Hello 2012!

Happy New Year to everyone (even if you’re not quite here yet)!  As I don’t have any resolutions, I wanted to take a couple of minutes to focus on important happenings in January (apart from spending time with my family until the 5th)!

Me, gran and Julian

During my weekends I’ll be taking an Exercise Theory course (the final exam will be in February).  This is a necessary course before I apply to do my ETM (exercise to music) course, which will enable me to teach fitness classes.  This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but unfortunately I haven’t really had the spare cash until now (and even now, I’d be lying if I said I had money to burn).

In addition, January holds a couple of mention-worthy dates.  Firstly, the Cancer Research UK Race for Life will be announcing their race dates for 2012 in the New Year, so it would be a good idea to get in early.  Another important running date is January 16th, when entries open for 2 of the races I hope to do this year.  These are the Baker Hughes 10k in Aberdeen and the Xodus Ythan Challenge.  I’ve done the 10k 3 times before, but I’ve always managed to miss out on the Ythan Challenge.  I’m told entries are filled within a couple of weeks, so I’ll be ready to enter on the 16th!

I will also be celebrating my 4th anniversary with my boyfriend in January – isn’t he a lucky boy!

Hogmanay, Australia: Supermarket Sweep!

Ah, New Year’s Eve.  A day full of hopes and ambitions waiting to be crushed.  Last year I was in Houston and stayed in with my brother watching trash TV and eating pumpkin spiced pancakes.  This year?  Well, it’s 8:40pm,  I’ve just stuffed my face with pasta, butter and cheese, and I’ll probably crack open the bubbly for a sly glass or two before hitting the snooze pad.  The joys of jet-lag.  At least my plans wont be detrimental to my scheduled run tomorrow.

This morning I managed 12k.  I had to leave at 5:37am, just as the sun was rising, in order to catch the last of the ‘cool’ air (24 degrees at the start).  I ran a similar route to my 11k, including the old track, but managed to run a bit further to round the run up to 12k.  Along the route I noticed the shopping trolley I had noticed on my first run.  I had seen a few more shopping trolleys during my stay, so I decided to take a photo every time I came across one.  This forced me to take more camera stops than I thought possible.  For the sake of brevity, I have omitted the photo of the shopping trolley from my last run.

Technically Shopping Trolley #2

#3 - Upside down!

#4

Double Trouble! #5 and #6

#7

The 12k today was also much easier than the 11k the day after I arrived.  Probably since I had time to acclimatize to the heat.  Probably also due to the fact that I hadn’t just stepped off of a  plane after a 30 hour journey.  My heart rate was lower, I didn’t feel tired, and when I got back to the house I didn’t feel like I was completely spent.  Good news as 12k is about 7.5 miles.  I would like to comfortably run 10 miles by the end of January.

Tomorrow morning I hope to be doing the same thing I did on January 1st, 2011: running.  As long as I can rack up 10k, I’ll be happy.  After all, it is a holiday and I’m entitled to take it a bit easy.

Mission: Ridiculous

Last night I went to go and see Mission Impossible 3 with my uncle.  It was at 9:15pm, so I was being pretty optimistic thinking I’d power through the entirety of the film without a snooze (strategically taken during the boring ‘planning’ bits), but what the hell.  We got there with plenty of time and bought some self-serve fro-yo to keep energy high – I self-served a frozen mountain, it was delicious!  The film was pretty average: plenty of unrealistic actions sequences, unconvincing characters… Pretty much what I was expecting.  The real drama, however, came after the film.

It seems a light was left on in the car when we were watching the film.  This meant that the battery was dead.  Excellent.  I could barely keep my 17 tonne eyelids up, and now we were stranded in a car park.  After a worrying few seconds of the phone call for help not being answered, we were assured cables were on their way.

Dad and Daniel sorting the car

Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, the car was going.  Had I been alone on the way home, I would have just decided my delirious, jet-lagged brain was playing tricks on me, but as I wasn’t the only one to see it, I knew that the super bright shooting star that soared across the sky before puffing into nothing actually existed.  Awesome!

How to make Smokers Hate You – #287

Casually mention to your younger brother, as he purchases a fresh pack of cigarettes, that today marks 4 years since you quit.  And then, just for fun,chime, “And did you know smoking makes you impotent.  And you’re single, right?”

