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I don’t usually do New Year’s Resolutions, but I do like to start each year with some good intentions for the year ahead (the difference being, I am less likely to beat myself up for not managing a “good intention”).

This year’s Good Intention can simply be summarised as:

Have More Fun.

That’s not to say I was unhappy in 2011 – far from it. I have a great husband, wonderful friends, a fantastic job, and a PUPPY. But as the year drew to a close I realised that I had spent so much time doing stuff that I hadn’t done enough of the things I do simply for enjoyment: hanging out with friends, going hillwalking, that kind of thing. I became used to being constantly busy – if I wasn’t working I was walking Rory (hardly a chore, but time-consuming), cooking, cleaning, or doing some other errand.

In 2012 I intend to try to simply relax a bit more about chores, find ways to spend less time doing them (I got a slow cooker for Christmas, which should help!) and spend more time training and exercising Rory, spending time with Chris and our friends (quality time, not just crashing out in front of the TV or the Internet), and getting outside.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the Edinburgh Marathon, I decided not to do the triathlon I’d registered for, and due to general busy-ness and Rory being so small, we haven’t got a single Munro to our credit in 2011.

This year, I want to get out among the hills much, much more often. I want to bag a few Munros (my wish list is Ben Nevis, the Ring of Steall, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Croin), but I also just want to walk Rory in nice places and I want to try my hand (or, rather, feet) at fell running. I’m tired of running on the roads!

My race wish list for this year currently stands at:

*The Highland Fling relay (one day, maybe, I’d like to run the whole 53 miles, but not this year!)
*A Spring half-marathon (or two), possibly Loch Leven.
*The Corrieyairick Challenge
*The Kielder Marathon

That’s probably more races than I’ve ever done in a year, but I’m geniunely excited about all of them. With the possible exception of the Spring half, they’re all different to what I’ve done before. They’re all trail races, for starters, and the Corrieyairick has a substantial cycling component. I want to enjoy them, not get hung up about times and PBs.

Finding time to train will be challenging, but that is, believe it or not, all part of Having More Fun. I’m hoping I can manage to cycle to school once or twice a week once the days get longer, take Rory with me on my shorter runs (he’s allowed to run a mile or so at the moment, but he’ll be fully grown in the Spring and able to go for gradually longer runs) and maybe run home from school once in a while.

So here’s to More Fun in 2012!

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Bad blogger

I have been a very bad blogger recently. I haven’t posted pictures of our holiday in Kenya (because I still haven’t finished editing them) or blogged about the Knitcamp marketplace (which was great fun) or my marathon training.

Well, the marathon is upon me. I have run over 400 miles since the beginning of May. My longest run has been 20.5 miles. On Saturday we’re driving up to Inverness and on Sunday morning I will be getting on a bus to be driven 26.2 miles along the shore of Loch Ness, and then running all the way back to Inverness again. I’m nervous, but looking forward to testing myself against that course for the second time. And hoping that I can knock a good chunk off my previous time of 5 hours 30-something.

See you on the other side!

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A wake-up call

When I started marathon training I said that I was going to aim to do some pilates twice a week. Now, I hate pilates. I find it dull and annoying. Yoga is different; I find it very meditative, although I haven’t found a class that really suits me since leaving Glasgow. But pilates is booooring, and I will avoid it if given half the chance.

A year ago the physio told me to do pilates twice a week, in addition to daily exercises to strengthen my core muscles. This was because I had taken up taekwon-do, and had managed to injure my left hip before I’d even got round to taking my first belt. The injury took several months to heal, and stopped me running for most of 2009 (fortunately I had moving house, getting married, and knitting to occupy me).

My hip’s been much better this year, and for a few months I hadn’t even had the slightest twinge of pain from it. So I’d foolishly assumed it was all better, stopped doing my exercises (the pilates didn’t last long once the hip had healed enough for the agonising shooting pains to go away) and was even contemplating a return to taekwon-do, which I loved, and which I really miss.

