Everybody loves the sunshine

Well, I do anyway. This weather is a real joy and I am, at last, getting out and running again after a period of extreme sluggishness. I have been disheartened recently by my feeling of being unfit and overweight, so am now on a mission to do something about it. Over the weekend we all went out for a lovely family run, Edward and I taking it in turns to push Hector in his running buggy, and the little fella shouting out: ‘Faster! Faster!’ before starting his usual chant of: ‘Playground! Playground!’

This accompanied run allowed me to test an IPhone accessory I was sent a while ago. It has been sitting on my desk while I waited for Edward to locate some headphones for his IPhone and to upload some music for me to listen to. Oh, and of course, I needed to be running! I don’t often run with music, feeling slightly vulnerable and also being accompanied by my head coach in the running buggy, so it was quite nice to have a distraction for a change. Thankfully, only the music was a distraction, with the armband staying firmly in place, the wide velcro strap fitting snuggly around my upper arm and not shifting one bit. The armband is made of neoprene, which means that your precious IPhone won’t drown in sweat and should be protected in a rain shower. There is a clear plastic window to access the screen and shift between tracks if necessary, but I didn’t need to do this on my short test run. If you are fortunate enough to have an IPhone and don’t have to beg your husband for a moment’s audience with the device of the moment, then get yourself over to the Mobile Fun website to bag yourself a cool new running accessory.

Back to running with my little chap. We headed out early this morning and ran around the parks, with Hector looking out for dogs all the way – he has made lots of doggie friends recently and we ended up walking with a group of dog-walkers last week because he was so taken with the ten or so bags of energy bounding around at our feet. After our run, we got ourselves ready and went on my bike – with child seat – for a ride along the canal and marshes. I think this is the first time I have taken Hector out on my bike without Edward, so it felt like an adventure. We have had the seat for about two years, but I feel so wobbly with the extra weight at the back and a bit nervous about the aggressive London drivers, that I usually avoid riding at all. After today’s ride I have changed my mind, it was a joy and we both got so much out of it that we will be going out again very soon.

Parkrun Park Run

I was determined to make it out for the first Finsbury Park Parkrun on Saturday, so we all downed our porridge and got ready to bike it over there. As we were putting on our helmets the rain came down in buckets. Edward was all set to stay behind, but Hector wasn’t (and never is) put off by a bit of rain. It was so bad we even had to shelter under a tree for a bit, but it eased as we made our way up the hill to the park. As we rounded the corner I saw a few runners huddling under the eaves of the cafe, all looking a bit bleary-eyed and with that sort of ‘what the hell am I doing here at this time on a saturday morning?’ look on their faces. Edward and Hector sauntered over to the playground and I did that runner’s loitering thing you do before a race, where you check everyone out whilst doing a daft token stretch and trying not to look to awkward.

Eventually we were directed over to the gate where the race will start each week, and were given a few pointers before the start was called. I was delighted to see that the first stretch was down hill so we could generate some speed, but soon found myself overtaken by pretty much everyone. Quite quickly I settled into a pace alongside another woman whom I plodded beside for the rest of the race. I had been very excited about this new race and have dreams of cracking my PB here in the future, but I soon realised this is not really a PB sort of race. About a third of the way round, the path takes a sharp turn up a steep hill. During the first lap I found some incredible grit from somewhere and glided up no problem, leaving my fellow runner behind, but during the second lap I thought I was going to throw up! I had to pause for a moment and lean over before resuming my trek to the top. How embarrassing. Shortly after the hill I was on the home straight, so picked up the pace, gasping and panting all the way. As you cross the line you are given a token with a number on it to hand to the computer-wielding volunteers at the end, who scan your personal barcode and add your finish time to the website later in the day; all very high-tech.

This was my Garmin’s reading of it all:

Time: 27 minutes 41 seconds

Distance: 3.16 miles

Average Pace: 8.46

Best Pace: 5.28

Calories: 329

Not a PB, in fact a little bit slower than  my last 5k race at Trent Park, but not so bad considering I stopped to avert a pukey disaster.

On Sunday I headed out for a ‘long’ run, but this was cut short by not being able to see where I was going due to the rain being horizontal and mostly directed at my eyes.

Time: 41 minutes 20 seconds

Distance: 4.37 miles

Average Pace: 9.27

Best Pace: 6.55

Calories: 445

Challenges of running every day

It’s hard! Octoberthon is going well in many ways, but it’s such a challenge getting out every day. On Tuesday I didn’t manage it. It rained and rained and rained all day and Hector and I were all ready to go at one point and it started chucking it down again. We spent some time at the library and I decided I would head out when Edward got home…only he didn’t get back until just before nine and I didn’t fancy the streets at that time, mingling with the ladies of the night and their associates. Oh well.

On Wednesday the weather really picked up, it was one of those autumn days that makes me smile: crisp, fresh and sunny, so we headed down to the canal.

