I’m not perfect – thanks for the reminder

I’m not perfect – thanks for the reminder

WHETHER I am running or studying or writing, I always try to give my best. I work as hard as I possibly can so that I can hopefully achieve my goals, or if I don’t achieve them I can at least say I’ve tried my best.

I am definitely a Trier.

I am trying to get back into shape after a few months off. I am trying to break the 40-minute 10k barrier. I am trying to finish writing my running book. I am trying to break the 90-minute half marathon barrier. I am trying to finish my MA in writing. I am trying my best at everything I do. At work, my colleagues laugh at me because whenever I’m working on a project, I always say, ‘It’s got to be right’. And it has. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.

But sometimes, striving for perfection and trying to be the best you can be is hard work. There are always Continue reading

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The winner of the Boston Marathon UK

The winner of the Boston Marathon UK

THERE is one runner who never fails to inspire and amaze me, and that’s my friend, Fiona.

Fiona

On Sunday, Fiona took on the challenge of running her first marathon in ten years. It was all the more challenging because Continue reading

One of my favourite runs

craster

nationaltrust.org.uk

We’ve just returned from a holiday in Northumberland. We stay in the village of Craster, which overlooks Dunstanburgh castle. The scenery is spectacular. It really is a fantastic place to unwind.

IMG_2168One of the best things about the holiday is running along the coastal path to the castle. We go early. I always enjoy the peace that running in the morning brings. There’s always a calmness to the world. In Craster, running in the morning is even better. With the castle in the distance, the sea to the right, and countryside to the left, it really is the most beautiful place.

I love listening to the waves crashing onto the shore. I love the refreshing breeze. It’s one of my favourite places to run.  And after a holiday in Craster I always feel energised. IMG_2123

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Top ten post-race chocolate treats

silkstone shuffle with choc orange

With my teammates celebrating my win of three Chocolate Oranges and a box of biscuits

After taking part in a race I always allow myself a chocolate treat. It’s something I really look forward to, so much so, that I thought I would put together a list of my top ten post-race chocolate bars. The list is not based on any scientific evidence or analysis of the nutritional content. It is, however, based on my experience of what tastes the best when you’ve just pushed your body to the limit.

I also think that chocolate helps with recovery.

‘Chocolate can help with recovery?’ I hear you cry.

People may disagree. There’s a lot of advice about the types of foods you should eat to help the recovery process. Chocolate isn’t usually on the list, but for me it does help. If I have a chocolate bar soon after running, the next time I run it is easier.

Never underestimate the power of chocolate.

broomhead

Miniature Heroes at the Broomhead Chase

There are times in a race when the thought of a chocolate reward keeps me going. When I’m gasping for breath and my legs are wobbling, I think of the Mars Bar or the Snickers waiting for me at the end and I push on.

When I’m battling against someone and I’m tired and it’s hard work, I always gain strength knowing that if I work hard I might win a prize and prizes usually mean chocolate. I know that if it comes down to a sprint finish against another lady, I will give it everything because no-one wants to win a box of Miniature Heroes more than I do. No-one possibly could.

new york canal race

Miniature Heroes at the New York Canal Race, Rotherham

‘It’d be easier to buy a box of chocolates,’ my dad always says.

It probably would. But I wouldn’t have that feeling of satisfaction you get after a run, knowing that you can treat yourself because you’ve already burned the calories. It’s a reward for a job well done.

silkstone choco prizes

I did share them 🙂

 

So without further rambling here are my top ten post-race chocolate bars.

10. Crunchie – always better on a Friday

crunchie

9. Finger of Fudge – light and chocolaty

cadbury fudge

Cadbury.co.uk

8. Lion Bar – wafer, caramel, peanut butter and chocolate

Lion bar

7. Twirl – two twirly milk chocolate fingers covered in smooth Cadbury milk chocolate

cadbury twirl

Cadbury.co.uk

6. Twix – this bar was a favourite during my teenage years

twix

twix.com

5. Drifter – this was always a favourite of mine at school.

drifter

4. Bounty – coconut and chocolate

bounty

3. Dairy Milk – I love Dairy Milk. This wins for my favourite bar of chocolate whether I’ve run or not.

dairy milk

2. Mars Bar – a Mars a day helps you work, rest and play. I wouldn’t eat one every day, just on the odd occasion after a half marathon. It’s a long distance bar. I’d never have it after a 5k.

mars

thegrocer.co.uk

1. My number one chocolate bar is Snickers. Nougat topped with caramel and peanuts, and it’s kind of running related because it used to be called Marathon.

snickers

snickers.com

There you are. My top ten chocolate bars. Please note that I also like Ripple, Wispa, Flake ( too flakey for after a race), and Maltesers. I also enjoy Thorntons Continentals and Green & Blacks dark chocolate.

