Archive for September 2012

The meat in a speed sandwich   Leave a comment

Ahoy there blog readers! So it is Sunday once again and time for an update. After the world’s hardest spin class on Wednesday I was pleased that the Arena ladies were going out for tapas in the evening thus meaning I couldn’t partake in the first seafront 6 miler of the winter season.

The Arena ladies tuck in to some well earned tapas

On Thursday it was back to normal so off I went to Hove Park. After a slow and achy start I remembered the mammoth spin session of Wednesday morning and once again decided to use this session mainly as a recovery run in preparation for Goodwood XC Relay on Saturday. I duly completed the session at a medium intensity reminding myself not to be annoyed at my slowness as it was a step on the ladder towards running well at Goodwood.

Saturday rolled around and off we sped to Goodwood to take part in the first cross country (xc) race of the winter season. This is sometimes an odd experience when the weather is bright and sunny and hot as it was yesterday. XC should be in the cold, wet and horridness. Not that I am complaining as I donned my xc spikes anyway even though it was quite dry underfoot. The spikes must be worn otherwise it wouldn’t be right! The teams had not been decided in advance due to the difficulty of pinning down who would actually turn up on the day. There had been rumours that I may be put in with two of the fastest runners (teams of three) to create a senior team as I am one of only a handful of people who fall in the senior category (up to 35 years old). This would be fine but for the fact the other senior there was Fiona Clark who is an extremely good runner! After much debate and reorganising of teams it was decided. I would run leg two in a team led out by Fiona Clark and brought home by Julie Briggs, a superb vet runner. Aaaarrrggghhhh!!!! This was by far the scariest prospect I had been faced with race-wise ever but I felt it would be good for me to be forced to put everything in through fear of losing the massive lead I would no doubt be handed by Fiona. Standing in  the handover box waiting for her to storm in was utterly terrifying, especially as I could see the massive lead she had as she emerged from the forest into the last kilometre or so (4k legs). The few minutes it took her to get to me seemed to take forever as I panicked about my ability to keep this mega lead and the stress of being so far out in front, alone in a race. I reminded myself I MUST go out slowly so as not to conk out later.

As you can see this did NOT work! This photo perfectly encapsulates the fear as I shot out of the box and began running as though in fear of my life, which was in fact exactly how I felt knowing I was being pursued. However this massive terror certainly worked as I ran like I have never run before and came home still in first place by quite a distance (though certainly not as much as the minute head start I began with). As I slumped to the ground in relief and knackeredness and Julie sped off into the distance I was so pleased that I hadn’t lost the lead and felt that my time for the course was probably about a minute faster than I’ve ever run there before. When Julie romped home to a massive victory it sunk in that I had actually won a gold medal! Of course I knew it was only because I was sandwiched between the two fastest ladies we have but still the fact I ran better than ever before and managed not to let anyone pass me and wasn’t so slow as to lose everything they gave me I was quite pleased.

Julie Briggs, Fiona Clark and I. My first (and possibly only) gold medal!

I was unsurprised to find that Fiona ran the fastest lap of the day (13.58) and Julie the second (and the fastest vet leg – 14.12) but was pleased to discover that I had knocked almost a minute off my previous joint best of 17.23 from 2009 and 2010 (2011 ruined by unknown anaemia) with 16.31. Our team was almost two minutes ahead of the second team, which was actually Arena’s second superfast team with an equally fearful Sharon the slow meat in the speed sandwich. From this experience I must make sure I run like this even when not way out in the lead and afeared for my life. Will be harder in a mass start but I need to believe I can beat the people I usually come in behind and get going!

