole bottle 4.5 miles in, which says it all because I normally don't take water for a run under 7 miles or so.

I know that hydration tablets aren't a new concept, but they're worth mentioning as a great aid in the summer. I forgot to take any with me for Giants Head Marathon in June and I felt pretty dehydrated by the end, despite all the water I drank en route. It took several days afterwards for me to feel (and look!) hydrated again - not good.

If you're new to the nuun love, they report that they invented electrolyte tablets over 10 years ago and they're designed to aid the replacement of fluids when you've been sweating. And let's be honest, I also sent my younger brother off to uni with a pack to help out with post-night-out headaches. I needn't have worried because he hasn't drunk so much as one cider in months, and has instead used nuun on his summer runs as well. Good lad. 

The tablets are calorie and sugar free, to keep hydration and fuelling separate. 'Calorie free' normally gets my back up, but I agree that I'd rather sort my calories out separately with fun run snacks like jelly babies and Snickers bars, so it works for me and means my dentist can relax occasionally.

I always advocate with running products that you don't need to spend the earth, and they need to work for you. I find that nuun tablets agree with my stomach and don't give me any issues, and I like most of the flavours I've tried. I also like a good caffeine kick, so having the option of (clearly labelled) caffeinated options is a winner for me. Lemon tea is my absolutely favourite! Of course you can make DIY hydration drinks but personally, if I'm slogging it out on a hot day, I like having the option of a selection of nuun tubes in my kitchen. One tube of 12 nuun tablets is usually £6 so we're talking 50p a drink as they're designed to be added to a 500ml bottle. I think that's pretty reasonable, especially if you get a good deal or you start asking difficult questions about just how much my last pair of running shoes cost.

So there you go - time for me to go top up my water and desk snacks, now that we're on the subject.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Why yes, trying to get comfortable with swimming lengths does make me think of Finding Nemo. Anyone else?

After a fun weekend with friends, having a BBQ and going for afternoon tea, it's back to working life this week. As always, having Poppy the dog to visit at the weekend reminded me of the joys of being inquisitive and having the wind in your hair...

I got a bit of a shock when I logged onto Fetch this morning to log last night's swim and realised it was only my third workout in July. Of course, that's been because I was resting after the marathon on 28th June, but it was still a surprise to see it. After last week's swimming class and then a short run on Friday, I'm trying to get back in the swing of things this week.

I was keen to get back in the pool after my first swimming class and finally made it last night. I also submitted my application form so that I'm officially signed up to the classes for the forseeable future, woohoo!
Swimming is a very sexy sport, I'm discovering!
I was a bit nervous about the pool being busy while I was flailing around in the water, so I made sure I turned up during a casual swimming session. Happily I ended up with the pool to myself after a couple of lengths...hopefully because everyone was off to get their dinner, not because I splashed too much. I paddled up and down a bit trying to practise my front crawl technique but I'm still not really getting the breathing right at all, so I decided to hang on until my next class.

Instead I thought I'd give backstroke another go and quickly discovered that I can make it to a full length at a time, albeit not particularly first. I completed 16 lengths of backstroke in the end and think I've managed to get my legs working a bit more like they're supposed to. I'm looking forward to my next class already, and will be branching out with a run tonight.

The only sad thing today is that it finally dawned on me that the nose stud I've been thinking of getting (eek) isn't exactly compatible with swimming regularly, as I'd need to take a few weeks off for it to heal. I need to think about that one!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lucy's First Swimming Class

It turns out that all the childhood swimming lessons in the world don't help when you haven't swum in about 10 years - you still look like, well, a fish out of water. But in the water. Yikes.

I went to my first swimming class on Wednesday and loved it, even if there was rather a lot of flailing! I went to lessons when I was a kid and remember enjoying it, partly because my dad used to let my twin and I share a snack from the vending machine afterwards if we asked really nicely. I actually spotted Vice Versas (one of our favourite choices) in Tesco recently and had to buy them for reminiscing purposes. I didn't share them with anyone, mind you.

Anyway, so I started wearing glasses when I was about seven years old and even later when I bought contact lenses I didn't have ones that could be worn while swimming. That meant by my teens I did enjoy swimming but wasn't very confident because I essentially couldn't see anything more than a metre in front of me while in the pool. School swimming lessons are pretty stressful when you can't actually see the teacher who's gesturing instructions to you. I remember enjoying endless lengths of backstroke when we went to the pool as a family, but that's it. I've never really done pool holidays so I've not so much as doggy paddled to a hotel bar in the last 10 years.

Back to the present day, I'm keen to get back into the world of swimming because it would be great cross-training for running and I'm no longer near a gym at home so it would convenient too. That and I remember liking it somewhere along the line, so it would be nice to have that back. My local swimming pool is minutes from my house by bike so I swung by there on Wednesday to try the beginner class. I was relieved to find that the teacher was friendly yet businesslike, and soon got me and the other three swimmers to work trying out different drills. We swam halfway down the pool and back again from the shallow end, which felt nice and safe!

In the space of half an hour we fitted in quite a few drills. My front crawl involves a fair amount of thrashing and swallowing water at the moment, but it was nice to have a starting point and lots of useful feedback. The most hilarious drill involved lying on our backs holding a float, so we were just using our legs to kick along. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I barely moved! Whoops. The instructor eventually took pity on me and came over. The conversation went something like this:

"Are you a runner?"
"Yeah, how can you tell?"
"Well, you're trying to run in the water."

It turns out that this technique doesn't really work for swimming, who knew? With some coaching I managed to propel myself along a bit better, but I've got lots of work to do. I had naively assumed the legs would be the easy bit, so it shows how much there is to learn - I'm really glad that I've signed up to classes. I'm already itching to get back in the pool!

I didn't snap any photos of the occasion, so here's a humorous photo from Windsor Castle a few weeks ago instead:

Yes, that does say Pug Yard.