Alloa Half Marathon 2019

Today was due to be a lovely Spring day, ideal conditions for the Alloa Half Marathon (and quite a difference from this time last year when it was snowed off!). Audrey has run the race a few times and always said it was her favourite half marathon, so I decided to give it a go. And I’m glad I did.

I picked up Audrey at 8am and drove the 45 mins through to Alloa and parked up. We went and got our numbers, went for a pre race pee… and got ready for the race. It was a short 5 minute walk to the start.

Now for the not so good… I had a few simple school girl errors today…

School girl error number one was not tightening my water bladder to drink from, properly. This meant that the litre and a half I usually run with in my water pack, was reduce to maybe a third of that in the car on the way there.

It had been chilling in the fridge (upright) overnight, and I didn’t notice it was leaking until I put it on, as it was lighter than normal and wet. So I filled it up with some water I had, and that would have to do.

We stood not far from the start line for a bit and Audrey met some people she knows. Lucky Angela and Douglas (who is training for the London marathon). We chatted for a bit and Douglas went off for a pee before the start…something I realised after I started, that I should have done again too.

School girl error number two… I realised as soon as I started running that I needed a pee. Like really needed a pee. Great fun. I must have drunk so much water with breakfast and on the way, that even with the first pee stop I needed another. I’ve been here when I did the D33, and 6 miles into a 4:30 run I stopped near a ditch, squatted down low and peed.

I didn’t really want to do it for this run as some of it was running through streets, so I hoped there would be a portaloo maybe 3 or 4 miles in…. no such luck. I tried not to let it get to me, but it meant that I wasn’t maybe focusing on much else. And I probably wasn’t pushing it as hard as I did in other halves.

I noticed my heart rate seemed to be good, about 150-155 for about the first 2-3 miles and felt good (apart from wanting to pee myself!) the conditions really were ideal – sunny and clear, cold, but warm to run in, and no wind.

Audrey and a few others had told me about the hills – one about 3-4 miles in, one at 10 and another at 11. I figured if you climbed at mile 10 & 11 or lrobably meant you got a downhill near the end, and I was right … a steady wee downhill about mile 12.

Even with the weather being chilly, in the sun it was warm, and I realised about 4 miles in that id done the opposite of Inverness with my clothes and worn too much.

Capris should have been shorts, and I shouldn’t have worn my compression top, but could have got away with a vest or two. I also could have ditched my nike gillet (although I like it for the pockets). It didn’t harm me too much, but I must remember that in future for such ideal race conditions.

After the slight hill about mile 3 or 4, we came out of the town into lovely countryside scenery. There were a few slight downhills which seemed to help make it feel easy. My average heart rate was between 145-162 for the first 6 miles, and I managed to do the first 10k in a reasonable (and fastest for a while) 49-50 minutes. I was feeling good.

I’d taken on a pre workout mix before the run (more about that later, but it had 175g of caffeine in it and a number of other bits and pieces)… mixed with Greek yoghurt. Before I’d left my house I’d had some fruit and nut and a banana with some water.

Then about 4 miles in I took my first (double espresso) caffeine gel (125mg caffeine). Then I had my second gel at about 8 miles in (cherry / 75mg caffeine). About 375mg of caffeine in total… that was plenty.

There was a nice open stretch from about mile 6-8… and of decided I’d split the run up like this (race strategy):

4 miles easy – HR 150-160
2 miles steady – HR 160
3 miles steady – HR 160
Last 3.1 miles strong – HR 165+ (including the last two hills)

It did feel a bit like I was holding back the effort from going too hard for the first half, given my toilet situation, so maybe it was a good thing afterall. But I spent I don’t know how many miles looking for an inconspicuous place I could stop, squat and pee. I was even thinking that Paula does it, so I could too. Lol.

It all seemed to work out well anyway. See my heart rate above, linked to my pace (which was mostly determined by the hills). I was feeling good throughout and paced myself up the last two hills. I kept an eye on my heart rate and eased off when it got to 170.

Up and over the first hill at 10 miles, then the other at 11. At 2 miles to go I was at about 1:32, so figured I might finish in about 1:48… if I did about 2 x 8 min miles ish.

1.5 miles to go about it was about 12 minutes to go. This is what I do to occupy my brain towards the end – maths. For the last mile or so I pushed on strong, Managing 8:24 pace, then 7:08 min mile for the last 0.1. The finish was well sign posted and I crossed the line in just over 1:48.

The difference between three weeks ago at Inverness was so much – today felt so much easier in body and mind, and it was probably mainly due to the conditions. And maybe the rest I’d had before race day (plus a different route).

