More puff, less wheeze

I was all set to go for a long run on Sunday morning, had my running kit on and everything, but my chest was so tight that I felt too uncomfortable to go anywhere. I have been a bad asthmatic. I know I should be taking preventer inhalers, and should probably have done so for years, but I bury my head in the sand and carry on puffing away on the blue inhaler, naively imagining that my asthma might one day go away of its own accord. Just recently I have been feeling tight-chested in the morning and again in the evening, so have been taking my inhaler more than usual, but it hasn’t stopped me running. On Sunday, however, I didn’t think it would be a good idea so I watched a bit of the Great North Run coverage instead. Yesterday I spent some time pressing the redial button, trying to get through to the doctor’s, and eventually got myself an appointment. I listened carefully to the advice I received and dutifully traded in my prescription for some nice little brown inhalers. Boo. It’s not going to just go away is it?

This does mean I am behind on my training for both the Folkestone Half-Marathon and the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon, but I have been keeping up my daily routine of running alongside Hector while he tears around London on his lovely new bike.

When Hector was two we got him a Likeabike, a ‘balance’ bike that the child runs along with to gain a sense of balance, and he has ridden it pretty much every day since then, but just a few weeks ago he had a growth spurt and his beloved bike suddenly looked tiny. We did a bit of research and decided on an Isla Bike, which came in a big box just before we went camping. We knew he would take to a pedal bike quite quickly, but hadn’t reckoned on him going out on the pavement and riding off down the road first go! He was so happy. Now he goes so fast that I can’t keep up and we have been going on ‘proper’ family bike rides and I sometimes put on my running gear to do a circuit of the park with him. We have also set a trend, with a few of Hector’s friends looking forward to Isla Bike birthday presents!

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Runner on diversion

I had a look at the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon website yesterday and it said: ’25 days to go!’ (so that means 24 now) – eek! During the summer holiday I found it hard to be consistent with my training, trying to fit a run in either in the morning before Edward goes to work, or in the evening, but neither of those are really my first choice running moments. Now Hector is back at nursery I can pop out for a run after I drop him off in the morning, though I don’t know if I will ever really be able to relax on these runs, I might eventually get over the feeling of guilt at leaving him but, for now, I run along fretting. I have tried, as I always do when training for a big race, to keep building up the length of my long weekend run, so on Sunday I headed out in the sunshine for a ten-miler.

I do wish I could be a bit more organised ahead of a long run, but I found myself fumbling about in the kitchen for something to put a drink in, then realised I didn’t have anything to put in the bottle I found, so ended up mixing some apple and mango juice with water and a pinch of salt. I assembled all my bits and bobs about my person and waited for a signal. I decided an out-and-back run would do the trick, finding it all the more manageable when I can turn and head for home half-way through. I was forgetting that I had run along the Thames at Greenwich a few weeks ago (I’ve not blogged that run, an eight-miler) and found most of the path to be blocked off, and here I was again, weaving in and out, following little signs and recalling the grimness of it all. The initial run to Greenwich and through the centre is nice enough and quiet at this time on a Sunday, with people slowly emerging to browse antiques and eat the tasty-smelling food on offer. Once past the Cutty Sark pub,  you are sent out down residential streets and soon hit the busy dual carriageway that leads into the Blackwall Tunnel. Last time I turned round at the tunnel entrance, but this run was taking me further and I found myself ducking under heavy buddleia bushes and chatting to a moving cyclist about how rubbish it all is (he reckons it will be like this for another year). I traipsed over gravel at the cement works and enjoyed the freshness of the wind as I met the river again. This was short-lived though, as I had reached my turning point.

I suppose this run was a test, a way of seeing if my piddling amount of weekday runs have given me enough of what it takes to complete a longer run, and I was pleased to find that everything did what I asked it to. Next Sunday is the Folkestone Half-Marathon, a running bloggers’ get-together, consisting of a sprightly team made up of Jogblog, Highway Kind, Helbels, I Like to Count, Tom Roper and, making her half-marathon debut, Travelling Hopefully. This date was agreed some time ago now, all prompted by talk on Twitter of the various cakes we might bring and with a confidence only possible when something is months away. Now race day grows near, there are injuries and an air of quiet nervousness. I am yet to work out how I will get to Folkestone for the 10am start, but hope to be raring to go on the start line. I don’t really have a goal time in sight, I will treat it as a long run in training for the Royal Parks and enjoy the social side of it all.

