When you’re held together with KT tape! 

What a running rollercoaster. That naughty, niggly calf held out for the Great North Run and I thought that meant the end of this year’s little issue. Well FSB, I was wrong ( personal acronym = Fuck, Shit, Bollocks ) but I’m a lady and I don’t like to shout such obscenities! As I braved my last 10km training run the week before my next half marathon, the Tissington Trail half which I’d looked forward to all year, that bastard calf gave out big time. It stopped me dead after 4 miles. What to do when you’re out and about ? I walked a bit, tried to trot but decided with a week to go I didn’t want to do more damage so I decided to call on ‘med evac’ as they say in war films. Where is your bloody husband when you actually need him ? Not answering the home phone, or answering his mobile I can tell you. I left an urgent sounding voice mail, I sent an emergency text…..not a bloody sausage by way of reply. I sat on a wall by the river and had a little sob…..yes me, Mrs together, Mrs tougher than anyone….. But I could see the half I’d really looked forward to slipping away and Ellie being so disappointed. I know she won’t do these things without me. 

Ok after a brief wallow, it’s reality time and I needed to get home. I started to walk, phone in hand ready to receive the return call and confirm my location…..but I kept moving. Catch a bus from the main road was a consideration ? Doh, no bus fare. It wasn’t long before I realised…….

1. Walking is really boring and takes, like, forever! 

2. I was getting really cold

3. I had a hair appointment at 11 and needed to get back quicker than this

There was nothing for it but to trot. The last 2 miles are sadly nearly all uphill, just to add extra strain to my calf. I made it back, the relief was palpable and there he was in the garage tinkering with his true love, the car! “Good run?” he asks cheerfully! I head in for a shower and try stretching my poor calf out painfully whilst ringing my physio to leave an “OMG when can you fit me in?” message. I need that bloke on speed dial. Thank god for work’s  private healthcare or this free running lark would be much too expensive! 

I limped embarrassingly into the hairdressers before heading home for RICE time. I am currently  using a bag of frozen rice, how appropriate. The next day I could hardly put my foot flat, the stairs were a hilarious spectacle and it was too tender to massage or roll. Another problem was the oldies, my parents and the outlaws were coming for Sunday lunch…..imagine trying to hide it completely. I couldn’t face the ignorant chatter around running is bad for you, you’re too old to run, blah, blah. So I gamely walked slowly, with purpose, but no limp which took some doing. One homemade soup, one roast dinner and one homemade, very moreish, tiramisu later and it was back to RICE time.

I had to let Ellie know all may be in jeopardy as my calf had never felt so bad! I couldn’t see the physio until Wednesday, and despite my usual total blinkered pig headedness, I would stick with his verdict to run or not to run. He threw it all at that poor calf. Shock waves, usually used to blast gall stones. Apparently it breaks up bits of wayward muscle fibre too, the tens machine next turned on to assorted pulsing and vibrating settings and good old fashioned massage. He’s a rugby player so has suitably big hands !! How did it feel after? Couldn’t feel a bloody thing, it was all so numb. And the post treatment verdict?  Strap it with KT tape in a way he demonstrated, add a compression sleeve over the top, promise to run like a nice training run in the country no pushing for a PB, enjoy the scenery and give it a go ! 

Game on. Shame in some ways as I thought Tissington might finally be a PB and a shot at a 1.50, but Ellie, feeling relieved and undertrained was glad to have me slowed down.

The day was perfect, sunny, cool and dry. The race was well organised, not too big and the scenery was stunning. I have Derbyshire on my doorstep and I don’t make the most of it. The route was flat and straight down the old railway route. We chatted most of the way and paced three ladies from a Solihull club, one coming back from injury too. We shared club stories and all sorts of chit chat. I kept the pace steady and my calf stayed happy, not a twinge, not a complaint. I daren’t say too much when asked if it was ok, I tried not to jinx anything. It felt firmly encased. I’ve never run in compression sleeves before, always a sceptic, but it felt well supported.  I tried to make the most of the views which perhaps you miss if you’re ‘going for it’. Rolling Derbyshire countryside in the sunshine, wooded glades, pretty bridges. The water stops were friendly and old fashioned, plastic cups of water for a quick wet of the whistle plus jelly beans and jelly babies. The scenery was so lovely it felt sacrilege to the throw the cups down.

It was Ellie who slowed at the 10 mile mark. She hadn’t trained beyond 10 and psychologically I think she panicked. We let the Solihull ladies take the pace but we dropped off. I willed her on into miles 11 and 12 and the last mile of woodland soon went by. I pushed just a little in the last mile. The thought it wouldn’t be a PW ( Personal Worst) at that distance was a pleasant surprise. 

