Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy new 2008 - and what are you going to do this year?

I love nothing more than a resolution. I am one of Belbin's resource investigators - extrovert, enthousiastic and communicative. On the down side I lose interest once initial enthousiasm has passed... Starting afresh, setting new goals, mapping new targets - I'm your girl. Once I'm mired down in the middle of it all, when all I can see is big humps ahead of me - that's when it gets hard. That's one of the reasons my running and racing means so much to me. A marathon is proof to me that somewhere, inside me, there's an element of a completer finisher in there - someone who can see a long plan through and emerge victorious. So don't fence me in yet!

So having said all that let me launch into my new year's resolutions:
- thanks to aforementioned terrible flu I am now at target weight. I need to stay there and stay with the healthy, low alcohol lifestyle.
- I would like to run 2 marathons well-ish this year. Again, thanks to aforementioned flu my training for London has been somewhat curtailed but I'm hoping to pick it all up again this week. I will only have missed 2 weeks then and that should be manageable. Well - it will be. 10 days of skiing should make me fit and strong and mentally ready to take on 12 weeks of training. We'll see....
- I hope to find some balance this year with my new challenges of working and being a mother and wife - and being me. I am really hoping that this will be the year where I will be able to say "no" to things sometimes. Particularly to requests from others for me to do things I don't have time or inclination to do. Let this be the year...
- I would like to do my bit for charity. I want to launch my Save the Rhino fund raising page this week and will do it.
- and I would just, occasionally, like to smell the roses. I'm very very fortunate in lots of ways and I hope that I will remember, at times, to just enjoy that, instead of charging ahead to the next thing. Here's hoping.

And what's happening for you? What are you aiming for? Are you going to come and run a race with me somewhere? Let me know..

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A stone dropped on me!

No it didn't really, but it might as well have. Shortly after posting my "busy busy" post and putting together a short contribution for The Extra Mile (during which I could feel a sore throat) I was felled by flu. I struggled into work for a day and then was left marooned at my desk and had to use everything in my arsenal to walk back up to my car in the afternoon. I even had to phone my husband to pick up the kids - I knew that once I was in the car I had to just get to bed as soon as possible. It was awful! It has been awful! I have not been this ill - ever! Which I suppose is lucky in itself. But my goodness! I was in bed with a high temperature until Christmas day (7 days) and have only just started to be able to be up all day. And I'm still going to bed around 7 in the evening and sleeping till 8.. with a nap in the afternoon. I am so weak! Every small thing I do - laundry etc. necessitates a 15 minute sit-down in a chair afterwards.

So no running. For over a week now. Where does that leave me? I'm not sure really. I know I'm not strong enough to run yet. I'm hoping to get out there by maybe Tuesday, for a quick run. Where does that leave marathon training? Well... It's not great missing 2 weeks of training (at least). What can I say? I'm off on my 10 day skiing holiday halfway through next week so I'm hoping to be strong enough for that. When I get back I will have 12 weeks till marathon day. I'm not sure what to do. Whether to just start back into Hal Higdon when I can? Or to find a 12 week program somewhere? I know there are some about. If I sound lacklustre - I'm not. But this is beyond my control. I'm going to have to wait to be well again and then see where I am...

On the plusside - I'm at target weight. That was easy! Just get sick and that's the trick.. And I didn't overdo it on red meat or wine over Christmas either and am unlikely to do so for New Year's. So at least I'll start the New Year slim...

I'll keep you posted on progress - just wanted to let you all know why I've not been about commenting and posting.. Happy new 2008 to you all and let's hope we can run together this year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

again with the delays and excuses..

I know I know. It's been well over 10 days since I posted. Honestly - I don't know how everyone else does it. My new job is great - I'm loving it. But when I'm not working I'm picking up my kids, spending time with them, cooking, tidying, laundry and general family admin - and running just about fits in there as well.
I was listening to MarathonChris on The Extra Mile whilst doing 10M on the treadmill last week - the only thing that makes the treadmill at the gym bearable is all of your great podcasts - and she was talking about prioritising running in the middle of a busy life. I know I'm not the only one with a busy life but I guess the difference with my previous freelance life is that so much of my time is now ringfenced - it's that much harder to squeeze out an hour to run.

Anyway - last week's long run was meant to be 14 miles. Once again I stopped at 9. Exhausted. Again. I came in and sat on the floor and started crying where my husband picked me up. I asked him whether I should just quit here and give up on London (yes, drama queen should have been my middle name) and he told me no - but to back off the extremely demanding running plan. So yes. 3 weeks into it, I've given up on the Pfitz 18 weeker. I'm going to have be realistic - if I'm going to get these runs done, and line up at the starting line in one piece (of sound mind would be nice as well) I'm going to have to do something a bit more realistic. And so I am, once again, stepping back to Uncle Hal's Intermediate I. I've done it twice, it works for me. It's not going to get me in under 4, I may even have to give up on a PB (London is a harder and busier course than Amsterdam or Chicago) but I can do this one.

For the past 3 and a half years running has been central to my existence. It pulled me out of the post-baby, career-on-hold deadspace and gave me purpose. Now that I've entered a new phase - kids in school, new career on track - I may have to look at running a bit differently. Not that I would stop. I wouldn't do that. It remains crucial to me - the physical and psychological benefits are too enormous. But I may have to accept that there are other limitations to training than physical ones - such as time.

To top everything off - the reason I have time to post today is that I'm in bed with flu (and a laptop). It was going to happen I guess and here it is. Hopefully I'll get it all over with before Christmas and my skiing holiday. I'm going to be missing a few days running but given that I've been fairly diligent with the Pfitz plan till last week I think I can afford it while dropping into Hal Higdon. I think. I hope. We'll see...

Finally - there's a discussion going on at What's a few miles between friends regarding running a joint marathon next year? Any ideas? Any contributions? Head on over and let us know.

Finally finally - inspired by Chris we've elfed ourselves as well - check us out !

Friday, December 07, 2007

btw

Don't you just love that poll? I just discovered it when I tried to add a PDF to my post.. BTW - just to be clear I am DEFINITELY running and training for the marathon - just not quite sure how.

A great and inspirational fellow blogger, Drusy, just found out she's running it as well so it's going to be such fun to meet up with her at some point. I'm hoping to be able to do a training run with her in London at some point. This is her now - above - with a new(ish) haircut and what looks like a shed growing out of her head! I hope she can get rid of that before the race - it's bound to slow her down..

Help!

Well - I'm not quite sure how to say this but I'm not sure I can do this. What? Train for a marathon? Sure. Aim for around the 4 hour mark? Not quite sure, but there is some confidence. Follow the Pfitz plan for 18 weeks? That would be the one I'm not quite sure of.

Why? Well the immediate reason I'm doubting myself is that I went out for 13 this morning and managed 6. After my first week at work, a hard crosstraining session, a 10 miler on the treadmill (which I completed despite chafing which started at 3M and got pretty ugly by 6M) and a 5 miler after work before the supermarket shop yesterday, today's run was just too much. I was bushed! And - of course - I started to doubt the schedule? Should I? Or should I, just 2 weeks into it, just chalk it up to tiredness and overextending myself and try again tomorrow. I'm just not sure.

On the one hand I think that the Pfitz schedule is going to require a lot of time investment - time is something I do not have an overabundance of.. On the other hand I feel weak a) for stopping today and b) for contemplating changing horses so soon into it. The thing that makes me consider changing horses is the fact that I got started early - I could still, for example, jump into another schedule without really missing anything. So what do I do?

The final thing is that I found a schedule for a sub 4 hr marathon on the Runnerworld UK website which is just a bit less intense that what the Pfitz suggests. It is a 16 week program that builds up a bit more slowly and just generally seems more manageable. Flip side could be that it might not get me as fit as the Pfitz might. If I can do the Pfitz. Hrmmmm.

For those of you schedule nuts, I've pdf-ed the Runnersworld schedule and am going to see whether I can attach it to this post somehow. Otherwise if you would be willing to cast your eye over it I would be delighted to e-mail it to you.

I feel like such an idiot! Anyway. Once again - let me have your thoughts!

