Taper, run, taper again!

My toe has gone from being a little twingy, but me insisting that it gets on with things, to me forgetting I ever injured it in the space of a week.  So, I have gone from an extreme four week taper, to fitting several runs in this week and now I’m back onto the taper again!  My runs have been strong this week which has helped to regain some of my confidence for the upcoming Milton Keynes marathon on Monday.

This Monday I headed out on a 3.6 mile run with Dan after work.  We took things pretty slow and Dan needed to stretch at the two mile turn around point.  It felt good to be out at a chatty run pace again.

This week started off pretty manic.  I had an email last week to say that I had been selected to interview on Tuesday for an internal position at school following an application I had made earlier in the week.  I absolutely hate interviews and when it comes to questions requiring me to big myself up I really struggle as I find it sounds so false.  Dan was a massive help over the weekend, – between us we made a list of about ten questions that might come up during the interview and I wrote and learnt versions of model answers to each one before spending a long while practicing responses to them while Dan mock-interviewed me.  Alongside the formal interview I had 30 minutes of tasks to complete which went well.  I didn’t think I would get the position as I have only been in my job fulltime since January but I was proud to think that I had been invited for interview following my application letter.  My feedback the following day was good – I had lost out purely because the successful candidate had already been in the role whilst working in a different school.  Probably one of the better interviews I have had!

Tuesday evening I headed out on my own to test out a new trail route.  Although I am eager to get back to club now that I am running again, my group were only planning on running 3-4 easy miles as so many of the runners had either just run London marathon or will be running Milton Keynes this coming weekend.  I had been asked to come up with a 6-7 mile trail route from the town I live in for next week so I set out on my own with the intention of exploring any footpath signs I ran past.  I had intended on running at about 11mm pace over the fields but about four miles into my run my leg disappeared from beneath me and before I knew what was happening the front of my left leg bashed against the top of a badger sett hole and my right knee crashed to the ground.

Left shin – scraped:

Left shin scraped

Right knee – bleeding:

Right kneeExcellent.  Who would be a runner?!  Things could be much worse though, I’ll get over it.  I walked the remainder of that field.  The grass was high and the holes were well hidden.  When I arrived back out onto the road again I picked up the pace a bit into the 9:xxmm to head home.Comeback trail run

Last night I was shattered but desperate to head back out on a trail run with club.  There were eight of us that met in the car park in Grendon at 7pm.  Within half a mile we got cornered by some cows with their young on the bridge. We turned around and tried the route in reverse but as we were seven miles into the run with less than a mile to go we realised the cows still hadn’t left the bridge we were due to cross.  We snuck (incredibly quickly) along the back of the field they were in and leapt a fence at the other end, only to discover that we had landed ourselves in another field with cows in!  Kev headed alongside the fence near to them and kept them distracted whilst us girls sped round the back, unnoticed.  Several minutes later and we spotted one of the guys running full pelt towards us and safety as the other guys jogged casually behind shouting out “They’re coming! RUN!”  No cows were in sight, but it was funny to watch!
We’re all a little bit nervous around cows after one of our club members was attacked a few years ago.

Top interview techniques?
Do you run/walk through cow fields or avoid them where possible?!

For the love of running and a new day in the life post

Last night I ran out with Dan. Early on in the day I realised that there just would not be time for me to drive to club (20minutes), run for an hour or so, stretch (and chat) for a further 15 minutes as well as drive home again. So Dan and I headed out in the drizzly rain a little before 7pm for four miles last night instead.
Running out with Dan I decided to stick to Zone two heart rate (130-143bpm) although my watch had other ideas…at one point it clocked that I was running with my heart rate at 199bpm! Pretty sure I wasn’t as I was holding an easy conversation at the time and a few minutes later it flashed up on my watch screen that I’d run that mile in 13 minutes. I’d be a little concerned if my running had dropped off so much that I was running 13minute miles using that much effort! The watch lied!
I ran out with Dan last week as well. It’s the perfect way to relax and get my head in the right place after work because my new job is very much go, go, go still at the minute.
Here is a typical day…(today)

5:15 – My alarm goes. I silence my phone and quickly check any emails from bed that have come through in the night. I usually also check Timehop, which fills me in on what I was doing over the last eight years on the same day. My Facebook statuses from eight years ago often make me cringe and I usually spot a link I had posted about and forgotten about on Twitter from last year. Twitter feeds move so quickly!

