It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

On Friday night I headed out for an 8.4 mile ‘long’ run on my own after work as Dan was not going to get home until late and I had nothing better to do.  (Well, I probably did, but it was always going to be ignored!)  It was almost dark by the time I set off in the end so I headed out in a yellow reflective Nike jacket and my headtorch.  Every time a car headed towards me on the road I started wiggling my head from side to side so that my headtorch stood out to the traffic.  I got lots of wide births.  Hopefully because the drivers realised that there was something in the road and not just because they thought I was weird!

At the start of the run I really, really struggled to keep my heart rate down in Zone 2 but once I got into the step pattern I could maintain the slow pace much easier and I began to enjoy the run. Heart rate Zone 2 Yesterday I ran an easy 3miles in Zone 2 (130-143bpm) and today I headed on a 10.1 mile route with friends from club not worrying too much about my heart rate.  It’s hard to a) concentrate on the figures and b) stick running that slowly when running with others.  Looking back at my data though my heart rate remained relatively low without the constant watch checking.  I made a point of running much slower than I usually would as we were running with a mix of Group 5 and Group 6 runners (I usually run in Group 5).  One of the requirements when running with friends is that you have enough breath left to be able to talk all the way round and that usually requires a pretty slow pace!  The ten miles went by really quickly.  Not literally, obviously.  It went really slowly, but I was happily enjoying the moment and I had lots to chat about.

Dan and I are not long back from watching the town Christmas lights being switched on complete with firework display.  We only live 5 minutes walk from the centre of our town so we pootled down before dinner to check out the hotdog stand and see the lights before heading back home to work a little more at ticking off our Christmas present shop.  19/24 presents BOUGHT!

I’m all about the online shopping this year.  We had planned to head to Milton Keynes or Corby yesterday afternoon but after watching the ridiculous Black Friday riots on the news we decided it was probably quicker, safer, cheaper and more reliable to order gifts from our couch instead.  I can’t believe how crazy the Black Friday sales got in the UK.  It’s not even a public holiday for us over here so the majority of the population were at work.  It’s pretty scary how people can behave the way they have been behaving – completely out of control.  Way too many people seem to have been let into the shops at opening time.  Every single piece of footage I have seen has shown shops where no-one can move due to the sheer volume of people inside.  It really worries me that there are people in the world who believe that acting the way they have is an entirely appropriate way to behave.

I haven’t really felt very Christmassy at all yet this year.  On Tuesday night (25th November) I nipped out for a quick 3 mile run only to return to my house less than half an hour later with the entire street lit up like Times Square with Christmas lights dotted on all the houses.  On the way home from the light switch on tonight I was actually trying to work out when, or if, we have a spare few hours during a weekend before Christmas.  I’m not sure we’ll be putting our tree up until the start of the Christmas holidays we have that much coming up.

I love traditions at Christmas and one of my favourites from the family Moore is that we never put the Christmas tree up until Christmas Eve evening.  We used to all pile into the lounge to help decorate the tree and room, taking it in turns to dive into the kitchen with any unwrapped presents to get them wrapped ready to place under the tree.  I’d love to keep this tradition if Dan and I ever have children or host at Christmas but at the moment there would not be much sense in us putting a tree up at all if we were to put it up on Christmas Eve as we spend the next two days at one set of parents (two hour drive away), the following two days at the other set (four hours from the other set of parents).  Spend a couple of days back at home again before whisking off to a set of friends for over the New Year.  One day we’ll stay at home… Christmas jumper I did feel slightly more Christmassy today at least and popped on my Christmas jumper to watch the light switch on.  As all of the presents we bought arrive during this week I shall begin wrapping and then we will be freefalling towards the end of term and the Christmas holidays and the rushing from house to house will begin.  “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…”

What are your favourite family Christmas traditions?
Did you brave the Black Friday sales?  Snap up any good bargains?

Mud, glorious mud!

Last night I headed out on my regular 90 minute trail run in the dark with friends.  There were ten of us last night and we were very lucky with the rain.  Northamptonshire must have used up all of it’s allotted rain on Sunday when we had some really heavy showers.