What a great medal, it’s a train of course and how it makes the Great North Run medal look rubbish all over again. More water and a Jaffa cake and we headed off. My very first half in 2011 was 2.11, this was 2.07 and I live to run another day. Thank you KT tape and sensible pacing! 

A pub lunch was well earned! 


The Great North Blog 

Well take that bucket list and cross another thing off. A hot, hilly and simply awesome half marathon, the Great North Run. All the excitement of the worlds biggest road race, the buzz of all the TV coverage and celebrity runners, it’s just like London but without the distance. Then of course there’s Mo…..that’s twice I’ve been in the same staring line up as the worlds greatest. At least 20000 people behind him of course, but nevertheless still in the same starting line up.

I proudly took on the challenge alone ( I know I was with 56,999 other runners….but I undertook it as a solo adventure). Over 8 years, my family are a little jaded by the whole running thing and being a spectator for the London marathon last year clearly scarred them for life, I agreed they were better at home. As I headed off the day before though, I realised I really wanted them to come. Still, I’m never deterred from a mission. A Nirvana (official coach transfer) at God awful o’clock from Middlesbrough Travelodge, 6.45am to be precise was a breeze straight to the starting area. Hats off to the Travelodge who put on an early runners breakfast and put out water, fruit, cereal bars and plasters for our onward journey. 

The starting area itself was rather a surprise. I was thinking a park, marquees, coffee stalls, merchandise. I wasn’t expecting double decker buses parked along a residential street. Dropped off nice and early, I had over 2 hours to kill. The advantage to an early drop off? acres of portaloos with not a soul waiting. I was having a wee whatever ! 

And then what to do?…… Well basically sit on someone’s garden wall in the morning sunshine and people watch as the street began to fill. Time flew, people chatted, I know lots of purple ladies from my club were running but I gave up finding anyone having seen so many purple charity vests. Animal mad Hollie was running for WWF with a 3ft panda strapped to her back and I never spotted that. 

I kept my stuff with me til much later as dropping it off on the baggage buses was so easy. Then I though I’d head for the starting pens for a change of scenery. Amusingly located on a closed off section of the A1(M) I found my colour zone and sat on the Tarmac chatting to a fellow ‘sitter’and watching the big screens showing the TV coverage and therefore the arrival and departure of Mo. I enthusiastically embraced the warm up and excitedly shuffled over the start line  a mere 12 minutes after the elites. 6lbs of all inclusive holiday excess bouncing along with me compensated for by a tan, I couldn’t have felt happier.

Buzzing with excitement, basking in the sunshine it’s only a mile and a half to the Tyne bridge and preceding underpass for the obligatory and deafening ‘oggie, oggie, oggie’ . I found space on the Tyne bridge enough to raise my arms and flap my bingo wings at the official photographer and onwards I raced still blissfully happy. I was ahead of the Red Arrows display on the bridge, now that’s pace! By about mile 4 I realised I may have forgotten to cut my toe nails properly after my holiday. There was an episode of the ‘House of the flying daggers’ going on in my trainers…….I put it to the back of my mind.

The sun started getting a bit hot and I grabbed a water ahead of halfway which was my only planned drink stop. Kids grabbed all those bottles barely emptied and delighted in squirting them back on passing runners, so with official shower points and a few folk with garden hoses a cool down soaking was readily available. Respect to the many runners in fancy dress apart from the guy in just leopard print pants, who was clearly dressed for the conditions.

The crowd had orange slices ( like half time at a school match), icy pops, jelly babies and beer not that I was taking anything. There were lots of eye catching home made signs. My favourite sign …..

“If Trump can run, so can you!” 

It’s an ‘undulating’ route and once out of Newcastle, it’s neither beautiful nor iconic but the crowds make it very special. The last hill is almost 2 miles of steady climb between miles 10 and 12 and was a serious struggle in the heat, I slowed down despite the best endeavours of Elvis singing on the roadside. Let’s face it, it looks flat on the telly, how the hell do Mo and the elites keep that blistering pace on such inclines? My ‘perk up’ came when I spied ‘crazy Kelly’ from my Notts Womwn Runners purple ladies hiding in a pack of runners on the other side of the road. I weaved over to hi five and finally see a friendly face which at such a hard point in the race was amazing. It got us both to the top of that bloody hill and gave us the first view of the seafront which is followed by a hurtle down a sharp hill to the final straight that you recognise from the telly. 

Crazy Kelly, my 12 mile race boost.

Crazy Kelly, my 12 mile race boost.

