Funny Running Week

Sometimes running weeks are funny aren’t they. On Monday, when I really did need a rest day and me and my body were tired from the weekend I really wanted to run. On Tuesday I had a lovely day out and about but didn’t really have time to run once I got back home. I thought 2 rest days would probably not be a bad thing anyway. Well once I got home yesterday, having looked forward to running all day while in the office, I just could not be bothered. I felt so tired and lazy. Kath suggested going twice today instead. I agreed. I only agreed because I didn’t want to run last night.

This morning I was vaguely aware of being gently nudged and coaxed out of sleep, into

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Sneezy

running gear and out of the house. I think I woke up about 2 miles in. My eyes were stinging, I couldn’t really breathe and everything felt puffy. Hello hay fever. I’ve missed you – not. Anyway, let me think – which way did we go? It really is all vague. We headed on our sheep loop but then turned off to go through the wood. I sort of remember this – I was waking up. This is the trail/wood where I first started my proper trail running education. I was quite pleased with how I got through today – never stopped moving and I must have been more relaxed (asleep?) because my feet weren’t sore.

After the wood we turned right along the old golf course road and then we headed back along the canal towpath and home. The hay fever was a pain and I have now started taking tablets which should sort it.

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New Shoes!

This afternoon we went for run number 2 of the day and I finally tried

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First Ducklings of the year

my new trainers. It’s hot. I’m not quite sure how hot but it was a factor almost immediately. Nonetheless we had a lovely steady 3 mile run until we saw some ducklings, the first ducklings of the year, along the canal and stopped to watch them for a bit. After that we walked the rest of our loop chatting and watching ducks, lambs, little birds and stopping at the Co-op for pizza and beer. Well it is Thursday – practically the weekend.

I just updated my running chart. So this isn’t getting to me at all! Nope, not at all.

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The Day After the Day Before

According to the training plan we worked out for the next few months, we were to cover 15 miles across the two days this weekend. I did point out that a 10k run in the Lake District isn’t like a 10k run along the canal towpath and that I might struggle both mentally and physically to get my arse out of bed after the Hawkshead event. I don’t think Kath was that impressed by my excuse at the time so the 15 mile weekend stayed on the training plan.

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Shack looking more interested in us than he usually is!

After yesterday I went to bed really early and slept really well for about 2 hours. Then I woke up and pretty much repeated that pattern throughout the night. I woke up properly about 7am. Kath wasn’t there so when my eyes had adjusted enough so I could read I looked at her note – she’d gone for a run about 6.30am. I curled up with our Shack for a bit feeling lazy and also trying to assess the level of aches and pains. No pain. I went for a pee. The damage from Hawkshead seemed to be as follows

  1. Slightly aching ankles
  2. One little blister on my left foot
  3. Making themselves known glutes
  4. Possibly grumpy hips

So nothing to worry about really. This is all normal after running that takes me out of my comfort zone in terms of speed, distance or terrain. I expected worse. This was good because none of it was pain. It was more that smug ‘I’ve done some exercise’ sort of feeling. The cat wanted attention so I got back into bed and wondered if I really needed to go out and run today. But I wanted to. I wanted to go stretch my legs.

I was just about to head off when Kath came back from her run. So I set off on the Guth leg of the Self/Guth relay run of the day. I wasn’t really sure where I was going to go. After yesterday I didn’t want anything technical or slippery, just didn’t have the headspace for that. I started off looping through the estate further down the hill and then turned onto the canal towpath towards Bingley. At the next bridge I came off and walked back up the hill and turned right towards Morton. Then I turned right and headed back down and looped back along the canal. I was now close to 4 miles and beginning to feel it. I was tired.

