Toughing it out with hill repeats in the rain

I had an early burst of energy this morning and then ran out of steam very very quickly. I woke up before 7am. I had a cup of tea in bed and it seemed to take an age to fully wake up. Then Kath went for a run, I wasn’t ready for that yet. Instead I washed up, made breakfast (a variation of a hash recipe by Joe Wicks – grated courgette, potato, broccoli, spinach and egg – I added bacon this time because we had some that needed using), made bread and sung along badly to Bon Jovi greatest hits. That was it. I could have gone back to bed.

The fact that I needed a short run today to tick off all the Dopey plan runs this week was on my mind. Wouldn’t it be nice to not be behind on something for once. I’ve pretty much given up on work being the thing that I’m on top of so why not just really try and keep ticking off those runs. I could maybe manage that and how amazing would it feel to not be behind? (I have no idea, it’s not something that generally happens to me!).

IMG_2437Kath dragged me off the sofa eventually and out of the house to run the sheep loop in the rain and do some hill sprints on the old golf course slope. It has got a little cooler and less muggy which was good. I settled into the running and finally started to enjoy being out after about half a mile. The autumn colours are stunning. I managed to keep running until we got the point at which I was doing the hill sprints. Kath did hersIMG_2453 this morning so I left her at the at the top of the hill and walked down. Ah hill sprints. Hm. Well I tried. I ran up the hill as fast as I could 4 times. By the 4th time my legs were burning! I had a minute at the top and then we set off running down the hill. I hate running down hill and was really tense so my arches started hurting. My calves are also very tight at the moment.

Just as things were getting tough Kath spotted a kingfisher and this time I saw it too and kept my eyes on the spot where it had disappeared from view and sure enough it popped out again and I watched it fly straight down the middle of the canal until I could no longer see it. Then we were nearly at the canal bridge and had to decide whether to cross or whether to carry on to the next. I thought I might be able to run on the flat for a bit longer so opted for going straight on but then we saw a couple of horses (with riders) ahead and decided to leave them to it. We turned back and crossed the bridge and I managed to keep running a little bit. Then we walked up the hill. My arches were killing but they settled down, same with the calves. I felt like I really wanted to make an effort so after a a few deep breaths we set off running again and I was getting my head round going up Ilkley Road run/walking post to post.

I ran past the first post and felt ok, the second, hm, harder but ok. Then I thought I’d walk at the next one which was close to a Pub. A bloke came out and watched us so I just couldn’t walk. I wasn’t sure I could keep running either though but then he said ‘faster faster faster’ and I thought ‘well sod you’ and kept plodding.

Well that was a hard run but it did me the world of good.

Sunday weigh in – yeah well what do you expect with apple pie, pints, apple pie, crisps and pretzels…

 

The Goddess Verbia and Squirrels that drop out of trees

IMG_2402Ok so those two things are not actually related as far as I know but then you can never be sure with a goddess.  It has been a tough week. Monday feels like soooooo long ago. I recovered reasonably well after my 14.5 mile adventure last Sunday and Monday I was a little tired but not actually sore. Tuesday things did not go to plan. My plan was to drop Kath off at the station, leave the car at the station, run back home, get ready for work and make my way back to the station – this does make sense. No really it does. There are no car parking spaces after about 7.15am and I wanted the car to be there in the evening. Anyway, because the university has a timetabling system which isn’t supposed to be able to timetable us in two places at the same time, but apparently can do exactly that to at least one of my colleagues, I ended up teaching at 9am. It threw out the rest of the week and I have been slightly confused ever since. I know, doesn’t take much.

I didn’t get out to run until Wednesday afternoon. That didn’t go to plan either. I thought I would just try my Hokas one more time. You know just because. Well my legs don’t like them and my achilles tendon detests them. I got about a mile and three quarters in and had to walk because it was screaming at me. As soon as I took the Hokas off it was fine. I then meant to run again on Thursday but that didn’t happen mainly because I decided to rewrite my lecture for the nth time. I did make it to yoga though. Friday I taught for 6IMG_2418 hours starting at 9am and finishing at 5pm. Anyone who can give a 2 hour lecture, pull together an outline for a paper, have a chat about LLM dissertations, mark 2 LLM dissertations and then teach 2 two hour workshops and then still function on any level at all never mind run is not actually human. I nearly feel asleep in my pint!

