The one where Kath steps on a grouse

I don’t know where to start with this one. I had a shit day yesterday. No reason, no reason at all but I barely made it off the sofa. I didn’t go out and run because every time I thought about it, I fell asleep instead. Doesn’t matter though, we can move rest days around and run today and Monday instead. So the plan for today was about 6 miles and we thought we might do that at Bolton Abbey. I was quite looking forward to our Bolton Abbey loop – quietly confident that I could make it round without a meltdown. Not sure where that confidence came from given the last run but there it was anyway.

After a loo stop we were about to set off when we noticed that although shooting season has started, the grouse moor which is part of the estate wasn’t actually closed for shooting today. That meant that we could, in theory, head up onto the moor and do part of a 10 mile loop Kath did the other day and which she said was absolutely stunning. Going up to Simon’s Seat was, according to the signs just over 3 miles. Kath told me that the way up was steep in parts and we’d walk a lot of it but that I’d be fine. I am not good at not doing things as planned and doing ‘new’ and ‘different’. So this was a bit of a curveball. I took a deep breath and agreed to try.

We crossed the wooden bridge opposite the pavilion jogged along the riverside for a short stretch and then started our uphill walk. Basically that was pretty much it in terms of running for the way up. There were one or two more little jogs but mostly I walked. After a short stretch on the road we turned right and entered a field. There were a few sheep lazily grazing and paying no attention to us at all. We had another little jog and a hop and a skip through some muddy patches. Then it got steeper and we made our way up a narrow and uneven path. I was ok walking up but really quite worried about how I would get back down.

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We had another couple of little jogs through the wood and as we emerged from the wood onto the open moor we were welcomed by stunning views and a lovely warm breeze. As we made our way up the path with one or two short little bursts of running (shuffling?) we saw several grouse scuttle across the path or off into the heather and several sheep who seemed a bit narked that we were disturbing them. Other than that we seemed to have the world to ourselves. There’s a steep bit which felt like it went on forever and ever but eventually we got to the top and managed a little jog and run/walked the undulating section which followed. The last bit up to Simon’s Seat was uneven with boulders and puddles and we just made our way across that, stopped for a few minutes at Simon’s Seat and then made our way back down. Instead of going back the way we came we went the slightly longer but more runnable route towards Lord’s seat.

From Simon’s Seat to Lord’s seat there is a short section on moorland path – bouncy – and then the rest is huge flags. We’d only just got onto the flags when Kath happened on an unsuspecting and rather outraged grouse. It must have been sitting minding it’s own business right on the edge of a flag and as Kath put her foot down she felt it just about get itself out from under her. It made a sort of ‘I’m an outraged grouse and you just stood on me – how dare you’ noise and flew off. Just a few steps later a newt or something similar went through the same experience. I’m not sure if the wildlife or Kath got more of a fright really. Running on the flags was better than I thought it might be. It’s uneven with up and down steps all the way along and it took concentration but it was ok. At the end of that flagged section we were back on the track/path which did have lots of loose stones and gravel but was ok to run on.

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I fell in behind Kath and somehow everything clicked into place. For a little while – maybe half a mile or so, everything felt effortless. I felt completely in the zone and running felt like the most natural and easy thing in the world. I felt like a proper runner. Even when that feeling passed though it was still great. Because I was going downhill it didn’t take too much effort and I could look around and take in the stunning views.

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I was dreading the steeper downhill. I am not good at downhill and the sections coming up were steep sections. I resolved to just keep running, no matter how slow. I did keep running, all the way. I tried really hard to trust my shoes and they were fine, they gripped. I slowed and I think I may have been quicker had I walked but I wanted to try and keep running. My quads were protesting a bit about half way down but I did it. We walked up the next little slope and then kept running until we got to the gate back into the wood. We ran most of the stretch through the wood and then ran/walked the narrow and technical bits standing in to let walkers through by a section that had freaked me out because it was muddy, wet, steep and narrow. We seemed to have to wait for ages until they’d all gone through and that gave me far too much time to think about the next sections. The next 100 metres or so were a bit more stressful than they needed to be because I’d over thought it.

Back across the field, now with some cows in that thankfully didn’t seem at all interested in us  and back down the road to the pavilion took us to 7.4 miles. We were even back in time for bacon sarnies and coffee so a good trip out all round. Oh and it’s Sunday so weigh-in day – I have stayed the same.

Running with Kingfishers

Isn’t it funny how things get in your head. I don’t remember being particularly bothered by the man on a bike incident yesterday. It was irritating but I found it almost funny yesterday but it seems it got to me. It seems it got into my head and stole my running mojo, shattered my confidence and confirmed everything I should bloody well know by now: I can’t do this. I’m too fat to run. I’m unfit. I have no place parading my wobbly bits out in public. I should go back to the sofa with my packet of biscuits.

