Brass Monkeys

Brass monkeys. That means it’s farrrken cold. That winter we thought we were having? Autumn with a wig on. They keep promising snow, but no such luck. No black ice = no excuses.

Layering up to run I’m sure I’m clearly losing my mind, possibly caused by a week without running due to various time constraints. Losing my mind and also, it would transpire, my ability to feel my fingers and nose.

Three minutes into the run and I’m realising I am running A LOT faster. Its so cold the thought of slowing down or stopping just isn’t an option. Result! I find I’m actually overtaking slower runners (well, just the one). I feel like a freakin’ super hero. Then I get a stitch.

1.5 miles from home and my hand have gone numb, so without gloves I’m having to flay my hands around like a deranged nursery school teacher singing ‘twinkle twinkle’. Attracting odd looks at Shepherd’s Bush roundabout, which is an achievement in itself. It’s at this point I remember I’ve left my front door keys at work.

Thankfully, R is home and lets me in, frozen to the core and slightly manic from my cold shock injected speed fest. The combination of being hit with warm central heating and rush of endorphins, means I have to lie very still on the sofa for about twenty minutes while I try and string a sentence together.

5.5 miles logged and in the bank. Need to stop checking accuweather. 7 degrees below on Friday. Will be investing in those gloves, and beanie and maybe more thermals.

9:03

Whoop! Just achieved my fastest mile to date, 9:03 – not bad for a soggy and cold Tuesday evening en route home (5.5 miles in all).

Slowly, I’m getting a bit faster. Rather pleased and my splits look pretty even, so it wasn’t just a fluke while running down hill, or arenalin from escaping a rabid mutt in Acton.

Plus its worth noting there’s a fair amount of interruption, distraction and stalling on my route home from work. Here are the main offenders

Kids on Scooters (all ages)
From toddlers who can barely walk, to the older kids who careen from one side of the pavement to the other while yacking on their mobiles, none of them have any sense of how fast they are going or have any regard their immediate surroundings.

No one is safe, from elderly people innocently waiting for the bus to runners like myself (in high vis no less!) we’ve all had to veer out the way or risk being smashed into by two vicious small wheels and being sworn at by either the parents or the snotty preteen. Ban them.

People who don’t look where they are walking
Ok, we’ve all done it. We’ve been busy updating statuses, too involved in the ipod or distracted by some delinquent child smashing into a poor women at the bus stop on a scooter. Nevertheless, every single time I head out on a run I have to use some fancy footwork to avoid colliding with offenders who just step into the street without looking. Its the typical blinkered London commuter state of being. Shouting ‘excuse me’ or ‘careful’ only seems to illicit shocked glares and the occasional 118 joke. I am tempted to get a bell. Or a taser.

Cyclists
Firstly, the pavement is for pedestrians. End of. No negotiation. Secondly, if the light is red for you, but green for the pedestrians, at least slow down. But ideally, just stop. You have brakes and a helmet and runners are not protected by anything other than lycra. Be gracious

I’m hoping those of you who do cycle who read this would never commit these heinous crimes, and if you do, hang your head in shame and change your ways. Along with the bell/taser I may start carrying a small pin to let tyres down…

Smokers
This coming from a woman who smoked for near on 15 years. Yes. I quit just over two and a half years ago and yes, every now and again I do really, really want a marlboro. But never when I am running. Running past crowds of people standing outside pubs or at bus stop practically billowing tar, ash and smoke past me, and sometimes for those extra special bastards, directed at me, makes me want to gag. Nasty habit. Aren’t I smug *reaches for nicorette*

So, I’m feeling pretty chuffed with my 9:03. Now I just need to find some decent anger management classes.

The Bad Run

We’ve all had them. This was a particularly spectacular in its badness. It goes a little something like this:

Woke up late. Couldn’t find the right kit. But that happens often enough, so I wasn’t totally put out at that point. Got Stella out the door without incident.

Two hundred metres down the road and the the sports bra unhooks. Stop run. Sort out unwieldy hook (while trying not to expose myself to all of Ladbroke Grove!). Start run. Stop run as Stella find something unsavoury to hunt. Get dog back. Start run.

