Sunday, 29 May 2011

What I've learnt from running...

Half term beckons and so does a HUGE pile of marking. Whilst out on my 7.8 mile run today (my little treat for completing 15 papers that morning) I realised that marking papers is much like running 20+ miles in that both require a large amount of discipline; the kind of discipline that does not come naturally to me. My brain is a happy, flighty, imaginative little blighter; if given the opportunity, it will gladly break free of its leash and rush off on strange and bizarre tangents. This of course only happens when I'm not looking and so just a moments wayward thought in another direction: what's that happening out the window?... hmmmmm, what should I have for tea?... has that cat really been sleeping there all day?... leads to a complete lapse of concentration; therefore if I'm running, I forget I'm running and although my feet hold a level of capability to complete this action on their own, they lose all purpose, determination and speed; and if I'm marking, I realise I've read absolutely nothing on the page I've been staring at for the last half hour and had better begin over again.

Anyway... What was I saying?... dammit, I think I've just done it again!

To return to the point, I realised, whilst out on my 'treat' run today, that the same disciplinary procedures I had used to train my brain for the long runs of my marathon training could be applied to the marking and as such I have applied the following positive thinking strategies:

1. Get up and do it. Don't think about it, don't leave it until later in the day when tiredness and lethargy set in: get up, fuel and do it!
2. Just like a long run, don't think of it as one big hill to climb, instead break the marking down into smaller manageable chunks i.e:  'I only have 10 more papers to go and then I'll let myself stalk a friend on Facebook for a few minutes'.
3. Reward myself; each day I have a little treat planned for completing my marking - yesterday was retail therapy, today a run, tomorrow lunch with not-so Little Bro and his lovely wife, Tuesday cakes(!), and Wednesday a hair cut and coffee with a friend (I realise that's two treats but I've none planned for Thursday so I reckon that's fine!)
4. Keep well-fuelled and hydrated to keep the energy levels up and the mind sharp!

See... running teaches you so much!

Good luck to those of you running the Bupa 10,000 tomorrow... I hope you achieve the times you want and enjoy the day... happy running! 

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Retail Therapy...

'What? You're going to go and buy some trainers? But you've got loads of trainers! Tons of them... all clogging up the spare room.'
'Well, no... not really because I've only one pair that I actually wear for running because...'
'Well there's about 10 in the spare room...' (That's an exaggeration - there's only 5!)

My planned retail therapy for today created a bit of a stir this morning; and he's right, I do have an unusually large number of running trainers in the spare room however I do need more because...

1. The Nike Pegasus are 2 years old now... I wear them for walking the dog and doing aerobics!
2. Asics gel something-or-other are heavy and they make my feet feel like I strapped weights to them instead of shoes (once I have some new trainers, I'll demote these to dog walking and aerobics doing instead)
3. The Adidas Kanadias are trail running shoes and therefore do not fit the purpose of road running!
4. The Puma cross-country shoes are (obviously) cross-country shoes but are also not mine... I just keep forgetting to give them back to Sandrine at club (Sorry Sandrine!).
5. My Brooks Defyance... have absolutely nothing wrong with them but...I just don't like them! Which very likely does just sound a little ridiculous, but they have gone from being a lovely comfortable shoe when I first bought them to shoes made by the devil which feel horrid and flat and nasty and painful every time I lace them up! So I'm giving up and buying new ones.

And anyway, after marking 32 scripts in a day, a bit of retail therapy is just what the doctor ordered. So, this afternoon, I hot-footed it off to Sweatshop in Manchester Arndale where a lovely man spent 45 minutes with me. We did a gait analysis where he confirmed that I do slightly over-pronate on my right foot - though nothing as bad as I used to, it seems all my work to improve my running gait has been paying off! So, with that in mind he tried me in a pair of  structured neutral trainers... perfect. With the anti-pronation sorted, we went through 4 pairs of shoes: Mizuno - felt too high at the back; New Balance - too wide; Asics - oooh... quite nice; and Brooks Glycerin 8... ooooh... also quite nice. After some 'umming' and 'ahhhring'... a lesson in how to tie my trainer up better... another run on the treadmill... several runs up and down the shop.... and bouncing about from one foot to the other... I chose the Brooks Glycerin. And, with Sweatshops' 30 day exchange period, should they not be right for me after all, the problem with the Defyance should be eradicated: 'You can run through mud in them, batter them, bash them, train hard in them' the guy assured me, 'but if you find they're not right for you, bring them back with the receipt within 30 days and we'll exchange them for something else'... brilliant! And with a bonus 10% running club member discount I bounced out the shop before I'd even put them on!

If nothing else, maybe these trainers will have a place(sh)bo(e) effect; I wouldn't be surprised if my feet and my Defyance had just fallen out with each other following 5 and 3/4 continuous hours in each other's company during the Marathon!! Anyway, I shall let you know how the new, shiny, very girlie looking silver and pink, Glycerins and I get on.

