Running, Swimming, Cycling.

Not long ago, someone referred to FitArtist as a ‘swimming blog’. I thought this was interesting, since it started out ten years ago (yes, it’s our tenth birthday this year!!) as a way of logging my training for the Edinburgh Marathon, my first. It certainly helped keep me motivated, knowing I would be posting my training and also because I quickly built up so much support from fellow runners and bloggers. I shouldn’t be surprised that people might think it’s a swimming blog, having swum very many miles over those ten years (including throughout my pregnancy, right into ‘extra time’). Since I started logging my runs, I have run two more marathons, numerous half-marathons, 10ks, 5ks, parkruns (and I’m also Run Director at my local, Hilly Fields parkrun and junior parkrun) and now triathlons and duathlons. That’s a lot of running, swimming and cycling!

Just recently, my running has been plodding along slowly. A few months ago I signed up to the Hackney Half Marathon and have been training towards pacing 2 hours, in my role as trainer at GoodGym. A few weeks ago though, I developed a cough which wouldn’t go away, which resolutely ignored the two rounds of antibiotics I was given and sent me to my local hospital for a chest x-ray. I kept telling myself I would be fine, it would go away and I would be there, pacing hopeful runners to their 2-hour PB. Last week though, I saw sense and took my own advice for once and withdrew from the race. Did you see the weather yesterday?! I made the right decision.

Being a runner is hard work, being an asthmatic runner is sometimes even harder work. What starts as a cold develops into a cough, which lingers, putting pressure on you to slow down but, if like me you keep on at it, you end up feeling rougher for longer and regretting not taking a break in the first place! I learnt a lesson.

I’m so impressed with anyone who got out there yesterday in that heat, after a few very cold weeks of final training and taper, the temperatures soared and saw people postponing ideas of a PB and taking it easy, to just get around the best they could. It looks like the atmosphere was incredible, with a whole weekend of activity, including a 5k on Saturday, spectators lining the route, offering water/spray/orange segments to fading runners and an event village with plenty to keep family and friends entertained. Pacers paced beautifully, hitting targets, even under such challenging conditions and finishers went home smiling, sporting a rather cool ‘sheriff’ type medal – so do they have the freedom of the streets of Hackney now? 😉

You can pre-register for next year (and hope it’s a little cooller on the day!) here.

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The Inaugural Hilly Fields Parkrun

What a morning! When we got together one evening last week to go over the last details of the Hilly Fields Parkrun and to learn all the ins and outs of the computer system, we envisaged at the most about fifty runners turning up on Saturday, so were slightly taken aback when they kept on coming! I was up and out early to get there and help Stephen (Event Director), Siggy and Sally to get the course ready for action. It was a beautiful day for it.

The view from the top of Hilly Fields

The finish funnel was constructed, arrows and cones were put out and we were gradually joined by the rest of the volunteers who were variously on tag-distribution duty, marshalling and whistle-blowing.

Tag distribution skills training

Top team

Before we knew it, it was coming up to the start time of 9am and we gathered up the runners – all 94 of them! – and made our way over to the start point. Stephen did a great welcome speech and thanked all of the people involved and I did a little count-down from five to get the run started 🙂 As the name suggests, it’s a hilly course, but there is enough variety in surface and gradient to make it interesting and enough downhill and flat sections to give you a chance to recover. It wasn’t long before we could see the front runners coming back up the hill to take on the second lap (it’s a three lap course) and we barely had time to pause and chat about such delights as Grim and marathon PBs and juggling family life and running before we saw ‘Parkrun Royalty’ Danny Norman storming towards us.

First across the line

The fact that even Danny was doubled over on the ground after finishing is testament to how challenging the course can be. At this point we had a steady stream of runners crossing the line and I realised I should concentrate on operating the stopwatch instead of taking pictures, so didn’t manage to capture everyone (though some might be pleased about that!). Our first run attracted runners of all levels, ages shapes and sizes and we also had a number of first-time Parkrunners who were keen to come again. After the last runners had come in, we gathered up the equipment, marshalls and stray arrows and made our way over to the cafe for a fuel stop – clicking a stopwatch is thirsty work! The overall feedback was positive and many people were keen to return next week – I think it was a success! You can read the race report here and a fellow blogger, who had travelled as a Parkrun Tourist, has written his report here.

