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.
I don’t actually like the gym. We have been doing yoga at home – sometimes more and sometimes less consistently. However, its not really enough. I very occasionally popped into the gym at work but I often don’t get there because work stuff side tracks me or I want to get home…. So after much deliberations we joined the local council gym for a month in June to try out the classes and have another go at doing some useful cross training.
June was pretty good and we decided it was sensible to come back and get into a good exercise/cross training routine. So far we’re doing pretty well. One of the guys at the gym did us a short programme designed to support our running. It consists of some step ups with weights and then lots of stuff to strengthen core and glutes. I like it because it’s short and should work fine if done twice a week. In fact we have been doing this a little while now so it is probably time to go see him again and get a new one.
In addition we have done a fitness pilates class which I find quite hard but good and I enjoy it. Again the work on core strength helps and I think I am probably getting better even with only having done it twice since we’ve been back (and twice in June before we went). Last week we also tried a yoga class which I loved. The instructor was fabulous and very focused on form and technique coming round and putting us all in the right positions. I could most definitely feel that! We also tried a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class in June which I sort of hated but loved having done. We are having another go on Thursday next week. So with 2 gym sessions, 1 pilates, 1 yoga and 1 HIIT class as well as the running we’re pretty busy getting fitter. We might not be able to do all of this every week and if I’m honest, the HIIT class might prove too much for me, but we’ll see how we go.
I lost 2 pounds in the first week back from Australia, I’m sticking to Sunday weigh in just to keep track and eating is focused on fuel and eating yummy things that are overall healthy without going over the top. I feel quite content with all of that at the moment and I am getting stronger. It feels different not going to the gym for the sake of going to the gym or to lose weight or tone up but to go to support my running. It feels like there’s a good reason and somehow that makes it more enjoyable.
I went for a run. It’s run day on the training plan and I actually went for a run. Lately, you see, I have done anything but what it says on whatever plan I’ve been supposedly following. When it said long run I’ve gone short, when it said hills, I’ve just sworn, when it said short run I didn’t go, when it said rest I went long… chaos basically which is fine. In fact I quite like chaos, it adds a surprise element to life.
It’s quite hard to make any real training progress with chaos though, particularly when you’re like me and chaos basically means you don’t do the hard stuff. A little order was called for, not regimented ‘you must do this’ sort of stuff but just following a basic framework. It’s Tuesday and Tuesdays is 45 minute run day. Some Tuesdays have 45 minutes with stuff (like surges or hill repeats etc) but not this one, this one was just ‘easy’. The notion of ‘easy’ running amuses me. Easy pace is basically walking! Anyway. I got home after a good day and couldn’t really be bothered. I hadn’t drunk enough water, drunk too much coffee, eaten too much for lunch and it was hot. But nonetheless I set off.
I kept reminding myself to go slow in the sun and not worry about pace – just plod out the 45 minutes. Enjoy, look around… I puffed my way up the hill then towards the wood, past our Dino and up the slope into the wood. I nearly walked on the slope – I suspect I would have been quicker if I had walked. Down the golf course and along the canal. Bloody hell this was hard. One foot in front of the other. I wanted to stop at the bridge but I wasn’t anywhere near 45 minutes yet. So on I went. Somewhere between the next two bridges I decided that I would plod out 5km and then try and march up the hill home. It’s a steep hill. Almost immediately after I made that decision I started doubting whether I’d make the 5km. I did but it felt like wading through treacle. I was surprised when Strava told me I got a personal best on that last section. It also tells me it was 5km in 39 minutes dead.
Anyway, for the walk home – I went the most direct route – directly up in an almost straight line up a little snicket. I was hot, bothered, slightly dizzy in places and thought I was going to puke. I felt like I kept marching, stopping, marching, stopping but it was probably more like waddle, stop, waddle, stop. I got home. I had ticked the required 45 minutes off the list – there is some order.
I collapsed on the living room floor and just stayed there a few minutes contemplating life (actually just sweating so much I was surprised not to have left a noticeable wet patch – can your eyeballs sweat?). Then slowly I got myself together and did some fairly random post run yoga – I couldn’t be bothered to get my mat or the iPad to follow an actual sequence so I did my own. My hamstrings are little bitches and totally intent on making my life miserable so they need a good stretch to keep them in check: ‘half monkey’ seems to really work for me for that. I thought my hips had been a bit tight but alternating ‘bridge’ and ‘happy baby’ a few times sorted that. Then I went in search of water (wasn’t hard, Kath had given me a full glass as I walked through the door). In spite of the uphill waddle I now felt pretty good about that outing.