There was also something going on in my head – I really didn’t want to run the same section of the canal twice so I came off at the next bridge again and dropped down onto the road. It’s Sunday so there was very little traffic . I probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise because I hate running with traffic noise. I passed the cemetery and was tempted to run a couple of loops in there but somehow it seemed disrespectful on a Sunday morning so I kept going on. I got back onto the canal towpath for a bit, went uphill on the road a bit and ran out of steam. I was at about 5.5 miles and it was so tempting to turn right and go home rather than left to complete my miles. I decided to walk a little because even though tired, nothing hurt and I wanted to get the miles in. I asked the #Run1000miles group to send energy on FB and they duly obliged. Awesome people. I was about to head down the road that runs parallel to the canal when I bumped into one of the dog walkers I know from our sheep days. I stopped and chatted to her for a bit and it was a welcome break.

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Random Route!

After the chat I took a deep breath and headed on for my last couple of miles. It was tough going. I stuck to the run/walk intervals as much as I could but the gentle slopes were starting to feel like the Coffin Trail all over again and I ended up walking more than I usually have to on that route. I was relieved to turn onto the flat canal towpath and managed to run/walk to schedule until I got to the next bridge where I stopped and started to walk home. I walked up the hill and just as I got to the top I bumped into Kath’s mum who was walking to our house so I abandoned the very vague thoughts I’d had about running home lamp post to lamp post and walked back with her.

8.30 miles taking me to a total of 191 miles so far for 2018. Happy!

Hawkshead 10km (which is actually about 12km)

Today has been a good day! Our alarm went off just before 6am. We had a cup of tea in bed and then slowly got up, had porridge and eventually set off about 7.20am. We drove up to the Lakes and made really good time – by 9am we were parked up in Hawkshead in quite a wet field and were making our way to the Lakeland Trails event registration via the loos – trying to be well hydrated has its downsides.

We got our race numbers and timing chips and went back to the car for a bit but eventually got bored and a bit twitchy so wandered round the village and then went to the loo again, looked at the trade stands that were there and resisted buying more shoes and then went to the loo again. The Hawkshead event doubled as a meet up for the #Run1000Miles group so we were partly playing ‘spot the #Run1000Miles ruff’. We spotted a few and had a chat with a couple of people just before the start. And then, just like that, we were off.

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I was planning run/walk/run overall but not until after the early congestion was over and so it worked. I settled in towards the back as we made our way out of the field, round the field on the road and then onto a muddy track and into fields. Muddy fields.. Mud was a thing. Mud pushes my buttons. Not today though, today I just splashed through most of it. There were slippery sections were it was sort of muddy grass and my trainers didn’t really grip at all but it was all ok. Kath had told me to just keep going, to not stop and just keep moving so that’s what I did. Until a while into mile 2 anyway, there was a bottleneck at a style. It meant an enforced rest break when I really didn’t want or

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Where the Herdy lamb can’t be seen

need one. But no matter. It took nearly 15 minutes for me to be over that and on my way. I took some pictures and chatted with a few more back of the pack people. Mostly though I watched a jet black Herdwick lamb with white tipped ears which made it look really distinctive and easy to spot (just not on the pictures!). It charged around a bit and then collapsed for a rest before bouncing off again.

My run/walk schedule was out of the window simply because I kept running little bits and then negotiating the mud more slowly and the running a bit more. But the miles kept ticking themselves off. Before I knew it we were 3 miles in and made our way along the edge of Lake Windermere. It was gorgeous and running along here was easy. I jogged along looking around grinning like an idiot.

Then we got to it: The drinks station at the bottom of the Coffin Trail climb. I made a rookie mistake – I stupidly gulped a cup of water and set off walking up the hill. My little sips of tailwind along  the way had been great, the water gulp just induced a stitch. Thankfully it didn’t last long and I kept putting one foot in front of the other. The cobbles up this climb were slippery so it seemed slow going and the first third is definitely relentless. Then it gets easier. Essentially though it is a mile long climb that is pretty steep in places. I took the opportunity as it levelled a little to text Kath to tell her that I was absolutely loving it and not to worry – the terrain up to now was exactly the sort of terrain that I really struggle with so I was concerned that she’d be worrying about me. There was no need – up until this point I had loved every muddy, messy, slow, down, up and even slippery step.

