A French Affair

Last week I packed my running shoes along with my passport and headed to Plaisance in France, for a week of indulging in cheese, catching up with family and perhaps even fitting in some cycling between the running sessions I had planned.

Most of that went according to plan. We took a leisurely train to the Aveyron region via Toulouse, settled into the holiday mood and arrived at our destination suitably relaxed and full of french pastry. And as a result I was itching to get some mileage in to hopefully balance the butter intake and ease out the stiffness that comes with long train journeys.

I needn’t have worried, it didn’t take long to get ourselves sorted out with top-of-the-range bikes, creative itineraries, maps and Garmins, from the wonderfully effervescent  and knowledgeable Claudia Koch who owns and runs Cycling Magnolias, a cycling tour company based in the beautiful Les Magnolia’s hotel in Plaisance who we booked our holiday through.

Les Magnolia’s Hotel

One or two long bike rides wouldn’t mess too much with my running plans, I thought, I can include in my ‘cross training’ days and perhaps one or two meandering trips around the country side on my recovery days. Surely? Best laid plans and all that….

I have to admit, the running was forsaken in favour of the beautiful bike I found myself in possession of for a week. It wasn’t the easiest first day, I fell off four (!!)  times while I got used to the straps on the pedals and I earned myself some spectacular bruises, but after that it was a match made in heaven. Beautiful countryside to explore, minimum traffic and breathtaking views.

My lovely hybrid for the week 

My trainers were almost left in my suitcase, I just wasn’t planning on having such fun on the bike and the running sessions were quickly forgotten.  Of course I was suitably punished by finding new and interesting muscles that ached like nothing I have ever experienced having hit the hills or trying (stupidly) to keep pace with my uber-fit cycling-guru father.

Dad and I on top of the hill en route to St Izaire (75km round trip)

So, by the end of the holiday I had clocked up (almost) 200km on the bike and a very disappointing 10km in actual running, one session on an early Tuesday morning post thunderstorm to shake out the stiff cycling muscles. Of course I am blaming the heat  and the fact that those hills can only be conquered with bikes. My legs on their own just couldn’t cope!

I also blame the cheese. I can’t run on a full stomach. But I can cycle.

Cheese. The overriding theme of the trip

Back in London and I am contemplating buying a road bike. But like any affair, I can’t quite see how it would fit into my ‘real’ life in London just yet. To much traffic to contend with, the issue of storage, the expensive kit that comes with it. So I’m back with my first love, simple straight-forward running and hitting the pavements back in training for the Royal Parks.

But there may be a triathlon in my future… wear did I store my swimming cap again?

Suffering: Optional

With the 2012 Olympic spirit blazing through London at the moment its hard not to get completely engulfed in it and then attempt some huge personal record breaking feats. And why not? Mo winning double gold in particular, and emphasising, “its all hard work and grafting, then anything is possible” inspired me to get out there and train. No more excuses. 
I’ve also found inspiration in another form, as I am finally reading one of the definitive running autobiographies by the brilliant Murakami; What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He writes about the idea that pain is inevitable, but that suffering is optional. This was a philosophy he read an ultra-marathon runner discussing when coping with huge physical stress over a prolonged period of time without giving up, and its an idea he’s taken to heart with his training. 
So yes, basically it is going to hurt. Potentially a lot. There’s no getting round that, but it’s whether or not you give into your doubt or fear of coping with that pain that makes all the difference. There’s a choice there, which seems so obvious and simple. But when I’m breaking new ground, be it that extra kilometre, faster pace or steeper hill, its a choice I have to keep making, sometimes over and over again while running. 
Thankfully though I am not training for an ultramarathon, so let’s be frank and do away with my drama queen antics, the pain won’t be gut-wrenching (we hope!). 
It’s all in the eyebrow
Nevertheless, my training run today of 7 miles (11.3kms) was not off to a great start and I was feeling pretty lack lustre. That pain in the hip started niggling again and then a nasty stitch developed around the 3 mile mark (that will be that apple danish, more fool me!). But with a few well chosen mantras, some old school Chemical Brothers (Dig your Own Hole, ironically fitting) and consistently making the choice to push on through, in the end I managed a decent pace and finished the required mileage. 
Even if I did end up looking a bit like this. Ouch. 
This snapshot doesn’t quite show you how red in the face I actually go (crimson). Having pushed through the discomfort, and locked another training session in the bank, I do love those endorphins and the red face, dry mouth, salt in the eyes, burning muscles that they bring. Pretty fantastic after all. 
Plus I get to demolish a huge guilt free seared beef and mustard BOSS sandwich. Full credit to Mr R for making sure there was delicious post run food in the fridge. Gold!