I read a race review the night before warning that there’s still a mile to go once you spot the sea so I tempered the pace and enjoyed the amazing crowd support at this point. In my pre race head I wanted to be as close to 2 hours as possible and not more than 2.11 which was my first ever half marathon time. Based on my lack lustre training and despite the slow down on that last bloody hill I realised I could actually still sub 2 with a final push. I was waiting to see those fir trees in white plant pots guarded by the military that I see every year on TV. I know they’re the true sign you’re nearly done. Could I be a ‘purple blur’ passed them ?

There’s always something in the tank for the finish and I was over the line with a storm trooper in 1.58.42, really happy with that and really emotional. The finish and baggage collection was a finely tuned military operation and I was medal collected, goody bag in hand and standing with Kelly just in time for the Red Arrows display over the sea……what an end to a brilliant experience. Checking my phone I realised I’d had a moment of fame on TV spotted by a fellow club member from their sofa…..shame my mum and dad didn’t spot it. 

Seconds of fame, look I'm on the telly box!

Seconds of fame, look I’m on the telly box!

The coach back to Middlesbrough was slow in chocca block traffic but a good rest for my legs. Thank god no one sat next to me which meant I could adopt 101 different seating positions ( not all of them ladylike) to avoid cramp. Plus after such exertions in the heat, I smelled like a dead badger and didn’t want to inflict that on anyone! The young lady across the aisle had the right idea. She whipped off her trainers and popped on her flip flops, dug out a small bottle of prosecco and a plastic champagne glass to enjoy her own little celebration.  I bravely drove home from Middlesbrough, a busy 2 1/2 hour chug that I couldn’t wait to be over allowing me to finally remove my running shoes and socks to see what level of toe carnage was beneath. Let’s just say it’s been a week of many plasters! 

I think I’d do it again but I missed running buddies or supporters, it felt a slightly lonely affair when you can’t share your excitement. Can I be honest and dare I say it but the medal is a bit shit, rather uninspiring in design compared to some fabulous medals I’ve had from lesser events. Same goes for the goodie bag but it’s atmosphere would be hard to beat. Thank you for all that north east hospitality, it’s a race I won’t forget.

Sun, sea and sweaty knees

So week two and the end of another summer holiday, time to get the brochures for next year….ok, I mean get on ‘tinterweb….when’s the last time you looked at a brochure! Seems an eternity since you trooped off to the travel agent and scooped up as many brochures as you could carry without incurring a slipped disc. Still, there was something purposeful about a pot of coffee and a kitchen table covered in holiday brochures. Now you have to endure being stalked across the web by a hotel you merely ‘glanced’ at online that you probably didn’t even like and discounted before you even got started on trip advisor.

Having a room on a hillside means I’ve been hill climbing and stair training all week. Even the hubster has remarked that his calves hurt. So as I’ve had 2 recent physio sessions for a torn calf incurred around a month ago, maybe this is great rehab. I’m hoping this will all make the Great North Run seem less hilly. Just out of the main hotel building is ‘heartbreak hill’ it’s funny watching people almost come to a natural standstill while trying to walk up it and coming back down in your heels is a real challenge. At the end of my run I’ve tried to sprint up and down it a couple of times. It leaves my backside screaming so I know it’s doing the job!

Heartbreak Hill up on the left, its waaaaaay steeper than it looks here!

Heartbreak Hill up on the left, its waaaaaay steeper than it looks here!

I managed three runs each week, same as at home. Not enough to mitigate the gradually increasing damage of an all inclusive bonanza but enough to ensure my legs remember that they belong to a runner and will be expected to run a half marathon as close to 2 hours as possible in 9 days time ! The race photos will be different, my belly will be flabbier and my legs will be browner. I could have probably got a better effect with two weeks intensive ab training and a bottle of San Tropez!

Funny things though 2 week holidays, you take them for a break in routine and what do you do but settle into a new routine that’s just slower paced.

Run, shower, breakfast, coffee on the terrace, yoga by the beach or under the palm trees in the garden, ‘shade bathe’ ……I’m not good in full sun, sea swim, dry off, lunch, cards, shade bathing and kindle reading, cocktail, swim, dry off and cruise into the evening…..actually now I read that back it sounds lovely, can I stay another week or two?

I finished my running on a 10km along the cost to Kardamena, the nearest small town. We’d been for a family visit on the local bus just for a change of scenery, an ice cream and a chance for my daughters to fleece me for ‘designer’ handbags of extremely dubious provenance ( they look pretty convincing though). Always fun to see who the poor ripped off designer of the season is, this year it’s poor old Micheal Kors that’s keeping the fraudsters busy.

I had already run to the start of Kardamena on an earlier run without realising it, just another half mile along the water front took me to the centre.The humidity is right down this week but the wind is blowing a gale instead, it means no more sweaty knees. In all my time running, it’s never been so humid that my already ugly knees have sent rivers of sweat running down my shins.