However, a time check told me that there was no way I was going to get back down within the 2 hour cut off time (If we take the time off for the style hold up I actually took just under 2 hours – in case anyone cares about my time more than I do) and more importantly get there to meet the other #Run1000Miles people for a group photo or to wave them off on their 17km adventure. For a minute or so I felt a bit dejected and disappointed. Only for a minute though – I looked around. It is hard, if not impossible, to be grumpy out and about in the Lakes! So with the Coffin Trail climbed all I needed to do was get back down. Yeah, down. Down on wet trails, on muddy paths and slippery slate. The sort of down that terrifies me.

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My totally disinterested Cheer Squad

I never stopped. I ran when I could which was more than I ever thought I would have run if you’d described it to me beforehand. It still wasn’t a lot but it was actual downhill running. I got down, I turned left along the road and right onto a wet but not muddy path. I ran more than I walked here and then as I came up to the road which would take me back to the finish line field I saw Kath. Yay! She ran the last stretch of road with me. As I turned right to make my way into the field, the frontrunners of the challenge 17km run were coming straight at me – a wall of runners all going rather fast. Scary! I dived into the field and jogged round the edge with a guy called John who I had been changing places with all the way along the course. He’s been running Lakeland Trail events since they started and I don’t think I ever saw him stop to walk other than on the Coffin Trail.

It was lovely to cross the finish, collect my t-shirt and go have a hug. We realised we’d have a bit of time before the 1000 Milers would be back so we went back to the car, I changed my top and my socks and shoes – yep I’m a sucker for dry feet! Then we went back for some food and were just in time to say hi to a fellow ruff wearer as she set off on her 17km race. Then we had a little wander round Hawkshead again, popped into the Peter Rabbit and National Trust shops and then made our way back just as the first runners were returning. Soon we saw some familiar Facebook faces come in and were glad that we’d decided to stick around and cheer people in. It also meant that we could be part of the after the race group picture.

After a few minutes chatting once most people were back we set off to go home. We had to wait a while to be able to got out of the car park because several cars had got themselves stuck in the mud. One had been pulled out but there was a van just being winched out – it took several attempts. Thank goodness for our Nellie’s 4 wheel drive! Once home we warmed up the shepherd’s pie we prepared yesterday, had a yummy dinner and a nice hot epsom salt bath and have now settled down in front of the telly.

 

Like I said, it’s been a great day. Thanks to the Lakeland Trails team and thanks to Claire Maxted of Wild Ginger Films for organising the meet up and to everyone for making it a great day out.

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Hawkshead Prep

Tomorrow is the next ‘race’ on our calendar. It would be nice to finish this one! We are having our second attempt at a Lakeland Trails event. The first one back in October didn’t really quite go to plan. So I have scaled down ambition and expectation for this one at Hawkshead and been rather more realistic – I’m doing the 10km rather than the longer 17km distance. I’m looking forward to it. I had a bit of a wobble the other day when I decided I was just going to pull out rather than make a fool of myself and as I was coming home on the train today I had a few minutes of being absolutely terrified and really not wanting to do it. But now I’m a nice mix of excited, looking forward to it and a little bit scared.

Don’t ask me what I’m scared of, no idea! I know I can do the distance. I can run the distance straight off on the flat and I’m planning on run/walk/run anyway. I’ve  had a number of runs up at the distance, over the distance or close to the distance throughout the end of March and April. The distance is fine. The hills, well the hills are always to be reckoned with – it’s the Lakes. But hills are ok too. I have hills here. I walk. Quite simple really.