Time: 33 minutes 13 seconds

Distance: 3.17 miles

Average Pace: 10.29

Best Pace: 8.21

Calories: 358

Thursday was just as lovely, if a little bit windy, so we did the run-to-swimming-lesson-and-run-back-home run. I do enjoy this, it’s so much more enjoyable than the bus, but it’s hard putting on slightly damp running clothes after emerging from a deliciously warm swimming pool!

Time: 50 minutes 45 seconds

Distance: 4.74 miles

Average Pace: 10.42

Best Pace: 7.40

Calories: 453

Friday was another gorgeous autumnal delight, but I waited until the evening to run and really regretted it as the skies opened up just at the point where I said: ‘Ok, I’ll go running now’. I stared at it for a bit, procrastinated some then realised it wasn’t going to stop and I should just go for it. The rain did something great to my speed motivators as I kept up quite some pace for the whole three miles. It made me realise I might just crack that 25 minute 5k I would love to achieve. My enthusiasm was knocked somewhat as I neared home and heard some lads shout out: ‘Come on big arse!’. Hmmmm, thanks for that.

Time: 25 minutes 29 seconds

Distance: 3.02 miles

Average Pace: 8.26

Best Pace: 6.04

Calories: 298

Yesterday we all set out early on our bikes to Hampstead Heath where we enjoyed a flask of tea and our lunch near the lovely Pergola and then wandered through the trees and had a play in the playground. I saw Ricky Gervaise at one point running through the heath, looking like it was hard work. Glad it’s not just me that finds the heath a challenge! Talking of challenges, the outward trip to the heath is full on hills, hills, hills and I realise how useless I am at cycling; I might be running fit, but cycling makes my legs scream. As a result I decided not to run yesterday, I was simply worn out.

Since I did my big walk a couple of weeks ago I have been experiencing a new pain in my left knee, on the inside, some sort of patella thing I guess, probably just caused by all that walking and stair climbing. The funny thing is that it only hurts when I walk, it’s absolutely fine when I run and was ok when I cycled yesterday. This morning I set off to Finsbury Park as I fancied running along the path that we rode on yesterday. My knee was hurting though. I ran as far as the park, stopped and stretched and decided to run back home. As well as the knee, my right shin was aching too, so I didn’t want to push it too far and cause long-term problems. Damn it. I don’t know if it was because I had decided to run back home or if it was because I had warmed up, but the pain and the ache both eased a bit on the return journey…

Time: 33 minutes 30 seconds

Distance: 3.19 miles

Average Pace: 10.29

Best Pace: 8.03

Calories: 337

Thigh-busting weekend!

Two hilly runs and a hilly bike ride. Eek!

My First Ever Handicap Race

After running the frankly weird Crisis Square mile back at the beginning of June, I decided I would like to do a proper 5k race: properly measured, timed and with fewer runners, so we were up bright and early yesterday morning and on the tube to Cockfosters for the Trent Park Handicap. Not having run a handicap race before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, I knew it was something to do with everybody finishing at about the same time and, as it’s a series, you can try and beat your previous time the following month. We had taken Hector’s bike with us so we strolled along the long path through Trent Park whilst H whizzed along, stopping politely at the side to allow cyclists and runners through. When I found the Hockey Club I was asked by a friendly club member to fill in a form, handed over my £3 and was given the number 610, which I will have to keep for next time.

Before the race started a nice lady gave us newbies the lowdown, with a list of when we were all starting and a detailed description of the course (it is reversed each month and is marked out with arrows, no marshals). I was to start when the clock said 15 minutes. Even though it was very low-key and incredibly friendly, I still got a bit nervous. I had said I would probably finish in about 28/29 minutes, so had that in my mind, but just thought of this first race as a benchmark setter. So off I went. I was very quickly left behind by the group of men who were starting at the same time, and hadn’t appreciated that the people starting after me (mostly whippet-type men) would overtake me pretty soon after as well. Boo. This went on for a while and then I realised I was at the back, the last person!

The course is just lovely, running through the trees on tracks and paths and nice and quiet so you can really focus. I found it a real challenge: there were two long hills which I gasped up but I kept reminding myself it would be over soon, so I should just enjoy it. As I rounded the bend to see the final stretch I crossed the finish line in reverse while other runners crossed it the right way round. It’s a long straight road, so good for focus but tough when you can see exactly how far you have to go. When you get to the end, you run around a nice man who gives you some encouragement and then head for the finish line. It was here that I got a little burst of energy – and realised I was simply NOT going to be the last person crossing the line – so gave it a bit of a kick. I overtook three runners and leaped over the line in just under 28 minutes. Great!

Run Time: 27 minutes 26 seconds

Distance: 3.15 miles

Average Pace: 8.43

Best Pace: 7.29

Calories: 213

I have decided I would like to try and do this race every month and attempt to improve my times a bit. This calls for some serious hill training if I am to overcome those tough bits.

Today we were out early again, on the bikes up to Hampstead Heath. Arrrghghghghgh, my thighs! We tackled some serious hills on the way, the sort of hills where you feel like you might topple over on the spot or that you are going backwards. Once Edward and Hector were settled in at the playground, I went for a run…up some hills. It was lovely, I do love the heath. You get a better class of dog there, and a better class of owner – Simon Callow walking his beautiful boxers. After yesterday’s run and the challenging ride up to the heath, my legs felt like lead so I didn’t go that far but I did go for it on the hills. Towards the end, as I headed back down to the playground near Gospel Oak, I got to the bottom of the hill and decided to run back up it again. Yes, really.

