Barre hopping

I mentioned last week that I’ve been keen to do more cross-training and keen to  try some new stuff. Lisa, who I run with regularly, does Barre a few times a week and she raves about it for building strength, particularly in core and gluts, both of which are crucial for running and lacking in this runner’s body.  I found a groupon for a local barre studio and, when checking their site, discovered they have weekly free community classes. Perfect for a first timer, I thought. If I hate it, it was free anyway.

So on Friday night, I got together with a couple of my best mum friends. We were in a baby group six years ago and now our babies are enormous but we’re still friends. I texted them and wondered if they fancied trying this barre class before going for dinner and drinks and I was surprised when they jumped at it. So at 7pm, Kathryn, Lisa (a different Lisa) and I turned up at Barre 3 in San Mateo.

My understanding of barre, before I went, was that it’s a killer workout loosely based on ballet with a bit of yoga. I knew that nicely dressed women did it at a ballet barre. There would be lots of squatting, lots of pulsing, that my legs would wobble and I would hurt the next day.

The studio was gorgeous – it smelt delicious. It was a very small class – about six students and one teacher. These classes are free because the teachers are training. Our teacher (also Cat) was lovely – tiny and slim and super-friendly. I’d been a little worried barre would be too ‘chic’ for me but apparently not.

However the delightful Cat totally kicked my arse.

The warm up involved a million squats. We then moved to the actual barre and did this thing when we held the barre, went up on tiptoes, squatted down a little and then did a million pulses, tiny movements that literally had my thighs shaking and quivering like Bambi. We then put our heels together and our toes out and did more tiny squats which had my butt-cheeks burning.

We did some arm work (with squats) and then we moved down onto the mat for ab work. The first movement was nice – she gave us these lovely squishy balls for the small of our backs and then we did some tiny pulsing crunches that didn’t hurt and actually felt good. But then came the killer…we laid on our backs with our arms and legs up towards the ceiling, holding the ball. We moved our hands and feet in opposite directions towards the floor, then, when the burn kicked in, we moved everything slowly back to the middle and put the ball between our legs. We did it again and moved the ball into our hands. We did that a million times until everything cried out for mercy.

What surprised me was how quickly the hour went. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and would love to do another one. Barre classes are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination but  at this studio there are these free classes roughly once a week so I’d love to go to more of those if I can make it.


barre me

After Barre came the bar….


The next morning, I was expecting agony but it wasn’t too bad. Squatting down to put the cat-food down was painful but I was able to move pretty decently! However the next day, Sunday, I was in a world of pain. I got up early to run, walked across the bedroom…and went back to bed. Apparently the muscles in my bottom and thighs have a lot of progress to make.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed barre. It hurt but in a good way. I’ve bought a four-pack deal on groupon and I’m going to go to as many of the free classes as I can. Loved it.

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And she’s off the sofa

Over the past ten days since Healdsburg, I’ve run precisely 13 miles.  I’ve eaten all the bread, cake and ice-cream I wanted. I’ve sat on the sofa a lot, watched a lot of West Wing reruns (and  have started Gilmore Girls) and I’ve slept until 7am every morning. It’s been delightful. It’s been bliss.

I always give myself a week off after a goal race. Always. After shorter races, I may run a little bit more…but not a lot. You may say ‘Cat, a whole week of sitting on the sofa eating crap is a little excessive’. And I would reply ‘Yes. Yes it is. Isn’t it great?’

I make no apologies.  After the training and the focus and the effort of the race, I’ve learned that I need a short period just to be a slob. It’s actually more for preventing mental burnout rather than physical burnout. The worrying thing is how easily I could never run again. I love running, I really do, but I find that days of inactivity just inspire more days of inactivity and slowly, they mount up into weeks of inactivity.

Part of the reason I’ve not run much since Healdsburg is the lack of a goal. I wish I was the kind of girl who can self-motivate,  the kind of girl that doesn’t need a goal in order to get out the house and run. But I’m not that girl – I DO need something to aim towards, so I spent Slob Week trying to decide what that goal should be.

After the disappointment of Healdsburg I spent a few evenings poring over race directories. I wanted to run a fast, flat, cool half as soon as possible for redemption. I wanted to blitz out a 5k immediately because I think I could run a short race hard at the moment. I thought I might try a 10k because I liked 10k training in the summer. Then I thought…no, trails! I haven’t run trails for ages. Basically, I wanted to run everything. Immediately. Hard.

(Running everything hard seems so do-able when you’re sat on the sofa eating Ben & Jerry’s)

I miss trails

I miss trails

The problem is that I want to do everything. Halves. 10ks, 5ks. Trails. However it’s surprisingly almost impossible to find a good PR-able half, 10k or 5k in the Bay Area until Christmas now. There are a few but they happen to be on weekends when I have commitments. On the weekend I’m free, there are no fast races. It’s all trail races now, which is awesome but not what I’m after.

I’m also itching to do some new stuff like swimming (kind of), a Barre class, a Zumba class, a spin class, some yoga. I want to ride my bike again. I’m even trying to put a date in the diary to try mountain biking. But basically I fancy some variety in my training.

The other added complication is that the Husband is running CIM on December 4th, so his training is starting to ramp up. He ran a trail race on Saturday (he ran it as training, he didn’t race it). It was his first trail race…he rocked it.


  1. I need a goal.
  2. There are no well-timed fast, flat races coming up.
  3. I want some variety in my training.
  4. I need to work around the Husband’s marathon

This morning I made it out the door in the inky blackness of 6am and was jogging along (without my Garmin) trying to think about what to do and slowly a plan emerged that got me excited. This is it.