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Lakeland Trails Hawkshead Course Profile (from the Lakeland Trails website)

The coffin trail might ask a question or two  – near vertical and about a mile long apparently – but I’m not enough of an idiot to try and run it. I’ll be walking, looking around, taking it in and maybe, just maybe, stopping to take a picture or two (and some deep breaths)! Time, well no actually I am not scared about how slow I’ll be and how long it might take. I’ll genuinely happily come last. I’m not concerned because I know people won’t actually be waiting for me to finish so they can pack up because there’s the longer distance still to come. We set off at 11am, the first batch of longer distance runners go at 1pm. I’ll get back to wave off the #Run1000Miles people doing 17k who are coming for our meet up. So the scared bit – it’s minor and it’s a healthy scared; an appreciation that it’s running, it’s trail running, it’s trail running in the Lakes – things can go wrong.

Anyway, we’re sorted. We’ve packed a change of clothes, baby wipes and deodorant so IMG_8830meeting the others won’t be too unpleasant for them. I’ve got my kit sorted with an alternative packed in case the weather hasn’t seen the forecast, I have a choice of 3 pairs of trainers and I can’t decide – it’ll come to me tomorrow. We have some nibbles and plenty of water for the drive up and back. My watch is charged, my phone is charging and I remembered to hunt down the safety pins for our race numbers. Sorted!

I haven’t blogged for a while so there’s lots to catch up on. I have been running quite consistently and I have also been writing – lots. I’ve finished my book (with my wonderful colleague Sanna) and once my brain has recovered from that last effort of pulling it all together I will be really excited about it but to be honest, I haven’t felt much like writing anything else.  So, more to remind myself really but to give you a taste of what posts are to come over the next few days, I need to finish writing these:

  1. Review of Alpkit trail tights and other stuff
  2. Review of Tailwind – so far the only drink/gel/bloc thing that doesn’t give me tummy cramps or make me feel sick. I’ll be using it tomorrow – don’t really need it for 10k but useful practice for the half marathon coming up
  3. Update on planned races
  4. Run down of April running and mileage update
  5. And of course, I’ll tell you all about how it goes tomorrow!

Remember the Whys

So by now you know I have a love hate relationship with running. It’s a relationship though and one I can’t really imagine being without now. I love running, I love not running, I love writing about running, I love writing about not running, I love how running makes me feel, I love what running allows me to do, what it teaches me… I hate running, I hate not running, I hate how running makes me feel, I hate how running can be all consuming and leave no time for anything else and I hate hate hate how crap I am at running and how some of the things it teaches me I’m just not ready to hear. Running keeps me sane and drives me crazy at the same time. It’s the best thing I do and utterly vile all at once.

I wrote before – quite a while ago – that I don’t really remember the beginning. It’s true, I don’t. But I’ve been thinking about the journey lots recently. I know there was a time I literally couldn’t run to the postbox at the end of the road – that must be about 20 metres or so. I couldn’t do it and sometimes it’s hard to remember that now I can. In running terms I had a fabulous January. I was relatively consistent (the longest gap in running was 4 days) and clocked up just over 60 miles. February was disappointing – snow, general crapiness – I managed 42 miles but had big gaps (10days). March felt more consistent but in the end I actually only made it to 40.99 miles and some of the days I didn’t run I had no excuse at all. I just couldn’t be bothered. The last March week was busy with a conference and driving down to Keele Uni I was quite excited that I only had 1.96 miles left to reach 150 miles for the year – except that I must have misread my chart because when I got home and added the miles to my spreadsheet I was still a way off. That upset me. No really it did. I was excited to have hit the milestone and then so bitterly disappointed to find that actually I hadn’t. Just as well I’d been too busy to post it on social media! (Just for the record, I have now gone through 150 miles for the year – I’ve triple checked this time!)

So for the rest of March I just didn’t bother. Yes I was tired from the conference but a run would have done me good. I just didn’t want to go. I had no motivation, no drive, no interest at all. I couldn’t even be bothered to flick through the running magazines I haven’t looked at yet. It crossed my mind a couple of times to maybe check my race number for the Lakeland Trails Hawkshead 10k or to sort out logistics for the Toronto Half marathon but I just couldn’t be arsed with any of it. Thinking about running was not a happy place. It felt like all of it, thinking about it, writing about it, organising it, all of it was a chore. I hate running.