Monday, December 03, 2007

where is she? where has she been?

Or where hasn't she been? Out and about, all over the place, getting ready to go to work, looking after her kids, ironing, cleaning, tidying up, travelling to Holland to her father's retirement party, celebrating St. Nicholas with her parents and children, packing, unpacking, laundry, cooking, stressing out about her new job...

Oh .. and running.

Yes - I am in week 2 of the Pfitzinger 55 mile per week or less 18 week training schedule. FYI this is the bottom end of his schedules. 55 miles per week! I reach those dizzy heights in week 11 but still - hoo ha! That is a lot of running!

Anyway - I'm only looking two weeks ahead. That's all I can program into my Palm without getting bored or terrified. So far, so good. I finally (finally!) went to the gym I joined 2 months ago and got them to sort me out with a weights program. So after 15 mins on the rowing machine and 15 mins on the cycle I have to work out all sorts of complicated machines which will tone me up and help me avoid those dreaded bingowings.. The schedule, at the moment at least, calls for 4 days of running and 3 days of either rest / cross training. I've had to muck it about a bit due to my trip to Holland but so far I'm on 1 day of rest a week and 2 days of crosstraining. And it's all gone fine so far! I missed one mile of my long run last week - ran 11 instead of 12 miles - because I'd mistyped it into my Palm but in week 1 I think I can handle that loss.

Terry, Jen and Maritza all said that 18 weeks seemed like a long time to follow a schedule. And it is. I've always done 18 week programs - and always lost my mojo at some point - but I'm hoping that I'm knocking that on the head this time by taking a skiing holiday 6 weeks into my training program which I've built in and left myself 2 weeks for. We're off to Jackson Hole (the weak dollar - sorry guys! and the strong euro make this the most economic option though don't let my husband read this because he'll say I didn't choose the most economic hotel.. A girl's gotta live right?) on January 10th. It should be good - last time I went skiing I was very unfit and still enjoyed it - I'm hoping increased fitness should make me better. (Last time I went skiing I also came back pregnant but I've learned my lesson now - older and wiser in so many respects!).

So - what haven't I done in the past weeks? Oh - commented on your blogs! I have read them in stolen moments and have marvelled at the amazing achievements of my running blogging friends. So here - in no particular order - are some shoutouts:
- Susan! Wonderwoman! What a star! This girl had a HARD time during her St. Jude's marathon. It was not a good run. But did she give up? No this woman pulled everything out the box to cross that finish line for Elijah and did so. What a girl!
- Maddy and MarathonChris - two fantastic runnergirls who met up again and ran the OUC half-marathon last week. Both of them ran full marathons not long ago and I salute and admire them for being so ready to race again so quickly!
There's Chris on the left and Maddy on the right. And no, they are not punching each other apparently - just showing off their Elijah bands. Whatever, ladies..
- the amazing ShirleyPerly who's more nervous about cooking a Thanksgiving meal (which went perfectly, by all accounts) than about running marathons or triathlons. She's going to take it easy for her last race of the year and "just run a sub 4-hr marathon". That's right honey - you just relax and take it easy!
- incredibly determined and focused Lizzie Lee who finished her first marathon! Well done LizzieLee - what an incredible achievement!
- Jen who has just run her 2nd CIM in an incredible 3:36 despite having a tough old mental struggle during the race. What an achievement girl! That is just incredible!
- Nicole, half of the wonderful and hilarious team that creates the 4feetRunning podcast, who has just completed her 2nd marathon in Philadelphia.
And all my other blogging friends - I am reading your blogs and catching up and will be sending shoutouts and comments your way as soon as possible.

Today was the first day at my new job. I've been parenting / freelancing for over 6 years so this was my first go at being back in an office for a while. I had a great day, my colleagues made me feel very welcome and although I can see some challenges ahead, I think I am able to cope with them and I welcome the opportunity to be back in the game. I've really lucked out - mummy-friendly hours and a non-mummy-track job so I'm really going to do my best.

Final thought of the day - it's getting late - I wouldn't have dared take on this job if I hadn't been a runner. Truly. When I changed from overweight couch potato into someone who could train for and run a marathon I changed my perception of myself and what I could do. If I - the overweight and underconfident me that I was 4 years ago - can do this running thing, then I can do anything I set my mind to. So that's what I'm doing. Setting my mind my friends..

Which is good because tomorrow I'm doing 10 miles on a treadmill - hey ho what fun!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

meme - it's all about me

I've been tagged by the wonderful ShirleyPerly to do a meme (is that what you say? Do you do a meme? Perform one? Blog one? Publish one? Never mind... ). The rules are as follows (pasted in from Shirley's site):
  • Link to your tagger, and post these rules on your blog.
  • Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
  • Tag 5 people at the end of your post by their names and links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they are TAGGED by leaving a comment on their blog.
S0 - everything you want to know about me (but were afraid to ask). You should have trusted your instincts hehe....

- I've lived in lots of different countries in my life - in Holland, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the US and the UK. The only place I really resisted moving to was rural Lincolnshire - and guess where I have now lived longest in one single place -yup! Spital-in-the-Street, Lincolnshire. And I'm very very happy here! Sometimes a type A control freak needs to be pushed where she doesn't want to go...
- I'm truly terrible at any sports that require hand-eye co-ordination. You know how people will say this and then actually be quite good? I was on a hockey team for years and managed to avoid ever having to hit the ball. I could stop it but I couldn't hit it. So I didn't. Ever. When I was about 16 I met some friends who had only met me when I (and they) were really young - like 4. The one thing they remembered about me was that I couldn't catch or throw...
- I read compulsively. Books, internet, newspapers etc. That's all good. But if I'm somewhere with no good reading material I'll read instruction manuals, leaflets, ingredients on the side of foods etc. As a result I can read upside down writing. I might make a good spy one day...
- I love cats. Just love them. Have one now - Pippi after Pippi Longstocking - who just makes my day with her loveliness...

-However, I hate mice. Hate them! And Pippi brings in live ones, tortures them and then loses interest and lets them run off in the house (kind of not the purpose of having a cat on the farm). So to my children's great amusement I am actually the lady who climbs on a chair when she sees a mouse and screams until someone (often my 7 year old) catches it. ..

So that's it folks!

My turn to tag - I tag Jen, Greg, Melisa, Drusy, Terry and LizzieLee!

Shut up and Run

Ok I promise I won't bore y'all with everything toooo much. But I'm in schedule madness at the moment. If you've been reading this blog for a while you'll know I followed Hal Higdon's Intermediate I for my Chicago marathon, no schedule for my Derbyshire marathon (doh!) and Hal Higdon Intermediate II which then dropped down to Intermediate I for my fourth marathon. I am now 1 week away from starting an 18 + 2 week training program for London. Why +2? Because I've booked a 10 day skiing holiday in January where I probably won't be running. (Plenty of hard aerobic workouts though - I ski like I run, little skill, much determination). I feel that Hal and I have reached the end of our road together - I don't know whether I could improve much more on this schedule. I would like a different program this time as I think I would benefit from more varied workouts - a bit of speedwork, more tempo work etc. Sooo... I have been reading Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning and my - this is advanced stuff. I've come a long way since starting running with John Bingham. While I think I'm at the bottom end of the people he's writing for I do want to improve my marathon time (are you kidding? who doesn't?) and I also want to try something new..

So - what are the factors?
- Jen (the great and the fast ) commented that's she's about to finish a 12 week Pfitz programme but feels that 18 might be too long - you might lose motivation. More so than with other programs Jen? I'm really interested to know what you think.
- the fabulous MarathonMaritza? You followed Pfitz for 18 weeks no? What did you think?
- Anyone else got some thoughts to throw in?