All in all, the retail therapy was fully successful as I also bought a new pair of socks, plenty of things I did and didn't need from Boots, a vegetarian Moussaka and Greek Salad from Marks and Sparks for tonight because I'm lazy and can't be bothered to cook, some alice bands from Accessorise, and nothing from Oasis or Coast because I don't need any more dresses even though they were very beautiful!

Friday, 27 May 2011

As quick as the wind...

If only!...

Although at least on a track you're only fighting the wind for half of the run, the other half it's giving you a helping hand! 400's on the track yesterday; fast running with 200 metre recovery. I manged to run 5 400's which I was rather impressed with. However what I'm more impressed with is the speed at which I ran my first and last. It's a shame I couldn't maintain the speed in the middle 3, but I'm ignoring those and instead choosing to acknowledge the 7.39 pace of my first lap, and the 7.43 pace of my second! It was the fact that I fear however, that it was my inability to barely breathe a recovery at the end of each that caused the middle ones to be slower; after the first lap I realised that if I was to keep it going at that pace, I would only achieve a collapse into a broken heap on the floor! Still, I'm pretty proud of myself!

Tonight was, once again, Zumba night! I love Zumba! And now, having just caught up on my recorded episodes of 'So you Think you can Dance', I've been reminded of how much I love dancing and have consequently been dancing everywhere I go around the house. I am also aware that as my mother reads this, she will be reminiscing of how, when I was younger, I used to traverse everywhere in that manner... It's good fun... If you see me dancing round the streets Manchester, you'll know why!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

On Hills, Health and becoming a Hermit...

Yesterday's club session was good. Which is not a normal thing for me to say as we were running up hills! The difference this time was that we were also running down them... fast! I love running down hill fast; it's so exhilarating! I managed 3 times up and down the hill, each sandwiched between 1 minute recovery and on the last down hill I decided to push it as hard as I could... how fast can I really run down hill? The answer is... bloody fast!! Particularly when compared to the same distance up hill: 1 min 45 up... 44 seconds down! Now, if anyone knows of any downhill races out there, I think I've found my forte!

Today, Paula and I went for the slowest run in the world! Well, actually that's perhaps exaggerating a little... but only a little, as my marathon was slower! I am clearly still recovering and where yesterday I felt that I'd sprinted 2 steps forward in my ability to run, today I lolloped 3 steps back! Ah well... it's all exercise making me fitter and healthier... and, therefore, all is happy in the world of the diet... and keeping week 2 going strong (fingers crossed!).

On another note entirely, I am signed up as a GCSE examiner once again and I have just had a lovely chat with my Team Leader, who's cleared me to begin marking my scripts following the arduous process of online samples and standardising; what this means in layman's terms is that I now have 25 days to mark 611 GCSE English Language papers! This works out at roughly 25 a day so if you don't see me for a while, I've become an marking hermit... it's an official title! I'll see you in July!

611 exam papers to go... next to Doris for true size comparison!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Booze Cruise

I spent a lot of time around canals yesterday. However, I have to note the distinct difference between where I started the day and where it ended...
My Canal day began with a 9.1 mile run alongside the Rochdale canal where Paula and I took the scenic route on a run out to Rochdale and back. Intending to run 10 miles, we wimped out on the steep climb back up to where we'd parked the cars as soon as we attempted it. The attempt resulted in a lot of 'ooh... ahh... ow... ooh' from both of us and we agreed that tow-path running had been hard, we must have burned more calories from the trail-like nature of the terrain, and we definitely needed to 'walk it out', so we treated ourselves to a gentle walk (with intermittent jogging on the down hill) back to the cars!

On the 'booze cruise'

Racing back home, I had just enough time to eat, walk the dog and doll myself up for my booze cruise. I have to say, booze cruises are definitely for winners, especially when they have copious amounts of free booze on them! The price we paid to hire the boat included several bottles of wine, which was being generously decantered into our glasses by one of my colleagues; and if that wasn't enough, our own 'Esteemed Leader' very kindly put some of her own, hard-earned cash behind the bar so we could all have 2 free(ish) drinks each - free(ish) because if drinking alcohol, the voucher required 'topping up' with your own money, but still... I'm defintiely not complaining! The barge took us on a 3 hour trip up and down the Bridgewater Canal from the centre of Manchester and by the end of it, we were all up and dancing... with one of my colleagues very impressively pulling off the splits in the middle of the floor!!