On Saturday we were going to go to Bolton Abbey and run there. Honestly, I only got out of bed because of the promise of a bacon sarnie at the end. It was raining and it looked cold. I got dressed and we drove across. We got out of the car at the car park and were hit by an icy wind driving the rain straight into us needling our faces and making it hard to breathe. We got back in the car and came home. We spent the rest of the day curled up trying to keep warm. Sunday morning Kath went out for a run. By lunchtime there was something niggling me. I wanted to run. I actually wanted to run. Kath said she’d come with me so we headed out on our sheep loop using run/walk intervals of 2 minutes/30 seconds. It was good to be out. I smiled as I went past landmarks that for some reason I was remembering as running milestones. The post box at the end of the road was first. I remembered my first run/walk/run sessions where I was actually quite tired by the time I made it to the Pub just down the road – and it’s all downhill. I remembered the right turn to head uphill – I used to dread that turn. It took me months to not have to put in an extra walk. I smiled as we went past our old sheep fields thanking our lucky stars that we’re not lambing in this awful weather. I made it up the slope. Remember when that was impossible?

Inevitably on the downhill I tensed. We’d watched Cars 3 on Saturday and I suddenly started to giggle as I remembered the ‘trainer’ telling one of the racers who was tensing on a treadmill to think ‘fluffy cloud’. I spent the rest of the downhill repeating ‘fluffy cloud’ in my head giggling at the image of the car relaxing. When I got to the bottom of the hill I thought ‘I belong here, this is my track’. I’d noted two lines from Cars 3 as possible mantras but hadn’t realised how much they’d already lodged themselves in my brain. One was ‘You are a racer’ and the other was ‘You belong on this track’ The rest of the loop  felt good. I felt strong and the running felt ok.

 

Today we headed out again  – I struggled to wake up and it was snowing so enthusiasm was about 0. But I did want to go. Somewhere in the back of my mind the ‘can’t be bothered’ had shifted to something else. I was ‘chasing’ Kath again. By just over a mile I’d had enough. I dragged myself to 2 miles and shortly after that I was ready to curl up and cry. I thought about coming off the canal towpath and phoning Kath to tell her I was off home but instead I paused my watch, changed the running interval from 2 minutes to 1 minute told myself I belonged here splashing through the puddles and carried on. I’m remembering the why. Or rather I am remembering the whys. There’s the why of the first time I pulled trainers on and tried to run all those years ago during A-Levels – it was all about being thinner than I was. It’s almost funny how at my overall fittest with several high energy gym classes a week and a solid and consistent gym routine I failed and failed and failed at the running thing. I never made it over half way in a couch to 5k programme. It was the wrong why. Then they why of Rachel’s death and the half marathon that followed. Maybe the right why but too much to soon or maybe just not enough whys – to the whys that led to Dopey and London and the whys that keep me coming back to running now. So what are they. Well there’s the mental health stuff. I might be proper loony without running and I’d certainly get far less of the brain work done; there’s the physical health stuff – obviously I am healthier than if I didn’t run; there’s the weight thing – except I suspect I could lose more and faster if I didn’t run; there’s the being out and seeing the seasons change (or refuse to at the moment) and all of that; but as I dragged my moomin butt up Unity Street and wondered whether I’d ever be able to run even some of this stupidly steep hill, I nearly burst out laughing. I run because it’s all so bloody ridiculous. I run because it’s impossible. I run because it’s hard, it’s the hardest thing I do again and again and again. I can’t do it at all and yet I do it – several times a week. I run because I can’t and that means that anything I think I can’t do (like change the world), I just need to go out there and do it. Yoda was right – Do or don’t, there is no try – by doing you can, even if you can’t. That’s my why.