Stop and Re-Set

So, time to try and hit the pause button for a sec, time to stop the self-sabotage and re-set. I’ve been thinking that for a little while but of course my brain is sluggish and muddled with depression so doing that is easier said than done. As you know running hasn’t been going to plan at all and one of the side-effects of not running enough is a real dip in mental well being. And of course the dip in mental well being makes it much harder to go out and run. Thanks Universe for that cycle of nonsense.

Yesterday I had a panic attack which I guess was pretty major except that it was nothing compared to the old Bradford panic attacks and I knew what it was so just rode it out. My train was cancelled and then the next two trains coming through were cancelled too so 4 trains worth of people eventually tried to get on the next one. I was squished in a corner next to the toilet with a bloke’s rucksack sticking sharply into my chest. It was airless, noisy, uncomfortable and a bit smelly and within minutes the oh so familiar blood rushing in my ears, jelly legs, inability to breathe and racing heart kicked in. I tried to distract myself on Twitter and I tried to consciously ground myself and breathe. I sort of tumbled off the train in Leeds and sat on a bench for 15 minutes or so before I trusted my legs to take me to the office.

At work I sat and stared at my screen for a while mostly close to tying for no apparent reason. I was close to tears all day and my heart rate stayed high. I had a lovely PhD meeting and briefly felt better. I had two other meeting through during which I did my usual high functioning, perfectly on the ball keeping it all together act and then I left the last meeting and walked from our beautiful Headingley campus to the station with tears streaming. When I got home I should have run but I felt exhausted. When the alarm went off this morning I should have run. I know I should, well let me change the should. I want to. I want to be out there running but I am struggling to convince myself. It’s hard to explain.

Instead of running I’ve been eating crap, craving sugar mostly, drinking too much coffee, eating out, eating mindlessly, putting on weight, moving less and less… I’ve been faffing with work and worrying about things I should just leave alone. I haven’t been good at holding myself to my own standards of sensible working hours, not engaging with idiocy and prioritising work based on what is important to me. And the thing is I know I’m doing it. Depression tells me it’s easier and trying to do anything else is pointless anyway. It tells me I can’t run, it tells me doing the things I want to do at work will make no difference. Depression is all about the insecurities hiding in the background all the time and pushing them into consciousness and then into the foreground. Depression lies but it does so convincingly.

As I was struggling to breathe on the train yesterday morning I decided I needed to re-set. I haven’t managed that today but I have made a start! I didn’t manage to be more positive at work really but once home I really wanted to try and get out for a run. I lost the battle though and only managed to cover a mile and a half and had to walk most of that. Of course my brain is being bitchy and reminding me of how useless as I am. But I’m trying. I got out even if for a little bit. Then I managed to cook a relatively healthy meal and I am trying to be kind to myself and take things an hour at a time. I still feel tearful and a bit useless but also that maybe I’m beginning to turn a corner. Writing this takes some of the power out of it. The panic attack yesterday was a clear sign that things are not ok and I think maybe I needed today to spiral a bit before hitting pause and re-set.

I will try and run more – I want to and it’s hard to explain why I haven’t and even harder to explain why I’ve been eating crap, spending too much time on the sofa, too much time behind a screen and not enough time outside. I don’t know why I’ve been drinking too much coffee and eating too much sweet stuff. That’s depression for you. Nothing really makes sense.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I am aiming for neutral with a healthy sprinkling of self care or at least a lack of self sabotage

On being half way – or not

Ok, well, we are half way through the calendar year. Nearly at the end of another academic year and nowhere near where I wanted to be in all sorts of ways. Earlier in the year I was storming ahead with ambitious research plans for my sabbatical, more ambitious plans for all the other things I’d do while not caught up in teaching and administration at work and with my bid to run 1000 miles this year. After a super successful December of running clocking up over 100 miles, January was the same (helped of course by Dopey) and then February and March also came close to the 100 miles mark. April was a little lower with tapering for London but still I clocked up nearly 60 miles. May and June were rather crap – I came in under 30 miles both months.

