Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mile by Mile: Ten.

Mile 1

I have switched on my music and taken my first running steps.  My legs feel stiff and awkward and I immediately check my posture and my footfall.  I try and breathe evenly as I know it will get harder before I settle into a good breathing rhythm.  I let the music flow into my ears and into my movement and relax.  I try not to think about the distance ahead.  I know I can do it, I have done it before.  But it will take me the best part of two hours and that can feel overwhelming right at the start.  As my heart rate increases, so does my breaths, in and out and I check I am not racing off too fast as is it easy to do at the start.  As I move on from half mile distance, I have a feel for how strong my legs are today, I can feel if there are going to be any aches or niggles, or perhaps stiffness left over from my last run.  As my muscles warm up and the stiffness dissolves, I start to ease into my stride.

Mile 2


I am often still feeling a little breathless as I reach the first milestone and as I head towards two miles, I work hard to adjust my pace and even out my breathing.  My legs may still be warming up but I have found my rhythm and I am thinking less about footfall and allowing my mind to wander and take in the sights, smells, the sunshine, the cloud patterns.

Mile 3


As I push towards mile three, the initial stiffness in my legs has gone and I am feeling strong.  I now have a good idea of how the run will go and what kind of pace I will run at.  My breathing has evened out and I could easily run up an incline without too much trouble at this point.  If I get a downhill, I will let gravity do its work and lengthen my stride to enjoy the pull downwards.  I check my head is level, my shoulder down and shoulder blades pulled (not too tightly) together.  My waist is gently pulled in and I ensure I am not striding out beyond my body.  My feet hit the ground, mid-foot first, followed by my heel.  My knee bends as I hit the ground and I push off from my heel.

Mile 4

As I pass the three mile mark, I feel at my strongest.  This is how I used to feel after two miles, so it's pleasing to know I am peaking later on in my runs, getting stronger later on, being able to run well, later into the run. I am starting to feel a surge of energy at around this point and I can increase my pace without too much trouble should I choose to.  If I was running a 5 mile run, I probably would do just that, but I keep myself in check and reserve my energy for the miles ahead. 

Mile 5

The strong feeling continues and by this point I often feel as though I have lost a bit of time somewhere, the miles are passing quickly and I know I am reaching half way.  I don't feel daunted at running another five to six miles, although I know the last few will be tougher than this.  I enjoy the feeling of easily getting lost in my run, lost in the music and feeling strong as my feet keep on pounding.  I quite often want to grin as I run and dance along to the music.  If I am running alone, I often wish I was running with a friend, to share the euphoria.  I'm all too aware of the sun shining, or the clouds frowning and I take in the colours of the trees/fields, I watch the farmers in the fields, or grin at the cyclists as they whizz by.  My senses all feel sharp and I am very much in touch with my mind and body.  I am smiling inside and out.

Mile 6

As I approach mile six, I can feel the first touches of fatigue sinking in and often will need to recheck my posture.  I find I lean forward as I start to get tired so I check myself again from head to footfall.  My feet can sometimes feel slightly numb, although this is often a sign that the run is going well (ie I have stopped thinking about them, they are just there, running, running).  If I have to run over uneven ground at this point, I can often feel the effort required to keep a constant pace is greater now. The sensation of wanting to increase my speed is starting to pass, although with a check on my posture, I still feel strong.  I still have a lot of grins left in me!

Mile 7

As I pass the six mile marker, I acknowledge the fact that I just ran a 10km distance which is something I do quite regularly, but is still something to be proud of.  Six+ miles is my 'pat on the back' distance.  I know now if I had to quit and walk home, I have had a good run, I have pushed my legs hard and I have had a decent work out.   I still run uphill reasonably well, much easier than on cold, legs (ie at the start of a run), though I would need to adjust my pace to a slower jog to tackle hills at this stage. 

Mile 8

By the time I have passed mile 7,  my legs are aching.  Not unbearably so, but this is the point where my enjoyable pace can seriously decline and I start to feel noticeably tired.  If I were a runner who ran round in circles or laps, I could easily bow out a mile seven to eight if there was an option to do so.  If I am lucky, dropping my pace down a little gives me relief and I start to think about the distance I have done and the distance I still have left.  Ten miles is in sight and despite the discomfort, I want to carry on and reach my target.  (Besides, as I like to run a circular route, if I stop, I still have to walk the distance to get home!)

Mile 9

Under two miles to go.  That itself is a relief as I know two miles is not very much.  Thinking about what's left to run distracts me from the stiffening sensation in my calves and if I am unlucky, in my hips.  Again I benefit from straightening myself out and checking my posture.  I am very likely to be leaning forward by now, tiring myself out means I lose my good form.  I immediately feel better for pushing my shoulders back and getting my pelvis aligned. There is little I can do to relieve the tightness in my calves now, but I concentrate on my form and check I am not starting to plod, and still hitting the ground lightly and consciously.

