First ultra distance training run!

OK, so in the end we took a wrong turn, so it wasn’t the planned 28 miles, but it still tipped over the marathon distance into 26.51 miles, which I am totally taking.

I awoke on Saturday morning (some would argue, however, that the time I was stirring could still be classified as Friday night), and got my things together for the day’s long run – my third and final run with the Stonehaven running club’s Saturday long run crew, before attempting to run my first ultra, in just under three weeks time.  Annoyingly, the cold that had been bugging me for the past two weeks hadn’t quite gone away, and the familiar stuffy nose, sore throat, and achey body kept me company during my breakfast.  I questioned whether or not it was wise to attempt such a long run, but figured if it all went wrong, the run would be on roads, and I could hitch a lift back to anywhere that had a train station or bus stop.

And so, at 6:45, I was picked up by Dave, who thankfully did not turn out to be an axe-murderer, but a pleasant Irishman, with Mike (though casually dropping in his name here, I had also never met him in person until this point) in the passenger seat, and we set off on our merry way to Stonehaven, where we met up with the locals at a gas station at 7:20.

Once (nearly) everyone had made it to the start location, we set off through Dunnottar woods, and then onto quiet, undulating back roads.  The skies were blue!  The sun was out!  The temperature was ‘mild’ (for February in Scotland)!  The only gripe I had about the weather was the headwind, which, as we were doing an A to B run, would blast into our faces for, oooooooh, the entire day.  So that was nice.

22.2 long run elevationThe first 5 or 6 miles felt horrendous.  We were slogging uphill, there was wind in my face, there was snot blocking my airways, and I longed for the cosiness of my bed.  But after about an hour I started to feel….. almost good.  After about 11 miles, we waited for everyone to catch up before taking a group shot.  By this point, I felt practically normal (and especially smug for coming along).  Look at the blue sky!

Photo: V Shanks

Photo: V Shanks (as are the rest!)

After the group shot, it was less than two miles (downhill) into Inverbervie, where a number of us made use of the public toilets, before the ascent out of the town.

Approaching Inverbervie

Approaching Inverbervie

Leaving the coast involved a bit of powerwalking uphill, and running the flats and downhill sections, which became more frequent as we approached our finishing point, the Balmakewan cafe.  Some of the guys had gone on ahead, and those of us in the middle section took a different route on the final descent, which caused a bit of confusion when we reached the cafe first.

I had a hot stone massage booked for 15:30, and we made it to the cafe just after 13:00.  Ronnie had kindly agreed to pick me up at the end and drive me back so that I would make my appointment, but it would have also been nice to stay for lunch; it was pretty hard watching juicy, delicious burgers arrive at the table for others knowing I’d have to wait another few hours for a hot meal.  On the plus side, I felt great!  I guess running for 5 hours cures the common cold.

When Ronnie did arrive, he took me, Dave, and Mike back to Dave’s car in Stonehaven to pick up our warm clothes, then Ronnie drove me home using the ‘scenic route’ (translation: he took a few wrong turns), and Dave drove Mike home.

I made it home with enough time to throw myself into the shower, put on clean clothes, and scrape my hair back, before semi-jogging to my massage with 4 minutes to spare (not great fun).

The massage was delightful, but I was horrified to discover, when I got home, that my big toenail on my right foot was missing (it had taken a battering during the Texas marathon, and I honestly thought I’d lose it a lot sooner).  It must have come off during the foot scrub, which means the poor girl pampering me would have had to clean an entire toenail out of the foot-spa-bowl-thing she was using.

You guys knew this was coming.

You guys knew this was coming.

I phoned Ian on the way home and croaked something about, “Oven on…. Food in… On way,” and was delighted to have cajun chicken and rice in front of me half an hour later.  And that’s when the day’s exertion caught up with me, and my symptoms developed into the plague.

I was in bed and sleeping by 20:30.

The route

The route

BRG Challenge 2013

Time: 3:02 ish

Medal: Yes (same as last year’s)

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And yes, that is what my nail looks like currently after it lost a fight with a closing door back in April.

Having been back at work for a full week, I feel like I’ve aged 20 years, and the suggestion that I’ve just had 6 weeks off seems laughable.  Throw into the mix a disgusting head cold, and I present you with a girl who has run once this week, and has done a grand total of zero other workouts.  Waking up this morning, shuffling to the bathroom to cough up a night’s worth of grossness so I could breathe properly, looking outside at the rain pelting down – I was so, so unenthusiastic about running 17+ miles today.

But when does that get in the way of running a race?  Pretty much never.  So I threw myself into the shower (running fresh is important), lubed up generously (I learned my lesson after 1st degree chafe during a 12 mile run whilst the heaven’s opened last month, and did not care to repeat that experience), threw on my kit, and had a bowl of cereal.  And then did a load of washing.  And then washed the dishes that had piled up during the week (let me remind you I was sick).  And then I vacuumed.  Oh, sorry, did I not mention that I woke up at 4:37 am and could not, despite feeling exhausted, get back to sleep?  Because that happened.

At about 9:30, I reluctantly left my warm, dry apartment with everything I needed, and made my way to the pick up point, where Naomi was waiting for me.  She had already picked up Sheri, so it was a quick trip to pick up Susan, and then we were off to Fraserburgh, which I have had a hate-hate relationship with since the 10k there last year.  I was uplifted when we drove past the sign to ‘Gash’, because sometimes I have the maturity of a 13 year old boy.  The sky was overcast and grey, and rain continued to fall, but it could have been much worse, as we discovered upon arrival that there was no discernible wind – a miracle along the Scottish coast!

This place exists.

This place exists.

