Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Not-a-pyramid Pyramid Session

Magic Moments come at a price. Yesterday, I had to pay up. In fact, I paid so highly for my amazing Yasso capabilities on Sunday, that I was even too exhausted to write this blog post yesterday. I've only just recovered.

In real terms this tiredness translated itself into the Not-a-pyramid Pyramid Session. Not-a-pyramid because a pyramid requires two equal sides to create it's shape, whereas my attempt looked more like this:

Still, it made for a good recovery run!

Which segues me nicely into some congratulations... WELL DONE to all the Janathoners who, today, completed 31 days of running and, tomorrow, will (hopefully) be enjoying a well-earned rest. You are inspiring (or mental!) and I am in awe -even my pathetic unofficial attempt fell by the wayside just a few days in. Maybe I'll join you during the warmer climes of June... then again, maybe I'll think on that just a little longer.

Anyway, here's to a well-earned rest and a great start to running in 2012.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

That magic moment when...

... You realise you've just achieved something you didn't think you could do... however small that may be!

Fuelled with copious amounts of hangover following a fab night at the theatre, watching Oliver, last night, I didn't expect much more than a vague attempt at plodding back and forth along the same stretch of road several times when I joined some runners from club today. The session, mainly aimed at the marathon trainees, was the Yasso 800's; but rather than doing them on the track, we used the same stretch of road we had used on Monday night's session. For those of you unfamiliar with the session, it's built around 1/2 mile reps - which the others were aiming to run in 4 minutes (as they're aiming for a 4 hour finishing time in the Manchester marathon) - followed by 1/4 mile recovery in the same time. This is repeated 10 times.

Yep, that's right. You read that right.


I'll be honest, I turned up to the session thinking I'd have a go and see how far I got. I wasn't aiming to do all of them and I certainly wasn't so presumptuous to think that I'd be able to keep up with the rest of the group, who are all much faster runners than I.

So, you can imagine my amazement when I finished the first rep only slightly behind the rest of the group. Followed by further amazement as I continued to keep up, falling only 15 (or so) seconds behind on each rep. Of course, there were two perfectly simple reasons for this - neither of which involve any kind of hocus pocus, Harry Potter style wizardry!

The first is that the rest of the group, although faster, were running slower; proven on the final rep when Pete knocked his time down from 4 minutes to 2 minutes something (I don't even know what the something was because my brain got distracted by the number 2 at the start of the time!).

The second of the reasons is that I cheated. Cheated myself that is. Not wanting to fall behind the others, on the 1/4 mile recoveries I took a reduced recovery time. this meant On the next fast rep, I started with the rest of the group and ignored the extra recovery time I should have (technically) taken.

All of which led to 'that magic moment'. On each fast rep, I expected to fall further behind. I expected to slow down. I expected to tire. Yet I didn't! In fact, my last two reps were my fastest of the lot, hitting 8.10 minute miles (a pace that hasn't been in my running vocabulary for a very long time!) As we ran back to the cars, taking our total distance to 10.5 miles, I realised just how well I'd run today; and so, Twitter might be obsessed with '#that awkward moment' but for me, today was all about '#that magic moment'!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Hey Little Cupcake!

Cakes, sugar paste and buttercream were the ingredients for this evening and, for once, I wasn't eating! Well, ok, I admit it, I did HAVE to have one of my creations when I got home... It just looked too irresistible!

So what exactly have I been up to?

Well, I've been taking part in a cupcake decorating course at 'Hey Little Cupcake' situated in Spinning Fields, Manchester. This cute little cupcakery provided me with a pretty pink apron, freshly baked cupcakes and all the utensils and know-how to enable me to get creative and decorate my very own, beautiful (if I do say so myself!) cupcakes.

