Running in the Shadows

Putting this weekend of running into words is quite hard. We ran in the shadows of Helvellyn, we ran in the shadows – full stop – there was almost no sun to be seen, we ran in our own personal shadows, fighting our own personal demons…

Let’s start at the beginning. We drove up to Glenridding on Friday afternoon. We stayed at the Glenridding Hotel which is a little odd but absolutely fine. We had our tea in the hotel bar and both opted for Cumberland sausage and mash – I wasn’t entirely sure about that for running fuel but we weren’t running until 1pm so it was going to be fine. We got an early night and I slept quite well. After breakfast (full veggie version) we walked IMG_7812across to the field where the Lakeland Trails marquee was. It was actually just next to the hotel. We couldn’t yet register for our race as they’re busy giving out numbers for the 5km and 10km runs that went earlier. We walked round the little village (didn’t take long) and along the first few hundred metres of the race route. I was beginning to really feel like I shouldn’t be there.

Everyone I’d seen so far was skinnier, looked stronger, looked like runners. It seemed ridiculous for me to be there. We went back to the hotel and just rested and watched the 10k race and 5k race leave and then, after not very long at all, we watched them come back in. That didn’t settle my doubts. I knew that this run was likely to be the hardest I’ve ever done. I’m not confident on tricky terrain and the terrain was going to be tricky. I got changed into my running gear and at about 12.40 we headed over for our 1pm start. We joined the queue for the loos, had a pee and then it was only another minute or two before we were on our way. We jogged slowly along at the back of the pack and for a short period of time it was all ok. It was going to be awesome and I was going to love it. We turned left towards the hills and quite quickly hot a bottleneck as everyone slowed to make our way down a narrow path alongside a little river. Then things opened up and started sloping upwards.

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I started finding it so hard so quickly and had to walk much sooner than I wanted to. I’d only done a mile and I was struggling. My head spiralled and I started to wonder what on earth I’d been thinking – I didn’t belong there. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other and eventually the second mile was done. I don’t really remember what came where on the run but I remember the relentlessness of the early ‘up’ and then the section that I disliked most which was a muddy slippy path where a woman behind me fell (not seriously hurt) and I may have whimpered a few times as I lost my footing and just about stayed on my feet. Once through the muddy bit the paths turned to streams for much of the way and it was actually nice to run in the water. We settled into a little running rhythm and eventually passed half way.

The scenery was stunning. I kept reminding myself to look and try and take it in. There was a huge amount of water around with waterfalls coming off the fells all over the place. You could tell when you were running through a stream coming down from up high – it got marginally deeper and significantly colder. I didn’t take any pictures on the run so these are from the day before of the first bit of the route.

Not long after half way we were passed by the first runners doing the race rather than the challenge – they were doing the same route but had set off an hour later. The next bit was horrendous. We kept having to stand in to let people past so it was stop start and I IMG_7784was struggling. I was also a little upset. Kath had been talking me through all the sections, pointing out the easiest path and encouraging me on. At around 3 miles (I think) we’d come down a steep set of stones which basically formed steps and I was doing my best but going quite slow and at that point it sort of felt like Kath was just fed up of me and really annoyed at me. I snapped at her and we continued in silence from there. We said almost nothing to each other until we were back at the hotel. As it turns out, Kath was struggling with anxiety and I just made it worse by not realising, snapping at her and not being able to go faster. If we had been a little faster we would have been off the narrow stretch by the time people started coming passed and that would have helped loads. Kath just withdrew into her own little bubble to get herself through it and I didn’t know that so felt a little abandoned – because, you know, obviously everything is always about me.

At about 6 miles we crossed a little bridge and had a really boggy bit to navigate. As my right leg disappeared thigh deep into the bog and I vaguely wondered if my trainer was going to stay on my foot I sort of giggled. This whole thing was totally ridiculous. I pulled myself out, pushed on, got stuck with my left leg, pushed off again and felt my left calf muscle protest – protest but hold, then I was through. From there the rest of the run was along a wider path and it was easier for people to pass. I managed more running, not enough really but more. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and just over 2 and half hours after we’d set off, we crossed the finish.