Ronnie had driven to Fraserburgh the night before and registered us all, which involved picking up our numbers and t-shirts, which were a step up from last year’s white, I must say.  He had also been up early to drive his car to Gardenstown (the finish), so that we could all be driven back to Naomi’s car at the start.  Luckily we arrived early, as this took longer than anticipated, and we had to navigate to Ronnie’s mum’s to pick him up, nearly driving the wrong way down a one way street!

Back of the technical shirt

Back of the technical shirt

Once back at the start, we had a quick toilet break before congregating in the rain with the decent turnout of runners for a safety briefing.  We were all told that the clock had started 2 hours ago with the walkers, and at 11:00 we were off along the relatively flat first 5/6 miles along the coast that lulls you into a false sense of security.

L-R: Sheri, Me, Ronnie, Susan, Naomi

L-R: Sheri, Me, Ronnie, Susan, Naomi

The five of us set out together at a steady pace, walking through the water stations because we knew there were a lot of relay teams, and as we were treating this as a training run for Loch Ness, weren’t keen on competing with fresh legs.  Despite how I felt earlier this morning, I was feeling pretty strong, possibly down to the fact that my body got a bit of a rest this week (apart from a 12.5 mile run on Thursday evening).  Susan and I fell in behind a youngish boy who was running as part of a relay team, and Naomi and Sheri were treated to a history of Ronnie’s childhood a little further back.

After about 6 miles, ‘flat’ was no longer an option.  If you weren’t going up, you were going down, and there was no let up until the end.  Ronnie, myself, and Susan powered up the hills, and Sheri and Naomi fell back.  It stayed like this for another mile or so, and then Ronnie fell back as well, as Susan and I aimed to catch ‘man in yellow’, the gentleman running the second leg of the relay with the young boy from earlier that had been tagged just as the hills started.

Knowing this was some great hill training for Loch Ness, Susan and I kept going, and eventually passed ‘man in yellow’, but we could see him, as well as Ronnie and Naomi close behind every time we stopped for water.  Having run this last year, I knew what was coming, so Susan (and the rest) had been warned in particular about the 17% incline at about 14 miles.  Possibly inspired by my photo from last year, Naomi made her feelings about the hill quite clear when she reached it:

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Photo: Ronnie Mutch

I will say, this photo does not do the steepness of the hill justice.  You’ll just have to take my word for that.

Susan and I battled up the hill next to cyclists that had come off their bikes to push them up the hill (they had set off an hour after the runners), and were eventually rewarded with some downhill running that didn’t make us fear for our lives (ie, not the 20% incline we had to run down earlier). At this point I still felt strong, which I was thrilled about, because at this point last year I was nearly a broken woman.  Susan, however, was starting to feel fatigued, and when my Mr. Motivator chat wasn’t helping, she told me to go ahead for the last couple of miles.

There was a woman up ahead who was running the last 3 miles or so as the final leg of her relay team, and I made it my mission to pass her.  I grunted hello as I overtook her, and continued on the mostly downhill path until I saw the town sign up ahead – nearly done!

I kept at a steady pace for the final mile or so, but had to try and slow myself down during the steep and slippery descent towards to harbour!  During my final few strides of the race, I overtook a couple of walkers (an added bonus), and clocked my time as being just over 3 hours, which is only a couple of minutes slower than last year.

A couple of minutes later, Susan appeared, followed shortly by Ronnie and Naomi, and then Sheri.  Adorned with medals and shivering, we made our way to Ronnie’s car to warm up (and hopefully dry off), stopping to take a couple of shots of the finish/harbour.  The blurriness of Ronnie’s phone’s camera should indicate the levels of precipitation:

Soggy and cold.

Soggy and cold.

Very excited about boats, it would appear.

Very excited about boats, it would appear.

My goal for this run was to run at a steady pace instead of shooting off fast and burning out like I did last year.  Despite being slightly slower, I count it as a success.  I was also curious to see how much more successfully I handled the hills since I’ve been including quite a bit of trail running during this training cycle, and was pleased that I didn’t feel the need to walk quite as often.  The real test, however, will be how I feel tomorrow.  Or, more specifically, how my legs feel tomorrow.

The Worst Kept Secret

No, I’m not pregnant.  Or engaged.

Since before Paris I’ve been struggling with a sharp pain on the right side of my abs that, over various points of the year so far, I worried was a hernia.  While on the waiting list for a scan at the hospital, I was reluctant to enter any new races, especially ones that required a significant commitment, in case I was going to be sidelined by a month of recovery after an operation, but thankfully, that has been ruled out.  I’m still experiencing pain, which is thought to be scar tissue (fabulous), but I have been assured I can keep doing everything apart from weights for the time being.  The super sleuths among you may have worked out that my list of ‘things I can still get on with’ includes running, which I am obviously pleased about.

Before I got my results back, I became increasingly jealous of all my running friends who were excitedly planning (and getting on with) their training for the Loch Ness marathon, the first marathon I ever ran.  For a lot of my friends, it will be their first.  For others, it’s a return to form, or an attempt to slay the beast that got the better of them last year.  I watched the deadline for guaranteed entries creep closer, and hours before they closed, I entered.  And booked the same room I had at a B&B last year.  And didn’t tell anyone.

But I started upping my distance, and joining friends who were out and proud about training on some of their longer runs “for fun”.  I started making plans to just turn up at the start line and casually ask my friends if they were in the mood for a run, while also happy that if I needed surgery, I could just slink away from the training plan without having to tell anyone that I had pulled out.  Then I got my results.

My plan to keep my entry a secret and surprise my friends became more elaborate (and ridiculous, because how am I going to fit into a cake that I can also fit onto a single bus seat?) and after LESS THAN 7 DAYS, I cracked and told everyone.