I haven’t really done enough yoga today – I’m trying to do more but let’s take the small victories – I did manage 20 minute morning yoga yesterday which always sounds like such a lovely thing but the morning one on my yoga app is actually quite tough and after moving from downward dog to plank for what felt like the 150th time (ok, 3rd), my arms didn’t work anymore and I face planted. I have therefore settled on a new ambition in life: being able to do that sequence without putting my nose in danger. I also did strength exercises much to the cats’ amusement/bemusement. Ernest stared at me intently as I side-stepped with a resistance band. Actually maybe he just got a bit excited every time I got near the food bowls. Anyway, it’s only Tuesday and I already feel pretty good about exercise for the week. Tomorrow is strength yoga day. Next run on Thursday.
Mum and I went for a Spa Day at the Devonshire Spa today. Here’s how it was.
We arrived at 9am, were given a robe, towel (too small, I like BIG towels, this was just a towel, it did wrap round me so it wasn’t tiny and it was fluffy and soft and nice but if it had been bigger it would have been perfect) and some flip flops each and shown the changing area and lockers and told to come back down to the lounge when we had got changed. Hm spa days. This means getting pretty much naked in a place that, in my mind at least, is likely to be full of skinny people. Hm. Remind me why I thought this would be a good thing to do. I reluctantly put on my two piece swimming costume pulling the vest as far down as it would go and making damn sure that my belly was securely tucked into the shorts. Then I laughed at myself, walked out of the changing cubicle, caught a glimpse in the mirror and decided it was all fine. I still have thunder thighs and hippo hips and there’s a sort of miniature spare tire round the middle that wibble wobbles a bit (ok, a lot) BUT these thunder thighs and hippo hips have taken me round two marathons this year and there are definite signs of muscle, of quite a pleasing shape in the lower leg and above the knee. I look like an athlete because I am one.
Anyway, I digress. We sat in the lounge and were given a health and lifestyle questionnaire to fill in – how much alcohol do you drink, do you smoke, how much water do you drink… bla bla. We also got coffee and a biscuit. Then we had a little nosey around the pool area and the steam room etc. Quite soon it was time for our treatments – you get 2 25 minute ones included in the price of the day. I was taken to one of the downstairs treatment rooms and had my salt scrub first followed by a back, shoulder and neck massage. Both were divine but these things also come with dilemmas. This is not something I do very often so I never know what to expect. What to take off and what to leave on is always tricky. Thankfully the therapist (is that what you call them?) was lovely and carefully explained that because the salt scrub tends to get everywhere she had left me some disposable paper pants out on the table. She left the room leaving me to strip (easy bit) and put the paper pants on. Who knew paper pants could be so anxiety inducing. What if they don’t fit? They’ll be made for skinny people! Breathe! I freed the pants from their wrapper and looked at them. It is impossible to tell which way round they should be and which are the leg holes and which the top. Trial and error (3 times) eventually revealed the right (possibly – in any event the only) way to get them on but I couldn’t really tuck my tummy in. Hmph. I jumped on the table and pulled the cover over me with seconds to spare. It must have been ok unless of course they train these people to not laugh come what may. The salt scrub was absolutely lovely and I was totally relaxed and un self conscious until the therapist suddenly said ‘Would you like your tummy doing?’ WTF? You can’t rub salt scrub into my tummy – you’ll sink, you’re hands might get lost in layers of blubber forever; and there’s not enough salt scrub. ‘Yes please’ I said. And now I have a tummy that is as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
The treatment rooms are nice and have a shower cubicle built in so after the salt scrub I could just rinse off before the massage. That gave me the chance to abandon the paper pants and put my own little shorts back on. Much better with the (now totally smooth and lovely) tummy tucked in. After the treatments we sat in the rather grandly titled relaxation lounge which is actually a little room upstairs which leads to the two upstairs treatment rooms. It has 3 deckchair like loungers in it. We sat absorbed in our books for a while and then decided to go for a swim. We moved downstairs and bagged two of the 4 loungers by the pool. We had the pool to ourselves for quite a while and when people joined us we moved to the whirlpool for a bit. The pool is small – maybe 10m x 6m so when you have 3 people in it trying to swim it’s full and with 4 it’s too crowded really. Otherwise it is lovely though and because the whole things is like a barn with stone walls and wood ceiling I spent a fair bit of time on my back just looking at it.
We spent a bit more time just lounging around, popping back into the pool, using the steam room and finishing off with another session in the whirlpool. Then we got showered and dressed and sat in the lounge for a little while before heading over to the Devonshire Hotel for afternoon tea (included in the Spa package for an additional 10 quid).
I had a lovely day and now I am home I am quite tired. I swam for a total of about 90 minutes today in 3 blocks and I never felt like I was working hard, I was just swimming along lost in my own thoughts, watching the light play on the wood above or listening to the water around me. Now though I can feel the exercise, I’m a happy sort of physically tired.