  1. Do ParkRun 5k in Crissy Field on November 12th or November 19th.
  2. Do a fast 10k in December. Probably Quarry Lakes on December 18th.
  3. Cross train twice a week so I get to try new stuff.
  4. Get in a couple of trail races for fun as part of training.
  5. Turkey Trot with the boys in Bend, OR!
Last year's Turkey Trot in Santa Barbara

Last year’s Turkey Trot in Santa Barbara

Then, come 2017…

And that, people, is a plan! Boomshakalaka!!

Excitement Gauge Exploding

Excitement Gauge Exploding

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Reflections on this training cycle

I’ve really dithered about whether or not to write this post, let alone publish it. It’s basically me reflecting on this past training cycle so whilst it’s useful for ME, it may be a little too much navel-gazing for you, so please feel free to come back another week!!

I’ve also dithered about posting this because I clearly didn’t PR last Sunday – I melted at mile 8. Which was frustrating because I felt like this had been my best training cycle for a very long time. But how COULD it be such a great training cycle if I hadn’t achieved my goal? Surely the proof is in the pudding!

Proof in pudding

Proof in pudding

I discussed this with the girls over the weekend and they persuaded me that it could still be a great training cycle, despite the lack of PR. As we get a little faster, it gets harder and harder to PR. Initially every race is a PR and we’re awesome but eventually we get to the point where everything needs to come together perfectly to make it happen. Last time I PR’d at Healdsburg, I was new into my running life – it was the first time I ever went sub-two. There was ‘padding’ in my running records. Now, four years later, I’m closer to what I’m actually capable of. I still think there’s a minute or two that I can take off, but it’s not going to be easy. I’d need a flat course, a colder day, less wine…

All of the above to say that I think the below reflections are still valid, but I’ve not forgotten that all the wondrousness didn’t result in a PR.

With that said…these are my thoughts.


I started the training cycle in mid August, post road-trip, feeling like a tub of lard. I was fresh back from 6 or 7 weeks of traveling when my healthy-eating habits had disintegrated and I was one sluggish lady.



8 weeks, not 12 weeks

The biggest difference was that this training cycle was only 8 weeks, rather than the traditional 12. I’d been running all summer but slowly, for fun, exploring…never very long or very hard. I was initially totally freaked out about the missing 4 weeks, but it also took some pressure off. I’d do my best and I’d see what happened.

In retrospect,I think the shorter timescale both worked for and against me. The shortened timescale meant that every week counted – therefore I was more focussed and I enjoyed it more.  On the whole, I came out of each week feeling stronger. However, once again, my race fell apart due to lack of endurance so maybe I needed those extra four weeks to build up endurance!

More longer runs

Usually I only do 12 or 13 mile runs. This time I did several 13 milers, two x 14 milers, 1 x 15 miler. That built confidence. I’ll add in more longer runs to my next cycle. Also, I really enjoyed those longer runs!!

Fast Finishes

This was the first time I added fast finishes to my training. I did three. One was 13 miles with the last 3 at goal pace. One was 15 miles with the last 5 at goal pace and one was 13 miles with the last 5 at goal pace. I seriously loved doing those runs and it definitely built confidence. I hoped it would build endurance but obviously not as much as expected. However it definitely taught me what 8.30 pace feels like and how to hold it! Useful skills.


The other big change was running on a track. I’ve always included interval sessions in all my training plans but I’ve run them all on the Bay Trail that runs round my town. This time, I made an effort and drove pretty much every week to the High School track in San Mateo. On most other weeks, I ran at the less-than-perfect track around my local park (where the corners are pretty much 90 degrees).

The High School track was a revelation. I NEVER expected to love it but I seriously did. I love running in circles, apparently. I love feeling like an Olympian as I dash around. I love studiously ignoring all the High School football and soccer players training in the middle. I love the floodlights. I love running hard and stopping my watch on each lap. I seriously have loved it and I think it’s made me a much better runner. I have NO idea why running on a track would be more effective than basically the same workout on a concrete trail but apparently it is.

I need more photos of me running on a track.

I need more photos of me running on a track.

Running with friends

The other delight of this training cycle was running with friends. I got to do two long runs with Jen and two long runs with Lisa. In addition, Lisa and I met most weeks at the track and ran together there. It’s just been so nice, especially on the long runs. Those miles have flown past. I need to prioritise this more in the future.

shoreline img_3667


The first four weeks of the training cycle included at least two days of cross-training…namely cycling as I ‘trained’ for the Tour de Tahoe. It was a bit of a hassle fitting those long rides especially into busy weeks, but I think it was great to get that cross-training in at the start of the training cycle. I did much more cardiovascular exercise but without the strain on my running legs.


After the ride, I did very little (i.e….zero) cross-training and that was a shame and something I really regret. It was nice to have the additional rest days (three per week) and actually I wonder if those rest days kept my legs fresh for running but I’d like to find cross-training activities that fit more easily into my life for at least one of those rest days in the future. (I did promise Grace I’d start swimming once Healdsburg was over…)

What didn’t work as well?

The thing that bugs me the most is that lack of race endurance. In both my 10k and this half, I faded 2/3 of the way through the race despite (in this case) some longer, fast-finish runs. I can only keep working on this.

Taper Week

I definitely didn’t rock this. My last long run was the Sunday before the race – 13 miles with 6 at goal pace. It was rough. I did hold the pace, but I felt pretty awful at the end. My legs were toast. So I purposefully scaled back my taper and did two very, very easy runs that week, nothing else. I have no idea if that was the right thing to do.

My nutrition throughout the training cycle was pretty decent (not perfect, come on) and I was happy with my weight on race day. However I definitely didn’t focus on nutrition enough during Taper Week. I probably shouldn’t have had that extra glass of wine the night before. I do NOT think it contributed to missing my goal but I think it shows a lack of steel will to PR! (It was very nice though).