Mile 10

I can't lie, by this point I am fighting myself to keep going.  In my mind I know it's less than one mile, that's about ten or eleven minutes of running for me, and this last little bit will be tough whether I choose to run it, or walk it.  I also know that amazing post-run euphoria is waiting for me.  But my body hurts, my calves are tight and threaten to cramp and my hip aches.  My shoulders ache too and I can feel irritated quite easily by my wires from my headphones or carrying my bottle.  Any change to my pace can really throw me out, going up/down a curb annoys me!  I have to work hard to keep things steady and light.  I often think about 'sprint finishes' and chuckle at the impossibility of such a thing, by now I have given absolutely everything.  I do my best to keep my posture and tighten up my core and work at light footfall.  I still get some relief from keeping this all in check, but by now it's a matter of just getting to the end. One foot in front of the other, don't stop, one foot down, another down.  I know my face sometimes gives away the fact that I'm a runner at the end of a long run, I no longer care what face I am pulling or how red/sweaty I am.  I may be gritting my teeth and I am almost certainly leaning forward again.....


As Endomundo tells me I have passed the ten mile marker, I immediately slow to a walk.  The relief is immense and my calves feel much better at once.  The aches in my hips take longer to go, but that's OK because I have just ran ten miles and actually those endorphins kick in immediately.  I have a nice five minute walk back to the house and I stretch my calves as I walk.  I pick up my pace as I get closer, I grin a lot and realise my stomach is growling and I want a drink!  I want to look at my route and see it written down:  TEN MILES!  That feeling should be bottled and sold.  If you haven't felt post-run happiness, I pity you. I want to shout it from the rooftops and enjoy every breath in and out which brings a self-satisfied feeling of YAY!  I get showered and hydrate myself and eat, eat eat! I have used around 1200 calories of energy and I know I will need to eat a fair bit of food for the rest of the day, and probably into tomorrow too!  I share my achievement with other running friends and the post-run buzz lasts a long, long time.  This is why we run.  It was a journey full of grins and endorphins and now the run is finished, they have been replaced by an indescribable feeling of satisfaction and an urge to get out and do it all over again.  Or enter some crazy event which is even longer than 10 miles.... 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Happy Runniversary!

In September 2012 I decided I wanted to learn how to run.  So I downloaded the Couch to 5km running podcasts to my phone and started to run. I made fast progress at first, which then slowed and levelled out over the year.  It's now a year on and I have been running for 12 months.  I have run 516 miles, and have never gone more than 6 days without a run. 

My running miles dipped over the Summer for a number of reasons: the heat, school holidays, our busy family lifestyle... so I decided to set myself a challenge in September, once the children were back in school and the weather was cooling down.  I set a goal to run 60 miles in September (and I named the challenge September60!) and I had a few friends from my online running group join me in my challenge. 

It was great because inexperienced/new runners and seasoned runners alike took up the challenge.  One lady (who I will call KC!) had started running in May via the C25k podcasts, and I know she hadn't done any runs over 3 miles previously.  She was viewing the challenge in smaller runs; 60 miles per month is 2 miles per day, or 4 miles every other day.  I believe she more than achieved what she set out to do - I know she had at least one run of 5 miles, which is a fantastic achievement. 

Dylan, on the other hand has been out far fewer times, but with 28 running miles achieved in just one day, he easily powered through the 60 mile challenge! 

Personally, I aimed to reach 60 miles by running 15 miles per week over 3 runs each week.  I wanted to vary my distances, so aimed to do a 3 miler, a 5 miler and a 7/8 miler each week.  About half way through the month, I realised I was feeling strong and fitter than I had previously and realised I was benefiting from the regular running.  Last weekend, I planned in a 10 mile run, which I did with my running pal, Ang. 

We planned a flat, off and on road route, and agreed to take it very slowly.  We aimed for 11-12 minute miles and we did it!  I had previously preferred to do my longer runs alone, but it was great having the company.  It took us 1 hour 54 minutes and it helped to pass the time, having a friend to share the run with, sharing the uphill groans and to swear with on the gravel that seemed to penetrate our thin-soled minimalist shoes!  We had an agonising wait for Endomundo to change from 9.99 miles to 10....and it was nice to be able to share that too! 

So that was my first 10 miler, and it was nice to do it as part of the September60 challenge AND in the month when I celebrated 12 months of running!

It did get me thinking though.  10 miles isn't that far off half marathon distance is it?  I have yet to enter any events, and will only enter one which really interests me and has a route which would be an inspiring run. 

I have found such an event, in November.  I am still running through the thought process, training and logistics of entering a half marathon any time soon.  And I am hoping my running pal Ang will be able to run it with me.  There are a lot of what-ifs and things I am unsure of, so I won't say anything else about it just yet. 

So it is the 29th September today and I have run 70 miles so far in September.  Blasted September60 out of the water... 60 running miles and then some!  I intend to try and keep things steady over the next few weeks as it is a fairly big increase I have done.  I tried to up my mileage a little too fast over late Winter and had to rein it in a little.  I intend to have a steady running month in October, with perhaps 1 or 2 longer runs.  I intend to stick (mostly) to 3 runs per week (mostly because we have half term and a few other things planned which will no doubt prevent this every week), and make a decision by the middle of the month about the November half marathon. 

So thank you fellow September60 runners.  It's been an awesome year, learning to run, running with amazing running friends and sharing the ups and downs with many of you.  I still consider myself to be an inexperienced runner and I know going into the second year will only bring better achievements, faster runs and stronger legs!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

I do Run Run Run, I do Run Run

Although I have re-kindled my love of open water swimming this Summer (read here) running remains this strange obsession, like something I can't live without and something I often go to sleep thinking about or looking forward to it. 

