Focusing on London

After a very happy running day yesterday the focus now shifts to the London Marathon. It’s not far off. I’m happy with the training. I’m getting tired, yes, but that’s normal at this point in the training. The running isn’t worrying me. I know I can complete 26.2 miles, it’s a matter of staying injury free and then giving it my best shot on the day.

What is worrying me a little is fundraising. I don’t often run for charity and this is why – I don’t like asking people for money. I don’t like the whole ‘yay look at me I’m doing stuff that I think you should give money to an organisation I have chosen that might mean nothing to you for’. It’s weird, it’s odd, it’s a little bit embarrassing and I’m not good at it. Some people just seem to be able to be constantly in people’s faces about sponsorship etc. I just can’t do it. Kath’s charity place came with a £2000 fundraising target. I don’t have a target because I am using my ballot place but obviously it would be nice if that actually made a contribution to Mind! In other words we would really like to raise more than £2000 for the charity and that’s a phenomenal amount of money.

As well as not being comfortable constantly being in your faces, there are also loads of fundraising ideas which seem to raise a good amount of money which would require us to step right out of our comfort zones. We could probably do a pub quiz, we probably could have organised all sorts of social events but honestly, the training and the being sociable on the level described below is already pushing me outside my comfort zone. It’s already all quite people-y and maybe I should just get over myself but honestly it’s hard! So apart from really hoping a few more of you might be able and willing to sponsor us (You can do so here), we’re doing a few other bits and pieces.

  1. We are planning a carboot sale and some of our lovely neighbours have already donated items for us to sell there. If you have something that might fetch a pound or two at a carboot sale to donate and can get it to us by mid March or so then let us know.
  2. We are doing a cake bake for our local parkrun on 9th March and a coffee morning for our neighbours on the 10th March.
  3. Time permitting there may be more cake related efforts because – you know, cake.
  4. We have a couple of raffle ideas – we are still looking for a few more prizes for a running related one so if you know of anyone who might be able to donate some running/sport related prizes give us a shout! The other raffle had its soft launch at an event I did last week and is for legal academics. Read more about it on my academic blog here.

I realise this could easily be read as a whinge that people aren’t sponsoring us. It’s not intended to be that. If you want to support us, it genuinely means a lot to us, thank you. If this isn’t your thing, I get that too. I was just trying to share what’s on my mind as we head into the last couple of months of training and preparing

Harewood House Half Marathon

So remember last year, my DNF at the Harewood House Half Marathon? I said I’d be back and today I was. I have been looking forward to it and I wasn’t really nervous until this morning when I suddenly started feeling really anxious about the whole thing. The course is tough, I’m not.

Anyway I had been thinking about the race and in particular how I would manage to stick to #MyRunMyRules. I knew from last year that my pace would put me at the back of the pack even on a good day. I therefore spent some time really thinking about how I would feel if I was last and how I would feel running last for a considerable chunk of the race. How would I keep myself motivated and moving forward with the tail marker right behind me and the feeling of people waiting for me. I don’t like to keep people waiting.

Honestly I am absolutely fine with actually coming last, what I think I’d find more difficult is having to run last for most of the race, particularly if I lost touch with the pack or runners in front and there was an obvious big gap that would mean I was holding people up. Maybe that’s where some of the anxiety came from this morning. But anyway, we had our porridge, got sorted and set off. We parked, went to the loo, picked up our t-shirts, went to the loo, met one of our fellow #Run1000Mile challengers, went to the loo (nothing like nervous peeing!) and then we were ready to start.

We set off. For the first few hundred metres all I really had was people streaming past me. I smiled. It is quite hard to keep smiling as everyone keeps over taking you. I tried not to mind and I tried not to speed up. Very soon I was last. I could hear the back marker on his bike behind me and I could hear the marshals’ radio conversations which were quite entertaining. Ok, I thought, well, I’ll be doing all of this right from the back. I felt surprisingly ok about that and settled in.