Race-Day nutrition

Gels are horrible. I did not like my gels during the race. I planned to take three, at miles 4,8 and 12. In the end, I took one at 4 (which took me a mile to get down) and one at 9 which was horrible. I definitely need to try different race-day fueling options because I think my Gu days are numbered.

If you made it this far, congratulations!! I know it’s a lot of drama for a middle-aged hobby-jogger’s failed PR attempt but it’s been helpful for me to get it down on ‘paper’ so thanks!!

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Race Report: Healdsburg Half Marathon

It was awesome, I PR’d. 

Quick version

Fell apart at mile 8. Didn’t PR. Cried a bit. Wonderful friends cheered me up.


Long Version. 

My goal was very clear going into this race. I wanted to PR. My training had mostly been awesome, I felt as good as I have for a long time now and I was ready to run hard. I would have been happy with any of the below goals.

  1. PR (anything below 1.52.37)
  2. 1.51
  3. 1.50

Option Two was the main goal and I thought it was do-able! That would be an 8.30 pace and I was up for trying.


We drove up to Healdsburg on the Saturday. Jess was over from Oklahoma so I met her at Jen’s and after lots of squealing and hugging, we drove up to Healdsburg, getting there at about 3pm. Jen and Jess are part of my Crazy Cat Lady running crew – the missing Cat Lady this weekend was Kate, so we made a cardboard cut-out of her head to add to photos. This amused us no end all weekend.


Kate enjoys some prosecco

Packet Pick Up at City Hall (where the race would start) was effortless and then we discovered that Matt and Amanda from our Ragnar Team were also in Healdsburg, having done a big bike ride that morning. We wandered over to see and hug them, we picked up breakfast supplies, we met up with our fourth crew-member Angela and then drove up to our little airbnb in Geyserville!

healdsburg woerman amanda jess jen

Ragnar Reunion

We had a lovely dinner at Catelli’s and then went back to get everything ready for the next day. We watched half of Maleficent which was so awful we ended up going to bed.


Walking to dinner Photo: Jen



healdsburg6jen jess kate

Jess and I snuggle down with Kate for the night         Photo: Jen


The race started at 7.30 but Jen and Angela were both using this race as part of a longer CIM training run so we got there at 6.30 so that they could run extra miles before the race. Jess and I were very distracted by a wedding that took place at the finish line. Yes…a wedding! It was very sweet but meant that I didn’t warm up very much because I wanted to see the ceremony.

healdsburg wedding

Photo taken from Healdsburg Running Company’s FB page

There’s a clear self-seeding system in place,  with banners for 10 min milers, 9 min milers etc. I positioned myself exactly between the 9 min mile and the 8 min mile markers and got myself ready to run. I felt pretty calm. I purposefully tried not to get myself amped up – now I wonder if I didn’t do enough mental preparation after all. Who knows.

The klaxon sounded and off we went. Game Time. The first mile was effortless, as first miles always are. There was a slight hill but it was fine. I cruised along, headphones in. Mile two and most of Mile Three are a gorgeous steady downhill along fields of vines. The weather was perfect and I was just so ridiculously happy!!  I was running around 8 – 8.20s which was faster than intended but I knew that this would happen on this stretch of the course and I was prepared for it. To be careful, I kept checking myself to make sure I wasn’t burning up all my energy, but no, it felt good.

As expected, at M3, it got tougher. The next five miles were undulating – in fact I had forgotten how very undulating it would be. Where were the hills in 2012? It had been much cooler than, and densely foggy, I just don’t think I saw them. Well I saw them today and I felt them but my music was great and I focussed on running steadily but carefully on the uphills and then making the most of the downhills by running hard then. My splits were pretty level at 8.30, I was on track, I was feeling steady and good.

I felt good all the way to mile 8 when we turned right….and immediately it all went wrong. I have no idea why. The road surface went from smooth to very bumpy and it threw me. I started feeling very discombobulated. It was warm by now and I really struggled, and I struggled with struggling. At one point, I suddenly found myself walking. That hadn’t been my plan, my legs just stopped. ‘What the heck?‘ I told myself,’You do  not walk. You may end up jogging home but you are not going to walk‘. I started back into a shuffle and felt a little better. There was an aid station just afterwards – I stopped a few seconds to actually drink some water (instead of sloshing it over me as I ran) and finish my gu and then started up again. I did feel a little stronger.

I remember the stretch of Miles 9 – 12 as totally downhill…well no, there are some lovely stretches of downhill but there are a couple of decent climbs. I was struggling a lot now and watching my splits come in way beyond my goal. 9.30, 9.00…I stood no chance of PRing now. Eventually I got to M12 and tried to push a bit harder and slowly I shuffled through the last mile. The finish line arrived and I crossed it in 1.53.

I was a bit gutted. I found myself some space and had a bit of a cry. Not a total melt-down, I promise, but a couple of tears. I fully believe that running isn’t important, that it’s a gift and a pleasure. But if our goals don’t matter to us, then why set them? I was disappointed. Jess arrived a few minutes later and found me upset. Having checked I was just sad and not actually ill, she escorted me over to the water tent and got me oranges. Once I was with her and my other girls rocked up, I felt so much better. Nothing like great friends to put things back in perspective!

Always happy when I'm with these gals Photo: Jen

Always happy when I’m with these gals
Photo: Jen

Everyone else had decent races. Lisa took 15 minutes off her PR, coming in just a few seconds over two hours. Jess, Jen and I all ran our third fastest half marathons ever, which was weird. Angela ran a solid 20 miles across the morning.

This rockstar!!! She's going to be so fast!