Yesterday I decided to run the course myself, just to familiarise myself a bit more and I can tell you with great conviction that it’s a tough one! I like the course, I like the terrain changes and the laps – three is just enough not to get confused. I didn’t really like almost barfing when I got to the top though…

Distance: 3.11 miles

Time: 30 minutes 7 seconds

Average Pace: 9.41

Best Pace: 7.24

Calories: 381

So, this run confirmed to me that I have a lot of work to do in my quest for speed. I know I can do it though 🙂

Inspire a generation

I love this line I keep seeing around London as we visit the various Olympic events, and I see evidence of this legacy around me all the time. On Friday evening I dragged myself away from the Olympic coverage to the gym (where I was delighted to discover I could watch the women’s 5k final whilst stepping up and down on a machine), as I walked alongside the running track on my way in, I was delighted and slightly amused to see a family making use of the track, little future Mos or Usains. On Saturday I went out for a run (in my gorgeous new Mizunos – more to follow in the next blog post) and immediately felt a stronger running presence as I covered a hot and sticky four miles. During those four miles I counted a total of eighteen runners and a group of Nordic walkers, far more than I would normally encounter on this run, the Olympic effect in action. It’s a shame that I also noted that out of these eighteen, only three acknowledged me with a nod or a smile, so not entirely buzzing from the glow of the games. Someone who is buzzing is Hector – everything is a competition and results in awarding gold, silver or bronze to us for our effort in getting dressed, eating breakfast and other everyday activities. I decided to go with this enthusiasm the other day when he said that he really wanted to go running with me. We took it slowly, and I had to try and hold him back a bit as he tried to sprint the first few minutes. We jogged, walked, ‘stretched’ (I must film this, it’s very funny) and picked blackberries, always best to take it slowly at first 🙂

Last week were in Poland on holiday, where a walk up a hill rewarded us with this view:

Fresh air

Our descent was slightly less taxing, as we took the chair lift silently through the tree-tops:

Gliding

This was quite a challenge for me as I have an irritating fear of heights and had already decided I wasn’t going on the chair lift but, when I got there, and Hector was really keen, I decided to stop being such an idiot and went for it. It came round really quickly and the little Polish chap shoved it behind me – cue yelp – and I tentatively shuffled my way back in the seat and held on tight. I was suddenly confronted with a steep drop ahead of me and found myself taking deep breaths and looking at the tree tops. Eventually I acclimatised and overcame  my terrors slightly by tentatively turning my head and loosening my grip on the hand rail. It was quite lovely gliding silently through the trees, feeling like we were the only people in the world. I did feel like I was the only runner in Poland. I dutifully packed my running gear and, as we had spent time standing on our bathroom scales with our luggage in an attempt to avoid being charged for over-stuffing our bags, I felt I should at least pull on my kit once during our stay; I managed two runs. Each run was done before breakfast, while everyone else faffed around with bathrooms and the like, and I took myself up a steep hill in the heat. Not one runner crossed my path. In the park, no runners were to be seen on the nice new paths that had been recently laid, and no runners were seen gasping for breath as we took in the views ahead of the white-knuckle chair lift ride. On our last evening in Poland, we found ourselves in Krakow (that’s ‘krakoof’, by the way, not ‘krakoff’ or ‘krak-oww’ – I was repeatedly corrected each time I attempted to say a word in Polish, and this one I got right) and as we drove away from our parking spot near the city park, I could see some dark figures circling the edge of the grass in the cool evening air, runners! It seems, yes, there are runners in Poland, but they have the sense to stay inside when the weather is blisteringly hot, that’ll explain the look I got from a Babcia carrying her shopping up the hill.

 

Popping out

It’s been an exciting sporting week in the Prince Hill household, with two viewings of the Olympic Torch as it made its way across London. First we went to our local relay, outside Lewisham Hospital, with a warm and welcoming crowd, bubbling with excitement. Then we went to support the Southwark leg as it passed close by Edward’s work on Thursday. It was interesting to observe the difference in support there, where office workers poured out of tall buildings, filmed the whole thing on their iPhones, then went back to work, all quite quiet and with very little excitement.