I have been running for about 10 months now and I am truly reaping the benefits of regular running.  I have never felt so fit, so energetic, so well and so toned.  I don't run in order to feel better the rest of the time, I run because I enjoy *doing* running and enjoy the way I feel afterwards.  I run because it makes life good, it gives me thinking space and time out from thinking.  It helps me function properly.  I have a fairly poor attention span and soon give up on things which don't give me enjoyment; I am not driven by results if I am not enjoying what I am doing to get results.

I have watched quite a few friends take up running this year and it seems clear to me that a few of them haven't enjoyed running, but keep at it for the fitness/weight loss benefits.  I really couldn't do this, I have learnt from my own experiences with trying other activities on my journey to fitness, that I need to feel the endorphins flowing and the activity needs to make me happy, or I will simply quit.

I conclude from this, quite simply, that I am a runner!  I am not the fastest, nor the fittest, nor am I competitive and I have yet to enter any running events/races.  But running is part of me, it makes me happy, it makes me feel good and I couldn't contemplate (ever!) not running.  I have tried to compare it to open water swimming, but I can't.  Swimming is something which makes me feel like an adrenalin junkie after a big adrenalin hit.  I would feel exhausted if I did it all the time, the the times I do it are fabulous and I spend a lot of time afterwards revisiting my swim, re-living it and loving every moment again.  I don't swim over the winter (with the exception of pool swimming which doesn't count!), and I can see for some people who swim in open water year round, they *need* to swim, just as I *need* to run.  I LOVE swimming, I really do.  But running is what I do.

So as the Spring has changed to Summer, I have run through many more weather extremes as the temperature has risen.  I have taken to the hot Summer runs rather well.  I struggled with my hydration at first, and suffered from headaches as a result of dehydration, which lasted all day, and sometimes left me feeling like I had a hangover if I had run in the evening.  But I have learnt more about my body's needs now and I have acclimatised over the last few months and I love running in the heat, it makes me feel well oiled and strong.  Since the end of June, the temperature has been very high, so I have limited my running distances to 5 miles, to ensure I don't dehydrate.  I carry water with me, but I am not great at drinking it and I have no desire to carry a large bottle (I use a 250ml bottle), so a 5 mile run means I can stay on top of dehydration.  I am running three times per week on a regular basis and I am close to running 50 miles this month, which I have been trying to reach since March.  (It's the last day of July today, and my mileage is at 46.4miles.  So if I do a 4.6 mile run tonight, I will have reached my 50 mile per month target at long last!)  So my shorter distances haven't affected the amount of miles I have been covering.  If anything, I feel stronger for doing shorter, more regular runs. 

I did manage to cover a 9 mile distance though before the weather for really warm.  I still have 10 miles in my sights, and I am hoping I will be able to up my distance again quite easily once things cool down and I am not sweating quite as much!

I bought a pair of Xero shoes last month too, which are very much minimalist/barefoot/barely there shoes and hugely encourage natural foot placement.  I have yet to run in them - in fact not sure I will as I am still working on getting them secure enough on my feet.  But I practically live in them the rest of the time and I may attempt a beach run in them while we are away.  So, I am still waxing lyrical about barefoot running to anyone who might care to listen although I tend to think less about my technique these days (good? Bad?  Not sure!)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Swimming, The Great Manchester Swim and SUMMER

Somehow, while I was busy enjoying myself, three months slipped by without a blog post!  It's a very good sign actually, that I have been busy with real events; busy running, swimming, cycling, gardening, reading.... busy enjoying myself, too busy to blog about being busy!

So here's an update from me on what has so far, been a glorious Summer of pretty hardcore fitness enjoyment!

I DID join the triathlon club, which means I have been swimming every weekend pretty much for the last two months, in a lake and I am now feeling much more relaxed swimming in my wetsuit and swimming in open water.  It is a fabulous place, a flooded quarry with beautiful aquamarine water, which is so clean and clear.  The owner has a lot of fish in there, including some koi carp, who are very nosey when we go swim with them - and I have finally got over my fear of seeing fish in the water with me as I swim (which was silly- of course I should have known I would see fish if I swam in lakes!)  There is a marked-out course and safety cover, and we have spent quite a few lovely Sunday mornings at the lake as a family - the children have been having picnic breakfasts by the lake as Dylan and I took it in turns to swim. 
The beautiful lake at Blue Lagoon

Me, free-styling home!

We share the lake with some big friendly fish!
As the temperature continued to rise throughout July, so did the water temperature and several times we have swam in water which is over 22 °C.  This is very warm, not far off some pool temperatures and warm enough for many triathlons to insist its swimmers don't use a wetsuit.   Unfortunately we are unable to swim without one at the lake (club rules), but it hasn't prevented me enjoying experiencing open water swimming in lovely warm water which makes matters so much less complicated, no acclimatising, no screeching as the water enters your suit, and no numb fingers!

