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!

Run Britannia!

In a bid to transform myself into an early morning workout obsessive, (which I’ll need to be to clock up the miles needed to actually get a decent time in the Royal Parks) I made to commitment to meet my running BFFs,  Emily and Laura at 7am on Sunday morning. That’s a 6am wake up call on my usual Day of Rest (i.e. 11am lie in!).

Needless to say, it was a struggle turning off the snooze button and lacing up my trainers. Even Stella didn’t budge in her basket as I left this morning.

I did feel very smug to have arrived at High Street Kensington before any of the morning trains had even kicked in for the day.  Less smug seeing hoards of Olympic volunteers merrily striding down the streets looking polished and ready for action, while I was still yawning and checking if I had my t-shirt on the right way round!

We had decided to trial Sweaty Betty’s Run Britannia, a program of sightseeing runs (5k or 10k) through London running over the Olympic period.  Although we were slightly apprehensive at first thinking we may just be running alongside very fast, very experienced Sweaty Betty Staff and uber runners, we were greeted with huge smiles from the team and set off at a manageable but challenging pace. Note: I am slow, clocking 11 minute miles, so needed a push!

We chose the Royal Park run, which seemed fitting for our training, and with beautiful weather and early enough to be a bit cooler – we meandered through Kensington Park Gardens, via the Royal Albert Hall clocking up 10kms, with a few tips on form and pace along the way from coach Hannah.

Those tips clearly paid off immediately as I clocked up my fastest training 10km! Shaving nearly 4 minutes off my last race time

Back at the Hight Street Ken branch, we were presented with fantastic goody bags (the coconut water went down a treat!) including water bottle, bag and flash neon laces. Nice reward for the weekly long run indeed, thank you Sweaty Betty!

Planning on a few more sessions, taking in up Soho and a bit of window shopping around Harrods – fitness, fashion and soaking up the Olympic atmosphere? Perfect.

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…

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!

Working off the Brunch!

After a weekend of birthdays, full on ‘big-fry-up-with-everything’ brunches at Mike’s Cafe and a very glamourous hen do the sunday run was really needed!

Still really struggling with motivation, but after about 2kms, the aches and pains ease up, I hit Hyde Park and I remember why I keep doing this! Happened to see a spectacular sunset over the Great Western rail lines en route back from Royal Oak around 8.5kms and avoided an overly keen Doberman in the park. Never a dull moment.

Two weeks to go until the big race and I’m starting to think about upgrading some of my kit.
Here’s the wish-list:

New arm-band for the old iphone, ‘sexy’ new dri-fit nike vest and a pack to keep the nurofen/jelly babies/extra shoelaces at hand (just in case). I don’t ask for much. My trainers are good to go for another 100 miles, so I cant be forking out the big cash just yet.

Stella could do another 100 miles tomorrow given half a chance, speedy madam out paces me every time. Giving some serious thought to entering her into the Women’s Running column that they run monthly featuring people who train with their dogs. May need to invest in a new collar for a  proper photo shoot, diva that she is!

Tuesday – Holland Park/ Kensington Palace Gardens 11K

Variety is the spice of life, right? And I need some of that! Lately it feels as though my world revolves around work and training for this race.  Route mapping, ipod shuffling, calorie counting, and rescheduling social engagements to catch up on the miles. Alternate with late nights at the office, and a very busy time of year and I am exhausted! And in need of something new.

Getting home this evening I didn’t have the energy to map an entirely different route, so I just reversed the one I have been building on, and added another km. Nike+ have also just added a mapping function, so check out the link here:  Reversed Route 11K
Funny how such a simple change can make such a difference – and great to switch the hills up a bit. Ended up with more energy than I began with. Brilliant side effect of running I’m finding. 
So, besides the iPhone cutting out at 8.5k, great run and feeling more confident with 10k going by without a stitch or any pain in the joints – so clearly I must be getting fitter! 
Stella, on the other hand is enjoying a week off the training as I need to work on speed (she slows me down a bit with general pit stops) so has been chilling on the sofa. Hard life 😉

Rutland Water: Sunday Session in the Country – 13 miles Run/Walk

Note to self: When planning a 13 mile training run on the sunday, do not complete a 60 minute hard core boxing session on the Saturday. Not big, not clever. Just painful.

Waking up at 7am on Sunday morning, every muscle in my shoulders and back were crying out for another two hours in bed and a sports massage. Hot shower did very little, but got my trainers on regardless and hauled myself to King’s Cross to catch my train to Peterborough.

A friend of mine was kind enough to source a great route around Rutland Water (near Peterborough) for us to attempt 13 miles ahead of my half marathon up in Glasgow. Check out our route here Rutland Water 13 miler – Ahhh fresh air and countryside!

Which also includes stinging nettles, flocks of sheep, bugs and hoards of families on rented bikes. Almost more dangerous than the maniac cyclists infesting West London. So besides a few stung up calves, rather a lot of sheep dung and a few close shaves with rogue 5 year olds without training wheels – amazing run over looking the water and not a police siren, bendy bus or traffic light in sight.

And with with signs like this – I could do with more trips out to the country

Beautiful weather meant it was hot hot hot, and I caught a ridiculous sun burn – but managed 10k run and took the additional 21km at a much slower pace (ahem) I’m blaming the boxing!

Scrumptious italian lunch over looking the lake after the 3.55hour run/walk/gossip, Sunday session success!

The Long One: 15kms – 1hr 56 mins

Sunday is usually when I do my long run, and with lunch plans already in the diary I had to sacrifice my precious Sunday midday lie in (yes I am that lazy) and drag myself out of bed before 10am which really is no mean feat. I am not a morning person.

Trainers on and a decent route planned I set off to try and crack 15kms (9.6 miles).  My route takes in most of Hyde Park and Holland Park with a few great hills to keep it interesting. The more I run the more I realise I need the off road, leafy green back drop to take my mind off the heat, sweat and general fatigue that hits me early on!

Totally lucked out today with near perfect conditions, cool wind, no tourists (!!) and a sharp rain shower at exactly the half way point which took the edge off the late morning sun as it was beginning to get a little too toasty in black lycra!

Other great highlights included watching a ridiculous hipster on his too cool for school bike, take a really comedy fall while talking on his iphone. Clearly you can’t text and be that cutting edge at the same time. Also running alongside some of the same route as the London Triathlon. Thanking my luck stars I didn’t have to swim in the Serpentine – rough!

Hips are taking a bit of strain so will be needing to work in some yoga into the schedule this week, but managed the route and pulled through! Mostly thanks to the new Chase & Status single Time

When its comes to running, my musical tastes are unashamedly teenage, keeps the legs moving and helps with the hills!

21kms is looking more achievable by the day, although 15km nearly finished me off. I am still regularly surprised by the fact that I can actually run, never mind this distance! Having not been a very sporty child and spending most my twenties avoiding sleep, its nothing short of astonishing that my muscles seem to respond to training. Fitness begins at 30 clearly!

Demolished an amazing pizza at the new Pizza East on Portobello Road which just about brought me back to feeling nearly human again as well as the scintillating conversation of Christina – check out these bad boy pizzas!

God bless Italian carbohydrates!