So yeah, I guess the Loch Ness marathon is the main hurdle I need to get over before the Texas marathon in January, but I’m looking forward to seeing how pacing myself a little more wisely can affect my experience of a race.  And running with a bunch of my friends.  And eating afterwards, obviously.

Training has been going well so far, and unlike Paris, I have actually been able to run more than once a week, which has been reassuring. The last three weeks of training are below.  Anything that has no mileage is likely a spin class.  Any ridiculous mileage (30+) is on a road bike.

July 8-14

July 8-14

July 15-21

July 15-21

July 16-28

July 16-28 (Tuesday’s 13 miles were climbing two mountains, not running)

You might also notice that my long runs have been on a Thursday, and the simple reason for that is, I am a teacher, and the word ‘weekday’ does not register on my summer holidays.  Leaving Saturday and Sunday free means that I have time to cycle with Ian, be lazy, and not worry that any races I have entered don’t match up with my long run distance.

Of course, in three weeks I won’t be so smug when term starts…

Four weeks until Paris!

Yesterday was my last beast of a long run before the Paris Marathon, and it was my longest ever training run – 23 miles!  Training for marathon number 2 has been, seemingly, much easier than the first time around, and despite starting off with a bit of an injury, and managing to bag only 1-3 runs a week, I’m feeling stronger and more confident than I was four weeks before Loch Ness.  Maybe it’s because I’m not stressing out about it as much (since I know now that even if I feel horrendous from mile 9, I CAN finish a marathon).  Maybe it’s because I haven’t been killing myself as much during the week with monster ‘mid-distance’ runs at a faster pace than necessary.  Maybe it’s because I have been more consistent with gradually upping my long runs, and including adequate drop-down weeks (bliss, by the way).

Just for comparison, here are my ‘long runs’ from Loch Ness next to my long runs (and expected runs over the next few weeks) for Paris:

Loch Ness: 16   7   10   16   13   18   5   20   17.5   13   10   13   9   26.2

Paris:  10.5   15   17.5   13   19   16.5   21   10   23   13   13   8   26.2

I mean, I’m no expert, but my Paris plan looks WAY better than my haphazard approach to training for Loch Ness.

The other thing I have been sensible about is sticking to a steady pace for all of my long runs.  Instead of starting out thinking ‘I’ll slow down when I get tired’, and looking down at my Garmin to see I was running 8:xx minute miles, I have dialled WAY back, and now aim to average 10 minute miles throughout.  I realize this is a practically geriatric pace for some of you speed demons, but I’m still trying to get rid of a stubborn ten pounds I put on after surgery a couple of years ago (but I’ve lost the other 20 – seriously, not being able to work out is not fun), and I am also still finding my marathon feet, so just finishing kind of gives me a semi.

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Anyway, what I have noticed with these slower runs is that I don’t feel completely disgusting after 13 miles, and I have even managed to run 21 miles non-stop!  In fact, yesterday’s 23 would have been non-stop, but being a bit of a dick and not really eating much for breakfast meant I had to stop for some hula hoops and orange juice, and I opted to walk while I was eating because it was freezing, and standing still would have resulted in the loss of my extremities.  In fact, I have felt so strong that during both my 20+ milers, the thought of going that extra 3/5 miles did not reduce me to tears or make me question my sanity.  It felt achievable, and I was even tempted to just go for it, before my various running companions rather aggressively urged me to not do that because we all just wanted our now traditional post run hot chocolate.

Admittedly, I was feeling fatigued at the end of the long runs, and I have adopted a new mantra of ‘fuck you cars’ which I repeatedly murmur in my head grunt aloud whilst crossing a street brazenly in front of drivers, because stopping and starting is a complete bitch when you’re half a mile away from finishing, and people in cars can just fucking wait.  I did also run into a bus stop near the end of yesterday’s run because I genuinely did not notice it thanks to minor delirium.  But considering the 21 and 23 mile runs, had I continued at the same pace, would have both been faster than my time at Loch Ness, I am stoked. I mean, I wasn’t even (that) angry when I got home yesterday afternoon and the sun decided to come out despite playing a very successful game of hide and seek all morning:

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Having run 23 miles, just sitting on my sofa causes extreme happiness.

I am also stoked that I will be back on the medal-collecting train next weekend, as I have the Inverness half marathon (which is officially my nemesis after last year, and I am in two minds about whether or not to race it), and the following weekend is the Garioch half marathon, which I dread thanks to my hilly-as-fuck experience at the 10k last year.  But  since this is a relatively positive post, I’ll end on a high.  I am beyond ecstatic that I ditched the gym yesterday and got in my long run instead, because this morning?  Well, THIS is what I was greeted with when I drew back my bedroom curtains:

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The last time the age on my birthday card will start with a ‘2’

(unless I am very, very lucky and/or advances in medicine explode in the next decade or so)

Last week I turned 29, the same age my mother was when I shot out of her womb.  You have no idea how immature that makes me feel, because unlike my mother, I am not, at this grand age:

  • married
  • procreating
  • able to deal with a financial crisis without phoning my dad

I’ll spare you dialogue about my early mid-life crisis, and skip ahead to what I actually did for my birthday.  On the actual day, I had a really long and shitty in-service day at school.  It involved a lot of despair, and I didn’t bother reminding anyone that it was my birthday, instead wishing to slip out of the building as quickly as possible at the end of the day (success).  Upon returning home, I got changed and left for spin class, where I was shouted at and made to sweat obscene amounts.  Then I went home to shower and go to bed.  Rock and motherfuckin’ roll, am I right?