I then spent the next three hours supping cider (the girlie fruit sherbet tasting sort) at a canal-side bar and then true to the theme of the day we trotted off to Canal Street for the end of the night. For those of you not au fait with Manchester, this is our version of London's Soho, only tinier. Otherwise known as 'The Gay Village'. Hilariously, my previous visit had been with a large group of people out celebrating a friend's birthday, all of whom were allowed in, except me and my friend (I think because we very much look like the sort who'd cause trouble in a bar!); after much begging negotiating, they did eventually let us in but insisted we were to stay only in the room upstairs... which turned out to be a large empty function room with no music and the lights full on! Needless to say, we made the most of it!

Thankfully, this did not happen last night and we all trotted into the first bar we found which played the most perfect cheesy music all night. I kicked my shoes off and danced the night away around my handbag, and although tempted by the very shiny dancing poles positioned around the dance floor, you'll be pleased to know I managed to resist the temptation of heaving myself around one thus avoiding any potential embarassing pole dancing disasters with all my colleagues watching! As it was, it turned out to be a good job that I spent the remaining 3 hours of the night dancing as, in addition to the large moderate amount of alcohol I binge drank last night, I managed to accidentally stumble into a fish and chip shop on my way to find a taxi and whilst in there similarly manged to accidentally order a massive portion of chips which I fiendishly devoured with no thought to my diet what-so-ever!

Oooops!... Running Club tomorrow!

stupid alcohol making me eat stupid chips!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Join the Party!

Zumba! I've been to Zumba!
Zumba! it's great at Zumba!
Zumba! it's fun to Zumba!
Zumba! I like to Zumba!
(to the tune of Calle Ocho by Pitbull)

Zumba will make me as skinny and happy as those girls!!

Today 'I ditched the workout and joined the party'! Yep, I've just spent an hour wiggling my hips, shaking me booty and shimmying me boobs! Fab! And what's better it was at work with the mega bonus of being... completely FREE!! I've been wanting to do Zumba for ages but have been put off by various factors such as classes too late / clashes with running club / more money than I want to pay / have to be a gym member etc.etc... So it is with great relish that I am now looking forward to more opportunities to laugh at myself in the mirror as I set fire to those pesky calories!

Talking of calories, My first week of dieting is nearly done and all has gone well. I think I could have done more exercise... Okay, fine... I know I could have done more exercise but I've stuck to my calorie count each day and I reckon it just means that I'll be able to boost the weight loss next week when I add an increased exercise quota into the mix; everything has a silver lining! I'm holding off weighing myself until the end of next week as experience has taught me that my scales will register zero loss in the first week of the diet, but double the pounds in the second, so I'm not jumping on those babies until I'm sure they're going to kind to me! My next challenge is tomorrow as I'm joining a different type of party: a 'Booze Cruise', on the Bridgewater Canal... Classy, I know!... so I've got to make sure I don't blow everything then; I just need to make sure I don't drink too much, that's all... hmmmm...

Anyway, the 10 mile run tomorrow morning should give me some leeway... and if all goes to pot, I'll just run another 10 miles on Sunday - simples!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The lure of Juneathon

Today I read a very exciting email... it read:

Hi Janathoners

June will soon be here and so, of course, will Juneathon, hooray.

I’ll have the new website and entry form up next week but in the meantime, I’d like to get a rough idea of how many of you would like a t-shirt...

Wow! A t-shirt! Hooray indeed!

Now, I'm not easily bought... except I am: Last June, I ran the Sotos 10k, in Fleetwood, on an agonisingly hot day, so hot in fact that I suffered a severe bout of dehydration which culminated in me throwing a cup of sweet, sticky electrolyte juice over my head (I thought it was water, even though I'd already taken a sip of it prior to doing so!) and wobbling a lot when I finally crossed the line; but I crossed the line! I finished. Why? Because I am a strong-willed woman made of stern stuff and double dealings of determination? No... because I wanted the t-shirt!

So despite my 'ummings' and 'ahhhings' about whether to take part in Juneathon, I instantly replied to Cathy with a big fat... ME PLEASE!

Judging from today, Juneathon is exactly what I need anyway, because despite all my exercise promises, today I have once again failed to run. Excuse #1 occurred when we received a warning that there was a man in the local area approaching women; not generally a problem, except that the description of this man included the words: He is naked from the waist down. Hmmmm... Now, would the canal towpath be the sort of place a semi-naked man who approaches lone females hangs around?... So, that's that idea out the window! Obviously, the canal is not the only place to run, however the thought of grey, drizzly Moston as an alternative was enough to put me off giving me an excellent opportunity to employ excuse #2: work... there's a lot of it at the moment... so I stayed put in my comfy, swivel chair making a poetry pic-charades game for my year 11's (a cunning revision devise whereby they will be completely fooled into believing they are simply playing a cleverly combined version of two well known parlour game favourites and not realise in the slightest that they're also revising for their literature exam!) Of course, if I'm completely honest (which I'll try to be now), if I'd really wanted to run, I'd have done so! The problem is that I don't want to go out by myself (Oh woe is me!)... I've done a lot of running alone recently and I just don't fancy more of it; the only problem with that is that whilst everyone is burning their calories at running club tomorrow night, I'll be sat on my (increasingly pudgy bum) at the annual school 'award's evening'!