This rockstar!!! She’s going to be so fast!                                                       Photo: Lisa

We hung around for a bit until Gladys came through a little later. There was food afterwards (rice, beans, meat, chips) but I only wanted oranges. And then we got out Flat Kate, took some silly photos and went back to the airbnb for showers and a change of clothes.


Kate was delighted to find a clean portaloo                                                           Photo: Jen.                                                                                                                     Brave person who went inside the portaloo to make this happen: Me

Next up? Pizza! And sparkles!



48 hours later, I am much more philosophical about missing my goal. Although I went to Healdsburg to PR and although I’m still disappointed I didn’t have the magic on the day, I know the day will come at some point. I am mainly proud that I didn’t give up. I was so desperate to walk many times in the second half of the race, but apart from that one fleeting moment, I kept running, even if it was just a shuffle. There’s no shame in missing a goal if you know you didn’t stop pushing throughout the race!

A few notes on the race itself.

  • It’s a great event.
  • 700 people ran, so it’s a good size but was never too crowded. The first few hundred yards were busy but I was never held back by other runners.
  •  The course is beautiful. Oh my word. The rolling hills covered with autumn-coloured vines, the gorgeous houses, the sun coming up over the hills? It’s beautiful.
  • The aid-stations are good. They give out water, gatorade and gels.
  • Excellent loot. The medals are great and you get a free wine-glass and a nice t-shirt too!
Photo: Angela

Photo: Angela

Last night, I found myself back on race directories trying to find my next half marathon. This 1.51 challenge isn’t over yet!

But first…a little rest.

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Oh well…

Just a quick post to say…nope, didn’t do it. I was sad for a bit but with friends like these, you can’t be sad for long!


Photo: Jen

The full story coming soon! Thanks for all the lovely wishes before the race, I really appreciated it.

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This week has been taper week. Some people hate taper week and it makes them jittery and grouchy. I love taper week, it makes me happy. I get to sleep more! I’m a great taperer.

After Sunday’s tough run, I’ve kept this week super-easy. A massage on Tuesday – not sure it actually did anything but it was delightful. An easy 3-miler on Wednesday and then tomorrow morning I’ll be doing another easy 3 with some pick-ups to see if there’s any spring in my step. I was worried I’d overdone it on Sunday so I’m glad my legs are feeling chilled at the moment.

Taper has also given me time to read some books and do some cooking, so without further ado….this is what I’m up to currently!


I’ve been reading kids books lately with the Dude and I’ve been loving it.  We loved The BFG and The Twits by Roald Dahl – wonderful even for adults.  We’ve also been reading ‘Little House on the Prarie‘ and its sequel ‘On the banks of Plum Creek’. The Dude loves the pioneer stories of how the west was won, however I’ve had to skip entire paragraphs about Native Americans because I cannot bear to read the words outloud. It’s been an interesting glimpse into old attitudes.

I also read an Agatha Christie novel late ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles‘ after visiting her home back in the UK this summer and then I recently read ‘Running with the Kenyans’ about a UK runner who moves to Kenya to learn the secrets of their running prowess. It appears to boil down to altitude, tough childhoods, injera bread, lots of rest and sleep and, most of all, the desperate desire to succeed and transform their lives. In our pampered Western world, I can’t see us measuring up anytime soon. A great, easy read!


The Dart Estuary this summer, home to Agatha Christie


We have been rewatching The West Wing from scratch. I love it SO much. It’s definitely my favourite show of all time. Watching it during a painful election period is particularly interesting…if only Jed Barlet was running for office in real life!

me west wing

I adore my new t-shirt


Recently I bought myself ‘The Minimalist Baker Everyday Cookbook’ by Dana Schultz. It’s a vegan cookbook. I am not vegan but a lot of the standard cookbooks are meat-heavy and I don’t eat meat, so I love that I can cook everything in this book even if I add eggs or cheese!

So far it’s been AMAZING…nearly everything has been delicious! I’ve made smoothies, hummus, main courses, snacks…it’s been amazing. The only fails have been muffins and I’ve now identified exactly why I’ve failed and it’s been human error, not book error. I LOVE this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it for vegans, vegetarians, carnivores and omnivores.

food quinoa

Garlic pineapple quinoa with cashews….and kale salad with a lemon-tahini dressing!

Listening to

I’ve been listening to a load of podcasts lately. I was sad that Running on Om finished a few weeks ago – I’m not a yogi but the running interviews were wonderful. I am really loving Real Talk Radio by Nicole Antoinette – I’ve started branching away from the running ones to the podcasts on other subjects and that’s been fun too. Nicole recently did two special episodes which deserve singling out. One was celebrating her 5-year soberversary where she talks about her attitude to alcohol. I feel like I have a good relationship with alcohol overall, but it was very interesting and definitely made me change the language I use about wine, for example! Thought-provoking. secondly, she did another episode about her 26-day hike along part of the PCT. I am so full of admiration for what she did, it was fascinating to hear her talk about the nitty-gritty.

I did try ‘I’ll have another’ but it drove me insane. I think I’m too British for that one.

Finally, my friend put me on to ‘My Church’ by Maren Morris. NOT a Christian song, in case you’re cringing. Quite the opposite I don’t know how I feel about the theology of comparing God to listening to music loudly in your car on the motorway but the song is awesome!


I’m still obsessed with Instagram. My current favourite accounts that I’d recommend you check out are @yorkshire.deb who single-handedly makes me want to move back to the UK and run trails in the North of England, and @andrea_is_out_there who makes me want to do the same but in the south.

Finally, one of my favorite blogs  that I’m reading at the moment is The Girl Outdoors. It’s a UK-based blog by a cool, young travel journalist who seems to live this incredible life travelling round doing awesome things. I have a major girl-crush on Sian and keep trying to persuade her to come to SF so I can show her round. (That sounds very online-creepery, but hopefully you know what I mean).

