It has been too long since my last post, and apologies for such a long period of absence. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about (I do: hydration, why runners are mental, healthy ways to add flavour to foods, my training programme reflections, Garmin issues, etc), it’s that my time is so precious right now, any free chunks normally devoted to blogging have been reserved for teaching-related planning and something that comes around every two years for me: the new visa application. This time around, after four years living and working in the UK, I’m applying for permanent residency. The application is similar to my current visa’s, Leave to Remain as the partner of a British citizen: same questions to answer, same evidence to provide, and same process. The only difference now is that I must take the Life in the UK test, which is to some how prove my proficiency of the English language. Interesting way of wording it, I know. I’ve been diligently reading and taking notes from my study guide for the last two weeks, and have also downloaded the official app which is full of practice tests and questions, (I’ve taken about 10 tests so far). To pass, one must get at least 75%; I’ve passed every time but the perfectionist in me still isn’t satisfied with how much knowledge I have. Good thing my test is this Saturday in Dundee, which still gives me a few days to cram vital bits of information into my brain about:
– The values and principles of the UK
– What is the UK? [which countries make up the UK? Do you know?]
– A looooooooooong and illustrious history [all sixty pages of it – the Stone Age to Afghanistan].
– A modern, thriving society
– The UK government, the law and your role
If I pass, I can proceed with my application; if I don’t, then I must resit the test. Thankfully, there’s a lot of information I already know from living in Canda (similarities in structure of government, celebrations and traditions), living here and learning about things from TV, (handy BBC history documentaries, University Challenge, and of course my favourite, QI). Reading my study guide puts everything in a more logical, chronological order, and taking notes allows me to notice patterns and absorb information. Too bad I wasn’t like this in university!
Come Saturday at 11:30am I will be finished and the pressure will be off. Until then, this is my night time reading:
I’m still sticking to my training plan, but have supplemented some interval runs with normal runs, and can I say, I love the long runs? I’m also keeping with the healthy eating, although right now it is also supplemented with nibbles that take me back to my university studying days. I also caved this past weekend and bought myself takeout lunch twice because I was too lazy to cook, and indulged in a delicious and creamy strawberry tart, a staple of British summers.
Two exciting things happened to me last week: a new Garmin and two new PR’s!
To keep things short and sweet with respect to the Garmin, I bought myself a Forerunner 110, a GPS Garmin that tracks pace/speed, distance, time, calories burnt and your heart rate (if you’ve got a heart rate monitor). I bought this to replace my FR60 with footpod, (NOT GPS), which was giving me some serious issues, no matter how I calibrated it. I basically had no faith my watch, and could only rely on it to tell time, time runs and time intervals accurately. I want to dedicate an entire post to the many issues I had with my FR60 because there is a lot to say as well as the story behind buying it, and including it in this post will make it epically long. I will endeavour to write this post later this week if studying continues to go well.
My watch arrived in the mail Friday, and came with twelve owner’s manuals, all in different European languages.
|You know you live in Europe when….|
I was excited for the watch to come because I was running the 2013 Montrose 10km on the weekend, put on by the Montrose Academy, and wanted the watch to time my race. I had PR’d in last year’s race, and after four weeks of the new training programme giving me confidence in my speed and stamina, I was hoping to do the same again this year. Amy and Wendy from my running group were also looking to best their 10km times on this quick, flat course.
The three of us set out from Laurencekirk Sunday morning and arrived to a full canteen at Montrose Academy, in time to meet up with Brian from our group, chat friends, pin on our bibs, drop off our bags, do a few performance-enhancing toilet stops, then make our way to the start in the grassy field next to the new Montrose Leisure Centre. After a muddled explanation that left us all asking ‘What??!????’, we were off! I don’t actually think there was a gun, and there definitely wasn’t a start/finish arch. The race had about 150 people running, so things we very low scale. I didn’t actually know where the start/finish was as I began running, so I started my Garmin immediately rather than waiting to cross the official start line.
The course is flat, flat and flat, which is the main reason we keep entering this race. You can’t avoid hills in Laurencekirk, especially when your running club meeting point is in the middle of a hill. Running a flat route is a luxury for us. The course took us out of the field and along the cycle path, past the rugby club, golf club and to the aerodrome road. You leave the road and run a large loop along gravely, sandy and rocky trails, then join the aerodrome road again to head back to that grassy field. It’s actually a bit of a boring route compared to other races I’ve run, (ahem, Balmoral?), but allows for some smart racing and pacing, and even the possibility of a negative split race (where you either run the second half faster than the first, and/or each mile is progressively faster than the last).
This was actually the first time I’d used my Garmin, (a brave thing to do), so I didn’t know about all its capabilities until I was in motion. Not only does my watch time my runs and keep track of distance using GPS, it also tells me my pace as I’m running! This is exciting for me because my old watch didn’t, and I always wondered how I was going to be able to maintain a certain pace for races if I didn’t know how fast I was actually running.
I struggled at the beginning to get into the race and not let nerves take over. To distract me initially, I began thinking about British history I’d studied the day before:
The Romans, led by Julius Caesar, first tried to invade Britain in 55 BC, but were unsuccessful. Queen Boudicca of the Iceni people was one leader who held off the Romans. Emperor Claudius successfully invaded Britain almost 100 years later, in 43 AD and……
The Bronze Age people made tools, weapons and ornaments out of bronze and gold. They lived in roundhouses….
The War of the Roses was fought between the House of York and House of Lancaster; their symbols were a red rose (Lancaster) and white rose (York). The War of the Roses was the start of those pesky, indecisive Tudors…..
