Thursday, 28 April 2011


Thanks so much to everyone who commented on my last post, and bigged up my 5K race result! I really couldn't decide whether or not to be pleased with my time, but you all convinced me that it was a good result after 6 months of injury, and I'm grateful for the confidence booster. The race I ran was a Parkrun event, which is such a good event, I thought I'd say a bit about it here.

A few years ago, a man called Paul Sinton-Hewitt had a brilliant idea. It was to set up a weekly 5k race at the same time, in the same place every Saturday morning. The first race was held near London in 2004, but over the next few years, Parkrun spread until there were races all over the UK.

The most ingenious part of Parkrun is the fact that it is completely free to enter. Before you participate, you register online, where you are given an ID number and a printable barcode. You only need to register once, and then you can race as little or often as you like. The race isn't chip-timed, but a timer starts as runners cross the start line, and when you finish, someone records your time, and gives you a tag with another barcode on it. After the race, your ID barcode and finish tag are scanned. Later that day, you will be emailed your official time.

All the race officials and marshalls are volunteers, so runners are encouraged to sometimes give up the chance to run in order to help out - the whole scheme depends on the volunteer spirit. This, along with sponsorship from some large companies, keeps Parkrun free.

The first Edinburgh parkrun was held on 17th October 2009. I took part, and it was quite busy, with just over 200 runners. The course is completely flat, (in stark contrast to my usual routes from my house), and I got my 5K PB that day. I thought it was a brilliant event, and resolved to go as often as I could. As is so often the way, I never quite managed to go again, until last weekend.

The Edinburgh course

I expected it to be much quieter this time, but in fact there were 287 runners, so it seems to be thriving. There was a great atmosphere, with lots of family groups cheering on a parent or spouse.

Apart from the fact that it's free and so easy to register, what I also love about Parkrun is the detailed statistics they provide after each run. When you log on to the website, you can see your time, position in the race, position in your sex-and-age-group category, your Parkrun PB and the details of all previous Parkruns you've done. For a stats-freak like me (and I think most other runners love their statistics too), it's a joy!

I would definitely encourage any UK based runners to seek out their nearest Parkrun, but I wonder whether there are any similar schemes in other countries?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A race!

As I've been back running for 8 weeks now, and completed 4 or 5 runs of around 3 miles or longer, I thought it was time to try a little 5k race. Robbie usually has swimming lessons on Saturday mornings, but today was a holiday, so the perfect opportunity to go along to a free event.

It was Edinburgh Parkrun, held every Saturday morning, free to attend, and a race which I had only done once before, its first ever event in October 2009. Parkrun is a fantastic scheme, which I'll come back to in my next post - stay tuned.

Warming up before the start

Anyway, I didn't really have a clear goal this morning, other than to complete 5k in a better time than recent training runs (around 27m30s), and see how close I could get to my PB. The route is very flat, unlike all my training runs, and I set off much too fast, being pulled along by better runners.

After a while I realised I was unlikely to sustain a 7m30 pace (haha), and controlled myself. I seemed to get in a group of women, and we ran together for a while, and this got me through the first mile in 8m13s. This was a bit fast, but I wasn't sure how well I could do on a flat course. So I kept going, some of the women dropped off, and I ended the second mile on the tail of one speedy looking woman. She got me through mile 2 in 8m14s. So far, so consistent, but a few moments later I really began to tire. The faster woman powered ahead of me, and I slowed down. I was starting to get a stitch, and those last 1.5km of a 5k are always so much longer than they should be. My 3rd mile was 8m49s.

As I got to the finish, I heard someone coming up behind, I tried to sprint, but he still overtook me. My final time was 26m31s (Garmin said 26m28s so near enough). I was 183 out of 287 runners, and 3rd in my age group (in a field of 17 women in the 35-39 group). This is apparently, and mortifyingly, a 'veteran' category. Hmph.

A great place to be...

I don't know what to make of it really. I'm quite pleased with the time, as it's faster than I've been managing lately, but it is still about 90 seconds slower than the previous time I did this race (and my 5k PB). Looking back at my Garmin data, I am quite a way off the speed I had last August, just before I got injured, which I think was my real peak as a runner so far. It shows that I've got a long way to go to regain that fitness.