Posted 30/09/2012 by Isobel Muir in Blog, Brighton & Hove, Racing, Running, Spin

“Best swing in the class”   Leave a comment

Phew, back to Wednesday already! So much to tell you about. So, as is customary I shall begin with Monday. The day was filthy in the way of weather and I’d been soaked whilst at the cats resulting in having to borrow someone’s clothes (not the ones they were wearing – that would just shift the problem) whilst mine “do not tumble dry” were in the tumble drier. However by some freak of nature it wasn’t raining when we got to track though it was infernally windy. We started off with 3 x 800m @ 3.15 pace. The first in lane one, the second in lane 3 and the third starting 20 metres back from the finish line but still in lane 1. We then did 2 x 400m, in lane one then lane 3 @ 1.28 and 1.26. Following this a flat out 400 which I failed to do in any way flat out @ 1.21. To finish we split into pairs for 5 x 400m paarlauf. I joined two other girls (who were a group above me in the earlier part of the session) to make a 3 as on the short stuff I felt I could stick with them pace wise. Also a standstill recovery works for me. The 400s were run in around 1.22 (except for the last one where I totally died) so I was pleased as this is only 2 seconds slower than my supposed 400m pace for the first lap of an 800m and I don’t usually precede an 800m race with many 800s and 400s! Over all I felt I had run acceptably especially in the cold and windy conditions. I must try and remember that I would never before have thought I would join the speedy girls for any part of the session so I should take confidence from this. I am also trying to remember that I got a good result in my V02/oxygen efficiency test and am often told I have a good running style thus I must be more positive that I will one day reach what I feel is the correct level of ability. At the moment I am still very much hampered by my lack of belief in myself. This WILL change (rrraaahhhh… positivity)!

On Tuesday I went to Core & Stretch in the morning and then had acupuncture in the afternoon to attempt to loosen off some of my stiff parts (ie everything). The man told me I must must must stretch but of course I never will. Tsk. Why can’t I do something I know will help me? Anyway the acupuncture was splendid on my shoulders and neck and I am now able to turn my head fully in both directions (not like an owl) and can put my chin on my chest all of which I haven’t been able to do for many months. I then took my newly unstiff self to kettlebells where I found myself going for the 20kg on the double arm swing. It was quite tricky to get it started but once it was swinging it was OK, though stopping was a bit dicey! This meant I then had to use the 16kg for the single arm swing. Crikey it’s quite heavy. Any swing-based things I am OK at but I still find it hard with the overhead press single arm things as my inflexible-yet-too-flexible shoulders make me feel very unstable physically (not mentally for once) so stuck with the 9kg on these. Managed to squat with 18kg too which is fine as my legs are quite strong though usually pretty knackered from all the running without inflicting this on the poor things too! Matt told me I had the best swing in the class which was nice but naturally my swing became worse when he said that due to my not-very-good-at-taking-complimentsness (another thing to work on). All in all this was one of my more successful classes though I did still conk out a little towards the end. Inevitable I feel after Monday sessions.

Sorry, I told you this was going to be a long one! Today I went to spin and it was being covered by a different man and was a completely different style to the usual. I must say I prefered this class even though it involved a 22 minute and 6 second “climb” section that nearly killed us all. Thankfully I noted that the others were as red-faced and dripping as I. It was hardcore! This mammoth climb was only a relatively small piece of the class as a whole, though the emphasis was on climbs and climb sprints the whole was through. The session was a solid 50 minutes and by the end I was unsure if my legs would ever work again let along propel me home into the massive headwind. The discovery of this class has left me in a quandary. His normal slot is a Friday at 10am which means if I do his class I will noy have a full day off during the week which I’m not sure is a good idea. Of course it would give me Wednesday mornings off but perhaps I should be having a full day of nothing? I think I will do Wednesday’s class when I have a weekend race (like this week) but do the Friday one otherwise. A good compromise perhaps? Suppose the only way to find out is to try it. I do feel that my recent focus on things other than running is going well though. If I can pull my good running out of the bag on race day then it shall be a roaring success! Roll on Saturday to test this.

Here is me doing a lunge! OK, this is just a silly picture my friend made for me but after the success of the random kitten photo in my last post I thought I’d sling it in!