I just wanted a Kardamena selfie to take back and boast to the fam that I’d run to where we had caught a bus. Sadly all I got are the usual hoots of laughter that I can’t take selfies and have to watch as they do impressions of ‘middle aged’ selfie taking and texting……ok so I text with my index finger, not thumbs……who’s with me !

A middle aged selfie in Kardamena, Kos

A middle aged selfie in Kardamena, Kos

This last 10km was a tough one. It’s a long distance to go pre breakfast. I made sure I had pasta for dinner ( well that was just my starter) so I figured I’m probably eating enough to fuel a daily marathon. Just a swig of water and off I went. I’m well beyond the ‘crutch’ of a water bottle, I carry water under duress. Yes it’s warmer and more humid than I’m used to but I’m out 1 hour and then I know water is plentiful. It’s a good way to train your body. If you occasionally run (6 times then in my case ) in a ‘fasted’ state, so that would be before brekkie, your body has to learn to fuel the run from harder to reach stores and it should help you become a better fat burning machine. Hhhmmmm looking at me last day in my bikini I think my body needs to try a bit harder!

I solved the ‘chub rub’ issue making the extra distance possible. I couldn’t find the Vaseline lip balm in the early morning but scanning the messy apocathery that has been created in the bathroom, I did find coconut hair oil. Sssssshhhhh it’s a secret, the teenmonsters don’t know I’ve been spreading a bit of this between my thighs of a morning. But seeing as I know they’d never read these middle aged ramblings, my secret is safe with you! It did the job a treat and smelled lovely. Maybe I didn’t need to order ‘body glide’ after all.

I’m proud of the amount of sea swimming I’ve done, twice a day, every day. I rarely sea swim, I grew up with Jaws for gods sake. But here, it’s so clear, so warm and so inviting, I’ve loved it. I never put my head in though, I can’t swim like I would in the pool, I can’t stand the salt water, I just don’t know how all these people do it, throwing themselves headlong in. I’d never be an open water sea swimmer. I deliberately didn’t go to see the new film ‘The Shallows’ before I came ! I’ll miss the sea so much as Nottingham is so land locked, any coastline is a treat. But this one is gorgeous.

My blogging hideaway

My blogging hideaway

Right, I’ve a plane to catch, an iconic half marathon to get my head round and real life to zone back into. Ciao for now X

Bloggers block lifted by holiday sunshine, hooray!

So ‘bloggers block’, who’d have known it’s a thing ? I couldn’t find the words, everyone else is running more races than me, everyone else is reaching more exciting goals than me…..well have any goals at all actually,  everyone else seems to be running more miles than me, I’ve therefore had no words to add any value, who missed me anyway ?

But then, it was holiday time, relaxation time, recharge time and the gorgeous opportunity to comment on both running and the quirks of my European counterparts, it’s a gift I can’t miss. Europeans, I’m still one of you, I’m European, I don’t want to leave you. I’m so sorry my fellow Brits let us all down that fateful day. We’re all different, I know that, but forgive me in advance if I tease you now, I know we are stronger together.

So I’m in Kos, or am I ‘on’ it? First time to the Greek islands, first time braving a two week all inclusive holiday, summer is usually our time for adventure and yet again with impeccable timing, I will arrive home one week before the Great North Run which thank god is only a half a marathon.(listen to me, ‘only a half marathon’ still hard to believe that I can say that !) Every time, my holiday plans seem to bugger up my training schedule, but I’m not brave enough to even suggest to the ‘fam’ that they need to book holidays around my training. If I wasn’t fairly confident I can pull a half out the bag as required, I’d be a mess. I ran 12 miles before I came out here, that will have to do.

Fuck me , it’s hot. Like I knew it wouldn’t be ! We’ve hit 41 degrees on the beach thermometer a couple of times so I knew running might be a problem. I thought I’d need to retreat to the dreadmill,  (dire I know) but discovering the hotel gym was a dimly lit room with a few weights in it and a knackered bike, I had to think again , so much for 5 star credentials (bloody Greeks)  …… I had a new plan, get up early. I normally like doing that every other day of a holiday when it’s all quiet and the sun is just coming up. Now I’m used to the Canaries at  Easter when early morning can be a bit chilly, when I’ve even debated a light windcheater jacket.