It’s not that I have just been sitting on my arse – although I have done rather too much of that too! So I didn’t run much in May, oh well, it was just after a marathon, perfectly justifiable rest. June – well, I started with some Washington DC running but then didn’t do much else. The running was all tourist running with lots of stops and excuses to catch my breath and if that didn’t work, I could always blame the heat. We did a few good walks on the rest of the trip and a couple of runs at Chesapeake Bay. Then we got home and I did nothing. I nearly pulled out of the Solstice Saunter on the 21st June because I didn’t like the idea of running 5 hilly miles on basically no training.

However, I did go do the Solstice Saunter and it was a beautiful run. It was hard but I ran quite a lot of it and just walked the hills really. I was expecting to be significantly slower than the year before but even with my stops for a few pictures along the way, a chat at the water station and walking the hills I was only about 5 minutes slower and I very much enjoyed it. Then I did no running for the rest of the month. I did do the 10k Leeds Legal Walk on the Monday after and I went to Pilates class on Wednesday and then we had a lovely 10 ish mile walk yesterday.

We drove up to Malham and parked up and walked to the cove. There were a few people about but not many and for a little while we had the cove to ourselves. We lingered and listened to the gentle gurgle of water and the birds. Then we made our way up the steps at the side of the cove to the top. We stopped to help some kids with a map who then got told off for asking for help. At the top of the cover we waited for the kids to get going and as we were about to set off a peregrine gave us a lovely little display before flying off into the distance. We crossed the cove and started our descent on the other side and because we were chatting went the wrong way.

We realised after about half a mile and doubled back and got ourselves back onto the pennine way and made our way onwards to Malham Tarn. There we sat at the water’s edge with a sausage roll enjoying the views before moving on. We headed towards Gordale Scar and started making our way down. I don’t really like down. We got to the first water fall and talked to a couple of people coming up – they said the next bit was wet and slippery and technical. We decided to turn back. When we got back to the top we had a little sit down and a look at the map. We knew where we were exactly but the path we thought we should take next rather than going all the way back to the road didn’t seem to be on the map. We took it anyway.

We walked along the ridge and eventually made our way down into the valley and bought an ice-cream at ‘Gordale Refreshments’. It was lush. We walked with it to look at Gordale Scar from the bottom. It confirmed that we made the right call not coming down the last bit. Lots of people were going up it and there was a bit of an audience and it was definitely wet and looked a bit steep and slippery. Up might be a possibility for another time but I am not sure I’d want to climb down it.

From there we walked on to Janet’s Foss and then back to Malham for a coffee and a chip butty and the Old Barn Cafe. It was a lovely lovely walk. We did very little for the rest of the day. Today was a complete waste of a day really. I never got going and got naff all done. At lunchtime Kath dragged my sorry butt round our sheep look and in spite of initially being anxious about actually running and finding it very hard it was good to be out and running. July starts more positively on the running front.

So half way. I am at about 420 miles. So about 80 miles behind my mileage target. I am disappointed. I started the year ahead and I let that slip. But I also think I can probably catch up if it turns out I want to. I’m not sure I do. I enjoyed the run today and I feel ready to run more again now but I might change my mind next time I run. So I am half way to wherever – it doesn’t matter. Let’s just see where I get to – miles, work stuff, other stuff. Or at least that’s what I keep trying to tell myself. In reality though I am grumpy. I am grumpy about the first 6 months of the year. I am grumpy about things not done and fitness lost and at the moment they are the things dominating my thoughts rather than the things achieved. Hm

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.