I'm going to have to show my hand here as well. Remember that post I put up and took down recently about prioritising and fitting everything in? Well.. I wrote that because I was in the process of finalising arrangements for a job. I have been working freelance from home for some time now but have now been offered a part-time position in a marketing department. It's a great job with great challenges AND mommy-friendly hours - 9-2:30 Mon-Thurs so it has everything I could ask for at this point. BUT while I've been able to run when I wanted recently since my son went to school, I am obviously going to have to do a lot more prioritising now. This is a good thing - I tend to get more organised when I have to and much more efficient. But. Running. So - here's my thinking. The Pfitz 18 week schedule has 4 days of running, 3 of rest / cross training. Long runs on Sunday. Now - given that my Fridays are free I think I would do my long runs on Friday and then just move the whole schedule back 2 days. This would mean that I would have to fit in one midweek long run during my Mon-Thu working week. Thankfully I joined a gym a month or so ago so I think that run will most of these in the evening on a treadmill. Husband is very supportive - of marathoning and working - so, provided I schedule all my runs in - I think that is feasible.

So what do you all think? Am I nuts? The more sensible amongst you will probably say you can't tell me whether this is all feasible. On the scale of discipline and determination I would say I am definitely human - I get tired and lose motivation - but I am also determined and keen. And I think it will help me to cope with the inevitable workplace stress etc. to have my running to come back to.

Input asked for guys and gals. In the meantime, I've been having a good time running footloose and schedule-free. Had a few days in London this week and check me out in Hyde Park

Yup there's Lolly again - this time city dog took country girl for a run round Hyde Park!

And ShirleyPerly - I had to think of you when I saw this. Bear in mind that it was cold (maybe about 3 or 4 above (Celcius) and look at these gals swimming with the ducks!
Shirley's also tagged me so my next post will be a meme... And we will soon be onto rhinos I promise! In the meantime, keep running!

Monday, November 12, 2007

And she's off!


Yes - anyone who knows me knows me that the reflective, calm and considered side of me only tends to last very briefly before I go full throttle into my next commitment! While I am trying to be wary of overcommitment this time - I really AM - I have just received word that I will be given the opportunity to RUN THE LONDON MARATHON in April of 2008. How exciting is that!

I will be running it for a charity which is very close to my heart - Save the Rhino International. I have supported them in the past by running the 2005 NYC marathon and the 2006 Chicago marathon to raise money for their cause and am delighted to be able to run with and for them in London.
I will post much more information about them and why I think they are such a worthwhile cause to support shortly when I have my information together. But I didn't want to keep IrishBlue and Maddy on their toes any longer - they can finally sleep at night..

So - it's just under 2 weeks till D-day - the beginning of training. I'm madly reading up on different schedules and different strategies but in 2 weeks time everything should be in place to start a 20 week training countdown. Any suggestions very welcome - I'm thinking the Pfitz is finally going to come out and be dealt with but thoughts, opinions etc. are very welcome. I will enjoy the couch while I can!

Finally - the weight loss is happening, but slowly. I've signed up with P.O.M's weightloss challenge over at Runnerslounge - look for the holiday weight loss challenge where the gruesome reality is there for all to witness. IrishBlue and Drusy have joined in already so it's all out there..

I'll be back soon!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Clarification... and running for Ryan

I've just deleted the post I put up yesterday - about exercise making you more intelligent and related to that, ideas that were rolling around in my head at the moment because I don't think I made a very good job of getting my point across...

So just to reassure everyone - I'm fine. Totally fine. Not un-motivated at all. MarathonChris's comment was much more coherent than my long blurb. I am really looking for some time-management skills and, attached to that, some new assertiveness and communication techniques to help me achieve this more effective time-management. I am hoping that a daily practise of meditation might help me set priorities I'm happy with and give me a chance to consider those commitments in my life that I might not want to continue with. There. I've now said it in a paragraph, without a rant about self-help on the side. And all this thought, in turn, has been prompted by finishing a marathon and taking some time off training to just think about what's next in all aspects of my life. Thank you all for your comments as they have made it much easier for me to put my thoughts into words.

Anyway onwards and onwards - wonderful and FAST Jen has passed on the news about running 5.5 miles for Ryan Shay next week and I wanted to spread the word. I've got a busy week ahead but will find the time to run the distance in his memory next Saturday.

As for my other news - IrishBlue - there is so much cooking in the oven but I just dare not open the door for the minute for fear it all falls flat... As soon as it's sitting on the counter cooling I will let you know..

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Running with the dawwggsss

Another beautiful day - I just can't get bored of this amazing beautiful autumn. It's chilly now but I like that - good running weather. Went out for my first 5 miler since the marathon today. I took it easy - no aches or pains but I want to keep it that way - and it was just lovely. I finally got a chance to listen to Steve Runner's PB busting marathon report. I've been doing short runs with my husband at lunchtime which has been great but man - I do talk! I give myself a headache. I need podcasts to listen to so that I shut up and run. I love running with others from time to time but my goodness me - I need to be gagged! Anyway, I brought out some perfect running buddies with me today. Our dog - Frankie aka Franklin Delano Dogveldt and a sleepover guest from London, Lolly. Now Frankie is used to running with me but Lolly's a city girl and a tad on the chubby side. Rich perhaps, coming from me, but trust me - if she wore skinny jeans she too would have a muffin top. So initially country dog took the lead - check out country dog waiting for city dog to catch up. But then country dog gave up! For no good reason, Frankie just went off and sat on the lawn. DNF for Franklin. And city dog pulled through. She did the full 5 miles for me. I burned 500 or so kcals, apparently, not sure how this translates to dogs but it'll do her the power of good at any rate. She just needs to learn to keep up and stop stopping unless I do, in which case she needs to learn to wait until I do whatever it I'm doing that's making me stop. Like taking a picture. See Lolly stretch!

Now my friends - there is a running plan - with strategies and training plans and all that jazz - brewing in my little head. But I'm going to be uncharacteristically silent and share all with you in the next week or so when my plans will be a bit more firm. It's a tad undercooked at the moment. In the meantime, enjoy your running, enjoy your racing and stay in touch!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Saint Paula!


Wowee! Look at the girls! Amazing woman! Did you catch that final mile? Where did she get that sprint from? She is just incredible. I'm in total awe of this woman. 2:23:09. How's that for speed?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reflection, resolutions and ... mrrm yesss a muffin top

Reflections after running my recent marathon:
- it is ALL worth it. The early morning, the tiredness, the stress of working your life round your schedule, the fear of failure .. it is all worth it when you're out there and your body is doing what it's trained to do and it's doing it well and it's surprising and amazing you with what it can do.
- there is no such thing as "just" a marathon. Just because this one was closer than Chicago and New York, and because I wasn't attaching a holiday to it didn't make it "just a marathon". It was hard and exciting and fun and painful and unmissable. Every single mile of it.
- there is a certain feeling I have when running a marathon that I never felt any other time - all my doubts and worries are pushed back in a way I find difficult at other times and I feel confident and strong and able, regardless of whether I'm actually doing well or not. If I'm struggling then I am fine with that and I don't judge myself harshly. If I'm doing well I'm fine with myself too. I am just, for a while, totally fine with myself. An incredible feeling. Perhaps worth finding outside of a marathon?
- you HAVE to put your name on your shirt. It really really helps.
- family is amazing.
- bin bags are amazing. Check this out LizzieLee!
- running mates are amazing. Look at Sal! Not at all self-conscious at being bin-bagged with me..

Now for the resolutions - with this marathon behind me it is very tempting to think about my next year of racing. An autumn marathon has now become a tradition and so has the traditional time off from running just after it. It's not that I'm not running, but I'm not training. I'm just running for the pleasure and the fun of it. In my experience, it is really important to have some time off a schedule so you can give some thought to what's next. My impulsive and overly ambitious nature means my natural instinct is to jump straight into a new plan but I'm holding off, just reviewing my options while I'm out there on these lovely autumn runs. So what are my running resolutions for the rest of 2007 / 2008?
- to follow a more rounded plan. The Hal Higdon intermediate plans have served me well but offer no speedwork or interval work. I think I've now probably done as well as I ever will on them and so I need to ramp it up a bit and shake it up a bit if I want to improve any further. The bad thing about blogging is that your previous unmet resolutions are out there - I wrote about following a Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning plan earlier this year but then chickened out. I think I will go either for a Pfitz plan (it's working for Jen, after all) or follow a Hansen's plan like Steve Runner is doing.
- to run either a full or 2 halves in the spring. I've entered the lottery for London fully expecting not to get in (only 1 in 5 get in) but I'm doing it because after 5 unsuccesful entries you get in so one day my day will come.. If I don't get in I might find another UK full to train for or alternatively try to work hard on my half-times for a bit - might be a good strategy for trying out full marathon plans?
- to use my gym membership. I.e - some upper level work with weights etc. as well as swimming.
- to run an autumn marathon OR the relay if we can get a team together - I will be hassling you all after Christmas to see who's prepared to take part. If we can't get a team together I might run Chicago again or do Berlin..