Please never give me a Wagon Wheel or Turkish Delight. I once took part in a half marathon and was handed a goody bag with nothing in it except a melted Wagon Wheel and a flyer. I was not happy! I made the decision never to do that particular race again. I have also been in a half marathon where the Mars Bar had melted by the time I’d crossed the line. I would say to race organisers across the country, ‘A melted Mars Bar is better than no Mars Bar at all!’

After all this talk of chocolate I’m starting to feel a little hungry, but before I go a word of warning – everything in moderation. Only one bar at a time!

Hope you all had a good Easter x

Coaching in running fitness

On Saturday I started my training to become a coach in running fitness. I headed to Hillsborough College in Sheffield for two-days of running related activities. CiRF_Logo

It was a fantastic weekend – very intense but fun. It’s given me a lot to think about both for my own training and, ultimately, for coaching others. As well as looking at the physical side of running we looked at the science behind the sport. This absolutely fascinates me. In two days we covered a lot, but it’s just the start. There is still so much to learn.

I have six weeks of independent work before the next training day. This is followed by a few more months of study before taking the exam in October. The course, which is organised by England Athletics, involves a practical and theory exam. I’m really looking forward to the course, but also a little daunted by the idea of the exams. Everyone on the course felt the same and the team from England Athletics was very supportive.

jayne and bibi

Jayne Rodgers (right) with her daughter Bibi http://www.veggierunners.com

As well as starting my coach training, which I’ve wanted to do for a while, it was nice to meet people who are so passionate about running. One of the ladies, Jayne, is also a running blogger. Her blog www.veggierunners.com has just been shortlisted for best blog in the Running Awards. You can vote for it here.

For a while I’ve been struggling with iron deficiency and have been looking at ways to include iron in my diet without eating meat. Veggie Runners provides recipes for runners whatever distance they are training for. It was lovely to meet Jayne and great to find a blog that will help improve my nutrition. I will definitely be voting for it.

Parkrun fun at Nostell Priory

When my friend texted me on Friday morning to see if I wanted to join him for a Saturday park run I didn’t think I’d have the energy to take part.

‘Not sure,’ I replied. ‘Will let you know.’

nostell valentine's day

At the Nostell Priory Parkrun on Valentine’s Day. Guess which runner couldn’t find her red running vest the morning of the race?

After a busy week at work (not that I’m complaining), 5am starts for the horses and lots of speed and hill training, it’s fair to say I was feeling a little tired. Actually exhausted might be a better word.

I thought Friday night’s training session of three 1.5 mile reps might finish me off. But rather than tire me out completely, my run seemed to give me a boost. On the first rep I smashed my personal best by 20 seconds. The second and third reps were also good – all well below seven minute mile pace. I couldn’t believe it.

I texted my friend: ‘See you in the morning!’

My plan was to blast round as quickly as I could in preparation for my main race next weekend. I thought I might feel heavy-legged and tired. I didn’t. In fact I felt strong, the strongest I’ve felt all year. I managed a personal best by two seconds finishing the tough course in 21.12.

It’s always good to get a PB.

After the death of my grandad in December and the injury to my intercostal muscles also in December, I’ve been struggling for fitness. I’ve got back into regular training but I was beginning to think that my fitness would never return. Getting that two second PB made my day. It was a turning point. It has given me hope that maybe 2015 can be just as good running-wise as it was in 2014, where I seemed to get PB after PB.

I was pleased I’d taken part in the run. There’s always a great sense of achievement after a race. The endorphins are flowing, and no matter how tough the race, I always feel fantastic. At Nostell Priory Parkrun there’s a lovely café so we always have a tea or hot chocolate afterwards. In terms of atmosphere it’s difficult to find anywhere better than Nostell. After the race on Saturday the organisers handed out doughnuts as a little treat for Mother’s Day. They were delicious – a perfect way to celebrate a good run and get my energy back for the next race.