Time: 1 hour 44 minutes 35 seconds

Distance: 10 miles

Average Pace: 10.27

Best Pace: 7.38

Calories: 166 (still not sure about this. I contacted Garmin, but reply)

Ruddy Cheek(s)

Some more holiday running (I really did want to make use of my running kit on this trip!). Just a few miles from our camp-site is the beautiful Studland: miles of sandy beach with National Trust-owned dunes billowing around its edges as it curves gently round towards Poole Harbour and Bournemouth beyond. After a little play with the boys and an attempt to shield ourselves slightly from the wind, I decided to saunter back to the car park and put on my running gear.

I suppose I could have been all beach-babe and just run barefoot across the sand, but beach-babe I am not, so it was full kit, including my almost glow-in-the-dark Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon T-shirt – no chance of me going missing in that little number! It wasn’t as hard as I thought to run on the sand, but the wind was challenging and it wasn’t much fun rubbing my gritty eyes every few moments. It was rather special though, to weave my way between families digging holes, heads peeping out and wondering when they might be released from their sandy pit, young groups attempting to catch frisbees, hit beach-tennis balls and stop a volley ball hitting the soft ground. I looked on as small children willed their kites to hang in the air, and listened carefully to the gasps of shock and joy as the cool water hit the bobbing bodies scattered across the shallow water.

A little of the way into my run the landscape changed suddenly as the beach became quieter and the general noise eased to give way to just the sound of crashing waves. I carved my path through the deep tyre marks of a National Trust Landrover, enjoying the sensation as my feet flattened the grooves beneath. I was now noticing heads in the dunes – I thought you couldn’t go up there – and gradually began to notice that these heads were atop naked bodies: I had wandered into the naturist zone. On I went, head down. Occasionally a (male) body would appear from the water and jiggle its way back to the dunes, but I now found myself heading straight towards a rather saggy and bare bottom. ‘Ooh, please don’t bend over, please don’t…!’ eek! I am guessing my pace and heart rate peaked about now.

My run continued towards a turning point at the edge of Poole Harbour where I could see various boats coming and going, some looking as if the wind might carry them away. Here I turned around and took myself back through the wrinkly zone and into the welcome bustle of the kite-flyers and hole diggers.

Time: 30 minutes 17 seconds

Distance: 3.01 miles

Average Pace: 10.02

Best Pace: 4.05 (!!)

Calories: 49 (any ideas? This is so out)

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/112641501

New gadget, new activity

I’m a lucky lady. On Saturday morning the post-lady delivered a parcel with my name on it and I eagerly opened it, with a slightly bemused look on my face. And there it was, a brand spanking new Garmin, complete with heart rate monitor! Edward had bought it to encourage me to keep on running, to give my running a little boost; it will certainly do that. So, I had to give my good old GarminForerunner 201 a last outing while the new one charged up, just a short run which took in the Waterlink Way and an attempt to see if Kent AC do actually meet at the track on a Saturday morning (no, they don’t). As I ran, I thought about all the different things I have done with my Garmin 201: it’s seen me through training and completing three marathons, a couple of half-marathons and numerous shorter distance races. In 2006 it took me on a long journey across Lincolnshire (91 miles over four days, all in the name of art), kept track of the many miles run over the various Juneathons and now a Janathon and has pootled along on all those runs in between, long and short. I mustn’t forget that I originally bought the Garmin to carry out my Trolley Spotting exploits and have used it on other projects since. Ah, what a gem, but on to pastures new that don’t take up half of my arm.