Then last week I decided that a bit of strength training would complement my marathon training (which has suffered from shin splints recently, so I was feeling unusually energetic because I hadn’t run much that week!) and went to my first-ever Body Pump class. And within two days, lo and behold, my hip was hurting again. I went out for dinner with Chris on Wednesday night, and had to limp home the short distance from the restaurant hanging onto him and crying with frustration and the fear that I might not be able to run again for months.

I did my neglected exercises when I got home, put a hot water bottle on it for a while, and the next day it was a lot better. It’s still not pain-free, but I can run on it. Fortunately running seems to be mostly ok – it’s exercises that involve stretching or rotating it outwards that particularly hurt. I think it was the lunges we did at Body Pump that brought on the relapse.

It was a real wake-up call, I can tell you – the fear that I’d have to pull out of the marathon, that my glorious summer of running was over before it had begun. So I’ve started my exercises again (I still have to do today’s, but I will, as soon as dinner is digested). I’m planning on going to Body Pump again but I will explain my injury to the instructor beforehand and see if she can suggest alternative exercises to the lunges. And I’m going to have to do some bloody pilates.

I’ve just ordered two pilates DVDs. They’re both divided into 10-minute sections working different parts of the body. My reasoning is that I do not have the motivation to do a whole pilates workout, but I can probably convince myself to do 10 minutes of work on my core, and then maybe cajole myself into doing a bit more once I’ve started. And one of them uses the Swiss ball, which I quite enjoy just because it’s a bit like a big toy.

Despite the (slowly recovering) shin splint and the dodgy hip, I managed to run 12.6 miles today, in the pouring rain, at a sub-10-minute-mile pace. Cold, wet, and uncomfortable though it was, I was grateful for every step. If I want to continue running, I have to look after my body. Even if that means pilates.

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Every summer I get really tight calves. Uncomfortable, wanting-to-stretch-constantly, cramping-up-in-the-night tight. I put it down to the fact that I typically run more in the summer, and I tend to wear higher heels at that time of year (both my pairs of smart summer sandals are wedges, which are higher than my usual kitten heels). A couple of weeks ago it was getting particularly bad – I was getting cramp nearly every night, and eventually it blossomed into shin splints on both legs. I ticked just about all the “risk” boxes – tight calf muscles, increased mileage, increased speed…in despair I took my beloved Brooks Adrenaline running shoes into my local running shop. And got thoroughly laughed at for wearing motion-control shoes with orthotics.

In my defence, the orthotics I had when I started to wear the Adrenaline line of shoes were much softer and less supportive than my current ones. And the podiatrist never pointed out, when she gave me my current orthotics, that I should change my shoes. My natural gait is over-pronation, in which the feet roll inwards. Between the supportive shoes and the orthotics, my footwear was completely over-compensating for this, and my feet were actually tending to roll outwards. No wonder my poor shins were hurting.

So I left the shop with a nice, shiny new pair of Brooks Glycerin, which are nicely cushioned but not corrective; in other words, they will leave my orthotics to get on with the job of correcting my gait. I promptly went out for a muddy off-road run (as is my ritual when presented with a pair of bright white running shoes) and my calves and shins are both much, much better.

Quite a few people in my life recently have been talking or blogging about issues with weight and food. Most recently, Nicola started to blog about weight loss and exercise. Others have been struggling with a variety of patterns of disordered eating – whether over-eating or not eating enough.  It got me thinking about how running has changed my own relationship with food.

I love food. I’m a bit of a foodie. I love cooking, and trying out new recipes. I make my own stock, I bake, I have shelves of recipe books and a bulging virtual binder over on BBC Good Food. Luckily for me, I don’t have too much of a sweet tooth (I love cakes and biscuits, but I don’t enjoy sweet drinks). I don’t like processed food and the only fast food I can stomach is Subway (and I think that last time I had that was about 2 years ago). I’m 5’8” and for the last few years I’ve weighed in at around 10-and-a-half stone (147 pounds? I’m not very good with Imperial measurements…), but I don’t generally weigh myself very often as long as my clothes still fit me. I’ve never offically been On A Diet, but I do tend to cut down on cake, chocolate etc if I feel I’ve been overdoing it.