...saying that, I wonder how many calories hand clapping burns... perhaps I can make up for it by clapping especially hard!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

On the 'Hunt' for speed...

There is still a significant gap in my running ability... it is called speed. Last night's session at club required some speed however with the infamous (at club anyway) Hunt Lane laps. The idea of the session is to run 3x laps hard - getting faster over each lap - with 3 minute recoveries between. So, after a warm-up, we set off.

The great thing about running club is that everyone is at different levels; and particularly on a session such as this, it doesn't matter if people get ahead of you as at the end of each lap, you all stop for the recovery in the same spot. Except it does to me! I was determined on my first lap to keep up with the main group of runners and so off I set at great speed up the road. Unfortunately, after the first corner, there is a slight incline massive hill which hit me like a smack in the face. I slowed and consequently fell behind a little. I wasn't worried though as something I am good at is catching people on the downhill; which, having turned the second corner, I started to do - great! - only it wasn't because in order to catch up with them, I had to work hard... very hard... and turning the 3rd corner, I realised I'd forgotten about the other relatively steep incline enormous hill that loomed before me. By this point, my breathing issues were very prominent and I struggled tooth and nail up that hill... puffing, panting, heaving and huffing; bright red, barely conscious and wheezing, I ran the last 100 metres to where everyone was waiting, only to be told off by Pete for running 'too hard'.
'TOO hard'?
'Yes. Look at you, you shouldn't have finished like that on your first lap; how are you going to get faster?'
Hmph. I knew he was right but I wasn't going to admit it.

So, on the next lap... I set off just as fast! With my Garmin back from not so Little Bro, I had an idea, for the first time in a week, the speed at which I was running. This is not a good thing! In fact, now I knew that despite the fact that I could barely breathe and felt like I may very likely need resuscitating any second, I was only running an average of 9.50 minute miles! In November, I could run that same lap at an average speed of 8 minute miles and still not feel quite as bad! Anyway. Needless to say, Pete was right and I finished the lap 15 seconds slower than my previous time.

As I'd arrived back later than everyone else, I also had a reduced recovery time, and after just 2 minutes, Pete was getting us ready to go again. Obviously I had a little moan about this and Paula requested, on my behalf, that I could be allowed a little longer recovery time as I'd got back last. Pete agreed to this, but I still wasn't happy! No... because longer recovery would just mean I'd be even further behind everyone else. 'Set off now if you want' Pete offered in reply... I was off!

Very kindly, Pete then clearly held the others back a little longer before they all set off for their last lap as it wasn't until I'd turned the second corner that the first runner overtook me. Of course, Pete knew what he was doing; pyschologically, this was much better for me as rather than feeling like I was falling further behind with every step I took, I was trying to keep my lead on the others. However, quite embarassingly, everyone who overtook me could hear my heavy breathing... and it was heavy! Once again, I dragged myself huffing and puffing, panting and heaving around the 0.83 mile lap, only this time I did finish faster... clearly being 'chased' by the others had a beneficial effect, reducing my lap time by 5 seconds! Well, it's better than none! Anyway, I think this session will now act as a bench mark for recovery: I'll know I'm post-marathon clear when I can run Hunt Lane without looking like a gereatric beetroot!

Today, plans were changed to meet up with friends for a run, and for a short while I did contemplate going out for a run on my own instead; however, I managed to find many inventive excuses not to, and running is now postponed until tomorrow. Perhaps a jog along the canal will be a nice end to a Wednesday at work...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Countyathon #1: Great Manchester Run

Haile Gebrselassie, My not so Little Bro and my friend Lisa will all remember yesterday's Bupa Great Manchester Run as being significant in some ways: Haile because he won for the 4th time; my not so Little Bro because he earned himself a brand new sparkling PB when completed the course in 57 minutes (well under the hour he was looking for); and Lisa because she ran a 10k distance for the first time ever in her life and also earned a tremendous time of 57 minutes - wow!  And indeed, if I was to spend more time on here I'd mention all my other friends who ran for the first time, earned new pb's, raised magnificent amounts of money for charity or didn't run but enjoyed jesting others about their times - Andy, you know who you are!

For me, this year's race was fun. Paula and I went down early and acted as Haile's personal cheering squad as he sprinted passed us, closely followed by Chris Thompson; we danced at the side of the 'Bupa Boost Zone' to the Kaiser Chiefs; we cheered Elmo on despite the fact we only remembered his name once he was 50 metres away from us; I surprised myself by recognising a celebrity and then acted in a suitably embarassing manner as Nell McAndrew raced past us; and if you look really closely at the side of the television screen at about 1 hour into the race, you'll see Paula and I heading back along Chester Road whilst I happily chomp on a peanut butter sandwich - what can only be described as an epic failure in 'trying to get on TV'!