I woke up terrified of our long run. The last time I was this anxious about a run was, actually I’m not sure. Disney Paris half marathon maybe. I actually felt like I might be sick. It’s idiotic. It was a gorgeous morning, the planned route was flat and a point to point run. There was absolutely nothing to be scared of. It’s a little further than I have been recently but only by a mile and a bit. We had time, we planned to run/walk, there was no pressure…and yet I was terrified.

I had my slice of toast with peanut butter and a drink of water and then we drove out towards Skipton to drop our car off to be serviced. Once that was sorted we found a path onto the canal towpath and set off. We ran/walked the first two miles using 2 minute run/30 second walk intervals. Almost immediately we saw 2 gorgeous herons in a field IMG_6866on the other side of the canal. They were stunning and a few steps further on we found 2 heron feathers (now a little worse for wear after spending the next 2 hours in our pockets). In spite of the herons – our good run omen – I couldn’t settle. Both knees felt niggly, my feet felt like they were moving too much in my shoes, my left shin felt tender. The phrase ‘you’ll have to run faster than that’ kept popping into my head. I kept pushing it back. It changed to ‘I don’t know why you bother running at all’. I pushed it back. Then I got ‘come on, you’re part of an online running club for fat women – they can’t run and neither can you’. I got a bit cross at that because those women are bloody inspirational and amazing and brilliant runners. I pushed it back but my mind wasn’t having any of it. ‘You’re such a disappointment, look at you wheezing after less than 2 miles’. I wasn’t wheezing, well not until I thought that anyway. By mile 2 I was mentally exhausted and my tummy was gurgling ominously too.

I suggested that Kath ran on and I’d just walk. I felt awful for ruining her run and generally just pretty crap. I was losing the battle in my head and was beginning to firmly believe that running just isn’t for me, that I had no business being out there in my marathon T-shirt which I don’t deserve anyway because I walked most of it. Kath wouldn’t leave me. I was furious and relieved at the same time. I’d resigned myself to walking home sobbing my way through the remaining 6 miles and I really really didn’t want to ruin her run. We just kept walking. I thought about how disappointed all the lovely people in the Run1000miles Facebook group would be. They’d said such lovely things about my running and progress recently and now they’d realise that it was all just a fluke and that I’m just an imposter. Not really a runner, not even any good at pretending to be a runner. I wasn’t breathing.

As I walked and listened to nothing but my footsteps my breathing got easier and deeper and I realised I’d stopped thinking about anything. My mind was quieter. We’d been walking for most of mile 3. Kath was still there with me having refused to leave me behind. I wondered if she might help me run a little bit, just a little bit to see if I could do it mentally or whether everything would start screaming at me again. We walked past some dog walkers and then had a little jog to the next bridge. It felt ok. We crossed the road and then set off on another little jog and I felt ok. So we kept going, slowly and steadily. Then we saw the familiar yet often so elusive flash of blue – a kingfisher darted out of a tree and flew down the middle of the canal. It landed in a tree further ahead and then we saw a second one. They were catching up and leapfrogging each other, sometimes flying a little loop around each other, sometimes coming quite close, sometimes staying further apart. They both dived into the canal with hardly a splash and re-emerged looking magnificent. Eventually we lost sight of one of them but the other was still flying ahead, waiting for us, showing the way. I was still running.

Then there was a sudden unexpected movement just to my left, a thud and then a weird, and I mean really weird, noise as Kath tripped over something, hit the floor and somehow deflated. The noise and her staying down for an unusually long time really worried me but she was fine. In an effort to protect her garmin, she’d lifted her wrist up and got her elbow underneath her into her ribs, deflating and winding herself in the process. Like a true runner though she’d stopped the garmin before she even hit the deck. She’d been watching the kingfisher rather than where she was going. A little more carefully we kept following the kingfisher for a while longer before it flew a loop over the field opposite and headed back towards its mate which was now somewhere behind us. We’d been running with them for just over half a mile.

After having run a mile, I walked a bit to give my tummy chance to settle again – it was getting ‘unreliable’ with running. I was beginning to feel better. I was better at pushing the negatives back. I was making progress. I reminded myself that there was a time I couldn’t have run any of this. I took time to note that the slightly muddy and uneven terrain wasn’t bothering me whereas once it would have sent me into a meltdown. I noted that I was recovering from running segments much much much more quickly. I ran a bit of the 5th and 6th miles but we also took the opportunity to walk and chat about work we want doing on the house and holidays we’re planning (how to spend money basically). Then I ran the 7th mile and at about 7.5 miles Kath crossed the canal to head home and I carried on to go get milk. I didn’t run much after Kath left. It felt a bit lonely all of a sudden and I knew that my running form had gone. My hips were tight and the niggle in my shin I’d forgotten about was back.