Don’t get me wrong.  Smoking, when I partook in the filthy activity, was totally enjoyable.  Totally.  I could easily puff my may through 20-40 cigarettes a day (more if drinking), and my bank balance felt it.  Oddly, on a crisp winter’s day, standing outside admiring a fresh blanket of snow making everything seem clean, nothing topped it off quite like blacking my lungs and dusting the pristine ground with fag ash.

I quit using nicotine patches.  I had also just left my smoking ex boyfriend and wanted to prove to myself that I was better than him.  And that smoking was for (balding, university drop-out) losers.  That tactic was very effective.  On December 27th, 2007, I slapped my first patch onto my left butt-cheek, felt the burn (seriously, those things hurt), and waltzed into town feeling pretty smug. I’m going to save so much money.  I’m going to smell amazing.  I’m not going to have premature wrinkles or lung cancer.  Thoughts like these kept me motivated through the inevitable bad days, even if the saving money part was a complete falsity – I spent more on scented body lotions, candles and perfume than I ever would have on cigarettes.

The best part about quitting on the 27th was the fact that when everyone else was gearing up to make their New Year’s Resolutions happen, I had a head start.  On January 1st, I was well on my way, not dreading the start.  I’d quit last year!  No problemo!

4 years on and I’m glad I stuck with it.  I enjoy running (obviously, as this is a blog about running) and smoking is pretty detrimental to running.  I also enjoy not  looking terrible, so while I have frown lines that have existed, I’m determined to prove, since birth, I’m in pretty good nick for 27.  Definitely not a Faces of Meth contender.  I also realized a few weeks ago that the price of cigarettes (in the UK) has exceeded 7 pounds, which is just ridiculous.

It could be argued that there are downsides to being an ex-smoker.  I tend to find that the smell of smoke bothers ex-smokers more than non-smokers.  I also find ex-smokers are more viscous and patronizing when they pass comment on other smokers.  And, in complete honesty, there are some days where you think maybe I could have just one…

Clearly, the downsides are negligible and the benefits to your health, such as lowered risk of coronary disease, lower risk of cancer, and white teeth, make it worthwhile.  And obviously smelling good is a useful tool in the act of making friends and attracting partners.  But the best thing about quitting smoking for me?  Knowing that my (balding, university drop-out) ex boyfriend doesn’t have as much hardcore determination as I do.

Running in heat!

Well, I arrived safe and sound yesterday in Australia and met the rest of my family at Sydney Airport.  We then took the (very, very bumpy) hour flight to Albury, where my grandparents live.  So far I have been gifted with sunshine and warmth, and while for pretty much everything that is amazing, for running it can make things difficult.  Especially if you’re used to dealing with limbs losing sensation due to the cold and trying not to get sleet whipped into your eyes due to gale force winds (Ah, the joys of running in Scotland).

The flights over were, while not completely terrible, long and sore.  I didn’t get too much sleep, but I did eat a lot.  Apart from the crew wearing santa hats/reindeer antlers, and a little Lindtt chocolate bunny, there wasn’t much of a fuss over Christmas, so I was a bit disappointed, even though I am still not sure what I was expecting.  On Christmas Day we stopped in Bangkok for about an hour, so I had a bit of time to stretch my legs and take an obligatory ‘Christmas Day Photo’ at the airport:

Bangkok Airport, Christmas Day 2011

When we finally arrived in Albury, we were shattered.  I had a power nap (and apparently had some fantastic photos taken of my sleeping face courtesy of my uncle’s new flashy camera and my brother’s suggestion, I’m sure) and then awoke to a lasagne feast!  Much better than plane food.  About 11pm, I could resist sleep no more and hit the hay.

Santa's stash!

I awoke at about 3 this morning to a phone call from my bank alerting me to some possibly fraudulent transaction attempt.  I had to verify that it was indeed me trying to withdraw money in Australia unsuccessfully (causing major distress at Sydney after a parched flight), and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I looked outside.  Darkness.  I checked online for sunrise times. 5:55am.  Ages to go.

I decided to stay awake and then head out as soon as the sky started getting light to avoid having to run in immense heat.  At 5:30, I donned my brand new Sauconey running shoes (courtesy of Santa), set up my Garmin and made sure that I had a map of the area set up on my phone.  I set off shortly after and managed to fit in a respectable 6.81 miles.  The pace was slow, but I decided to ease my body back into exercise after all that traveling, and allow it to get used to the temperature change.  I also had to check where the hell I was occasionally, and I stopped to take a few photos.  I got back shortly after 6:45am and it was already 23 degrees.  Ridiculous!

