Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Licence to Compete

In my wallet there is all sorts of useless stuff, but there's one thing I'm quite proud of. My England Athletics "Competition Licence". Or as I like to think of it, a driving licence for athletes. Apparently, it "confirms my eligibility to compete as an individual in all competitions held under UK Athletics Rules".
In some ways it's a bit of a misnomer. Or certainly for distance running it is. You don't need a competition licence to run in most of the events I do, because you can run as an unaffiliated runner and just pay the £2 extra. If you have a competition licence, you're certainly not forced to use it by entering races. And if you do turn out, there's certainly nothing in the rules that says that you have to actually be competitive...
There are some events I've done which I probably do need the licence for, the northern cross countries are the ones which spring to mind. And maybe if I was good enough, I'd need it to compete at more elite events, or for track and field stuff. So maybe not having a licence would be a good thing, if it meant I was ineligible for that type of torture. But overall I like having it, and I take it out and play with it. I don't like it because it's actually any use, it's more the fact that I am a registered, approved, properly licensed athlete that puts a smile on my face.
On a different subject, I despair at the state of school sports in this country. When I'm out for a run, it's quite pathetic that the local chavs can only keep up with me for a matter of metres before running out of steam. Particularly when I've just run up a nasty hill the day after a half marathon PB.
Obviously, I don't want them to suddenly get impressively fit, because for my own safety I prefer to be able to outrun them (particularly when there's a pack of them as happened last night on a record three occasions). But it would be nice if their sprint pace was a bit closer to my easy run pace...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Make Friday Count

My sister has been finding this campaign rather appropriate recently. I'm not suggesting that everyone should use the extra day to get married and make a donation to Cancer Research instead of expensive favours, but it's still a nice idea, to challenge people to do something a bit different with the extra day.

So, it's Wedding Week. I was over in St Annes at the weekend for things like the Final (or First, depending how you look at it) Dress Fitting to be taught how to lace it up (the dress actually only arrived on Saturday morning, one of the hazards or organising a wedding quickly!), and checking that you can't see my bra under my dress. I also managed to sneak in a half marathon PB on Sunday morning, being dropped off at the start by my sister on her way to pick up the mens suits.
Everything is pretty much in place and ready to go, and I just need to get through to Wednesday evening at work, then I can switch back into wedding mode. This week's main jobs involve trying to sort out my skin (why oh why did it have to erupt now?), getting a sleeping bag for Thursday night's girlie sleepover (done this lunchtime), remembering to buy some tights, trying to fit my long run in on Wednesday evening so I don't need to do it over the weekend, and trying not to catch a cold (I got a stern telling off on Sunday morning that if I dared catch a cold while racing she wouldn't be happy. I then switched to a long sleeve top and sweated my way round the course).
I also need to work out what I'm actually meant to be doing as part of my bridesmaid-ly duties. On the basis I haven't been to a wedding for 13 years, let alone participated in one, any tips or advice would be most welcome!

Meanwhile I'll just carry on getting excited.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rugby players

2 posts! You're honoured...