Last weekend I took part in the Great Manchester Swim in Salford Quays, which is the third year I have done this event.  It was very different this time; in previous years the water has been either 12° or 16° and it has been grey and drizzly.  This year, it was beautiful and sunny, the temperature had been close to 30° for several weeks beforehand and the water temperature reached 22°!   I had also done far less distance training, compared to previous years, where I had been swimming one mile distances at least once per week in a pool, although I had been swimming around  one kilometre, nearly every week in the open water instead. 

The organiser took the unusual and unexpected decision to make wetsuit wearing optional and I JUMPED at the chance to experience an open water swim without my neoprene!  I knew I would be less buoyant, less streamlined and therefore slower, but I very much have a love/hate relationship with my wetsuit and I am a confident swimmer, so I decided it had to be done! 

It was the best decision I could have made - it was amazing swimming in open water, completely free of my wetsuit and I felt as though I was in the pool, but with the sun shining down on me and the brilliant atmosphere of the Quays all around me.  Front crawling WAS harder, and I was slower, but it was a fabulous swim and I had a huge grin on my face all the way round!  My time was one minute slower than the previous year, which wasn't too bad at all, especially as I am not as swimming-fit this year.  I am now looking to swim wetsuit-free again before the heat of the Summer leaves the water, it truly is addictive, invigorating and extremely freeing.  I have a weekend in the mountains in Wales up and coming; watch this space!

So much to say, so little time, I shall update again later this week with a cycling and running update - thanks for reading!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Splashing back to the pool and a little long run

I went swimming on Friday!  It has been about 3 months since I last went and I wanted to test the water, to see how much swimming fitness I have lost through not going regularly and to see if I am still capable of swimming close to 1 mile.  I wanted to try and decide if the Great Manchester Swim in Salford Quays will feature in our lives this July!

So I managed to swim the mile, 40 lengths crawl and the rest breaststroke in 46 minutes.  My average time when I was swimming twice per week was 45 minutes.  I am pretty pleased and can only conclude that running fitness transfers quite well to the pool!  I realised I have missed it.  It was nice stretching out in the water and feeling it carry me forward.  So, yeah, I think I need to enter the Salford Quays event. 

I am considering joining a triathlon club based near me who host open water sessions, so I can get a few open water swims in this season too.  I don't transfer well from pool to lake, so a bit of practise won't go amiss. 

And I spent yesterday supporting my eldest daughter who swam in her first swimming gala :-)  She was swimming in the 50 metre freestyle and she took 24 seconds off her entry time, so I left feeling pretty proud!

And so to running.  I went for a run this morning after easing off in the last week or so, to give my aching calves time to recover.  I felt pretty good actually and aimed to run 8 miles.  I chose a flattish road route and hoped for an easy run, which I did get, although I forgot to take my water with me and it was pretty warm out there, even though I left the house at 8am.  By the time I got to 6 miles my hips were aching and I wasn't really enjoying it as much.  I did a smaller final loop than originally intended and stopped running at 7.7 miles.  So close, but I really felt I had pushed as much as I could distance-wise for today.  Getting above 6 miles (approximately 10km) is proving difficult!    I still have my sights set on 10 miles though and I am slowly but surely heading towards it!

I re-hydrated with some electrolytes in water when I got back and stayed away from thee coffee and I seem to have not suffered too much today!

These are to be my next purchase (click the link):  huaraches sandals.

I have been after some for a while but they were not easily available in the UK and those that are (they tend to be the similar Luna sandals) are expensive.  But they have landed and they not only allow natural foot movement, they look pretty good too.  I have yet to decide if I will actually run in them or just use them for every day wear, I guess I will need to experiment when they arrive!  I seem to be shedding more and more physical barriers in the shoe department :-) 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

April sprints passed

Not sure how it suddenly got to be 21 April, and three weeks without a blog post, but here we are. 

It has been a busy month so far with family birthdays, holiday planning and working!  Running has had its ups and downs for me this month.  I managed a second 7 mile run and have upped my shorter run from 3.5 miles to 5 miles.  I have also been more consistent in getting out three times per week. 

But the last few runs I have been plagued by stiff muscles in my calves which although isn't particularly painful, it is making me enjoy my running far less.  My lovely wise running friends have come to my aid with a few suggestions and I will be changing tactics this week after having a few days leg rest.  I am going to have at least one very short run, (approximately 3 miles?) where I will aim to try and up my pace.  Speed isn't something I have worked on yet, as I have not really felt capable of upping my pace, but maybe this is because I am always pushing the distance.

I had vague plans to try and get to the 10 mile mark by July because there is a 10 mile event not too far away.  But I think now that is probably a little unrealistic and although I still have a 10 mile goal, I will reach is more slowly.  In the shorter term I had hoped to do an 8 mile run by the end of this month, but I shall shift that goal to the end of May now!

I watched parts of the London Marathon today - first time I have viewed this event as a runner!  I still have no idea how people run for 3 hours+ (for many, far longer!) and I can't begin to imagine how stiff you must feel afterwards.  Would I ever contemplate a marathon?  Doubt it!  I can see myself training up to a half maybe in a year or two though. 

I plan to get back into the pool this week too (I know I have said this before!) and I am looking forward to supporting my eldest daughter at her first swimming gala next weekend. 

I found a few blogs/websites which have been educational and enjoyable in terms of barefoot running (or rather running with minimalist-style shoes!).. I will leave you with the links for you perusal!