The one thing I left out of the ultra depressing paragraph above is the surprise birthday present from he who has hitherto been referred to as Ian, but is now to be known as ‘Ultimate Boyfriend’.  Awaiting my arrival home after school, THIS is what I was confronted with in my bedroom:

If I was sexually attracted to objects, I would have rubbed myself up against this bike.

If I was sexually attracted to objects, I would have rubbed myself up against this bike.

I was speechless.  Hands down, this is one of the best birthday (and Valentine’s, I am told) presents I have received.  Unfortunately, as I am training for a marathon that will be happening in less than two months, I don’t really have much time or energy for any kind of exercise on the weekend that doesn’t involve my long run, so I haven’t had the chance to test it out.  Also, the weather has been crap-tastic.  However, in a week’s time I only have a 10 mile race since it’s a drop down week, so I can totally try this sexy machine out on Saturday.  I.  Am.  Pumped.

As a side note, I uploaded this photo to Facebook with the caption:

I think I can safely say Ian is an amazing boyfriend, and he may have just secured a Valentine’s blowjob.  Happy Birthday to me!

Once he realized the photo was online, he showed his colleagues without realizing what I had written, only to be pulled aside by his boss to be told how inappropriate it was to buy gifts for sexual favours.  In jest.

Speaking of weekends, the weekend after my birthday was when I celebrated with friends.  We went to a local pottery painting cafe that usually caters to children’s parties, and painted portraits of each other onto plates.  We all picked a name out of a hat and had two hours to paint our victim onto a plate that they could take home and cherish forever.  Here we are, hard at work:

IMG_20130222_211204There were obvious differences in artistic ability, which led to some comedy moments.  Here are the finished plates with the people they are meant to portray:

Lisa (by Katherine)

Lisa (by Katherine)

Katherine (by Bruce)

Katherine (by Bruce)

Ian (by Dylan)

Ian (by Dylan)

Dylan (by Grant)

Dylan (by Grant)

Grant (by Ian)

Grant (by Ian)

Bruce (by me)

Bruce (by me)

Me (by Lisa)

Me (by Lisa)

I was able to pick up the finished plated on Tuesday, and they are much more vivid.  Good for colour, less good for humorously terrible artistic skills.  And yes, Dylan morphed in George Michael during the painting process so Grant added a gold hoop earring and ‘FAITH!!’:

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This weekend ‘Ultimate Boyfriend’ and I are heading to Edinburgh for his sister’s 40th, then I have a long run of (hopefully) 21 miles on Sunday with some friends.  For the first time this year I have actually managed some mid-week runs instead of just stuff at the gym, so I’m hopeful that my calf is slowly getting better, with management.  It also means I might feel less guilty if I don’t nail 21 miles…

A weekend of pain, and still no medals.

Thankfully I had today (Monday) off work, because the fact that I spent 90% of my time on the sofa or in bed told me that I needed a bit of rest.  Between work, the gym, and running, I don’t have an awful lot of spare time.  Typically, I leave my apartment before 8am and don’t get back until 8-9pm.  Then I eat, shower, and sleep.  It can get pretty gruelling, and having a day off every once in a while gives me a rare opportunity to be lazy – apart from, you know, the half hour on an elliptical machine, and one hour spin class I just got back from, and cleaning my apartment.

But last weekend was particularly draining.

Friday night I went out because a girl I know was having a launch for a book she has written.  It’s classified as ‘dark fantasy’ as well as ‘erotica’, and the launch was suitably geared towards the kind of person that would be interested in reading about magic/goth stuff/sex with knives.  I mean, there was a reading, a burlesque performance, and a magician, and a few people I knew were going, so I thought I’d use it as an excuse to dig into my teenage wardrobe and goth it up for the evening.  I should probably learn to exercise some self-restraint, because I may have been ‘slightly’ overdressed for the occasion.  Or, you know, under:

Significant cleavage

Significant cleavage

Anyway, despite planning to stay for an hour or two, I ended up there for longer, and got home with a white pudding supper in hand, because beer makes me crave hot food.  Unhealthy, but delicious.

Lightweight - already on the soda/orange juice combo.

Lightweight – already on the soda/orange juice combo.  Also, more near-obscene cleavage.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early to hit the gym for an hour of weights before being picked up by Danielle for a CrossFit taster session.  The sun was shining, the skies were blue, and I was almost reluctant to go indoors again.  Almost – it was freezing.

The taster session was similar to the one I did during Fitness Week at school, but we worked on perfecting technique for different moves (to be incorporated into the WOD).  On the menu?  Squats (ugh), and kettle bell thrusts.  Before I realized it, there were only 15 minutes left, and we were onto the workout.  We were told it would be a ‘partner’ workout, and we had to pair up with someone we’d never met.  I ended up with Olly, a guy in a triathlon shirt, and my initial plans to take it easy evaporated instantly when I heard the words: “For time”.  The WOD was:

  • 200m run
  • 80 squats
  • 80 KB thrusts
  • 200m run

Thankfully, the 80 squats/KB thrusts was the total number to completed as a team, so 40 each.  I was also pretty glad that it only had to be done once, and it looked a hell of a lot easier than my first CrossFit experience.  Spoiler: it was.

Olly and I managed to finish first, in 7:09, and I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up.  Excellent.

Danielle + me after our CrossFit experience.  (Photo: Danielle's)

Danielle + me after our CrossFit experience. (Photo: Danielle’s)

After CrossFit, we felt we had earned a delicious meal at Nando’s, over which we had some quality girl-chat time, before Danielle set off to catch the tail end of the rugby, and pack for her holiday!