We went straight back to the hotel rooms, stretched, and had a bath (I had a proper mud tan). IMG_7814We were both a bit upset and started to talk things through. We went for some food and were grateful when the brilliant little cafe/restaurant Fellbites agreed to serve us from their cafe menu when they’d normally have a break while they set up for dinner. Over food and a little walk we agreed that we would pull out of the Ullswater Challenge we were due to run today. If either of us had picked up a hamstring niggle we wouldn’t even be having the conversation about whether to run and really, an anxiety niggle is no different. Once the decision had been made we stopped at the bar, had a couple of pints and reflected on the run.

Today we went to Ambleside before heading home, had a lovely couple of hours spending money on running gear, books, cards… and then we came home and went for a run. I thought it was important for Kath to have a proper run so we agreed the route and I sent her on her way and followed more slowly. My legs were a little heavy and I could feel my knees and ankles questioning my sanity. Nothing actually hurt though so I toddled on. For some idiotic reason I had agreed to do our trail route through the wood –  who needs comfort zones anyway?! I hesitated briefly as I got to the top of the wood and had to navigate down the hill. I was tentative but I never kept moving. There were a few more sections along that path that defeated me – mainly because the path was covered in fallen leaves and I kept tripping because I hadn’t seen tree roots and stones and of course I wasn’t actually picking my feet up enough. I finished that section and went on to make my way onto the canal – I was determined to keep running which I managed until I saw Kath at just under 3 miles. I stopped as she was talking to someone we know so I had a little breather and then we went on and completed our loop together. With that run I have hit 405.5 miles for the year.

So what I have learned?

  1. I am a really selfish runner. It’s all about me and it never occurs to me that Kath might actually be struggling. It just didn’t enter my head. She likes running, she’s good at running, why would she struggle
  2. I am not fit enough to deal with the uphill and too much of a wimp to go downhill – bit of an issue on the Lakeland Trails
  3. I may have looked totally miserable but I actually really enjoyed much of it and certainly loved the experience overall
  4. In spite of 2 above – I am so much fitter and so much bolder than I was. Not that long ago I would really have struggled to walk that route very steadily in the dry and would simply not have done it in the wet!
  5. Even when we get things wrong and our wires crossed, we’re a solid team. We needed different things from this run so neither of us really got the best out of it but we finished and we learned a lot.
  6. Helvellyn and Ullswater are stunning and I want to go back
  7. Lakeland Trails events are great events and I want to do more
  8. Walt Disney was right, it is kind of fun to do the impossible
  9.  Champagne bought by a wonderful friend to celebrate another achievement is really rather yummy after a weekend of running (thanks Chris!). Cheers!

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We have to talk about pace – again.

I have been quietly seething about 2 running related things. Sometimes it takes me a while to realise just how pissed off I am with something but today I realised that I have been seething for a little while.

I think I probably realised because I was quite happy with my pace today. We went for a run at Bolton Abbey. My watch didn’t play. It wouldn’t lock onto satellites and wouldn’t let me start the timer. So the stats from the run are from Kath’s watch – but we ran the same course, started at the same time and finished at the same time which means I ran 4.5 miles in 59.38 on a hilly course. That’s elapsed time not some funny strava hocus pocus which measures the moving time. The previous best elapsed time on that route is 1.03.33 (and spookily a moving time of 59.38). So yeah, I was pleased that the watch confirmed that the route had taken just under an hour. Very pleased indeed. The average pace was 13.20 minutes per mile. Most people would call that slow. I have called that slow, but for this route, on this day, I was bloody happy with that.