Finally - the muffin top. You know you've overdone the post-marathon reward eating when you get jeans-induced indigestion and you've got a muffin top..
I'll spare y'all the image of my ... self spilling out of the top of my jeans but you can imagine. So I'm with the lovely and amazing Maddy and joining P.O.M's Holiday Weightsloss Challenge.

So off I go - on a beautiful Autumn run.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm back!

I'm back! After a GREAT weekend. All my misgivings were misplaced - I had a fantastic time for the following reasons:
- I had a wonderful time with my parents. This is the first time they have both been able to watch me run a marathon and they were SO incredibly supportive and interested it was amazing. They met us at 4 places and my father puts the papparazzi to shame, I think I have a about 90 photos of this race! They met me at the airport at lunchtime on Saturday and we just had such a wonderful time together for the next 2 days. We had meals and coffees, chatted, laughed and got caught up. My mother came out both days even though she had flu, my father and uncle picked me up by bike on race day to take me to the start (the race went by my hotel so all the roads were closed), they were there fully for me for the whole time. And they were so proud! I am SO lucky.
- family support - in the UK and in Holland. At home my husband manned the home front and my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law helped out to look after the kids. In Holland my uncle put my parents up, organised a restaurant for us on Saturday - pasta at 6! - and was so sweetly supportive and interested. Then to my great surprise about 5 km into the race I heard someone shout out my name - 2 of my cousins had heard I was running and had turned up to cheer me on! I can't tell you the lift this gave me!
- running support. I have never run a marathon with anyone I know but it was amazing to run it with Sally. She's been such a great running mate and her talent and ability is quite incredible. Bear in mind that at the beginning of this year the girl had never run 10 miles. We got into our starting pen which was for the 4-4:30 hour finishers and she moved straight to the 4:15 pacing team. I really wasn't sure about this - given all my misapprehensions recently I felt this was ambitious - but she reassured me we could always drop back. Well my friends, once we started we stayed together. Although the race was measured in kms I still had my Polar watch set to miles so I could measure our pace against what I'd run in training. Although I soon realised it was slightly "off" we managed to keep an incredibly consistent pace throughout the race. When I felt like flagging she was steaming along and dragged me along - when she was in pain I made like Oprah and asked her all sorts of trivia and distracting questions.


video

The footage above was shot by my mother on my camera but it shows you we did the whole thing side-by-side. And I can't believe how consistently we ran. These are our splits (with 5K splits in brackets) as they were sent through this morning:
5K 29:38
10K 58:50 (29:12)
15K 1:28:33 (29:33)
20K 1:59:54 (31.21)
half marathon 2:06:54
25K 2:40:57 (30:53)
30K 3:00:36 (29:49)
35K 3:30:33 (29:57)
40K 3:59:50 (29:17)
42K 4:12:17
Yes my friends - I pulled off a PB! With an average pace of 9:37 per mile I smashed my Chicago record of 4:17 and took off 5 minutes to finish in 4:12:17! And I owe it all to my friend Sally whose pace is like a metronome..
- finally - how was it? How did it feel? The race was well organised and had a great start and finish in the Olympic stadium which felt very professional. Because we were all lined up along the track you could actually see the elite take off which was great. The race wound through the city and then went on an out and back along the Amstel River for about 15K which was suddenly very rural, very Dutch (windmill alert) and very exposed to the wind! Again, because this was out and back we could see the elite sprinting back as we jogged out which was great if intimidating. There weren't enormous crowds and there were some quiet bits (particularly out in the countryside) but people were really friendly and shouted out support and the water stops were great - bananas at each one! On a personal level, I felt the whole way round like I was pushing myself, but not beyond what I could handle. At mile 18 I remember a brief fantasy of wanting to lie down, and Sally and I didn't talk much the last 6 miles other than the occasional "you alright?" "yep" conversation. Oh - we did actually each tell the other to take off if they fancied it and I think both thought, when asked, that we must be looking better than we felt.. Sally did suddenly take off the last 400M and I really had to pull everything in to stay with her at that point - I felt very nauseous right before the end - but we finished together and once it was over, everything felt great. And then, of course, there was wine, and chips, and licorice and yes - even herring.

And finally - thank you to all of you who sent me such supportive e-mails last week when I really felt very much that I was not going to pull it off. Your faith in me was incredible and very much appreciated. I thought of every one of you as I ran - Maddy in San Francisco, Shirley in Nebraska, Melisa in Ohio and Chris running her 5K (only a week before her BIG day) in Florida. And everyone else who was out there running, training or just generally sending me good vibes - they did not go to waste! Thank you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

4 days, 14 hours - I'm nearly there..

And am I ready for it? Finally, I think I am getting there. People have been asking me for weeks and I have to say that I've been thinking "No, I'm not". I've found it hard to get into my marathon zone for this race.

This is, in part, because I'm not traveling far for it and making complicated arrangements. It's out on Saturday am (1 hour flight from our local airport), back late Sunday night. Adam's staying home with the kids so I'm not making my usual complicated childcare arrangements, and I know Amsterdam well so I'm not so concerned with attaching a holiday / sightseeing to it. All good stuff, but all this preparation does get you in the mood, I've realised, and because I've been so preoccupied with life here I've not really focused on my trip.

Then, I suppose, I haven't been in the mood because part of me is worried about it. Don't get me wrong - I know I'll finish it. But I'm worried that I'm not going to finish well enough - in my own judgment. I feel I've done a lot of training but over the past 4/5 months I've given it 80%, not 100%.. And now that the race is almost here I'm just trying to adjust myself to the fact that I may well not run as well or as fast as I did in last year's Chicago marathon. And that's fine too - I know that - I just want to feel fine about that. Does anyone else know what I mean?

However, by and large I'm ready. The training is almost done, it is what it is and I've got what I have in my pot. So I'm going to go out there on Sunday morning and give it my best. I promise.. This is the first time I'm running a race with so many of you reading my blog and checking on my progress - adds to nerves but also excitement! I don't think they're giving updates during the race but the website is here. And I'll post as soon as I get home..

Finally - great good luck to all of you out there running a race this weekend - we're all in this together! Maddy, Shirley and everyone else - stay happy and enjoy the race!

Friday, October 05, 2007

&%^)&*(*^%$£$£@^

Okay I was going to go on a complain fast. I was reading about it in Oprah last night (I know I know just don't even go there) and I realised that I had, in fact, been complaining a lot and it would do me (and those who have to listen) a great deal of good if I just shut up. So I thought this was a great idea. But before I do that I just have to have a few last vents:
- I went to see a friend this week who lives in beautiful Derbyshire, also known as the Peak district, which is about an hour away from here. I went for a lovely 5.5 mile run there even though it's the PEAK district. Hilly does not begin to describe the sheer crevasses I ran up like a mountain goat (an old ailing one but still). I was all perky and run-happy and even took some photos. I had clearly had a few too many coffees that day because look at the photos.. It was a horrible day! I did really enjoy it - sometimes it's trips like this that make you realise the joy of running is being able to enjoy places like this - even in the rain. HOWEVER and here is my big moan - I forgot my running shoes at my friend's house! Now that is not an enormous problem - I do have my "old" ones which are fine BUT my running shoes have my iPod sensor on them and so I am not recording any miles for the Great Pickled Herring challenge that Maddy started! Can you believe the frustration? Anyway I am hoping that I will get my shoes back sometime next week. But I've already run another 8 without recording.. Boohoo....
- there is no live update from the Amsterdam Marathon! None of you guys can follow me as the race goes along. They do use chips (doh!) but there is no updating as we go along! I guess I took it for granted - at NYC and Chicago they sent updates to mobile phones and updated on the internet - but no.. How annoying.
- I'm tired. I'm so plodding through my runs. My crazy life shows no sign of calming down and I'm in tired headless chicken mode. Achieving very very little, I might add.

