Life, Running

Deck the Halls

Candle table dressing with holly, pine cones surrounding the candle.
Anne’s table dressing

Today is the first Saturday of December and every year that means only one thing. Wine in the fridge, fire laid for the evening, free Spotify playing random Christmas tunes in between the adverts, and finally, the boxes of assorted, accumulated decorations down from the attic.

This year, in a rare departure from tradition, we are not having a tree! I know, shocking, right? Normally, the two of us can be seen half carrying, half dragging a suitable specimen from the grocers at the top of the road. Then we have a cup of tea and a little lie down before dressing it with a cornucopia of baubles, bells and fairies. But this year, because we are spending Christmas down in London with Anne’s eldest, we thought we’d just decorate the house and splash some lights around the window and job’s a goodun.

Oh, if only life were so simple. How can a set of lights that we only bought last year, just stop working? And then, where are the ribbons that tied the long faux evergreen branch to the banisters? Plus, how on earth can Baby Jesus just disappear from the Nativity set when it’s all been wrapped carefully and put away so well?? Hmmm, not the kind of miracle I was hoping for.

The day has turned cold, rainy and really rather windy. Perfect for justifying an indoor fire, and a little glass of Christmas Baileys maybe sooner rather than later at this rate. At least I can feel smug about getting my run done this morning.

In between the rain showers, I got out for a rather nice 10K, but I ran it a good two minutes slower than my previous run, a couple of days ago. I spotted quite a few arboreal casualties of last weekend’s Storm Arwen on my canter out. As we were in London, we didn’t realise how strong it was here. My last run felt tough and I was exhausted all day after. This time my legs felt very comfortable and I didn’t feel tired at all by the end, a brilliant feeling and a good reminder to me that going slow and building up the mileage is the key. If I do just a little one tomorrow, I’ll get easily over twenty miles this week which will be a mental boost.

But back to the decorations. Neither of us is now going to venture out on this squally afternoon just to buy lights, so that will have to wait a while. In the meantime maybe we’ll put up some good old fashioned candles. We’ve found all the other bits and Anne has done a fine job of tastefully bedecking our downstairs.

I don’t know how much of it will remain so tasteful, given that we have the grandson on Monday and Tuesday but for now it’s all looking lovely and festive. The wind can holler outside as much as Maria Carey is hollering inside, but it really is starting to feel a lot like Christmas now.

Running

Don’t Look Ethel

Yesterday and today I ran naked.

Cows in the field, waiting by the gate

No, I wasn’t taking the idea of a run streak literally, and there were no acts of public indecency. I did keep my clothes on, and really, would you, given how the temperature has taken a sudden plummet? What I mean is, that I didn’t keep a track of any running metrics while I ran.

From appalling to anodyne in two short paragraphs, but for a runner who likes to keep a eye of their miles and pace as they go along (that is most of us), it’s quite a big deal to not be able to see a smart watch, or listen to a voice in your headphones periodically giving you your details.

I don’t have a sports watch. Yet. So normally I rely on the lady from the Runkeeper app telling me what’s happening every ten minutes. How many miles I’ve accumulated, what my average pace is etc. All very interesting stuff if you like that sort of thing. And sadly, I do.

It was because I’ve (temporarily I hope) lost my headphones, and I decided to mute my phone volume to avoid passers-by hearing the slightly pathetic information coming through. So I wasn’t completely naked. I did capture my data, but I only looked at the end of the run.

There are very few runners that I know who don’t care about these things. I can only think of one. A man I used to run with some lunchtimes when I worked for a company, a few years back. His name has completely passed me by, but he used to just have a normal watch, that could just tell the time. He looked at it when we started, and then maybe, at the end, if he remembered. He was so zen. I think his preference was trail running and hills, and he was so chilled that he even ran during Ramadan, in the summer, while observing the no water rule, and didn’t seem to break a sweat. Amazing!

