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.

TRAINING IS GOING AWESOMELY AND I AM RUNNING LIKE A MACHINE AT THE MOMENT!!

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.

Eating

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.

Sleeping

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.

Eating

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.

Sleeping

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

Buying

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.

harbor

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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Healdsburg Half Training: Week Four

This week, it all got real. Preschool started up again with two new classes of tiny people starting school for the first time ever. It went better than I’d dared hope but I was exhausted every evening and the lights went out at 10.30pm every single night!

To add to the fun, this was also the week of this year’s ‘sportive’ – the 71-mile Tour de Tahoe on Sunday! I’ll talk more about that later this week but it was a big day!

Somehow, I still got my running training done so I’m chuffed about that.

MondaySpeedwork

After a lovely weekend in the mountains, we got home in the afternoon and in the evening, went to the nearby track for a family track sesh. It was kind of fun. The Husband (being careful not to aggravate a hamstring twinge) jogged slow laps around it. The Dude ran round a few times then retired to the playground. I ran 8 x 0.25m loops with 300m recovery jogs. This is the ‘short track’ which requires a loop-and-a-bit and has some very sharp corners, but I was delighted to find that all my laps were faster than last time I ran here, averaging a 7.12 pace. I think I’m getting faster.  4 miles in total.

TuesdayRest Day.

If you can call it a rest day with 10 preschoolers and an evening course on child asthma management.

WednesdayTempo Run

Up horribly early for a tempo run in the dark. This week I ran four tempo miles, at 8.37, 8.25, 8.24 and 8.24.  These paces were slower than I’d hoped (8.20) but I was content that they were consistent. Also it’s hard to run tempo on streets in the dark – I was nervous about falling.

night running dark

ThursdayLong Run

Thursday evening was my long run, as the weekend would be up in Tahoe and no-one likes running long at altitude. I had one lovely hour in the sunset and then one horrible hour in the darkness which mentally was super-tough. I got those miles done though. 13 miles @ 10.20.

FridayRest Day. Included a 7 hour drive up to Tahoe. That wasn’t fun.

Saturday – Hike

I’d planned an easy 6 mile run by Lake Tahoe but ended up ditching it for an easy 6 mile hike with the Dude and our friends. Don’t regret it in the slightest. We hiked the Rubicon Trail between Vikingsholm and DL Bliss State Park (with bonus mileage on either side). It was pretty flat, traced the lake and was absolutely beautiful. 6.3 miles in total.

tahoe rubicon trails

Trail with a view

SundayTour de Tahoe!

I’ll blog about that in the week but despite ridiculous nerves, it turned out to be great! I didn’t find cycling at altitude anywhere near as hard as running at altitude. I conquered all the hills and got safely down the descents – although it was a rude awakening at how bad my descending is. (Like REALLY AWFUL). Best of all, I had a fab day out with my favourite Ironman and the views….well…Tahoe, baby! 71.5 miles at 13.2 mph. 

me cycling tahoe

Eating

Not good. I was very tired all week so basically ate sugar. All week.

Sleeping. 

Very good. I was very tired all week so basically went to bed in good time every night.

This week, I’m focussing on eating healthily and getting enough sleep again. I’m cutting back a little on speed work for a couple of reasons but am excited about a long trail run at the weekend with a bunch of ladies. Should be a good week.

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Running The World: Taiwan

I can’t quite remember how I met Amber, today’s interviewee. Someone (was it you?) told me to contact Ruth Croft, a successful Kiwi Taiwan-based trail runner. Ruth wasn’t able to help but Ruth suggested I contact Amber and bless her, Amber was up for helping! Amber runs the excellent website Taipei Running which gives you pretty much all the information you need to be a runner in Taiwan. So she was the perfect person to interview.

Before we start, a little about Taiwan. Taiwan is an island in East Asia. Its closest neighbors are China and Japan. There’s a lot of controversy over its official status, which I won’t get into here. You can read about it on Wikipedia.Its capital city is Taipei but other parts of the island are mountainous and forested.

Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about who you are and what you do when you’re not running.