5:25 – I nip to the loo and head downstairs to let the cat out. If I am not working to deadline like this morning then I might pour myself out a bowl of cereal which I slowly pick at, putting off getting ready for school. (just like a teenager!)

5:35 – Time to jump in the shower and wash my hair. I usually wash my hair every day during the week and leave it at weekends. It goes in a plait most days. This is because I’m lazy and plaiting it requires less time and effort than straightening it and means I don’t need to worry about drying my hair before leaving the house.

6:00 – I get dressed and call Bella back in. She often comes running upstairs with me so that she can jump in the bath and roll around in the remnants of my shower water. (She is an odd cat!) I check that Dan has woken up to his alarm, as he has problems getting up when it goes off some days!

Bella in the bath6:20 – This is when we aim to leave the house by. It doesn’t always happen although today we were pretty much on time. Dan drives as he works in Cambridge and I work at a smaller town on his way into the city. I usually use my travel time to prep lessons in my head for the following day and reply to emails and texts on my phone. This morning was no different.

6:55 – Arrive at school. Lug my boxes of marking up the flight of stairs, checking my pigeon hole on the way and I french plait my hair whilst walking around the classroom turning on the 32 computers in my room. I fill up my water bottle and check that I have all resources ready for my classes for the day. Today is one of my lighter days and I have two PPA hours (Planning, Preparation and Assessment) as part of my timetable so I catch up on writing some year 9 reports instead.

Hair in a plait

(Not the most attractive of photos, but it is early in the morning!)

8:45 – First up today I have a year nine class. It’s a low ability group but it’s a nice one and they’re coming up with ideas for their own games…a task they enjoy!

9:45 – The first of my PPA periods and I get some marking done before my upcoming year ten lesson.

10:45 – Break time and one of my year seven students knocks sheepishly on my door to tell me he doesn’t know how to do his homework. I spend fifteen minutes helping him to complete his worksheet.

11:05 – A year ten class after break and they are finishing some work on images and copyright independently. Another lovely class.

12:05 – As the year tens leave, my year eight class is already stood waiting by the door. They are having their first lesson learning to code in Python and they all did very well. One of the students who caught my attention last lesson for being silly (this is only my second time meeting the class) really shines today when it turns out he codes at home and he whizzes through the work for the lesson, able to help others in the class too.  I made sure to reward him with some merits.

13:05 – This is lunchtime but I have a meeting scheduled with two of the other Computing teachers about the progress of our year nine classes.

13:30 – When the meeting finishes I have enough time to peel three clementines and grab a Cuppa Soup before shutting myself away in the office to catch up on some more marking ready for my classes tomorrow.  I’ve gotten into a bad habit with Cuppa Soups again lately.  I really need to make sure I plan all lunches out the night before.
This is my second PPA session of the day. I have four spread across the week but it just happens that two of them fall on a Wednesday.


15:00 – End of the school day! I take a quick break to scroll through some blogs for half an hour then crack on with some more year nine reports before Dan picks me up.

16:50 – Dan calls to say he’s in the car park downstairs. I decide I’ve had enough of marking for today so don’t take any folders home with me and instead turn all lights off in the department and head to meet him for the drive home. I write most of this blog on the journey home using my tablet in the passenger seat whilst munching on some cherry tomatoes.

17:30 – There is a note through the door to say our neighbours have taken a parcel in for us.  I shriek when I realise it is from the lovely guys at nakd who sent me a selection of bars to try.  (I can only ever seem to find a few flavours in the shops around here and I really wanted to try the Bakewell Tart one!)

Nakd bars in a box17:35 – Time for a few odd jobs before my run.  I wash up and put drying away, plan lunch for tomorrow, put some washing on and the recycling out before pulling my hair out of the plait and getting changed for the run.  My hair goes super wavy and big!

Windswept after a run

18:30 – I jump in the car to head into town to meet seven others for an hour and a half trail run.  It’s pretty wet out and we run alongside the river.  A few times I thought I was going to end up IN the river it was that slippery along the bank.  I end up nice and muddy!  It’s not a real trail run unless you arrive back home splattered with mud!

Muddy legs20:45 – I get home to be presented with a beautiful pizza that Dan has gotten ready whilst I’ve been away.  (Guess which half of the pizza was mine?…!)

Ham and spinach pizza21:00 – I finish this blog post whilst Planet of the Apes plays in the background.  Dan had already seen half of the film by the time I got home but I sprawled out on the sofa next to him for the second half.