Anyway, it was great to take part in a race again, I really enjoyed it. I was surprised how busy it was, and how excited I felt to be running in a big pack of runners, all going off together to do the best that they could. I can't wait to do another one soon so I can try and improve on that time!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Easter holidays

Things we have been doing in the holidays. More attentive readers may notice that none of these are in any way running, cycling or pilates related;

Dressing up

Doing jigsaws

Eating Fish n Chips at the seaside

Paddling in icy sea

Sunbathing at the beach

Tea and caking

Playing at the farm

...and lots more besides. Normal service should resume soon.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Weekly round-up

Despite school and playgroup being closed for the Easter holidays, it's actually been a pretty good week, workout-wise. The kids spent 2 mornings with the childminder, which gave me the opportunity to get out on my bike, and I managed to fit in 3 runs as well.

It looked like this:

Cycled 15 miles
Ran 3.1 miles
Cycled 6 miles
Ran 3.7 miles
Ran 4 miles

In my last post I was whining about having a few crappy runs, including Wednesday's. I had been feeling tired and slow for the last 4 runs. So I decided to change things a bit; on Friday I arranged to run in the evening instead of first thing in the morning, I changed my usual route for one that was less hilly, and I took my ipod with my running playlist of motivating music. These 3 changes conspired to help me get a great run at last. I went through 5k in 27m18s - my fastest time since coming back, and my average pace overall was 8m50 per mile - not bad!

Then on Sunday I had a lovely run in the morning sunshine, and did 4 miles, which is my longest distance since September and the advent of the evil Plantar Fasciitis. The only problem on that run was having to stop to turn up the volume on my ipod, and then having it too loud for the rest of the run. When I got home, my ears were ringing for about half an hour afterwards!

So in total, I cycled 21.2 miles, and ran 10.8 miles. That's quite an increase in running, and I feel ready to run 3 times a week regularly now. My feet are doing well, so I'll keep building up the distance.

To add to my fun this week, I got myself a new toy - ta-dah!

My very own torture-machine, also known as a foam roller. Oh it looks all innocent in the photo, doesn't it? Not so. I've been having a marvellous time rolling my aching leg muscles over it while watching tv in the evenings. It also doubles as a toy for the kids - they love balancing on it and rolling around on the floor too!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good

1. First and foremost, I am back to running regularly and consistently. A few weeks ago I was beginning to wonder if I might ever run again without pain. Since the start of March, I have now run 14 times (mainly) pain-free. When I was injured, that was all I wanted - to be able to run short distances a few times a week. Now of course, I want more, so I need to remember how lucky I am.

2. I am keeping up the cycling. As I've only been running twice a week since I started back, I've continued cycling on the non-running days. This means I am doing more exercise overall than before I got injured (although cycling is obviously a lot less intensive than running).

3. I've lost 2lbs! Over the Christmas holiday, I diligently stuffed my face at every opportunity, and hardly moved for two weeks. Somehow, I managed to gain about 8 lbs - must be my pesky slow metabolism again... Anyway, by the end of January I had lost about 4 lbs, but I just couldn't shake off the rest. I got so annoyed with it, I gave up standing on the scales. But last wekend I gave in to curiosity, and finally, another 2 lbs gone. 2 more to go...

The Bad

1. While I am ecstatic to be back running again, my last few runs have been total pants! The last 4 in a row, I have felt tired and run really slowly. This morning I started off feeling fine, but my speed was really slow, and then at the end I got a stitch and had to walk. I know everyone has bad runs, but 4 in a row? Only 3 miles each time? I really need a good one soon.

2. I cycled 15 miles yesterday, and felt like I'd run 15 miles. My legs were tired, and I had a hard time getting up hills into the wind. I was passed by several cyclists (but to be honest, this happens all the time).

3. I set off yesterday with a plan; cycle into town, visit a cafe, have a coffee and some cake, read my book, then cycle back. I got to town, locked up my bike, and realised I had left my wallet at home. Doh! I had no money at all, and no choice but to turn back home with an empty stomach. What an idiot.

The Ugly

5 days in; 12 more days of Easter holiday to go!!!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A wimpy week

After my great weekend away, I have spent most of this week trying to recover. On Monday - our last morning at Center Parcs - I had fitted in a little run, but I was so tired, it was pretty rubbish.

I got a few good nights' sleep, but by Thursday I was still feeling the effects of tiredness. On Wednesday morning, Robbie was at school and Emma was at playgroup, and I had a date with my bike. But I felt so exhausted. After a lot of contemplation, I decided to wimp out. I had a sore throat and felt the threat of a cold coming, and really I just couldn't be bothered. I felt a tiny bit guilty, but got over it, and spent the time catching up on cleaning, washing and tidying. Not exactly a treat, but it was nice to get things sorted out.