Time: 45 minutes 52 seconds

Distance: 4.28 miles

Average Pace: 10.43

Best Pace: 8.14

Calories: 432

Yesterday was my first opportunity to try out the new model. I, erm, leapt out of bed at 6.30 and threw on my running gear, strapped on the HRM and waited mere seconds to pick up a signal. Wow, now that’s a lovely new feature! The park was lovely and quiet, the sun was coming out and the air smelled good. Just a little jaunt before breakfast to see what my heart says and check out the maps and so on that you can link up to on Garmin Connect. I have been finding it hard to run in the mornings recently, or more to the point to run at any time of day, with Hector being on his summer holiday. I have been nipping out before breakfast and this never works very well for me – I have been finding myself doubled over with ‘dodgy tummy’ and having to cut runs short. This run was slightly less than I would have liked it to be, but here are some stats:

Time: 00:22:33

Distance: 2.15 miles

Elevation Gain: 70 ft

Calories: 72 C (what?!! That’s either mean, or my old model was telling me lies)

My average pace was 10.29 and best pace was 8.50.

I was very interested to see how the heart rate looked:

Avg HR: 175 bpm

Max HR: 202 bpm

Hmmmm, now when I look at the formula for calculating your maximum heart rate, mine should be something like 182, so this all looks a bit scary! I think I need to look into this further – I did do some HRM training years ago and found this general formula a bit out for my particular level of fitness.

Now, my neighbour has been trying to persuade me to join her in a Zumba class and, during a barbeque on Sunday, I said yes. All I knew was that it was a dance-based class with styles from all over the world and that you dance solidly for an hour. It was just marvellous! We arrived as it was starting so found a spot towards the edge and back and quickly tried to follow the teacher (who was wearing some sort of belly dancing skirt whatnot over her sporty gear). I worked really hard, throwing myself into it with all the gusto I could manage after a day chasing Hector around, and found bits that I didn’t know could wiggle and tested my body in a way it had totally forgotten about (I’m sure it will remind me of this tomorrow). I smiled for the whole hour – which flew by – and felt great when I got home, energised and positive. The thing I liked most about the class was the diverse people who were drawn there: middle aged women, teenagers, mums, dads and one chap who was at least seventy, and all shapes and sizes, levels of fitness and ability. Fantastic. I’m not entirely sure how this fits in with my half-marathon training, but it’s worth giving it a go.

 


My new favourite socks

I’ve been busy. The weekend was spent sanding the floors at last, with my part being filling in the gaps with a gloopy porridge mixture of PVA and sawdust, a slightly back-breaking task, but necessary if Hector is ever to play with Lego in our living room! I had intended going for a run on both Saturday and Sunday, but it simply wasn’t possible, it was all hands on deck to get things done because we have been living upstairs for far too long now. I did, however, go for a fantastic track run at the end of last week, and took the opportunity to give my new socks another test. I have had the Run Breeze Running Socks for a while now, and have tested them on a few different runs, including the lovely North Wales run I did a few weeks ago.

I have been comparing them to some 1000 Mile socks I got recently, and can definitely say that these are my favourite. When I initially unpacked them I thought they might be too bulky, and I really prefer a much thinner sock, but once the are on they feel great. As they are an anti-blister sock, they have a thinner layer inside and it certainly does the trick, with no movement whatsoever. This has been challenged on a hilly, long run and on a speedy track session with a few average pace runs in between and there are no blisters to report.

Back to the track session. Following the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon workshop, I decided I should pay closer attention to interval training and strength, so gave myself a confidence-boosting talking to and got down to the running track whilst Hector was at nursery. I decided the best way to approach this would be to follow an Audiofuel track so there would be no slacking, and I plumped for the Martin Yelling Pyramid session. It’s a tough one! As with the shorter pyramid session, you build up gradually, peak, then work your way back down, but the challenge here is that each block of effort is three minutes long and I found myself struggling at each two-minute point. I think, if I hadn’t been at the track and feeling the pressure of my surroundings, the fact that I had paid good money to be there (it’s only £2.25, but still!) and the speedy chaps training alongside me, I might have doubled over and taken a breather, but I didn’t. I kept hard at it and felt fantastic for doing so. The two men who were quietly going about their business in the outer lanes looked quite serious. They ran in unison and had an incredibly relaxed, at ease stance as they covered the lanes with their long, comfortable strides. As I stretched, one of them stripped off his outer clothing to reveal short shorts and a vest, and put on his spikes as the other chap checked his clipboard and stopwatch, pros.