21:45 – I hope to be in bed!  I’ve struggled with not getting enough sleep and being really zonked by 3pm over the past fortnight.  Tracking my sleep with Garmin, you can really see how my sleep has dropped since returning to school.

sleep patternsMy real focus for the next few weeks is going to be getting to bed early enough that getting up at 5:15am each morning doesn’t leave me sat in meetings later that day desperately trying not to jerk my head too violently when I wake from a quick sleep!

Do you get enough sleep in during working weeks?

New job, ultra briefing, speedy reps and #catownerproblems

Oh, so much to write about today!

Lets start with my new job…  This morning I headed in to sign paperwork for my new job which I shall be starting on Fridays after half term – going on to a full five-day timetable after Christmas when I have finished at my current job.  Last week seemed to go by in such a blur – applying, being invited for interview and then being offered the post.  It was nice to go in and meet people properly today and to get a better idea of what will be expected of me in the new role.  I already feel like I will be incredibly well supported in the post.  The Head of Department grabbed me for a chat after I’d signed the paperwork to let me know that she had decided she had wanted me for the post as soon as she saw me teach but could have smashed me around the head during the interview stage with the headteacher when I didn’t deliver as well!  I’m just awful at bigging myself up and she felt I’d really undersold myself in the formal part of the interview.  She’s already promised that she’s going to help me work on that, but the compliments I was paid today have already done wonders for my confidence.  Luckily, they hired me for my teaching ability, not my interview skills, so last Wednesday I was very shocked to receive the call offering me the job!
I’ve already decided that this Winter at work is going to be all about the jumpers over dresses with boots so that was how I decided to dress today.  I have a real issue looking down at these boots though.  They always look like I’ve got them on the wrong feet!  (I promise I haven’t!)

Ankle length boots not on the wrong feet

This afternoon our race briefing for the Dusk ’til Dawn 50 mile ultra arrived.  For anyone that’s interested, here’s the video.  

I’ll write a longer post on Dusk ’til Dawn later this week as it is now only nine days away…

Tonight was the first speed session I’ve attended at club for a while.  I normally find myself getting very worked up before each rep of a speed session.  My heart rate gets ridiculously high before I’ve even begun, I shoot off with the front of the pack then my throat gets tight, I feel like I’m not taking in enough air and am certain I’m going to collapse before I make it to the end.  It got to the stage where I wasn’t enjoying this weekly routine so I stopped going on Thursday sessions for a while, continuing with just the Tuesday tempo runs.  The groups were always so big, so I always felt like I had to fight my way through the pack as well, adding to my anxiety.

Tonight, I gave speed sessions another go.  I’ve been doing some speedwork on my own, but that is never the same and I want to make a real go of the marathon distance next Spring so knew I needed to get over my fear at some point.  For a change there were only nine of us in Group 5 tonight.  A perfectly manageable number to run as part of a group with.  We ran two and a half miles as a warm up before arriving on the km rep route.  Right by the school we meet at is a pavement alongside four different roads which goes all the way round a park and some houses in the form of a massive square.  That’s not a very good explanation I’m afraid, but I have no idea how to explain it without taking you there!  The distance has been officially measured as 1km, so the club often uses this area as part of training sessions to time kilometre reps so that we can track our progress over time.  We couldn’t start at the corner we usually start at tonight, as Group 1 were also running the reps, so we staggered it slightly and met at the other side of the square.  This is a much worse starting point as you always have two long uphill sides of the hill to run together, whereas the other corner means you start and finish on an uphill, with two downhill sides inbetween.

I was a little bit pacey waiting to begin, and I almost asked not to be timed to take the pressure off of myself, but then I realised that would be silly and that I’d never improve if I kept dropping out.  I’m the only one putting pressure on myself.  We started.  On the first two sides of downhill I managed to really get into a strong stride, without pushing too hard.  It was tough coming up the long uphill after speeding down for so long but one of my strengths is uphills.  I had already pushed to fourth position and coming up the hill I overtook another person.  I was pushing, but not to my maximum.  As the hill started to level out I was aware that the guy running in second place was within reaching distance so I really put my head down and pounded forward.  I am certain I wouldn’t have done so had he not been right in front of me.  He glanced behind and pushed too and we finished together in 4m53s, with just one other guy finishing in front of us.  The guy that had finished with me commented that he wouldn’t have pushed quite so hard either had I not been right on his tail!
A quick two minute stop before take two.
The second rep was the other way around the square.  Because we were starting from the highest point though it still meant two sides of downhill before finishing with a long uphill stretch.  Again, I felt confident and comfortable on the way down.  My breathing was under control and I was already in third position as I hit the hill coming back up.  I didn’t quite have enough in me to match the guy in second place though.  As I neared the top, the Group 1 runners soared past in the opposite direction and that helped me to push a little harder on the final stretch.  My time was called out at 4m55s.  Pretty happy with that consistency!  Just two seconds difference between the two reps.  I offered to time the third lap as our coach that had been timing needed to get back to open up and let the runners have their keys back.