Looking forward to

Well…the Healdsburg Half on Sunday! The Airbnb house party with my fave running girls, running hard at the race and then pizza afterwards. The fact it’s a weekend ‘off duty’ doesn’t hurt!


Healdsburg 2012…when a kid kicked my arse!

The end of October is our 11th wedding anniversary so we’re going on a romantic cycle-touring weekend in Sonoma County. To make it that little bit more ‘romantic’, our 6-year-old is coming with us and we’re renting a tandem for him and me. I am VERY excited.

Hopefully a little faster than this

Cycling with this little man is the best

But before all that…it’s time to race!

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Healdsburg Half Training: Week 7

After last week’s awesomeness,  I was left with a tricky decision. With two weeks to go until race day, should I keep pushing hard in training or tone it down a bit? I know that this coming week is be Taper Week but I didn’t quite know how to handle the last final week of actual training. So I consulted with Angela and Margot and Danielle, got feedback from other running friends (thank you) and…never quite made a decision.

I definitely cut back on a very long tempo run I had in the plan and I resisted the desire to do another 15 mile long run this weekend, but everything else I kept the same. I have NO idea if I did the right thing. (I have no cool photos to share this week so I shall be illustrating this post with totally random photos that I like but that I haven’t featured for a while.)

Monday: Easy run

The Husband headed off to Arkansas this week with work, leaving at 6.30am so I snuck in an early easy 3 miler here. 3 miles @ 10.07

Wednesday: Speed session

I met Lisa at the track whilst our kids were at Kids Club at church and set off doing 8 x 800m repeats at 5k pace (8.00). I kept an eye on how my legs felt, if they’d started feeling the strain too much I would have cut back to 400m or done fewer repeats but I felt pretty strong throughout and nailed those goal paces.

Friday: Tempo Run

Tempo Runs have been the session that I have struggled with the most on this training cycle. I’ve never hit my goal paces in the first mile and often haven’t really hit goal pace at all. My goal here was 3 miles at 8.20 – they came in at 8.28, 8.27 and 8.20. Those first two splits are pretty much my half-marathon goal pace (8.30) so  I was a bit downhearted when I got back.


Sunday: Long Run with fast finish

Aaand this is where I think I screwed up. So much of my mental preparation depended on this long run. My goal was 13 miles with the last 5 at race pace. I was due to meet Lisa at 6am but when I woke up ready to run, I felt really sick so I cancelled on the poor girl and went back to bed. Woke at 7.30 feeling better. I think I’d eaten too much the night before.

I ended up running at 4.30pm. I did the first 8 miles happily at 10  min miles and then sped up for the last five. It was a WHOLE lot tougher than last week, after 10 slower miles. I was having to work really hard by that final mile. And when I stopped, I was literally exhausted. I crept back into the house but then I got cold and shivery (I had got cold walking back to the house after my run) and really didn’t feel well all evening.

I can think of some preparation errors I made – I’d not eaten since lunchtime, I hadn’t drunk much all day, I hadn’t fueled or hydrated on my run. But I honestly don’t know if I can run that fast for 13 miles next weekend – and more important to me is running healthily! I’m suddenly nervous about holding that pace for so long.

Having said that, I did hit those miles splits – they came in at 8.19, 8.26, 8.29, 8.30 and 8.32. Silver linings?

So overall, I managed 28 miles and I managed to run 111 miles in September, my biggest mileage for at least a year so that was good!

Taper Week Plans

My plan for taper week is to cut back dramatically – I’m nervous that I burned my legs out too much on yesterday’s run! So I’ll be doing a few easy runs, maybe with some strides, but I’m going to rest and rest and rest.

Eating – due to my bowels’ tendency to see race mornings as Party Time, I’m cutting out fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans…all my favourite things…as of Thursday morning. It’ll be carbs and protein, people! Cheese on toast all week🙂

Sleeping – I am aiming to be in bed at 9.30 with lights out at 10 every night this week (except Monday when I have college). I’ve just finished ‘Running with the Kenyans’ and one thing that struck me was how much rest Kenyan athletes get – how much sleep, how much downtime. I can’t live at altitude, I don’t eat ugali, I don’t have their amazing genes but I can get more sleep!

Doing – Playlists, packing, visualising the finish line, planning a race-strategy…all the good stuff. I may get a massage too.

Let’s see how this week goes, eh?

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Healdsburg Half Training: Week 6

I’ve hummed and haahed about whether or not to say this ‘out loud’. Would I be jinxing my race? Would I seem arrogant? Would I crash and burn, and deeply regret saying this on the blog? Well..whatever…I’m going to say it.


me danville wine

How I feel right now

I have loved running this week and I feel like I may have turned a corner and my training may be kicking in. Healdsburg is two weeks away (October 9th) so I’m wary of peaking too soon but at the moment, I feel REALLY good. I have NO idea if I will PR, there are so many factors at play, but I feel as good as I could possibly be feeling two weeks out.

Let’s look at the training.

Monday: Tempo Run

My goal for this was to warm up, run four tempo miles at 8.20 – 8.25 and then cool down. I ran in the evening, which is unusual for me but felt okay. In the end, my tempo miles came in at 8.41, 8.28, 8.24 and 8.15. That first tempo mile is disappointing and brings my average down to 8.27 but I was pleased with how the miles got quicker and ended pretty fast. I felt okay about this, but not awesome. 6 miles @ 9.06

Tuesday: Mid-pace Run

This run changed my mindset completely. I’ve been glum lately about how hard my long runs feel. I’ve been glum about how my easy pace is now 10 min miles when I remember how it used to be 9.30 and even 9.00 for a fleeting period. I’ve been wondering if this is middle-age catching up with me. So I set out for 6 evening miles aiming to hold 9 min miles throughout. Could I do it?