So - ok. Complain fast now. I'm going to store all this frustration and energy within me without letting the top off so there are two options:
- I explode in unbridled fury at whichever poor person it is who does me some perceived tiny wrong which tips the balance. OR
- I do something about those elements I can change that are frustrating me. So I can get some sleep, just enjoy my running without recording my runs and start again when my shoes come back, and just enjoy the marathon.

Plan B is probably preferable for all involved.. So now I'm going to have to cut this entry short because it's Saturday am, I'm in my study and I can hear my daughter (7) vacuuming downstairs. If she vacuums, something is broken ... So in calm and collected mood, I will sail down the stairs and survey the apocalypse. Wish me strength my friends and happy running!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oh endurance..

Friday's 20 miler was never going to be swift or easy. I had been plodding through the week's runs, getting them all in, but at no great speed. Friday arrived as a real autumn day, windy and overcast and cold so you can imagine my enthousiasm about the task in hand.. Anyway. It was an endurance run. It took me a long time, I got really tired and contemplated giving up quite a few times. At about 17 miles I stopped at a point in the woods and seriously contemplated just lying down on the path - of all the things in the world, that's what I wanted to do - but I knew I just wouldn't get up again. So I plodded on. On top of everything, my iPod sensor is not working so well on my new shoes. I wonder whether the fact that they have newer, bouncier soles means it's not picking up every step, because I ran with my Polar footpod on as well (which I've calibrated over the years and which has proved accurate in every race I've run) and, even though I'd calibrated the Nike+ with it this summer, the Nike+ was off by .8 of a mile over the 20. Not a great deal, but enough when you're struggling through the 20 miler I can tell you. So I stopped when my Polar said 20.4 and my Nike said 19.62. It took me 3 hours and 41 minutes which wasn't terrible - especially given the walk breaks and the moan breaks and the self-pity breaks..

And really - it wasn't too bad. All along I kept thinking "I'm training for endurance this run. I'm training myself to cope with a bad run, with a slow run, with a run where my legs are just worn out". My expectations of my performance were not high but I just forced myself to see it through.

Highlights? Well, I really experimented with the gels and I am able to suck down the chocolate ones even at 18 miles. Usually by 15 miles I am unable to take anything on so that's good. Also - my dear husband came out and joined me for 3 miles which I SO needed at that point. Just someone else to talk to as I trudged round my circuit made a huge difference. Another great highlight was my discovery of Podrunner mixes which I know MarathonChris and Charles use - that certainly helped to keep me going.

And when it was over I did lie down and feel SO relieved to have it done with.

And amazingly - I managed to run 8 with my friend Sally yesterday. It wasn't fast but still - again I told myself I was training myself to run with tired legs.. I seem to be putting in a fair few of those training runs at the moment.

There's a mild temptation to put in 6.89 miles this morning so I can bring my monthly total up to 170 miles but there's no two ways about it - Charles has won this month's Nike+ challenge! And I think I probably need a rest day after this week - my legs are aching and tired even when sitting at my desk..

So let the taper begin. 3 weeks till D-day..

Sunday, September 23, 2007

4 weeks to go - not quite there yet

It's been a so-so running week. Stepback week which is always a bit of a relief but somehow is also a very slow week, running-wise. None of last week's running speed I'm afraid. I only managed 10 out of the 12 I intended on Thursday, I made up the 2 I missed yesterday (nice and short run that was!). Plodded around to do 8 today. Next week is my last big week - I'm intending to my last 20 miler on Friday so we'll see if the juice returns to the box before then.

I seem really low on energy at the moment and I think it's due to the following:
- very very busy rest of life where I'm only hanging on by the skin of my teeth. Hard to keep that from encroaching on the running;
- not enough sleep - I'm going to bed too late;
- not enough focus on eating for running - again, I'm just eating here and there and I need to really fuel up.

The one thing about slow runs is that it gives you a chance to think (and then some) so I've figured the above out yesterday and today (all by myself, yes) and I'm doing something about it. Can't do too much about busy-ness but can continue to ruthlessly prioritise running for the next 4 weeks (that sounds SO hardcore no?). I can go to bed earlier. And I can eat better. Which I have, in fact, been doing since I realised this might be a factor.

I've also purchased my racing treads - drumroll! - no no excitement at all - same old Saucony Hurricanes I had before. I love them, they work, I'm not injured - 'nuff said. They're a bit cleaner than the old (new 4 months ago) pair and
there's a bit more bounce there as well - I don't suppose I really really needed new shoes yet but I've always had a new pair before the race (well worn-in but still new-ish) so I guess it's all part of the race juju. The chocolate sports gels work well - they're no more disgusting than regular chocolate which is great - I'm keeping them down and they help. So I'm almost there kit-wise.

Otherwise the weather is cooling down - after that horrendous early summer we've had an exceptionally dry September with an amazing Indian summer which has been good, if a bit warm, for running. However, nothing can change the fact the Northern hemisphere is tilting away from the sun so I thought I'd share with you what I look like on my 6am runs.. Now imagine being the only light in the darkness, running through the woods - yes I get completely freaked out! The light picks up the eyes of all sorts of little critters which then scuttle away - aaarggh. I yelp quite a lot when out running in the dark. Thank goodness my puppy comes out with me on my morning runs - he can protect me against all the woodland monsters..

So wish me luck and energy this week as I tackle my last big week's training before the marathon. I'm feeling kind of funny about it - like I haven't focused on it enough - but the last few weeks should deal with that. Keep running and keep letting me know how it's going. Oh - and I'm still getting WHIPPED by Charles on my Nike+ challenge..

Monday, September 17, 2007

Switcherooni and allsorts..

Woohoo! This Nike+ challenge that amazing Maddy has set up (while also searching for and finding a job and flying across the US for her first week of work- what are you eating woman? I need to get me some of that) is really igniting the competitor within me. About time you might say? For yes indeedy - we are now - tatada! - 5 weeks minus 1 day away from race day. And although I had been feeling rather blase about the whole thing - to me, Amsterdam is not as exciting as New York City and Chicago have been the past two years - I'm beginning to hot up for the race. And my Nike+ challengers are helping there - particularly crazy Charles who isn't even training for a marathon and is just kicking my heinie! He's just done 100 since the beginning of September! So I tell you - this gets me out the door and running my miles.

Running - oh yes. That's been going well at the moment though it's all a bit mixed up. I understand that generally one is advised not to switch one's schedule around too much - hard days should be followed by easy etc. - there is, basically, a reason a week is laid out as it is in a good schedule. However, my life is crazy at the moment. I'm driving 90 miles a day to drop off and pick up my children from school at different times, my husband has just left the country on a business trip and I'm also trying to revive my career. Oh and my wonderful weekend babysitter (my Sunday morning indulgence while my husband works Sunday mornings) has gone to university. These are all some of the reasons that I am cramming the runs in where I can. If I have 90 minutes free - I do the 8 or 9 miler. If my husband's home I get up at 6 to do 5. And I wedged in last week's 20 miler (of which more in a minute) on a Friday morning by promising my husband all sorts of printable and unprintable good stuff if he dropped the kids off and picked nr2 child up at lunchtime. So - things have not been where they should be but I have managed most runs.. The only run I skipped this past week, in fact, was an 8 miler. And what was my valid reason for this? A New Romantics party at which I got totally carried away dressing up and drank a tad too much wine, danced too vigorously and so I basically dragged myself through Sunday. This is Adam (Ant / husband) and I on Saturday night. Who'd a thunk I'd ever be putting nail polish on my husband? But there you go .. it's part of marriage's neverending mystique..