The Good Run

Running and I did not get off to a good start this week. Still recovering from my Sunday long run, I wasn’t feeling very clever on Monday morning. With an early start looming, and the bus rounding the corner faster than I could walk it, so I made a run for it, thinking I could clear the distance Usain Bolt style. Forgot I was wearing heels, forgot I am not, in fact, an Olympic gold medal sprinter. Forgot to look out for misplaced dustbins. And predictably, found myself upended on the pavement, flat on my face on Ladbroke Grove with the contents of my handbag strewn far and wide. Thankfully I was wearing trousers.

A very sweet 10 year old boy stopped to help me collect my oyster card, mascara and notebook, while three very able young men pretended not to laugh. No cut lips, but my blood was boiling nonetheless. I think my pride was more hurt than my scuffed hands and knees but Ouch (capital O). Oh and I missed the bus.

Tuesday’s rolled around and I’m still feeling a bit battered from the fall (no blood it did some kind of mischief to my shoulder and I’m playing up the drama). But the training schedule is what it is. And there’s less than 9 weeks to go to the Royal Parks half marathon. No more excuses.

Recently I’ve been trying to incorporate the tips on form that I was given a few weeks back during one of the Run Britannia sessions, and its beginning to really make a difference. I’ve picked up a few bad habits over the past 18 months that I have been running, which they say is very normal, the hardest thing is just getting out a doing it in the first place. But now that I’m trying to increase speed and pick up the distance, I need to start looking at being more energy efficient. Which isn’t as hard has it looks.

So I’m trying to unpick the habit of heel striking and shifting to mid foot running which means I’m dragging my feet less and using stronger muscles (activate the hamstrings – OUCH). I’m straightening my back and pulling my shoulder blades back rather than up, so less slumping forward and less tension. And lastly I’m relaxing. Yes really. Just going with it.

And what a run it was! Not overly quick, or long, but I felt pretty goddamn amazing. A few aches and pains as per normal, but less fatigued, much lighter. And the niggling hip pain seems to be easing. Even in the pouring rain. YES!

Hardcore. Oh Yes. 
New Route! 

Super Sunday

It must be Olympic fever. I managed the 6am start twice this week, even got R out and about for a quick 2 miler and managed a decent 10K this morning – partly motivated to get to the screens in Hyde Park to watch the ladies marathon as they approached Pater Noster Square. 

Completely inspiring to watch the city get behind team GB. And in particular watching the ladies clean up  in the medals!

Hyde Park Olympic Screens
Ladies Marathon – 2 hours and counting!

Having allowed myself a short break to watch the action, I headed back to Ladbroke Grove – when the heavens opened. Which after 8kms is actually welcome relief – one of the great perks of summer running, cooling off!

Headed home to finish off the long run of the week, treated myself to Yazoo (best run recovery drink on the market in my humble opinion) and a salt beef, pickle and mustard sandwich. Standard.

Like crack for running addicts

nomnomnomnomNOM

500 miles!

I did it! 500 miles. Yes Five Hundred Miles.

Or, if you prefer….804kms. That’s right, Eight Hundred and Four kilometres. 

Put that in your pipe and smoke it P.E. teachers from my youth! And I did it all in just under 18 months. I’m pretty chuffed with that.

Plus, according to the glorious Nike, I burned a smoking 50,000 calories. That’s at least one of Rory’s caramel and macadamia nut cheesecakes. Result.

Yes, my average pace is still pretty slow, but I’m working on the speed factor and building more intervals into the training (read as: running after Stella with a stick, and visa versa. I need to get a bit more professional now I’m into the next 500!)

Never to let a celebratory moment pass without some kind of fantastic reward, I have bought myself some shiny new trainers to carry me through the British 10K, the Palma Half Marathon, and should the ballot gods look kindly upon me (or not as the case may be), maybe even the big daddy, London Marathon 2013…. YES I registered.