But apart from this guy, I can’t think of anybody who doesn’t record their runs. I’m not sure I like it. I feel bereft. Normally I listen to a podcast in between the ten minute time checks, or I’m chatting to other people if I’m going out with a group, but these last couple of days I’ve got nothing.

Well, apart from the sound of the traffic, the birds, and the occasional mooing cow I suppose.

In my OU Creative Writing course, I am encouraged to observe the world around me a little more closely. To use all the senses and describe what I notice with a little, well, creativity.

What did I notice?

The constant background whirring hum of the nearby motorway: white noise, it fades into the subconscious. The birds twittering in the trees, squeezing behind the last few leaves that have managed to cling on to the bitter end. Squirrels, scarpering silently well ahead of me, when they feel the earthquake of my clodhopper tread. Farmyard aromas wafting on the chilly breeze as I reach the winding country lanes. The cows lining up at the gate, waiting impatiently, to be moved to the greener grass field.

You see! The sooner I can find my headphones the better.

Running

Base Training 101

I was hoping to run 10 miles yesterday morning, for no other reason than to see if I still could, since my half in September. I managed 8. This was adequate, but disappointing but it is hard to motivate yourself to keep going for just under two hours (that’s how long 10 miles currently takes me) when there is no race on the horizon.

Although I’ve put my name down for the Helsby Half in January, I’m on the waiting list as they’ve reduced their numbers. I’m 77th in the queue so it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting the call up any time soon, but then again, there could be a flurry of withdrawals in December when people have realised they’ve larded up too much over a festive period that feels like a long time coming.

This makes for a difficult limbo land. Do I carry on training as if I will be running, or do I assume it’s a non-starter and give myself over to the gluttony that is to come?

Of course, if I did have an ounce of my dad’s self-discipline, I would be able to take everything in moderation and maintain a balance between the hard work and the play. In the absence of that, however, I need to reshape my thinking. Instead of worrying about the length of an individual run at the minute I should just work on increasing my weekly mileage. I’m hovering around the 17 miles per week mark and I’d like to get it up to a comfortable 25 by the middle of December. That should be very doable if I just remind myself that, most days, I just need to pop out for a quickie, as it were.

Base training can come in different shapes and sizes, but what it basically means is maintaining, or getting to, a decent level of stamina for what you want to achieve in the long run. If you have a race in six months’ time, you don’t want to push too hard from now as you’re more likely to get tired, or injured, or miserable, or all of the above. But, you also don’t want to start from zero, so the first few months will be getting to a nice level of fitness, where you feel healthy but still energetic. It is a hard balance to strike

If I don’t do Helsby, then my next big run is in June, so how do I resist my natural inclination to stay in my pyjamas and crack open an early box of mint chocolate matchmakers?

Well, it’s not easy, but this is a list that (most of the time) works for me.


Number 1 – Get other people to kick you up the proverbial

In my experience running buddies do help. Either, friends who regularly run with me (get better soon Bev!) or being part of a running club. Especially a running club where several of the members are decades older and still wipe the floor with me.

Actually I think that is an important point that I made without realising it: if all the people you hang out with are quite sedentary and you’re the fittest of them all, then it’s easy to get a little laissez-faire about exercise. But if you add a few people who are regularly active, then that starts becoming your new normal.

Number 2 – Break down the time frame

If you’ve got oodles of blank squares in your calendar between now and the big run, then you will probably do what I did for most of my undergraduate degree. Not start until it’s way too late and then cram like crazy to produce a mediocre offering.

Put in some mini challenges between now and then. Parkrun is a great go-to for that, as it’s free and it’s in the same place every Saturday at 9am. Yes it’s only a 5k but if you’re going hell for leather on that one run, then following the 80/20 rule, that’s your 20% done. And the rest of the week can consist of some longer runs that are nice and slow. Plus you get to see an indication of your progression, if you do the same run every few weeks, and if it goes in the right direction, that can be very motivating.

