Rory and I escaped the big smoke for some much needed R&R up in Scotland for a week. Perfect time of year to go, crisp cool air and a surprising amount of sunshine. We couldn’t be further away from chocked west London, delayed tubes and clogged inboxes.
It’s been just over a year since I’ve been up to this part of the world, pretty special place for me as reminds me how far I’ve come with my fitness and running, this is pretty much where it all started.
I raced my first 10K up here in Glasgow back in 2011, supported by my two Aunts, one running with me and the other handing out much needed encouragement and bananas. Having just completed the couch to 5K program, Val suggested I get registered for a 10K, and Lyn chimed in recommending her local – the Glasgow Women’s 10K – beautiful course complete with half naked bagpipe players. What more motivation do you need?
I had coped with running around 5K a couple of times a week, plodding around W10 and letting Stella run circles around me – surely 10K would be doable. Which it was. I hadn’t checked the course before (which it turned out was a good thing – I would have panicked) and had no idea there were a few pretty killer hills, one in particular stretching from 6k to about 8k and having done no hill training in my life, it was a shock. Thankfully, the semi nude bag pipe boys where there to help me through though. Kilts and all. God bless Scotland.
One hour and twelve minutes later I had run my first race, thrilled with my blingtastic medal and flabbergasted I hadn’t died or at least had a minor heart attack. I had quit smoking a year before and was still reeling from the fact I didn’t cough every five minutes, huff and puff up stairs or come down with every cold going. I felt like superwoman.
2011 First Race (10K)
And that was that, I was hooked and promptly signed up for my first half marathon that September, keeping with the Scottish theme and registering for the Great Scottish Run.
Two years, three half marathons, five 10Ks, two ITB injuries and untold hill sessions later, it’s wonderful to be back in Pollok park going over a few of the ‘killer’ hills I remember and catching up with the local wildlife. Unfortunately, no bag pipe boys to be found this particular morning, but we can’t have everything. I settled for the astonishing lack of rain and pretty mild temperatures. 
You cannot beat Scotland when the sun shines, eat your heart out Hyde Park!

The Jozi vs Western Cape Sessions: A Sea Level Softy Speaks Out

Back in London post three week holiday to South Africa.  Back to work, and invariably back to treadmill sessions and/or  bracing pavement pounding in the freezing cold. Spring brought snow and sleet, the poor daffs are literally freezing to death.

But rather then dwelling on the pretty dire training conditions i.e. ice on the Portobello Tuesday night, I’m much happier to recount my running sessions in sunny South Africa, while I load all my pictures over from iphone, making sure I logged all the activity on good old Nike+

I ran a lot in South Africa. Weird for me, because back in the olden days, a holiday was the perfect excuse to do NO EXERCISE whatsoever, so rejoicing in packing shorts and vests for my holiday down south was slightly ludicrous. But the crazyis here to stay. No more long running tights and waterproof jackets, hats and running gloves. Just shorts and a vest. Fan-bloody-tastic.

I was really looking forward to exploring a bit more of Joburg, and a lot more of the Cape. I have realised that I NOTICE more when I am running. I’ve become more aware of my neighbourhood in London as a result, rather than just rushing past everything while on autopilot en-route to work. When I run, I take it all in. So I was very keen to take this theory and test it on the big bad streets of Jozi, and the wild trails of the Cape.

But Johannesburg is another story. Its a city 4,921 feet above sea level and by mid February is pretty damn hot on the high veld. By 9am it’s close to 25 degrees and there are no clouds, no wind and no place to hide. There are also NO PAVEMENTS. I must first make it very clear that although I grew up in Joburg, I never did any running there, so this is the first time I have really paid attention to the lack of any kind of side walk action. I did a bit of light sprinting, once or twice while avoiding parents, teachers and the occasional lunatic ex boyfriend, but no sport. I famously came last in school cross-country when I was 8. It look me another 21 years to get over that humiliation, having convinced myself I just ‘wasn’t sporty’, so hitting the asphalt in this town was a mental thing too.

I’d love to say I smashed it. That it was 5ks of speed and agility.That the neighbours waved encouragingly and that I discovered some fantastic new coffee house/gallery/ cake shop on my route (a fav past time in London). But I didn’t.

