500 Miles and Running with the Black Pup

IMG_2178It has been a funny old week. Well actually it hasn’t, or at least I haven’t been able to find anything funny about it. It’s probably been hilarious. The foggy tiredness started to descend on Sunday evening; a vague darkness settling, clinging, making itself at home. The black pup had, somehow unnoticed, crept into the room. She was asleep in the corner and I was cross I hadn’t seen her coming in. I went to bed. Maybe she wasn’t really there, maybe I was just tired (‘nah, I’m here, you know that kinda tired, it’s me).

Monday. Bank Holiday Monday. Monday was supposed to be long run and sort our shit out day. We were due to do 11 miles. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting up but eventually did and put my running kit on and then froze. I was rooted to the spot. There was no way I was going OUTSIDE. I mean seriously – like OUTSIDE? Freezing had nothing to do with running or the distance. I was quite happy about the idea of plodding along for 11 miles with my run/walk intervals, it was actually quite appealing but it would mean LEAVING THE HOUSE. Fuck no. The pup lifted her head: ‘Hi!’

I spent most of the morning on the sofa while Kath went and did the food shop and after a little while I started to want to run. When Kath got back I got changed and considered the possibility of leaving the house. Hm. The pup looked up again ‘Hi! You going out? Nah you’re not really are you’. I hesitated, she might be right. I hovered in the kitchen a little. Kath opened the door and gently nudged me out of it. I stood there for a minute or two and if Kath hadn’t been between me and the door I probably would have run back in. Instead we set off gently jogging down the street and I settled into a steady rhythm. I kept running for the entire 3.75 miles and then we walked up the hill home stopping for blackberries here and there. It was a definite win. It wasn’t 11 miles but it was a run. The pup was sulky and she was zapping all my energy. IMG_2177

Tuesday I worked from home and the plan was to run from Bolton Abbey to Burnsall after work. I was looking forward to it. I had an ok day. The pup was in the room and she lifted her head every now and again but generally kept quiet. She was there though. She was making me tired. We set off to go on our run. The route is stunning and I was looking forward to it. The run/walk intervals were set to 2 minutes run and 30 seconds walk. We set off. I felt tired and creaky but I was sure I’d settle.  I’m not quite sure when the negative chatter started. The puppy was bouncing along enjoying her time out and pointing out that I was feeling creaky. ‘Tight calf muscles?’ she would giggle periodically ‘comes from being unfit that’. The first mile was soooo slow. At least that’s what I thought. ‘Wow so slow?’. I tried to reason – lots of the route had been uphill, it was undulating generally… the pace was actually fine but I couldn’t shake the negativity. With every step it got worse.

IMG_2172I knew I was physically fine. Logically I knew that. I also knew that I was running well within myself, I knew the route was gorgeous, I knew…. but I couldn’t make myself believe it. By just under 4 miles I felt dead on my feet. It all felt totally pointless. The pup was bouncing round in circles – ‘you can’t do it, you can’t do it’. I decided to pull out of the Great North Run. I decided to bin long distance running. We stopped for a minute or two and I took a few deep breaths and kicked the pup. She growled but took off  and I got my act together for a bit and kept going. By just over 4 miles she’d caught up and she was on form: ‘Can’t do it, can you? Soooo slow, you won’t make the cut off time. Wow, it’s a wonder that butt can move at all – have you seen the size of it?’ She was relentless. I was tired and I gave up. I was pretty sure that was it, no more running because it just makes me miserable. I wondered if I could sell my Dopey registration. We sat by the river for a few minutes.

Then we slowly started walking back. The pup found it all hilarious and bounced around mocking me. I felt silly. I wanted to try running a little more so we ran/walked a bit – sometimes sticking to the intervals, sometimes just going by feel. I tried to think rationally and logically about the run  – prompted by some questions from Kath. Analysing it hushed the puppy a bit, she’s not keen on the science brain. Why did this run go so wrong mentally. Why could I not silence or at least quieten the negative chatter? Well, partly I think I had no plan. I assumed that because I had abandoned the idea of a long run on Monday that Tuesday would be the triumphant return to the distance. I had unrealistic expectations about pace based on the previous week’s 9 miles on the flat andIMG_2182 when that just didn’t happen (and it was never going to) I had no plan B and because of the depression absolutely no mental energy to stop the negativity and self doubt. I need a Plan B and C and possibly D. What I should have been working with was that Plan A was to cover the distance at a strong pace using the intervals, maybe Plan B could have been to cover the distance using the intervals as set – whatever the pace; Plan C to cover the distance adding extra walks where needed…. If I hadn’t built up the run quite so much in my mind and had articulated (at least to myself) the possibility of other plans or other ways of running it, I may have had a chance. Maybe not, it may simply be that the puppy was too much for me on that day. In the end I still covered 8.8 miles and in the end it was within Disney Pace (16 minute mile is the pace requirement for the Disney races – it was 15 something or other). That should be a win. It felt like total failure.