Below is the route I took, courtesy, obviously, of my Garmin.  See if you can spot the 400m (roughly) track I found and took a lap on!

Route: 27 December

Tomorrow and Thursday I’ll be doing classes at the local gym and taking advantage of the last two days it’ll be open this year (Mental holidays!  You wouldn’t have to put up with that in Aberdeen!).  Then more running!

Here are some snaps taken during this morning’s run:

Payphone

Lavington Literary Institute

Blurry 'action shot' of the running track I came across

Abandoned trolley

Early opening laundromat on Mate Street

A deserted Mate Street at ridiculous o'clock

By the way, the new Sauconey shoes are great!  And while I was being ultra healthy, my boyfriend was thousands of miles away indulging in a Boxing Day BBQ!

Australia, here I come!

Well, my structured gym classes would normally go out the window for a few days over the festive period, but in this case, it’ll be 2 weeks!  I’m off down under to visit family over my Christmas holidays, and I had planned on making that the time for increasing my weekly mileage, and had bought the Garmin specifically for that.  Running is still my plan, but I can’t remember the last time I ran in 30 degree heat, so I think I’ll be breaking a sweat (frequently) not breaking the sound barrier, speed-wise.

I leave tonight (Christmas Eve) and arrive on Boxing Day, so I’m kind of screwing myself out of Christmas, but also avoiding too much filling up on stacks of pre-bought junk food, so not all bad.  I have been naughty and opened a present from my boyfriend – a leopard print latex dress with black paneling that I had wanted!  I also got a present from my ‘running friend’ – Diplomacy, the board game.  It has good reviews so I’ll definitely be cracking that one open upon my return to the ‘Deen.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas!  I’ll get a stopover in either Hong Kong or Bangkok, so at least I’ll get a couple of hours of land-Christmas.  The next time you hear from me, I’ll be on the other side of the world!

Injury: A Pain in the Ab!

When I started working out in my early 20’s I felt invincible. I was a machine that didn’t need to be oiled. Stretching was merely an inconvenience I didn’t have time for. ‘Rest’ was not in my vocabulary. I was fortunate, for a very long time, to remain injury free, the only sign of my mortality being creaky knees.

Two years ago during an aerobics class, right after a particularly enthusiastic high-kick, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach muscle, just to the right of my belly button. It literally took my breath away, but thinking it was just a bad stitch, soldiered on to the end of the class, taking easy options. I went home and assumed I’d wake up the next day feeling great.

When the pain was noticeably present the following day, I became mildly concerned, but it was only when I tried to go for a run and was confronted by a sharp pain again that I became worried. I went to the doctor only to find out I’d torn my ab muscle. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do without using your abs, so my exercise regime became drastically lighter (translation: wussier) for the next couple of months. Then I felt as though things were improving, so I (stupidly) decided to try out my old routine. Bad move.

So I re-tore the muscle (not a pleasant feeling) and had to lay off ab work and anything too strenuous for months. I had to switch to cycling, weights and the cross trainer to try and maintain strength. I really missed high intensity workouts and getting drenched in sweat. It was a really frustrating time and got me really down.

My operations this year, though unrelated to the injury, did give my stomach a chance to rest fully for a few months. I am nearly back to doing everything I was before, bar a few ab routines, and while I still get twinges every now and then, I now know how important it is to lay off instead of thinking I’m indestructible and can ‘power through the pain’.

The point of this post is to just highlight that I have learned injuries are not to be taken lightly and it isn’t worth it to try and jump back into training as soon as possible if you risk re-injury. They mess up your plans and can be really frustrating, but injuries are just one of those things you have to put up with.

Music and Running

…Go hand in hand as far as I’m concerned.  I remember the first 10k I signed up for; I read through all the information that was sent out, but one thing stood out like a 3-legged llama at Miss America contest:

…no headphones…

Say what?!  How can anyone run without music?  What madness is this? Is pretty much, thought for thought, the result of reading those two words.  This race, no joke, would be torture.

I can remember reluctantly tucking my mp3 player into one of the ‘secret’ compartments of the rucksack I’d lock to my bike and heading towards the crowd.  I hadn’t left myself much time (translation: I woke up hung-over after a Eurovision Song Paty) so everyone was assembling at the start line.  And in 90% of ears at the start line?