24 Mile weekend

Our little Ernie-Cat is giving us a bit of a scare. Last week we took him to the vet because IMG_2475he just didn’t seem right. Last year he had a nasty deep ear infection and we thought it might be that again so we got him checked. The vet didn’t see anything obvious but agreed he wasn’t quite right. He was given 10 days of antibiotics and we kept an eye on him all week. On Friday he just wasn’t right at all. His fur looked dull and he seemed really dazed and confused. The I went to give him some treats and he couldn’t eat them. We decided we would go back to the original Dopey training plan to do the long run on Sunday. We’d planned it for Saturday because the weather forecast looked glorious and much better than Sunday. But Ernie is more important so we took him down to the vet first thing Saturday. The vet had a good look at him and again couldn’t find anything but did take some blood. She said she’d call us in a couple of hours. Those couple of hours came and went as did the rest of the day. The vets were just run off their feet with appointment and emergencies. So Ernie-Cat is complicated. He has slightly elevated white blood cell count and calcium but only marginally. We have found that he is hungry but can only manage really soft food (like our porridge or really expensive cat food).

IMG_2476Anyway you’re not reading this because you are interested in Ernie-Cat. After waiting for the vet all day and worrying and convincing ourselves that it was something nasty and then unconvincing ourselves we were exhausted. We were both ready to just curl up on the sofa where I spent most of the day anyway and not do anything at all. But it was such a lovely evening still. The sun was out and the colours looked amazing. I grabbed a bag, chucked a water bottle into it and filled a little bag with nuts and then found the remaining chocolate and peanut butter  thingies Kath had made in the freezer and chucked them in too. Then I grabbed Kath’s hat and gloves just in case and then Kath and we set off on a walk. The training plan actually had a 7 mile walk for today. We usually run/walk or do some combination of running and walking on the long walk days just because usually walking for that duration when we could be running just seems odd. But we weren’t up for running, walking was perfect.

We walked along the canal towards Silsden. We weren’t at all striding out, we were just walking and chatting. Then we saw a kingfisher. The metallic blue seems particularly striking and vibrant at the moment. We got to watch it quite a lot because it kept landing in places where it was actually quite visible. I tried to get a photo but I couldn’t zoom enough. Then it headed straight for the canal bank and we realised there was another one and there was a split second of bright orange and metallic blue kerfuffle and then they were off and soon out of sight. Stunning. A little further along we watched a buzzard pair glide overhead and a little beyond that we saw loads of geese flying  – well we heard them first. We stopped to watch them a while. We walked on until we’d covered roughly 3.5 miles and then turned just after we’d seen a group of goldfinches fly past. We wouldn’t quite make 7 miles that way (we weren’t going the same way back at the end  – I do know 3.5 miles is half way to 7!). The sunset was now behind us and it was a stunner. The colours were incredible reds, pinks, oranges and yellows.

As we got to the golf course bridge (I forget what it’s actually called) and crossed, the moon was beginning to shine quite brightly claiming its place amongst the clouds. We stopped off at Kath’s mum’s briefly and then walked home, had some food and went to bed ready for a 17 mile run today.

IMG_2526I felt good this morning. I felt well hydrated, well fuelled, confident. A little anxious about the distance but not daunted. It’s only 2 miles more than two weeks ago and there is virtually no uphill in it! Our train was a few minutes late but eventually we were in Leeds and ready to go. We went out the back so we could start right at the end of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. On our way out we saw a heron. Always a good sign!

We set off and the plan was to run the first mile and then settle into two minute runs and 30 second walks. Well, that worked well until about 5 miles as we ticked off the miles chatting about our Disney plans. Then I started finding it hard. Not really hard at all  – I could just feel that there was a little more effort in doing this than in just walking and then my head kicked in. By about 7 miles I was losing the battle. The voice saying I couldn’t do it was too loud, the repeat message was to just give up long distance running and that my absolute limit was probably somewhere around 7 miles. To just stop. So I had a bit of a meltdown. At about 8 miles we sat for a bit and I changed the intervals to running 1 minute instead of two and I tried a bit longer.