Back at the car I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I felt dead on my feet and everything hurt. I felt like I could sleep for months. Back at home though I couldn’t settle and I didn’t sleep well. Wednesday I worked on a workbook for one of my modules (frustrating, templates, urgh) and then drove to Nottingham for a gorgeous few hours with my friend Bex. It was just what I needed and I think maybe the pup stayed here in West Yorkshire. I think maybe Bex terrifies her a bit so she left me alone for the day and it was nice, it felt like maybe the darkness was lifting a little, feeling less clingy. By the time I got back it wasn’t long before I went to bed. Thursday I worked from home again and I vaguely wondered about a run but I couldn’t shake the tiredness and the non-specific ache. We’d booked a yoga class in the evening and I spent most of the late afternoon looking for an IMG_2167excuse not to go. But we went. I was again creaky and not at all bendy or strong but it was good to have to leave the house and to spend some time focusing on nothing but trying to get into and hold the poses. Black pups aren’t allowed into the gym.

This morning I actually got shit done. Kath had an appointment at Bolton Abbey and I went with her and while she was there I went for a run. I was dubious. I wasn’t sure I was mentally any stronger than Tuesday. But I had a different plan. I knew I had about an hour and I had 3 possible routes. The shortest would only be about a mile or so but I decided that if I wasn’t enjoying it or I wanted to stop then that mile would be fabulous. The next loop would probably be about 4 and a half and the longer would add another mile onto that. I had also decided to leave the run/walk intervals as they were and see – my ‘rule’ was that with every beep I would consider changing the pace – that way I could run for longer than the two minutes or walk for longer or whatever but on every beep I would need to think about whether to change. I also decided I might take some photos (dotted through this post for you) and that I was absolutely not thinking about pace. In fact this wasn’t a run at all. It was an outing, it was an opportunity to move and be outside and enjoy myself. If running happened then that was great but, I told the pup quite firmly, we were most definitely not going for a run. ‘Yeah, that’s because you can’t’ she said but she seemed to lose interest.

IMG_2181I set off on the first running interval  – all good. Then another, all good. Then I walked up a long sloping hill. Then I ran down the other side. And that’s how I continued – walking up, shuffling down, running on the flat, stopping for pictures. I didn’t stop after the mile loop, I kept going. I was doing our usual loop now but the wrong way round – I didn’t want any markers that might give me an indication that I was slower than usual. I didn’t want those visual clues to derail the positive of being out. I kept going. I went for the middle loop so crossed the Wharfe at the aqueduct and worked with the same pattern of run walk roughly to the beeps but sometimes running more and sometimes walking more. I chose the top path from the Strid and made good progress walking the up hill bits. Then there was a slight downhill and I started running and it suddenly felt different.  It felt effortless. I only had 100 metres or so before I had to stop to cross a little bridge behind a couple walking their dogs. They let me past but then their dogs came with me so I had to return them. I felt sure the effortlessness must have been an illusion.

I set off running again. Nope, there it was again. Wow, running is easy. Everything IMG_2183
aligned. I was breathing easy, all the creakiness had gone, there was no heaviness in my legs, I was running easy and just for the hell of it. I think I picked up the pace a bit and I just kept going and it felt amazing and joyful and free and light. That last half mile is, I think what we run for – for those occasions when it all comes together and running feels more like flying. Then I was back at the Pavilion and slightly irritated by people getting in my way. I got coffee and waited for Kath and then I got work shit done while she went for a run. It was a good morning.

The pup is here though. She’s lounging about and every now and again lifts her head to say something less than nice or helpful. She’s making me tired – that relentless sort of tiredness. The darkness feels less clingy and I am slowly slowly regaining my sense of humour about some things. It will take time. The pup isn’t one to just pop in for a cuppa and then bugger off again. She’ll linger. After today though I feel more confident that she is actually sort of under control. Like a sprained ankle, I know she’s there and she is stopping me from functioning fully but really is not stopping me from doing that much. I just need to rest more and be kind to myself and be aware of her.