I hadn’t really looked at pace since an early glance which told me that at 11.20 minutes per mile I was going way way way too fast. I thought I’d slowed a fair bit but at the 1 mile beep I was at 12.08. Too fast. I tried to consciously slow down but already being last made that quite hard somehow. I was gaining on a woman in front of me who had been pulling away but by 1.5 miles she looked like she was struggling and I went past her. I hope she kept going – she must have done for quite a while at least because the back marker didn’t catch up to me and I didn’t see him again.

I was still trying to slow down as I saw deer on my left and red kites in the sky. I couldn’t help but smile. I actually saw loads of deer, loads of kites and tons of smaller birds and an odd squirrel or two. I am utterly rubbish at remembering the route or what was where on it so this may be in the wrong order, possibly totally jumbled. Anyway, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace. I could see a woman in front of me running a stunningly smooth even pace and I tried to keep with her. I was fine on the flat but she had far more power up the hills. Eventually I stopped focusing on the pink of her jacket, did the sensible thing and let her go. She stayed in view for a long time but eventually she was gone. I was alone. It was bliss.

Coming up to 3 and a half miles I had the first walk as I made my way along the edge of a grassy field heading towards the first steep downhill. I sipped some Tailwind and I tried to keep marching and saw two women ahead of me. I was easily catching up with them. We had a quick chat just before the downhill and then I kept going carefully jogging down the uneven and quite steep track. The marshal sent me diagonally down the hill and that seemed like the route most people took judging by the muddy path. However, the actual route seemed to go straight down to hit the 4 miles marker and then turn left. This is probably the main reason the course measured short.

I think we next turned up into the woods and I walked the hills. I was feeling the too fast start and very briefly it crossed my mind that maybe I was totally screwed but that thought went as fast as it came. I saw some more deer and then at some point I saw some lovely looking Jacob sheep – they looked familiar and then I remembered that the flock we got ours from also had some going to the Harewood estate so it could well be the same blood line. That made me smile and reminisce for a while.

I enjoyed the course and I enjoyed being on my own for so much of it. Around mile 6 I realised I was falling in with the pace of two blokes in front. They were running slightly faster but walking more slowly. I caught up with them for a chat just after the mile 8 water station. We marched up the hill together and then met Susan who was struggling a little. Me and her walked and jogged together for a mile ish leaving the two blokes behind us but then I was walking faster again so I powered up the hill and jogged down the other side to the Mile 10 marker.

I felt ok. I slowly jogged along the track trying to stay out of the way of dog walkers. I was gaining on the aid station where I had called it a day last time and was smiling because I knew I was going beyond. I heard a runner coming at some considerable pace behind me. I wondered whether Susan had maybe found her running legs again but it wasn’t her. It was someone just out running I think and she was fast! As she came past me she touched my shoulder and told me I was amazing. It nearly made me cry but it also gave me a boost and I jogged on and turned left back into the woods. Less than 3 miles left. I slowly jogged most of those last miles with just a few little walks thrown in to reassure myself that I had enough left in the tank. As I plodded past the 11 mile marker I had the rest of my Tailwind feeling pretty happy about my fuelling. Although later on I wished I’d saved just a little bit for the last push.

I’m fairly sure the mile markers were out by quite a bit. Mile 13 was, if I got my numbers right, nearly 1.25 miles long and the Mile 13 sign was definitely more than .1 of a mile away from the finish. The last bit is brutal. It’s not a steep climb but it’s one hell of a pull. I walked up the track, passed another woman and tried to encourage her on, then I turned left into the field. I could see the finish now and willed my legs to start running again. They did, slowly and now feeling really heavy but run they did. I saw Kath coming towards me and she jogged a bit at the side of me when I got to her. She had finished in 2 hours 19 minutes and had nearly been taken out by some deer which had decided to split the runners and cross their path. She said she felt them come past behind her. Wowsers.