So the Spa. At 99 quid per person it’s not cheap but that does included the two treatments, drinks and a light lunch (which we didn’t have because we upgraded to afternoon tea instead). The Spa itself is small and there are bits of it that are beginning to look a bit tired – the shower door in the upstairs shower had a chunk out of the wood, the decking at the end of the pool where the loungers were is looking tired, the locks on the changing cubicles were temperamental. Because of the small size of the spa there are other things which aren’t perfect: I felt a bit like we were perhaps hogging the loungers by the pool a bit – there are only 4. The pool is full with 3 people in it and the sauna and steam room are also small – too small to spend any time in with people you don’t know very well really. There are only 3 showers – 2 downstairs and one upstairs and the changing cubicles are tiny. It made me long for the space of communal changing rooms – none of this privacy to get changed nonsense. It’s all very British – no nakedness please. Funny how I get concerned about not being able to tuck my tummy into paper pants but am more than happy to get changed in communal changing rooms. Anyway, I’m being picky here – I had a lovely day and it was never really crowded. There are water taps and plastic cups outside the relaxation lounge and in the pool area and you can get warm drinks as well as water in the lounge. The lounge is a lovely place to sit and look out over the gardens and tennis courts.
There is a gym too but I didn’t bother. I had vague ideas about popping onto the treadmill for a bit but I was just happy sitting, swimming, drifting…
I’d definitely recommend a day at the Spa for a special occasion and if you’re going, upgrade to the afternoon tea – you might as well. Who knew doing nothing could be so exhausting. I’m ready for bed!
So, flu. Is that nature’s way of telling me to stay in bed for two weeks? I could have done without it. I didn’t have time to be off work ill. The thing about academia is, if you’re off sick, your work just waits for you and piles up and you get back and there’s all the work there just going ‘hello, welcome back. You were 2 weeks behind already, you’re now 4 weeks behind and the week you had planned this week was always totally unrealistic, so make that 5 weeks’. But it is what it is, it’s just that without running I am not very good at the ‘it is what it is’ mindset. I knew running was helping me keep a level head and I’ve blogged about my mental health and my little black labrador puppy (my symbol of depression) before but I didn’t quite realise how much it makes a difference to the little day to day niggles and stresses that we all have. So while I was getting more stressed about being off work and generally feeling crap the three things I do to destress and make sense of the world around me where all out of the question: reading – couldn’t see the page without inducing a major headache, writing – ditto and running – I could barely walk upstairs. That mix made for a particularly grumpy and gloomy me.
I started feeling much better on Wednesday and went back to work Thursday. By Friday I was looking forward to trying a run. We had talked about possibly Saturday. Kath’s knee is much better and she is keen to get going on it and start getting back into things and luckily the flu didn’t hit her quite as hard as me and she is recovering well. However, we had to move our sheep from one field to another – sounds simple, it’s only 200 metres or so along a track but add in 7 perfect, experienced and willing sheep and 7 inexperienced, highly strung and skittish ones and you end up with quite a lot of running around, then there was the 5.30am start to avoid dog walkers etc and then the work to get the field and shed tidied up and sorted… We were really quite wiped out after that. Run postponed until this morning.
I woke up and was quite surprised to see it was 8am. Not sure why I was surprised, I’ve been sleeping at least 10 hours a night for the last week or so. I got up and was even more surprised to find that Kath had only been up an hour or so – she’s usually up really early. We had a cup of tea and then did 15 minutes of flexibility yoga. We drove down the hill just in case Kath’s knee relapsed and we’d need the car to get back up the hill. Then we tried running along the canal..
The autumn colours along the canal are stunning at the moment. We’re clearly not the only ones who think so – it was quite busy with walkers, runners, cyclists and dogs. We had set the intervals to one minute running/ 30 seconds walking and planned to be out for 45 minutes. It felt so good to be out. As I was trying to suck the oxygen into slightly unwilling lungs I also made a conscious effort to look around, take in the colours, watch the ducks, watch the dogs – some excited to be out, some plodding along in the slight drizzle; same as their owners really.
It would be wrong to say that the 45 minutes were easy. That’s not quite it. Running for a minute at times felt about all I could manage (but that’s because I knew it was all I had to manage!) and my body didn’t really quite agree that this running things is a good idea. It felt like I had accumulated a load of crap in my lungs, it felt like my legs were a mixture of concrete and jelly – heavy and wobbly at the same time, I felt slightly uncorordinated and not very sure-footed but I also felt a sense of being able to do it. Maybe my ‘I can’t do this’ voice still has flu, or maybe it’s gone on holiday – whatever, it wasn’t there today. Eventhough the run was hard physically it was probably the easiest run I have had mentally. I was excited to be out, running, doing, getting back on track.
We didn’t worry about pace at all. We didn’t look until we had finished. We were at just over 13 minutes per mile. It may sound slightly ridiculous but I am really quite happy about that – we used to work hard to get to 13 minutes per mile and now this was just a first jog after weeks out. I really do think we are making progress and the training is working!
Kath’s knee held up. She said it is a little achey now and she’ll be careful and get some ice on it etc but there is no pain.We came home and did 15 minutes of yoga for runners. Then Kath made pancakes but not before we got on the scales for our weigh in – I have lost a pound, Kath stayed the same. Happy Sunday.