The FIRE in a feeble sandwich   Leave a comment

After my terribly feeble attempt at spin on Wednesday morning I wasn’t feeling confident of a good run in the evening. The prospect of 7 miles, most of it in darkness was in no way appealing but I dragged myself out regardless and man am I glad I did. I was on FIRE! I think this was a culmination of a few factors. One – I had been pretty cack at both my Tuesday gym glasses and the morning’s spin so was not too knackered. Two – I was expecting to be crap so had placed no pressure on myself. Three – I decided that I would make the run an interval session Steve style. In other words I would run fast for shortish stretches then wait for the rest of the group to catch up so I could give them directions and send them on without them stopping. I know I am much better at shorter bursts with stand-still recovery inbetween but usually choose to try and run at a consistent speed with no rest and thus get annoyed with myself when I am inevitably not very good at it! I positively sped up the Cabbage Patch (a long off-road drag up you guessed it…) waited at the top, send the rest of the group off then hurtled past them to the next place I had told them I would be to send them onwards again. I don’t know what was going on but I felt so fast and easy and full of running. Even when a husky stuck its head in my crotch I was undetered (when I usually have a great dog fear), even when its chavtastic smoking owners appeared out of the dark and failed to call it off. This amazingly good running streak continued for the whole 6 mile duration of the run. The others in my group asked me what drugs I was on or if I was an impostor. I can’t explain what happened but it was brilliant! The next thing is for this to happen during a race when it would actually be useful. I must remember not to work too hard in training next Thursday as my next race is Goodwood xc relays on Saturday so I must try and replicate as far as possible the Wednesday mindset and cane the race. I was not surprised to find on Thursday evening that I had absolutely nothing to give at Hove Park intervals so I just trotted round treating it as a recovery run. Naturally I did get angry with myself for being so utterly useless but only to a minimal extent.

All in all a good few days in body and mind. I must remain convinced that coming off antidepressants is the right thing to do. There have been some bad times but I must remember that this is a symptom of withdrawal and not the depression returning. The main thing I have noticed is that I can’t sleep well without the tablets but hopefully this will also settle down once I’ve been clean for a while.

I did no exercise on Friday, Saturday or Sunday so hopefully my body will thank me and we can have an excellent track session tomorrow (if the forecast gale has moved on).

Gratuitous (and irrelevant) kitten photo

Cold, cold but sunny   2 comments

Brrrr!! It’s a bit chilly out. The weather is distinctly autumnal. Sunny though so it’s not too bad. I seem to have a slight cold which is making me feel the cold more I think. The cold is a combination of various factors; post 10k relief, running a few hard races in the heat recently (draining) and weaning off antidepressants. This last factor is a slight worry. I want to come off as antidepressants by their very nature are tranquilising so I feel I want to be clean to be able to run better but having cut down to almost nothing over the past few weeks I feel distinctly down and feel all the old rubbishness coming back. Not sure if I should persevere and hopefully these feelings are just withdrawal symptoms and will settle once I’m clean. I don’t want to do my usual of coming off them because I said (to myself) I would if it will make me worse but seem already to be self-defeating by deciding I “should” come off them even though I am currently feeling worse than I have for a long time. Hmmmm….. Sorry for that not very upbeat start to my post but this is supposed to be an honest look at my life so I needed to put it out there.

On to the exercise. On Monday it was off to track where the members of my usual group had returned. We started off with 3 x 500m which Bob first of all said we should be completing in 1.52, he quickly revised this to 1.42 but we discovered we had done our first one in 1.51 so the 1.42 seemed a little optimistic. The next two were run in 1.48 and 1.49 so we can say we were successful if aiming for Bob’s first target! He then set us off for a 1k at 3.45 – 3.555 pace which we did in 3.51 so still acceptable. We then split into two groups for a 6 x 300m parlauf. This is much more my scene though Dave in the other group was speeding in his 300s so we found ourselves struggling to get back to the 300 mark to take over for our legs. I ran the 300s in 58s (a couple were a little slower when I stuck behind my team mates), not particularly speedy but OK for 6 without much recovery. This was all for the session. I didn’t find the session too bad which is pleasing as I was a bit coldy and quite tired from a hot race on Saturday plus having used up all my adrenaline on Sunday panicking at the Arena 10k.

On Tuesday I felt quite tired and out of sorts but went through the motions at Core & Stretch and kettlebells though I did redeem myself slightly by single arm swinging the 16kg. this means I can do the 20kg for the double but someone else was using it so I stuck with the 16. My shoulders were dead by the end and my legs then joined in so I was pretty pathetic by the end of the class. I must remember that I can’t be feeling fit and strong all the time at every session and need to give myself a break when there is a reason I’m not performing to my best, but when have I ever NOT given myself a hard time? Must continue to work on this! Overall though I didn’t berate myself too much for too long so perhaps I am learning after all.