I remember when I first joined the gym I had that nightmare that I'd walk into the gym, everyone would be super fit and they'd just laugh at my pathetic attempts. It didn't happen, but all I can say is that it's a good job my first morning in the gym wasn't this morning.
My gym is a hotel gym, and it's a hotel that tends to be used by a variety of sports teams. I've bumped into a few familiar faces in reception (and had moments of panic when I realise that an international rugby team is sitting by the windows that separate the pool from the restaurant as I emerge in my bikini). However, I've never walked into the gym to find six or seven professional rugby league players working out in there. Usually they do their training at facilities outside the hotel and just wander round the other bits of the place while I'm in the gym.
This morning it was Melbourne Storm, over in Leeds for the World Club Challenge next week (the same day as the wedding, as it happens). I think it was more of a post flight loosener than a proper training session, but boy did those guys look big and muscle-bound. I'm pleased to say that instead of running to hide in a corner, I wandered round happily in lycra and did my stuff. It's my gym after all, and they're not going to intimidate me out of it. Besides, I was wearing my Amsterdam t-shirt, and how many of them could run a marathon? Judging by their efforts on the treadmills, I'd at least hold my own in the distance running department (although they would clearly slaughter me on upper body strength). I'm an athlete too, you know...
And I am. That was one of the things that really struck me during the Great North Run. These guys might have their talents for one sport, but they're not superhuman. Their eyes were just as disbelieving when I said I run sub 4 marathons, as mine are when I'm watching the punishment they put themselves through on the pitch, or the weights they lift in the gym. OK, I'm never going to reach the top of my sport, but neither am I right at the bottom of it. I am more than good enough for the casual runner to say to me "you're fast, then" when I tell them my times.
It was quite amusing really, at one point one of them kicked over a water bottle (instead of using a sports bottle like the rest he'd clearly just grabbed a bottle of water from the mini bar which had no lid on it) onto my mat while I was doing sit ups on a ball. There I am, sitting on my ball while a professional rugby player on his hands and knees wipes the area round my feet with a towel. That doesn't happen every day, you know! (Neither does the sight I got when I went back in there this evening to dump some stuff in a locker, which was various rugby players in nothing more than pants - they've got a room behind reception they use, and for some reason they leave the door open while they get up to all sorts of things I don't want to imagine...)

Anyway, I'd better stop rambling. I've been out for a curry with running club and am a little more pissed than I should be.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I've been a bit quiet recently. I don't seem to have felt like sitting down at the computer and writing about stuff. It's not that there's anything bad going on, and I keep on thinking "ooh, I should write about that", but I never quite get round to it. I'm not in the house much at the moment (blame marathon training for that!), and when I am I tend to have other things I want to do that don't involve the computer.

Plus I'm deep into the final stages of wedding preparations. This time next week I'll be packing my bags and getting an early night in readiness for an obscenely early train to St Annes next Thursday morning for a 10am nail and eyebrow appointment. And in 10 days my little sister will be a married woman!

It will be an emotional day, and she's planned some things that may set me off (and will certainly set my grandfather off) - cancer research pin badges as favours for a start, and then her bouquet is being saved to put on the grave the day after, but it will also be lovely to see family and friends I haven't seen for ages. My American uncle, the godmother who's got the evil double whammy of breast and lung cancer, the people who lived next door to us until we moved when I was 6.

I'm just hoping it warms up a bit. That bridesmaid dress isn't particularly substantial, and if it's as cold as it has been for the past few days (yesterday on my run my eyelashes froze and I had to pick the ice out of them at the end), I'll be taking one of my emergency foil blankets with me!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today I...

...ran with the fast group!!! woo hoo!!!

The back of the fast group, but the fast group nevertheless.

I also started to waver on my "only one mara this year" plan. I didn't get into the GNR again, and then noticed that a mara I've been considering was actually the same day. And obviously not running a half is a reason to run a full...

Loch Ness here I come?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Surprisingly Chilled

I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to this weekend much. Ages ago I arranged to go down to London for the first Wigan match of the season, where I was meant to be a guest of honour with the rest of the New York team. But the person who was organising it left Quins, so that wasn't going to happen, and the rest of February got horribly booked up meaning that a weekend away was the last thing I fancied.

But still, they're my team, it was booked, so I may as well go. But onstead of doing my normal "must do as much as possible in 48 hours" approach, I decided to relax a bit. I didn't stay in central London, and based myself in Richmond instead. I travelled down on Friday night meaning that although I had to pay for an extra night in a hotel, it would give me time for my long run on Saturday morning. I didn't worry about all the things I wanted to do in London. They will still be there next time (or, given that next time is the marathon, maybe the time after that). I just spent the weekend relaxing and spending some time with myself without the distractions I have at home.

The weather was perfect, so I had a lovely long run on Saturday (longer than I intended, but I picked up the pace towards the end so clearly not too long), I went to the rugby, and I went to the cinema. I sat in cafes reading the paper, and I ate. All stuff I can do at home, but never seem to get round to.