Another blue flash, another kingfisher. I watched it fly down the middle of the canal until it went out of sight. It was stunning. I decided to run in short little bursts between landmarks and really concentrate on maintaining good running form for those short bursts. After the first two short bursts my phone rang. The garage  – they wanted to let me know that the car was done and they were on their way to drop it off – so the car got home before I did – luckily Kath got home before both of us. Once I’d stashed my phone again I had another short little burst and that’s how I made my way to the post office where I bought milk and some “Green Machine’ juice (apple, banana, kiwi, pineapple, spinach and some other green stuff) because I just really really wanted something other than the water in my little bottles which tasted like rubber left out in the sun for too long. Then I walked up the hill home.

I don’t know what to think about that outing. 9.1 miles, 2 hours 22 minutes. I am disappointed but I’m not quite sure with what. I’m ready for my rest day. I need it physically but maybe more importantly, I need it mentally. I have seen amazing things today. The herons at the start were just fantastic, they were walking in the field and some lambs were having  good look at them and then the herons flew off showing off their pretty spectacular wing span. There were swans and geese and ducks – all with young ones. Close to home there were cows with calves in a field on the opposite side of the canal and the calves ran along the canal bank with us for a bit. And we ran with kingfishers. Maybe it’s a good outing after all because running with kingfishers is pretty special – whatever else is going on.

A sort of commute run

Today I was working in a cafe about 3 miles away from home. My initial plan was to walk but then I thought I might as well run. I didn’t want to overdo it as we’re supposed to be doing a longer run tomorrow and I ran Monday and Tuesday as well so I thought just a steady run there and then a run/walk back or perhaps the bus back. I haven’t run with a back pack for ages and ages and I have never run with it with work stuff in like this. But I comfortably fitted my MacBook and some papers together with a jumper, my rain jacket, my wallet, some baby wipes and some deodorant into my little Jack Wolfskin pack (I reviewed it after first buying it here). It felt ok on my back, not too heavy and not bouncing much. I set off and ran down the hill and onto the canal bank. I felt comfortable and kept telling myself to slow down but somehow I never really did slow – I was happily running under 12 minute mile pace. At this rate I was going to be far too early. I’d been expecting to go slow and then slow down even further because of the backpack.

At about a mile and a half I decided to run to 2 miles and then walk the final mile-ish to IMG_6858cool down a little and not have to hang around outside the cafe for ages. It was a lovely little run out.

On the way back I was going to run/walk 1 minute 1 minute to take it nice and easy. I walked the uneven bits negotiating the huge puddles and planned to start running when I got to the proper canal towpath. There was a cyclist just in front of me cycling just above my walking pace. He then stopped and adjusted his boot and was then cycling next to me which I found a bit irritating. Just as I started to run he deliberately pulled his bike across the path and blocked my way. I wasn’t too concerned, there were loads of people around but it was irritating. He said ‘You’re going to have to run faster than that’. I said ‘For what?’ He said ‘If you want to lose weight, you’ll have to run faster’. This really pissed me off but I just smiled and said ‘Really? Cool. I’ve got a pen and paper here somewhere, could you write down the references to the research explaining how that works, I’d love to check that out.’ He shrugged and said ‘Well it’s obvious innit’. I said ‘Well you’re obviously the expert so if you could just point me to the sports science journals I should be looking at, that would be awesome’. His response: ‘Don’t give me that brainy shit’. I took a step forward and he moved his front wheel enough to let me through so I left him with ‘Given that you’re the one cycling at my walking pace, I don’t think it’s me who has an issue with speed’. I forgot the run/walk and kept running because I didn’t really fancy continuing that conversation. I ran until I hit a mile, then I walked a little while and then ran the last bit along the flat before walking up the hill home (where I saw the gorgeous – if slightly evil looking cat).

I enjoyed today – both the running and the writing and I’m pleased with how my little back pack worked out. It’s comfortable and crucially doesn’t bounce. I think I shall stick with that for now. I have a hydration pack for it and I think it will be ok for the really long distances in the future. I’m not going to need it for that for a while – the little bottles we bought recently and new Alpkit pants with pockets on the legs will do for anything I’m attempting at the mo. Hm. I seem to have mentioned various pieces of kit and shoes etc recently – it may be time to do some review posts. I’ll get to that over the next week or so.

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Happy running!

Getting over 270 miles this year

Well I did something slightly odd for me today – which is why I am writing a second post. I decided that I couldn’t leave my mileage total for the year on 268.97 overnight. That was far too close to 270 miles. I therefore decided to run again – just a short one. An out and back to go feed Dino. That would be just over a mile and a half there and back so would get me over the 270 miles. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to try the New Balance Minimus shoes I bought second hand a little while ago. I haven’t tried them yet because I didn’t want to wear them on a long run or on a route I wasn’t used to so somehow there hasn’t been an opportunity.