First the altitude difference hit me like a ton of bricks. I could barely breathe let alone keep up my pace and form. After 2.5km I had to walk, heaving as I went, stopping to wipe the sweat which was pouring down my face and succeeding in freaking out a few neurotic Doberman as I stumbled past. A messy mess really. Oh and Jo’burg has some serious hills. I has not bargained for that. I had failed to notice these while driving around in my youth. I managed another 2.5km and limped home. Having had my ass handed to me, and being on holiday, I climbed back into bed determined to start the day over. Fail.

Respect to you Jozi runners. Call me a sea-level softy all you like, you guys are HARDCORE

Thankfully running in the Cape is a completely different experience. Betty’s Bay in particular has a fantastic mix of great tarred road along the coast as well as some pretty awesome trails that wind along the beach. You even get to see Penguins on your morning run. Yes really. I mean who doesn’t want to wake up to that? And it’s at sea level. YES!!

Over the two weeks we were there I ran religiously every other day, between 4 and 6 kms as per my training post injury, and took in the trails, botanical gardens, beach routes and got reacquanited with a beautiful part of the world that is very close to my famiy’s hearts, and part of our history now spanning five generations.

Here’s a taste of the place and a few snaps of me post run. Just to prove I actually logged the mileage!

Moody: There are actual Penguins behind me here at Stony Point , but this pic doesn’t quite show them!

View just before I hit the trail along the dunes/ beach path

Half way point in my 6K run having got to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. Not a cloud in the sky

Got to love early morning endorphins!

Breakfast back at Craigeburn, our family cottage by the sea, over looking the lake

I am hugely grateful to have the opportunity to take in the beauty of a place, almost like it was the first time, with just a pair of trainers.Smashed that then! WINNING

Sorry Jo’burg, you may be my birth place, but heart belongs to the Cape. That and I”m too much of a wimp to take on your altitude. And lack of pavements. Its too much  for this very amateur runner   (and there are penguins in the Cape. You can’t beat the Penguins).

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?

Numbers Up!

Our race numbers have arrived! Very exciting to be running a race with R for the first time. We’ve entered the Richmond the 10K on Nov 20th which should be interesting. Its a mix of road and trail, we’ve mostly been training on the road due to the darker evenings, but I’m hoping R takes to the trail routes too – I much prefer them. And there’s less traffic so infinitely less things to fall out about…
I have far fetched visions of trail races in the Highlands, or weekend retreats to the Lakes with a few good runs thrown in for good measure. I’m hooked. Running holidays are beginning to feature more heavily in my google history which completely goes against my usual ‘pack a bikini and do nothing’ mantra. These look amazing:
Perfect, and the dog would be welcome too! 
I love the name of this website (Jelley = the name of the founder)
For when I’m super-obsessed and running marathons for fun
But that’s a long way off, for now we need to smash this 10K and then start the REAL training for the half marathon in Feb… count down beginning! 

DONE and DUSTED! 2 hrs 36mins 8s

Thrilled to have finished my very first half marathon! In agony having injured my calf again (yes, that hill right at the beginning of St Vincent street has a lot to answer for) but otherwise feeling fantastic.

It was possibly one of the hardest things I have ever done (up there with kick boxing gradings, customer strategy meetings and maybe even quitting fags!) but very pleased to say that I managed it without stopping once, walking or passing out. I did nearly cry at 11 miles, but I don’t think anyone noticed and scoffing another jelly baby made me feel better.

I made the mistake of stating with a 5K pace, of around 6:15 per km which did me no favours, but thankfully managed to catch myself and slowed the pace right down to around 6:45/7 per km which I think may have saved me in the long run. Although seeing loads of people in my colour group sail on past was slightly disheartening, but I got my own back when I ran past some of the speed freaks, who were now walking at about 10 miles. HA!

The last 3 miles were absolutely killer, with the calf playing up and my exhaustion making itself felt. Legs were like lead, but seeing family and friends at around the 11 mile point helped immensely and somehow managed to find the extra energy needed to get through the last couple of miles. Wing and a prayer at that point! You can see my route here

But made it! Without stopping or walking! Although doubt very much I’ll be running for a few weeks at least. The calf is complaining up a storm and I need to rest it. So celebrating with cake and tea. And then to bed – for a day or two.