So Saturday. It’s a wild sort of autumnal and I love it. The original plan was Cliffe Castle parkrun again but neither of us really wanted people. We went to Bolton Abbey Instead to run our little loop. Dopey Plan has 3 miles on it today. We haven’t run at Bolton Abbey for quite a while. The colours were spectacular and the Wharfe was well up. It was warm. After the usual pit stop we set off at a gentle jog up the first slope. About half way up I thought maybe  I should have gone with Kath’s suggestions of walking to the top and setting off from there. But I made it and recovered. The noise from the Wharfe encouraging me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. As a reward, just as we got to the top of the slope, a mass of leaves in all shades of yellow and orange gently floated to the ground all around us. It felt like natures very own congratulations confetti.

IMG_2414On we plodded. I could’t really decide if that cold I had is still lingering, whether I have lost most of my fitness or whether I just felt lazy today but it just seemed hard going. I focused on looking around, taking in the different colours and smells and consciously acknowledging the temperature variations with every landscape change. They were really noticeable and marked today. Descending (usually) into colder air actually felt really nice because I was far too warm in my long pants and with my rain jacket on. I took it off after about half a mile and tied it round my middle. As much as I was trying to look around and take in the wood it was the Wharfe that kept pulling my attention back to it. The sound of the water, sometimes gently encouraging but mostly urging us on with a more or less forceful roar, was always there and somehow demanding my focus.

As I walked up the hill alongside the Strid and struggled to catch my breath I tried to consciously draw strength from the power of the water surging down. I briefly closed my eyes, tripped over a stone and swore but I liked the idea of drawing on the power of the water. As we descended again I asked Kath whether she knew who the goddess of water was – not ocean but water more generally and we decided we didn’t know. Whoever she is though, I liked the fact that she was offering her strength for us to draw on so freely. All we had to do was listen. I tried to concentrate on that.

We crossed over the aqueduct and headed back towards our starting point. I’d sort of wanted to go further but the plan said 3 miles and I was finding it hard so we agreed that a positive shorter run would be better than a miserable longer one. I kept running. As we moved away and up from the Wharfe a little I missed the noise. It was like it was no longer talking to me urging me on. Running got harder. I was just beginning to fall a little behind Kath as I watched a squirrel climb up a really big tree a little ahead,  and then fall out of it. It landed really close to Kath and both of them nearly jumped out of their skin and stared at each other for a split second before carrying on along their way each as incredulous as the other. Laughing had helped me catch up.

We walked up the nemesis hill and then down the other side and the Wharfe was back. First with very gentle whispers and then with more urgency. At one point the path runs right next to the river and I imagined it pulling me along with it and I knew I’d be able to finish without walking. I powered up the last two slopes and kept going along the path taking us back to the bridge and across the Wharfe to our starting point. I’d found it hard, much harder than I probably should at this point in Dopey training, but I enjoyed every step. I also enjoyed our breakfast and watching the wind and the rain while drinking my coffee.

So when I got home I searched for information on a water or river goddess and I can do better than just some generic deity. Meet Verbia, the goddess of the River Wharfe. I know very little about her but I think I like her and I am certainly thankful for her help today. She often has a calm efficiency about her as she flows along her way but it doesn’t take much to get her going with some urgency and power that is a little bit scary. However it does take a lot to make her burst her banks (sorry Kath, I know rivers don’t burst their banks, they overtop but bursting banks sounds more dramatic and tantrum-y) and lose her shit. She’s feisty but controlled. I don’t know if she makes squirrels fall out of trees too.

Cliffe Castle and St Ives Estate

I live in a gorgeous part of the world. Yes, yes, I know, I live in Keighley which doesn’t immediately inspire visions of gorgeousness… but there is loads of amazing countryside on our doorstep and there are some lovely parks around too. I have lived here for quite some time now and the connection with this area is even longer and yet I had never been to Cliffe Castle Park apart from one brief run through it on the Keighley 10k and I have never been to the St Ives Estate in Bingley either – apart from once visiting a client at a care home there. That seems so totally implausible and it’s a bit embarrassing really. But maybe it’s also normal, we never spend enough time exploring what’s right on our doorstep do we.