This morning I went to spin but again found myself feeling below par so took it quite easy although I did seem to be the only one who could no longer pedal by the end which either means I am feeble or was following instructions to put the resistance up so high that by the end you can hardly turn the wheel. Let’s say I was doing it properly and everyone else was cheating! Cycled home very slowly into the annoyingly inevitable headwind and am now trying to gather myself for 7 (dark) miles on the downs and road later. I was going to make a smoothie using the Red Bull I got given on Sunday but decided it was probably too gross even for the woman who once made a smoothie with out of date jelly cubes!

Some of the many Red Bulls gathered at the Hove Prom 10k

Spin hangover and chav impressing   1 comment

On Wednesday evening it was off up to Foredown Tower again for the obligatory downs run. As it is now dark quite early the route was first half off second half on road. I had a feeling I might be a bit broken after spin but I don’t think enough time had elapsed since the morning for brokenness to have set in so I set off at my usual pace. Steve and I took it upon ourselves to make sure the groups went the right way and no-one was left behind. This system worked well, especially when I ran the  last 3 or so miles at a sensible pace with Pete at the back. Wednesday runs for me are more about time on feet, hills and lung practice so I am happy to go at a steady pace. As we were making our way along the road towards the killer hill at the end some youths on bikes sped past shouting “keep up”. We ignored them and carried on but then discovered they were pushing their bikes up the evil hill and when we passed one of the boys said “oh crap they’ve caught up” so I couldn’t help but say “keep up” as I passed. They then jumped on their bikes and cycled furiously up the hill but after about 50 metres they got off again to push and we once again passed them so I said “keep up” again. They then smiled sheepishly and said they’d given up. Ha! Youths; no stamina. We were running and are old enough to be their parents and they had bikes.  I did realise later that the reason I didn’t get a mouthful of abuse was because I was with a large man! Although possibly also because we had tired them out. The whole episode kept me amused all evening.

On Thursday morning I was still amused. Less so when I arrived at Hove Park in the evening for intervals. Spin legs had definitely caught up with me and I wasn’t able to move at any great or indeed not so great speed. I decided that the session was more of a recovery run in preparation for the 4 mile Seven Stiles race I was doing on Saturday afternoon.

When Saturday afternoon arrived (after helping at parkrun in the morning) I wasn’t at all confident that my legs had recovered but as I was only doing the run in a vain (and probably unsuccessful) stab at getting third place in the Arena Superseries I wasn’t too worried. As the course covered some of the same ground as the Henfield half marathon and it was really hot (as at  Henfield) I lost the will to live as I traversed it again. Even the promise of it only being 4 miles didn’t help much but I ploughed on regardless. I made it to the end but have no idea of time or position as I ran watchless (as part of my drive to remain calm and relaxed) and the results are yet to be posted. Couldn’t care less though which in itself is massive progress.

Update: Result as follows: Time 29.59 (sub 30!). 5/105 women = top 5%. 55/258 = top 21% over all.

Today was the Arena 10k, an annual event I have been organising for the past 3 years (but the race has been going for many many years). Stressful! It seemed to ge well though and I am yet to receive any complaints but I am so glad it’s over for another year. Each year I try and retire from its organisation but am yet to be successful! Anyway it’s done now so I can relax (as much as I ever can – ie not much).

Not looking (outwardly) too stressed at the start of the Arena 10k

Posted 16/09/2012 by Isobel Muir in Blog, parkrun, Running, Spin

Who remembers Spinderella?   Leave a comment

I wasn’t. Ready to give it some at track that is. Didn’t feel too bad after hot and hellish Hellingly but decided it was sensible (what?) to take it easy. Also my usual group wasn’t there so I’d have had to go with the way-too-fast group. Instead I went with Chris who is a superb pacer and decided to stick with her no matter what. This I did and thus the session was a sensibly paced affair. The session was as follows:

200 tempo, 100 fast x 3. 300t, 200f x 3. 200t, 300f, 200t, 400f, 200t, 300f. 600f, 200t, 300f. No watch.

