Monthly Archive: February 2011

The first steps of Spring?

Another long run bites the dust! After getting over my sickness of the last week I did three fast miles on the ‘mill last night to see how my chest felt. It was a bit tight but nothing devastating so I felt ready to do the long run at the weekend I had to skip because of being sick. This week I was planning to hit 8.5 miles and I’m delighted to say I smashed it!

Today the weather was glorious – one of those days in deepest February that just gives you a little hope that Spring might just be around the corner. It wasn’t warm by any stretch of the imagination but the sun was out; and when you live in the darkness of the North of Scotland, getting any kind of sunshine and vitamin E is a rarity in the Winter months. I had been in work rather early this morning so when I saw how lovely it was I decided to leave work half an hour early to maximise the daylight running time.

When I left at 4pm it was 5C/41F and the sun was still above the horizon which was a good start so I decided to get my legs out. I went for my Nike tempo shorts and a long sleeve top/sleeveless combo on top but with knee length socks that I could roll down when I warmed up. In retrospect this was a smart mood as in the last few miles after it got dark I was terribly cold – in fact an hour after I got back into the house my muscles still haven’t warmed up and I’m sitting with a blanket over my lap!

So I managed to get home and changed and ready to hit the road just before 4.30pm. The perk was strong with me – I snacked on some quorn chunks and a spoonful of peanut butter before getting going.

I had planned a new route on MapMyRun.com to include a loop in an area I’ve never run before in an area of the city called Grandholm. It’s a former industrial area next to the river Don which used to be full of mills and factories; now there is a lot of sympathetically designed housing and a lot of forest trails along the river banks. I headed out of Froghall and down Bedford road past the back end of the University Campus, hoping desperately that I wouldn’t pass any of my students on their way home! The route took me past Seaton Park and around the edges of Tillydrone – a fairly dodgy area of town. I didn’t see any sketchy characters but I was glad it was still light. It made me remember how much of a walking (running) paycheck I would be for any potential muggers – an iPod, a smart phone, a camera, a Garmin… Oh the random thoughts that cross my mind whilst running.

Two and a bit miles in I got down to the river and the Grandholm Bridge. I was just maintaining a nice, easy pace…not trying to break any records as I knew it wouldn’t be too long before I was in uncharted territory.

2.22m!

So as I said before; this is an area of ‘town’ that I’ve never been in, I’ve no reason to ever go there but I’ll definitely be including it in my regular running routes from now on! It doesn’t feel like you’re in the middle of a city at all

As you can see we don’t get a lot of colour in Aberdeen in the winter months, any form of green falls off the trees by October and the grass becomes brown from being covered by snow and ice for months.

Not a lot of colour but beautiful none the less. You can imagine how glorious it is in the summer! So I crossed the bridge and headed downstream of the river towards the mouth along a nice, soft trail. There was a lady dog walker being pulled along towards me by about 8 dogs of different sizes; it was all I could do to stop myself from running up to them and squeeing over them all – they were utterly ADORABLE! I was too shy to stop and take a picture so you’ll just need to picture it.

Running through here in utter solitude listening to some good music and smelling the forest made me smile. I was actually grinning like a loon – it makes me so happy when you just hit that sweet spot in your stride and you remember why you run – for all the struggles, blood, sweat and tears there’s just nothing like it in the world.

I crossed another little bridge over a tributary and followed the path as it zig-zagged up the steep river banks. I powered up it as quickly as I could and found my hill training has done quite a good job which bodes well for this Sunday’s Cross Country race! There was a great view over the hazy city at the top.

The trail meandered in to Balgownie and I ran on the roads for a little while before heading back down to the river at the historic Brig o Balgownie. I wasn’t at the right angle to take a picture so have one from HERE:

The undulating path continues along by the river here, sometimes you can spot seals poking their head out of the water as they loll about in the river but they were elsewhere today.

You can see the Bridge of Don in the background there. At this point I was excited by spotting something quite exciting…

SNOWDROPS! This definitely means that Spring is coming. These were the first bunch I’ve seen all year.

Here’s the view from the Bridge of Don looking out to sea. At this point I turned left and followed the Beach Esplanade alll the way along and back again. My usual stomping ground: not quite as interesting.

The sea was pretty angry today. It was very windy and as I ran along I was running into the wind which really began to hurt my thighs after a while. It was DAMN COLD and beginning to get dark.