Here, 6.30 am…..unpleasantly warm. In fact after a few paces it feels like someone has thrown a bucket of water over you. The air conditioned room is too deceiving, you’re lulled into thinking your about to step out into a cool, pleasant morning. The enthusiastic youngsters from hotel the animation team, pointed me in the direction of where I might run (although they admitted they never had !) seeing as we’re perched on a hillside near Kardamena I was worried where I could go. Down the many steps and slopes to the beach, along the beach wooden walkways to a fence marking the end of all inclusive paradise, an easy creep round the fence and you’re free! Onto a long coast road. It’s funny, face one way and see manicured 5 star lawns, neat beaches and a hillside of white rooms with blue shutters and pink bougainvillea pretending to be a hillside village. Turn 180 degrees the other way and see the coast road literally falling into the sea at some points, more rugged beach and scraggy sheep with bells round their necks grazing on nothing, just dry scrub. Real Greece I feel.

Still there’s the view across the water to neighbouring island, Nyssros. Bizarre intact concrete German bunkers popping up along the coast, think Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, to remember the Greek islands history with the Germans. A pretty little white church with a blue roof, the odd bar and surf shack. And finally civilisation beginning again about 2.5 miles along the road at ‘banana beach’. The odd other runner was braving it out too. Not a very friendly lot apart from a speedy Britsh chap who shouted morning. I realised my Robin Hood Half tee gave me away as a fellow Brit. And there was a ‘Ciao’ from some shirtless Italian runners, now there’s a lovely incentive to pick up your pace.

A shrine by the sea, keeping fishermen safe

A shrine by the sea, keeping fishermen safe

So far I’ve managed a 4 mile, a 5 mile and a fast as possible ( which wasn’t very fast at all) 20 mins out and 20 mins back which ended up about 4.5 miles. It’s not pleasant running, it’s sticky and it’s strength draining. I can hardly push a 9 min mile. Thankfully on my speed run,  I spotted a lady running ahead of me after I turned, at last an incentive to push it. I would hunt her down and I did. I crossed to the opposite side of the road as moved to passing speed so I couldn’t be accused of being smug and so she didn’t hear me huffing and puffing behind her! Still these runs are  better than no runs but I doubt it’s compensating much for all inclusive overload.
On the good side, I found delicious porridge for post run brekkie, plus eggs of every kind…….but then try not looking at the cereals, fruit, crepes, pasties, bacon, sausage, cakes (yes loads of cake on offer for breakfast, must be a Greek thing !), every type of bread and of course all the cold meat and cheese for the weird Europeans who eat that stuff for breakfast.

Italians are the most represented guests here which is fab as they are well catered for with tonnes of pasta and wood fired pizza ovens on the beach and in the restaurant. Carb heaven, the lure of a cheeky slice of pizza at the end of the day before changing for dinner is too great. I’m heading for bikini overhang, well actually more overhang……it wasn’t all where it should have been before I got here. The Great North Run will demand a loose vest!

The Italians and most other nationalities would class me a mental case for running over here anyway and actually just mental for being a lady of my advanced years and running. Still how many of them are swapping bikinis with their teenage daughters so we all have more to wear ( ok not the stringy side ones, they are the preserve of the teenager no matter what you look like !) A few Italian ladies have laid down the glam gauntlet as always, one in a tiny bikini, with a perfect figure, a perfect tan , 3 kids and when she moves from her lounger she slips on a tiny sequinned tube skirt and high heeled mules ( to walk round the pool! ) respect, now that’s composure …….I’m so waiting for her to slip.

On the other end of the scale are the Russians, their ladies have two camps, super model or shot putter ! those of us abroad a lot will have noticed the ever increasing number of Russians now holidaying in the sun as we have done for years. For strength and speed training, I recommend you take them on at an all inclusive buffet! I know we Brits perhaps hold on to our manners too much, but trust me, you’ve never come across such a rude crowd as the Russians. Bollocks to manners if I’m actually pushed out a buffet queue, in response I have actually come out the queue walked back in front of them and squeezed in again ahead of them…….I should wave the Union Jack to show other Brits we can stand firm. It requires speed, nerve and strength, excellent cross training for running.

So there have been running lows as well as highs. The humidity makes for wicked ‘chub rub’ Wowsers,  I could walk like John Wayne the rest of the day. It certainly brings tears to your eyes when you head for a morning swim in the sea. I’ve spotted some Vaseline lip balm in the girls make up bag, I wonder if I can get a spot of that between my thighs without them knowing ?

Then there was the day three digestive failure. Change in water, diet, off food? Who knows, but my stomach inflated from right under my ribs and felt like something had died and was fermenting in there. That was a no run day. Nor was day four when things felt better but only after the offending food item ‘left the premises’ ………at high speed ! Mickey Flannagan would be disgusted, the shits when you’re not even long haul. You can’t run when you’re an empty shell, you have no energy! Running was back on once I could be sure that wasn’t happening again seeing as I’m only wearing my shorts with the fanny hammock, could you imagine a digestive disaster!