On Thursday morning, I managed to drag myself out to run 5k in the morning, but it was a little slower than my last run on the same route. On Friday night, my husband was a bad influence, and persuaded me to drink a few Baileys and stay up late. It really was all his fault, and I had absolutely no say in the matter. Consequently, I failed to get up and go for a cycle in the morning. However, it was not another missed workout, as I went at 5.30pm instead. It was a lovely day, so it was still sunny and a pleasant temperature then.

Short sleeves!!!!

This morning I went out in sunny skies again for a run, but I felt really tired and sluggish again. I was awake in the night with a really annoying, persistent cough which stopped me sleeping, and I don't think I had had enough time to recover from the late bike ride yesterday. I felt really slow (although the garmin said different), and I stopped at 3 miles.

So, in total, I did only one cycle of 8.4 miles, one pilates class, but ran 8.8 miles in total - my furthest weekly distance since starting again - woo-hoo! This was the first week that I have run 3 times rather than 2. So far, so good - I am too suspicious to sound too positive, but the heel is holding up a lot better than I had expected.

Easter holidays start next week - help......

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Weekend away!

I'm back! Had a fantastic long weekend with all the family, and as with any good holiday, we have all come home exhausted, a little bit unwell, and with a load of washing and tidying to be done.

As I mentioned in my last post, this was a trip to celebrate my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. They had organised for 15 of us, plus 3 children, to stay at Center Parcs for a long weekend. I'd never been to a Center Parcs before, but it turned out to be really good.

Robbie wrote this on Mum and Dad's wall!

We arrived on Friday afternoon, and unpacked into a cabin in the pine woods. Pete, the kids and I were staying with my sister, her husband and their 6-month old baby. We spent the afternoon wandering round the site and in the evening, everybody gathered at our place, and there was a lot of consuming of beer and wine. I was actually pretty restrained, and it was mainly the older generation who got hammered - tut.

Our house in the woods

On Saturday morning my sister and I got up extra early (despite her baby's wakefulness in the night), because we had booked a session of aqua-aerobics. This was something I'd never tried before, although Hannah had done it a few times. When we arrived at the pool at 9am, we found that we were the only 2 in the class! Luckily the instructor decided to do it anyway. We went outside in an open-air pool. The air was quite chilly, but the water was really warm, and every so often the sun came out, which was lovely. It was good fun, and more demanding than I had thought. I even had some low level DOMs in my arms and abs the next day.

The session ended at 10am, as the pool opened for general swimming. Suddenly there was a huge number of people pouring out of the changing room into the pools. As the pool is one of the few free activities, it was extremely popular, especially with families. I'm not sure I'd want to stay there at the height of summer, as it must be so crowded. Anyway, we joined our kids and the rest of our family for some splashing about.

That afternoon some of us strolled round the shops, and others had a nap. It was all very relaxing. We then got ready for a celebration dinner, as Saturday was my parents' anniversay. The meal turned out to be really good. The food was delicious, and the kids behaved well, despite being very tired.

On Sunday the children yet again refused to have a lie-in. While they went swimming again, I went off on my own to fit in a spot of abseiling! I have always wanted to abseil, I don't really know why, so I thought I should take the chance. It was quite a short way down, but the first time I stood at the top and they told me to lean back, I was really nervous. I really enjoyed it though, and felt that I was getting the hang of it by my 4th (final) turn. I just wanted it to be a bit further, as the faster and more confident you got, the quicker it was over.


Later, we all got together again for some ten-pin bowling. This is something I am hopeless at, but it was good fun.

On Monday morning I got up a bit early, and managed to fit in a short run. I was so tired that it was a feeble effort - I managed less than 3 miles, was slow, and walked up a steep hill - but I knew I'd regret not running through the woods and round the lake if I didn't. We had to leave early, then flew back up to Scotland in the afternoon. Unfortunately our flight was delayed and we had a lot of waiting around. By that point I was absolutely shattered, but it could have been worse. There were a couple of babies on the plane, and I felt sorry for their parents, trying to keep them quiet.

Since we got back we have all been a bit sniffly, the kids have bad coughs, and I still need to catch up on sleep. I've also got really bad aches in my arms - it must be from the abseiling, although it didn't seem hard work at the time. I suspect it was the climbing up the ladder to the top that did it. It was all worth it though. Thanks Mum and Dad - we had a great time!

The happy couple