By the time I got home, it was pretty late, and Ian and I just relaxed and watched some brainless TV (and I intermittently checked Sunday’s forecast with increasing horror)  before getting an early night.  I also foam rolled my calf, because even during a pitiful 200 meter jog, it was aching.

Torture.

Torture.

I woke up to the sound of the wind howling and hail hitting my window at about 6:30 on Sunday morning.  Gross.  Today I was scheduled to run 19 miles.  I was not enthusiastic about leaving my bed, but I had created a  Facebook event to dissuade me from backing out, and I knew there would be people waiting for me at 8am.  I re-checked the forecast (hoping that it would tell me summer would magically appear in an hour), and resigned myself to the fact that the weather was not going to make the morning pleasant, while I shoved tasteless porridge into my grimacing mouth.

Not inviting.

Not inviting.

I got to our meeting point with a minute to spare, and Ishbel poked her head around the corner and joined me.  Shortly afterwards, Claudia arrived, and after deciding everyone else had either bailed or was opting to join us for the tail end of the run, we set off.  Within a couple of minutes, we ran into Naomi, who wasn’t initially going to run with us, but had set off earlier and chanced running into us.  We did a 3.5 loop through hail, sleet, and biting wind, and decided we would avoid loops along the beach promenade (where we had arranged to meet any latecomers) for as long as possible as it is particularly exposed.  Instead, we headed onto the Deeside Railway line for ‘shelter’, and enjoyed more of the horrendous weather.  Naomi split at this point as she had unwisely had a spicy pizza the night before, and she was experiencing some discomfort.

We ran as far as we could before the ice on the path became treacherous, then turned back, bringing our total to 10 miles.  A few circular hill reps (not well-received) helped bump up the distance, and at 13 miles, Ishbel left us to continue without her:

Smiling because she is done.

Smiling because she is done.

Claudia and I are PUMPED to continue.

Claudia and I are PUMPED to continue.

The last 6 miles are a blur of awful weather conditions, running past Naomi, flying sand, dodging pedestrians, and wanting to be done.  We managed to time it so that we finished right in front of the coffee shop where planned to go for our now traditional post run hot chocolate, and where we eventually recovered feeling in our fingers:

Lobster red skin courtesy of Scottish weather.

Lobster red skin courtesy of Scottish weather.

Sitting in the coffee shop, looking outside at bundled people struggling against the snow and wind, we were not keen to walk home in just our running gear.  In fact, we were so desperate to be rescued that we managed to convince Ronnie to come and pick us up to take us home (he lives about 2 minutes away, so it wasn’t a ridiculously crazy diva demand).

Showered and defrosted, I slapped on some compression calf guards and thermal socks, and listened to the windows rattle in the wind and the hail pinging off the panes.  I wont lie, I felt pretty smug.  And sore.  Definitely sore.

Thankfully this week should be less crappy, as next Sunday is a 6 mile cross country race – and one which should yield the first medal of 2013!  Oh, and there is the small matter of my birthday (the most important annual holiday – naturally).

How I am made it my business to ensure tomorrow’s half marathon is going to be about as pleasant as having every hair plucked from my body individually. And then kicked in the face.

The PE staff at school claimed last week as ‘fitness week’.  They offered free fruit to staff at lunch and during morning break, and they also put on a variety of activities at lunch and after school for staff to participate in.  Whilst Monday and Tuesday were write offs (I had reports due in Wednesday morning, so all free time was spent getting stuff done), on Wednesday I threw myself into the activities.

At lunchtime there was a ‘step aerobics’ class.  Or so we were told.  The reality was the male PE teacher who had offered to run the class had no idea what he was doing, and made stuff up on the spot.  This led to a gym full of teachers trying to mirror someone who looked no less graceful than an epileptic fit in full swing.  Still, it got the blood pumping, as well as the laughter.

After school was the class I was most looking forward to trying: crossfit.  Having seen gazillions of people posting about crossfit on facebook and dailymile, I was keen to see if it really was as good a workout as people made out.  If tasting burning in your mouth after a ten minute workout means you’ve worked hard, then I guess my answer is ‘absolutely’.  I had varicose veins lasered under local anaesthetic about a two years ago, and the taste when the laser is literally incinerating your vein – burning flesh – is the taste I had in my mouth for a good five minutes after my very first WOD (which stands for ‘workout of the day’, but never stops sounding ridiculous).

The whole class lasted just over an hour, and included a good 10-15 minutes of Cameron, our instructor who came over from CrossFit Aberdeen, going over what crossfit is.  Then we had a warmup and went over some basic moves (squats, push press using just the bar, etc) to ensure none of us were retarded and would end up somehow fisting ourselves, or thrusting a bar up someone’s nostril.  We must have all demonstrated that we were capable to continue, because we went back to the whiteboard to hear what our WOD would be.  And it looked a little something like this:

3 rounds for time of:

  • 20 calories on the rowing machine
  • 15 over the bar burpees (having to lie on the ground with your arms up to prove you weren’t cheating, and bascially doing tuck jumps over a bar in between burpees)
  • 10 push presses (with 10kg on the bar)

It looked deceptively simple.  Looking around at the other staff, my enthusiasm dwindled.  I realized I was surrounded by two of the male PE teachers, a male physics teacher, and my boss, the head of English, who can kick my ass at running any day because she is ridiculously fast, and I hate that.  Well fuck.