I am a Canadian living in Taiwan with my 2 cats, my dog and my boyfriend. I used to work in sales but found that it didn’t give me enough time for running and was quite stressful. So now I have a running coach certificate and manage a running website, TaipeiRunning.com. When I’m not running, or writing about running, I am usually experimenting with cooking different types of food.

amber taiwan

How did you get into running?

My mom was a dedicated runner when I was growing up. I remember her putting on her running shoes as soon as she got in after work, and out she would go again for a run. I was never very athletic in high school but towards the end of university I decided that I wanted to have the goal of running a marathon. I trained hard for several weeks but since I studied in the somewhat remote location of Northwestern Ontario, there were no races nearby. Discouraged, I gradually stopped training. Years after moving to Taiwan I realized there was a huge running scene here. I signed up for my first half marathon and was hooked.

How popular is running in your country? Is it growing in popularity or has it always been popular? Or does no-one really run?

Since 2012, the number of running events held each year has more than tripled. Every weekend there are multiple events all over the island, some being very small, local events and others being huge road races. Although the number of events has increased exponentially in recent years, that growth seems to be slowing. Almost any park you go to in Taipei, no matter how small, you can usually find a runner circling it, if the weather is not too hot or raining.

How popular is it amongst women? Is that a new phenomenon or have women always been keen on running? Are the genders fairly well-balanced?

Running is very popular amongst women. This year, the Nike Women’s Half Marathon held in Taipei was sold out the day it was open for registration. There were 18,000 women who ran that race, either in the 10k distance or half marathon, which is huge for an all women’s race. Still we can see that there are much fewer female runners tackling the longer distances, with a much greater percentage of participation from men in the marathons and ultra marathons. We also don’t see too many strong female runners in Taiwan. The competition in the men’s category is fierce but the women not so much. Many women run to be healthy, over being fast or competitive.

nwr taiwan nike

The Nike Women’s Half

What are the biggest or most important races? What kind of distances are popular?

Racing is very popular in Taiwan, by far the most popular is road running, with half marathons being the most popular distance. That’s followed by marathons, 10ks and 5ks. Many of the 5k races are fun runs and encourage family participation. We also have a small mixture of trail races and ultra marathons. Timed ultra marathons are surprisingly popular here, with runners tackling a track for 4, 6, 12, 24 or even 48 hours.

Is trail running popular in your country? What are the trails like?

taiwan trails

You have trail envy? Me too!

Road running is a lot more popular than trail running at the moment, but trail running is increasing in popularity. Taiwan is mostly made up of mountains with plains in the northern, western and southern part of the island. The middle is mostly uninhabitable due to the number of mountains and the more extreme weather found in these mountain ranges. Because Taiwan has such a high population density, a lot of the mountain ranges are protected by national parks and for some it is difficult to obtain park permits, which makes it difficult for runners to make regular trails in many of these areas. In the places where there are trails, the terrain is usually characterized by steep climbs and many tree roots underfoot but the effort is worth the views. I often think of Taipei, the capital, as a running metropolis, with more than 100km of uninterrupted, flat riverside running, it is also surrounded on all sides by beautiful hiking/running trails.

As a woman, how safe do you feel when you run? Are there any particular issues facing women runners?

Taiwan is a very safe place to run. The riverside parks are always very well-lit and the crime rate is very low here. Even if I get caught after sunset on the trails I feel very safe.

What do female runners wear in your country? What kind of brands are big there?

Most female runners in Taiwan tend to be conservative. Some wear long sleeve shirts or long pants, even in the summer to keep their skin from being exposed to the sun, others where what you would see in any other country, such as shorts and tank tops. Something that you don’t see is many runners topless, even in the evenings, when the sun is down but the heat still hangs in the air. I feel like we would see that a lot more in other countries.

I think there are many brands that are popular here for road running. Merrell was very popular for trail running but more and more there are other brands entering the market, and taking hold in Taiwan.

 

trail-running taiwan

What do runners in your country use to fuel and to hydrate?