And that was all before we even started running! At 12.30pm, the final wave of the Great Manchester Run set off with us in it. Within seconds, Paula had disappeared off into the crowds dodging past Spiderman, a Tweenie and several tutu's. Next to disappear from sight was Lisa, who fuelled with enthusiasm bounced effortlessly in and out of the crowd of colour until she too could no longer be seen. Which left not-so Little Bro and I to pick our way past the mass of running fruit, firemen and fairies. However, not-so Little Bro had a plan and at 3km he picked his pace up a little and waved goodbye. I contemplated staying with him at this point, using him to pull me along so to speak... not literally of course! That would be cheating!... but decided instead to take it steady, not wanting to burn out too soon.

However, at just past the 3km point, I spotted Pete, resplendent in orange, stood high above the runners, astride the central reservation barrier. I waved like mad, he spotted me and jumped in to run alongside. As I was running Lud-style, he informed me of my pace (sub 9.30 at that point) and kept me occupied with stories of the other club runners he'd jumped in and run with already that day; at this point he had clocked over 5 miles (hitting just under 10 miles in total whilst supporting runners in a 6 mile race!). I always like it when Pete runs alongside and could feel him pick my pace up instantly. However, I know I didn't manage to keep this pace as my overall average dropped to just below 10 minute miles overall. Still, as he left me at Old Trafford, I swept into Salford Quays feeling energised and confident.

This feeling continued as I passed the legendary Clint Boon, DJing in a discrete corner of Salford Quays and as I, unexpectedly passed the 7km mark and realised quite how short 10k actually is these days! Short it may have been, but as I came into the final 3km, I started to feel it and became very aware that it was only 4 weeks ago I completed a marathon. Once again, I found I had the stamina and strength in my body to continue with ease, however my breathing was very laboured at, what used to be, a low speed and I found myself really having to push hard in the final 2km. At just before 9km, Pete swept up the road on the other side and found me again immediately identifying a target for me... a giraffe!

Lanky - LCCC's Mascot
 My first glimpse of 'Lanky' the giraffe had been in Castlefield before the race even started, at the time he was sprinting... very fast for a giraffe... in the wrong direction and we'd commented on how good a runner you'd have to be to run in a costume such as that - running in shorts and T-shirt can be hard enough! The next time I saw Lanky was during the race when he passed me on the 'hill' outside Old Trafford, on the return leg back to town. 'Ooooo... there's that giraffe again' was my first thought as he gracefully tackled the hill - well, giraffes are graceful creatures, aren't they; my second thought was: 'I wish I had a camera... Oh, if I get to the finish line at the same time, there'll be a picture of me and the giraffe!'. Despite this, I had failed to keep up the Lanky - maybe it was those magnificent lanky legs of his speeding him on - and although I gave it a good effort, as we neared 800 metres to go, Lanky was living up to his name and lengthening his lead on me. So I puffed and panted my way through the last 800 with nothing left to give at the end at all... not even one of my infamous sprints to the finish line. As for the giraffe, it turns out he's quite a celebrity himself, as Lancashire County Cricket Club's official mascot, he was running to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Research... good on ya Lanky!

So, Paula and I have completed our first race on the Countyathon challenge: Greater Manchester has been conquered with the Bupa Great Manchester Run, 2011. As expected my overall time from last year was up, with a finish time of 1.02.40 and so for now, I have a new 10k target for 2011 to beat and my target for the race next year... beat the giraffe!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

... Or I will be if I don't do something now!

This week, I went to running club twice. On Monday, we did an out and back which was difficult, but I conquered it! And yesterday we did hills. The group did 20 and I did about 14 or 15. Today, I feel like yesterday was the first time I have ever exercised... I ache ALL over!

I was considering this earlier, whilst also recalling my inability to fasten one of my skirts this morning (not because my hands wouldn't work, or because the zip was broken... but unfortunately because it was just too tight), when I decided maybe I should weigh myself. Now, I should point out at this moment that I have not weighed myself since beginning my marathon training because it was giving me a false reading: I was panicking about putting on weight when really I was building muscle. Instead, I took to taking measurements - a far more accurate evaluation I decided. I should also point out however, that I have neither weighed myself nor taken measurements in at least a month, possibly longer.

So, I anxiously gingerly placed the scales on the floor... breathed out... pulled my stomach in (well, it feels like it'll help!) and stepped on...

WHAT THE ...???!!!

I am no longer not the lean, mean running machine I formerly was dream to be! I am feeling like I've exercised for the first time this week, because I have... at this weight! I can't bear to divulge the exact figures that the scales read, and to be fair they weren't high up in the stratosphere... but for me, they were high enough... high enough to explain why I have an ever-decreasing wardrobe to wear... and so, what I will share is that I am now on a mission to lose 11lbs!