Run Blogger - blog with reviews of minimalist footwear, science-based theories about barefoot running and several very useful videos of techniques used in natural running.

Americaspodiatrist - blog from Dr Nirenberg on his professional view of all things barefoot.

Hot, tired and happy after a sunny Spring run this week!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Spring Running

Well the clocks have sprung forward an hour and although it is still extremely cold out there, Spring is most definitely in the air!  March was a great month for my personal fitness and I had a great month of running.  In total I ran 48.78 miles in March which is the most I have ever done in a month.  I am a little bit peeved that I didn't quite make 50 miles, but it was Easter Sunday yesterday, the last day of the month, and I was busy cooking most of the day, and feeling the effects of a rubbish night's sleep, so running wasn't really on the cards. 

But the clocks have changed and that means lighter evenings and more time to run.  It is usually about now that I get my bike out though it is still a bit too cold for me to want to do this!  I am setting myself a challenge of running 60 miles in April, meaning I need to aim for between 10 and 15 miles each week. 

I started my month's runs today with a short run with my 7 year old son and despite feeling like we had eaten far too much chocolate (we both had a stitch!) we had a fun run, off road.  We played music through my phone, and we both share a silly and literal sense of humour, so running along to Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now', making rocket shapes with our arms and exploding along through the forest... we had a great time :-) 

And I had a fabulous run on Friday morning; I managed a 7.2 mile road run which is my furthest distance to date.  I had a personal best 'hour' in that run too and it felt really good to stretch out my distance as I have been stuck at 6 miles since mid-January. 

One of my running buddies has set herself a goal of reaching 10 miles before too long.  I am tentatively joining her.....

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Swimming along swimmingly

I am not, actually swimming very much at all at the moment, though it very much feels like I need to do a swimming related update.  My running is taking up a lot of my time and I am quite happy with this.  I have little motivation to get into the pool and I haven't yet entered any events for this year.  In fact, I am not sure yet that I will.  This realisation hit me this week.  And I feel OK with this!  Time to take a break from swimming, perhaps?

Not quite!  I am getting my swimming fix through other sources at the moment.  My eldest daughter was asked to join a local swimming development squad recently and she started this week.  She trains three times per week now with a very good coach and we have finished with lessons as far as she is concerned.  She went along to her first session last week and she did really really well.  She has gone from, swimming widths across a 25m pool, for half an hour per week, to swimming 25m lengths, for an hour at a time, for three times each week.  So that in itself will bring on her skills and her fitness.  But she is also being coached with the best coach I believe there is, on this side of Leeds and amongst other enthusiastic children of a similar age and who share her passion for swimming.  I took my Kindle to read during her first training session last week, but I didn't even get it out of my bag, because it was such a great session and I found I learnt a thing or two too!

The coach has warned us that she is at a disadvantage, because she is very petite and it is generally acknowledged that longer-limbed swimmers use less effort to get better result.  She is also on the older end of the scale when it comes to starting this kind of training (at the tender age of 8!)  However I think he means in terms of *making* something of herself as a swimmer.  We would be happy if she represented a club/county/etc as a swimmer, but the main reason she is doing this is because she loves to swim.  We are seeing this as an opportunity for her to get some really good coaching and hopefully the skills she picks up from this training, will stay with her for life.  She has indicated she would like to take part in triathlons when she is older, (like her Daddy!) and this will give her a great skill set to use for this purpose.  If she doesn't 'make it' there are plenty of other swimming opportunities nearby, including a local amateur swimming club, a synchronised swimming club and a diving club.  But for now, we are spending a LOT of time, poolside.  And she is developing into a great little swimmer!

My youngest daughter is very enthusiastic too and I went along to her swimming lesson today, which is a rare treat for me due to my working hours.  She passed her 'Stage 1' badge while I was there, and has moved up.  Last time I saw her swim (about September last year), she was still relying on flotation, hated to put her face in the water and refusing to jump in.  Today, she was without any flotation, and was practising her 'push and glide' and her front crawl legs, with her face in the water!  I was so happy to see she had progressed from a scared toddler to a someone who is capable of being a swimmer.  In fact she *is* a swimmer, and a pretty good one too!

And in case that wasn't enough, I had the opportunity to watch some Olympic, world class swimmers compete this week, when I was given tickets to the British Gas International Swim Meet, which was the first one of the year.  Dylan and I were lucky enough to watch many very talented swimmers, some of them very young and some of them Olympic medal winners, at the fantastic Aquatics Centre in Leeds.

We watched for two hours and saw Hannah Miley take gold, Kerri-Ann Payne take bronze and Ellie Simmonds take silver in various finals and the atmosphere was amazing.  Seeing so many very talented and experienced swimmers was a great experience and it mad me realise how very lucky Isla is, to have this opportunity to train.  Few pictures from the event:

And just in case you want a little bit more inspiration, just watch these elite swimmers go!  This is the women's 50m butterfly final.  Just amazing.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Barefooting thoughts and keeping it in the family

You know I blogged about my eldest catching the running bug?  Well her brother has now too!  Dylan took them *both* out a few weeks ago and T managed to run 3.5 miles on his first time out!  Dylan took both out again this weekend, and got another 3 miles out of them.  I never really saw T as a runner, and I am partly wondering if it is out of competitiveness and wanting to beat his big sister.  Or maybe he was envious of the time Is had with her dad on these runs.  Either way, he has done it twice and done it well!  He has a really good, natural, running technique too.  Both of them seem to be forefoot strikers and hold themselves well, which is good.  I bought Is some Vivo Neos this week, to support her natural technique (I didn't pay that price!)  T is currently running in fairly flat Nikes.  Looks like I might need to look out for bargainous Vivos in children's sizes again!