Today was 6 minutes faster than my run in Wintery Inverness three weeks ago, and about 10 minutes slower than my overall pb (which I’m happy that I’ll never beat again, unless I lose one to two stone and be able to train full time, or get 10 years younger lol). 🤪

After I went back to my car at Asda and peed the longest pee ever, then got changed, had a chocolate forgoodness shakes and some water and did some stretches. Then I went back to the finish line to see Audrey and some others come in.

We drove back then later on I went out for a fillet steak and sweet potato fries, with a starter of a prawn cocktail. Ideal recovery food. But I refrained from having a pudding for once!

Here’s me at the end, happy with a good event, even despite the school girl errors (oh and I left the front door wide open when I left at 750am too!! Oops – inside door closed).

If you fancy a good scenic half marathon to do, I’d definitely recommend this one. A well organised and commentated event, simple and caters well for the 3-4000 runners who do it.

The only feedback I’d have is that it’d be good for them to have more portaloos, maybe at 3-4, 7 and 10 miles in. I would have probably gone at 4 miles in, but after an hour of holding it in, I decided I could hold it in for another 50 minutes or so. Ouch. Nice medal and T-shirt.

All good anyway. Now it’s a rest day tomorrow before going back to work on Tuesday and continuing my strength training and 10 week 10k training plan. After a couple of big sleeps hopefully.

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What holidays are for…

This holiday was all about a reset… a break… time out… after a very busy 15 months at work and the end of a project for me… it’s time to take a break. Let my brain have a rest and my body get some sleep and recovery.

As usual in my holidays that I like to take in March, it was a bit of heat and sun after a long cold Winter, but this time it was a chance to reflect on what has been and what might be coming up. It’ll all happen, and I want to not worry about it… just take it all as it comes.

We flew out to Faro in the Algarve on Thursday and had booked a nice air b n b type place. A nice two bedroom place about a 10 minute walk from the centre of Faro… with it’s own kitchen and living room, two bathrooms, air con, a nice garden and an open roof space. Perfect. There were three supermarkets nearby, each of varying standards. Good for water and food to snack on.

This holiday was a chance to do easy little runs first thing… explore the town and surrounding areas before the heat of the day came… or get some body movement / strength in.

On the first day I did a good 25 min bodyweight strength session on the roof in the sun, then was surprised by Fit Girl who was ready in her running gear, so we went a run, and kind of familiarised ourselves with the area a bit.

Then I alternated days with strength one day, then running… 2.5 miles the first day, then 4.4 miles, 4 miles and 3.7 miles. And plenty nice gentle walking… an average of 15,000 steps a day. About 32 miles walking and about 15 miles running.

Afternoons were spent either sun bathing in the garden, or going for the odd nap (nearly every day) when the sun felt like it got a bit too hot. It was 20-22’C most days, but if felt warmer in the garden. We went out a few nights for dinner, had a few lunches out…but tended to have breakfast in, and had a few meals in too.

We had music on mostly – Dido or Kygo… nice and relaxing…. it went nicely with the bird song, and drowned out the occasional dogs barking, stray cats meowing, pigeons cooing, or the sirens of a city. Pretty sunsets seen a couple of evenings in the the week, and I enjoyed the food I ate.

I probably had one too many pizzas for my liking, and not as many ice creams as I’d have liked, but all in all it was good. Some good coffees, a nice Portuguese cake or two, and a really good breakfast bowl at Chelsea Brunch & Coffee.

My sleep went from an average 6:30 per night when I was at work the week before the holiday to an average of to about 9:30 on average. I’ve woken at 2 or 3am a couple of times, and I know my brain is thinking about work…. even though I’m trying hard not too. I’m pretty sure I am allergic to work… but it has to be done, eh? Fresh start when I go back next week.

When I get back, I’ve planned to do a long ish run on Friday morning with my work Twinnie for her chat, then a rest day of Saturday with a good breakfast out… and a nice relaxing day. Before an early start for the Alloa Half Marathon on the Sunday. Amazing Audrey is running it too, so it’ll be good to catch up with her on the journey there and back.

Monday is my last day off, and I’ll aim to get a lie in and do some planning with my training and nutrition. Get in practice of eating similar things to fuel my workouts and make me feel good.

April will be aiming for three progressive strength sessions (M-W-F) and three runs a week (Tu-Th-Sa or Su) keeping my long runs up at about 8-12 miles and maybe getting some effective runs in too if I can muster the effort.

I’ve also taken the opportunity to enter the Roon the Toon 10k on the 9th June, for a race to aim for after Alloa.

This has been another good holiday, time out and a good break ahead of Spring and the clocks going forward on Sunday. Heat and sun makes such a big difference, but I doubt I could live in it all the time… best not complain though. It’s been just right.