Starting with sugar paste, I perfected butterflies, stars and flowers before moving on to learn how to make the perfect buttercream (I am now LUSTING after a Kenwood mixer!). Then the rest of the night was spent learning, and practising, different decorative effects, that were to make our cupcakes look as yummy as they taste; including the 'Cookie Monster' and the Hey Little Cupcake classic, 'Viva Las Vegas'.

Considering I missed running club for this calorific creative evening, I should have resisted eating one of my creations once I'd plonked my backside back on the sofa; yet, alas, I am a far weaker woman than that and I caved after just 5 (or maybe 3...) minutes back home. Still, as Bad Wabbit (of http://badwabbittails.wordpress.com) revealed, following his attendance at a marathon workshop the other day, what is more important for a runner is carbs - sporty peeps should aim to intake 60% of the little blighters as part of an overall daily diet - and there are plenty of carbs in a cupcake... Especially an 'American' which squirrels a sneaky Oreo cookie within its soft, scrumptious sponge... Mmmmmmm.

Ok, so I'm stepping away from the remaining 5 cakes and planning several runs over the coming few days... After all, practice makes perfect and I need to perfect my creative skills... Cupcake anyone?!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Calories? What calories?

Fresh air, country walks and the company of good people meant for a fun and relaxing weekend and, it seems, great fuel for running.

After a weekend in Alton (not Towers!) enjoying myself with my family, I was understandably tired by the end of today's working day... There had been many wine o'clocks in the evening (watch this space for the wine-o-meter cannily suggested by http://fortnightflo.wordpress.com)! So, running club was not the first thing on my mind this evening - lying on the sofa was! However, due to my over-zealous wine consumption at the weekend, I knew that whilst I had been working hard today, many pesky calories had been equally hard at work, hurriedly attaching themselves to my ass! Not good. Running it was.

However, despite my initial lethargy, I ran better, and felt better, than I have in ages. Running 4 x 1/2 mile reps with 1/4 mile recoveries, I aimed for 3 and completed 4... And I didn't come last! Bonus!

Plus, clocking up just over 6 miles in total means that those pesky calories have been well and truly beaten into submission...


Have that calories!

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Parents' evening followed by running club?...

I'm completely pooped!


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Smashed it!

That'll be a reference to my beep test PB.. Which I totally smashed today!

Hitting a whole level higher than last time, I reached 8.5; and if you haven't already been able to tell, I am very chuffed with myself!

We're having a final go (for a few weeks) at it again next week and hopefully I'll be able to reach even higher again; however, I'm going to have to work on my turns before then as at the moment, I think that's what's holding me back. By far, the hardest thing for me is finding that explosive power needed to sprint from a standing position, which is what is essentially created by having to turn and run in the opposite direction; it's just not something I'm used to. Saying that, I'm quite enjoying the challenge of trying to raise it each week and am already looking forward to my next attempt!

However, what I was more impressed with today was my weight lifting ability and core strength. Moving on to the fitness room after the beep test, our 'teacher' took us through a range of resistance and endurance exercises using the weights and equipment... Despite my usual aversion to picking up anything in a gym with the letters 'kg' at the end, I really enjoyed myself and discovered that I'm stronger than I thought. So, by my (extremely accurate) calculations, I reckon I only need to spend a few more hours in the fitness room with my new 'kg' babies and I'll be hitting level 9 before I know it... Plus I'll (clearly) be an eenie meenie, skinny mini, teeny tiny, weight loss goddess...


Monday, 16 January 2012

Too many excuses for the excuses!

I can't lie, I tried to find many excuses why I shouldn't go running tonight. However, none of them were good enough. I kept finding excuses for my excuses! And so I went.

It was an out (in 20 mins) and back (in 18 mins) run...

Out: I very quickly became the last runner out of 18. Up hill, struggling, pathetic!

Back: I'm in the lead!!!! Until, I was very quickly overtaken by several runners on their return. Ignoring them, Not giving up, running hard. Finish 37:45

Not bad, not great, but at least I tried! And... That's 350 calories in the bank for wine o'clock at the weekend... Who needs excuses?!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

I ran 10 miles because...