Heavy showers at the weekend meant that the trails last night were very slippery and filled with mud though.  We usually follow a complex path of field edges and woods but last night we decided to stick to the local tourist parkland, crossing just one ploughed field to get there.  That one ploughed field meant that our trainers grew by at least two inches though and we were glad to hit the road briefly so that we could knock off as much mud as possible and shrink back down to size.

We headed to Irchester Country park, which is where 5k/10k/15k multi-terrain races are held by Just Racing in the New Year.  Quite close to home, lots of good fun but very expensive for an area we regularly run in anyway.  As the races are quite close now, we followed some of the route that they take to give an idea of the course to those who hadn’t run it before then added quite a bit of distance onto our run.

The majority of the people I run with are guys.  I guess girls are less excited about getting muddy at 7pm on a Wednesday night in the dark.  Touch wood(!) but I am yet to fall on a trail run, although coming very close the night I ran through a puddle that was much deeper than it appeared and I disappeared up to my knee in mud!  Last night we were evenly split though…five guys, five girls.  Two of the girls went down at some point and ended up covered in mud.  Another almost lost her footing several times but had fallen twice last week so was very cautious when things got slippy.  I was one of the two relatively clean ladies until I was set upon by the guys for being too clean!  One leapt in a puddle alongside me, splashing thick mud right up to my chest and another who was running in front of me kicked back in the puddles to cover my legs with more mud.

Really muddy trail run

Needless to say I made sure to get them back, although getting myself more muddy in the process!  I’m rubbish at splashing people – I either end up wobbling with fear of falling in myself, or the water splashes only me!  I was already too covered to care by this point though and took great pleasure in kicking mud and water up at my attackers!  When I got home I told Dan that splashing people must be one of the skills we teach our future children so that they don’t get held back in life!

The trail run was the perfect de-stress on a Wednesday night after work.  Although it did take me a while to get all the mud off from my legs when I got home…!

Muddy leg

I skipped run club on Tuesday night so that I could work out my current speed for each Heart Rate Zone.  Garmin told me at the weekend that my zones were as follows…

Heart rate zonesThe plan was to run about 2/3 mile in each zone so that I could see what sort of pace I am currently at and then monitor my fitness over the coming weeks.

Well, Zone 1 was pretty impossible to hold.  I’d had a stressful day at work and my heartrate was already pretty high when I set out for the run.  I could only run about 100metres or so before having to walk so that my heart rate stayed below 130bpm.
Zone 1 Ave pace – 15:17mm
Zone 2 Ave pace – 12:55mm (also really hard to stay this slow)
Zone 3 Ave pace – 10:29mm – (probably about the pace I’d run my long runs at normally)
Zone 4 Ave pace – 8:20mm – (probably a bit quicker than I would run parkrun)

The guy who has been helping me work heart rate training out has suggested that I try my best to stick to running in Zone 2 for my long runs and keep to Zone 3 for club runs unless we are doing speedwork on a club night.
“Zone 2 is difficult to stay within but this is the most important zone as this is where the body learns to feed off the fat zones within the body which is where you build base fitness. This then allows you to sustain Zone 4 for a longer period of time. These are your base levels now. When you run on your own, work hard at keeping the Zone 2.  Be very disciplined and this will help speed you up long term. It takes time.  Do not rush.”
I pointed out just how hard I found it to keep that slow during my run and he responded with…
“Yes Zone 2 is frustrating but works long term. All ironman training is also done at this level for the bike and run. As you get fitter the mm time comes down. I could sustain 8.30mm at Zone 2 at one stage and this is what I am looking to work towards to make myself even quicker next year.”

No harm in trying it right?…

I stayed until 6:30pm after school yesterday to help paint cardboard animals ready for the school Christmas Craft Fair next weekend.  This year I am down to help out in Santa’s Grotto where children will be lining up to receive gifts from Santa.  To decorate, the French teacher has organised a silvery theme with Christmas trees and twinkle lights and the Pre-prep teacher has put together some fantastic life-size animals out of cardboard which just needed to be painted and decorated.  One of the TAs last week said she’d have a go at coming up with some ideas for making animals for the Grotto.  The following day she came in and folded coloured card to make a whole variety of animals including this fantastic penguin!