This afternoon our new wall planner for training plans and races came so we were putting on the runs we’ve booked in pen and ones we’re thinking about in pencil. A couple of weeks or so ago we had looked at the Haspa Hamburg Half Marathon which would be at the end of April 2018. It’s a nice route, we could stay at my Dad’s and combine the run with a family visit. It’s been ages since we’ve been to Hamburg. It would be fun. Well I thought it would be fun until I saw that the time limit is two and a half hours. TWO AND A HALF HOURS. Two and a half hours from gun time, too – not from when you cross the start line. That’s 11.27 minute miles – not just once but for 13.1 miles consistently and if you can sustain that you’ll still come last(ish). So to make sure of finishing within the time I’d basically have to run 2 minutes per mile faster than I did today. Maybe this shouldn’t piss me off. Maybe that’s fine. Half marathons are for people who can, you know, actually run. But it does piss me off. Half marathons shouldn’t be so bloody elitist. There is no reason to have that cut off time as far as I can see. The marathon runners use some of the same route so it needs to stay open anyway. The marathon starts later so the finish etc all needs to still be open – and if it’s a different finish, well then maybe the route needs to be different so that it is the same finish. Would it really be such a big deal to stay open for longer? I mean really? And how much longer? Well, until the last person has finished might be an idea. Or at the very least let people complete the course on the pavement – here the info actually says you will be asked to move off the course and remove your running number and can’t complete. Gee thanks.

Anyway, that made me think of something I saw the other day on my run. The one where I ran to Bingley 5 Rise Locks and Kath went a bit further – actually I don’t think I blogged about it in any detail. While I was waiting for her to come back a group of school kids arrived on the canal. I paid no attention for some time, trying to block out the constant noise from the little voices. However, it went quiet which made me look up and they’d all disappeared for a little run down the canal. Fine. Then they obviously came back because the volume went up again. I was getting a little cold so I was pacing up and down. One of the teachers said, ‘right, last interval’ and then looked at the last 3 or 4 kids who had only just made it back and said ‘Well you just run as far as you can and we’ll collect you on the way back’. It was so dismissive. He then set off with the front runners, another teacher went with a middle lot and the teacher who was obviously meant to be the back marker couldn’t even be bothered to run with the slow kids. He just sent them on their way and then played on his phone. They didn’t go far before the first of the fast kids were coming back at them and the teacher turned them around and said something – no idea what but the body language of the slow kids changed as they plodded their way back to us and were overtaken by the kids who had run further than them. They hated it. I could see how much they hated it. I felt like giving the teachers a mouthful. I really did. Everything they said and did must just have been so demotivating for those slow kids. They were ignored and  dismissed, nobody said ‘well done’ when they got back to the group, nobody asked how far they’d got, nobody acknowledged their effort (and they had put in some considerable effort judging by their colour and huffing and puffing). The teachers were all engaging with the faster runners and as I decided not to wait any longer but let Kath catch up with me and therefore started my little jog past the group, two of the teachers gave me the same look they’d given the slow kids. I smiled at them, because of course, I am a slow kid and in my own small way I wanted them to know that slow kids have just as much of a right to be doing their thing. Over the last few days though I keep coming back to that dismissive tone of ‘just run as far as you can and we’ll collect you on our way back’. Kath was collecting me on the way back but our conversation had been entirely different in tone. It made me feel good about running my distance and allowing her to run hers. It acknowledged that we could both push ourselves a little that way and as soon as she caught up with me we had a conversation about our respective runs.

The teachers and the other kids just didn’t seem to think that those 3 or 4 slower kids were worth their time or acknowledgement. How dare they be so dismissive.

How dare they.

London Marathon and being sensible

So, Sod has been at work implementing her laws again. Yep, I got a place in the London Marathon. Back in May I entered the ballot having got caught up in the excitement and just wanting to be part of the whole London Marathon cycle. Goodness knows why. I am actually far from convinced that I want to run another marathon. So of course I got a place. Sod’s law. If I actually really really wanted a place I’d never get one! We’re still waiting for Kath to get her notification.