On Tuesday it was off to Core & Stretch as usual. Felt quite tired but managed to get through the class as well/badly as normal. I don’t think I’m getting any more flexible but think my core is definitely getting stronger so progress! The problem with working the core and feeling it is that by kettlebells in the evening my core has had enough and any sit up type things are that bit harder on tired abs. But this proves it is doing me good, right? I am definitely getting stronger at the swingy sort of kettlebell moves but still find the technique based ones hard as my lack of shoulder stability makes me cautious and wobbly when trying to balance with kettlebell held aloft in one hand. Hopefully this will also improve once I’m even stronger and when I’ve done these new exercises many more times. We finished off with a few little races by which time my legs had ceased to function so it was a somewhat stumbling affair on my part. Luckily Matt was on my team again so could make up my deficit! Cycling home I got stuck in the roller disco that seems to wend its way along the seafront on a Tuesday evening these days. My bike bell has no hope of penetrating the booming music coming off the lead bike so I had to make do with skirting round the whole massive group whilst throwing the participants evils (really successful in the dark).

This morning I bit the bullet and went to spin. I used to hate it many years ago when I last went but I put this thought behind me and decided to try and calm it down a bit this time as I think having the resistance too high and working too hard was in part to blame for my hatred. Anyway I arrived and mounted my bicycle with trepidation. However I need not have worried as it turned out to be fine and an excellent class (helped to a certain extent by the fact the instructor is fit). I really tried to keep the resistance lower than I thought it should be as I think I have the same pacing problem here as in running. This seemed to work though towards the end when he asked us to put the resistance so high we could hardly pedal I complied. This was fine in the class but not so good when I then had to cycle home into the inevitable headwind (no roller disco at 11am thankfully). It would appear that spin is now on my agenda. Hopefully it will benefit my running and not hinder. Suppose the first test will be this evening’s downs run…

Posted 12/09/2012 by Isobel Muir in Blog, Cycling, Fitness, Kettlebells, Running, Spin

Good running? My goodness!   2 comments

I found myself with fingers crossed hoping that my usual lift givers would be driving to the downs run on Wednesday as, although it is quite close to my house, it is up a horrible steep hill. Thankfully they were so I leapt in at the end of my road and was transported up the evil hill. Once here and out of our respective cars we split into two groups (one fast, one not so fast) and set off along the trail from Foredown Tower towards Devil’s Dyke. It was quite a pleasant run though I did get left behind a bit on the long uphill stretch back to the path to the finish but this was through my choosing and it was fine. It’s getting dark alarming early these days so the last mile or so was a bit treacherous in the fast-encroaching darkness.

On Thursday it was back to HovePark where the delights of 1800 metre reps awaited us. I thought summer was for short stuff? No matter. I trundled round at a relatively ok pace whilst sort-of thinking that I was saving myself for Sunday’s 10k as I knew it was going to be really hot and the course is a bit undulatory for my liking. Really though I just don’t like 1800s!

I didn’t do parkrun on Saturday to save myself further for Sunday but went along as usual to help. We had almost 500 people (the most ever) which I knew as I was on tag giving out duties, we only have 500, and I ended up with 5. A few new things went wrong. The finishing tags between 66 and 110 got mixed up so I had to hand out from 111 when it should have been 67 so everyone’s tag was wrong and thus confusing the recipients. Along with this one of the scanners was reset mid-scan so all those athletes’ details were lost. Not parkrun’s finest hour! Typical this happened on the busiest ever day. Oh well. Not seen the results yet but I’m sure it will all be fine in the end.

I awoke at 6am on Sunday ready for the main event of the week the Hellingly 10k. It didn’t kick off until 10.30 but I have to get up early so I can eat many tonnes of porridge and let it digest before running. It was indeed hot hot hot as forecast so the trusty “angry hat” was out. I decided to stick behind Jenny for the first 2 kilometres as she is a much more sensible pacer than I (go out like a loon every time) and this I did. I then decided if I was going to go I had to go and keep gone so I began to pick up the pace. I was running watchless as with watch I get too hung up on what I should be doing. I concentrated on keeping my form and breathing deeply and found myself overtaking people on the uphills which is not the norm! Around 8.5k a marshall told me I was 8th woman so for the final k or so I focused on catching up with a group of 4 ladies around 50 metres ahead. Managed to pass 3 of them before the last 50 metre grass section and sprinted for the line drawing with the girl there. I hope I got 5th, but maybe it was 6th lady. Regardless I was pleased with my race. It definitely makes a difference not doing hard training during the week and not doing parkrun on a Saturday. As usual I totally forgot to look at my time so dragged myself round to the clock after kneeling on the grass for a while trying not to be sick and it was just coming up to 46.30 so hopefully I may be just in the 45s which I am happy with for such a hilly and hot course. I must take the positives from this especially with regards to not killing myself during the week with all my various exercisings.