For fuel, fruit is big here, bananas with salt etc. We also have a Taiwanese company (Runivore) that has created an all natural energy bar, you can see a lot of people eating that. Especially cyclists, triathletes and trail runners.

There are two big sports drinks manufacturers, Supau or Pocari that dominate the market. Tailwind is also starting to make an appearance for hydration.  

Does the weather cause any challenges to runners in your country?

Taiwan’s weather is full of challenges. Summer is hot and humid and usually comes with high risk for overheating or getting a sunburn. Winter, especially in the north is cold and gloomy with lots of rain. The best seasons for running are Spring and Fall and in those two seasons many of the big races in Taiwan are held.

lantau taiwan amber

Who are the well-known runners/running heroes in your country?

Over the years there has been many good Taiwanese athletes, one of the best known is Chi Cheng. She was a track and field Olympic medalist in 1968. She now works to promote sporting events in Taiwan. Ruth Croft is another local running hero, although she is originally from New Zealand she lives and trains in Taiwan. Although she is an amazing road runner she really excels on the trails locally and internationally.  

How big is social media within the running community in your country? Which are the best known blogs? Any good Twitter users we should follow? Which are the most important magazines and podcasts?

In Taiwan there is a forum system that is popular with locals, where they can discuss upcoming races but people mostly use Running Biji to post about races or All Sports to get information and post pictures. There is of course my website as well, Taipei Running  where I do race recaps, shoe recommendations and trail running routes.

taiwan amber

And she’s off…

If I landed in your country/city, where would you send me to find out about the local running routes, group runs or races there?

I would definitely send you to the site we most use to find out about upcoming races . If you like to mix drinking and running, I would point you in the direction of the various hash house harrier groups in the area or here’s an article containing a little more info on them.

If I was going to do any race in your country, which would you recommend and why?

My favorite road race, hands down is the Wanjinshi Marathon. It’s run every March on the northeast coast of Taiwan. Although the route takes you through a lot of small rural communities, it seems that everyone comes out to cheer the runners on. It’s also a great way to get out of the city and admire the beauty of the island.

wanjinshi taiwan

The Wanjinshi Marathon

I would also recommend the Taipei Marathon in December, the half marathon course is really nice and it takes you through lots of districts of Taipei, unfortunately, the full marathon course doesn’t seem as appealing because, although it covers more distance, everything that’s worth seeing is in the half marathon course.

For trail races, I would recommend The Beast Trail if you want to get a real feeling for the challenging terrain Taiwan has to offer. Both the 26km and the 50km courses are beautiful but very difficult. There is also the Taiwan Trail X in September which has been held consecutively for the most years in Taiwan. It offers nice scenery and draws a big international crowd to the hills of Maokong.

What are the best and worst things about running in your country?

For me the best thing is how easily accessible nature is from Taipei, the capital city. There are mountains on all 4 sides and most are accessible by public transport. These mountains make it easy to get out on the weekend and if run at night they also provide impeccable views of the city at night. The city also takes great advantage of the river that runs through it, making riverside parks which span more than 200km of continuous paths, which extend to all ends of the city.

There is nothing bad about running in Taiwan but I would say that the most challenging aspect is the weather. Summer and winter are the worst for running, winter is surprisingly cold and the constant rain can make it challenging to get out. In the summer it’s incredibly hot and humid which makes it equally challenging.

Amber, thanks so much for all your help in pulling this post together. Please do visit her site TaipeiRunning – even if you’re not heading to Taiwan in the near future, there’s some great general-running stuff on there and some lovely photos. You can follow Amber on Twitter HERE, on Instagram HERE and on Facebook HERE. Her IG account is particularly gorgeous. 

I also wanted to flag a couple of posts that my favourite Taiwanese Runner (Jen) has written about running in Taiwan – initial observations from 2013 HERE and changes she noticed in 2014 HERE

For more Running The World posts, please click HERE. And if you’re an international runner and would be happy for me to interview you, please drop me an email via the address HERE.

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Healdsburg Half Training: Week 3

This week’s training turned out to be surprisingly decent! This week I focussed on hills! So many hills!