I stopped to unwrap a chewit for a sugar boost here. Ugh, my roots need doing :/

It was kind of amusing to note that the Garmin was showing I was running an exact 10 minute mile apparently! It was more like 9m30s per mile but I guess I have to allow for a little faffing with the camera at times…

I hit 10k at 1hr1m47s this time – a bit slower than last weeks long run. At this point I was feeling a bit gash – I was so cold and so so hungry! I think I’m going to need to start taking proper fuel with me on long runs – more on that later.

Windy windy windy.

My 10k zombie face, having lost most of my earlier optimism!

Finally made it along to picturesque little Fittie which sits at the other end of the Beach Esplanade and at the mouth of the River Dee and the harbour.

Turned around and headed for home…this time with the wind behind me finally. When I hit 8 miles I was comfortably close to home so I knew I’d make it without having to resort to walking…but my legs were shot. They felt like they were made of lead! I guess hitting the marathon ‘wall’ must feel like that but 100 times worse. I mentioned fuel before; it’s obvious that if I’m going to be going out for this kind of distance and longer I’ll need a bit more fuel than a couple of chewits. I guess it’s time to start venturing into the world of gel fuels – I’ve read all about them throughout the blogosphere (the blogs I read at 99% US based) but whether the same brands are available in the UK I’m not sure yet. I tried a lucozade sport gel once before a race when I’d eaten a bit too early before the race and I had mixed feelings…the texture is pretty bokey, it didn’t really feel like something I should be putting in my mouth… It also didn’t help that it was the Santa run and I was squeezing it into my mouth through a fake beard but…y’know. So does anyone have any thoughts or opinions on sport gels they’d like to share with me? What kinds do you like? Do you ever get used to the crazy texture? Do you like a different type of mid-run fuel instead?

So I got myself home finally, and felt at my absolute limit. I could have gone further if pushed but I really didn’t want to – a different feeling from last week when I thought I still had more in me.

End result?

Bing! Achievement unlocked! A new distance PR! Awesome. I love this stage, when everything’s new…

I warmed up with some blankets and a cat after doing some major stretching. It took me a couple of hours to warm up afterwards, helped considerably by having my hot dinner on my knee.

That’s about it for now. Body Pump tomorrow night and then some more hill work on Thursday before Sunday’s race. The race is in the Bridge of Don – since it’s only 3 miles I might go out for a few more afterwards I may do a repeat of tonight’s loop afterwards depending on how my legs feel. Got to keep this new high mileage up!

Buggy lugs

Ugh, I’m SICK. With the creation of my training plan I did not factor in the fact that I might catch some filthy bug which would knock my on my ass.  On Saturday I woke up with that tell-tale funny feeling in the back of my throat that something wasn’t right, but I headed out for my long run in the lashing rain and wind anyway. Afterwards I felt really woozy but I figured that was just because I’d run so far and got on with the rest of my day. I was a little hungover on Sunday after watching the rugby and hitting a friends birthday party the night before and my throat was acting up AND I was coughing. Monday? Yep, sick. Stuffed up nose, green gunge, cotton wool head, nausea; the works. I kept perky for a wonderful Valentines dinner with Badger but I knew by the end of the evening I wouldn’t be going to work the next day :(

So Tuesday was spent on the couch and Wednesday I came back to work and struggled to the gym determined to bust the bug out of my system, but I bonked on the treadmill after 2 miles and did weights instead. I felt better for it last night but today I’ve been struggling. My ears are all funny and I’ve had a three day headache…hill intervals weren’t happening when I got home from work. It’s not a cold, it’s not flu – it must be some gross virus. Unfortunately working at a University leaves you exposed to constant streams of varying bugs so you never know what’s around the corner. I hate feeling like this though – I’d rather have 3 days of sickness and diahorrea than a week of feeling gross.

I’m a little concerned about losing out on training, but not too much. Much better to stay in and get better than compromise my immune system by running outside when ill. I’m also spurred on by my AWESOME run on Saturday. I mentioned running far? Well…

That’s 7.5miles you see there! Seven and a half! I’ve never run so far in my life, I was so pleased – every step was a new record! I took it very easy at roughly 9m30s pace throughout and hit 10k at 1hr and 30s. As mentioned above the weather was atrocious, and down at the beach it was even worse – a strong wind which carried me along running one way along the beach front, but was a huge struggle to run into going the other way. Horizontal rain as well so I was COMPLETELY soaked. There were a few other runners out but hardly any compared to your average Saturday afternoon – we exchanged knowing looks; relieved that we weren’t the only person to be crazy enough to run in that weather.