Number 3 – Mix it up

Do other stuff: like cycling, or dancing. Even taking your two year old grandson for a big splash in the baths counts as an add on, as semi-permanently squatting in the shallow end so my shoulders didn’t get cold and keeping hold of him as he didn’t have armbands, was definitely a workout. I have also been doing yoga, a little more regularly at the moment, alongside my running, and from personal experience I think that, or any other big stretchy workout, should be a crucial extra when you run long distances.

Number 4 – Enjoy it

A path with autumn leaves covering the pavement and several trees looming behind the wall running along the edge.

What is not to love about the carpet of autumnal colour ahead of me as I lope along the pathways. The crunch underfoot (well I hope it’s crunchy!), as the brittle leaves break apart beneath me. If you can convince yourself that you’re going out for a bit of fresh air, to clear your head, to explore, to be one with nature, or any other reason that is different from ‘to train’ then it feels a whole lot less onerous to get out.


So those are my tuppence worth of thoughts on keeping motivated between races and I’ll attempt to put them into practise between now and June, or if I’m lucky/unlucky, between now and January!

Books, Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami

The book, scribbled notes and all

I’ve just finished reading, or should I say re-reading, this book.

Because my writing course will focus on creative non-fiction, I’m trying to pick up a few more of that kind of book to learn how the professionals do it. Normally Murakami writes novels and I’ve enjoyed many of them, but this book title naturally drew me in.

Even though I’ve read it before, I was still thrown by the start of chapter eight. I had completely forgotten what he does, but then that is often what I do with books. Read them, sometimes enjoy them and then promptly forget most of them. I’ve been known to get well over halfway through a book before I realise that I’ve read it before! Nothing major happens here, and normal people might wonder what am I even going on about with this particular chapter, but the start of it got to me.

My course is making me look more closely at the craft of construction, so this time around I’ve made scribbled notes on scraps of paper and slotted them in at the pertaining pages. Not sure how useful they might be when I read them back again, but I feel as if I’m paying a bit more attention by doing this.

The book is set out in the form of mini essays, with a date and location at the top of each section. That makes it sound like a diary but it has so much more fluidity of time and space than a regular diary does. It is a memoir of sorts and there really is a large amount of talking about running (just in case you thought the title was just a metaphor). And even though his running is at a seriously more advanced level than mine, I could relate to it a lot.

In amongst the descriptions of his running methods and progress, he weaves in key moments of his life in a way that feels very natural, and still relating to the point. You get to learn about him as a person, and how he is shaped, metaphorically, and physically, but you don’t get the usual yawn about where he was born or what school he went to etc.

The biggest take I got, is that Murakami is a singularly focused man, to the point, sometimes, of obsession. But this focus propels him in his running/triathlon efforts in the same way that it does his writing. He can sit, every morning, for three or four hours and carve away at his writing, without any deviation. I came away in awe of that focus, a little afraid of not being able to gain it myself. And then again, if I did, wondering what kind of a person I would then become.

I have used a quote from this book which I love, on my home page, as although I’m never going to be that good a runner, I love getting out there. And if I do get more serious about this writing lark, it looks like I’m going to need that running even more.

Running

Running, or was it wallowing (?), in Beacon Park

I’m squatting by a bucket of muddy water outside my house with rubber gloves on and a toothbrush in my hand, wondering if this is what normal people do on a Sunday.

To clarify, the toothbrush has long been demoted from the task of cleaning teeth, and used to have a happy, later life getting around the taps with a dab of Cif. Now, it’s taken a further step down the ladder, and been relegated to scrubbing the mud off the grips in my shoes, as today was my first attempt at cross-country running since my school days.

Although I had taken my new trail shoes for a small, initial spin around Storeton Woods last Sunday, this was their real christening. I can now say that they were worth it, as they were really comfy and they kept me upright.