MondayBeautiful, gorgeous, planned rest day

Tuesday30 minute trainer ride

Nope. Couldn’t get out of bed in the morning and could NOT get my bum on that bike in the evening. Trainer riding is honestly the worst. So this turned out to be a second, unplanned rest-day which sat uncomfortably with me.

WednesdayLong Run

I was itching to run hard after two days off so I took advantage of an unexpected day off work and drove to Palo Alto to run the Dish – the hilly, paved trail around a giant satellite dish. I’d planned to do three laps (each lap is about 3 miles) and 13 miles in total. The hills were more brutal than I’d expected but it was the heat that got to me, so I ended up doing two laps and 12 miles in total. Cool with that. I headed straight to Juice Pressery for a cold juice – it was bankruptingly expensive and ridiculously pretentious but it hit the spot and I nearly died of happiness. 12 miles @ 10.42 with 936 ft elevation.

(It felt MUCH harder).

dish stanford

The dish

ThursdayRecovery run

I’ve been struggling to wake up early this week, so I snuck in an easy 3 miler between the end of preschool (my job) and picking the Dude up from school!  3 miles @ 9.47.

Friday Tempo run AND bike ride

My plan for my final day off work before preschool begins again on Tuesday was a mega-long bike ride with some big hills, in preparation for the Tour de Tahoe next weekend. But school finished early today as it’s a holiday weekend and I had to be back two hours earlier. So I used my time wisely.

First of all, I ran my tempo miles for the week. Two miles warm up, then 3 fast miles at 8.14, 8.13 and 8.10 before jogging home. Thrilled with these numbers. 6 miles @ 9.14.

Then I went out for a bike ride. Because I knew I couldn’t do much distance, I created a loop that included four solid hills. I’d hoped to do it twice but again ran out of time, but I was really happy with what I achieved. 14.6 miles @ 10mph with 1,480 ft elevation!!

autumn cycling margarita

Margarita smells Autumn

SaturdayRest Day

We spent the weekend up in the mountains with our friends who have a cabin in Arnold. The morning started spectacularly – the three of us were sat in bed and the Dude spotted a bear slowly ambling through the woods at the back of the cabin.  Later, we did some ‘cross-training’ at the Logging Jamboree…I had my first attempt at axe-throwing. I wanted to be awesome at it but I was awful. I did feel badass as heck!

me logging axe-throwing

Axe-throwing queen (?)

SundayHill repeats

After a couple of miles cruising round Arnold, including lakeside trails before I got spooked at the thought of a bear, I did hill repeats up a steep little street near the cabin. I initially wanted to do a minimum of 6, probably 8 and maybe 10. It was so flipping steep that I knew on the second repeat that I’d be doing 6. I did 6. And then I went home and ate three crepes.

white pines arnold trails

Forest trails – no bears

Later that day, I did a spot of kayaking on White Pines Lake. This is the fourth time this year I’ve done kayaking and I have to say I really love it. I’m not a water-sports girl AT ALL so I’m kind of thrilled I’ve discovered a water sport I like. Now I just need to learn to swim properly.

me kayak arnold

Eating

Still not great. I haven’t got my brain into gear on this. Eating well and hitting my racing weight will be a real benefit when it comes to Healdsburg but I’m not focussed enough at the moment.

Sleeping

Mixed bag. I’ve been tired this week and I know that come next week I’ll be exhausted. I’ve had a few early nights but again, too much West Wing viewing. This coming week, I REALLY need to nail sleep.

Preschool starts up again on Tuesday. I don’t talk much about my job because kids/confidentiality/professionalism but I can say that we have a lot of new, tiny little munchkins who will probably find the next week very difficult. I love my job very much and I can’t wait to get started but I’m prepared to be absolutely shattered all week! How that affects training is yet to be seen!

So far, Healdsburg training is going as well as I could hope. Okay..bring on week four.

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15 great reasons to run the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon & 5k!

I have to be honest, I am not a fan of bloggers being ‘ambassadors’ for stuff but the one exception has always been bloggers being race ambassadors. Because generally race ambassadors come with delightful discount codes for the race they’re ambassadoring and let’s be frank, who DOESN’T like to race and save money?