As I am a complete and utter geek, I immediately constructed a spreadsheet to:
1. Analyse my current consumption of food and calories (which reveals that despite a realtively 'healthy' diet, I've been fuelling myself as though I'm still training to run a marathon!)
2. Plan my new reformed diet for the next 4-6 weeks.
3. Monitor my food and calorie intake for the duration of my diet.
4. Record and monitor my weight and body measurements.
5. Plan and record my (increased) exercise regime.

As a former Leader of a well-known world-wide weight loss organisation, I know exactly what I need to do, I just now need to get off my (increasingly larger) ass and do it!

And so, my mission statement is this:

For the next 4-6 weeks I will: exercise at least 5 times a week; eat only when I am hungry; eat according to my strict healthy, yet low calorie, diet plan; gradually begin to fit back into the clothes in my wardrobe!

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

I am a girl

I am a girl. That statement is a fact, but facts must be supported by evidence; so today, in the interest of factual research, I have gone out of my way to prove that statement with the following incidents:

1. A visit to a DIY store... alone. Yes. As I headed off to B&Q (other quality DIY stores are available - although rapidly disappearing!) I didn't for one minute pause to consider, or even question, the rashness of my actions or the hastiness of my feminine decision. No, I set off in the car to buy some woodchips for the gardener to lay down tomorrow (yes, don't scoff, I have a gardener... With two gardens - one laid with woodchips and one fresh with newly sprung grass - and many episodes of Master Chef, Great British Menu and The Apprentice to catch up on, it is essential for any modern living, on-trend couple to have a gardener!...). Naively, I circumnavigated the store until I found my treasure, grabbed myself a trolley and heaved two ENORMOUS bags of woodchips onto the wooden flatbed. Ta daaaaa... I congratulated myself: Well done Maggie; you are strong, independent, woodchip buying female. Excellent. Now to the till.

This was when I realised that B&Q make trolleys that will only move for men. Yes. Only men. How do I know this? Because there were several other people around me in the store, merrily pushing their trolleys around without a care in the world; all were men. My trolley and I however were firmly grounded where we had begun; it seems in laying my load upon my trolley, I had inadvertently wedged it between the display of woodchips and it's own immovable wheels. We were stuck. I pushed, I pulled, I twisted and heaved... until 'Can I help you there Madam? you seem to be having a few problems'.

Am I ashamed that I let the nice man in the bright orange t-shirt move my trolley for me? No, of course not because I am a modern living, on-trend, independent, garden accessory buying woman who is quite comfortable with a little helping hand every now and then. The nice orange man moved it away from the display and I set off, wobbling dangerously through the store towards the till. It was when I nearly crashed into an oncoming (male) customer, that I was offered the advice (by him) that there is a specific skill required in moving a flatbed trolley ladened with bags of woodchips through a DIY store, and that is to pull it. 'Just mind your ankles' he helpfully advised... as if!... Oooof... Ouch! Hmmmm.

My woodchip buying experience had turned into quite an adventure so it was no surprise, when I reached my car, that the boot (that has not had a problem, that I've failed to get fixed, for the last 6 months) refused to open and I had to haul the ENORMOUS bags of woodchips into the back seats of my 3-door Micra, covering me in wet, red dye and teeny bits of woodchips. However, what was more upsetting was that despite the big wide eyes and helpless expressions I offered several passing males this time there was no offer of help. Anyway, mission accomplised and onto incident...

2. Tesco. Well, not actually Tesco itself (other big branded supermarkets are available) but the discovery, in Tesco supermarket on return to my car, that not only does the boot not open and the passenger seat no longer swing forwards, but I also have a flat tyre. Oh. Flat. Hmmmmmm. Right, well I can sort that out no problem. Pulling into the petrol station, I sprung from my car ready for action. Except I was scuppered by the first hurdle as apparently air costs money in a petrol station and, whereas I was under the impression that a small donation of 20p is enough for the machine to embellish your tyres with air, this particular machine was some kind of super-combo-air-water-supremo machine and required a pound! A whole pound! I know... Now, after being caught out at roadside ticket machines several times in the past few months, I have taken to keeping some cheeky change in my car for just such emergencies... if only I could remember where...

3 minutes later and the machine was happily whirring away! Taking advantage of the extortionately priced water on offer, I filled up the screenwash tank that has been empty for 3 months and it only took me 2 minutes to work out how to open the bonnet! I filled the tyre with air and only had to look at the side of the door twice to know which PSI (look what I've learnt!) to set it at and I even gave a little bit of air to the other tyres, even though they weren't as flat as a pancake!...

Returning home, proud of myself I concluded my scientific investigation with the final incident...