The day turned out to be a bright, sunny one, albeit with some hefty gusts. Some of our team found that out, when they tried putting the club gazebo up on the grass. By the time we arrived, they were busy taking it down again before it flew away to Oz.

Several hundred people were milling around in the sun in various states of preparation, We had a fifteen strong running group for Pensby, plus some kind volunteers to help look after us all, but I didn’t realise that so many people did this kind of thing for fun on a Sunday morning. Maybe it was the lack of runs in 2020, and the dry day today, but the first race of the North West Cross Country season  was very well attended.

I had triple-knotted my laces, and Claudia had shown me a handy loop on the top of my shoes to shove the bows in, but I was still thinking I should have tightened the laces a little more, and wondering if I had time to readjust, when the horn sounded. The hordes around me stormed ahead and I was swept up in it for a short while, until I was a little out of breath and slowed to a more manageable pace.

At the start, the ground felt quite nice. The grass didn’t feel like it had too many hidden dips and was actually quite springy and enjoyable, once I could breathe again. That didn’t last.

I often worry that, when I get left behind as I invariably do, I may be liable to take a wrong turning somewhere, if there aren’t enough marshals. I didn’t need to worry this time, as even if the marshals and well laid out sign posts hadn’t been there, I had only to follow the heavily churned ground to find my way. At Storeton Woods I did my best to skip over or go around the muddy patches. Here there was zero option to circumvent, and as I ventured to find some non-existent edge, a fellow competitor said: sometimes the easiest way is straight through the middle.

Sage words, and by the middle of the first loop I was heeding them, although I was nearly left shoeless on several occasions, and wished I had tightened up those laces at the beginning. Towards the end of the first loop I was being lapped by some of the front-runners, including Ben, the first Pensby in, who’d been feeding his new-born girl at 4am this morning. I think he just came out for the run to have a rest!

The marshal optimistically asked me if I’d done my two loops, just after Ben sailed passed me, but no, I had to do it all again before I could take that right turn to the finish. For the first loop, there had been two steepish hills and a few undulations. For the second, it all felt like hills, but, remarkably, I was really starting to enjoy myself. The sun was out, the endorphins were kicking in and I hadn’t fallen or twisted my ankle. What a great day!

Even more lovely, as I was getting to the end and pushing up a crazy final hill to that finish line, I had the biggest cheer from the rest of the Pensby Runners team. I was the last Pensby in but, surprisingly, not the last runner to finish the course. It actually wouldn’t have mattered to me if I was, as someone will always be last. Getting out there to begin with was the win for me today.

The trainers are cleaner than they were five minutes ago but probably not as pristine as they were first thing this morning, which is alright. They feel like they belong on my feet a bit more now that I’ve doused them in the mud. Though I have to remember to tie my shoe laces up tighter next time!

Running

Trails…of destruction?

I’ve decided to take up trail running.

Well I haven’t really, not for definite. But I have now bought some (expensive for me but still the cheapest ones in the shop) shoes for trail runs.

New trail shoe in foot with purple socks
One of my new clodhoppers

I know you can get much cheaper ones online, but I do have a thing about trying to support a real, local, running shop because they’re so useful about giving you proper advice on what type of shoe you should go for. Also the online sites didn’t have my size.

Actually the shoes I’ve bought are several sizes bigger than my foot size which is 3.5. In running shoes I regularly get between a 4.5 and a 5 because there is so much internal padding and you need to allow space for ‘spread’. These ones are a 6 (!) and a very dark pink so in my head I look like a circus clown (Anne assures me that I don’t).

So why have I spent all this crazy money? It’s in the hope that I actually do some trail running. Even though I’m not mad keen on getting down and dirty, especially in the winter months, I’ve read, and been told, about the many wonderful things about trail running and I feel like I should dip a muddy toe in.