Phew! Finally get the right pace and it looks like it’s all turning around. Hit Hyde Park at 4 miles and have to divert from the usual route due to horses with small children. Stella looked far to interested in the equestrian activities so I moved us along to avoid a Fenton incident. Stella still manages to cause a ruckus when she almost slams into a fellow runner with a huge stick she’s just found, which is about 3 times her size. Stop run, apologise. Start run.

Around 7kms my headphones start playing up. Right earphone conks out completely at one point. Stop run, check the wiring. Fix this temporarily. Start run. But even with the fixed headphone, my playlist is working against me. Skipping tracks every other song because nothing is really doing it. Should have had this on the playlist.
                                          

Hit 6miles and I’m feeling knackered, three to go and I’m thinking I may have to  call it day. But manage to push through. I remember at this point that I haven’t actually had any water to drink since about 8pm the night before. Ah. There’s the mistake right there. Stop run. Catch breathe, stop Stella harassing a small puppy. Start run.

Finally, the end is in sight and I can see the final goal. Just another quarter mile, over the road and I’ll be home. I’m so busy focusing on the distance, I’m not paying much attention to my immediate surroundings. And I miss running straight into Spencer by half an inch. Yes, that posh boy from Made In Chelsea. I had to swerve to avoid him and nearly came tacky on a lamp post.

Of course, I gave him a dirty look like he should have been watching where HE was going. And legged it in the opposite direction. Got to 9 miles a little quicker than expected, red faced and more than a little embarrassed. Sorry Spence.

Trainers off, dog bathed (so very very muddy today, why I am not surprised), and I’m logging the miles. Although it was a pretty horrendous couple of hours, I made the target mileage after all. I’m constantly surprised by what I can do, or overcome. A year ago, I would have given up after the bra incident! And its always good to see this result on the old HRM. Think that effort deserves some spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Whoop!

2012 : Bring it!

January 1st 2012. YES! We made it through the festive period with minimal collateral damage and almost no casualties (save the cheesecake in the fridge – that got whipped). We even managed to keep to the training schedule, with 4 runs clocked in between Christmas day and today. Not bad. We won’t mention the pace or timings, but we got out there.

And they say start as you mean to go on, so we managed 5km today, which I am especially proud of as:

a) its New Year’s Day – so that’s a first
b) it was POURING down with rain (I had puddles in my shoes, squishing all the way home)
c) the Achilles is playing up
d) with all the festive feasting, and over indulgence, the NYD run was ‘heavy’ going

With the new year upon us, I’m also in dire need of refreshing the running play list so any recommendations greatly received. My track list  seems to be stuck in an indie electro time warp between 2005 and 2007. Anyone remember the Klaxons?!

Thought not.

Anyway, Happy New Year all, happy running, it’s good training for the upcoming Apocalypse

Jingle Bell Jog

It’s Christmaaaaas!

This year I promised myself I’d do the previously unthinkable, and run on Christmas Day. It would be quiet, traffic would be at a minimum, and it would help prepare my body for the onslaught of Christmas dinner, with a few hundred calories already converted to extra points. I really didn’t think I’d actually do it.

At 10am this morning it was looking unlikely either of us would actually get out of bed. Having started watching Pulp Fiction (for the 14th time) at Midnight accompanied by many, many mince pies – we were not in good shape. But Stella needed walking, and if we’re going outside anyway, may as well lace up. First we have an argument about the weather. I tell R off for being grumpy on Christmas day. He bites his tongue and we somehow manage to locate our phones, running tights, headphones.

Much to Stella’s delight we head out the dood for 10:30am. She is now so well accustomed to the routine that she get’s inordinately excited the minute when we put our trainers on and barks like a lunatic from when we leave the front door until we actually start running in the street. Maniac. She has also started insisting on running between us. If R is on my left and I have her on the lead to my right, all hell breaks loose and I nearly come tacky in the middle of  road while entangled in her lead as she tries to get to the other side. At no point should either of us be running too far ahead, she has to have us both in her sights. Which is rather good for pacing!

My fantasy of empty streets and quiet park lanes quickly dissolved as soon as we hit Holland Park. Children were out in force testing new scooters, remote control cars, and a few new puppies here and there. But with everyone in such a festive mood, I dont think anyone noticed Stella was trying to catch the new toys (but thankfully failing spectacularly). She settled for a big stick twice her size.