I didn't have to!

When running partner, Paula (not Radcliffe), asked me if I wanted to join her on her 10 mile marathon training jaunt today, I thought 'you know what... Yes I do...!' not 'oh, wish I didn't HAVE to go out today.' or 'no, I want to laze about on my sofa.' or even 'I suppose I should.'. No, I didn't think any of the above, just a simple 'Yes...' Oh, and 'Brilliant! That means I can have a couple of glasses of wine!'.

And so, I have run 10 miles today... Because I didn't have to... And I loved it!!

I also discovered (thanks to the very knowledgable girl behind the counter) that the best treat to eat at Eat is their Victoria sponge slice - only 166 calories would you believe! I also discovered that it's worth asking what the calories are in the food - if you've got geeky-OCD-like-calorie-obsession-problems like me - because they have a folder behind the main counter with them all listed... And I learnt all about prams - thanks to not-so-little-bro and lovely-sis-in-law- and just how dear (as the kids would say (no, really they do!- I know, it sounds like something your granny would say doesn't it!) they are!!! Seriously... This baby thing is quite pricey, I'm glad I'm only 'The Aunt' (official title!).

Anyway, did I mention I ran 10 miles today? I've no time to be wasting on here... I've got wine to drink people!... Now, where did I leave that glass of well deserved calories?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Beeps, Hills and Horseshoes...

Although much of what I say whilst running up hills has to be 'beeped', the title of this blog post is actually all to do with actual beeps... That is actual recorded beeps... More specifically (I'm getting there!) the beep test.

Otherwise known as the multistage fitness test, for those of you that aren't familiar (or have tried desperately to erase it from your fond school memories of PE lessons), the activity requires participants to run back and forth between 2 lines which are measured 20 metres apart. The idea is to hit the line as the beep sounds. Level one is easy- for me, it was 'trying to keep up with my brother' walking pace. Level 2, speeds up to a slow jog, level 3 a little faster and so on. Each level has at least 7 stages in it, which also rise as the level does - so by the time one reaches level 12 (notice the purposeful lack of 1st person in that sentence!) there are 12 stages. As the running is continuous, it is a good test of a person's cardiovascular fitness and is used to measure the efficiency of a participating athlete's V02 max.

After completing the test with all of the kids at school, and seeing some rather interesting results, the head of PE offered the opportunity out to the staff to have a go... Well I only need asking once and so 3 of us turned up today ready and eager to discover how unfit we were... Or not as it turns out!

Don't get me wrong, I'm no elite athlete, but I was quite happy with my results; achieving level 7, stage 6, I am distinctly average in my capabilities. This is good - I was very worried before we began that I would be collapsing in a dying heap at a 'below average, you are stupidly unfit, go and sign up to The Biggest Loser now' kind of way! More to the point, I now have something to aim towards as we'll be doing this each week, and I intend to improve!

Which is why, just one hour later, I was joining in with the wednesday 'hard' session at running club. I usually avoid these. The eponymous name should tell you why! However, I am on a path to improvement, the road to fitness, the highway to weightless... And so, needs must!

Once again, I did well! Well, better than I thought I would anyway... One horseshoe of just under a mile, followed by a mile circuit, followed by another horseshoe... Except I did 2! That's right 2... Like a little running geek, I did 1 more horseshoe than I needed to! I rock!

Unfortunately, I had to take the shorter route home in the cool down because I felt sick and my legs had turned to (actual) jelly but that was just the cool down, I've decided it doesn't really count because I ran the 'hard' session! Woop!

So, I am well on my way to cardiovascular perfection and should have no problems beating my beep level next week, right? Well...maybe... but I'm certainly heading in the right direction. Yay! Go me!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Dear race organisers,

Please would you add a completely downhill race to the UK's racing calendar for 2012 this year.