Wonderful thing No 1 – It’s very mindful

I had a go at breaking in these deep magenta bad boys on Sunday in Storeton Woods and I could kind of see what they mean. Because you’re busy trying not to twist your ankles on the tree roots and hidden dips that plague your way, you are definitely not thinking about anything else. Plus, as I’m still averse to dirt, I’m trying to skip over or around the many bogs and mud patches that have developed with the unceasing rain. So, if mindfulness means paying attention then, yes, most definitely, I was that.

Wonderful thing No 2 – It slows you down

This is apparently wonderful because we’re all just too busy trying to be faster and we should just chill with nature – or something like that.

As regular readers may know, I am not the fastest kid on the block, nor even anywhere near the middle. However, based on this little trip, my normal sloth speed was indeed further diminished by aforementioned obstacles and dodgy uneven ground so that I had to walk (or rather scramble) in places. Walking is apparently a crucial part of trail running, and while serious road runners would never dream of having one foot permanently on the ground during a run, trail runners embrace it as part of the experience of getting across the terrain – or something like that.

Wonderful thing No 3 – It works more of your muscles

Well, yes. To say I was ker-nackered after that short and slow three and a bit miler maybe gives credence to that idea. I felt that, because my feet were landing at different angles, my motion was sometimes side to side, and my arms were flailing about to keep my balance, parts of my body were definitely being woken up that otherwise wouldn’t have been active.

I am a bit clumsy with my running or any physical activity, and my right ankle has sometimes got nearly or, occasionally, fully twisted when I’ve fallen. So this whole idea of trail running feels a bit counter-intuitive. However, I’m thinking that, if I do it slowly (which has never been a problem) I could actually build up the tendons and muscles around my ankles a little bit more by having a go at these crazy runs.

There is a season of local trail races coming up this winter, and I’m bobbing along for at least the first one this Sunday. I have verified that my presence will not be detrimental to any team positions so I’ll give it a go and let you know.

Running

Run To The Hills

I was saying to Sue last night that …

Well I wasn’t so much saying, as gasping, barely able to get a syllable in, between the short and desperate inhalations.

Despite my wheezing, we managed to hold a conversation of sorts and I was explaining that I’d not done any hill training for two, maybe three years. And it showed.

I’m not talking about going for a run that has hills in it. These are the more repetitive, and therefore somewhat more challenging, efforts that I inexplicably volunteered for last night at the club.

I was at the back. At the back during the 1.4 mile ‘jog’ to Teals Way, and at the back during the repeats. However, it’s an exercise that I cannot do with the same amount of push by myself. I would have walked some of it. I would have gone slower. I would have given myself a million excuses not to do it in the first place because I wouldn’t have been accountable to anybody but myself and I am a rubbish taskmaster!

A small section of our hill – courtesy of Google Maps

Those excuses were obviously listened to as I’ve not done hill repeats for years and there are plenty of hills in my vicinity. Red Hill Road and Rest Hill Road are neither red nor restful but they are both several levels above ‘undulating’.

So here I was, slightly knackered before we’d even begun, at the bottom of Teals Way pulling off my extra layers on a dark but rather warm evening. Andy, our drill instructor, is a deceptively smiley chap. He looks on you kindly and gives you encouragement and then blows his whistle.

The first ten minutes was to go up and down at a steady pace to get ‘a feel’ for the hill. Up to the first bend it’s a gradual incline. Then you veer gently to the right and you can feel your lungs starting to work as it gets a bit steeper. A bend then to the left again and this is the ‘pinch’, the steepest section and your breathing has shallowed as you try and get oxygen in as quickly as possible. It levels out a little at the top as you go right, and around the green electrical box and finally down the hill again, you pull in deep breaths to recover. Then you do it all again!

I think I managed about three hills to everyone else’s six and this one was the easy exercise! However, as I explained, haltingly, to Sue, during the second ten minute drill (she had popped up here as she’d been late getting to the club and this was the only group she knew the location of – that’ll teach her to be late!), my participation, and my uber slow circuits should just be an encouragement to all the runners who think that hill running with the gazelles is too daunting! Someone will always be last, and sometimes, like yesterday, someone may be last by quite a distance. But absolutely nobody will mock you and you will get a nice sense of achievement for some hard work done.