I giggled and swore at the same time when I opened my magazine. A wave of excitement washed over me quickly followed by the terror inducing realisation of what ‘You’re in’ actually means. I wanted to do it. Or rather I wanted to be able to do it. I really did. Kath’s immediate reaction was: Defer. I think I shot her a look. ‘Don’t wanna!’ was my (silent) reaction to that. I have a place, I bloody well want to run in 2018. It would just be awesome… ….. …. …. …. (no it wouldn’t)

Through the rest of the afternoon little doubts crept in:

  •  April 2018 isn’t that far off. 7 months to get from where I am to marathon level. Hm, tough.
  • Winter  marathon training – urgh. I’ve already committed to doing this 2018/19, do I really want to add another winter of long miles?
  • I have a plan, one that challenges me but one that I am comfortable with, one that’s doable. I’d have to re-think all of that and add a considerable amount of training
  • I don’t want to just drag my butt round. I’ve done that. I want to give it a really positive go. I know a marathon for me is always going to be on the limit and there will be pain and it will be awful and almost impossible in places but I’d like fewer of those places and for the pain to set in a little later
  • I struggle with the pressure of training and having to do something. I can do this but I think I need a more gentle run in and more time to get my head into this – this is mental more than it is physical
  • I have a few little niggles that pop up when I increase distance or intensity and they need sorting (it’s a fairly easy case of doing the strength exercises – easy but also easy to ‘forget’ or not bother) – working on that would massively help
  • If I can get fitter and a little faster over the next year marathon training won’t be quite as hard because I won’t be out for quite as long on long run days
  • I run because I want to and because I want to enjoy it – getting ready for London 2018 doesn’t sound like fun, it sounds like pressure. Getting ready for 2019 sounds like fun (and not just because it is a long way away but because I can see a training schedule that starts now, with my current plan, and builds, with plenty of downtime, recovery and rest to a positive 26.2).
  • And here’s the clincher. I honestly honestly do not know if I have another 2 marathons in me. It’s hard to explain what they take out of me. It’s an emotional roller coaster, it’s lost weekends, it’s discipline and digging deep and facing every bloody fear over and over again and dealing with every emotion. It’s battling being the fat kid always picked last in PE, always coming last on the school track, never making it to the end of the cross country run… every single run becomes that battle, the battle to prove that I can do it while not really believing that I can. I have crossed two marathon finish lines but I don’t believe I can do it. Asking myself to do this two more times is a lot to ask of myself. I really want to do Dopey 2019. That’s the goal, the main aim, my ‘must do’ event. I don’t really see that as ‘a marathon’, I see it as the whole thing and somehow that’s different but it does of course mean doing a marathon. I am scared that doing London 2018 would break me (mentally more than physically) and that I wouldn’t be able to get back in the game for Dopey. If I can do Dopey in January 2019, I can recover fully and then build again for London. I can see how that would work and if it turns out that Dopey is the last marathon I have in me, then so be it. That one means more to me than London.

So, there you are. I’ll withdraw from London 2018 and take my place at the start line in 2019. I’m quite settled in that decision now and I’ve had a couple of little run outs to think about it. In fact I’ve run/walked a total of 17.68 miles in the first 3 days of October – that’s more than in all of February. I’m sure come  next April I will feel a few pangs of disappointment that I’m not there. A few ‘what ifs’ will go through my head, particularly if my training has gone to plan but I know it’s the right call. Just waiting for Kath’s Yes or more likely No now!

To Run Every Day – or Not

Thought I’d posted this on Sunday – obviously not!

Today marks the start of the Ronhill #RunEveryDay October Challenge. We’d talked about this a while ago and thought it might be fun to see how we get on with it. We’ve never really done a run streak and there are of course some pretty good reasons for that – mostly that rest days are pretty important for recovery and for getting stronger and staying injury free. I also don’t think I have the motivation or discipline. While the initial attraction wore off and I’d forgotten all about it, the temptation has sneaked back in now that October is here.