The 20 miler. Oh yes. Now here I did something else Uncle Hal would have slapped me for - I ran it at race pace which, I hope, will be 10 minute miles. I did this for one of my 20 milers last year and I felt it gave me such confidence during the race to know I could sustain this pace for a long time. So my friends, only weeks after rediscovering my mojo I ran this in 3:21! Yes! And that included a 1 minute walk break every 5 miles and a few pitstops along the way! So I am psyched. Saturday's 5 miler was a bit slower as a result - could this have been delayed onset muscle soreness? - but still. I feel quite happy. Stepback week this week and then next week is my last 20 miler before the taper! This has crept up on me a bit actually - I was expecting masses more 16 and 17 milers but there you go, it'll all be behind me, one way or the other, in 5 weeks.

Final thought before you can go back to your real lives - crosstraining? Not one of my stronger points. I've biked some, ellipticalled some etc. but to be honest - didn't do much really.. Anyway inspired by Terry and ShirleyPerly I thought I would join the Swimfit class at the gym I've just joined. HooHa my friends - new respect for all triathletes. I was terrible! I had NO stamina! I was gasping for breath and unlike running you can't just pant - you drown! I had forgotten this. I don't think I've ever done more than 25m of crawl and now I was doing 4 100m reps TO WARM UP? Anyway - I did it and survived most of it although I was firmly and securely the worst person in the group. And the group was a downer. Obviously all serious swimmers they either just ignored me (nice!) or said things like "you're not out of breath already are you?". "Well - yes I'm new to this" I would say but there was no welcome, sympathy or encouragement. It made me very determined to always be VERY welcoming, sympathetic and encouraging to newbies at running.. Will I go back? Yes - but after the marathon. My hip is hurting (no doubt from my lack of technique) and I don't want to run the risk of injuring myself now. But then I will go back. I'm not going to let this bug me. I managed to start running from scratch - below scratch - and I'll knock this swimming thing on the head as well...

So on I chug my friends - keep running, keep posting about it and keep remembering to enjoy it!

Monday, September 03, 2007

I am a turtle; or in praise of Susan

Am I a turtle? I referred to myself as such in my previous post and just had a comment from Susan who tells me I am far from a turtle. Now I could just say "aww, shucks" and leave it at that but she's right - it's relative. She's struggling with her speed at the moment - or rather with the fact that she would like and hoped to be faster - and looks at some of my runs and probably says "what's she complaining about?". And I understand that she thinks that - coming from her current point of view.

But the boot, or perhaps more aptly, the running shoe, is often on the other foot. It's a real toughie, this stuff. I run some of my long runs with a dear friend, Sally, from my running club. Sally is a newbie and has more than 10 years on me. When I met her earlier this year she had never run more than 6M so I convinced her to keep me company for a 10M run. She kept up - with ease. Since then she has gone from strength to strength. She has already run several sub-2hr halves and is now training for the Amsterdam marathon with me. The kicker is that she is training faster and harder than I am - she is keeping up with the Intermediate II program (despite a demanding and more than full-time job) where I've had to step back to Intermediate I. It wouldn't surprise me if she runs a sub 4hour marathon in Amsterdam, something I'm unlikely to ever be able to achieve. She may qualify for Boston - again, something that is beyond me, for a while at least. She is incredibly gracious and modest and is always crediting me for being her inspiration and support but let's face it - this gal outruns me with ease.

At times, particularly when I've struggled with lack of motivation, I have found this really hard to deal with. At other times other runners have made it clear that a "slow" runner like myself is not really a marathoner. I remember telling somebody about a 20M training run I ran last year and his response was "if you're running at that speed, why on earth do you bother?"..

Steve Runner dedicated a whole episode to a critic of slow marathoners and eloquently made the point that we are all marathoners, despite how long it takes us to get there. I have also heard elite athletes remark with wonder on the ability of mere mortals to just stay out there on our feet for SO long - and they weren't all being patronising. Susan struggled with a 17 miler yesterday. She did it in several phases and at every point felt like giving up. She was demoralised by her lack of speed and lack of mojo. But she did NOT give up. Where so many would have given up she carried on and made it.

I suppose the truth of the matter is that if you are going to be competitive about it, you have to accept that you will never be the fastest (unless you're Paula Radcliffe or Paul Tergat but I don't think they're reading this). I would consider myself competitive but I would also say that the main competition is within me. Every time I run - however slowly - I win the race against that part of me that would prefer to be welded to my sofa eating a fried potato product. Every time I race I win the race against that part of me that considers myself a quitter. And having gone through life NEVER being any good at any sports whatsover - and this is no false modesty - every single training run is a victory over that part of myself that believes I'm incapable. For those of us who are not elite runners, who fit it in around the rest of our lives and run despite the constraints that other obligations and our physiques may place on us, every run is a win. After all - you could be not running. And you are. So you are - in my definition - a winner, Susan.

45 miles - KACHING!

It's in the bag! The week following my mojo-meltdown was a triumphant return to running. I ran the 17 miler I gave up on the week before on Tuesday. I know, I know - you're not meant to make up missed runs but we are all a bit compulsive (aren't we? am I the only one?) and I needed to prove to myself I could do this. And I did it. I ran for a mile, walked for a minute and then finished the 17 miles with two uninterrupted 9 minute miles. Which was an enormous boost to my confidence. I then did 2 5 milers this week which both turned into tempo runs - I ran one in 47'23" (9'27" minute miles) and the other in 45'53" (9'09" minute miles). Now this is, again, not an example of targeted training - I didn't intend to run hard nor is my aimed for tempo for the marathon around 9 minute miles - I am aiming for 10 minute miles and am not being terribly successful at hitting that pace. But! (and you knew that but was coming didn't you) after the week I had had it was an enormous boost to my confidence to know I had that speed in me somewhere. And I appreciate my use of "speed" is relative but for a turtle like myself, that is "speed"!

Then yesterday I did 18 miles with my running pal. I can't say it was an amazing run - I did struggle at times and our speed was nothing to write home about - it took us 3'22" - but we made it and we got really caught up on our conversations. Always a good thing. And then to top it all off my friend had brought along 4 fresh rolls with ham and home-made chutney which we polished off sitting on a bench in a churchyard overlooking the field and an orchard. What an English scene!

I've got a stepback week this week but am fiddling about with it - my running pal wants to run the week after next's 20M this week so I'm going along with that - might as well knock the first one on the head - and I might do some longer tempo work this week if I can squeeze it in. I've got to go to London tomorrow with my son and then back again Wednesday morning and then Thursday they both start school! Yay! Although it will be a bit bittersweet - it's my son's first day - the holiday has been so long than I am more than ready for a bit of alone time..

So there we have it. I'm back in the saddle. I even managed to tick another thing off my to-do list - I rambled on in my hideous voice for Kevin, Chris and Nigel and made the contribution I have been promising. All done.

So keep it up and remember - if I can do this, anyone can!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

OK - I found some mojo..