IMG_2366So this weekend I ticked off those two place – now I can at least say that I’ve been and that I am more than just a little bit likely to go again. So let’s start at the beginning. Saturday’s Dopey Plan called for a 5.5 mile walk. We thought we’d jog down to our fairly new local parkrun at Cliffe Castle. I thought it would be just over a mile – it’s actually almost exactly 2 miles. We jogged the first mile or so, then walked the bit cutting through some backstreets where we weren’t too sure about direction. We arrived with about 10 minutes to spare and then my 3rd and Kath’s 4th parkrun were ago. Kath trotted round in a rather impressive 32 minutes something as I plodded my way round slowly. I felt fine and was actually enjoying myself but I didn’t feel strong. The course is nice. It starts off with a down hill on a wide path before turning left onto a gravel path which is quite narrow – no matter for me, I just let everyone go ahead of me on the downhill! It is mostly flat as you come off the gravel path onto a tarmac one and into the wood. Then the climb starts. You turn left and start going up. You just keep going up for quite a while.

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It’s a bit narrow and on the first lap I got stuck behind a group of people walking slower than I would normally while the parkrun frontrunners lapped us. While the climb is a bitch, once you’ve done that it’s easy – downhill mostly. On my second lap I tried to power walk the hill too fast and had to stop on the steepest bend to get my breath back, on the third lap I got it right – a fast positive walk at a pace I could sustain all the way and from which I could start running again immediately when I got to the top. As I ran past the house for the final time Kath saw me and came to join me so we ran the last bit together. Just up to the finish is a slope, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to run it but as we headed for it Kath told me I could do it and the music speakers blasted out Born in the USA. I ran. It was a slow 5k but it felt like I was finally getting back to normal. We walked back home and, though tired, I felt good.

Today we were to tackle about 15 miles. I was a little apprehensive but also really 43289087_419537471910638_2187069755976843264_nlooking forward to a new route and having a little adventure and it was a gorgeous morning. We set off along the canal towards Bingley, we ran down and then dropped into run/walk intervals of 2 minute runs and 30 second walks just before a little footpath that cuts through from Riddlesden to Morton – about half way along that there was a sheep on the path. We had several attempts at letting it come past us but it always changed it mind and kept going forward. It was clearly concerned about getting back to its field though so we hoped that it would go back as soon as as we had reached the end of the footpath where we could get past. It did. Along this stretch we also saw a sweet little black cat and for a brief moment we were running side by side with a sheep and a cat. Then the sheep went back and the cat changed its mind and left us to it.IMG_2373

I was tired by the time we got to Bingley. Kath saw a Kingfisher which briefly took my mind off things as I searched for it. As we came off the canal I started to really doubt that I could do the distance and suddenly felt really anxious. I think it was probably the traffic noice and busy-ness that seemed really noticeable after the quiet of the canal towpath. We walked through Bingley and headed into Myrtle Park and followed the path to Beckfoot Lane which is basically where the UP started. It was quite a lot of up after this. A lot of up. Once we got to the top of Beckfoot Lane we crossed over into St Ives Estate for a bit more up. Then we crossed the main drive up into the Estate, climbed a stile into a field and then another into a bigger field and made our way across. It would actually have been quite nice to run this bit – it’s flat. But the fields were full of cows. Gorgeous fluffy black and white cows (Belted Galloways), some were this year’s young I would imagine. It was a little nerve-racking walking through the fields but the cows weren’t interested enough to actually come and have a look, they just stared a bit. At the end of the 3rd large field there was a little metal gate into a wood and more up. The up was taking its toll now and I felt really quite tired, we passed 6 miles.

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The UP!

The route continued through the wooded areas of the Estate, past the Coppice Pond and

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Felt how I look

eventually (more up) past Lady Blantrye’s Rock and a monument . Then we continue on along the edge of the golf course until we eventually reached Altar Lane. After a brief stop to look at the view we jogged down until we reached the Druid’s Altar turn off, we thought we might as well have a look and the views before heading back down. After that we headed all the way down the lane until we dropped into Bingley again. The traffic noise hit me again and my neck and back pulled tight. I couldn’t shake the tightness and over the next half a mile it gave a horrendous headache. It was definitely the tightness rather then dehydration or anything. It eased every time we walked and I could roll my shoulders or get Kath to rub my upper back. I was really struggling now and at 10 miles could quite happily have just curled up and cried. We carried on the canal and walked a bit to try and settle. At the top of the 5 Rise Locks I managed a few more running intervals but with every step it felt like there was an explosion in my head. In the end we switched the running and walking intervals and I just ran for 30 seconds leaving the 2 minutes to try and relax my shoulders and get rid of enough tension so I could do the next run. We couldn’t just head straight home, we needed more distance so kept going to the next bridge and walked up through our local little wood. I now had nothing at all left. We stopped at one point and I wasn’t sure I could get home. I really thought that trying to do this distance had been a mistake and it was far too much so soon after that cold I’ve had.