The Lewisham Torch

After the Southwark Torch

On Friday we became more and more excited as we watched the most incredible opening ceremony, trying hard to keep Hector awake long enough to see at least a bit of it. He did very well and got a second wind during the musical/dance section, dancing around the room and trying turn up the volume. Yesterday the real fun began when we trekked over to Kensington to witness the athletic might of the men’s road race. I had to step back from the road as they passed en masse and at speed, the feeling of power was immense.

Tour de Londres

This morning I remembered that I, too, have sporting goals of sorts, so pulled on my running shoes to tackle a short run then hard gym session. Imagine my crestfallen expression as I noticed the little toe of my right foot poking out of the side and the big toe of my left foot popping out to say hello. My faithful Asics Gel 1160s! I suppose I can’t complain, they have seen me through training for a marathon, a half marathon and numerous distances in between (yes, I know the shoe people say you should change them every so many miles, but I’m rebelling a bit here). Time to look around and see if I can find a bargain online.

Peepo!

I trawled around for a bit, trying to find the exact same shoes, but realised I actually yearn for something a bit more funky, yes, you read correctly, I am fancying a bit of colour, gasp! I’m very much a black tights and plain top kind of runner, with a practical-looking shoe to finish the look, but I found myself on the Northern Runner website staring at these lovelies. I know they are not a replacement for the Asics 1160s, but I just love the way they look, the sexy, earthy upper and the flash of colour underneath. Maybe it’s just something about trail running shoes, but these caught my eye too, look at their zig-zaggy bottoms! I think, if Asics want to keep my attention, they need to get creative with colour in their everyday running shoes.

My thirst for colour led me to have a little shufty at t-shirts – a quick look at my running pile shows a penchant for black, faded black and grey. I found some colourful options which also boast UV protection in the fabric, oh how happy I am that it is now sunny enough to be concerned about such things! Some also have anti-bacterial qualities and, having recently resorted to throwing all of my running tops in the wash on a very hot setting in an attempt to eradicate the wet dog smell, this definitely gets my attention. Ahem.

Distance: 1.85 miles (I said it was a short run!)

Time: 19 minutes 18 seconds

Average Pace: 10.25

Best Pace: 8.01

Calories: 228

Followed by some good hard weight pushing/pulling/lifting at the gym.

Hot heads

What joy to have some sunshine again! I headed up, up, up to the top of Blythe Hill this morning though pushed on instead of my usual sneaky stop at the top to ‘enjoy the breathtaking view’. I was distracted by two men shouting at each other, it seemed one was a cyclist and one a dog-walker so I guess maybe the dog had gone in front of the bike, but really, I don’t think it warranted the kind of language that was being thrown across the grass! On I went into Ladywell Fields, looking briefly down river to see if I could spot the kingfisher. Feeling strong, I carried on to the gym, where I stepped hard uphill then pushed my muscles to their limits on the weights machines. One move I am particularly digging is a pulling action where you turn your upper body and really get deep into those lateral abdominal muscles, rock hard they are! Once more I was distracted by hot-headed men, posturing over some petty disagreement. These guys need to cool down, find some focus and remember why they are doing what they do.

Today’s inspiration for me has been looking at Olympic hopefuls in action. Next week at Hector’s school they are having a day to celebrate the London Olympics and he can go dressed as an athlete from past or present. As much as I would love to get him a bushy moustache, a little afro wig and a vest with ‘Daley’ across his chest, I think I will show him some videos of today’s athletes and see what he comes up with. Here is elite athlete Christian Malcolm getting ready for action:

 

Christian is supported by Mizuno, who will be opening the Mizuno Performance Centre in London during the Olympic games where, from July 24-August 12, you will be able to watch live sporting events, try out the Mizuno brand, compete against your friends and get yourself fitted out in the perfect running shoe for your style of running.

Distance: 3.04 miles

Time: 33 minutes 28 seconds

Average Pace: 11.01

Best Pace: 7.15

Calories: 328

Stepper: 20 minutes

Weights: 40 minutes

On the first day of Viceathon…

…my true love gave to me a lovely lemony loaf. It would be plain rude to turn down a slice. Wouldn’t it?