So I’m heading into week 2.  Who’d have thought that living life full on as I do, squeezing 25 hours out a day that I could actually be good at spending my days doing ‘proper fuck all’ apart from my sweaty little runs of course.

A runners  reward, sunrise on Kos

A runners reward, sunrise on Kos

50 Shades of yellow (another runner’s obsession)

As the weather warms and the humidity rises, hydration becomes even more key and adds to a runners daily obsessions. Pee, a true runner is obsessed with it….how many times did you go, how much did you pass and most important of all, what colour was it?

‘Pale straw’ seems to be the favourite urine colour of choice amongst the health and fitness gurus of the moment. In fact, I even heard a well known TV doctor pick the same colour when giving tips out about surviving a heat wave (so not recently then). There should be the equivalent of a paint chart for pee, 50 shades of yellow, a guide to your health and hydration. You could keep a copy by the loo for a quick colour match to see how much water you’d need to quickly guzzle. I’m so obsessed I’d have to carry one in my handbag! Imagine the thought that could go into naming the assorted shades just like paint. Where could you go either side of ‘Pale straw’ ? ‘Over ripened straw’, ‘dehydrated daisy’, ‘amber nectar’, ‘weak and waterlogged’….I could go on.

Yes, this is a genuine urine colour chart, even worse, my blog research has found a website called urinecolours.com

It is a big issue though, not being properly hydrated can lead to fatigue, headaches or much , much worse. New runners however can get carried away, you can drink too much water and as a consequence wash all the salts and electrolytes out your system. Did you know more runners have dropped out of the London marathon for drinking too much water ‘hyponatremia’ than not for drinking enough? You don’t need a drink every mile for 26.2 miles just because it’s there. I hate carrying a water bottle, if it’s not hot and I’m not out for more than 90 mins, I never take one. I actually find it makes my shoulder ache, I feel out of balance and once you’ve started drinking it ( ‘cos if it’s there you do) I can’t stand it when it’s sloshing about in my hand half empty when the other half is sloshing about in my stomach too. Trying to get new runners to free themselves of the water bottle is a challenge, they clutch those bottles at Park Run like their legs won’t work without them. It wouldn’t even enter my head to take a drink for a 5km, a glass when I’m home after feels fine. Now that I’ve finally got a sub 50 minute 10km, there’s no time to stop at the water point, that’s too much time taken, again, if it’s not hot and I feel OK, I plough on.

I do need my water however, we all do. I’m a ‘headachey’ person and have suffered a lot after long or hot runs. For me,the secret to stopping those headaches coming on a couple of hours after a long run was to be better hydrated. It bizarrely took a few years of running to work it out plus in the heat and humidity I add an electrolyte tablet to my glass of post run water which I find really helps stops the headaches.The SIS tablets work for me.

Science in Sport

Being better hydrated means drinking more water ALL the time. I upped my water intake significantly every day and the difference was marked. I’m not talking these crazy super-model, ‘I drink 4 litres every day’ levels…..let’s face it, there just isn’t the time in the day to pee that much, but I do drink a litre on top of my usual tea and coffee intake. Drinking even more in the couple of days before a long race is the best idea, make sure all those cells are hydrated to the max. What’s not to like, we all know our skin and digestion will also benefit from the extra water too, women’s magazines have been banging on about it for years.

Sadly all experienced runners will know that drinking gallons of extra water on the morning of a run or race isn’t the way to go. Within 20 minutes you’ll just be at the back of that portaloo queue or want a tiddle within the first mile and be seeking an obliging pub or secluded hedgerow. Running has in fact made me realise how many local public conveniences have now been closed completely. Never one to avoid a challenge and blown away by the length of the portaloo queues at the London marathon I gamely tried the female urinals, now that was an experience.I warn you now ladies, it’s not as easy as it describes.Stretching your lycra to basically pee down a cardboard funnel was a source of huge hilarity to all attempting it and you’ll pleased to know hand sanitiser was provided! ( How did that lady on ‘The Full Monty’ do it ????

Work it out, it’s not that easy !!

It is only ever at these moments I have ‘penis envy’…. we gals are so secretly jealous when you chaps pop off behind a tree to ‘shake the snake’, no effort, no risk of debilitating nettle stings. For us ladies a ‘wild wee’ is fraught with danger. Once you’re committed there’s no quick escape if another runner stumbles upon your path. If your lycra doesn’t have enough give, it’s a messy affair. If your quads aren’t up to the job, its a trembling, sweat inducing procedure and for someone who avoids mud at all costs, the mere thought of pissing on your own trainers brings me out into a cold sweat!