I didn't do the old "I'm on holiday so calories don't count" routine. Even though I'd done a long run and mentally gave myself some leeway, the back to basics approach seems to be working. I craved vegetable soup and salad rather than cake and hot chocolate. Since I got back onto good food I can really feel the difference in myself, so I didn't want to eat stuff that wouldn't make me feel good.

Even though I didn't really do much other than wander, sit and eat, I feel like it was a weekend well spent.

It also got me back into the swing of the rugby a bit. Recently I've felt myself drifting away from the RL world a bit. I've barely paid any attention to the transfers and friendlies during the off season, and if I'm brutally honest, it no longer has the place in my life it once did. I used to arrange my social life round rugby. I'd meet friends at games, I'd organise my life and my travel round the fixture list, and I'd go to two, even three, games a weekend to meet up with various people. It made me feel like I belonged, and it was who I was.

Now, running ticks a lot of those boxes. I try to fit them both together (like travelling down on Friday to fit the run as well as the match in), but if one has to give way then it might be the rugby. It certainly is on those weekends when I have a target race which clashes with a match.

I no longer need to use a rugby team as my proxies when it comes to sporting achievement. I don't need to pin all my hopes on them. I'd rather get GFA for myself than see them win the league, if I had to choose. Both would be lovely, of course, but I don't need to live out my dreams through other people. I'm starting to see rugby more as a filler like films or music. If there's something good on and I have time, I'll watch it, but if I have something more important I might do that instead.

I just feel a bit disloyal, as though once you're a fan you can't just switch off and desert them. Actually, at the game, once I'd worked out who half our players were, I started to get back into it again and enjoyed it more than I was expecting to. Let's see whether I enjoy the resumption of the Friday night trek to Wigan though...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Dreaming of Summer

The days are getting brighter, the super league season is here, and it's time to start thinking about summer again. Proper summer (as opposed to "summer rugby") is still a while off, but I need something to look forward to. This year I think it's time to tackle another item on the to do list - camping.
I've been vaguely thinking about it for a while, but I've been galvanised into action by a wedding invitation. The venue is on a farm and there isn't really any accommodation on the doorstep. There are places in surrounding towns and villages, so I wouldn't be entirely bed-less, but they're a taxi ride away and I have an irrational fear of taxis. But the venue has camping facilities for wedding guests, and it's in July so there's the hope that the weather might be decent for it. Apparently some other people are going for the camping option, so it wouldn't just be me. I think it would be quite fun to stagger from wedding reception to tent without having to worry about how to get back to a hotel - and I think it will be mainly the guests around my age who are camping, so the company should be good.
For one night it probably wouldn't be any cheaper than a hotel, on the basis I'll have to buy all the equipment, but once I've got it, I may as well use it. That's led to me looking at my diary and coming up with other ideas for times I can go with a tent at the weekend. The plan is to go away somewhere for a trial run before the wedding to get the hang of putting the tent up on a day when I've got more time to faff around, and also so if I really hate it I have time to try to find a hotel.
I've started to realise that I'm more of a country girl than a city one, and I like getting out and getting some fresh air. What I don't like is the way guest houses and B&Bs in the Dales and the Lakes require minimum stays at weekends (particularly the Dales which are a bit too close for me to justify staying over on a Friday night as well as Saturday), and I'm not a huge fan of the single supplement either. (On the other hand I am a huge fan of the second B in B&B). But a nice walk, with a tent and a campsite within staggering distance of a pub waiting at the end of it, is starting to sound like a good idea for spur of the minute weekends away in summer.
I really like the idea of camping, so let's hope I like the reality just as much. And let's hope we get a slightly drier and warmer summer this year so I can make the most of it.
Speaking of weekends and summer, over the weekend I think I came to a decision. Almost every year I spend my birthday on holiday. Quite often I spend it alone in a random foreign city. I never attempt to organise anything with my friends. I don't know why I'm so insecure, but I don't dare plan anything for fear that no-one will turn up. I have this irrational belief that they have better things to do than to spend time with me. I can't remember the last time I had a proper birthday party. Maybe when I was at primary school.
But no more. The joy seems to have been taken out of short breaks by air by the tightened security at airports and the removal of those few remaining frills by the low cost airlines (and who thought that a check in desk was a chargeable frill...). I went through a phase where I would look for somewhere, anywhere, to go, just to escape being home alone. Then I started to realise that if I was trying to run away from something at home it wasn't working, because it came with me. As I started to feel more comfortable with myself, I lost the desire to run away. The enjoyment started to go out of it a bit, even once I'd braved the stupidly early check in, the horror of the airport, and the constant selling on the flights.
So instead I'll be at home for my birthday, it's my 30th (yikes!), and it's a Saturday. Everything is nicely lined up for a celebration. I've toyed with various ideas, but think I'm actually going to surprise myself with my choice. This post really does go from one extreme to another. I've never really been one for being pampered, but I really enjoyed the spa on Saturday and think I'm going to use my birthday as an excuse to go back. Annette says she'll come with me, and I'm coming up with a list of friends who may be up for it. Then a nice civilised meal at a restaurant in Leeds in the evening which I'll invite more people to, even if they can't justify the expense of the spa during the day (so many people seem to be getting married at the moment, and with all the hen dos there are only so many spa trips and weekends away a girl can afford). If it's just me and Annette, so be it, but I'm starting to actually have a belief that there are people out there who would come to my party if only I'd get round to organising one.
Let's face it, because I'm not going to get married any time soon I don't have that excuse for getting everyone together to celebrate. I may as well make the most of the opportunity I do have.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hen Do!