All runners should blog. Why? Because it helps. It helps when you are injured and you tell your friends and they come back and help you - not only by giving you tips and advice but by truly understanding why this injury in the middle of a training program is so upsetting to you. Right, Marathon Chris? And when you've lost your mojo - like I did - they come up trumps and bring you some. Thank you - all of you! As you can see from the shot below - and for the full ha-ha do refer to my latest post on What's a few miles among friends? - my mojo is halfway back again. So what happened? Well I listened to you all my friends. I have taken the following bits of advice to heart:
- from Adam Tinkoff on the ZenRunner - if your plan isn't working, change it. Running with my immensely capable friend Sally - who is just fundamentally and genetically faster than I will ever be - I think I have been constantly running beyond my comfort zone. When I trained for NYC 2 years ago I never trained at these speeds. And I never lost my mojo either. While it's good to push yourself, consistently going above what you're capable of is very dispiriting. Sally is more than happy to go at my pace (what a friend!) and I have decided to go down a step to Hal Higdon's Intermediate I.
- from ShirleyPerly - mix it up (one short run will become some horrible but distracting speedwork);
- also from Shirley-Perly - take walkbreaks in long runs. Now this is something she points out marathon runners frown upon and I agree - that I have frowned upon it. But maybe I needed to get to the point where my choice was "take walk breaks or don't run at all" to appreciate them. As Terry pointed out after my report on the dreadful nutty marathon that I ran without training - I walked then and the sky didn't fall on me.. This week I have not been able to get beyond 6 miles. This morning I set out for 8 and the circumstances were not perfect, I'd had some wine last night, not enough sleep and it was hot (for us thick-skinned northern europeans anyway) and I ran for a mile, walked for a minute. Well - what do you know? I not only ran 8 with an average pace of 10.11 minute miles - good, right? But I also sped through the last mile - it was my fastest at 8.21! Woot!
- a noble purpose - Susan - the wonderful inspirational and crazily early-rising wonderwoman from Arkansas reminded us all that there are people who face a bigger challenge than motivating themselves for a run. Humbling. Mixed in with lack of mojo, in my case certainly, is a degree of self-pity. When I see Elijah's courage I get a much-needed slap around the head. OK. My priorities are back where they should be.
- and last, but not least - I think we all need a powersong. Normally I listen to podcasts on my iPod and leave the music behind. But I downloaded Mika's Grace Kelly yesterday and that's what yanked me through my last mile - I was just laughing at this crazy nut singing his crazy nut song. Followed by Beyonce's audibly shaking her booty during Crazy in Love it's no wonder I pulled out that 8:21 mile - I was rockin'! And it wasn't even to Neil Diamond. I was not completely embarassing! Well - running on my own and singing and dancing while running might still have been quite embarassing it was just that nobody except the cows saw me. So that doesn't count.

So there we have it. I really hope that I am now back on track. I'll do 5 tomorrow, 9 on Monday and then do the 17 miler I missed on Tuesday. I will let you all know how I go. Thank you again for all the feedback and support. I would not be where I am tonight without you. Crazy but true. Thank you!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Where I run



Inspired by Susan I decided to take my new camera out with me today to show you where I run. I run on our farm, on tracks and a bit of road which is the drive up to our house. It's all on our land, so I'm usually the only one out there. As you can see, however, I'm not really alone though - the cows and my dog Frankie keep me company..













And then the final shot - me, the girls, and Frankie the indefatigable dog!

She is but something's missing..

Blogging silence for nearly 3 weeks - why? Well... mainly because I've been overloading myself with arrangements. One of the most common tricks in my books is to say yes to too much and to make too many (complicated) arrangements. Travelling to Holland with 2 kids just after coming back from Western Canada (long before anyone's jetlag had worn off) to visit my parents who had just come back from 3 weeks in Mongolia (!) was hard work from time to time. While it was lovely to spend time with them and to spend time in beautiful Oosterbeek, the kids were fairly full-on and demanding and my poor father was ill with pneumonia. I felt quite guilty asking them to mind the kids while I got my runs (though they did it happily) but felt very much that, apart from that, I needed to take charge and plan and manage. Tiring for all. I was quite worn out. When I came home I had to deal with unpacking from both trips and then getting ready to leave the kids with a sitter while Adam and I went off to Oxfordshire to celebrate my mother-in-law's 70th (that's her with my 2 sisters-in-law and myself at left) at a wonderful and very luxurious hotel and I then went to London to see my friend Dawn and came back for a business meeting in Lincoln. Haaaaarrrrggghhh!!!! Complicated plans and travel arrangements - I should know that when it all gets too complicated to think about, it IS too complicated. Anyway, good times were had and now we're slowly heading back to normality - school begins 2 weeks from today.

Running. Ah yes. We were going to get to that weren't we? Well.... It went very well in Holland. Since I came back, the results have been mixed. I got my long run (only 12M) last week which was fine. But with all the to-ing and fro-ing I have missed a few of my midweek runs. I've been reading other people's blogs and it seems many (Maddy and Melissa, for two) have been trying to work their ways out of some slumps (Susan, you don't count because you were ill and you HAVE to take time off then. Boss's orders..). It seems that somewhere in the middle of all the training life sometimes steps in and says, either through other commitments or through your body just being exhausted, that you can't always prioritise your running. So where am I now? Struggling to be honest. Not struggling to run - I'm finding it easy and fine to go out and run 5 or 6 miles. But I'm going nowhere fast - averaging over 10 minute miles in all my runs, 11 minute miles in my long runs. I'm beginning to wish I'd picked a program with some speedwork in it. And I am finding it hard to motivate myself for 18 and 20 milers. I went out for a possible 17 today and left it at 6. Hrmmm. Not good. What now? Well, running along today and listening to the always inspirational Zenrunner I tried to line up my options. As I see it, I have 3 (but do tell me if you think differently):
- I just grit my teeth and get on with my current schedule.
- I jump down to an easier program. Maybe it will be easier to motivate myself if I run slightly shorter distances. I might find myself less exhausted and possibly, a bit faster as well. I'm currently doing Hal Higdon Intermediate II, I could easily go down to Intermediate I.
- I don't do the marathon. While this is a tempting solution I'm loathe to do it. I'm running with my friend Sally, and it's her first. She would not have done one, and certainly not this one, without me. I think I owe it to her.

So that's where I am. All is well actually - after a few weeks of erratic and not necessarily healthy eating and drinking I'm back on Dr. Monte's track and I'm feeling fine and beginning to feel better rested. I am enjoying running, but seem to have just misplaced my marathon mojo.
If I'm brutally honest, what I would like to do right now is just run 5 milers 4 or 5 times a week and then run a 10 miler on the weekend and just stick to that for a while. But .. it's only about 8 weeks to the marathon, I've (sort of) come this far and I truly am not fussed about my time at this stage so perhaps I should just get on with it. What do you think?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

This has been a shockingly long time in coming hasn't it? It's fairly incredible but I have actually managed to break my umbilical attachment to my laptop - mostly - for a month. To some extent by necessity - I could rarely get onto a free network - and to some extent by choice - by the end of last month I was feeling swamped by everything on my plate and being online a lot was not helping..

So - I am back from my holiday and back into the swing of things. Quick lists of noteworthy things that happened in the past 4 weeks:
- had a GRRRREEAAAT holiday. We exchanged homes with a family from Vancouver, Canada and it worked out brilliantly. Better for us than for them - in fairness - as it never stopped raining in England - but still the concept is fantastic. We didn't have to pay for accommodation or car rental and so managed to have an amazing holiday and spend our money on the fun stuff. Vancouver is wonderful. I have always loved it there but I really spent the first week of our trip out there running round the neighbourhood at night desperate to just buy one, any of the houses I ran past. But my husband is a farmer and that is just not the kind of business you pick up and take with you and my kids are also so settled and happy in England - I came to realise after an initial infatuation that life, at least for the moment, is better in Lincolnshire. Having said that we all had a great time sightseeing, going to the beach and just hanging out. We even made a road trip to Victoria, Port Townsend and Seattle, where we hooked up with some old friends - it was a wonderful experience and so far away from all our daily domestic obligations and niggles. Very necessary for all.
- unfortunately, upon my return I was faced with an example of the kind of overambitious planning only I am capable of - I had booked for the children and I to go to Holland to visit my parents on a 7am flight last Thursday (we came back from Vancouver on Saturday). We made it, and have done it but are all a tad exhausted given that we hadn’t really dealt with the time change with Vancouver – 8 hours – before having to get up at 4:30 am and travel to Holland. But anyway – we’re here now and it’s lovely even if there’s probably things I should be attending to at home..
- running. My running. Well.. before I left I had definitely lost a bit of my mojo. My 14 mile run on the last Sunday before our trip was a struggle and quite unenjoyable, apart from the natter with my running buddy. Thankfully, I had started my running program 2 weeks early so this let me spread one week’s training over my 3 week holiday which was a wonderful break. I just went running when I felt like it and loved it for the sake of it. I had forgotten my footpod so I never saw how far I ran or how fast and I loved the freedom from a schedule or a given pace. Running in Vancouver was as wonderful as I had hoped – we were minutes from Pacific Spirit Park and I just loved running under the trees, snacking on huckleberries and stopping off for a delicious latte on the way home. Urban life is very attractive when you live as remotely as I do!