So I have registered all three of us for parkrun, and we will go do it in a few weeks time at Temple Newsam Park in Leeds.

I have been thinking a lot about technique and barefoot running lately.  I would love to go for a proper run without any shoes and see how my technique stands up.  But unlike Dylan, I have delicate feet with too-soft skin and I *need* shoes!  I think finding a big stretch of sandy beach is the way to do this.  Perhaps combining a day out to the seaside with a bit of an experiment in barefoot running? (Watch this space!)

I want to tell you about my friend, Ang, who has been running approximately 2-3 years now, and is another minimalist running shoe user.  She shares similar values to me and believes heel striking can cause injury and is a result of the big shoe manufacturers, making shoes (and making MONEY!) with huge padded heels, changing the way we naturally run.  We have adapted to run in these shoes with all this padding and we pay an awful lot to do so.  (We have developed a heel striking technique *because* these shoes encourage us to do so.  This means we tend to land on our heel, the leg is fairly straight and the impact travels straight up the leg to the knee/hip and putting these joints at risk).  Anyway, she has run with minimalist shoes, with a fore/mid foot strike (ie a proper technique!*) for 2-3 years now and concentrated on posture/technique.  She has not had a single injury.  Not oneI know some people are luckier than others and I do accept that running, however you do it, is a high impact movement and some injuries are going to fall to some unfortunate people.  But they should not be a given.  You should not expect to be injured at some point soon, because you run.  There are things you can do to minimise the chances of this, that do not involve spending a fortune on branded footwear whose products are arguably *causing* some of these injuries.

I know some people will worry about barefoot running (or running with a barefoot technique in minimalist shoes!) because it isn't mainstream, it isn't talked about by the staff in the running shop (selling you the shoes!) and it isn't a major talking point in a running magazine.  There is a reason for this - there is little money in barefoot running.  There are few products that can be marketed at the barefoot runner.  Companies cannot easily make money out of it, it is natural and you do not need to spend money to do it.  Those in the know feel passionately about it.  They do it because it feels right, it makes sense and it was how we were meant to run.  You won't see it in the mainstream magazines, shops, websites, because there are not huge brands behind it, promoting it and funding research into it.  Of course some clever people have realised this and invented the minimalist shoes (Vibrams, Vivo, Inov8 and even Nike/New Balance!!)... but still it is a relatively small part of the running shoe market.  Some major running shops don't stock any minimalist shoes and it is still very much about finding your shoes over the Internet!  But thank goodness they have - I do believe there are more and more runners out there, checking their technique, doing their own research and voting with their feet - yes literally....  More and more runners who might not be *quite* barefoot, but who run with a far better, more natural technique and more importantly, they are avoiding injury and enjoying running more.

I run regularly with Ang and our friend Lucy, who is in the process of converting to minimalist running shoes, having worn them for a while for non-running activities.  And of course Dylan is a complete convert and occasionally he does run barefoot.  It's catching.  It makes sense.  Watching and waiting for it to become a more mainstream activity.  Watching and waiting for more people to catch on and choose an enjoyable activity without fear of pain or injury.   You possibly didn't read it here first, but I can still store up a 'I told you so' for the future *winks*. 

*'Proper technique' was a topic of conversation today during our 6 mile run.  In my mind and in the mind of others who opt for the barefoot way, this means running naturally, in the way we were designed.  Running because we want to get around quickly and therefore having need to avoid injury, which would put us out of action.  So, this is my understanding of how barefooters/minimalists run: 

  • Your foot hits ground, beneath your body, midfoot first.  Knee is bent, and heel comes down after.  The impact is absorbed through the foot, then the heel and because the knee is bent and your weight is over your foot, the impact does not jolt any of the joints.  It's fairly important to ensure your heel touches the ground and your knee is bent.  This is apparently a common problem for runners changing from heel striking to forefoot striking.  (However if you ran barefoot from the time you could walk, your would naturally do this!)
  • Your body is aligned because your core is pulled in (not super tight, but mid-way), your shoulder blades are pulled back and your chin is slightly tucked in.  You head looks ahead but does not jut out ahead of you.  You do not lean into your movement (you might find this comes more naturally if you are familiar with Pilates).  
  • You are light on your foot and your step is short because you are not stretching your straightened leg out ahead as you would with a heel strike. 

It was nice to watch Dylan run from afar today (after he legged it with longer-legged Lucy!!), as his technique is great and all of the above.  I will video it at some point soon (along with a 'Happy Dance'!)  What is even nicer is that both Is and T do this too, because they have never worn thick soled shoes which has changed the way they should be moving. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Flying High

High on endorphins, happy post-run blog-spout!