Learning to love the long-distance run

Out of all the runs I do every week it’s the long run that I struggle with the most. In fact, there are times when I dread it for days.

Even though my long run is at a much slower pace than most of my other runs, I find it incredibly tiring. To keep going mile after mile at a consistent pace and to fight the urge to stop when your body is hurting requires both physical and mental strength. I like the challenge, but the feeling of exhaustion can be overwhelming, so overwhelming that it often wipes me out for the rest of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the feeling of accomplishment you always get when you’ve finished a long run. And if I didn’t have a million and one energy-zapping things to do after the run, like mucking-out the horses or walking the dogs, I’m sure I would enjoy them a lot more.

Chris Dam flask 2014

Chris at the 2014 Dam Flask relay

Chris is well aware of how much I dread my long run. I’ve told him often enough. Unlike me, Chris loves to get out for his long run and is quite happy to run for mile after mile on his own in all weathers. That’s why he’s tackled the marathon distance and why he’s taking on his first ultra this year. 

‘It’s about the challenge,’ he says. ‘Pushing yourself to run for longer distances. It’s the one thing where you can really test your strength and speed. It’s the run where all your other training comes into play, and you can see improvement. And because we race long distances they’re really important.’

He’s right. Most of our races for the next few months are ten miles and half marathon distance. I have to do a long run. I won’t miss one, but I will complain about it. My complaining over the past few weeks has been getting out of hand. I’ve complained to Chris. I’ve complained to my friends in my training group. I’ve complained to my non-running family who say – shock horror – ‘well don’t do it then.’

Liz North Lincs

Running on my own at last year’s North Lincolnshire Half Marathon

Not doing a weekly long run is not an option, so I decided that instead of channelling all my energy into hating and complaining and grumbling about my run, I would learn to love it.

I’ve been introducing ways to make it more fun. I’ve included tempo miles, fartlek, off-road runs, and hills in my long run. The good thing is that my strategies are starting to work. My mind-set, albeit slowly, is beginning to change. I decided that it’s all about being positive, setting challenges and rewarding yourself.

Last weekend I set the challenge of running a half marathon in training. It wasn’t an unrealistic challenge as I’ve slowly been increasing the length of my runs. Sunday is usually the day for my long run, but I knew I’d spend all weekend thinking about it. Instead I ran first thing Saturday morning.

The sun was shining. Chris was running with me. We’d planned the route. We’d got gels and water. We were ready.

I was determined to enjoy it.

‘I’m definitely going to enjoy this,’ I told Chris. ‘I’m learning to love my long run.’

Norton 9 2015

With Chris at the Norton 9 2015

The route was a combination of road, trail and woodland in some lovely Yorkshire countryside. It was a fairly flat route which started along the canal taking us from Old Royston to the West Yorkshire village of Walton. We then headed into Sandal and Newmillerdam Country Park where we did a lap of the dam. A steep climb followed until we reached the Trans Pennine Trail for the last three miles.

We ran 13.5 miles going through a half marathon in 1 hour 54. Although the pace was steady, it was consistent and I felt strong. It was only in the last mile that I felt tired and started to complain.

‘I’m tired,’ I said to Chris ‘I’m struggling.’

‘Nearly there,’ he said and he seemed to speed up as though he wanted the run and the complaining to end.

‘Will you slow down?’ I said.

It’s rare I do my long run with Chris. It’s not because I hate spending time with him or anything like that. It’s because if I’m with Chris I’m more likely to complain. I’m more likely to stop.

If I’m on my own or with friends I never complain. Instead I dig in and push myself, often encouraging others. But with Chris it’s different. I think it’s because he’s a faster runner than me, so my eyeballs-out pace is Chris’ jog. And he’ll usually say something annoying like, ‘Push on,’ when in actual fact I am PUSHING all I can and couldn’t possibly PUSH any more. But I do enjoy running and spending time with Chris, which is why I asked him if he’d come with me on my Saturday half-marathon challenge.

It was actually a lovely run and my complaining was limited to the last mile. I was pleased we did it. Afterwards we had a relaxing afternoon watching the tennis and eating chocolate, probably a bit too much chocolate (minstrels and maltesers). But it’s all about rewarding yourself for achieving something. Having run 13.5 miles I decided I had a lot to feel pleased about.