Crafty penguinI do love doing crafty things, but I would never have been able to come up with designs for penguins, walruses and polar bears overnight they way she did!  They’re fantastic!

Are you a fan of running in the mud?
Do you tend to run with more guys?  Or girls?  Or an even mixture of both?
How creative are you when it comes to making things?

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

…like really cold outside!  I had to sit in my car for several minutes this morning before I could see out of the front windscreen to drive off to work.

Despite everyone grumbling about the cold I much prefer running at this time of year to when it’s really hot.  I sweat a ridiculous amount in the Summer, even when wearing just shorts and a vest and there’s no way of getting away from the heat.  In Winter, it’s easy enough to add more layers and I feel much more in control of my body temperature on a run.

Yesterday it absolutely tipped it down nearly all day long.  I had initially planned on making the Wing Cross-Country race, but Dan and I didn’t return from Wolverhampton until 2am that morning where we had been with friends celebrating at an engagement meal.  I must have slept through my 7am alarm (NEVER happens) because it was 8:15am by the time I woke and not leaving me enough time to drive the 90 minutes to the cross-country start.  Although for weeks I’d been warned of this race being famous for it’s cow slurry pass.  The constant rain can’t have made that part too pleasant and this evening on Facebook I was laughing over pictures like this one of our club Chairman making his way through the smelly slurry.

Tony at Wing cross-country(From the Olney Runners website.)

Seeing the pictures and reading the stories on Facebook perhaps makes me a little thankful that I didn’t make the race!

Instead yesterday I threw on some shorts and a long sleeved top and cap and headed out for what I initially intended on being a ‘long run’.  Although the battering rain and flooded roads caused me to cut my run short and turn home by mile 5 feeling very soggy but smug as I didn’t pass a single other runner (very rare on a Sunday morning!)

A wet run

(Please excuse the pile of clothes and folder behind me.  Should have cleared the floor before heading out for a run!)

Last weekend when I was in Gower I got chatting to a couple of the guys that train purely using data from their heart rate monitors.  This is something I have looked into in the past, but never really understood.  One of the guys very helpfully sent me over some links which had helped him.

When I log into my Garmin Connect account I can set my Resting Heart Rate and Maximum Heart Rate which then works out the other zones I need to train in.

Heart rate zones

I’m still playing around with it, trying to understand which zone I need to be in when and how I can train and race by heart rate but I had a great run on Sunday morning sticking to one zone whilst running an easy run.

Constant heart rate


I’m happy to accept any information about training by heart rate as it really is taking a long while for me to understand it all.

Have you ever trained by monitoring your heart rate?
Are you a fan of running in the rain?


Marathon #6: Gower EnduranceLife CTS (Pt 2)

Part one of my recap came yesterday…here is part two today…!

From about 16.5miles of the EnduranceLife Gower marathon it was just me and Kev.  We hit the sand here and the dunes held us up a fair bit.  It was at this point that Kev told me that he had started to lose the sight in one of his eyes earlier on during the race.  I told him off for not telling me sooner!  He had been on at me from the beginning of the run to make sure that I was drinking and eating properly (I suspect under instruction from the other Kev that I normally run with!), yet had failed to eat properly himself.

Gower marathon sceneryWe took it easy over the beach.  Once we were off the dunes the tide had gone out and so the beach stretched out in front of us for the best part of a mile.  I found this mentally tough as it all looked the same but I kept chatting away to Kev as I went.  We stop-started a few times and Kev took several pictures (basically all the ones in my recap).  One of the things I love about trail running and ultra running is the lack of pressure on a race.  No-one compares your marathon time on a trail race to anything but the same race a year before because how can you?…Every single trail race is different, no matter the distance.  I’m sure you wouldn’t catch huge numbers of runners stopping to admire the scenery or asking other runners to take photos of them during a road race.

