Monday, January 23, 2006

Time to get tough

Looking back over my running times, it has to be admitted: going by the numbers alone, I'm actually getting slower. Yes, slower. I did the Race for Life in 35 minutes something, the JogScotland 5K in 36:50 , and the Great Winter Run in 37:18.

I know there are mitigating factors - the JogScotland run was a very humid day, and the Arthur's Seat run was the steepest. And the slowest times for both of these were over an hour. But still. Over six months, I was hoping for some improvement.

There might be some consolation if the numbers on the scale had moved substantially during that time - I might not be faster, but look at all the fat I've burned off! But they haven't. While I'm sure I have built some muscle, things need to start happening faster. I didn't gain over Christmas, but neither did I lose, and I've started to notice myself going back to bad habits - in particular, eating food because it's available.

When I look at the last few months, I'm a bit discouraged by the little progress I've made. If I'd lost as much as PastaQueen, for example, I'd be under 140 pounds. If I'd lost as much as YP I'd be 150. I know, I know, comparisons are odious.

Why am I being so half-hearted about this, especially as regards diet? Partly, I suppose, it's because I don't have quite such an impetus to change any more. I'm back, or nearly, at the size I was for most of my teenage years. I can wear size 14 dresses and tops, if not jeans. I might not be breaking the sound barrier, but I'm fit enough to walk a few miles or climb a hill without wanting to die (which I certainly couldn't do as a teenager). Things are relatively comfortable.

And yet. I still hate the sight of my thighs in the changing room mirror. I still wouldn't wear a sleeveless top on its own in public. I'd like to go swimming for once without dreading the walk from changing room to pool.

It's easy to scorn the resolutionaries who join gyms in their droves in January. Mine is full of them. On the other hand, they are making a change, not just jogging along in the same rut. Inspired by these ladies, I've decided to do something too.

First of all, this challenge. It's not a huge change to my routine, and to begin with at least will only mean taking one extra 25-minute walk per week. That sounds do-able.

Secondly, I'm going to start journalling my food again. Why I didn't keep doing this, when I had a permanent loss the week I did it, I don't know. But I have ten weeks until W-Day. That should be long enough to make some difference, surely?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I'm back!

Ever since I’d signed us up for the Edinburgh Great Winter Run around Arthur’s Seat, I’d been having visions of the two of us slogging through rain, hail, gale-force winds or all three. Although it doesn’t get super-cold in Edinburgh even in the winter, it would be a bit optimistic to _expect_ nice weather on the fourteenth of January.

I was also a little apprehensive about my levels of fitness. The gym was closed for almost two weeks over the Christmas period, and although I’d been back twice before the run, I hadn’t been too impressed with my performance. On the Monday I’d actually had a touch of asthma for the first time in months, and since in the past it’s often been brought on by cold air, I was beginning to wonder whether running outside in January was such a good idea. The D. B. is a lot fitter than me, and usually goes running after dark, braving the cold without any problems, but had only had time for a couple of runs to get back into it since his cast came off.

He was also a little unclear as to the distance he usually runs. His normal route takes 20 minutes, and given that he runs much faster than I do, I didn’t think he’d have too much trouble with the 5K, although we’d been warned that the first half of the course contained a long uphill section.

Despite all that angst, it was a beautiful day after all – sunny and mild (well, for January). My brother gave us a lift to Dynamic Earth, which is the white structure you can see behind us in the photo, and I was relieved to see lots of obvious runners converging on the complex. It’s always reassuring to know that if you’ve got the day wrong, so have lots of others… We followed the tide of humanity up the steps, then discovered there was no way down and had to retrace our path.

Edinburgh Great Winter Run - before the start

After that inauspicious beginning, we found the starting area for the race already quite busy. The area was divided up into projected finishing times, which I hadn’t seen before. We decided we were probably “30-40 minutes” (the D. B. was determined to run at my pace) and settled down to wait. The warm-up was already in progress, but we couldn’t see the leader from where we were so contented ourselves with jumping up and down a bit and doing as much stretching as the crowd would allow.

Suddenly I was hailed from behind (I must have a recognisable pigtail). It was the Proper Runner from work who gave me a lift to the Race for Life back in July. She maintained that she hadn’t done much training over Christmas and wouldn’t be whizzing round (but she got away from us when we started and we haven’t seen her since!)