So I was ridiculously chuffed to be chosen to be a Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon and 5k race ambassador last week. (That mouthful is its official title). Thrilled to pieces. Because I really love the ‘Kaiser Half’ and I’m so excited to be part of it in a slightly more tangible way. And because IT COMES WITH A DISCOUNT FOR YOU PEOPLE!

You can save $5 on race entry with the code CAT2017. Now, $5 isn’t going to change your life significantly but it would pay for 2 coffees or a gallon of milk or a couple of gels or a few birthday cards!! So bear that in mind!

I promise not to become some obnoxious nightmare constantly plugging the race but I am going to encourage you to run it, assuming you’re local, AND I’ll encourage you to use my code. In the interests of full disclosure, I get free entry if enough people use my code! The race is February 5th, so put it in your diary now!

Anyway.

I’ve run the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon twice…once in 2012 and once in 2015 so I have put my money where my mouth is TWICE and would totally recommend the race. And herewith are 15 good reasons why I think you should run it in 2017!

1 – Beautiful course

It is a really lovely course. You start by the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, run round the Panhandle, back into the park through the museums, cruise effortlessly (honestly) down through the park and out onto the oceanfront. You head down the ocean for three miles and then back up for three miles to finish in the park. It is beautiful!!

The Conservatory of Flowers Source

The Conservatory of Flowers

2 – VERY PR-able!

In 2015, I went for a PR and totally failed but if you manage NOT to set out waaay too fast, this is a VERY PR-able course. The first stretch is flat, then you get an incredible couple of miles downhill where you literally feel like you’re flying and you’re God’s gift to running. Then you have a flat six-mile stretch along the ocean. If you can hold it together mentally for that final stretch, this is the course to set a PR on!

3 – It measures accurately.

One of the things we most want in a race is accurate measuring, isn’t it! This race? Bang on. It’s certified as well.

4 – Portaloos.

The other thing we want most in a race is plenty of portapotties at the start. This race? Plentiful.

SF Half Loos

5 – Well organised

This race has been going on for 34 years now and they’ve got the organization down pat. From the shuttle buses from the ocean car-parking to the start line to the plentiful aid stations, you don’t need to worry.

6 – Motivation for winter training

We’re lucky in California that our winters are not British, Scandinavian or even Canadian, but most of us need a goal to work towards on the grey days and the dark mornings. The Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon & 5k’s early February date is an awesome goal to keep you running, eating well and training hard through the winter.

7 – Teaches you character

I’ve said that the course is PR-able and it is. But that second half along the ocean is mentally brutal. In 2015, I emerged from the park feeling a million dollars and with my 40th Birthday PR in the bag! Over the next six miles, I learned a lot about early race pacing, about mental fortitude and the guts to keep running when frankly you want to sit on the side and cry. This race is PR-able but it’s not easy!

8 – Good swag

Not everyone is motivated by medals but I am!!  Runners of both the Half and the 5k get medals and cotton-blend T-shirts! You can upgrade and buy a tech shirt if you want.

9 – 5k for friends and family

If your cheering squad need some entertainment, there’s a 5k! I’m actually going to be running the 5k in 2017 rather than the half! The 5k is basically downhill so I’m going to be gutting it out for what will probably be my fastest 5k ever. My son PR’d the 5k when he was 5, so if he can, you can! Or your family and friends can!!

One 5-year old and his 5k PR

One 5-year old and his 5k PR

10 – Get your number mailed to you FOR FREE!

How blissful is this? For NO CHARGE, the kind people organizing the race will mail you your number. No more panicking in the early hours at the length of the packet pick-up queue. No schlepping into the city a day early to go to an expo. Just wait till your number pops through your letter box. Perfect.

11 – Riding on a school bus

Maybe this is a British thing but one of the highlights for me in 2015 was riding the shuttle bus from the oceanfront parking to the race start…on a yellow school bus. I had never been on one before and it made my flipping day. I was pleased to note the hatch in the roof in case I needed to do a Keanu!

schoolbus

12 – After-Race shenanigans

At the end of the race there’s a ‘party’ for runners and supporters alike. Lots of sponsor stands giving out freebie, food trucks for refueling… it’s a lot of fun!