Mile 1 came in at 9.06. Not bad. I upped it a little bit. Mile 2 came in at 8.37. What the heck? I still felt really good so I wondered if I could hold Half Marathon Goal Pace (8.30) for the remainder of the run. Could I?

Kind of. The miles rolled by. M3 – 8.32. M4 – 8.30. M5 – 8.27, M6 – 8.35. They weren’t exactly 8.30 but they were pretty solid and I felt really good throughout the whole run. I got back buzzing and suddenly thinking that a PR might potentially be a possibility. 6.15@8.39

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Track Sesh

Another evening run. I made it to the HS track for 6.30, where the girls’ footie (soccer) team were practicing and I set off. My plan was: 1 mile WU, 8 x 800m at 5k pace (8.00) with 200m recovery and then 1 mile CD.

Basically I nailed it. Those 800m repeats felt pretty solid. Not easy but comfortable. My pacing was pretty much bang-on throughout and I felt really good throughout, until the lovely, swishy-ponytailed HS girls started casually jogging round the track faster than me, but whatever! It was too dark at the end to run the full mile cool down but I jogged 2 laps and then drove home thrilled with myself. 6.4 miles @8.40

So fast I'm blurry!

Another track sesh. I didn’t take a personal photographer this week.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Long run with fast finish

My key run of the training cycle. I felt that if I nailed this, I could feel confident with my training. If it went wrong then I needed to scale back my hopes. The plan was 15 miles in total – the first 10 would be at easy pace, the last 3 would be at 8.30 pace. I’ve only run 15 miles a few times this year, the last time being in Oklahoma, so it was a big day.

It went REALLY well. I ran three miles then met up with Lisa and we ran the next 7 miles together chatting and putting the world to rights. I love running with friends and the miles flew by. We finished the first 10 miles at a local park where we stopped for the loo, drank water and I took a gel. Lisa knew my pace plan so we agreed she’d stick with me as long as she felt comfy and when she needed to drop back, I’d keep running. So we high-fived and set off.

The first mile was a little too fast (8.17) but it felt pretty solid. I focussed on my feet, on my breathing and was pleased with how undeathly it felt. Mile two was where Lisa dropped back – I waved goodbye but felt horrible running off and leaving her, even though we’d agreed it. But I pressed on for the whole of those five miles and somehow, I got back to my house and I’d done it. My average pace for those miles had been 8.29 and I had felt really comfortable throughout. It wasn’t easy, of course, but it had felt okay. At one point, my pacing had been so solid that I’d wondered if my watch was broken because every time I glanced down, the pace field said 8.30. I was really thrilled.

The only fly in the Long Run ointment was that between Lisa and I, we took four bathroom breaks. I took one after one mile, we both took one at M6, she took one at just before M10 and I took one just after M10. I’ll take imodium for the race but it was frustrating and slightly worrying.

SF Half Loos

What I would like to see at every mile marker on all my long runs


Anyway. Overall overawesome. 15.2 miles @ 9.34.

Sunday: Rest

I meant to do an easy 3…but it was hot and it turned out I preferred drinking wine on the balcony with the Husband.


Did okay!! Ate well. Not too much, mostly plants. I’m at my happy weight again. I’m very focussed on this now for the next two weeks. I may lose a pound or two but I’m determined not to put any back on. This is a good place for me.


Also did well. Could have done with a few more early nights but not bad.

All in all, I had a big (for me) mileage week at 34 miles and they were all good solid miles. I feel SO good this week. Please excuse me if I’ve been a bit arrogant/obnoxious in this post but I just feel like I’m in great shape and that’s quite a rare feeling so I’m a bit over-excited!

The husband is away next week which will make training a little more complicated but will make getting more sleep easier – no-one to encourage me to watch ‘just one more’ episode of West Wing🙂 I’d also like to do a little bit of yoga/stretching, without risking pulling anything.

Two weeks to go. Healdsburg, I can feel the race magic already!

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Healdsburg Half Training: Week 5

This week started so badly (as regards training) but definitely got better! The main challenge this week was that the Husband was away with work so I was flying solo with the Dude and unable to get out in the early morning dark for runs. But I ran with it.

Monday: Rest Day. Aching legs from the Tour de Tahoe.

Tuesday: Easy run

I have an hour between finishing at preschool and picking up the Dude so wherever possible, I snuck in a half-hour run. Not ideal but absolutely better than nothing. This run was grim from start to finish. It was hot, sunny, no shade, I’d had lunch not too long ago. I didn’t love it.  3 miles @ 10.15

Wednesday: Track session

On Wednesday nights, I help out at the kids club at church. But this week, after table-hosting, I left the Dude to it and ran to the local HS track to meet Lisa. The mile there was as horrible as Tuesday’s run so my expectations were low but this turned out to be the coolest run. The HS (American) Football team were practising in the middle which made me feel like I was in Grease. We ran 12 x 400m at 5k pace. I took 8.00 as my 5k pace and we churned those repeats out. It felt really good – never too hard and I loved it. Excitingly, I also nailed the pacing pretty much perfectly which felt really satisfying. I would have liked to have done more repeats but we ran out of time so we took a ‘Merica selfie and drove to church to get our kids. 5.8 miles @ 8.47

me lisa track

So attractive at the end!