We took our places on the rowing machine and Cameron hit ‘start’ on the timer.  I chugged at the rowing machine, rather affronted that I had chosen the malfunctioning one that was racking up calories at a snail’s pace, and eventually made it onto my first set of burpees.  My opinion on burpees – that they can go suck a dick – remained unchanged during my crossfit experience.  After 15, I got up (feeling a bit light-headed) and hauled the bar up for my 10 push presses, which miraculously felt easy (thank you Body Pump) in comparison.  Once the bar was on the floor, it was back to the rowing machine for round 2.  I looked at my heart rate at this point and it was over 190.  Holy shit.  I chose to not look at that again.  During the last push presses of the third (and final) round, I was panting harder than a coked up Charlie Sheen on speed ‘Go’, but I wasn’t last so I ignored the feeling that my arteries were going to disintegrate under the pressure of my blood pumping through them at 999,999,999,999,999 miles an hour and finished.

Overall, it took me 10:15 to complete all three rounds, and I managed the second best time there.  I mean, it took me at least 5 minutes before my breathing returned to normal, but I felt pretty smug.  Despite my body pleading for me do do something like this:

passout…I strutted out of the gym en route to spin class (dumb idea) like I had just spent an hour in a spa.

Spin was painful.

On Thursday, there was Body Pump after school.  Because one of the male teachers from crossfit was there, my rarely unearthed competitive side [insert maniacal laughter] reared it’s ugly head, and I obviously made sure I always had more weight on the bar that him.  Success (if success means nearly crippling myself).

219

Friday was 5-a-side football (or ‘soccer’ as I prefer to call it).  Thankfully I wasn’t the only female teacher taking part (there were two others), but I am incapable of dialling back my aggression in team sports, and was the only person to end up on the floor (bruised and bleeding) after a particularly aggressive attempt to steal the ball from a (much larger) male opponent.  I was a bit annoyed I never managed a goal, though I did hit the post 3 times, so it isn’t as though I sucked completely.

Today (Saturday), I went to pump at the gym and spent about half an hour on the elliptical machine, but I feel broken.  I have a feeling that the Forfar multi terrain half marathon tomorrow is going to hurt.  Quite a bit.

Clearly, I am a glutton for punishment, as I have managed to talk myself and Danielle into attending the free one hour taster session at Crossfit Aberdeen next Saturday.  The day before I am scheduled to run 19 miles for training.

Whatever I said earlier about not being dumb enough to somehow impregnate my nostril with a weight bar — yeah, disregard that.

If consistency is key, I suck.

Considering I have run a grand total of one excruciating, poorly executed, full marathon, I am hardly what anyone would consider to be an expert.  I am fine with that.  I have, however, done a lot of reading up on the best ways to train for a marathon, and the thing that seems to be common in all training programs, from ‘I just want to finish with my legs still attached’ to ‘5 minute miles?  No problem, sucker!’, is consistency.  Well, shit.

After Loch Ness, I had a few more races in 2012, but from about mid-November my weekly mileage dropped.  Significantly.  Part of this was down to the fact that I felt like I had earned a break, and part of it was down to my very, very, very painful calf/shin combo.  A pain that was bad enough that every time I even considered going for a run, my shins would speak up:

areyoukiddingme

This pain stayed with me through December, and while it is still lingering, the rest has made a big difference.  I’m no longer wincing every time my left foot makes contact with the ground, but it isn’t perfect – that’s why I’m getting regular sports massage where my leg is turned into mincemeat, and I cry, and I squirm, and I shout obscenities, for £38 an hour.  Bargain.

While the rest has obviously benefited me in the sense that I have less pain, I am acutely aware that I am running a little bit behind in my training, highlighted by the fact that the two lovely ladies I will be going to Paris with are currently doing some monster long runs.

Plagued with guilt, and ignoring all sensible advice, I have opted to ramp up my long runs, despite doing little more than zero miles throughout the week.  My last 3 long runs were 10.5, 15.35, and 17.5 miles.

IMG_20130127_115806

Now, before you throw a side eye in my direction, I’m not doing nothing throughout the week.  I do spin twice, weights 2-3 times, and plenty on the elliptical machine to keep fitness up.  However, it isn’t running, so I’m going to start sneaking a few extra runs in here and there to stop my training from looking like this:

Mon: gym stuff
Tues: gym stuff
Wed: gym stuff and half-assed 2 miles on a treadmill
Thurs: gym stuff
Fri: gym stuff
Sat: gym stuff
Sun: LONG ASS RUN

I mean, what I am doing just now has consistency, of sorts, but not the kind I want – running consistency.  Hopefully, as spring gets closer, I will be worried less about a spectacularly catastrophic, ass-over-head fall on the ice, and can enjoy being blinded by the early morning sun, risking a head on collision with a bus instead.

IMG_20130127_123725

This weekend will be the Forfar multi-terrain half marathon, and I’ll be running with a group of myself and three others at a relatively non-killer pace.  Our aim is to get some miles in and demolish the ‘gigantic feast’ that we are promised will be presented for hungry runners upon finishing.  A ‘drop-down’ week, if you will.

“Thank fuck.” – my legs.

I am a disgrace to my gender

Despite looking the picture of femininity in some of my earlier childhood photos, there were warning signs that, according to some standards, I was going to be a failure as a chick.  Here is a photo of me and my little brother at Christmas in Indonesia:

We got wooden owls.  My brother is demonstrating his 'owl' face.

We got wooden owls. My brother is demonstrating his ‘owl’ face.

This picture stands out to me because my mother had obviously just brushed my hair.  I distinctly remember having my hair brushed, on average, 3-4 times a year, usually under duress.  Hair brushing was a waste of time, and the bristles on brushes were really scratchy.  No thank you.  I am also fairly sure she would have tied that blue ribbon on my dress into a bow, but it became unravelled, possibly when I was doing whatever caused my bangs to look as though I’d just had my face licked by a dog. I now introduce exhibit B.  Still wearing a dress, my excitement at wearing said dress and being photographed wearing it are evident…

Say cheese!