Although this sounds like a lazy request, it is quite the opposite. When one is running, or indeed attempting to achieve anything which requires overcoming challenge in order to improve, it is important that one is able to identify key strengths and use these fortuitously. This evening, at club, I ran hill reps: fast up, rest, fast down.

By the third rep, it was clear that I was running 'fast' up but fast down; evidently, my strength is downhill running and not only that but also... I love it!

And so, I am now looking for an opportunity to explore this strength further and to really hone my skills within this particular key area. Look at it this way: downhill racing could very well be the new fad of 2012! If that's the case, you've got to act fast, after all where do you want to be when it all takes off: heading the pack on the inside lane? Or struggling behind, desperate to catch up?

You know the answer to this one. If 2011 was the year of backwards racing, then 2012 will be the year of downhill racing. Don't get left stranded at the top, organise your race now*...

Many thanks,

The Magathon x

* priority and complimentary race entry will be more than enough thanks for helping you become known as the organiser of the most popular racing phenomenon that ever occurred!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Countyathon Part 4: London


Fortnightflo  (Carla)
Abradypus  (Louise)
The Magathon (Me!)

Chapter 1:

"You're doing what?" Mik questioned in amazement.
"I'm running the Regent's Park 10k tomorrow, in London, with a group of other 'Athoner bloggers and Carla has very kindly said that I can stay overnight at her house because she lives much closer to London and the race is at 9am."
"But you don't know Carla."
"Well, no... but I do really because I've been reading her blogs for a year now and she seems lovely! And anyway, I met Louise for the Parkrun up here and I only knew her through her blogs before that too, and she was lovely, so it'll all be good!" I babbled. Mik, just stared at me.
"So, let me get this right... you're going to stay with someone you don't actually physically know, but you've met 'on the internet'?"
"Well don't come crying to me when you come back dead... have you seen Wolf Creek?!"
Actually, I hadn't seen Wolf Creek - and still haven't, although apparently it's enough to put you off travelling Australia on your own! - so, brushing Mik's misgivings' well and truly under the carpet (or laminate to be precise), I jumped into my little blue Micra and sped off down south.

One wee, a cup of tea and a Starbucks' Granola bar later, and I arrived at the lovely Carla's where I can confirm I was (obviously) not murdered, hacked into tiny pieces and buried under the floorboards of the patio - a la '90's Brookside - but quite conversely was treated to a delicious meal of speed enhancing spaghetti bolognese with a side of garlic bread, followed by - not any key lime pie but - a Marks & Spencer's key lime pie... Mmmmmmmm... Great conversation, a little red wine and a good night's sleep meant I was more than ready for the challenge that lay ahead of me the next day: The Mornington Chaser's Regent's Park 10k.

Chapter 2:

We woke up bright and early... well, alright then, it was early, but I certainly wasn't bright! and set off for London Town. A few yawn's later and we arrived at Regent's Park, immediately meeting up with Louise and Rachel, who seemed to be coping far better than me with the early morning start! Within seconds Katie, who had braved the train from Oxford that morning, had identified us as the people she was looking for and, before we knew it, Alma had joined us and we were a complete brave band of 6 early morning Janathoners stood on the start line of our 3 lap pursuit.

photo courtesy of Fortnightflo

The gun - well, horn sounding thing - sounded, and we were off...

Lap 1 - I'm feeling good: The wind is in my hair. I'm running well. It's a good, flat course.
Lap 2 - I've questions: Did I start too fast? Can I make it round? Where did that hill come from?
Lap 3 - I've answers: Yes. Don't even think about that now. It's even bigger now!

Thankfully, just at the 9km point where I thought I might just possibly collapse - or at least slow to a pace slower than a snail's - I heard Louise's words of encouragement calling from behind me: 'Go Maggie! You're doing great!'. Those were the magic words I needed. I lifted my head, dug deep and found the finish line at 58:48.