I can’t articulate what happens in my head but it is exhausting and its a battle that went on for the rest of the miles. A battle between just keeping going – even just walking – and stopping with the urge to stop becoming near overwhelming at very regular intervals. I tried to refocus on the autumn colours. We saw another heron and there were ducks and plenty of things to keep my mind occupied but I could only ever focus on those things for seconds in-between trying to drown out the voice telling me to stop. Somehow we made it to Saltaire. I don’t really know how but there we were. We had been basically hurdling anglers for the last 2 miles or so and had also mostly walked with just the odd 1 minute run thrown in. We walked up into Saltaire village to get a bottle of water. While the fuelling was good with Tailwind, I was thirsty. I think maybe I need to take just water as well as the Tailwind.

From Saltaire we walked back with just a couple of little runs thrown in – so I did IMG_2544actually run in every mile. Once I had hauled my backside up 5 Rise locks we walked just a bit more and then I managed another little run down the road and then another little run down into the car park and we were done. It wasn’t the run I wanted but the last couple of miles walking and talking things through were probably useful and we finished the 17.26 miles in just under 15 minute mile pace.

I’m mentally tired and I’m trying to be positive about the run as a training run. I covered the distance and the first 7 miles were actually comfortably under 13 minute miles and when I look back I was, like Kath said all along, physically fine. My running form was good, nothing hurt, breathing was fine… On the plus though all miles were within Disney pace except one but I think that’s the one where we went up into Saltaire to buy water. I learned that I need water as well as tailwind and that I need to keep working on the mental side of running. I need to get better at defeating the voice in my head that tells me I can’t do it and I need to stop being annoyed at myself for not running more or whatever. It happened, I got the distance done anyway. Next time will be better.

So, 24 miles covered this weekend means that I have smashed through 600 miles for the year. I am on track with the training and the good news is that I’m not really broken. I’m tired and I’m sure I’ll feel a bit sore and tight tomorrow but it’s all good. It’s all good.

More importantly though Ernie-Cat seems a little happier and more settled.

IMG_2546

Sunday Weigh-In news – I lost 2 and a half pounds if you take the pre-run weight or 5 and half if you take the post run weight (which I don’t because I usually jump on the scales before running).

Happy Sunday.

Controlling the Controllable – Well, Disney food Planning

I’m still ill. In fact I am worse than I was – I’ve actually felt poorly today – not just coughing and having a really sore throat and snotty nose but I’ve felt feverish and out of it today. I have way too much quite urgent work to do to be ill and I have tried to do bits today but it it’s been rather futile. I drifted in and out of fitful sleep for most of the morning and in between I read the running magazines that had piled up. At lunch time I felt a little more with it and moved downstairs where I tried to clear some work stuff but soon gave up, my brain can’t do anything much today and then dozed watching IMG_7111 copyhighlights from the World Equestrian Games and the show jumping phase of the eventing.

I am not good at being ill. I have been panicking about missing training runs. I really thought I’d be able to be back tomorrow but I don’t think that’s realistic given how I feel today. I have half an eye on the weekend distances and am already worrying about not being able to go out for the long runs and the knock on effect…. STOP. Just Stop. Maybe because I’ve been watching the equestrian stuff and thinking about my riding days or because I was reading the magazines earlier which featured some stuff about controlling things you can control, I figured that I can’t control what I can’t control and worrying about what I can’t do anything about is not exactly useful. So instead of worrying about when I will be able to run again and what impact that might have, I started to think about the things I can control.

At this stage of course things I can do to positively influence a good Dopey Challenge are fairly minimal – once we get there, I’ll be able to control a lot more like hydration, fuel, my pace… – for now it’s the really basic things. I can plan the trip so that’s one less thing to worry about, I can make sure we get there without major stresses, I can make sure we fuel right for the days before and during the challenge and that we can have fun without overdoing it. So yes, I have a spreadsheet! Controlling these things has the added advantage that it takes me away from reality for a while and allows me to immerse myself in Disney magic. I can escape, well at least until my own coughing fit brings me back to reality every now and again.