My pee obsession started way before I started running in my days as an avid gym bunny. I think a water company ran a promotion and helpfully left a urine ‘colour chart’ in the changing rooms and I realised that I was unhealthily off the scale. I’ve always been a passionate fan of black coffee, still am, always will be, but sadly peeing black coffee out not dissimilar to how it went in suggests poor hydration! Would it be too gross to say it probably smelled of back coffee too? Since then I have a daily quest for ‘pale straw’and I feel better for it. I’d love blog some more, but I’ve got to go ……………..

Trail on trial!

I’m continuing my year of firsts, different races and event, something new for the mojo so a trail race seemed and exciting idea. I’ve been prepared since I purchased some sexy looking Asics trail shoes in the January sales. I even drummed up the support of Ellie and Susie for a bit of off road action as we entered the Beacon Hill Solstice Run to give us something sunny to look forward to in the murky depths of winter. The summer solstice we thought, the countryside in beautiful June we thought, a glorious introduction to trail running we thought, a cheeky Friday evening countryside trot we thought, we thought wrong! Those who know me or my blog know that I don’t do mud, don’t like getting my trainers mucky, so grassy slopes in June sounded idyllic. Not only that, but organised by ‘Jack Rabbit Events’ there’s always the added lure of an epic medal.

The amazing Beacon Hill 2016 medal

The amazing Beacon Hill 2016 medal

As we almost missed the entrance the car park the rain was so heavy the visibility was almost zero. We bleakly followed the poor marshals huddled by the gate in their emergency rain ponchos and found a great spot in the field near the start and finish points as we were rather early. Despite being only 35 minutes from where we live, I’d never heard of and certainly never been to Beacon Hill which is near to Loughborough in Leicestershire so we’d been generous allowing extra drive time. All wasn’t lost, the three of sat in the car nattering, steaming it up as the rain passed over and things brightened up ……a smidge. It might not have been raining but it was humid, no way I was running in a jacket.

It was a soggy plod to the tent to get our numbers but the mood brightened as we saw more familiar faces of the ‘purple army’ arriving. There were ladies with flower garlands around their heads in homage to the sunny solstice….would there be naked dancing around the beacon we panicked ?

It was a cani-cross race too, not something we’d encountered before. Dogs of all shapes and sizes were being harnessed to runners. We saw a lady pass us pulled by a large Doberman ….’she’s got a PB in the bag’ we thought. Do dogs look like their owners ? It’s a good place to test the theory.

We braved the loo queue, not too bad and big thumbs up go to Loughborough council, there was loads of loo roll, hand towel and warm water in a public loo block. Positively luxurious compared to the usual facilities for a pre run piddle.

The dogs had a 5 minute head start, there was so much yapping and woofing on the start line as they all lined up I was waiting for the words ‘mush’ to be shouted but off they went barking into the distance.

The first mile was straight up hill to the Beacon and I mean ‘up hill’ the first part wooded and wet as newly created streams ran down from what has actually been a week of heavy rain. Runners were walking within 100 yrds of the start, come on folks, give it a go. There was a bit of poor runner etiquette as these walkers didn’t make much of an effort to move to the side of the path so the braking through was tough. Sadly it was mainly groups of ladies talking and walking right across the path ( I bet you’d swim up a lane yakking in the same way too !)

Despite the earlier murk, the view from the rocky outcrop at the top was spectacular, worth the arduous climb that put my officially lazy, middle aged glutes to the test. Mile 2 started in spectacular downhill fashion. I’m not used to that kind of speed of descent, I had to trust in the trail shoes to hold firm on the wet path. That mile bordered on mild middle aged panic that falling over is just not an option once you’re past 30, to the toddler like pleasure of hurtling down hill, almost out of control legs moving without effort. The difference in those mile splits, a 10.5 minute mile, followed by a 7.3 minute mile. WWWWWWeeeeeeee !!

Mile 3 undulated beautifully through the Charnwood forest and by this point we’d caught up with many cani-cross runners for some it seemed like a Friday evening dog walk as the dogs sniffed the soggy vegetation and frolicked in the newly made puddles. Mile 4 looked steady but contained yet another deceptive final climb. One of those hills where at the bottom you think you can see the top but when you get there it bloody goes up again and then turns sharply right and goes up even more! No wonder at the bottom a runner next to me said ‘I hate this hill’ when at that point I was thinking it didn’t look too bad.

And on to the final mile, another hurtle downhill this time buoyed with the added enthusiasm of knowing the finish was within reach. Descending back into woodland the newly sprung streams across the path stopped no one as we splashed enthusiastically through them keeping a firm eye on the floor for tree routes and stones. There was a near catastrophe point as marshals desperately shouted ‘Right turn’ towards the finish and it was a sharp right, now very muddy and wet. The marshals at that point needed danger money seeing runners flying downhill straight at them.