13 – Birthday Brunch afterwards

My birthday falls the day after the race so BRUNCH, PEOPLE!!!

kaiser brunch

14 – No FOMO

SO many local runners do the Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon that if you don’t, you may feel a little…sad. Don’t be sad, come and run!

15 – Save money

The Early Bird sign-up prices apply from today until November 27th!

And that’s you committed to running throughout the winter!

See you there?

Kaiser Me

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Healdsburg Training: Wk 2

After last week’s awesome week’s training, I wanted to keep the momentum going but wondered if that was unrealistic. Life is slowly getting back to its normal rhythm. I worked four days this week – back to full-time when a new class of preschoolers arrive after Labor Day. My college course started up. The Dude’s getting into the swing of 1st grade and the Husband’s training seriously now for CIM so there’s a lot to juggle. No more than other people, I know. But busy. Luckily, the week went really well and I sit here this Sunday evening feeling pretty solid about it.

MondayTrainer ride

I set my alarm for 5.45 so I could be on the trainer at 6am (the husband leaves early on Mondays so running wasn’t an option). Alas my phone completely died and we woke frantically at 6.30! I DID get on the trainer in the afternoon, before my first college class of the semester that evening. I only managed 30 minutes instead of the 50 I was hoping for, but I count that as a win.

TuesdayTempo Run Rest

I had an hour’s window to run in the evening but the Husband got back from work late so I had to count this as my rest day for the week. Frustrating!

Wednesday – Tempo Run

Out at 6am to get that tempo run in. This week I had to do 3 miles, so after a warm-up mile, I sped up. It went well. My miles were 8.26, 8.23 and 8.13, averaging 8.20. I was hoping for a little faster but I’m chuffed that I actually got faster across the miles and I was pretty satisfied. 5 miles @ 9.12

ThursdaySpeedwork

I try not to put two speed-sessions on consecutive days but sometimes you have to. I met Lisa at a dark track at 6am and did 8 x 400m repeats. This track is full-length and so the corners are softer than our more local, short track and I’m always faster here. This time I averaged 7.05 for those laps, which is surprisingly fast for me and I’m a little suspicious but it made me feel good! I really love running round a track. I never saw that coming! 4 miles @ 8.40.

me track

So fast I’m blurry!

FridayLong ride

No preschool today, so I did my long bike ride for the week. 50 miles around Woodside with 3,800 ft climbing up Kings Mountain and Skyline. I was NOT fast, averaging about 11mph which is shamefully slow. However I am not going for speed on my Tour de Tahoe, so I was content to climb steadily, not die descending and sit in the sun for 10 minutes with a mid-ride coffee!

cycling me margarita

SaturdayLong Run

For the second week running, I got to do my long run with a friend as the lovely Jen drove over the bridge to run with me. We did 10 miles around Redwood Shores together, chatting all the time and then split for the final few miles. She ran two more at a steady pace, I ran a ‘fast finish’ of 3 miles, aiming for 8.25-8.30 pace. They ended up at 8.25, 8.34 and 8.36 which I’ll gladly take. 13.4 miles @ 9.41.

Sunday – Recovery Run

Very easy miles this afternoon. 3.1 miles @ 10.45.

Overall, I’m really happy with this week’s training, topping out at 26 running miles and 57 cycling miles . I would have liked to have been slightly faster on my tempo run and that fast finish, but there you go.

Eating

Hmmmm…not so good. Not BAD but not as self-controlled as I hoped.  I lost a pound though🙂 so am slowly burning off those road-trip treats.

Sleeping

Sigh…reruns of the West Wing lured me into staying up till 11pm most nights. 10.30 is much better for me, so I’ll keep trying. I’ve been tired this weekend so I know I need to focus on this.

This coming week is particularly busy so I’m a little unsure as to how I’ll get my training in, but it’s going to happen. I’m on a roll, people! This is good stuff.