And the above might be my favourite picture of the holiday. Lol. I think I might have enough crazy without any more.

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Just entered the Roon the Toon 10k

I just entered the Roon the Toon 10k… which takes place on the 9th June… why don’t you enter too… ?

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Wk12 into Wk13

Last week I had a good week re training, with two full strength sessions, and two bodyweight Strength sessions, four little-ish runs and a quick bike tabata.

I managed to finish off my two x three sessions of full body strength, a squat session, a deadlift session and a clean n press session. I’ve increased the weights as I’ve gone and I’m feeling good on it.

Then when I’ve been on holiday I’ve done a 25 min bodyweight session every second day.

Here’s what I did last week anyway:

Mon 18: Deadlift Strength & 4 min bike tabata
Tue 19: 4M lunchtime run
Wed 20: 5.5M run wi Twinnie
Thu 21: Clean n Press Strength & Travel
Fri 22: 2.5M Run / Bodyweight Strength
Sat 23: 4.4M Run
Sun 24: Bodyweight Strength

It’s good set up for April where I’m going to aim to strength train three times a week, on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays. And I’ll run three days around that. I’ll build the weights and AMRAP reps up, taking note of them as I go.

Ive expectedly had good sleeps on holiday, although strange dreams that I’d rather not be dreaming about. But hey ho.


On Sunday coming I have the Alloa half marathon. And whilst my last long run of about 6 miles was a few days after the Inverness Half, my Garmin is apparently telling me that my reduction in training is causing me to ‘peak’ … so maybe I’ll be in good shape ahead of Alloa.

I’ll take it as it comes and see how I go. I have Monday off so that’ll be a good recovery day for me. Maybe the holiday has forced me to taper… little and often runs are fine here. And we had a rest from running on Thursday and Sunday.

In March so far I’ve run just over 70 miles, add on the half, brings it to 83.3, so I might get 90-95 miles this month. Up from 70 in January and 75 in February.

Here’s my plan for this week:

Mon 25: 4M Run (=70.2)
Tue 26: Bodyweight Strength / 3-5M Run
Wed 27: Circuit Strength / 5k Run
Thu 28: Travel & Rest
Fri 29: 4-6M Run / KB or Runner Strength
Sat 30: Rest
Sun 31: Alloa Half marathon

Oh and here’s me eating some ice cream this week too.

That’ll do. Then it’s into April and who knows what will happen then. Eeek.

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Celebrate what is different

I remember a friend of mine a long while back saying I was ‘unique’… I could have taken that as a bit of a negative judgement, or I could have taken it as I did, as a compliment. Unique, different, one of a kind. What makes you different stands you apart from the norm, makes you special.

I think it might have been my Dad or my parents who filled me with the self confidence that I have now. The confidence that being different Is a good thing.

I was the youngest of five and I felt like I had a lot to compete with. I felt like I wasn’t as good as them, as strong as them, or as clever as them. Or that they were better at school or academic subject than I was. And because they were all older than me, it was probably true.

The truth is that we were just different, and neither of us were ‘better’ than the others. (Although my brother would probably disagree!) We all brought our own talents and now I’ve realised that whilst I wasn’t a straight A’s student, my forte was and is, working with people.

I always floated around different groups of friends, and created a support network of people my own age as well as those older than me. I learned from them, and I also learned that being different was ok.

I started school when I was 4 and two months old, so I always felt like I was the smallest until I got to about 4th year and suddenly started outgrowing my school friends. I felt different from the start, but somehow I knew that it was ok to be different.

It’s probably one of the reasons I was so comfortable in coming out when I was 19… because a. I knew it was nobody’s business but my own and b. It was ok to be different.

My 87 year old kind of religious Granny even said it was fine, as long as I didn’t harm others, she knew I’d do myself proud in life.

I don’t go on about being gay, because it isn’t a big deal to me. It is what it is. I’ll talk about my partner but I don’t announce myself as being gay very often. Like a good vegan who doesn’t go on about it every day… that’s me, but just another way of living life.

And if it is a big deal to someone else, or if they don’t like it, then I’m better off without them. I learned that a long time ago. It’s no biggy. It’s not often I’ve had a negative reaction, and that’s likely because I society is more accepting, it’s my life and it shouldn’t be a big deal.

My Dad always taught me to respect others. We’re not religious, and I grew up in a small rural town. But I still grew up to respect all, not matter their religion, colour or creed. Be who you want to be and respect others as long as they aren’t doing others harm.