In the last few weeks I have settled into running 2-3 times per week usually between 3 and 5 miles at a time.  Yes *miles*, not kilometres!  I decided to join the majority of my running friends and measure in imperial units to avoid confusion amongst friends (mostly mine!) so I made the switch at the beginning of February.  So far my easily-confused-by-numbers-brain, has processed the following:
  • 6km is approximately 3.5 miles.  This is my minimum distance I aim for and also my *easy* distance when I want to run but lack energy.  It is also a good distance for running with friends - allows an easy pace with plenty of breath for chatting!  3.5 is the new 6!
  • 10km is approximately 6.5 miles.  This is my hard, legs hurty distance.  Only attempted three times.  Ever.  (Including today :-D )
  • My new average 'lap' time is 10-11 minutes.  That is to say, I run 1 mile in an average time of 10-11 minutes.  (This was previously 6-7 minutes per km). 
I am getting used to the longer measured distance and after nearly two weeks of running in imperial, I have stopped thinking about kms so much!

I downloaded a Ministry of Sound album to give me some continuous music to listen to.  It is one aimed at workouts and is DJ-mixed, so I no longer need to think about playlists before I run.  Undoubtedly I would get more of the music I want to listen to if I composed a playlist, but I never seem to think about it when I am not running or get round to playing with it and my previous running playlist, which contained some of my favourite endorphin-releasing songs, got listened to to-death which spoils the effect somewhat. 

The album I bought has music mixed from the last decade and has some corkers, which really made me pick up the pace and *grin* at anyone and anything that I passed.  (This was mostly horses, sheep and birds!)  Notable memories this morning were Darude's Sandstorm and Public Domain's Bass to the Place, both oldies but just brilliant to run to.  My brain was pinging all over the place and I really couldn't stop smiling.  I wanted to do a Happy Dance as I ran (Happy Dance is what I call that 360° twirl you sometimes see people/runners do as they run, often accompanied by raising hands in the air!!)  I fight the urge to do a Happy Dance on a regular basis when I run.  Sometimes I don't fight the urge and I just do it, especially if only the sheep are watching!  I must get Dylan to record my Happy Dance as it really is something that ought to be shared!

It occurred to me that some of the older style dance music I have listened to on occasion might also be great to run to, so I bought an album I used to love which I already know will be perfect for running:  As Heard on Radio Soulwax Vol2 by 2 Many DJs.  More on this at a later date!

My biggest daughter seems to have caught the running bug too!  She has been running with school for a while on the cross country team.  Unfortunately school seem to cancel their training sessions (and the meets are also regularly cancelled) at the slightest bit of bad weather, which when you consider that cross country is usually done in Autumn/Winter, is a bit rubbish really.   So for the last few weekends, Dylan has been taking her out running with him.  She managed 2 and half miles today and I plan to take her to parkrun which is a free 5km event held at parks across the UK, every weekend.  There is now a parkrun event (the small 'p' is intentional, I have it on good authority this is how they market their brand name - though it does irritate me!) at Temple Newsam park which is fairly close to us.  Saturdays are NOT a good time for us (work commitments, swimming lessons.....) but we hope to get to a couple over the Spring and I have set us a goal to go do parkrun together on 23rd March, which gives her a good few weeks to get up to the distance of 5km.  (Arrgh at the kms again!  I figured when she can run 3 miles without stopping she will be capable of a 5km parkrun!)   I am hoping a few of my local friends will join me, possibly with their families....

I have also been out on my bike this week.  It was cold.  I want to enjoy cycling again - I am ready to dust off my bike and get pedalling again.  But it was too soon.  Ten miles cycled and I put it back into the garage for another few weeks! 

I have also been indulging in the barefoot/minimalist shoe market following a LOT of good deals being about at the moment.  I do believe this will call for a new post with photos and stuff.....

So for now, another weekend, another month and still flying on the post-run high.  It's a constant flight and I am loving it, wholly and totally completely.  :-)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

10 (T-E-N!!) Kilometres!

Today was the day!  I ran 10km today.  That, a very happy Jo, does make :-)

I hadn't set out to run that far today.  I went out unexpectedly on Friday evening with Lucy and Ang, and we ran a nice 6km together.  My legs were still feeling stiff though when I woke up this morning (I don't usually run on Fridays), and I set my target as 6-7km instead of my planned 9km. 

I got out there and it was a cold, crisp and sunny morning.  My left foot felt a bit odd; a bit warm and tingly, a little like lactic acid building but not quite as painful.  I was feeling a bit disappointed because as soon as I felt the sun on my face, I felt like smiling and just going for it.  I decided to give myself until 3km and if it felt no better, I would turn back and call it 6km.  At 3km it was feeling much better and I opted for a route I knew was roughly 9-10km, and I knew was lovely country lanes with lots of blue sky to view (part of one of my favourite cycling routes).   There were a few uphills and I had a few issues with aching feet again due to the lane having a steep camber (no pavement), plus there was ice on the road. 

But I was plugged into my music and at 5km, I was feeling great, looking out at North and West Yorkshire, almost shimmering in the sunlight, great BIG blue skies and nothing but me out there!  I had a bit of moment, when an old song came on and made me want to raise me hands and skip around.... but I resisted and grinned instead (♫♫BASS IN THE PLACE LONDON!  PUBLIC DOMAIN KICKING IT TO YER, MAN!♫♫) and paced onwards and onwards!