The nice thing about coming in at the end and in space is that the announcers at the finish have time to tell the world you’ve done it. Of course most of the world has already gone home but it was still nice to hear my name and a well done and a comment on my ‘big smile’ which was actually more a sort of Cheshire Cat grimace. I got my medal and bottle of water and a hug from Kath. We headed to the car and I stripped down to my bra to change out of my sweaty top and into something warm and dry. I felt awesome. Tired. But awesome. I sipped my tailwind recovery drink and nibbled a cheese sarnie in the car. My time: 3 hours and 58 seconds. So those 58 seconds are annoying. I’m going to have to go back and try again to conquer these rather ridiculous looking squiggles on a map!

Stunning Running

Last weekend we went to a lodge on the edge if Kielder Water. It was our little anniversary get away. It was lush. We planned on a walk somewhere on the way on Friday, and runs on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

We set off Friday morning and drove north to the National Trust property Wallington. We had some lunch and then walked a little loop through the estate and woodland along the river. Then we had cake. This was a good start to the weekend! We visited the Kielder observatory in the evening but it was ridiculously windy and cloudy so we didn’t see anything much. The talks were interesting though

On Saturday morning we set off on a 7 mile loop around the Bull Crag Peninsula. The running was both harder and better than I imagined it would be. It was surprisingly hilly and it didn’t occur to me until about 4 miles in that one of the reasons the running was tough was because I wasn’t walking the hills. I was just running, looking at the amazing landscape and every now and again stopping for a photo. At the end my legs were tired and I was grateful to walk the last bit and look for red squirrels and very excited when we saw one!

The rest of Saturday was lazy and taken up with reading a whole stack of magazines which I’d left to pile up for ages and ages.

Sunday was long run day and I was anxious about this for some reason. We had decided to run out to Kielder dam and back – a total of about 13 miles. I prepped our tailwind for fuel, made sure watch and phone were charged and off we went. The first part of the route was the same as the day before but soon we were in new territory with Kielder Water on our left coming in and out of view as we zig zagged our way through the woods on the ‘waterside’ path.

I walked a few more of the hills on Sunday. I nearly had a meltdown in mile 2 because I seemed to be really feeling the uphill pull on that section. I got over myself and actually ran almost all of the first 5 miles which took us to the Tower Knowe visitor centre which was closed but did have some toilets that were open. From there it was another mile and a half to the other side of the dam so we jogged across, had a little break as we marvelled at the views and then set off back.

We took more pictures and walk breaks on the way back. By mile 8 though I was wondering if maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew with this pretty undulating 13 miler. For the next 3 miles or so I had a battle in my head to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Then we were nearly there anyway and we walked a bit through a section of wood just before the Waterside Park our lodge was part of, the bit where we’d seen the squirrel.

The rest of Sunday involved more reading, the hot tub and a bottle of prosecco. I felt properly happily tired. We did go for a little walk once it got dark to look at stars. Wow, even with the lights of the cabins, reception and pub/restaurant, we could see so much more than we can ever see at home. I couldn’t work out the camera settings though to get enough exposure to take pictures so gave up and just looked at the night sky for a while.

Monday we were going to have a little sunrise run. I was tired and my legs were heavy. It was also very slippery with frost on the tarmac bits and I was not at all impressed with that. We went the other way along the water this time and after not quite a mile and a half came to a road/tarmac bit which was frosty and we couldn’t really see how long the tarmac stretch was so we called that it, turned round and then stopped about half way back to watch the sunrise.

We had breakfast, got packed and headed towards home. It was a 23 mile weekend and while I was definitely tired I was not broken. I am getting fitter but actually the most important thing about the running over that weekend is that we were just running for fun, doing our thing and that on all of the outings bits of it were effortless, bits of it were really challenging and I loved every minute, even the hard and bloody awful ones.

Hanging On

So here’s a thing: I am running phenomenally well. Yep, I am. I am running with ease, I am running without walk breaks for far longer distances than ever before (including a 10 miler last weekend which was grumpy but easy) and I feel fitter and stronger than ever. I ran over 100 miles in January and I enjoyed most of them.