Recently I saw this adorable post on a colleagues Facebook page, where it seems that being different being a good thing is maybe being taught in schools… both Jimmy’s parents are great colleagues in work, and it looks like their great ways are rubbing off on their son…

‘… He is really cool. He is different and being differ(ern)t is cool.’ (He’s about 5 or 6).

It’s cool if this is being taught in schools, or even if it’s just the parents teaching the kid who wrote this. Difference being ok should be taught, acceptance of diversity can only be a good thing.

(Not so cool in other schools like these ones in Birmingham

Now at my work, I’m one of a very diverse work force – it’s rich in types of people from all different backgrounds. I’m still one of a kind and I’ve recently heard in feedback from colleagues that my ‘positivity and enthusiasm is contagious’ in my work. It seems people see me as being ‘very smiley’ and a joy to work with.

That can’t be bad and it kinda makes me want to smile even more and spread the smiles even more. 🙂

There are a few people in my work who I’m close to. Who are different, and who, when I talk to, I get a lot from. They’re confident in themselves, opinionated and knowledgable, but open to discussion. They are like the person I want to be – enthusiastic, positive, nothing is ever too much for them. They are my reason to smile in work, my network helping me to be me.

Their honesty and truth is refreshing and helps me to get perspective in life. And hopefully I help others to smile in work too. You know who you are – the people who know me well, and help me look after myself and steer myself in the right direction.

In work, I check how people are, I genuinely care about people. I make time for people who need my help. I get reward for helping people and from making things happen. I’m the positive and calm where sometimes there is negativity or stress.

Whilst others might be self conscious of what makes them different. I’m proud of what makes me different …

The dental implants I have and bump on my nose from breaking it in a car accident… it’s made me a more cautious driver, and luckily nothing more serious happened that day, and no one else was injured. It helped me to learn to be a better driver and that life isn’t eternal, or that it can end *just like that*.

I’m happy with the choices I’ve made in life… to be healthy, happy and fit. The fact that I run and strength train a lot, I make it my own and I really enjoy it. It’s my release, my chance to be the best I can be. I don’t drink, and I couldn’t care less what people think of that. I do it for my own reasons, and it works for me, and it has for the last 10 years.

I like eating, and I like to try to get a balance in life and in most things I do. I like pizza and ice cream, and I like napping in the afternoon sometimes when I need it.

I’m not ‘proud’ to be gay as I think (and hope that) society has moved on from those times. But I am what I am, or I do what I do, and I don’t make a song and dance about it. I don’t see the point. If people don’t like it, then that’s up to them, and I’ll avoid them or leave them with their opinions.

There are so many other things that make me who I am, and it makes me different from everyone else – and that can only be a good thing. If someone doesn’t like it, or me, then stuff them. I can rise above it and know that I’m being true to me.

I’m proud of who I’ve become and what I’ve overcome to get here. The people who are important to me that are proud of me too, and I’ll hopefully keep making them proud.

What is it that makes you different and why are you proud of it, or what has it helped you to learn?

Are there things you feel scared to do for fear of what others think?

Would you feel better if you just did them and made them a part of who you are? (As long as you’re not harming anyone else).

What makes you different makes you beautiful. It can help to make you be a star that sparkles that little bit brighter in the sky. And in a dark sky, it’s often nice to see the bright sparkly stars twinkle away.

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Wk11 into Wk12 & 13

Last week I had some good training sessions and managed to keep on top of my work too.

I felt recovered from the Inverness Half marathon ok. I was a bit tired ok the Monday and Tuesday, but a nice wee lunchtime easy recovery run was good.

I did 4 runs (nearly 20 miles) and two strength sessions, and I had two rest days. All good and it’s nice to be getting back into the swing of things.

My sleep has been pretty pathetic, waking up at 2 some mornings and getting up as I can’t sleep, but that’ll get better in the next week or two, so no biggie. 🙂

Here’s what I did last week:

Mon 11: Rest & Travel
Tue 12: 5k recovery run lunchtime
Wed 13: Clean n Press Strength
Thu 14: 7.8M run (coaching)
Fri 15: Rest
Sat 16: Squat Strength & 3.6M (coaching)

Sun 17: 4.5M Run DMc

Here’s my plans for the next couple of weeks ahead of the Alloa half marathon:

Mon 18: Deadlift Strength
Tue 19: Run wi Twinnie / 5k lunchtime?
Wed 20: Clean n press Strength
Thu 21: Travel / run first thing?
Fri 22: Run
Sat 23: Bodyweight Strength
Sun 24: 6-8M Run?