This is a picture I took while I was out, of my lovely downhill:
Jo's First 10km Run!
You can just about see in the distance this road has a serious uphill as it approaches the A1 and the road follows a steep ascent to cross the dual carriageway.  By the time I got to the bridge I had ran about 7km and although the incline was pretty short, it was incredibly steep and I thought my legs might give way.

The track then runs through a pig farm and as I tried not to breathe the stench in through my nose, I grinned at the HUGE pigs there that were peering out at me from their dark sheds.

I then joined the old A1 road which takes me back to my village and I realised then that it would be a 10km route if I wanted to just keep running home.

At 9km, I was almost there, but I was feeling stiff and my legs were aching.  It was very tempting to just stop and walk the rest of the way home to cool down.  But I remembered how cold it actually was and I didn't fancy shivering my way home.. and then, House of Pain's Jump Around was played :-D  Perfect timing, I got a good rush of endorphins to see me through the last kilometre (though I assure you, there was NO jumping going on...) and I was able to pick it up and power through to 10km.

My time was 1 hour 09 minutes, which I am very pleased with but really, 10km has been a focus for a while now, so there is nothing coming close to having a great run, in a great place, feeling great and hitting that 10km distance!

I took a short 360 panoramic on my phone, which perfectly captured the beautiful weather and the peaceful place I was in:


 It seems like a good time to look back at my running journey so far:
  • I started running 16 weeks ago in the middle of September 2012.  
  • In that time, I have ran 209km (or 130miles).
  • All 209 of those kms have been run using a mid/fore-foot strike (aka barefoot running), in my Inov8 Bare X-180s (very minimalist running shoes!) and I have been completely injury-free so far.
  • I ran my first 5km distance on 31st October 2012.
  • I ran my first 10km distance on 13 January 2013.
  • My average pace hasn't varied a great deal since I started running and averages at just under 7 minutes per kilometre. 
0-10km in 16 weeks.  I never thought I could do that.  What's more, I can really say I have enjoyed every single kilometre.  

I had set myself a target of running 10km by the end of January, so I guess I need a tougher target for February! 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Bye 2012, why, HELLO 2013!

Last year was an amazing year for me in terms of reaching personal fitness goals, improving my overall health and realising I can push myself far further than I previously thought.  As expected, the focus was mostly on swimming (until September...) and I did everything I set out to do and thoroughly enjoyed every moment.  The highlight for me was swimming in Loch Ness, feeling fearless in open water and realising I can overcome the things that frighten me AND enjoy them!

I tend to take a step down from exercise in October as the nights start to draw in and it gets darker and colder.  Most people move inside to gyms, turbos and pools.  I shut down, eat food and get fat :-)

Well not this time, I finally found an activity that keeps me outside whatever the weather and keeps my activity levels UP!

So inspired by the Leeds Triathlon in September, I set out learning how to run, mid September and I have not looked back since.  I never dreamt I would fall in love with running, but it has taken up many, many hours of my life in the last 14 weeks!   I have gone from a complete non-runner to someone who is capable of running around 15km per week and I have my sights set firmly on running my first 10km in the next few weeks. 

It has been a fabulous way to end the year.  As ever I wish I could find whatever it is I need to continue to cycle throughout the winter, or to keep me motivated to keep going to the pool every week.  But this year, I may have ended it by gaining a few festive lbs, but I have never felt fitter or more capable.   I have lots of support around me, from my parents who look after my children when I go for some of my runs and my husband who inspires me with his own incredible levels of commitment to his own goals.  I also have MANY friends, both close to me and over the 'net who regularly run, who help, support and inspire me.  Thank you, you lot. 

I have recently ran a couple of 9km distances and the question everyone keeps asking me is:  When will you enter your first 10km race?

I am still not overly inspired to enter a race.  I like to run alone, to my own pace, with my own thoughts.  I DO know how amazing it can feel to be a part of something bigger (thinking about my swimming events), but I just don't feel that urge with running.  I keep reading about a few crazy/wacky events, such as a Rat Race or Night Terror, which I think sound like fun... but they are pretty expensive and although they would be a good test of what I have learnt so far AND fun, I still like running, just running for sake of running. 

I have decided to take 2013 one month at a time when thinking about what I want to achieve from running, cycling and swimming.  So here's January:

  • By the end of the month, run a 10km distance.  
  • Throughout the month of January, I want to cover the equivalent of running a marathon (ie 26.2 miles or 42km).  I plan to achieve this by doing long runs on Sundays (8 or 9km until the last Sunday of the month which will be my 10km) and a few shorter runs mid-week. 
  • Not really planning to cycle anywhere just yet, but I shall look out for a nice dry, warm day and maybe, just maybe go for a short ride, to remind myself how to!
  • Back to once-weekly swims for now, aiming to swim for either 30 minutes, or 1km at a time.  
Dylan and I have some vague plans for entering a couple of events this year, although this is will scaled down a lot from last year.  I do plan to join a triathlon club though which should give me access to a few coached open water sessions, more to follow on this as the weather warms up!

But for now.. bring on that 10km!!!