Result as follows:

Time: 45.46, 70/258 overall (top 27%), 8/78 ladies (top 10%)

Tomorrow it’s back to track and hopefully I’ll be feeling ready to give it some!

Hellingly 2012. Hot! Why in all running photos is at least one foot on the ground?

Posted 09/09/2012 by Isobel Muir in Blog, parkrun, Running

A pain in the neck   2 comments

On Monday it was off to track as usual after last week’s Bank Holiday and first of last week’s 5k extravaganza. I knew something was amiss as I wasn’t feeling in the mood. I ALWAYS love track! Or so I thought.. I think it was because I used up all my track mojo last Thursday at the track 5k. I tried to get myself into the mood but found I had nothing to give energy-wise. I suppose three 5ks in a week and additional and unusual volleyball session on Sunday meant I was more drained than usual. Anyway the result was a disappointing session where I felt slow and exhausted. However I did do a 3 mile warm up with Des which means going up a large hill to start with and this felt fine and we were faster than last time so perhaps this used up my remaining energy? Whatever the reason I wasn’t on form and this upset me.

The session was as follows: 500 tempo, 100 jog, 200 fast. 400t, 100j, 300f. 3 x 300 (100j between). 5 x 200 (100j between). 800 flat out.

I managed the first 200 fast but then it all went downhill (not literally alas). One to forget about! On the positive side this should mean Thursday is a good session as I usually manage at least one good session a week. Today it’s a downs run which hopefully won’t be too strenuous.

On Tuesday I woke up to find my neck was really stiff and painful. Not sure why. Maybe volleyball but seems strange that it would only appear on Tuesday. Perhaps I slept strangely? However I did it it is really annoying! Not only painful but also means I can’t turn my head properly. Not good for cycling! Regardless of this I set off for Core & Stretch on my bike. I then nearly got run over twice by women in cars not looking where they were going who practically drove in to me whilst changing lanes. Then I got divebombed by a seagull and nearly fell off in terror (I am scared of birds at the best of times). I then arrived at the gym and smashed my pedal into my shin. All this before 11am! Thankfully after this bad start everything was OK and neck didn’t interfere too much with the class. I feared that it might not be the same at kettlebells in the evening but this wasn’t as bad as I feared. Just went a bit lighter on a few of the kettlebell swings. The worst was sit ups due to the strain on the neck when the abs get tired. We finished the class with a few relay races. As I was in the team with Matt and Alan (two tall strong men) I had to heave the heavier bag when we did pull ups which I didn’t manage very well! Survived though and cycled home with no more near death experiences.

Running Hellingly 10k on Sunday and if there are only 3 Arena ladies we might win the team prize. Or at least come third as we did last year unexpectedly. Hopefully my neck will be back to normal by then.

Laters all.

Posted 05/09/2012 by Isobel Muir in Blog, Kettlebells, Running

Not another 5k… Oh yes!   Leave a comment

I decided to do parkrun on Saturday purely so I could say I’d raced three 5ks in a week. I managed 21.23 so not too bad as the third of three (Monday – 22.16, Thursday – 20.21 pb). For some reason I felt really sick after I got home so wasn’t able to go out on a planned bike ride. Annoying but maybe good to have a rest.

Yesterday we had a social event arranged by Lydia which was an hour of beach volleyball followed by sea kayaking by those mad enough. The beach volleyball was good as we were all of a muchness when it came to skill (or lack thereof). We had enough for 6 a side and spent the time variously missing easy balls, everyone going for the same ball, no-one going for the ball all assuming someone else was going for it, throwing the ball back to the people on the other court, retrieving our ball from the other court and so on and so on. By the end of the hour we had all improved though were now bruised in varying ways. Wrist bruises like track marks were the injury de jour. We then moved to the beach where the (fool)hardy leapt into kayaks and plunged into the windy, wavy sea. Just spectating made me cold! Steve fired up the barbecue and we all had a good eat to replenish our stocks after our exertions. Lydia took the photo below of Brighton Pier to round off our evening.


Posted 03/09/2012 by Isobel Muir in Blog, parkrun, Running

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