However, the wheels have come off a little in our house. Work has been busy. I know how this works – the terms starts and insanity kicks in for a couple of weeks and everything seems chaotic and too busy and a bit silly. This year is no different but it always gets me. So I’ve been tired and working long hours and Kath, who had been making great progress, has been floored by nothing in particular. So between us making time and finding the headspace and motivation to run has been difficult. I didn’t run all week and I think that is having an impact on my mental health. I need to get out there, it helps me cope.

Last Sunday we went for a run at Bolton Abbey after the 9 mile up and down of the day before, doing one 4 mile loop slowly and with a fair bit of walking was quite enough and I felt quite sore after. On Monday I made it to the gym and stretched loads. That was it for the week. We were thinking about going yesterday but spent most of the day asleep.

This morning we watched the Aussie Rugby League Grand Final and then we went for our run. We were going to go the sheep loop and the first mile was ok but then my feet started hurting, it didn’t really ease with walking either. I’ve tried the Mizuno trail shoes several times now and I keep thinking they’ll be ok but I think I just need to accept that they are too tight for my feet. So 2.2 miles in I gave up and we walked back. Goodness it was nice to take the shoes off and massage my feet!

We had lunch and watched something on telly – can’t even remember what – and then we went out again. We had to nip to the shop to get something for tea and for in the morning because we haven’t been shopping, we weren’t going to be at home this weekend, and thought we might as well run. It was a good 3 mile run at a decent pace. Mile 1 and 3 are pretty even at just under 12 minute mile pace and mile 2 was a bit slower  – probably because it included the downhill where I go a bit bambi-ish. It felt good to go out again and finish on a positive.

We grabbed some crusty bread, smoked salmon and hummus and walked back up the hill. So we covered a total of 8.05 miles today. I actually have some time to run tomorrow and probably on Tuesday, too so I may have a mini run streak. I don’t think I’ll run every day though, I need rest and I need to not be injured. Maybe my October can be #RunMoreDaysThanOtherMonthsButDon’tGoSilly. Catchy that.

Sunday Weigh in News: Last week I’d lost 3 pounds. This week, well if you take my weight this morning it was up by a pound but I couldn’t resist sneaking back on after the second run and if you take that I am the same as last week.

 

Mixed Running with Grumpy Grouse

I haven’t run all week. I was the queen of excuses. The last run was Sunday and it was miserable. In fact it was barely a run but I guess just getting the first post-holiday run out of the way is a good thing. Then I made excuses all week, partly based on just being a bit busy with a fair amount of travel and long days in the week and just feeling a bit broken. I was going to go to the gym on Tuesday but I felt tired and achey and like any muscle in my body might just snap if I ask anything at all of it. That’s also the reason I didn’t run. I actually took my gym kit to work on Thursday but I never made it across. Friday was, well Friday at the end of a long and busy week and once I got home I didn’t really move off the sofa again.

I get that sometimes you need rest and that a week really isn’t that dramatic even if it comes after 2 weeks holiday but when I don’t run regularly the tiny little bit of confidence I have with this disappears and I start at square 1. So in a week I have managed to convince myself that I cannot run, that a mile is too far, that I should start again with a complete beginners programme or just pack it in completely and that it would probably be a good idea to pull out of the Lakeland Trails challenges coming up in a few weeks. I’m persuasive like that.

I have also been mulling over the numbers on our training plan for this weekend with a mixture of bemusement and terror. 8 miles Saturday, 8 miles Sunday. Perfectly reasonable when you are training for back to back 15/14km runs but not perfectly reasonable when you have convinced yourself that you can’t run to the postbox at the end of your road. I knew I’d either have to do it or make excuses today. So I decided that Kath and I hadn’t really seen each other all week and a slow morning with coffee and breakfast in bed was just what we needed. There we are. Making decisions about running that utterly impossible distance put off!