Mon 25: Bodyweight Strength
Tue 26: 5M run
Wed 27: 5M / Bodyweight Strength
Thu 28: Travel & Rest
Fri 29: Run / Strength
Sat 30: Rest
Sun 31: Alloa Half marathon

Then in April I’m going to aim for 2-3 good strength sessions a week (mon wed fri ideally) and keep my running ticking over (3 runs a week ish).

I might enter an event but I’m not sure yet – any suggestions for a good event up to half marathon distance in the summer? A Scottish one probably.

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Up and up and up, but in a good way

If you know me, you know I like numbers… well below are some numbers that I’m happy with. It seems that my training is working, even with the busy-ness of work on top.

You’ll also know that I know how important it is to see weight as more than just a number on the scale – for some, higher is not necessarily worse.

Muscle takes up less space than fat… as the image below shows (I’m not sure how accurate it is, but i think it’s a good visual, and I’d like to think it’s accurate):

Last week in work, I was quietly smiling when John Beattie said to me he thought I looked like I’d lost weight. And I replied to say I’d actually put on weight and was the heaviest I’ve been for years.

(By the way, I never thought I’d be in a position to have the rather fit and accomplished ex rugby player John Beattie saying he thought I’d lost weight (especially when I’d put it on the right way). Lol. Life can be funny. It’s cool to know him, he’s such a lovely man.)

Anyway… here’s the numbers and graphs… for me in relation to what I’m talking about:

This graph above, from the end of 2012 shows my weight going up and up and up. The lowest it’s been was about 120lbs… and now it’s up about 18-20lbs in 7 years.

But we know that it’s not weight that’s the important thing, it’s body composition… and you can be just as fit and lean at ten stone as you can be at 8 stone.. or even more fit and lean at 10 stone!

I generally want body fat to reduce and lean mass to increase, and I’ve been able to do that over the years with training and eating.

When I was 120lbs / 8.5 stone, I had about 13lbs body fat, or about 11% body fat, and about 104lbs lean body mass.

5 years on and after a busy year at work… in October 2018 my stats were:

18 October: 135.8lbs / 17.1% body fat
23.3lbs body fat / 107.6lbs lbm / 4.9lbs water

Then I started afresh in January 2019 and took these measurements, up a bit in body fat lbs (same %) and up in lean body mass (too many mince pies at Christmas?!):

1 Jan: 139.5lbs / 17.1% body fat
23.9lbs body fat / 110.7lbs lbm / 4.9lbs water
+3.7lbs =
+0.6lbs body fat / +3.1lbs lbm / no change water

Two more months of attempting to fit in training and trying to be a bit more
conscious of what I’m eating (or not eating everything in sight)…

…here’s my results with a bit more of a focus on strength training since January… (lbm is lean body mass, as recorded on my scales):

2 March: 139.1lbs / 15% body fat
20.9lbs body fat / 112.5lbs lbm / 5.7lbs water
+3.3lbs =
-2.4lbs body fat / +4.9lbs lbm / +0.8lbs water

So since October last year I’ve put on 3.3lbs, but that’s +4.9lbs lean body mass, +0.8lbs water and I’ve lost -2.4lbs of body fat.

That’s about +2.2kg of muscle and about -1.1kg of body fat / a reduction in body fat of 2%.

And it’s up nearly 20lbs compared to 2012! 8lbs body fat, 8-9lbs lean body mass and 4-5lbs water. Or maybe my brain has grown as part of all that? 😉 ha, only joking.

So whilst I’ve put on weight since October, I hopefully look leaner / smaller because I have less fat / more muscle (slightly). Or maybe I look the same but I feel stronger.

I’m always going to have big hips (runs in the family) but it’s good to know the numbers are working out and I feel probably better at this weight – a stone and a half heavier than I did at 120lbs / 8.5 stone.

Saying that – imagine how much easier it would be to run carrying 8.5 stone vs 10 stone!! 😉

no wonder I was able to run a 3:28 marathon! (this was me then… see much difference compared to the pic above?)

I definately couldn’t do that now, but that’s ok for me as I have different goals, and I’ll always have that pb. 🙂

I’m also about 5-6 years older, and age catches up with you. I’m happy pushing myself when I want to and getting results like I did on Sunday at the Inverness half (avg HR 166, max 176, time 1:54 – vs a pb of 1:39 a while back).

Who cares about all of these numbers… as long as I’m happy, healthy and fit, right?

Ps: The graphs above are generated by Health Mate by Withings… when I step on my MyWithings WiFi scale it automatically sends my stats to the app. Very clever indeed.

Do you look at your numbers like this? What have your results been? Or is it more about you getting a balance and being happy, healthy and fit?

Now that I think about it, that’s my motivator, and the numbers are a measure for me to see how I’m changing / progressing.

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