The Tudors and the Stuarts sure liked to change power and religion in Britain frequently!!!! During that time, the only Catholic queens were named Mary: Queen Mary, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon’s daughter, and Mary, Queen of Scots.
Just after the 1km mark, I glanced down at my Garmin to see my pace was hovering between 8:45 – 8:50 minutes/mile; I was actually able to sustain this effortlessly for the first two miles, which was totally unbelievable to me because I know that usually feels much more difficult. I had had a physio appointment the Wednesday before the race, and I always have a few days of no activity after my spine, hips and pelvis get re-adjusted, so my legs were well rested and ready to go; this may well have contributed to fast, easy miles. Although I was excited about a running watch that actually worked, I did find it difficult to trust in the first half of the race because of the issues I’d faced with my FR60. Any concerns about my Garmin quickly dissipated when my Garmin went off just before I passed the 5km sign (or 3.1 miles): I had a watch that truly worked! And look at that, a new 5km PR of 26:42! Beating my Dunecht Dash PR by just over a minute.
The first 5km of the race also yielded some interesting sights:
1. Probably the worst case of overpronating feet in the wrong, neutral running shoes, (maybe that’s why you were wearing a knee brace?). It looked as though they were running on their arches, ouch!
2. The man running in front of me for a good part of the race, ran the entire race with his left shoe lace UNTIED!!!! He didn’t even stop to untie it when a passing woman informed him of it.
Mile 1: 8:52
Mile 2: 9:04
Mile 3: 9:08
I started thinking strategically about the race: if I ran the next 5km in 30 minutes, I would still get a PR! I let myself ease off a bit, just in time for the easy-to-run on gravel to change to large stones, sand and unstable ground. This next mile (or 5km to about 7km) were the toughest trying to maintain a decent 9:20 pace while running on unstable and ever-changing surfaces. I allowed myself until the 8km mark to run a bit slower, then tried to pick up the pace once I passed the 8km sign and was on my way back to the grassy field and the finish line.
I ran the rest of the cycle path then, upon remembering last year’s finish, asked the last group of marshalls ‘Do we have to run a lap around the track still?’, trying to gauge where I would start my sprint. They said no, so off I went! My watch read about 53:xx at that time, so I rationalised that it would take me no more than three minutes to make it to the finish. There were many people along the race route at the finish, including some people walking right in the middle of it; I actually had to yell ‘Guys, there’s still people running!’ for them to get out of my pursuit of a new PR. I sprinted along the grass to the finish line, stopping my Garmin, running into Amy’s arms, and collecting my medal and goodie bag. I checked my watch and shouted ‘A new PR!!!!! By two minutes!’ the proceeded to do my cool down walk.
Mile 4: 9:37
Mile 5: 9:16
Mile 6: 9:15 *hello positive split race!
A new PR, amazing!!!!! The run was a completely new experience for me: it only felt difficult between the 6km and 8km marks, and I didn’t experience the heavy chest, hard breathing I normally had when I raced. One thing I’ve noticed with my training programme is that my breathing has totally helped recovery with interval and exercise sessions, and used this method of controlled breathing throughout the race rather than huffing and puffing through my mouth. I inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth, and while this is a bit more difficult to grasp in terms a finding a rhythm initially, it’s makes for easier breathing in more difficult running situations. I know this is the way you’re supposed to breathe when running, but sometimes find it difficult to consistently maintain this in a run; on race day however, it was subconcious for me.
|Have I told you how much I love this thing??!?!?|
Looking back, I ran a very smart race. I ditched my usual race strategy of picking off people and passing them one by one (which can I say, is very hard to not do!), and used my Garmin to keep me in check. I would glance down often to make sure my pace was around the 9:10 mark, and in the first half of the race, when it was lower, I just kept going to see how long I could sustain that pace. In the second half of the race, my pace became slower, so I tried to maintain a 9:20 pace instead. I wasn’t at all consumed with the usual I must pass him/her thoughts, and put my total trust in my Garmin instead. I also think that because I knew my pace at every step of the race and was able to strategize and figure how much more time I had left, any negative thoughts of self-doubt, hating the race and just wanting to stop and walk that would normally consume me were minimal.
I feel completely different about this race in every way, and I’m so happy with how I ran it. I credit my success to the new training programme, with tempo runs and long runs totally helping my stamina, and as if I’ve not said it enough already, to my new Garmin. I have wanted to run a 10km time beginning with 56:xx for about two years now, and I can finally say I’ve done it! Amy and Wendy, also doing the new training programme, PR’d as well, both running sub-50 minute, identical 10km’s at 49:17.
|Laurencekirk running peeps!|
Interesting thing about the race though, the distance on my watch and Amy’s only read 6.07 miles. Last year’s 10km followed the exact same route, but ended with a lap about 2/3’s the way around the track. An email the next day confirmed our suspicions about the distance, saying:
|Same medal as last year….|
|….. but this time engraved|
We ladies have a chance to redeem ourselves and try for a real 10km PR next Tuesday: we’re all running the Running Shop Beach 10km in Aberdeen, another flat course by the beach. This will be my last race I’ve entered for the spring, and if all goes well with long runs (we’ll do about 9.5 miles this Sunday), I’m going to enter the Aviemore half marathon, which is in October.
Once things with my test have cooled down, I’m hoping to get back to writing a bit more regularly. Until then, happy running and happy eating! Tomorrow’s Thursday already, yessssssss!