I belted to the finish ….. 44.54, happy with that as it was my first (and I don’t think last ) trail run and proved to be some tough going for my old lady legs. Awesome medal received and a bottle of beer in the goody bag. I stuck to the water and the chocolate biscuit though as I waited to shout in Ellie and Susie and assorted purple vests. They came in at 52, Ellie’s first race since foot surgery in December and what a race!

There was beer at the finish, now that's a goody bag !

There was beer at the finish, now that’s a goody bag !

I don’t do mud, but look at me……..

...and I don't do mud. These are new trail shoes OMG

…and I don’t do mud. These are new trail shoes OMG

Will we be back next year? Hell yes and we’ll hope for better weather and we’ll be bringing a picnic. No trail fail for this LCA.

Science in Sport

Buns of steel – the theory and reality ! 

A free workshop for runners, hooray I thought, perfect I thought. Actually, a good reason to finally get more value from my expensive gym membership that I probably don’t get worthy use out of being a treadmill-phobe with limited free time that gets spent in the fresh air. As the hubster frequently points out, a couple of lengths in the pool and dipping your arse in the jacuzzi isn’t really maximising multi million pound facilities !! 

But now David Lloyd has started a running club, not sure if that’s a national plan or just my club, but as the popularity of running grows and grows it has been well attended, 70 runners some nights. I don’t run with them, yet another time clash with my daughters sporting chaffeur services and anyway, just how many clubs can I run with ……..loads actually, I’m such a ‘run slut’ !! It does however mean that David Lloyd are now putting runners ‘health and wellbeing’ events on the list for all members……awesome! 

The workshop was a run to look at key runners strength exercises, particularly some useful butt busters , essential for lazy arsed runners like me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a lazy runner but middle age has seen the demise of my gluteus maximus (no, my bum no longer looks big in anything!! ) and physio’s have assured me my butt is not firing on all cylinders…..see, lazy arsed !! 

Years of training mean I am a closet PT and most exercises I know, but reminders and a technique check are always welcome plus a bit of new thinking to keep me up to date. A badminton court was covered with equipment with the commentary, “when you’re in the gym going forward, ensure you incorporate some of these into what you’re doing”. The catch for this session was they were laid out as a circuit so we were actually doing all of them TWICE for 2 minute and then 1 minute intervals. 

Let’s see, there were:

  • Weighted lunges (using a vipr for weight and tram lines to keep legs the right distance apart)
  • Weighted squats
  • Inchworms ( intriguing and unflattering!) 
  • Spider-Man crawls ( opposite leg and arm …..mentally challenging for all concerned) 
  • Plyometric box jumps ( only 3 out of 12 of us had the guts to try, cowards ! easier option, just jump) 
  • Bridge bum lifts (one legged for the strong …..me of course ! )
  • Plank
  • Crunches
  • Side leg lifts and squats with a resistance band
  • REST ( I bloody PB’d that one) 
  • Sprint shuttle runs ( probs translate the term ‘sprint’ loosely here) 
  • Dead lifts with a barbel or vipr ( yet again nearly everyone avoided the barbel, it was fine, they would have been perfectly capable…ladies annoyingly avoid ‘manly’ looking equipment when it’s not that big a deal)
  • Oblique twists with a medicine ball ( feet off the floor of course) 

Shock your body, its key every now and again and I owned those circuits. 12 of us there and I wasn’t the youngest or oldest but I was the fittest. I owned each station, full effort for the full time and of course I still got to dip my arse in the jacuzzi at the end. Now we all know that pride comes before a fall, those who visit ‘smugsville’ must pay a price….

Let me edit the highlights of the next two days for you, I doubt my companions had this to show for their efforts……

  • Involuntary grunts with any movement involving any slight raising or lowering of bum height 
  • Inability to sit on any chair without arm rests to grab from behind to brace the descent of my arse to a sitting position
  • Preference to use the disabled toilet cubicle as the rails prove handy,yet again, to control the speed of my backside descent to a loo seat
  • Hamstring tension to ensure retrieval of items from the floor was impossible 
  • Running when each foot strike jolted my glutes painfully as a reminder they clearly do need to be fired up more frequently
  • Running when each foot strike jolted my abs , yes abs, painfully as a reminder they are not as flat, firm and chiselled as I might like to think
  • Running made my saddle bags hurt ……why, there’s no muscle in there! 
  • Running was ultimately a painful reminder of just how much moves about when you run. Even my shoulders hurt, my whole back must bounce up and down……ugh!

So will I aim to weight train more? Yes, it reminded me that I do weirdly enjoy it but the key here will be to incorporate SOME of these exercises into my weights routine, not ALL of them! Not all in one go!