Thursday: Rest day

Friday: Easy Run

Another hot half-hour plod between preschool and pick-up. 3 miles @ 10.19

Saturday: Long Run

Long runs are always nicer with friends so I met up with Jen at the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center and we ran 7 miles up the bay to the San Leandro Marina and then back again. It was a grey, cool, foggy day that made me feel like I was on the Yorkshire moors but we had fun running. The highlight was when a gorgeous little red fox was on the trail just ahead of us. He was so beautiful. The final two miles were tough but we made it. I have to say, long runs are NOT getting easier. I hoped they would, but they continue to feel very hard. This doesn’t bode well for Healdsburg but all I can do is keep plugging away. We followed our run with delicious brunch at the Cannery Cafe in Hayward (lovely) and put the world to rights! 14 miles @ 10.29

fog trails

This could be Yorkshire Moors!

shoreline me jen

Blowing kisses for Jess running her first 50 miler as we ran our 14!    Photo: Jen

Sunday: Oops. Totally meant to run but ended up chilling.

All in all, this was a decent week. I ran 25 miles in total and got in a good track sesh.


Much better this week, mainly due to a) a grocery delivery and b) the purchase of ‘Minimalist Baker Everyday’ which is an amazing cookbook that has totally fired me up to try new recipes again.


Another tough week with my new preschoolers meant I got to bed in decent time every night and slept like a log.


My local Roadrunner Sports had a Tent Sale this week where they sell off lightly-used shoes that have been returned by other customers. The Husband got some ‘new’ shoes and I ended up with 2 pairs of ‘new’ shoes – some Saucony Triumphs which I’ve run in and liked before and some Hoka Constants. I’ve never run in these Hokas and I might hate them but for $50, it was worth a gamble. I now have 3 pairs of shoes to rotate which has never happened before. I’ll be interested to see how that feels.

hoka saucony

Ridiculous that both these shoes are the same size!


The Husband is now home so I’m looking forward to training hard this week. I may EVEN try swimming…but let me get back to you on that one!

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‘Race’ report: The Tour de Tahoe

Last Sunday, the Husband and I cycled the Tour de Tahoe – a 71 mile  ride around the perimeter of Lake Tahoe. This has been something we have wanted to do ever since we first saw the gorgeousness that is Tahoe so we were really excited to finally do it.

We opted to pay for an organised ride, as opposed to just cycling it ourselves which obviously anyone can do for free on any day. I don’t regret that decision at ALL but I’d also encourage anyone who fancies doing the ride to just get on your bike and cycle. Support is nice but not necessary!

I was always a little nervous about this ride. I knew I could do the distance. I knew I could do the hills. Whether or not I could do the hills and the distance at altitude, I had NO idea. Also, I didn’t train as hard for this ride as I did for last year’s century ride, managing only four 50-milers. Add all this together and I suspected it would be a bit of a sufferfest at the end.

We rented a cabin with friends, Jon and Sarah, who would kindly watch the Dude whilst we cycled. The day before the ride (Sunday), the Husband went down with Man Flu so he stayed in bed all day to mend as much as possible before the ride. The four of us went hiking on the Rubicon Trail. It was absolutely beautiful and an easy hike, but it did involve driving up the first big climb of the bike ride, up to Emerald Bay. I have to be honest, it TOTALLY freaked me out. It really shook my confidence!

tahoe emerald bay

Pausing the hike to splash around in the water

tahoe trails

The alarm was set for 5.15 but I was awake from at least 4am worrying about the ride. This is really unlike me and I haven’t quite yet worked out WHY I was so nervous…but I was. The Husband was not at all perturbed so he was a calming influence. We opted for the 6.45am start (you could start any time between 6.30 and 7.30) because the Husband had a plane to catch from SFO that night and I thought I needed as much time as possible. We’d picked up our numbers the day before so drove through the cold dark morning to the Hard Rock Hotel, where a car-park full of cyclists were unloading bikes, pumping tyres and slapping anti-chafing gel in delicate areas. Once I was there, had used the loos and was ready to ride, the nerves calmed down but I’ll be honest, it was an emotional me who cycled under the archway (to the piping of bagpipes!) and set off through South Lake Tahoe. I cried a bit.

me rich husband tahoe cycling

This is the only way I get the Husband to match outfits with me.

me cycling tahoe

This is my ‘totally daunted’ face.

cycling tahoe

About to go…

The first ten miles were flat. We cycled through South Lake Tahoe – the sun was rising over the lake and the sky was pink. It was spectacularly beautiful but I didn’t stop for photos. We were cycling in a big group of maybe 100 people. People were riding VERY fast but I stuck to the right and stuck to my own pace. I had a long way to go. The Husband would bound ahead and then wait for me with a smile. He did that the whole day, never complaining. He is much more gracious than I would be in that situation. It was pretty cold at 6.45 but we knew the day would heat up so were wearing warm-weather clothes. Most other people had jackets and long tights – they would either send those back at the first aid station or wear them all day. The Husband wore just one layer (his jersey). I wore two (a sleeveless top with arm-warmers and a gilet/vest). I think I got it pretty spot on because I was never TOO cold and never TOO hot.

After about ten miles (and a roadkill porcupine sighting) the first climb began up to Emerald Pass. I was passing people all the time and this was a confidence booster. I’m not a fast climber but I’m steady. However as it got steeper, I changed down into granny gear and my gears began to slip. I’d be pedaling in my lowest gear and suddenly it would jump into a much bigger gear, causing me to have to unclip suddenly or I’d fall. This happened for the rest of the climb, so I had to walk up some sections that I knew damn well I could cycle without too much effort. I was gutted and worried that my ride would be over! I couldn’t keep going with just my big cog. But luckily, as I slid into the Vikingsholm aid station, I was directed over to a mechanic and he fixed it in minutes. This was when paying for the ride totally justified itself for me.