Chapter 3:

Of course, once everyone had finished the race, there was only one thing left to do: breakfast. Oh, and what a good breakfast it was... toast, poached eggs and bacon with a dollop of brown sauce... heaven! It was also the perfect opportunity to have a good old natter about all things running with the girls, all of whom are as wonderfully warm and welcoming in real life as they are in their blogs; and if you haven't had a read them yet, then make sure you do... go on... what are you waiting for? Oh, of course... the end.

Well, there's not much more to say really, except that, all in all, I've had an absolutely fantastic weekend and will definitely look for more opportunities to meet up and run with everyone again. Of course, I have to give a massive thanks to Carla for not just putting up with me, but for making me feel like a real VIP. 

My next race will be the Blackpool half marathon in February (part of my 'run every race in the club championships' challenge); and if anyone fancies joining me in a race ooop north sometime, then give me a shout!  Now, what are you waiting for?... skip back to the top of the page and read some brilliant blogs by some lovely ladies!

Saturday, 7 January 2012


This is amazing! Guess what I'm doing... Go on, guess...

Ok, ok, I'll tell you! It's absolutely fascinating!

Wait for it... Drum roll please...


I am simultaneously Janathoning and blogging! I know... Amazing!

Doris and I are in the park having a very enjoyable, if not windy, time. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little less windy as Fortnightflo* and I will be joining a bevy of other Janathon ladies for the Regents Park 10k... Watch this space for more on that!

For now, I shall leave you with a picture of how happy the park has made Doris.

* it turns out you can't tag on the mobile app but you can find Fortnightflo here: fortnightflo.wordpress.com

Friday, 6 January 2012

A Lesson Learnt from Dad

From an early age, my dad would take the dog for a walk every Friday night. Each week, on his return, it would be clear that he had partaken in quite rigorous exercise as he would always return fatigued, collapsing on the sofa and falling fast asleep. On occasion, he would return so exhausted from walking the dog that he would even be known to fall asleep on the way home, only finally making it to his abode thanks to the help of our kind neighborhood policeman who would help him to his feet and back on his bike.

Of course, as with Santa Clause and the Tooth fairy, it wasn't until I got a bit older that I began to question certain details: why did his dog walks last several hours? Why did he need his bike to walk the dog? And why did the dog never go with him?

It was on my 18th birthday that he finally disclosed these secrets and thus the real reason behind his regular friday night expeditions... Unbelievably, 'walking the dog' was actually a euphemism for going down the pub!

It was also at this time that he taught me about the real skill, effort and determination that is required to spend several hours lifting heavy pints, maintaining scintillating conversation, whilst fighting the rapidly increasing exhaustion and desire to take a quick nap at the table. And all of this would then be followed by a long trek home. Truly inspiring.

Even today, after much practise, my efforts still pale in comparison to the championship levels my dad used to achieve but, practise makes perfect; and so, tonight's (unofficial) Janathon effort took place in the pub as I trained with the effort and dedication that would make my dad proud!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Interval Death


If yesterday's 'exercise' was questionable, today's certainly wasn't!

At club tonight, we ran half mile intervals with quarter mile recoveries... It was sooooo hard - half a mile is really, really far when you have to run it hard!! - However, despite bringing up the rear of the pack for most of the night, I enjoyed the running, fresh air and wind in my hair - which was, thankfully, a lot calmer than last night which would have probably blown me away if I'd tried running in it... Or that's my excuse anyway!

As a consequence of this evening's deadly intervals, I am now unable to do anything but keep Doris company on the couch... Who, after the ordeal of teeth cleaning at the vets today, is in a period of recovery herself... Needless to say, we're both quite content now! :-)

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Exercise: activity that maintains fitness

For my Janathon activity today, I started a diet.

'How is this in the spirit of Janathon?' I hear you cry! 'surely you have to do some form of exercise to qualify such claims!'

Ah, but calm yourselves my loyal readers, I did indeed carry out exercise today; indeed, a form of exercise that not only worked to improve my fitness, but also required energy, effort and exertion...