The second and third drills involved sprint sections: the second before the ‘pinch’ and the third, actually on the steepest bit itself. I didn’t have the lungs to sprint but I did attempt to lengthen my stride and pump my arms more for those bits.

We could see the silhouette of a man looking at us all from his bedroom window: hard to imagine how normal people may view this merry crew? Sue stayed with me even though, given her ability to string a longer sentence together, she could have gone faster. We managed to do one round of the final drill before I suggested making an early exit. I knew that the 1.4 miles back to the club was mainly uphill and I figured that, for a first stint in ages, I’d done alright.

The one good thing about doing these hills on a dark night in October is that there is less likelihood of tripping on tree roots as Teals Way is a wide, quiet and well lit road.

Of course, the other good thing is that it will, eventually, make me stronger. If it doesn’t kill me first!

Running

Scottish Half Marathon

So my running app says 13.20 miles was run today, which means a whole 10th of a mile of extra pain! I made it to the end though and it wasn’t all bad by any stretch. Just that last stretch. Never has a 5k felt so hard as when it is tacked on to the end of 10 miles.

Running app map and stats for race
My route along the Scottish waterfront

However everything seems better after a hot bath and fish finger butty so I can now put this day into context.

If you want a good time, this run is definitely one to consider. Mainly flat or downhill, with only a few gentle inclines. We did get some headwind along the water front but I’ve had stronger winds in Liverpool. Plus the organisation is really good with wide roads pretty much all the way and some gorgeous scenery to boot.

I didn’t quite realise when we booked our hotel in Leith, that it was on the right side of Edinburgh to get me to the starting line. They have a park and ride system where you can pre-purchase the bus ticket or buy it (slightly more expensive) on the day.

If you need your own personal support team then it’s a bit trickier as so many roads are closed for the race. Anne tried to catch me just before the 5 mile mark but she couldn’t get there in time because of this. So you either have to know the nook and cranny roads or camp out at a spot a lot earlier. I’m not bothered by having an entourage though as I just like to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

The start ‘village’ was very roomy and well organised, and I didn’t have to wait too long for the toilet  (the loo queue is obligatory pre-race however many times you’ve been before!). It was quite a bright and sometimes sunny morning which was very nice while we were standing around.

Lots of runners assembling for the start
Pre race assembly

The race starts at 11 am so there was quite a bit of standing around and as I was placed in blue band (it depends on your previous or guesstimate time) which was right at the back. But we shuffled forward quite quickly and set off at just after ten past. The sun kindly hid behind some clouds for the vast majority of the race which was perfect timing and there were only a few drops of rain at the end.

I wish I had taken more pics along the route as when we turned back towards Musselburgh the water front was gorgeous. I had managed a selfie along with this one, but my teeth were still covered in beetroot juice from the gel I’d just taken so that one had to be deleted!

Boats on the water side
Boats lolling around while we do our hard work!

I started to get a little tired around 8 miles but had another gel which they provided and that got me into double figures. At this point everything started to hurt all at once and although I had another gel in my pocket, I didn’t think more energy was what I needed. A hip replacement was more like it. There was now a bit of walking involved but I was not bothered, so long as I got to the end somehow.

Lots of people were cheering us on towards the end, and that final mile or so was run on pure adrenalin but I managed it and was very relieved to see that Finish line.

Plus points were that I didn’t get picked up by the sweeper bus and actually my average miles per minute were pretty spot on to what I hoped – just under 11 minute miles. So although that last part was really tough it was a pretty good day all in all and it will serve as a good base time for the next run!

Life, Running

Pre-race Jitters

This bib coming through the post this week makes it official. Sunday (tomorrow!) is my first half marathon in over two years.