The clock started and we were away… only to grind to a halt a few metres later with the pressure of the crowd. By the time we got to the start line, however, things had opened up a little more, and we set off along a good, even path in the sunshine. At this point, we were running on the flat. The D. B was jogging along easily – obviously this part was not challenging him too much – and even I was able to talk a little (we agreed that mid-January was perhaps a little early for the guy with the mike to be talking about “spring sunshine”). It seemed like no time before we reached the 1K mark, and I was quite encouraged that I’d got that far without really feeling it.

Soon, though, the path began to climb. And kept right on climbing. The views were fantastic – I’ve lived in Edinburgh all my life, but I still love looking out over the city from Arthur’s Seat. However, the feeling in my legs was not fantastic at all. Apparently it was a mistake to do quite such an energetic leg workout on Thursday – I hadn’t done any squats since before Christmas, and I’d reckoned I ought to get back into it… Wrong. I had to slow to a walk. My leg muscles were just too tight to run uphill, and I didn’t want to injure myself – certainly not at this early stage.

By way of encouragement, the race organisers had planted signs by the path with their ‘Top 5 Songs for Running Uphill’ (number five was ‘Running up that hill’ by Kate Bush). The D. B. was doing a kind of slow-motion jog so that I could keep up with him. “You’re doing really well. Run to that next sign?” I had a go, but didn’t quite make it.

Over the next two kilometres, I ran when I could (on the less steep bits) but to be honest, most of it was walking. Fast walking, mind you – I was warm, and no doubt crimson in the face – but walking. The D. B. (who was actually cold!) stuck with me nobly and was very encouraging. By this point, most of the field were going about the same speed as us, and as he pointed out, we weren’t exactly falling back. And, well, it was a nice day for a walk.

The turning point came at Dunsapie Loch – we knew this was the highest point of the route. The path is fairly flat here, and I was able to run again. We passed the 3K marker at around this point, and the song suggestions switched to “Running Downhill”. The first one was ‘Moving on Up’ by M People, which would have done as well, we felt, for running uphill.

“Can you think of any songs for running downhill, though?”
“Don’t know. ‘Down Down’ by Status Quo – that’s got to be one of them.” (It was.)
“Hasn’t anyone written a song called ‘Downhill all the way’?”

We didn’t come up with much. On the other hand, the route was now quite appreciably downhill, and running had become easy. Once we’d rounded the western curve of the hill, we could see almost all the way to the finish line, and I began to entertain hopes of being able to run the rest of the way. We could see a few finishers making their way back along the sides of the route already.

I wish running was always like this.

The route flattened out slightly before the 5K marker and the last song (‘Don’t Stop Me Now’). There were still about 300 metres to go, and I would have liked to walk, but I was NOT going to run 2K without stopping and then finish at a walk. I told the D. B. to run on ahead, but he didn’t, and in the end we crossed the line together, hand in hand.

Well, we’re engaged, we’re allowed to be soppy.

Then we just had to collect our free water, disengage our running chips from the socks to which they had become intimately velcro’d, and go and get our goody bags and T-shirts (I took mine out of the packet to check the size, and instantly dropped it in the mud. That was bright.)

Edinburgh Great Winter Run - we finished!

As you can see, I was still a little purple in the face at this point.

“Can I go back to bed now?” the D. B. asked as we made our way back up Holyrood Gait to go and meet my brother, who was giving us a lift back.


In the end, our times were within a second of each other (mine was one second faster – the D. B. must have adopted a ladies-first policy). He’s talking about running the route by himself sometime to find out how long it actually takes him, though. My time was 37:18, which is about the same as the last 5K I did, which wasn’t nearly so hilly. So perhaps my form hasn’t declined as much as I feared, although I’d very much like to actually _run_ the next one.

I’ll be back with a roundup of other news later in the week – I hope. I’ve been trying not to go on too much about the wedding here, but the D. B. and I have been quite busy with various preparations this month, which has cut into my messing-around-on-the-internet time somewhat. But I hope I never go so long without updating again…


For a while now, I've been a little tired of my template. I want a different colour, and I want something less off-the-peg. On the other hand, I know nothing about designing websites, so actually doing much about this is a little difficult.

In the name of totally accurate research, I did a little quiz to see what colour my new design should be - and got this:

Your Blog Should Be Green
Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.

Well, that's me telt. Fortunately, I don't recall anyone ever being nasty in the comments!