I really enjoyed the session and am looking forward to being pushed this Winter.

I ran tonight with cuts all over my face and arms though.  Some of which stung in the wind.  This afternoon I took Bella to the vets.  Being put into her travel cage is not top of her favourites list and she very definitely let me know!  She’s such a lovey-dovey cat normally but as soon as you try to get her anywhere near her cage the claws come out and she splays out her legs in every attempt to make herself as big as possible so you can’t get her in.  I always feel awful because she cries and cries, and then it upsets me because I don’t like seeing her so worked up.  Whenever Dan has to put her in the cage he gets dressed up in his massive ski jacket and gloves to minimise blood loss.  It wouldn’t have worked on this occasion though…she got me right across my face!  I now hate the vets as much as Bella does!

Bella scratched me

I took her in to the vets because I noticed that she had a couple of fleas a fortnight ago and so gave her a deflea dose, which seems to have done nothing at all and now she is overrun with fleas and really miserable because of it.  She’s started losing her hair and crying when she scratches so I took her in to get weighed so that they could give her a prescription dose.  Hopefully this will do the trick.  Thankfully she wasn’t too mad at me when I brought her home and I even got a cuddle later on!

Me cuddling Bella

After our visit to the vets I posted a picture on Twitter with the hashtag #catownerproblems then decided to see who else had been having #catownerproblems.  Here are some of my favourites…

catownerproblems catownerproblems catownerproblems

Are you able to present yourself  realistically at interviews?
Do you like cat photos/videos?
 Dan always says if he finds me laughing in front of the computer he knows there’s a good chance it’s because I’m watching a cat video!

An African Adventure

This time last year I had just gotten back from taking twenty Year 11 school kids to Malawi, in Africa for a month.


sunriseIt was an amazing experience and one I am so glad I put my name forward for, although I probably should have thought twice before selecting this as my first school trip I was in charge of!  Not only did I have to worry about the regular trip-issues, like travel arrangements and when and where we were going to eat.  The travel issues were plane flights, I had to think about or at least to learn more when and where we were eating for a whole month and there was the added issue of worrying about kids stepping on snakes or getting chased by hippo!


This was my favourite shot from the whole trip.  I took so many photos it was ridiculous!  Despite taking so many photos there are only about four or five with me actually in them!  That’s what happens when you are in charge of kids!


This is me with my ‘Malawian friend’.  The local kids latched on to us each day when we walked into the town.  A couple of the local kids changed ‘English friends’ but Mavuto stuck to me throughout.  He was eight years old and could only speak odd words of English.  We had no real conversations, but communicated through signals instead.


He liked wearing my sunglasses and loved taking pictures with my camera.

The purpose of our visit was to complete some voluntary work with a charity known as MEL – Malawi Education Link – helping to maintain local schools and hospitals.  Our students helped limewash, paint and decorate classrooms as well as repair steps and walls of the schools.


Our students then had the chance to teach the locals some English.  The local kids were very excited and the classrooms filled up very quickly!


We put our kids into groups of 2/3 and they were told by the local headteacher that they would be teaching classes of about 20 the following day.  Word spread that we were going to be teaching though and it ended up being classes more like 120!schools

We also got to go on some fantastic trips…



And organised some fun nights at base camp as well…


This is me with the other four leaders on a dress-up night.  Each student had £2 to spend at the local market to dress another member of the team up.  We chose names from a big pot the day before.  All 20 students, all five leaders and the owner of the house, Caroline.  Then on the afternoon of the dress-up, each person put the clothes in a plastic bag with the person they were intended for written on the front of the bag.

I was the only teacher in the leaders, although Caroline used to be Head of English at my school before moving to Malawi several years ago.  Here’s the leaders looking a little more normal in our own clothes!  There’s me, third from the right.


It was a fantastic experience and one I will definitely never forget, but I was very glad to spend my Summer at home this year!  Being alert and in charge of so many students for 24 hours a day, 28 days running with no ‘time off’ was incredibly draining!

Has anybody else done any volunteer work abroad? 


What is the best school trip you ever went on?