Run Time: 42 minutes 41 seconds

Distance: 4.30 miles

Average Pace: 9.56

Best Pace: 7.01

Calories: 411

And a roughly 10 mile bike ride too.

We had planned to go for a swim in the ponds, but Hector is not allowed in, being under eight years old. I can see why they have to have this rule, but what an arbitrary age – many adults can’t swim, or would struggle in open water, and many young children would be just fine. Anyway, I said Edward should go in as he’s been wanting to for ages. He loved it 🙂

Juggling Juneathon

I have committed myself to the Juneathon challenge – to run (or cross train) every day in June, but I haven’t got off to such a fantastic start. Yesterday it didn’t really occur to me that it was June and that I needed to get out and run, so I will count the walk we took across Green Park and the ‘energetic’ game of petanque we had during our picnic. Can I count Saturday’s activity? We cycled to the swimming pool and back and I did ten lengths in the middle, along with the squatting bit in the baby pool. I guess we did about five miles or so on the bikes – I did feel nervous at first but much more confident on the return leg. I think we might go on the bike to our swimming lesson now, far nicer and quicker than the stinky bus.

So, to today’s run. Remember a few weeks ago I mentioned being stared at by a man when we were at the paddling pool? Well, he has raised his grubby little head again. We set off around park number one and it started pouring down – great – so we stood under the weeping willow for a bit and watched the squirrels. When the rain eased we headed over to park number two with the intention of doing a couple of circuits, but Hector seemed a bit fed up so I cut it short and walked over to the duck pond. We were crouching down watching the ducklings, having a lovely time when someone approached us from behind. I moved out of the way and apologised for blocking the path. I noticed it was slimy man and decided to walk on. As we moved around the pond I could see that he was touching himself as he watched us, not exposing himself, but definitely doing the business. I felt quite sick. Ok, these perverts are probably in every park, preying on lone females, but I was there with my baby and this is simply not on. I kept an eye on him to make sure I wasn’t imagining things then decided to leave. As I neared him I knew I had to say something, let him know that this was not acceptable so I said ‘I think you should keep away from us. I have seen what you are doing’. He shrugged, as if denying it.

We often hear stories of ‘flashers’ in the park, men making lewd comments to women and it gets laughed off, but this man is hanging around a duck pond, which is next to a children’s play area and paddling pool; he needs to be stopped. So I came home and called the local police station. Two very nice (and incredibly big!) officers came round just now and took some details. I felt quite reassured after talking to them – I had initially felt like never going to the park again, but I feel kind of empowered by having reported it and knowing that they will look out for this man.

Time: 27.41

Distance: 2.73 miles

Average Pace: 10.08

Best Pace: 8.08

Calories: 321

Juneathon running total: 2.73 miles

Juneathon cross training total: one session

Two wheels good

Last weekend we set off to get a child- seat fitted to my bike, with the intention of going straight out for a ride. Unfortunately they needed to order a part for my bike before they could fit it, so I was unable to collect it until Wednesday. Wednesday came and Hector and I went off to pick up our new mode of transport. Once we’d waited around a bit and been shown how to take the seat off and so on, I put Hector in and realised just how wobbly the extra weight made the bike: even just pushing him along I felt nervous, worried that we would tip over, so I didn’t ride home, just pushed very carefully. When we got home Edward encouraged me to have a go on our street and I found that my own weight gave a bit more stability to the whole thing…but the getting on and off,  maneuvering through narrow bits, going round corners all still felt a bit unstable.

Well, yesterday we set out early and went on a proper trip along the canal. We went through a couple of parks first of all then along a strip of main road and into my lovely marshes and canal; it felt good to be cruising through the cow parsley and wildflowers again, the smell is delicious. It has been a long time since I rode my bike at all, never mind with an extra passenger shouting from the rear, so I shouldn’t be too tough on myself. I think I need to get out regularly to feel more confident (and to get our money’s worth!). The canal ride was great, lots to see: birds, rowers, houseboats, dogs. Often, on my long runs along this stretch, I would cast a glance over to the little cafe next to the rowing club and daydream about a bacon butty and now my wishes came true: a big mug of tea and a bacon and egg butty. Great!

I must say, I feel a bit saddle sore today and I was really feeling it in my quads as we rode yesterday – I don’t ache after running, even after the big break I had, but cycling works a whole other set of muscles (I think we did about ten miles). My passenger probably adds to the energy expended and he was a delight to ride along with, shouting, pointing, chattering to himself and, right at the end, I looked back and saw his head had fallen forward and he was snoring away!

By the way, I felt I should buy him a helmet, even though he is quite well protected by the seat itself, but the smallest one I could find was still quite big, as you can see! As it’s so deep around the brim, it makes his head tilt forward and I wonder if there is a less bulky child’s helmet out there, more of a skull-cap style…