I exercised my willpower*.

* As I am self-professedly taking part 'unofficially' in Janathon, this totally counts and therefore I'm totally counting it! Plus... I invented** a new technique for reinforcing diet willpower today: when you want to eat something calorific (for example a mass of roses chocolates, a tub of pringles or some stale mince pies - which are really, really tempting by this stage in the day, even though you know they're 2 weeks' old and as stale as a cracker in the desert) instead of eating it, you picture it turning into something disgusting as you do eat it; for example, I imagined that the chocolates turned into baked beans when I put them in my mouth, this made me a little bit sick in my mouth, and consequently I didn't feel like eating them any more... 1-0 to willpower vs cravings! Woop!

** This may not be invented by me, it may well already be a technique adopted by some random weight loss company who will happily charge you your well earned cash to impart such peculiar 'psychology', but if this is the case, I honestly didn't know and fully believed I had invented it. However, if it is yet to be invented as a cunning weight loss plan by which to extract much money from many people, then watch this space for my forthcoming book...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A Race Against Darkness

Doris and I ran the gauntlet this evening in the race against darkness; a run/power walk strategy ensured that we managed to leave the creepy park just before the true swathes of darkness swept in.

And so (my now unofficial) janathon day 3 was completed with a score of 1-0 to Doris* and Maggiee vs The Darkness**

* For those of you unawares, Doris is my dog, not an elderly lady I take for run/power walks on an evening... That would be weird!

** Not the band that sang about believing in 'a thing called love' and, more seasonally, to not 'let the bells end', but in this case actual darkness that draws in with night and makes the park a more creepy place to be!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year*... Happy First of January**... and Happy first day of Janathon*** everyone!

I haven't had much of a chance to catch up with everyone's blogs yet but a quick scan of twitter tells me that there have been garden gallops, double park runs and guilt-inducing emails.

Well, it being the first day of the month**** today, clearly I had to get out and do some running. As it was also a bank holiday and my final day of holiday freedom, I decided I would spend the evening relaxing and, rather than go out to running club, would opt for a run in the sun (Ooooh... like the rhyme) early on instead (early being 1pm when I finally dragged myself away from Friends and the work I was supposedly doing but was really just sat on my lap staring at me whilst I ignored it!). There really isn't anything better than a New Year's Day***** run and, with the sun on my back, the cold air whipping through my hair and my trainers squelching through the mud, I headed into the local park, nodding at dog walkers and passers by alike; all of us sharing in our enjoyment of the beauty of the first day of the new year******... awesome.

And so, with the first day of Janathon*******, and the first day of the new year almost over, I am looking forward to what the other 29 days have to offer... Even more so, I'm looking forward to next weekend where I will be adding another race to my Countyathon belt when I take on the Regent's Park 10k with a group of other 'athoners (a group who I suspect will do a far better job of Janathon that I will... although I have no idea why I suspect that at all... nope, no idea... really!).

Anyway, Happy New Year******** to you all, and to those of you Janathoning, good luck!

* A little clich├ęd but a timely greeting for the time of year... still
** Sshhhhhh... confidence is everything
*** Three is the key... it's the magic number... persuasive, don't you know!
**** If I say it loud enough... will it become true?!
***** Maybe if I say it often enough?
****** Hypnosis! Does that work through a computer? listen to my wooords... belieeeve what I saaaay...
******* Did I tell you I'm a Time Lord? I have my own tardis and everything! I know, it's amazing isn't it!
******** Ok, Ok, Ok, so I slept through yesterday... so sue me!... If I lived in another time zone then today could possibly have been January 1st... I mean didn't you see the news item about Samoa? They lost a whole day... what if that had been January 1st? Would they have failed Janathon? surely not? That wouldn't be fair would it? because after all, time is relative, right? Yes?...  YES? Surely yes?... no? you're right... I've failed Janathon... but hey, you can't say I didn't give it a good try right?!