I pulled myself together and managed another little jog and then another before walking the last quarter of a mile home to finish on 14.5 miles. It was slow, so slow and I was initially so disappointed. But now that I’ve been home a while, had a bath, a recovery drink and some food and now that the fire’s lit and I can smell our roast chicken cooking, I feel pretty good about it. I am not broken at all. I am tired, really tired but nothing hurts, no major chafing, and no major muscle soreness or stiffness (yet). I covered the distance this weekend and it feels really good to be back on plan. Recovery so far has been sitting on the sofa with a cuddly cat, writing this blog and watching rubbish TV to just unwind. Dinner won’t be long and then it’s time to curl up with a film and give in to the tired. Yeah I was disappointed but actually, it’s done, it was a lovely route and we had an adventure.

Oh yeah Sunday weigh-in – I jumped on the scales before the run and I’m another pound down.

It’s been a good day and I like this trail shoe selfie!

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September round-up

September has been a miserable running month really. It started so well. It started with relatively happy running and a decent build up to the Great North Run and then overall a solid GNR and an awesome post GNR run and then I got this hideous cold/flu/chest/throat thing. Then I thought I was getting better and got out for a 5 miles come-back run which I loved and then I wasn’t better so I have now had 3 weeks with hardly any running and it is annoying the hell out of me.

I will finish September on 31.2 miles – my worst mileage month by over 10 miles. I am stuck on 532.51 miles and my hope of reaching 800 miles for the year is slipping away. I am behind on my Dopey Challenge training plan, I am losing fitness, I’ll be putting on weight (I haven’t bothered getting on the scales this morning for my Sunday Weigh-In because I actually just don’t want to know today). I have spent three weeks mostly on the sofa and trying to push through to get work stuff done and keep things ticking on as best I can so I don’t get even further behind. In short, I’m grumpy.

I’ve had two back to back nights of 11 hours sleep and I think I am beginning to feel a bit more human again. I’m working at home tomorrow so will aim for the same again! There are still extraordinary amounts of snot but I don’t feel poorly today. Tempting as it is to pull the trainers on I am resting today. Tomorrow evening I’ll be off to my yoga class for the first time in what feels like forever and then on Tuesday I am back on the training plan – 45 minute run. I should be ok. I was half marathon fit for the GNR and I have only missed one long run of 13 miles so while it might not be pretty I should manage the next scheduled long run of 15 miles if I take it nice and steady. I know I have time, I know I don’t have to go the full distance as dictated by my training plan and that I could afford to drop back to the  previous long mileage on the plan but not running is playing havoc with my head. The enormity of taking on Dopey is there in the back of my mind and I don’t want to just drag my butt round, I want to enjoy it. Or at least most of it. Chances of enjoying ESPN Wide World of Sports are pretty minimal – it’s the part of the marathon I am least looking forward to – though if I can make it through that I’ll finish!

So, it’s 100 days until we fly out to Florida. 100 days to get Dopey fit. I’ve just been looking back and in 2015 I had flu a little later than this cycle and I still got myself Dopey fit (ish). I should stop worrying and just get on with getting better and then get the training done. I know I can do this, now I just need to believe it.

 

 

5 mile come-back

IMG_2336After nearly two weeks of not running I finally made it out of the house today. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to run. I had a work thing in London yesterday and half way through that I started feeling pretty grotty again and I was sooo tired by the time I got home. I was worried that I had caused a recovery set back and would feel crap again today. However, I slept relatively well and got up feeling ok. Not exactly springing into action but ok. I didn’t fancy heading straight out so had coffee and scrambled eggs on toast and then made bread while Kath got the first coat of paint on the outside of our back door.