This weekend is my little sister's big hen do. It's one of those events that isn't going to come round too often (we hope!) so I'm throwing myself into another weekend with people I barely know. Actually, that's a bit less true than the last couple of parties I went to where I really didn't know anyone other than the host, as I've met them on occasion, but I've never been out with most of her friends.

Last evening was a relatively sedate dinner at her best friend's house just outside Leeds. Today we're going for a spa day, then it's up to Newcastle for a night out before I leave them and head to Rochdale for Sunday lunch with some of my own friends (which had been planned before she decided the date of the hen do). Fingers crossed it will all be fun and I won't be too tired come Monday, as there's a lot of driving to add to the partying (although I've got a nice upgrade on my hire car so will be doing it in comfort).

That sort of schedule isn't very conducive to marathon training so I planned ahead and did my long run on Wednesday (believe me, setting out to do 15 miles when it's already dark isn't much fun, although when I finished I was glad I'd done it), and I've also done my interval and tempo runs for the week. That leaves me with 3 - 4 miles easy. I was considering doing it this morning before setting off, but it's snowing, so I might take one of the two back up options. One is that both the spa and the hotel have gyms, so if I have a spare half hour I could jump on a treadmill. The second is that skipping a 4 mile run and giving my body a bit of rest isn't going to kill me and may well be a good thing. So I'll enjoy myself and not get hung up on it.

Last night something hit me though. I was driving up to Louisa's, and it took me a good 20 - 25 minutes. The roads weren't that busy, that's just how long it takes with all the junctions, roundabouts, traffic lights and so on. And then I realised that I have been known to run there (well not to her house, but to the canal bridge that's pretty near it). And that on the occasions I've run there it's roughly half way through my run. It felt like quite a long way when I was driving it, even though when I run it I don't actually think of it as being that bad.

My measurement of distance when I'm running is getting good though. I'm quite good at setting off for a run with a mileage target in mind and picking a route that will be the right length without actually checking it by measuring it online first. I sometimes adjust it on the run, but it's rare that I find myself miles from where I want to be with no energy left in the legs. If I want a 6 mile run to work rather than 5 or 7 I think a bit, come up with one, and it usually works out right.

Anyway, enough rabbiting on, I must go and get ready for a bit of pampering!