3. I asked Mik to carry the woodchips from the car, into the garden. I didn't attempt it myself... I didn't even consider attempting it myself... I shamelessly, with full pride and dignity, played my helpless female card: 'It's just too heavy for me... thanks...'

So, to summarise, on evaluation of the incidents documented above, which took place within a time period of just 2 hours today, I have can conclude that the following statement is a clear, proven and fully evidenced fact: I am a girl.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Scrap that...

Okay, okay, okay!!!

I've just had a Facebook 'talking to' from my friends! And just in case I'm to suffer the same fate here too... I've reconsidered... I'll run the Great Manchester Run next weekend because it will be fun... not because I'll get a time... not because I'll be fast or slow... but because it will be fun!

I'm starting at the back though... right at the back I mean... behind the giraffes, the Chinese dragons and the three-legged couples!... and that way I can feel good when I overtake at least a few of them!!

So, sans-garmin and sans-target... I'm taking running back to basics!

Oh, and by the way... thanks! :-)

A Family Fun Run!

Today, I went for a run with my No-so-Little Bro... first time we've run together... and I learnt two things:

1. Running around his area of South Manchester is far preferable to running around North Manchester... there's no hills!... I'd like to run with him more often!
2. I really have broken my running!

Not-so-Little Bro has been achieving a consistent 8.30 minute mile pace over a 5k distance for the past few weeks, however he wants to achieve under an hour in the Great Manchester Run and running at his 5k pace will burn him out over double the distance. As he knew himself, he needed to slow his pace slightly in order to increase the distance, what he didn't know is what that pace feels like. So today, the idea was to help him find the elusive 9.30 minute mile pace and know what it feels like to run it. For me, that pace has certainly been elusive over the past few months and I wanted to know if I was capable of running it.

I wasn't. Thankfully, I managed it for the first mile and, hopefully, No-so-Little Bro is now aware of the pace; just in case, I've lent him by Garmin for the week so he can practise using it and have a better idea of how he's doing in the race on Sunday (I'll be a true Lud-Runner for the week now!!).

As for me, I don't know what's going on. I recognise I'm still in recovery from the London Marathon, but to this extent? Really? The weird thing is that the trouble I'm having is breathing - my legs and body feel fine - but as soon as I start running I find it hard to breathe; running up hills, running faster, running for an extended length of time all makes my breathing more laboured and I have to stop to get my breath back again; we ran just under 4 miles, and I had to stop 3 times, at a pace that I would have been comfortable running and chatting at only a year ago. What is even stranger is that this doesn't seem to be brought on by the marathon, but started back in March whilst I was still training. Naturally, I've tried googling my 'problem' which has thrown up a number of hyperchondric (real word?!) suggestions of what may be wrong with me, but as I do not have: asthma, pneumonia, cardiac ischemia, interstitial lung disease, congestive heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, I've had to resign myself to the explanation that I'm recovering from the marathon. Is that true? No one else around me seems to be having the same problems, or is there another explanation? With a solution??!!! Answers on a post card please!

Anyway, for the time being, as a coping strategy, I've decided (probably) not to run the Great Manchester Run next weekend. This is a complete cop-out and I love the race, but I know I'll beat myself up for a whole year if I don't do it in under an hour, and with my previous best times at 50.16 for the flat, 10k route I already feel hugely disappointed that I can't run anywhere close to that time. So instead, I'm (probably) going to go along and support all of my friends who are running it and soak up the atmosphere without any of the pressure! And... big bonus... For the first time, I'll be able to watch the winners (Haille Gebrselassie and Paula Radcliffe?) cross the finish line!

Of course, the 'probably' comes in because I still love running, I'm just hugely frustrated by the situation... perhaps a 'miracle' will occur this week and I'll fix my running... I'll certainly give it a good try!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

And a new challenge is born...

If you're anything like me, you'll be someone who is more than aware, that despite living in England, tourists to the country have very likely seen far more of it than you have. Each year, we travel with friends on weekend breaks to exotic places near to us: Nottingham, The Lakes, Stoke-on-Trent... and each time, I comment to Mik on how we should be doing this more often; We don't see enough of England and we should... But we still haven't!

This got me to thinking. At the same time, my little brain had been pondering on what new running challenge to set me; nothing distance related - the marathon was far enough thank you - but maybe something a little 'different'. And then... Eureka!... 'Ooooooh', I said to myself whilst scanning the back pages of 'Runner's World' for local races, 'Wouldn't it be cool (yes, I still say that word - out loud as well, not just as part of internal conversations with myself inside my own head!) to do some of these races that are more further afield... in fact, what about a race in EVERY COUNTY in ENGLAND?'

Challenge set.