No more pretending it isn’t going to happen!

I don’t know if climbing ladders is good preparation for a race, but that is what I was doing all day yesterday. And although I knocked my knees a couple of times coming down ( oh my goodness, why does that hurt so much!), no lasting injuries were sustained. I’m building a wooden gazebo in the back garden, with the very kind (and honestly I couldn’t do it without him) help of my mate Gary. So far we have spent two and half days in total. But getting the days back to back has been problematic over the summer with both of us busy at different times. It is coming together as you can see, and I think one more day will sort this bad boy out and we have ourselves a nice, if somewhat airy, room on the outside.

Wooden gazebo with roof tiling half done
Nearly done but not quite yet!

At least I did something physical as I’ve barely run all this week or last. It makes me a little nervous as I find that doing a gentle 5k or so a day or two before the race ‘wakes’ (technical term) my legs up.

It is what it is though. I could have gone this morning but I still need to pack and do a quick tidy up before we get going, and, of course, knock out a quick pre-run blog. This doesn’t count though, as we always try and have a couple of cups of tea in bed and have a bit of reading time, so I’m focused on this for a concentrated hour.

I am looking forward to the big day though, even though the butterflies are setting in already. The course is apparently very scenic as we will run along the estuary. I have to think of it as a nice day out and not worry about the time. I have reconciled myself to the fact that I’ll take about 2 and a half hours but at least I’ll be well ahead of the sweeper bus, that will pick up people taking longer that 3 hours 15.

Plus Anne and I will have a lovely weekend in Edinburgh. We’ll be meeting up with family and have tickets to explore Holyrood Palace, erstwhile residence of Mary Queen of Scots, amongst other Scottish royals.

So, there is fun to be had this weekend. I will do okay on the day, and it can be my new baseline from which hopefully I will improve. Watch this space!

Running

Sweetness and Light

No word of a lie: Adriene’s yoga theme for this month is called ‘RESET”!

What??!!

I didn’t know that when I wrote my last piece and of course, she knows diddly squat about me…or does she?!!!

Errr, no. But the synchronicity of the intentions has fired me up to be a little more resolute and follow her classes every day, for at least this month.

Also hit a little milestone on my running app last night. I completed the Chairman’s Challenge with the running club, which is 7.5 miles of hardcore Heswall hills as described in the blog I wrote when I ran it the first time. Despite still bringing up the rear with Sue and Janine, I actually did feel a tiny bit stronger than last time, taking just over 3 minutes off my PB.

But that 7.5 miles took me to just over a century of mileage for the month of August which is very pleasing. Plus, it took me just over the mileage that I managed in the whole of last year which is somewhat marvellous and makes me feel all super motivated to keep going, as I sit on my bed here typing this. This is the place that the motivation is at its highest!

My Year stats for running

During my run last night I tried out a new gel. I have always used SIS gels before but have always disliked taking artificial sweeteners.

The new gels compared to the old
Size matters, especially when you’re carrying these babies on your run!

The one I tried last night was Velaforte ‘Tempo’. It’s the one with a date on the front. All the recipes for this brand use natural sugars, so your sugar content is much higher than one with sweeteners. I don’t mind that at all as I need all the extra energy I can get when running. Plus, these little packets are so much smaller than my old SIS one, with the same amount of carbohydrates.

This is very different from the usual sugary sweetness I was used to. It does actually taste of date, predominantly, and is less sweeter than the SIS, ironically. But, once I’d got my head around that, it was nice, and it went down easily.

I would normally have felt a dip in energy, often just after the hour mark, if I didn’t take a gel. I didn’t experience that and I felt pretty good all the way around.

It is more expensive than the SIS; each gel in this pack works out to £1.60. I don’t mind that to get something a little more natural. I have to try out the other flavours of course, but it looks like I will be making the switch based on this first one.

And finally, the cat is being sent packing tomorrow to its real family down in London, so I thought I’d give you some final shots.