Today’s run also took me through 500 miles for the year so far. I’m now just over 501 miles. I am really proud of this. I managed 500 miles last year – on New Years Eve and exactly bang on so I have now officially done better than last year! I won’t make the 1000 of the #run1000Miles Challenge but that’s ok. I’m running more consistently than I was and I am fitter and stronger than I was – whether the black pup agrees or not!

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Running 500 miles

I have run 500 miles in 2017 (Go on, who is singing the song in your head? All together now: I would walk 500 miles…). I left it to the last minute but 500 miles it is. I am really pleased with that and a little bit proud. 500 miles is a long way. Some of those miles were bloody horrible. They really were but sitting here reflecting on a year of running I don’t really seem to remember those.

Here are the memories that I do cherish from one hell of rollercoaster ride:

The places I’ve run

 

I have loved seeing the seasons change on the loops I run from home, how things look different at different times of the year or even just different times of the day in different light and depending on which way round I’m running the loop. I’ve enjoyed running away from home in places as varied as Seahouses, The Lake District,  Mexico City and Disney World. I’ve loved how running makes you see even familiar places in a slightly different way and how it lets you explore unfamiliar ones. Some of these runs were hard, really hard and included meltdowns but I wouldn’t change a thing. They are now part of my story and part of an awesome running year.

Discovering I’m even more stubborn than I thought (hard to believe, I know)

On several occasions this year I have tried something new – a new trail, a distance I haven’t done for a while, a new surface (think beach), a ridiculous hill… and failed. I img_6555have abandoned several runs because I just couldn’t find the mental strength to push through and on each of those occasions I have gone back out, later that day or the next, and I have done it. I have run each and every one of those routes and every time I found something I didn’t know I had, gritted my teeth and kept putting one foot in front of the other. Towards the end of the year I have found some of that determination or stubbornness without having to give up and later go back out. I’m getting mentally tougher.

The creatures seen

I have been so lucky with wildlife sightings this year. It’s quite staggering to think that I have regularly seen kingfishers; that the flash blue and orange is now almost familiar – 21150784_807647049415445_1183992284_nawesome but familiar. Herons continue to be my good omen bird. They’re so majestic and calm and quiet and somehow they install a sense of quiet confidence in me whenever I see one. There have been regular sightings of smaller birds including dippers, wrens, sparrows, robins, all manner of tits, wagtails… and several sightings of woodpeckers and kestrels. I’ve seen deer, rabbits, a mink, hedgehogs, squirrels and a rat or two. The ducks, geese and swans along the canal have been my cheer squad and several times now we’ve seen red kites at Bolton Abbey (as well as at Bramham Park during Endure24). We also saw some very serious road runners and cyclists and decided they’re funny creatures.

The events

Events featured far less heavily in 2017 than in 2016 but I enjoyed Endure24 for theIMG_7784
camaraderie and our team  – the running was secondary. I didn’t really enjoy the Lakeland Trails Helvellyn event for the running but I enjoyed having completed it and it once again showed me that the impossible is possible. Kath and I learned a lot about each other that day and we’ve changed how we run as a result. It was worth it for that alone.

The people

 

 

I don’t like people generally. So to have a section of this post about the people is slightly odd. However, there are a few who have contributed significantly to me running at all and running 500 miles this year. First, there’s Kath of course. I remain slightly bemused (but very grateful) that she has so far resisted what must be a near overwhelming urge to push me in the canal (or the Wharfe or any other waterway). I wouldn’t be running if it wasn’t for her. Then there are those of my friends, not all runners, who humour me by listening to my running stories, who ‘like’ my posts, who are more supportive than I suspect they realise. I’m looking at you here Bex, Kat, Tammy, Donna, Jenny, Robin, Heather, Sammie, Jo (and others I will have forgotten – sorry). I’m sure having a gym buddy in Nick made me go to the gym and stretch (even if not much else) just enough to avoid serious injury and my online running club continues to provide advice and

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Combined total of 1413.44 miles in 2017

support specific to running as a fat lass at the back. What has surprised me though is how much difference the support of the other Facebook group I joined made. The Trail Running Magazine’s Run1000Miles group has been epic. I thought I’d feel like an outsider at best. I thought I’d be intimidated and daunted but the opposite is true. Seeing the inspiring posts, amazing photos, staggering achievements and the support, advice, encouragement and trail running love in the group made me see running and runners in a whole new way. Without that group I wouldn’t have run 500 miles. I am excited to share their adventures and share mine with them in 2018.

Happy New Year!