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Healdsburg Training: Week One

Last week was the first week of my 8-week training plan for the Healdsburg Half Marathon and I have to say it was one of my best weeks training EVER! Not because I’m suddenly ready to qualify for Tokyo 2020 obviously, but just because I did every single workout on my plan, nailed all my goal-paces and threw myself into it with a real relish.

I went into the week flabby from a 2-week road trip, feeling heavy and slow and like a Healdsburg PR was out of reach. I finished it feeling so much better about myself and my running. A PR will certainly take a lot of work and a lot of luck, but I feel like I’m in the game at least!

Healdsburg 2012. Best. Race. Ever.

Healdsburg 2012. Best. Race. Ever.

The week was actually 9 days because I started on the preceding Saturday. Here’s how it went down.

SaturdayLong Run

This was last week’s long run – 11 miles around town.  No pace goals, I’m trying to build up distance. I was tired and a little sore by the end but I got it done and happily sat down on the sofa for the entire rest of the day watching the ‘lympics. 11 miles @ 10.08

Sunday – Recovery run

VERY easy six miles to build distance without killing myself. 6 miles @ 9.59

Monday – Tempo run

This was so exciting. After a mile warm-up I ran 2 tempo miles. I freely admit I stopped after the first mile for a minute to recover, which clearly isn’t race-day practise but I needed to let one of the dads from school get far enough away from me that it wouldn’t be awkward if I passed him. I felt like I was dying the whole time for the tempo miles and was so frustrated at how hard it felt…until I saw I’d done them at 8.03 and 7.51 so I was utterly thrilled. 4 miles @ 9.04 overall.

Tuesday – Bike trainer session

My first trainer session on the bike for a long time. Golly, it’s boring. It would have lasted precisely six minutes but I gave up on the worthy Danish film I’d started and instead watched my first ever episode of Gossip Girl. Clearly it was dreadful but kind of amazing, and it kept me going for 50 minutes on the bike. Estimated 10 miles, no idea of speed. 

hoka clifton

My new Hokas arrived today. They are very green and very beautiful. #greengoblins

Wednesday – Speedwork

The Dude started 1st grade today so I took myself to the track in our park to run laps. This track is ‘The Short Track’ as it’s 0.22m, so I measured out ‘a lap and a bit’ which came to 0.25 miles and ran that. 8 x 400m at Full On pace with 300m recovery jog. My Full On pace turned out to average 7.31 which is slower than my last track session a month or so ago but I’m totally cool with it as my starting point. 4.67 miles at average 9.15.

ThursdayLong bike ride

In preparation for my 76-mile ride round Lake Tahoe in a few weeks time, I went out for my first long bike ride (eek!). I split it into two sections – 20 miles before 10am, an hour off to go to Bible Study and demolish the snack table there and then 30 miles afterwards. Loved the whole morning. Legs felt good the whole time. Bible Study Cake was delicious. 51 miles at 12.8mph.

I somehow managed to take a selfie whilst clipped in without falling off!

I somehow managed to take a selfie whilst clipped in without falling off!

FridayBlessed rest day!

Saturday – Easy run

I took my new running shoes out for a very easy spin round Redwood Shores. They’re not magical straight out the box but they felt okay, I’ll see what happens.

Sunday – Long Run

My goal was 12 miles at easy pace. I was out the house at 5.45 and started running in nearly Belmont at 6am, getting in 2 easy miles before meeting Lisa at 6.20 – she had to run 8 miles for her Healdsburg plan. I then planned get in a final two miles afterwards. Lisa’s Canadian so we both wore our national flags for the run, which made us feel like Olympians.

Team GB and Team Canada!

Team GB and Team Canada!

The run was tough – 4 miles uphill, gaining 700 ft in elevation. We got to the top and looked out over the mountains and the fog and it was all worth it, especially when we got to run back down, on a trail to boot!

Foggy mornings!

Foggy mornings!