IMG_7297So, here’s the plan. We have now booked an airport hotel for the night before our trip so we can get to Manchester without worrying too much about the weather and having to leave really really early. We have booked our restaurants for during the Challenge so we can eat where we wanted to and more importantly, eat at a sensible time for us that fits in with our running and training. So if you’re not interested in Disney at all, stop reading now.

We arrive the day before Expo Day. We have booked breakfast at Chef Mickey’s for Expo Day morning. Let’s face it, we’ll need a good breakfast before braving the insane people who seem to feel the need to buy everything at the expo. Our strategy has always been to get in, get our bibs, pick a souvenir from the RunDisney merchandise, possibly walk through the other stalls and then leave. It’s worked well in the past. The rest of Expo day is unplanned so far. 5km Day will, like all of the run days, start stupidly early but that’s part of the Challenge really, so we will have breakfast afterwards. We’ll be spending theIMG_7207 day in the Animal Kingdom. Last time we stayed in Epcot but we walked way too much. We tend to walk less at the Animal Kingdom and there are lots of places to sit and watch the animals (and people) although we’ll have to try hard to resist the mojitos. They’ll have to wait until after Dopey. We’ll pick up snacks in the Animal Kingdom throughout the day and then maybe head back and eat at the Wave – still one of my favourite Disney restaurants, particularly when I’m in need of a bit of quiet.

10km day is similar in structure and we’ll have breakfast after the run again, this time in the Magic Kingdom at the Crystal Palace. 10km day will require real discipline. The run won’t make us feel really tired and the temptation will be to spend time in the parks, too much time. So I’ve kept us in the Magic Kingdom for breakfast and for dinner so we are close to our hotel at the Contemporary. Dinner is at the Diamond Horseshoe. I don’t think we’ve been but the menu looks great and should work well for fuel for the half marathon. The reservation works well for eating and then slowly making our way back to the hotel catching the fireworks on our way out of the park and heading for bed.

IMG_7154 copyHalf marathon and marathon days means we don’t have breakfast as such. We’ll have our porridge pots probably. I’m trying both porridge pots and bagels with peanut butter in training. Both are easy to sort when there because we can take porridge pots and they have bagels and peanut butter there, from memory even at the race retreat which we have booked for the half marathon and marathon days. Although I need to work out the timings of when we are likely to actually start running so I can work out when I need to eat – can’t do that until we know what corral we’re in. I can of course guess but this is about controlling the controllable. For after the half marathon we have booked a very early lunch at the Wave and then Tony’s for the obligatory pasta before marathon day. So we’re not venturing far and if the weather permits a dip in the cool pool will definitely help. The plan is simply to be around the hotel, relax, stay off our feet with just a couple of gentle strolls to and from dinner to move a little.

The Dinner reservation at Tony’s is early because we’ll need an early night. I will of course be terrified – we’ll deal with that later. Marathon day will be the 4th very early start, it will be overwhelming and I’d be tired enough with just that, throw in what may well be 6-7 hours of running (I would of course like it to be far less but I will have run a half marathon the day before and the last Dopey marathon was just under 7 hours so…) 7C1000C1-2CFA-454E-B8F7-91362B358279and I am going to be cream crackered when we’re done. Last time we went out after the marathon. It was all a bit of a rush by the time we had got back to the hotel, had a bath, changed and then headed out to Disney Springs. This time we’re not doing that. We’ve built in some time to maybe even have a little nap and then we’re just heading upstairs in our hotel to the California Grill to celebrate. That way we can have a glass of wine (and that chocolate volcano pudding – it was rather lush) and then get them to gently roll us into bed.

The plans for after the Challenge are coming along nicely too but I’ll tell you about them another time. For today it was nice to spend time looking at menus and think about where we might be when and what would keep us active enough without overdoing it. So tomorrow I hope will be a better day and maybe I can go for a walk at least even if I can’t run and hopefully by the weekend I’ll be well enough to have a go at the mileage. I’ll keep you posted!