Say cheese!

…ly non-existent.  At this point, tying my hair up is less hassle than trying to make me brush it.  The real solution, as my mother soon discovered, was just to get rid of the hair altogether:

Class photo! (In our PE kit, for some reason)

Class photo! (In our PE kit, for some reason)

I am the one to the right of my friend Jen, who had the most amazing ‘fro, I think we can all agree.  My bouffant bowl-cut is less amazing.  And, as an aside, the boy on the far left is fabulous.  With little hair to take care of, I continued my descent into failed womanhood, never learning the all-important skills of blow-drying, crimping, curling, using hair products appropriately, etc.  But these are definitely not my only feminine flaws.  I can list countless ways in which I feel sub-female, but instead I’ll list 5.

1. I cannot paint my fingernails.

Well, I can, but really badly.  Generally if you end up with the same amount of nail varnish on your skin as on your nails, you’ve gone wrong somewhere.  Now, if I ever find I really want to paint my nails for an occasion, I’ll do them about 3-4 days in advance, then do lots of dishes.  I find that the abrasive sponge scrubs the polish off my skin, but not my nails.  Then I just need a top coat, and it looks nearly good.  I would say that I am equally crap at applying eye-liner  but in truth it’s only when I’m doing one side, and that’s only because I’m blind in the other eye, so I’ll cut myself some slack there.

2. I do not wet myself over babies.

Because really, one person wetting themselves in a situation is quite enough, unless you’re into watersports, then I guess the more the merrier.  Generally, I find childbirth revolting.  Don’t get me wrong, I know I came from my mother’s vagina, and I am eternally grateful to my parents for choosing to procreate, but every time I learn something new about childbirth, it puts me off the idea of having my own even more.  I remember knowing that babies came from inside their mother’s bellies, but upon careful examination of my own stomach, could not work out where from, since I met significant resistance at the end of my belly button.  I asked my parents, and they fully explained.  Fully.  My dad even drew diagrams.  My parents told me that when I started a new school (I was about 5-6), the teacher asked us all to write a couple of sentences about where we were from. Apparently I wrote:

My name is Rachel.  My mommy met my daddy.  They did sex and I was born.  Then I came to [insert school name here].

So it wasn’t like I didn’t know the drill.  But then came sex-ed class.  And the video of a woman giving birth.  There was a lot of screaming, a lot of gross looking flaps of skin, a lot of blood, and one ugly, wrinkled, sticky baby to show for it.  I could feel my thighs pressing together, it was that traumatizing.  And then I found out more. Pregnant women can suffer from all sorts of nasty stuff.  Haemorrhoids.  Morning sickness.  Craving pineapple on pizza.  Complications.  And then there’s that whole thing about apparently crapping yourself during birth. Oh, and I never knew what the word ‘episiotomy‘ was until recently.  When I searched that on Google  I could almost swear my legs were crossed 83 times.  I have so much respect for mothers.  Because ouch.

Re-reading what 'epiostomy' means.

Re-reading what ‘episiotomy’ means.

There are certain situations in which babies are OK, however.  When they’re asleep, when they’re happy, when they’re clean, and when they’re not eating.  In fact, at a party last night I requested a shot of the baby (a couple of new parents dropped by for a couple of hours), and it was one of the cutest babies I’ve pretended to fly around a living room with machine gun wings, and then make dance to rock music.  Plus, when it touched my face, his tiny hands weren’t covered in baby food.  And after 5 minutes, and a faint whiff of fart, I could hand him back to his parents.  While I’m not denying that baby made me smile, I don’t want something that size exiting something that currently struggles to accommodate something the size of a cucumber.  I would like to stress I did not say ‘an actual cucumber’.

3. I do not want to have sex with that kid from Twilight/’World’s Most Desirable Men 2012′

For research purposes, I scanned through Glamour magazine’s Sexiest Men of 2012 and can only say that out of the ONE HUNDRED men they list (a bit overboard, really), I would count 4 as attractive. For the record: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo Dicaprio as a fatter, sleazier looking guy than he was during the Titanic era, RDJ, and James McAvoy, but all of these were chosen because they come across as really likeable people in interviews, or have played characters that I want to pretend the actors are like in real life.  So, basically not 100% to do with their looks.  And not 100% to do with reality.  You should probably not judge the other 96 guys too harshly, however, as I am a person who favours David Bowie in his mullet/glitter/eyeshadow/drugs phase and Steve Buscemi.  

4. I would fail a class in complimenting 

Generally, the people I hang out with most frequently have a penis.  This is partly because all of my girlfriends have moved away and are currently dotted around the USA while I freeze my ass off in Scotland, and partly because outside of school, it’s kind of harder to make friends because you aren’t forced to see people every day, so keeping in touch can kind of fall behind.  But when I am in the company of females, I am blown away by how nice they are to each other.  They say things like ‘I love your hair’ and ‘that dress is beautiful’.  They notice that you have (badly) painted your nails.  They do things that boys do not do, and that make me feel a tiny bit awkward sometimes.  If I receive a compliment I usually go a bit red and mumble a thank you, because I don’t know what to do with it.  If I try to give a compliment, I come across sounding like a creep.  Because who wouldn’t sound weird saying: “I like your tights.  The darker colour really emphasizes your calf muscle.  It would make a nice steak if we were all stranded on a mountain and had to start eating each other.”?  Nobody, that’s who.