At lunch time our decorator (he’s awesome, if you ever need one locally, give us a shout) was coming round to have a look at some work we need and once he left I didn’t have any credible excuses left. Now all we needed was a route. I don’t think either of us fancied the canal towpath with the potential for lots of people walking. Instead we decided to go up to Ilkley Moor. Now this might have added to the terror usually but actually, cynically, I just thought it was ok because it meant I could legitimately walk more! I think looking at the profile you can see my justification for walking!

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We walked up the hill with a couple of little jogs. Goodness that was hard. I felt fairly miserable and inadequate just walking up! But it’s hard to be too grumpy surrounded by the slightly moody beginnings of Ilkley Moor. There were birds around, all sorts of birds and a fair amount of very suspicious sheep. I couldn’t see any grouse but I could hear their grumbles in the distance and it made me laugh. Once on the path on the moor we set off running. The path is made up of big stone flags through the bog. I loved running that stretch. I had to concentrate on where I was putting my feet but it felt sort of methodical and purposeful and not too hard (I was running at a pace that was easy for me physically because I had to concentrate on placing my feet). Right up on the moor the grouse grumbles were louder and more plentiful and I couldn’t help but giggle to myself and try and look for the owners of those voices. I couldn’t take my eyes off the path for long though so I only saw one or two coming in to land. I really enjoyed miles 3 and 4 and the first bit of mile 5. Then we started going downhill. At just before 4 miles Kath had asked me whether we should do the loop or turn back and retrace our steps to do an out and back 8 miles. I should have said turn back!

The first bit of downhill was ok and I found my rhythm and kept moving. Then it got steep, very steep and there were steps of sorts but as regular readers will know, I am terrified of downhill. I had a couple of moments where I nearly froze and felt like I couldn’t move but move I did and eventually, somehow, we reached the bottom. I didn’t hear any grouse but maybe that’s because I was whimpering more loudly than they were grumbling. I’d tensed everything up and could feel niggles setting in everywhere: knees, ankles, feet, shoulders, hips… we walked a bit more and then tried a few little runs but I was struggling  – more mentally than physically. We picked up the road back up from Ilkley for a very short stretch and then we could have kept going on that or take the footpath straight up the hill which is shorter but steeper. I suggested the footpath because I wanted to keep practising and keep being positive and pushing myself. About half way up I wished I hadn’t. I felt a bit sick and my hips were screaming at me to stop. The top came eventually after a few stops to admire the view and fight back the tears. There were grouse, I could hear them again.

We walked the rest of the track/road, came through the gate marking the start (or rather end, for us) of Ilkley Moor proper as two women were trying to retrieve their dog from somewhere it shouldn’t have been in the first place with very limited success. We started jogging down towards home grumbling about people not keeping their dogs under control. I was pleasantly surprised I could still run (although whether it was actually recognisable as ‘running’, I have no idea). Just as I thought I might have to ask for a walk in spite of actually being on a downhill section, we saw them: 2 grouse on the wall – male and female I think and they were more interested in each other than us so Kath managed to get a picture. They gave me a little boost to run a bit more.

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We had a little walk just over half way down to have a sip of water and then again to walk up the little hill. I was struggling to get going again. I didn’t want to run but I wanted to be home so I just kept counting to 8 over and over again and tried not to think at all, just count, just focus on the repetitive footfall and numbers. I got home. 9.2 miles of mixed emotions, of loving and hating running, of thinking I can do anything to allowing some self doubt back in.

I have had some food and a bath and I’ve stretched a little (more later) and on reflection, it was a good run.  I can feel it, I worked hard, I may ache tomorrow but I am not as broken as I felt when we first got home. Lots to learn from, lots of positives and stunning views and most of all I remember the sound of the grouse who cheered us on in their grumbly sort of way all the way round. They sort of sound like they are enjoying grumpily and grudgingly telling a story to someone who is a bit short of time. I love that noise and I love that I can enjoy it minutes from our home.