Here’s another thing: I am hanging on and only just about keeping my shit together. I don’t know why. There was no obvious trigger. I got pummelled by jet lag when we arrived back from Florida two weeks ago. It took me the week to feel vaguely normal again. I slept lots. I went to London for work last Saturday and that was the first day I felt like the jet lag might be lifting. But maybe it wasn’t all jet lag. This last week wasn’t better. I stopped being hungry at random times and was just always hungry and I stopped being tired at random times and was instead just a general, heavy and dark sort of tired. I liked the sofa, I spent a lot of time on it. Too much time. I struggled to work to anything like capacity. I spent a week maybe doing 2 easy days of work. I got annoyed with myself.

So as I do battle with my black puppy I can’t really be bothered to do anything much and I can’t think. I’ve had lots of stuff to do that is either already late or with very imminent deadlines. I’ve been a grumpy sort of indifferent about all of this. Irritated by the existence of obligations, deadlines and things to do. When I’m busy or have to do things, I want to run, when I have the time to run, I can’t be bothered. But yet I have. In the same way that you might not really want to take a tablet but you just do, I have just run. I have clung to the marathon training plan like it is the one thing that might just pull me out of the darkness and help me regain my ability to think. And maybe it will.

I ran today. I didn’t want to really. I’m scared of slippery surfaces but driven on by something, by wanting to feel better and not foggy, by wanting my little grey cells to whirr round and have ideas and make connections which I can express in gorgeously crafted sentences which make sense… anyway, driven by something…. As I plodded along trying to stick to the least compacted snow I tried to encourage my mind to heal and just go where it wanted to. This is where it went. There was a definite shift around a mile in.

  1. You’re a bit crap at this
  2. You’ve got too much to do, just give up now
  3. oooh you’re super slow today
  4. Your work stuff isn’t going well is it
  5. What’s the point of your sabbatical – you’re just going to mess it up anyway
  6. Careful, icy
  7. Bloody hell sooo slow
  8. What, what was that – 1 mile beep? Hm
  9. Breathing a bit heavy there? Oh no actually you’re not
  10. Still got 5 miles to go – can you do that?
  11. Careful, icy
  12. So that work stuff? What do you mean not now?
  13. What do you mean it’s pretty
  14. What? You’re running and taking a picture? – You’ll fall
  15. Oh you didn’t fall
  16. 2 miles. What. Oh.
  17. You finished that article
  18. Still slow – oh yes, it’s meant to be slow. Plan says slow
  19. In fact you could slow down
  20. 3 miles. Wow. Nice running
  21. Look how lovely it is
  22. *No idea where it went for a while then
  23. Hill. Oh goodness, hill
  24. Yay, top of hill. Not far now
  25. Done

So where does that leave things? No idea. The fog lifts a little when I run. I can appreciate the beauty of the snowy hills. It also lifts as I sit and watch the birds coming to our bird feeders. The long tailed tits are my current favourites. It also lifts a little as I sit on the bed and fuss the cats and feel more than hear their purr. But mostly it lifts when I run. When I run I feel like thoughts process normally. So stick with me while this works itself out, keep encouraging me to run, be patient if there are no posts for a while. I’ll get there, little step by little step.

Dopey 2019 Reflections: The Celebrations

Our celebrations started with a long sleep like most good celebrations do. Then we went for a lovely dinner at the California Grill which is located at the top of our hotel. It was a lovely celebration meal with gorgeous food, a blissful glass of wine and gallons and gallons of water. We watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the viewing area at the top of the hotel, had chocolate cake and went to bed. After that Dopey joined in.

Coming with us to all the parks

Drinking ALL our booze

Then he got a bit silly including behaving inappropriately in the toilets (probably Stitch’s influence)

So we limited him to beer and made him drink lots of water and coffee and put him on a time out

Once he’d calmed down a bit we let him come with us and play in the parks until he got a bit tired

So we thought we better feed him

He likes cake!