Now holding thumbs for the announcement in October.

*clicking my heels together three times*

I can almost hear these shoes whispering…..Come on 26.2!! (ok, too much coffee after 7pm, must detox)

Richmond Deer Park 10K: Sunday Race

I’m not used to relying on other people when preparing for a race, so in true control freak style, I sorted out the race numbers, my kit and set the alarm in good time. Bearing in mind R only just manages to fall out of bed around midday on the weekend I was a bit worried we would over sleep, so I was aiming for a 6:30 start – with a view to get out the house by 7:45. Just in case!
Pre Race Tension!
R doing his best De Niro impression and pretending not to be nervous 

I neglected to check that the alarm was set to the correct schedule. Cue mass hysteria when I wake up and see not only has the alarm not got off, but its already 7:30. I have never seen R get out of bed so quickly, possibly spurred into action by the number of expletives I’m shrieking while knocking over a bed room chair, stubbing a toe and losing my hair brush. Somehow, amid the chaos we manage to pull on our kit, find our race numbers and get on the tube by 8am. Just.

So here we are, Sunday morning. First thing. Its absolutely freezing and really foggy. So much so that the tube driver, is on a literal ‘go slow’ from Turnham Green all the way to Richmond as the visibility is so bad. We make it to Richmond Deer Park in good time. I’ve not read the best reviews on this particular race so I’m prepared for the worst. Thankfully it appears to have improved on last year and the race starts on time at 9:15am.

The 10K running route

Due to the fog and the cold, it wasn’t easy going early on, but we managed to get to 5K without incident. Besides seeing some poor girl run straight into a pole while not paying attention to the road, and, well the mist didn’t help!

I was looking forward to the stretch along the Thames, however the fog didn’t allow for much sight seeing at all, and so we were left with crazy people watching – and trying to dodge poor dog walkers and cyclists who hadn’t adhered to the race warnings.

All in all a really good race, and a possible personal best! My GPS and the Timex times are in slight dispute but either way its looking like around the 1hr 5mins 49secs mark. Which will do nicely bearing in mind we were off to a pretty slow start initially!

Done and Dusted!

By 10:30am we were headed back to Notting Hill, rainbow medals (?!) in hand. R was suitably chuffed with his first race and we’re all on track with our training for the February Brighton Half marathon.

So all that was left to do on a chilly Sunday was hit the Portobello road in search for warming (and massive!) Sunday Roast. Bring it!

Portobello Organic Kitchen roast chicken dinner

Post Party Halloween – The Parks Run

The clocks have gone back and winter is upon us. But with a balmy 18 degree high forecast and an extra hour in the day to play with, a good run through London was on the cards. R had come up with the idea to run from  Westminster Bridge back to Notting Hill via the three royal parks and we were scheduled to get laced up and on the tube for 10am.

Provided I could get myself out of bed. I had spent the night before dancing the night away at a Halloween party in a warehouse in Shoreditch, with enough make up to make Gaga gag and gallons of hairspray, fake blood and redbull to keep it all up and running. 
Needless to say my 3am cab ride home, combined with at least another hour scraping off white face paint, fake zombie skin and congealed red ick, meant I was not in the mood to be leaping out of bed fresh faced and foot loose at 9am. In fact I still resembled the zombie of the night before, in mind at least! 
Having raised myself out of bed, mainly due to R’s over excited insistence that this was the best route ever, in the whole word, hands down, I cleared what was left of the cobwebs in my head and we made our way to Westminster. With just about every tourist in London. I guess we had forgotten about half term!
Thankfully by the time we had managed to negotiate our way through the hoards and out onto Birdcage Walk, the autumn breeze cleared most of the fair weather royal spotters away and we had most of the park lanes just about to ourselves. 
Heading through Green Park and up to Hyde park, we were surrounded by amazing autumnal scenes, countless squirrels (Stella would have gone mental) purple vines, hazy tree tops and a particular treat of looking back to the Houses of Parliament while crossing over the Serpentine, shrouded in cloud. Nice reminder too, how far we had run. 
With the sun setting around 5pm, we were home and ensconced on the sofa in hoodies, with a warm dog piled on top and a apple crumble in the oven. Well deserved treat and all round perfect Sunday. Winter may not be so bad after all…