Gower marathon scenery

As we came off the beach we started to climb again.  We ran round for a long way on easy grass and paths along the edge of the cliffs before reaching the final checkpoint.  Not at mile 20 as stated, but much closer to mile 22.  Those extra two miles made a lot of difference!  Here we discovered that there was now just one runner behind us, although we hadn’t passed anybody since mile 10, so we guessed they were probably a long way behind us by now.

Gower cliffs

After leaving the checkpoint we headed right up even further than we had been already before.  The trail was very technical, up sliding banks covered in large rocks and at times we just had to keep pushing ourselves onward and upward because if we stopped, there would be no momentum for us to reach the top.

Gower marathon scenery

We kept catching sight of two runners a little way infront of us, although the track kept heading out of sight as we twisted round the top of the coastline.  We were gaining on them and all of a sudden Kev had a new lease of life as our speed picked up.  He was eager to pass two more on our journey to the finish line.  I’m used to being towards the back of the pack over long distances…Kev is not!  As we got a little closer we could hear what sounded like arguing and then a sheep disturbed by the arguers just in front leapt off of a rock almost into Kev and I.  Had we been a metre further forward we would have been knocked flat!

Sheep in Gower

It was a man and a woman that we had caught up with and after half a mile of chat we discovered that they were actually running the 34 mile ultra so had been out since 8:30am that morning.  We tried to advise them to pull out at the marathon distance, as the sun had started to go down by now.  It was in no way dark yet but the first 10k of the course which the ultra runners were due to complete was very much the toughest and most technical.  Without headtorches, I’m sure it would not be very pleasant.  They were having none of it though and insisted that they were going to finish the ultra.  I never caught their names, so can’t check on the results list, but I only hope that they either found headtorches from somewhere, or ended up getting pulled from the race for safety’s sake.

The last couple of miles went really quickly for me.  In fact I was shocked at how quickly the time for the whole race went by and had to keep reminding myself that it was only marathon distance (well 28.95 miles anyway!) rather than an ultra.  Once we had left the other two runners we could see the Endurance Life flags in the distance, although they really did look a lot closer than they were…we still had a lot of dips and climbs before we could reach them!


As we headed for the final half mile I was ready for a speedy, happy finish.  Having run the route a little slower than planned I had definitely not burnt out and there was still plenty of go in me!  We held it back until we had about a quarter of a mile to go though and then really pushed on through the final field.  The half marathon and 10k runners from our club were all there to cheer us in and hug us once we crossed the finishing line.

Me at the finish of Gower marathon - Endurance Life

I was a little disappointed not to receive a medal at the finish but we got a chocolate and peanut butter protein bar and a print out of our chip times instead.Me at the finish of Gower marathon - Endurance LifeThey said that medals would be posted out to us, but it would have been nice to get one at the finish.  They also didn’t distinguish the distance on the medal which is a shame.  We had picked up our t-shirts earlier in the morning at least.  This is a photo of the t-shirt and medal from one of the other marathon runners that came in before us.

Endurance Life medal and t-shirtThe other guys that we had set off with had come in 25 minutes earlier.  Kev and I were actually the last two runners back in from the marathon.  The others behind us must have pulled out.  Looking at the times from last year though, the slowest runner came in at 9h 3m…an hour and a half after us!

We headed back to the houses as the ultramarathoners would be running past on their way to the finish line.  Somebody made me a hot chocolate and dragged out a chair and we grabbed our cameras ready to film them coming through.  We weren’t waiting long and about 40 minutes later we saw them pick up their speed to our cheers.  We all rushed back round to see them through the finish and then it was time for showers all round!

Kev’s wife had managed to persuade a curryhouse to deliver from 20 miles away (Anyone looking to start a business in Gower…takeaways are clearly the way forward.  There were none!) for the twenty of us and so everyone piled into our house to chow down on curry, watch rubbish TV and natter about the day with a few pints.  The perfect finish to a fantastic weekend away.  I love how running has become not only my hobby but also a huge part of my social life.  I really didn’t want to leave on Sunday lunchtime.  Most of the others had managed to get Monday off from work as well so there were just four of us heading back home.  Another year maybe.  We’re already on the hunt for the next expedition!

Distance: 28.95miles
Official chip time: 7h 36m 11s
Position: 114/115