Having got to Kensington Palace Gardens, we slowed the pace, let her nibs off the leash to attempt to catch a squirrel for her Christmas dinner, and took in the Royal Parks. A beautiful Christmas morning, no snow unfortunately, but enough green and golden leaves to make it worth dragging ourselves out of bed. There is nothing like a run to clear the cobwebs, and it really reminded me how lucky I am to live in such an amazing city with huge open spaces for everyone to share (even the skateboarders were being civil today!), right next to the hustle and bustle of a mad metropolis.

Back home, with the wet (but now clean) dog wrapped up in warm towels, and the beginning of an amazing Christmas dinner on the go, I’m pleased to say I’m feeling the festive spirit at last, having been a bit bah humbug all December. I’m getting all grateful, blame the endorphins!

Happy Christmas all! May 2012 be bigger, better and brighter (and bring a few more PBs please…!)

Happy Christmas from us lot!

Baby its COLD outside!

I really need the motivation to get running at the moment  – gorging on black coffee and mince pies (already!) may have something to do with my very irritable and slightly sluggish demeanour of late and I have this overwhelming desire to hibernate on my sofa.

Yes, Winter has finally arrived; brittle, windy and frosting up the windows in full force. It has taken its merry time, with November being so balmy I didn’t need to dig out my thermal running gear once. This time last year Stella and I were avoiding black ice and sloshing through melted snow on the pavements.

So its been rather a shock in early December to suddenly remember how my chest sometimes hurts when I run in the cold because the air is near freezing. Or that my nose runs constantly from about 5kms and that my ears start to go ever so slightly numb. And its dark by 4:30pm so there’s not even the illusion of warmth from the setting sun. Cold, dark, windy and rainy, got to love December in London, veritable runner’s paradise. Ahem.

But as they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate clothing. So I’ve hit the online outlets and bought some thermal base layers, headband ear phone covering thingamingers and some new iphone arm band whatyoumacallits. Sorted. Any excuse to wear neon pink outside of an 80’s club night.

I only managed around 6kms this evening (coffee +  gross train food + dehydration = awkward run), but I got out there. In 3 degrees and middle of the night darkness. But I feel better, less irritable and a that good kind of tired. Not exhausted, but just tired enough to know I won’t have mental dreams about killer penguins in medieval England (I’m blaming George RR Martin. Obsessed)

Few things that got me through the run today:

1) This amazing lady finally releasing a few singles that I’ve added to my playlist, check her website Azealia Banks  *warning* VERY explicit lyrics, but seriously good tunes. 212 in particular. AND I’m totally envious of her legs. So that keeps me running a little longer (thinking denim shorts in summer 2012)

2) Seeing this quote on the interweb – I can debate for over an hour. May need to tattoo this on my  arm.

3) Reliving some of my misspent youth (without the hangovers or getting grounded)
I’m not usually a fan of compilation albums but this has some real gems, and is helping take my mind off the aching lungs and right back to 1996. Even the cheesy tunes, 15 years on, sound pretty good (but that could be the endorphins talking!) Ministry of Sound: Twenty Years

4) And of course, always worth remembering:

Happy 1st Running Birthday to Me!

Credit: Artisan Cake Company here

Half way through my training run this evening, I realised its been almost exactly a year since I dragged my myself off the sofa and tried out the C25K app. I had quit smoking exactly a year before and I needed to find something new to obsesses about.