By the time we got back to the cars at Starbucks, I’d run out of time for the final two miles so we got coffee and headed home. I then snuck those sneaky miles in later that evening, on an overly-full stomach and tired like a dog. 10 miles @ 10.27, 2 miles @ 10.18

Eating

I ate much better this week and lost two pounds of my Road Trip Bloat, so I was really happy about that. Two sweet treats. two (generous) glasses of wine. Some semblance of self-discipline!

Sleeping

I committed to have my lights out by 10.30 each night. I managed it on 5 nights which is a good first week!

All in all?  Cracking first week!!!!

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It starts today!

I’m a month late.

No, not like that! Those days are finished. That cervix is closed. Those ovaries are over.

Me Dude Baby Newborn

Bad puns are a great excuse to use this photo

No, I’m a month late starting my training for the Healdsburg Half on October 9th.

I am super-excited about this race. It’s my favourite race memory EVER and I have such love for the course. I am really excited to run it again. And in my head, it’s a magical course that leads to PRs beyond my wildest dreams because that’s what it did last time. So I’m kind of hoping that the Course Magic IS real…because my current state of fitness is not conducive to PRs.

We are back from 2 1/2 weeks of road-tripping that included Ironman Cheering, 2,000 miles in the car, 26 miles of family hiking and 39 miles of running. Not bad, I know, but not good. Because whilst it’s not too hard to run whilst travelling, it’s actually quite hard to TRAIN whilst travelling. When you don’t know the local roads, it’s hard to know where’s best for speed sessions or where’s safe for long runs or where the best hills are for hill reps. And I’ll be honest – the recent spate of ‘jogger murders (let’s give the women some dignity and say ‘Runner Murders’) rattled me when it came to running round unknown towns.

(Check out Angela’s post please about how to stay safe when running).

In addition to that, my commitment to healthy eating faded away about a week ago, when the endless succession of pizza, pancakes and veggie burgers wore away my resolve.  So I got back from our road-trip ‘several’ pounds over my happy weight and ‘several more’ pounds over my racing weight, such as it is.

How I feel this weekend

How I feel this weekend

The one thing that I did do well was my long run, getting long runs in every week. Not necessarily at the paces I’d hoped for but I notched up those miles. I’m up to 11 slow miles on my long runs.

Long Run Bliss #inbend

Long Run Bliss #inbend

Which gives me eight weeks. Healdsburg is eight weeks tomorrow. So what can be done?

Training

I’ve built myself a training plan for the next eight weeks. I was hoping to get a coach for this race but that plan has been deferred for the next training cycle. The plan includes activity every day in the week with just one rest day but it includes two cross training days. I’ve used the Hal Higdon plan as my base and tweaked it a little because real life!

The cross-training days will initially be cycling-based because I’ll be cycling 76-miles around Lake Tahoe in September and I haven’t ridden my bike for a month. Then I’ll be adding in some swimming (eek) and some yoga (yawn). But cross-training will happen.

 

 

Hopefully a little faster than this

Hopefully a little faster than this

Nutrition

I’ve also done myself an eating plan for the week. I’m going to be quite prescriptive about what I eat so that I get enough nutrients. Healthy breakfasts, healthy snacks and healthy lunches. I haven’t planned dinners yet but I’ll do that on a week by week basis. I’m cutting myself down to two sweet treats a week and two alcoholic drinks for the week – I know I can manage those limits for eight weeks. I’d like to lose those road-trip pounds in a healthy manner and I hope this plan will achieve it, as well as fueling me properly for a training cycle.

No guilt here!!!

Sleep

The forgotten, least-cool part of training. I hereby commit to having my lights out by 10.30pm every school night.

Accountability

This is where my blog comes in useful – I’m going to be recording my training, nutrition and sleep on a weekly basis here. I’ll try to keep it interesting and not yawny, I promise, but I need that accountability and structure.

Goals

I have no idea if I’ve scuppered my chances of a PR at Healdsburg but I’m going to train as if I were training for the Olympics and I’m going to go into this race believing in the Healdsburg Course Magic.

My fortune cookie in July. Let's make it happen, Healdsburg!

My fortune cookie a while ago.
Let’s make it happen, Healdsburg!

1.51, I am coming for you!

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