After one more do-able climb, we had a long downhill section and a flat section to Tahoe City. This was when I noticed that people I’d passed easily on the uphill were flying past. I’ve always been a slow descender, but it was ridiculous how fast people were going and how much I was braking. However, during the long stretch to Tahoe City, I got into a nice rhythm and bowled along happily. It was much warmer now and I was feeling better – except that I was also feeling a little odd. Can’t explain why, just not quite sure what was wrong. At the Tahoe City aid station, I had some salted roasted potatoes and some cereal bars and hoped that I’d feel better. We set off along the north shore and things did pick up. and before I knew it, we were at Kings Beach for the lunch stop.

I’m not a fussy eater. Apart from meat, I eat anything…but the sandwiches were horrible. Couldn’t eat them. However there was plenty of other stuff there including crisps. Hmmm….crisps. Salt seemed to be my friend. As we sat in the sunshine and ate lunch, I noted that I was still anxious. I was not relaxed and cheerful, I was tense and wanted to press on. This is unlike me, it felt weird.

The next section went into Nevada and through Incline Village. We’d been warned to STOP AT THE STOP SIGNS IN INCLINE VILLAGE. This is the law, but apparently the people of Incline Village were draconian about cyclists stopping and we would get ticketed if we didn’t stop. Incline Village was VERY nice – a gorgeous wealthy neighborhood of wonderful lakeside houses and manicured sidewalks inhabited by rich, white, old people. VERY fancy.

We emerged from FancyLand onto the road which would take us south down the East shore, including Spooner Summit which climbed 800 ft up to 7,000 ft. I was feeling much calmer now. The roads were notably quieter in terms of car traffic and the line of cyclists had spread out better – I wonder if those two factors influence my confidence more than I’d expected.

The climb up to Spooner Summit, which I’d dreaded, was my favourite bit of the ride. The road is steady, never steep, although it goes on FOREVER! We climbed up above the lake, looking down on spectacular aquamarine water with people paddle-boarding and kayaking in the glinting sunshine. It was beautiful and I was really loving it. The climb went on for a long time and it got hot but we climbed steadily and made it to the aid station at the top before we knew it. We were jubilant.


Basically, our view on the climb. Photo from internet. Source.

The final 15 or so miles plunge downhill on a busy dual-carriageway…and my nerves came back. Descending. Busy roads. Not my bag. However there were signs everywhere about the cyclists and all the cars, without exception, gave us plenty of space as they bombed past us. Literally…the cars took the left lane, the cyclists had the entire right lane. I cannot complain at all. What shook me the most was the speed with which my fellow cyclists were flying down the mountain. I know I need to speed up and grow a pair, but people…you could die that fast!!!! Our final challenge was a tunnel but cars had been slowed down to 25mph (there was roadworks) and we cyclists went through as a bunch and it felt very safe.

The last eight miles went on forever with a couple of nasty little inclines for tired legs but literally before we knew it, the Husband and I were cruising jubilantly back into the Hard Rock Hotel and under the archway. We had done it. I was seriously chuffed…and got a bit weepy again.

The after-ride event was excellent. Food (mexican), pay-for beer/wine/smoothies. We got a medal too, which always rocks my world. We’d done the ride in 5 1/2 hours, at an average of 13.2mph which was much faster than I’d expected, even though it’s clearly nothing to write home about. It was a good day.

me cycling tahoe

Reflections on my ride

  • As I said, I was very nervous going into this ride – I literally had to chant Pinterest clichés about ‘life starting at the end of my comfort zone’. I have NO idea why I was so worried both before and during the ride. I’ve cycled my whole life, I cycled 1200 miles through Europe, I am never anxious during training rides by myself, I LOVE riding my bike. But somehow these organised rides make me tense and anxious. No idea why.
  • I did have legit concerns about the ride – not enough training, hills, altitude. In the end, none of those were problematic. The hills are not bad at all, the altitude didn’t affect me noticeably and my running fitness stood me in good stead for the cycling.
  • What seemed to worry me beyond those things were heavy traffic and lots of cyclists flitting around me. Once both car traffic and my fellow cyclists evened out, I was pretty solid.
  • Descending has never been my strong point but I am now cautious to the point of ridiculousness. If I sped up even a little, I’d knock minutes off my average mph. I really need to work on this but to be honest…finishing safely to get home to my little man is my overwhelming priority.

Reflections on the event

As  I said earlier, anyone can easily do this ride without paying for the privilege. There are little towns all along the west and north shore for eating/drinking etc although the east shore has no such places, so be aware. Having said that, I’m really glad we joined the event.

  • Each rest-stop had a mechanic and one of them saved my day. I’m really grateful.
  • A the first (two?) aid stations, you got the chance to send layers back in a Drop Bag, so I could have worn more clothes and left them there. There was no guarantee that the bags would be there when you got back so we chose not to (as we had a plane to catch). I saw plenty of drop bags when we got home, so I think this is an excellent idea for cyclists not pressed for time.
  • Each rest-stop was very well stocked with fruit, carbs, drinks, hydration options. Even though the lunchtime sandwich was poor, there were so many other excellent options that I was not hungry. I carried 3 cliff bars and 4 gels ‘just in case’ and I brought them all home with me.
  • There was a motorbike on the course for bike support. I felt reassured seeing it.
  • There was a medical tent at most (all?) of the aid stations. As a girl with a heart condition riding a bike up a mountain at altitude, I was really grateful. (No issues at all, by the way).
  • My fellow riders were, on the whole, very friendly and very courteous. Most passed carefully with an ‘on the left’. Some were less polite but generally, they were a nice bunch and we chatted to very nice people at the end.
  • We got a medal. I like medals. The T-shirt was less attractive (not a women-specific fit) but I did like the water bottle and my son instantly commandeered the headband. Everyone likes loot.

Overall, the event was very well organised and I can only speak highly of it. Thanks to all the organisers and volunteers – we had a great time.

And now, I must learn to descend!!

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