Before I indulged in such citrus delights I went for a run in the sun (I was very happy about this because the weather forecasters have been promising cold, cold, cold all week). As I ran I thought about what might pass my lips today and decided five miles should do it, hopefully leaving me with a bit of extra fuel in the Viceathon tank – I didn’t want to start panic buying too soon and end up with burnt fingers. Though, with this being the school holidays I have swiftly gone from being a six-days-a-week runner to just three this week, so I can’t sit back and let the miles take care of themselves as I have been recently on the school run.

My Viceathon vice, as I revealed in my last post is baked goods. I have decided that:

1 baked item=1 mile run

(a baked item could be a slice of bread, a piece of cake/a muffin, a hot cross bun – my vice of choice right now -, a biscuit or an oatcake.)

I am also going for a mega price-match and having a piece of fruit for every baked good eaten. In our house I compete with the miniature fruit monster and allow him to eat all the fruit, neglecting my own needs, imagining that ‘he needs it more than I do’. Given that Hector can consume his five-a-day in one sitting, I don’t get much of a look in.

Today’s Viceathon totals

Baked goods eaten:

1 slice of lemon cake

3 slices of bread

Fruit eaten:

2 bananas (0ne of which had gone past the stage of brownness I find acceptable)

1 pear

1 apple

Miles left in the Viceathon bank:

1

Distance: 5.15 miles

Time: 48 minutes 26 seconds

Average Pace: 9.24

Best Pace: 4.31

Calories: 548

Not Quite Half

On Sunday I was supposed to be joining my running-blogging buddies down in Folkestone, a mere hour or so away from where I live. I enjoyed the Twitter build-up and the general sense of camaraderie and looked forward (mostly) to the after-race social bit, so was rather pissed off peeved when I realised I simply couldn’t get there. The training had gone ok, and I had managed to avoid injury, unlike some of the other runners, so not making it to the start line due to crappy travel challenges was very frustrating. However, I got over my sulking last week by taking myself off to the running track and gasping my way round a four mile circular run.

I was ridiculously excited by viewing this run on a map!

Time: 42 minutes

Distance: 4.35 miles

Average Pace: 9.40

Best Pace: 6.50

Calories: 63 (Garmin got back to me and suggested taking the battery out of the HRM then putting it back in to re-set, it doesn’t seem to have helped, any ideas?)

My average HR was 186 and my maximum HR was 200!

When Sunday arrived, I decided to try for a ten miler that would get me home in time to follow the Twitter excitement, beamed live from Folkestone by @richeginger. I set off down the Waterlink Way, planning to run down to Beckenham Place Park, fancying a change from the usual diverted Greenwich route. Early on in the run I was passed by two tall, athletic types who eased past me as if I were invisible, though I don’t know how they missed me in my bright green Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon t-shirt! Sometimes this sort of (lack of) encounter gives me a boost to run harder, try to catch them up (ha!), but today it just made me feel fat and slow and made me drag my feet. As I ran, my stomach started to play up again, something I am slightly concerned about ahead of the Royal Parks Half in just over a week. I lifted up my torso, breathed deeply and tried to ignore it, but I soon realised I wasn’t going to make it as far as Beckenham Place, so decided to turn at the two-mile point, head home and take it from there.

It was getting hot out there, even though it was still only about nine o’clock, so it was a relief to pop home, take a moment to think about whether I could carry on, wipe my face and head back out of the door, refreshed. From here it seemed logical to head Greenwich way – if I ran to the seven mile point then turned for home , it would make ten miles. I felt much better now, and pleased with myself for not ducking out. As I neared Greenwich I saw signs for the Run to the Beat half-marathon, which was taking place later that morning, and picked up on the buzz around the area as runners started to make their way over to the start. I reached the water and, just behind me, the clock on the old hospital struck ten. I thought about my fellow runners who would now be crossing the start line, and wished them luck as I took a sip of my juice/water/salt combo and looked at the sparkling Thames in front of me.

On my return, I eagerly checked the computer to see how things were going in Kent. I am proud to say that all of the Fearsome Folkestone Four made it up The Hill and struggled through the heat to cross the line with smiles on their faces. You can read about Cassie’s half-marathon debut here, how Helen overcame a painful foot and a heat aversion here, Shaun’s speedy PB chaser here and Cathy has some exciting news about her next big race here.

Time: 1 hour 42 minutes 6 seconds

Distance: 10 miles

Average Pace: 10.12

Best Pace: 5.31

Calories: 177