I could have gone for longer when I got home, and I wanted to – that’s the frustrating thing, but I didn’t want to risk injury. At least I know whatever I’m doing, I’m doing the right thing for long distance runs. If I was to run a half marathon at that pace I’d finish in 2hrs and 5minutes; which is only 5 minutes more than my goal time… I’ve begun looking for a half marathon earlier in the summer, and even begun entertaining the idea of running a marathon in the Autumn… Loch Ness perhaps? Or maybe I should become more familiar with the half marathon distance throughout the latter half of this year and be ready to run a full at the start of next year? Hmmm. Ideally I’d like a half to be my go-to distance; 10k is actually a really fast run if you’re trying to do well and I prefer to go slower for longer (I guess that’s my inner ultra marathoner speaking :P).

Speaking of 10k’s however – my home run, the City of Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10k, opened on Monday and I was the 29th person to register and the 10th woman. Let’s hope those are the results on the day eh!? I’m REALLY looking forward to this race; it’s held down by the beach which is where I run all the time so I know the course inside out and I’m looking forward to showing what 8 months of training can do to my PR – I’m hoping for around 48 minutes which would knock 6m 47s off my current 10k PR, but of course I may PR at at RunGarioch 10k next month. I’m excited for that too – I’m bored of 5k races, I’m itching to do something more challenging!

Magic skorts

Hey gang! I’m pleased to report back to my cheerful self and very much back in the game! 8 miles down this week already and it’s only Thursday :D Sorry to have been such a mopey guts on Monday, but this isn’t the easiest task I’ve set myself in life so undoubtedly there will be peaks and troughs in the process. I’m putting a healthy amount of pressure on myself to do this the right way and I’ve never been someone to accept anything less than getting it right the first time.

So I sat my mopey arse down on Monday night and wrote a training plan. A proper one – I looked at all my calendars, work commitments and upcoming social events that I’m aware of and wrote down what I’m going to do between now and when I go to Texas next month. I’m hoping to be able to enjoy lots of exercise when I’m over there but I’m on holiday – anything could happen. I’ll have to reassess things when I get back on the 8th of April but up until now I’m set. Here’s what it looks like –

So you probably can’t read that terribly well, but in any case – Mondays are for Yoga and Gliding but I’m always early for class, so I’m adding a speed sprint in beforehand. I’ll remember how long I ran for an in what time and note it down each week. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for speed intervals and hill intervals – starting at 3.5 miles each and increasing every 2 weeks, or as I feel comfortable. Weekends heralds the long run and Wednesday is cross training day and Body Sculpt at the gym. I have a set of weights at home which I like to use in front of the telly so I’m keeping my arm work going on the side.

So that should set me up nicely for the first 10k of the year on the 20th of March – the Specsavers RunGarioch 10k, which is in Inverurie – a small town about 10 miles away. Doing this race will force me to keep my mileage up so I don’t take too much of a dent when I’m away in Texas, as two weeks after that I have the RunBalmoral 10k to do (with it’s infamous hill).

Speaking of hills – tonight was hill rep night! Previously I’ve only ever done this on the treadmill, which is useless in comparison to a real hill on a cross country race or a road. The nights are getting lighter ever so gradually here now – to the extent that the sun is setting just as I leave work at 4.30pm so I can grab about an hour or so of light before it gets too dark. There is a great hill to run on near my house, but it’s a bit isolated to be running on your own on in the dark and it’s also not lit – but now it’s light enough for me to use!

For locals, this is the Broadhill I’m talking about – the great grassy lump behind the Beach Leisure Centre and next to Pittodrie. It’s about a half mile down hill jog from the flat so you can get a nice warm up before tackling it – it’s about a quarter of a mile to ascent on one side and slightly more on the other, but there are a couple of different tracks. Some have stairs and other are just grassy, but they’re all very steep and challenging! There’s a plateau at the top which has a gentle slope before you go back down again so there’s a good recovery area too. The view from the top is quite lovely and a wonderful place to look at the sun set!

The above is the beach front at Aberdeen, looking North. This is where I do most of my runs during the week – from one end to the other and back it’s 5 miles, and to run from my house to use this area brings it up to 6.

Of course, this would be Pittodrie – the home of Aberdeen Football Club and where I ran the Wildhearts Santa Run in December.

So I had a great run tonight – one of those runs where you just feel awesome and don’t want to stop. I could have gone a lot longer than just the 3.5 miles I did (6 reps of the hill) but I stopped when I got home to save my legs for some extra gym work tomorrow and my long run on Saturday.

Came home and hugged my cats – they haven’t been featured enough lately – have some feline!

An awesome run!