Anyway, I set off after work. I felt pretty good in spite of this morning’s run. I felt fairly comfortable going down the road and turned right up the hill and also still felt pretty good. I pushed up the hill happily and kept running. Just before I got to the field I had to stand in and let a car through so I just stopped the watch there and looked at it, and looked at it some more. I had just run .8 of a mile at about 10 minute mile pace  – I never run that pace. I think I’ve run that route once at 10.24 pace but that felt hard and I was pushing. This run felt almost effortless.

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I fed Dino and set off back. I knew the way back would be slower – more of this is uphill but I tried really hard to just run and not look at my watch. I struggled when I got to the final slope. Ilkley Road always always gets me. I got about half way up and then had to walk a few steps. I glanced at my watch and saw that I was under 12 minute mile pace. Again I was stunned. That never happens on this stretch. I started running again and pushed up the hill as fast as I could. This is the hardest I’ve ever run uphill. I managed the return in 11.40 pace – the return wasn’t effortless, it was bloody hard but it felt great to have done it. I also achieved the first ever Strava goal I’d set just for fun.

So the shoes must be magic shoes. There really isn’t another explanation, the shoes are magic. Maybe they’re laced with pixie dust or maybe their previous owner sent some of her speed with them (I must ask her if she’s suddenly got slower). More seriously though, I think this shows how much of a difference running consistently coupled with strength exercises and some hill and speed work can do. After finding this morning’s run so hard, it was really exciting to go out, run hard, manage it and enjoy it. While I won’t make 1000 miles this year, being part of the Trail Running Magazine Run 1000 Miles in 2017 challenge is making me get out and run more frequently and for longer –  my bid for 500 miles this year is on – I’m on 270.6 year to date.

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Up Up and Away

According to our training plan I was supposed to run for an hour yesterday but I felt tired, the sort of tired that starts in your bones and spreads outwards. I put it off all day and eventually decided to swap rest days and just, well, rest. So this morning I got my moomin butt out of bed and we headed out for a run. We went up. Yes, you heard, up. We ran/walked up the hill towards Ikley Moor. Wow. I am unfit. Even with lots and lots and lots of walking and just short little bits of ‘running’ (ahem – ‘waddling’ might be a more appropriate term) my legs were screaming and my lungs were protesting very early on. Still, nothing gets you fit quite like running uphill. So on we went.

We passed a very noisy jay and slowed to have a good look at it and then a little further there was a curlew circling above the fields. We saw more later on our way back down. The road is sort of undulating but relentlessly up at the same time. I tried to remember to look around and enjoy the views (which are stunning). There were some sleepy sheep just getting up and stretching and some gold finches and other small birds. Just as I was beginning to think I couldn’t go any further Kath pointed out our turn around point for this run. I made it there, turned round and then we set off on our descent. I’m scared of downhill. So really, other than on the flat, I am totally useless – too unfit to go up and too scared to go down. I suppose that makes this run really good practice for me. Anyway, we ran down. All the way, no walks needed because although there are a few undulations, it’s as relentlessly downhill as the other way was uphill (obviously). I tried to go fast – apart from the bit where we had to sort of hop our way through a load of tiny little frogs on the road that I’m sure weren’t there on the way up.

When going downhill I suddenly become terrified of slipping and falling. It doesn’t really matter what the surface is – this was road so no tricky uneven terrain or tree roots or mud to worry about. As I was running, pictures of me slipping and falling kept popping in my head. I worried about horrendously complicated breaks of my legs, that neither of us had taken a phone, how long I’d not be able to run, whether a broken ankle really ever heals right, how much it would hurt… But I kept running. I think I started to learn something on our little adventure on Saturday – trust your shoes. If you have the right shoes for the terrain you’re on you can trust your shoes. I was on a road which was wet in places and I was wearing road shoes. In fact I was wearing my trusted New Balance road shoes which carried me round the Dopey Challenge Marathon and the London Marathon last year. I could trust my shoes. So instead of slowing every time I thought of possible injuries or disasters, I went a little bit faster. It was fine. It was better than fine. I actually enjoyed the run downhill. There is something nice about learning what it feels like to go fast with the assistance of a long downhill because you can concentrate on form and balance and how it feels rather than labouring to push the pace. It feels a little bit like flying. As we turned into our road I even managed a little sprint finish to the driveway.

That 50 minute run was a great start to the day and I’ve been pretty productive since! The view from towards the top wasn’t bad either – the picture is actually one that Kath took a few days ago when she went up for a run but it looked pretty similar today – a little less cloud maybe.

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In other news – in spite of cake, booze, fish and chips and sitting on my arse for most of last week I somehow managed to lose another pound in yesterday’s Sunday Weigh-In.