Time: 45 minutes 51 seconds

Distance: 4.76 miles

Average Pace: 9.38

Best Pace: 5.38

Calories: 472

Are these my thighs?

I think my thighs ache more than they did after the Brighton Marathon back in April, damn those British Military Fitness squat-pushers! The soreness hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for my knuckling down to half-marathon training promise, and I have been out and about being Ms Active for the past few days. Sunday was a non-running day. We had a children’s party up in Finsbury Park, so my activity was made up of a bike-East London Line-bike-party-bike-East London Line-bikeathon. The East London Line is great – you can take your bike on during off-peak times (check ahead of travel though, don’t take my word for it!) and we can get from near our house all the way up to Highbury and Islington before a small boy has given up and caused travel mayhem. The Islington side of the journey involved quite a hill, and I really did think my thighs might pop, but they held out long enough for me to test them again on Monday.

During the BritMilFit doo-dah on Saturday I was shown some mean new squats and a nifty little tree interval session, so decided to add this in to my morning run and see if it is possible to replicate such determined effort whilst on my own. It is. I ran at a fairly gentle pace as it was super hot then, dripping with sweat, I spotted my evenly spaced trees and went for it. Now, I am a focussed kind of person, but I am easily distracted by things that might interest a certain small boy. This meant that my first sprint was momentarily halted by a lovely bright green feather to present to Hector for his collection, a parakeet, something that we have an abundance of here in South East London! It felt good to test this new way of training, and I can definitely see how it’s going to help me reduce my times, if I stick at it.

Time: 33 minutes 10 seconds

Distance: 3.06 miles

Average Pace: 10.51

Best Pace: 6.25

Calories: 326

(this sort of run makes for an interesting range in pace!)

Today I wanted to go a bit further, just to ease out of that three mile rut I often find myself in, so it was a simple out and back along the Waterlink Way.

Time: 39 minutes 25 seconds

Distance: 4.05 miles

Average Pace: 9.44

Best Pace: 8.24

Calories: 401

I’ve not decided what tomorrow will bring, but maybe it’s time to hit the track.

Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon Workshop

I think I might ache tomorrow. And the day after.

Thanks to the lovely Jogblog putting in a good word for me, I am now the proud owner of a media place in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October (pizza and beer will come your way Cathy, don’t you worry). I was recently sent a very bright pre-race race top to try out and show off and last night seemed like a good time to give it a South East London debut. I am a big fan of green, and this is definitely green, a lovely shade of green that allowed me to be seen from all areas of the park, a good thing during an evening run I say. There is a great image on the back, showing a running tree and this seemed to suit my leafy Ladywell Fields jaunt perfectly. As I am embarking on a month of running – more on that later – I had earlier done a bit of a running-shelf-sort-out, putting things in piles called ‘bottoms’, ‘summer tops’, winter tops’, ‘feeling brave’ and ‘only for decorating’ and two race shirts went straight in the ‘only for decorating pile’. This Royal Parks t-shirt will definitely be worn on a regular basis: it’s good quality, a really nice fit and even has a lower back than front which is ever so flattering.

I seem to have fixed my poorly Garmin by letting it run down completely, then charging it up completely, but it’s struggling to pick up a signal so some of this run was a bit lacking in data.

Time: 31 minutes 9 seconds

Distance: 3.03 miles

Average Pace: 10.16

Best Pace: 7.14

Calories: 263

As part of my fabulous Royal Parks package, I was invited to take part in a workshop today, to help me pick up the pace for the race. I got up bright and early (as usual, that’s life with a four-year-old) and headed up to Mayfair and the swish Matt Roberts Personal Training. Gradually lots of women – mostly – in various shades of pink – mostly – trickled in and we were soon put into our groups to start the ‘Improve your time’ workshop. I was in the group that first of all went with a personal trainer and discussed strength training, something I always imagine will be a good idea but never actually get round to doing. We were shown a few important moves and told that it’s best to look at ‘functional’ moves, things that will help your running specifically, and to try to fit this sort of session in twice a week. We did a few squats and were shown how to add weights to intensify the moves.