So – here I am – back on track and schedule in Holland. It was hard running at home in England last week because I was still so tired from the flight but I managed the week’s short runs and had to cram all the long runs in once I got here. So I ran 8 on Friday, 8 on Saturday and 16 yesterday. And – my friends – I have my mojo back! I’m not going to set any records and I stopped a few times but I managed the 16 miler in an average 11:20 pace and really enjoyed it. I’m also enjoying my new gadget, an iPod nano with a Nike+ gizmo. I was desperate to challenge Maddy and Robert Nelson last week but it took me a few days to get it calibrated and working properly. However, I'm ready now so about to extend an invitation!

So on I go. A fairly hefty week of running ahead I think but very enjoyable. My parents live in a stunning part of Holland with lots of woods and hills and miles of trails throughout. I'm going to try and take some photos this week.

So - till further notice - keep running and keep enjoying it!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

me and the elements

For all my running faults - and I have many - I consider my imperviousness to the elements one of my strengths. I'll run in rain and sleet and snow and midday heat - not necessarily without complaint, but I will. But this week has just been too much. Although our terrorism news has probably (rightly) taken precedence in the international news, our weather has been unbelievable. In particular in the midlands, where I live - the rain has been of biblical proportions.
We've had regular days where a month's rainfall fell in a day and finally, last Monday, it all got too much. Here on the farm we have a big lake which overflowed everwhere, the normally quiet stream that runs off it turned into a wild raging river and some of the people on the farm were even flooded out of their houses - it's been quite disastrous. Thankfully we've suffered very little apart from a few leaks..

But back to the running - now that has suffered. I run most of my runs - including the dreaded 20 milers - on a 1.4 mile loop on the farm. I know this must seem tedious to many but it's quite varied - some of it's in the woods, some out in the open field, and the running surface is great - only about .3 of a mile is a tarmac road, the rest is all packed dirt / mud. I like running out of my front door - I don't need to bring my drink / food with me (I set up a drinks station), I can stop at the bathroom when I need to and I don't have to worry about traffic. However, as you can imagine this has deteriorated this past week and I had to give up on my run on Wednesday as I sank up to my knees in mud and water.. So I've done rather a lot of my runs on the elliptical which seems appropriate as I always find it hard to cross train - I've had few options this week! I finished off with 13 miles yesterday with my friend Sal which we ran nearby on country lanes - it would have been great were it not for the fact I'd hosted a dinner party the night before and had had too much wine and champagne and not enough sleep - it was a slow run! However, I struggled through and felt better for it.

Finally - I'm hoping to record some content this week for The Extra Mile podcast - Nigel, Kevin and MarathonChris have put this together and I am so impressed. I am going to try to not complain again about being busy because how they fit this in besides the rest of their lives I do not know..

Till then, happy trails and hope it's drier where you are!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

So-so running

This week has not been great for running. The last two weeks have been unbelievably busy and I've only just managed to get my running in, and then not all of it. Every day seems to have been scheduled from 6am onwards, with me driving backwards and forwards, doing work, doing kids, doing house stuff, doing admin, dealing with our flat in london - it's been non-stop. My levels of stress have been sky-high - I have been waking around 5:30 in the morning just taut with all I've had to accomplish each day. As I said I've managed to fit in the running and while it provided some release, to some extent it was also another thing to fit in. Perhaps as a result of that, my running has been so-so this week - no great speeds, no major achievements. I've ended up missing one 6 mile pace workout and a cross training session - just not enough hours in the day. However - on balance, I'm pretty happy with it. I've kept it up and while they were perhaps "junk miles" they were miles nonetheless and I can look back and marvel that somehow they happened.

The stress is tailing off now, or at least I seem to believe it has, which is all that matters. We've done the 7th birthday party, we've done various social obligations - we are now running down the last 2 weeks before our holidays begin! And what a holiday! This year we are heading out to Vancouver, British Columbia for 3 weeks on a home exchange. A family from Vancouver is coming to stay in our house and we are staying in theirs, and we are also exchanging cars. It's very exciting and has prompted quite a bit of work on our part getting our house ready - we have done all sorts of jobs that needed doing for years and I have cleared out everyone's closets . Again this has been a stress factor but now I feel that we have cleared the hump of it and we're on the home stretch - almost ready to go! The kids are so excited about it in part because we are going to a city - we live in deep countryside so cities are a thrill. I'm excited about running in Stanley Park and round the coast - it should be beautiful. Anyone know a runner out there I could contact for some tips?

So here's hoping these next 2 weeks are an improvement on the last 2 weeks, in terms of stress at least. Keep running and keep happy - and stay (or get) chilled!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Maddy tagged me..

For some reason this post was published further down my blog so I hope reposting it will work..

Maddy tagged me and now I have to share 6 weird and unusual things about myself with you. The question is - do you really want to know? It's taken me a few days to whittle the list down (my husband has proved most helpful and has provided a lot of suggestions) but here goes:
- I can't whistle. Have tried a lot, for a lot of years, but I can't do it. However - and IrishBlue is going to be so jealous - I can burp on command.
- I didn't realise until recently how much of a dealbreaker this is, but I don't really like chocolate. I don't mind it but it just isn't really my thing. In fact, Kevin rescinded an offer of marriage purely on this basis (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that both he and I are already happily married..);
- My husband and I share a very untrendy taste in music. I won't divulge too much of the gory details but let me tell you that we were burgled once and the burglars took most of our possessions but left our CD collection. Apparently you can't buy a lot of crack for a Neil Diamond CD.
- Related to this last point - I walked up the aisle to the wedding march from the Sound of Music. 'Nuff said.
- Like Maddy, I live next door to my father-in-law. It makes for an interesting life..
- my best friend helped me realise recently that my first crush ever was on Gopher from the Love Boat. How sad is that?

Well everyone - you know some very weird things about me now. I guess if you meet me in a race now you may well speed up ahead rather than linger alongside..

Happy trails!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Finally..

Finally! It's sad but I've been desperate to blog, just couldn't find the time! I've been running around working, doing house stuff and doing lots of family stuff. I've started every day with a to-do list. Crazy!

First things first - running. On Friday I had my first Adium chat with Maddy which was wonderful and we motivated each other for each other's long run. Mine was going to be 10 miles. But, dear readers, I couldn't do it. It was hot (which I know a lot of you can handle but for us thick-skinned northern europeans can prove a bit of a challenge) and I was exhausted after a crazy busy week - I gave up after 5 miles and felt rotten about myself. Reading other blogs I realised that some of you work much harder than I do (getting up at 5 am to run, Susan? You're amazing!) but I just couldn't get it together. After a good night's sleep on Sunday night I woke up at 6 and resolved to run the other 5 miles as well as cross train. Which, amazingly, I had done by 9am. The day was still crazy busy but at least I got my running in. It still bugged me, however, that I had bailed on my first long run of my training - everyone else had managed so I felt I was being weak. Then Tuesday - which again was really busy - I suddenly found myself with a 2 hour gap in the day while my son had a trial session at "big school". So, this time, despite still being exhausted and despite the fact it was far hotter than Sunday I decided there would be no more excuses so I dropped him off at school and headed out for a 10miler! And I accomplished it! What a feeling! I felt I had really beat myself which was great! So I'm back on track and back on schedule and determined to plan my time a bit more cleverly in the next months. Fitting in marathon training around the rest of your life is a big part of the challenge of training, imho..

I've also resolved my sartorial crisis you will all be relieved to hear. Thank you for all your feedback as to what to wear - I appreciate it. Having returned my running kit to the store I went online and ordered a Sugoi skort and top. Having read Maddy's extensive research into the skort I felt it was an option worth considering. Both items arrived on Tuesday just prior to my long run and so I tested them on a long hot run and they are brilliant! Running chic(k) has arrived! What do you think? Timeless elegance and sporty practicality, teamed with a crazy 4 year-old - life doesn't get any better.

In other news, I've been tagged by Maddy. I was a bit slow on the uptake - I had to visit her blog to work it out - but I'm hoping to post 6 weird things about me. It's taking me some time to narrow it down, guys..

So keep running, keep blogging about it. It's so motivational and really provides me with the kick up the backside I sometimes so desperately need!