Looking back, my fitness was dire, although spinning had started to make some difference, the extra stone or thereabouts that I had gained while quitting fags (they say it doesn’t happen, I have size 14 jeans to prove it does!) wasn’t shifting. Work commitments meant I was missing more and more classes, drinking more coffee and eating, well, crap. Sugar is an ex-smoker’s best friend and, invariably their worst enemy. It got me through the horrid nicotine cravings, but left me with a rather substantial spare tyre and a ratty temper. 
So I hit the streets, armed with the app, the dog and some dodgy old addidas trainers.  I remember gritting my teeth through my first 5 minute run (agony), pushing past the pain in my first ten minute stretch (wheezing)  and almost collapsing after managing the full 20 minutes non stop (trying not to be sick). But what a feeling. I quickly invested in some decent trainers (to date the most expensive kit required so far) and got excited about completing each week on the C25K plan. I was beginning to see what all the fuss was about. And I bought a pair of size 10 jeans for the first time in 5 years. 
I have since discovered, that running has given me so much more than a leaner waistline. That was the first visible benefit, a very seductive one at that (no more guilt about cheesecake – hooray!), but I also began to notice I had more energy, I was sleeping better and my diet was improving, almost by default. 
But it’s the psychological benefits that really have me hooked. I can have the worst meeting, be in the most foul mood or feel utterly defeated by whatever life is throwing at me that day, and I can step out the door and literally run away from it all. And in those 45, 60, 90 minutes I’m letting it all go. Endorphins are magic. And by the time I’m pulling off my kit and logging up the miles, I’m already feeling like a new person. Without the baggage, the stress, the worry. 
A year on and I’m excited about what else could be next. I’ve managed roughly 500kms since the beginning of the year and I’m only just beginning to see what I might be capable of completely (albeit slowly! I am not a speed runner…yet). London 2013, may actually be a realistic goal, although I’ll stick to the half marathons for now. I’m secretly dreaming of New York…

Snap, cackle and stop!

Week 3 has not got off to a good start. This has nothing to do with R, who after my last blog has tightened up the routine and got his act together getting out the house (the mighty blog strikes again!) 
Having taken the decision to bring Stella the Dog on our first hill training route around and through Holland park, I had the hound for the duration, which means a bit of stopping and starting initially – so I had to catch R up. 
Note to self: sprinting up Ladbroke Grove when not properly warmed up is not a good idea. Not matter how much fun Stella thinks it is. 
I spend the rest of the run worrying about my calf. Then, at 3km, my hair clips fall out. Disaster. Growing out fringe is now flapping around my face and getting in my eyes. I almost run straight into a spider web and veer left, freaking out R and dog. I’m not having a repeat of the ‘Attack of the Fake Widow’ on the canal…  
Thankfully R doesn’t get easily fazed. One of the benefits that I have started to appreciate more and more! And there are a few  
1) Feeling safer
 Meaning we can try out some slightly more out of the way back streets, and that way we are discovering new routes
2) Being able to hand the dog over
A great option when she’s in chasing squirrel mode, eating god-knows-what mode or generally being a pain in the arse when trying to get the pacing right!
3) New motivation when taking on killer hills
 Particularly when you’re eating their dust, or they’re giving you a push while passing you by
4) Sharing the views
 Yes, even in darkest West London around the streets, the full moon over Portobello is pretty breathtaking. And the people watching while cruising by is priceless. 
Stella was still embarrassed by her human

6) Or when your sports bra snaps. On Holland Park Avenue. With a fair amount of traffic around. He didn’t laugh too much.

So I limped home, with an aching calf, mussed up hair, and a serious wardrobe malfunction – he kept me company and didn’t point and laugh. Too much.

Now I sit wrapped up in my ‘try again next time’ London marathon fleece (which you get when you DONT get in the ballot! I am rather relieved…) and my calf wrapped up in a tea towel with frozen peas – hunting the web for industrial strength sports, erm, gear!

Snap proof please!

Speeeeeed! Who fartlek-ed?

Tried my hand (feet?) at Fartlek  training tonight, which in case you’re not familiar with the term, means ‘speedplay’ in Swedish. They know their stuff the Swedes, blow your socks off coffee, heart attack cake and running fast for short periods of time. My kind of people!

Started my short 7 km route with 3 pretty killer hills, not very long in distance, but with good sharp inclines, enough to get the heart rate pushing the 90%+ mark. Perfect for short sharp bursts of speed.  Then hit Kensington Palace gardens to try up the speed. I’m pretty surprised that I can manage decent stretches of high tempo running without keeling over. The training does seem to be paying off. Amazing feeling too, had no idea I could actually get up to a sprint at all and maintain it.

10 days to go until the big race, one long run in the schedule left and then tapering the training next week.

Will also be looking at new gear for the coach. This caught my eye!