Exactly.

Hung-over, and with just the sound of panting and feet padding along the road, I was totally not feeling the vibe.  I guess I saw it as a kind of initiation – a hazing from ‘The Running Monster’.  I mean, I would have preferred a swift aerodynamic paddle to the ass once or twice instead, but whatever – I’m over it.

Anyway, the only time since that painful day that I have run without my jammin’ beats was the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run this year, because it was pissing down with rain and I (quite sensibly) decided not to risk damaging my quite expensive (to me) mp3 player.  Oh, and of course the rain stopped 5 minutes into the run.  I have since purchased a cheap ‘back-up’ mp3 player for such occasions.

I find that any music, even the radio, is fine for running if you’re taking it easy (like my Sunday run), but there are some songs that never fail to get me totally pumped.  They cover a range of genres (I used to be all about rock, but I’m sullying my style by adding some generic pop, dance, cheesy 80’s stuff and dub step.  A few of my failsafe tracks at the moment for psyching me up (and I’m not even ashamed!) include:

Example – ‘Midnight Run’

Nero – ‘Me and You’

Boston ‘More than a Feeling’

Saul Williams – ‘List of Demands’

Alice Cooper – ‘School’s Out’ (I’m a teacher, this never fails to lift my spirits)

Flux Pavilion – ‘I Can’t Stop’

So what songs give you an instant adrenaline rush?  And are you one of the ‘weird’ people that runs without music?  Let me know, not least so I can nick some song choices!

NVA’s Speed of Light

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh  August 2012

I remember a good few months back, when I initially decided to up my running, I entered the ballot for the London Marathon (possibly after a drink).  I think the excitement of that overshadowed all other events from that night, which is why an e-mail I received yesterday completely took me by surprise.  Months after letting out a jaded sigh after receiving my ‘sorry you were unsuccessful’ magazine, it seems I will still be participating in something as a result of that night.

The e-mail was from NVA wishing me a Merry Christmas and New Year, and thanking me for registering for their Speed of Light event.  My initial reaction of ‘what the fuck?’ and a quickened heartbeat caused by me panicking about double booking in my quickly-becoming-full race schedule without knowing, eventually turned into one of those  moments where snippets of memory start returning.  I mostly experience these after nights of excess, and normally find myself cringing as I remember challenging complete strangers to push-up competitions on dirty pub floors, or telling people intimate details of my sex life, but this time it was kind of pleasant.

After sifting through all of my ‘running’ e-mails, I eventually found my registration receipt, and then set to reacquainting myself with what the hell I’d actually signed up to.  The Speed of Light event is “one of Scotland’s official artistic contributions to the London 2012 and Paralympic Games”, according to the website.  It involves running/walking around Arthur’s seat in specially made light suits, at night, lighting up the hillside.

I have seemingly signed up for Saturday, August 11th.  When you register you can opt for a free ticket for the same night.  Mine will obviously be offered to my boyfriend because it will be a clear indication that he must accompany me!  While not a race, it is a running event, and something a bit different, so I’m looking forward to it for the experience.  Training and information packs will be sent out soon, I believe, and participants are encouraged to attend training days in Edinburgh leading up to the event, but they aren’t compulsory (or convenient for me, unfortunately).

The only downside is that I don’t think you get a memento (participant’s medal), but I’ll let it slide because this will hopefully be more of an experience.

Garmin Fore-Bearer (of bad news)

Well, the Sunday after the Christmas Canter I went for my usual Sunday run.  With all of the features, I wanted to check out my usual route. 

Now, this route has only ever expanded over time.  When I lived on George Street it was significantly shorter, and as I’ve moved farther away, it has grown.  About a year ago, I decided to check the distance of my run using Googlemaps and their directions facility.  It came to roughly 10K, so in my mind, for over a year, I have been cracking out a pretty speedy 10K on Sundays (apart from the several months spent recovering from surgery).

I set off (wearing my new Nike compression tights – another ‘wee Christmas treat to myself’) and enjoyed my run, occasionally checking the distance.  It wasn’t until about halfway through that I realized I was under 5K, but thought maybe my perception of distance was whack.

It was not.

The distance was only 8.4k, which might explain why it has always felt so easy.  And here I was thinking it was all down to enjoying running outside.

Fuck you Googlemaps.