We then moved on to the Mizuno area and were told all about the importance of correctly fitting shoes and how this can help prevent injury; the woman was incredibly knowledgable and really helpful, though not particularly pushing her own brand, which was refreshing. This session was supported by the next stage with a physio from Matt Roberts Personal Training who talked about gait analysis. She had various tools for looking at how we land and so on and used volunteers to demonstrate how she breaks down the activity of walking to work out where improvements can be made and to locate any problems when dealing with injury. We then went over to a Matt Roberts look-a-likie called Gareth who talked about intervals and tempo running and how we should think about following a schedule to get the best out of our training. I owned up to always printing out a schedule, but never actually sticking to it and Gareth suggested prioritising the intervals and adding to a session to maximise speed work, since it’s speed that I want to gain.

Following this session, we were given a talk by a chap from Lucozade, a sports nutritionist who works with elite athletes on their diets for training and competition. He had some great advice about race day strategies and the importance of starting a race already hydrated. I asked him about cramping, something that I have had problems with in past races, and he said I should stick to the sports drinks over gels in a race to replenish electrolytes and said I might like to try Nuun, which you can just pop in a bottle of water. We were also allowed to help ourselves to some Lucozade Sport, gels and jelly beans to try out in training, as this will be the drink around the course on race day.

The Lucozade Sport proved a necessity in the next section of the day, British Military Fitness.

We piled our bags into the British Military Fitness van and walked as a group over to Hyde Park Corner. It was super busy in Hyde Park, with a concert about to start and loads of young drunk people, just waiting to stare at us and shout abuse. Great. I have looked on these British Military Fitness nutters in the past and thought ‘fools’ as I plod around the park, and here I was subjecting myself to goodness knows what in broad daylight, for all to see. There were three instructors who, after giving us a thorough warming up, divided us into smaller groups and asked us if we were tired yet. Yes. There was a lot of squatting. I like a good squat and thought I had done pretty much every kind of squat going, but these guys are the kings of squat. We even did one in a circle, holding hands, on one leg – you stuck your leg out straight in front and lowered yourself right down, leg off the ground. You then lifted yourself back up again, keeping the leg straight. In theory. I did get the going down bit eventually, but I don’t think I looked pretty.

The thing I liked about the BritMilFit session was just how pleasant these chaps were about making us hurt. I had preconceived ideas about being shouted at and having mud kicked in my face, but they were smiley, encouraging and ever so polite: what they were making us do was tough, but they were not tough with us. One thing I found very useful was the interval session: we sprinted in a line to the first tree in a row then jogged back, sprinted to the second tree and jogged back and so on for five trees. This was hard, but I really pushed myself and got back with one other woman ahead of the others and I could easily replicate this in the park on my own. If I could afford it, I would definitely be signing up for BritMilFit because I loved it, but I will try to do some of the exercises on my own, though I doubt I could ever achieve the same level of effort I got from the group session.

I really enjoyed the workshop, and think it will give me a good boost for the start of my half marathon training. Things I will take away with me and try my hardest – really, I will – to implement in my weekly schedule are strength training and intervals. I think, if I am to run my dream of a two-hour half marathon, then I need to kick my own arse into gear and these chaps might just have helped me on my way. There are other workshops coming up and also training runs, and I would recommend them highly.

On my return journey I bumped into one of the other participants, who it turns out lives not very far from here. We talked about running clubs and how having children slows you down then went our separate ways to be with our families. I caught the tail end of the school summer fair with a happy Hector and Edward, and decided to run alongside them on the bike as we made our weary way home.

Time: 21 minutes 48 seconds

Distance: 2.12 miles

Average Pace: 10.18

Best Pace: 7.02

Calories: 222

Now to this running for a month lark. I totally missed out on Juneathon this year, I tried, but June was such a silly month for me that there was no chance I could keep up. July, however, is a different month entirely and I have decided to do my own little Julyathon. I will attempt to run and blog as with Juneathon/Janathon and, if anyone else wants to join in, then please do! One person who is definitely on board is Highway Kind, who is not only dedicating himself to another month, but the rest of the year, go HK!