5. I’m atrocious at flirting

Not that flirting is a skill that I require, what with being in a long term relationship and having the moral backbone to not sleep around, but when I have found myself single, I am retarded at picking up on signals.  I mean, my friend Grant frequently accompanied me as my wingman, and had to tell me when I was being hit on.  My finesse in matters of courting pretty much extends to approaching a male I am interested, saying, “I am Rachel, if your personality doesn’t suck we could be licking each other’s teeth later, please indicate your level of interest.”  Not particularly suave, but then I usually get distracted by a song that I just HAVE to dance to, or end up challenging people to drunk push-up competitions.

These days, Ian often makes comments about men I end up speaking to in bars about various things.  Usually, I have become embroiled in an argument and am enthusiastically fighting my side, and I would say I win 90% of the time (sometimes because the other party is too drunk to keep arguing, sometimes because they eventually come around to my way of thinking).  Ian, however, tells me that they only submit because they think I might sleep with them.  I’d rather keep on believing that my debating skills kick ass, and that Ian can become irrationally jealous of hairy men in bars.

Although I think it’s tacky, I am kind of in awe of chicks who can flirt their way to a free drink without making the man feel like he is being used.  I tried that once.  It went a bit like this:

Me: Hey.
Guy: Hey.
Me: Are you buying a drink?
Guy, holding wallet, at a bar: Uh, yes.  Yes I am.
Me: Cool.
Guy (raising eyebrow): Are you trying to scam a free drink?
Me: Yeah.  I’m not doing very well, am I?
Guy: Definitely not.
Me: Cool.  I appreciate the feedback.

Despite all of my shortcomings, I do have boobs, and according to Ian I display fairly stereotypical symptoms of PMS, so I guess I’m not a complete failure.  I find that running has helped to introduce me to a bunch of other wonderful, flawed women.  Ones that would rather hurl themselves into muddy bogs than get manicures at the weekend.  Ones that are not self-conscious about grunting and sweating in public.  Ones that are glad that they look like crap after a workout, because it meant they put in the effort.  And ones that come on 15 mile runs with me when the weather is like this:

Deeside railway line (January 20th, 2013)

Deeside railway line (January 20th, 2013)

And with that, my second long run of over 15 miles is done in preparation for the Paris marathon.  Thank you, ‘ladies’*, for the company!

At the halfway point today.

At the halfway point today.

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Me and Ronnie, trying not to slip on the ice.

Here’s to being a failure!**

*And gentlemen.
**And yes, I know that you do not need to be good at all of these things to be considered a woman.  I am also aware that the implication that being a woman consists of such trivial things could be considered offensive to women in general, but whatever, have a hissy fit.

Ways to annoy me: #1

1. Bring your gross disease anywhere near me.

People generally go to gyms to become more healthy.  Just in case that isn’t clear enough, allow me to demonstrate what I mean in a more visual way:

PEOPLE + GOING TO THE GYM = HEALTHY

Obviously this will not be the case if you go to the gym and walk on a treadmill for ten minutes before treating yourself to a muffin for your hard word, but I’m willing to give most gym-goers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to effort versus laziness.
If you get into the habit of going to the gym regularly, it’s safe to assume that you will notice other regulars.  At my gym, there are several: some who use the gym, some who attend the classes, and some who happen to work there.

There’s this one chick who spends more time in the changing room applying make-up and checking that her ass looks good (it does, annoyingly) from literally every angle than in the actual gym working out.  She does not sweat.  Ever.  And she can regularly be found doing bicep curls with 1kg weights near a mirror whilst making pouty faces at herself.  It’s hilarious.

There are also several men who hang out in ‘Testosterone Corner’, lifting, squatting, and grunting at various stages throughout their visit.  They’re the type whose arms, when fully relaxed, do not hang by their sides.  They also have necks as thick as tree trunks.  Or my thighs, if you needed another size comparison.

These kinds of people I observe, but tend to avoid starting a conversation with.  We clearly do not have the same end goals as each other.  Others, like those who are usually at the classes I attend, I do interact with.  Some of these people have already featured in this blog (Teri, Ronnie, Ishbel – to name a few), but others have not – mainly because they don’t run.  While this doesn’t make me think any less of them, other things do.

Like when they turn up at the gym with the intention of taking part in a group exercise class (think enclosed, sweaty, humid environment) and they are clearly suffering from some form of the plague.  I’m not talking about a couple of sniffles and a runny nose here, I’m talking full-on coughing fits, teary eyes, a deathly complexion, and with a body composition of roughly 3% human, 14% snot, and 83% contagious germs.  This kind of sickness is so bad people visibly recoil in horror when an afflicted person enters the vicinity.

For the past few days, ONE OF THESE PEOPLE has been coming to the gym.  Despite friends telling her where she should go (home, to bed, immediately), she laughed off the very suggestion that she should miss an exercise class, and coughed/spluttered/wheezed her way through the hour.  Everyone else edged towards the walls in an attempt to steer clear of the infection zone.

She has continued her reign of terror, threatening widespread disease and suffering mere days before New Year’s Eve – a time when people typically like to enjoy celebrating with friends and you know, not being stuck in bed and feeling like shit.  I’m not even one of those people (I’ll probably just stay in – forget overpaying for warm beer in plastic cups that I had to wait 30 minutes to be served), but I would still appreciate spending my last week of holiday sans infection, thank you very much.

Thankfully, most of the classes I go to are off for the ‘festive timetable’, and by the time they start back Mistress Mucus should have recovered, but it doesn’t make me any less annoyed that people rock up to the gym without considering other people.  In fact, it usually has the effect of making me forget any positive qualities you might possess  and rate you right around the level of Ian Brady or, say, Gary Glitter.  And you don’t want to be in his gang.