'Right', I thought to myself, 'what exactly would this involve?' It was then, that I realised that my geographical knowledge of my own country is, quite frankly, appalling; having no idea how many counties there are in England... Grabbing my laptop, a cheeky google told me there are currently 48 ceremonial or geographic counties. Until this point, at the back of my mind, I had been questioning whether to include 'Great Britain' in my challenge instead... the answer was now no - 48 races is more than enough to be starting with!

So, armed with my newly found knowledge, I created my challenge and a new page on my blog to document it all here.

On this page, you'll also find a pretty map of England and the list of races I plan to do; so far there are 3!! So, if you've any good local races near to you, let me know... I've been casually scanning the race guides for some ideas, and although ones requiring the logistics of long distance travel will need to be quite well planned in advance, nothing beats word of mouth for a good local race... and also, if you see I'm planning on running one near you, why not pop down to say hello... or better still, run it with me?!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Lud-Runners

I've found a way to by-pass my broken running. I've not fixed it; I've become ignorant to it!

On, what turned out to be, my 4.3 mile run with Paula yesterday, I called on my inner Luddite and threw my Garmin out the window (not literally - it cost a lot of money!), leaving my left arm so light and carefree it didn't know what to do with itself. After 4.2 miles, I even managed to stop automatically looking at my empty arm every time Paula's watch beeped; and I definitely am not so accustomed to running with an appalling amount of technology, that I very definitely didn't automatically reach to switch it on and off when I started and stopped! Actually, I seem to have such a robotic connection to my Garmin when running that it is amazing how I ever managed to forget to switch it on in the Blackpool Half Marathon!

However, I did manage to refrain from asking Paula what speed we were running at, and so was able to determine, post run, that it had been a completely successful 4.3 miles along the tow path of Rochdale Canal. With the added benefit of a warm sunny morning and beautiful countryside scenery. Lovely.

It made me wonder whether I should release my inner Luddite permanently... after all, do I really need to know my actual pace, average pace, last lap pace, current lap pace, distance run, time elapsed, calories burnt etc, etc, etc...? Maybe I'll start a whole running Neo-Luddite movement... The Lud-Runners... people will see us and shout: 'Run Lud, Run!' or 'Go Lud-Runners, you're the best!'. A whole new movement for the post-post-modern world will begin. We will smile and wave at our fellow comrades as we jog by, noticing the wonders of the world around us; at ease, connected with nature as we run, technology free, through our lives. We'll rise up against Run Keeper, Nike+, Garmin and miCoach; attacking the evil technologies at their heart with viral warfare through t'internet. Eventually, the whole world will run au naturel; their arms as light as a feather, their hearts as free as a bird, their pace as slow as mine... ah ha ha ha ha h...

Ahem... Yes... Ummm... so... it was a good run and although I may not be entirely fixed, just yet, I did enjoy it! And I may just try it again. In the meantime, I have arranged to run with my brother next weekend, to help him find, and keep, the pace he is looking for the Great Manchester Run... Oh the irony!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Monkeys, Space and Meerkats...

Well, it's proving to be a slow journey back from the Marathon... literally!

Running with club on Thursday, I was unable to keep up with the rest of the group, struggling to run at 10.30 minute miles; to put this is perspective, before I began training for a marathon, my natural 'talking' pace was 10 minute miles, something that posed no problem whatsoever. Mr OH thinks I may have broken my running; that I pushed it too far and now it doesn't work anymore! He may be right, however I don't plan to give up just yet! With legs that felt like they'd run another 26 miles, rather than just 5, by the time we finished the session on Thursday though I was glad to give running a miss for the weekend.

Instead, this weekend has been about windy parks, animals and space. Not all together though!

Visiting Trentham Gardens, in Stoke-on-Trent, we traversed the wild open plains and I laughed at my friends as they completed Barfuss, a bare-foot walk; if I had ever been tempted to try bare-foot running (which I haven't), then this walk would have been enough to put me off... torturous is the only word that could describe it!

The following day we had fun with monkeys in the very aptly named Monkey Forest. The monkeys were very cute and provided much entertainment for the 2 hours or so we were there. We then hot-footed it over to Leicester where we entertained ourselves for the afternoon in the National Space Centre; where I provided much amusement for everyone else in the 'We are Astronauts' film by falling fast asleep... I don't think I snored, but I do think my mouth was wide open! What can I say... It had been a long day!

Finally, as if we hadn't had enough of animals for the weekend, we all stopped off at Yorkshire Wildlife Park, in Doncaster, on the way back 'op north' today. Where it was (obviously) the Meerkats that entertained us the most... Simples!

In amongst all of this was copious amounts of incrediably bad, highly fatty, completely wrong food and a very teeny, tiny amount of alcohol, which is why I am just going to have to set about 'fixing' this running of mine tomorrow... perhaps a gentle 3 miler at a nice relaxed pace will help... I'll let you know how it goes!