Last year I was edging towards 11 stone, but most of my clothes still fit and I was still fairly active and within a healthy BMI range, so I wasn’t too worried. I tend to put on weight almost exclusively on my belly, so I did occasionally get kids at school asking if I was pregnant! Just before Christmas I had a very hectic period at school, combined with the fact that I don’t tend to eat a big lunch, and I lost half a stone pretty much accidentally (it was only in hindsight that I realised that I was hungry all the time at school!).

So when I started marathon training I was down to about 10 stone, the lightest I’ve been for quite a few years. And consistenly running over 20 miles a week has redistributed the weight quite noticeably – much more so than when I trained for my last marathon, when I didn’t train nearly as hard. I still weigh a shade under 10 stone, but I must have lost a lot of fat and put on muscle, because most of my trousers and skirts are now too big for me! Even my watch is loose, which has never happened before (in fact, a while ago I was wishing I’d kept the spare links when I got it, because the strap was a bit tight!).

I’m pleased, because I have a flat tummy for the first time in…well, ever! And I’d like to stay this shape, ideally. But it is a bit disconcerting. Not least because I need a new wardrobe! Being lighter will help my race times, too. I’m now signed up for both Loch Ness and the Great Scottish Run, a half marathon in Glasgow a month before the marathon. Ideally I’d like to run a sub-2-hour half, but the GSR is sandwiched between two 20-milers on my training plan so I’m not sure what kind of state my legs will be in!

What I’m struggling with at the moment is what to eat in order to make sure that I get enough. I think that if I lose much more weight I’ll start to feel a bit…fragile, for want of a better word. But a 2-hour run can burn over 1200 calories and I need to make sure I’m refuelling properly. I eat pretty healthily, and I have a big breakfast and dinner, as well as a fairly reasonable lunch…but at the moment I’m hungry just about all day! Today I had a KitKat at break time, and then I was ravenous by lunchtime, when I had a baked potato with tuna and a nectarine, which didn’t fill me up, so I ended up getting a Twix from the vending machine in the staffroom!

Any idea for healthy snacks or lunch supplements??

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I’ve been running for about 6 years, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and commitment. I ran the Loch Ness Marathon in 2007. It wasn’t a good run – I  have a nonspecific allergy that flared up on the day of the race, and I think I’d under-trained, so I ended up getting round in about 5-and-a-half hours. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing another marathon ever since, but various factors – principally apathy and injury – have prevented me.

That’s all about to change. Chris and I have signed up for Loch Ness again this year. That’s right, 26.2 miles along the shores of the loch. I have a training plan (made up by one of the members of the local running group I recently joined) and this time I’m doing it right. I’ve already increased my mileage to 25-30 miles a week (this week I’ve done 29, including 13 today!) and I’ve been treating my running group sessions as tempo runs, thus sneaking in some speedwork (which I’ve never had the discipline to do before).

I thought I might blog about my training as a further aid to motivation. So here are some statistics for you:

Including the race itself, and taking into account our holiday to Kenya (during which I will not be getting any running done!) my total training mileage from next week will be about 530 miles. Yikes!

Now according to the AA Route Finder, it is 583 miles from where I live in Dunblane to Land’s End. I have run 58 miles in the last 2 weeks, which puts me at Abington Services – halfway to England! Running an imaginary journey is a trick I picked up from one of my running buddies, which I’m going to try as a motivational tool. Along with rewarding myself with the odd sports massage and pedicure!

If I can just avoid injury and keep up my training I’m hoping to finish the race in less than 4 hours 30. Wish me luck!

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