Eventually I thought it was too nice a day to stay inside and went and got changed. My training plan is on a high mileage weekend  – 4 miles yesterday and 13 today but I’d already decided that wasn’t sensible and I just needed to get out today and see how things felt. I decided on a route that would give lots of options in terms of loops and distances. The route was all road and good sections of canal towpath so I went for road shoes – my new Brooks (they’re lovely). I really didn’t know what to expect. I just set off gently. After a minute or so of running I could feel the crap in my lungs but apart from spending the entire run coughing said crap up, I actually felt pretty good. Running was sort of comfortable. I deliberately didn’t look at my watch because I didn’t want to freak myself out if I was going fast or be disappointed if I was going really slow. I kept going reminding myself that I could drop into run/walk if I wanted to and remembering to look around too.

There were some stunning glittering damp spiders’ webs, lots of people getting their IMG_2337gardens ready for winter, cats enjoying the air and warm sun and people doing Sunday things like washing cars and having cuppas in the sunshine. I was trying to think of how I might describe how I felt running. I’m not sure I can quit capture it but being out made me realise just how much I’d missed it and how good it is for me mentally. Running felt familiar – in a good way. It felt a little like when you sit with someone in silence lost in your own thoughts and they are in theirs but there’s no pressure to talk or be sociable. Maybe it’s the ‘just being’ nature of it that I was particularly conscious of today and the words that kept popping into my head were comfortable familiarity.

I dropped onto the canal towpath slightly bemused that running still felt fine apart from the odd cough and spit. It was busy. I suppose people are taking advantage of the autumn sun. I saw dogs of all sizes but all were well behaved and out of my way today which was nice, there were cyclists too and then I saw lots of runners in quick succession, all men. The first was going fast and was working hard – he managed a nod and I gave him the thumbs up. He was followed by a guy going at what looked like a comfortable pace for him. I said hi and he gave me the thumbs up. ‘Cool’ I thought. The third looked the serious type and was clearly trying to catch the guy in front of him (and would do quite quickly). He didn’t acknowledge my wave and smile; ‘roadrunner’ I thought as I went past. Shortly after I heard footsteps behind me and a fourth runner came past me. Just for fun I let him get a little ahead and then tried to match his stride and pace for a little while. Just for a little while though – it was barely sustainable for the 50 metres or so that I tried. Fun though.

Mile 2 came and went and I was nearing the canal bridge at which I was going to cross to loop back. It was busy here, more cyclists, walkers, dogs and more runners. Ladies, was there a memo I missed instructing all women to not run today? I didn’t see another female runner. It was odd. Anyway, there were scout activities happening on the canal by this bridge and further up into the old golf course so I gritted my teeth and ran over the bridge and up the hill. I’ve walked the hill faster than I ran it today but never mind. I pushed on and was glad when the noise from the kids dissipated and all I could hear was my breathing. I realised my lungs were burning. My watch beeped for 3 miles and I walked a bit to let my lungs recover. I coughed up more crap and did a few run/walk intervals between landmarks. I was trying to work out if I’d had enough. I thought maybe I had and was going to head home from here.

IMG_2338I walked up the next slope and then began running again, I ran past the next point to walk up the hill and home. I felt good still, going home just yet didn’t make sense. I ran past the point after that too and thought if I kept going I could hit 5 miles which felt like a very suitable come-back distance. So I carried on. A little way up the next road section which slopes deceptively and annoyingly uphill my legs decided I was mad and that they were now very tired. I walked the slope. After the left turn where I almost double back I knew I just had a little section which sloped downhill left before I’d stop running and walk straight up the hill home. My legs didn’t want to run anymore though. But I did. I pushed on, got to the bottom of the footpath and stopped running. I started walking up the footpath and soon wondered what on earth had possessed me to think it was a good idea to go straight up rather than round. Insane. The three pictures in this post are all from the hill I left til last and as usual the photos don’t to the hill justice – so here’s the strava elevation picture which makes it at least look like it might be a hill

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But I made it home. 13.25 pace overall with a really good run over the first 3 miles. I’m back on the plan now – 45 minutes Tuesday, 5 miles Wednesday, 45 minutes Thursday and then 3 miles on Saturday. The week after is a high mileage week which is good because it gives me this week to ease back in and get fully better.

Oh and Sunday weigh-in. About half a pound heavier than last week.

Happy running.