Now, about these ‘skorts’. I noticed on some of the other running blogs I read – particularly MealsAndMiles and SkinnyRunner – that these ladies had extremely cute running skirts…which was something I’d never seen. I decided last pay day to see if I could find one as I liked the way they looked and how they made your running ensemble a little more feminine. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, a skort is a skirt with a pair of shorts inside, usually cycling shorts. I don’t think cycling shorts look good on ANYONE once they’re off a bike but the short a-line skirt covers everything up nicely. So, lo and behold, sportsdirect.com came through again and I snagged one for £11 – I went for a plain black one as I didn’t know whether I’d like it or not. It arrived on Tuesday and I love it! So that was another great boost to my reform after the Monday slump. I haven’t tried it out yet but I think I might get a couple in different colours and incorporate them into my race outfits. Pics? Why not :)

Yeah so I’m not going to win Scotland’s Next Top Model any time soon but you get the idea. I really like it, it feels great and I can’t wait to run in it. Badger, ever the supporting boyfriend, asked when I was off to play netball… I stuck my fingers up his nostrils the next time he tried to kiss me.

Doom, gloom and everything in between.

So yet another week has gone by with zero progress made and virtually no running at all – another proud achievement over here at RedWine towers that I’m delighted to share with you all. So what are the excuses this week? After a successful five mile jaunt down the beach on Tuesday night which included 4x400m sprints, I was ready for my scheduled ‘cross training’ for the week – i.e Body Sculpt class, but since it doesn’t start ’til 6.45pm I came home after work and the couch ate me. Thursday’s planned work out of 3miles of hill repeats went out the window when 80mph winds and rain battered the North of Scotland so I skipped it and went to #themeet140 earlier than planned. Friday – I’d had a huge girls night out planned for months so a workout was never on the cards. Saturday – Long run planned; was too hungover to move and went to a friends to watch the rugby instead. Sunday; I should have done a long run but failed to leave the house all day for the pure pleasure of relaxing in peace and quiet with my partner for the first time in a week. Bad runner! Runner’s don’t get to relax – if they’re not at work or other commitments then they should be RUNNING. Right…?

So here we are a week further into the year and if I were on track to run 1000 miles this year, in 5 weeks I would have run 96.15 miles by now – instead I’ve hit 35. Smashing.  Since the start of the year I’ve been concentrating on eating the healthiest I can, cutting out booze, and doing more exercise than ever before in order to lose weight so I can go faster – 5 weeks later and I’ve put ON 2kg and my measurements are the same. 5 weeks into the year and I’ve already had a flare up of my old knee problems and am suffering from shint splits for the first time in my life. Or is could be a stress fracture – we don’t know yet.

As the wind batters Aberdeen and the snow continues to pelt down today my motivation is at a major low, dragged down further by my failing body and escalating weight. Dear readers – please offer some words of encouragement and remind me why I am bothering to put myself through this voluntarily, when clearly all I’m best at for now is sitting on my couch with a beer.

I wish there more hours in the day; or more days in the week – I feel like to actually accomplish what I want to do I have to make huge sacrifices in my social, personal or professional life. I can’t change my professional life – this is only a hobby after all and I’m required to work all day and late into the evenings at concerts. If I have to miss an evening work out because of an event, then I should reschedule it to an early morning session before work. But then getting up hours before the crack of dawn to go and run on a treadmill requires an early night the night before which isn’t always possible due to work commitments or other occasions, and then as a result I’m dead and in bed by 9.30pm later that day. So do I change my personal life? It’s funny that now Badger and I live together we seem to see each other even less than usual what with his late nights working, my late nights working and everything else in between. The opportunity to spend a few hours together on the couch watching a movie on a Sunday afternoon with the cats is precious ‘us time’ and has to take priority over a long run for now or else we may as well be ships passing in the night the way our lives go.  So I suppose that means sacrificing my social life – missing my friends birthdays? Skipping book club with my girl friends? Missing out on the growing twitter social scene in Aberdeen?

I guess something has to go if I want this to happen, and I want it SO BADLY. Over the next few months I’ll be working long hours at work; the only way I can see this happening is if I can get myself out running before work – either at the gym or outside once it gets lighter. The concept of this is ridiculous -anyone who knows me will testify that I only see 5.30am if I’ve been up all night from the night before. I guess sooner or later I’ll need to start making these kind of tough choices however.

Anyway – tonight is gliding, then power yoga. Perhaps I’ll be able to blast a quick mile afterwards as well for the sake of it to keep the mileage racking up.  Apologies for the gloomy post, but this journey was never going to be an easy one.