I’m not done yet

Is this the longest time I haven’t blogged since I started? It might be. I’ve barely run since the last post. I am still not through 500 miles for the year. You could say the wheels came off. Back in August I tried to hit the re-set button. Well that didn’t work too well because here I am nearly 3 months later and not much has changed. I could go over it all, analyse it, try and make sense of it but honestly it’s just bla bla and more bla.

I last tried to run properly throughout August but usually ended up walking a fair bit and my achilles or calf muscles were often niggly and very tight. I went to Keswick with Dad for a couple of nights and I ran a little while there – run/walk/run with lots of walk. I was grumpy about running. I went to a conference in early September and tried a run – it was fairly horrible and I walked lots and my calf was proper painful. It all seemed pretty pointless. And that sense of pointlessness continued through October. The notion that I might run, never mind be a runner just felt laughable. Still does in a way.

I haven’t blogged because I have nothing to say. As I stopped running or rather just gave up trying to run, I felt relief more than anything. Right, let’s all just stop pretending this was ever going to work. I’m not a runner, we’ve established that now so let’s just move on… I’m actually quite an effective couch potato! Term started, I didn’t miss running. I felt no pangs of envy as Kath pulled on her trainers and headed out. I didn’t even get a rush of excitement scrolling through websites looking at reduced trail running shoes. Nothing, nada. In fact really the only thing I felt was tired and a bit grumpy and a bit angry at the world and fed up and upset at everything and edgy and tense. And then I remembered:

‘You have depression you fucking idiot’ I reminded myself one morning a few days ago and a rare moment of perfect clarity. ‘Depression wants you to think that you can’t run, that it makes no difference, that it’s all pointless… but you can’t be sure it’s real’. Well maybe I had a point. So I went through all the things I was thinking and feeling about how generally crap I am at everything by listing them in my head and then (also in my head) marked them like I would a student essay – which basically meant going through the list and writing ‘unsubstantiated assertion’ in the margin over and over again and ‘You have some interesting ideas which are presented in a relatively coherent manner but your argument lacks evidence, contains factual errors and you do not appear to have consulted even the basic data available to you’ in the (imaginary) comments box.

So after giving my own argument a hard fail I decided it was worth going to my second strength and conditioning session with Katy from RunRight (more on them, why I didn’t want to go but did and how it’s been so far later because they really do deserve their own post) and then the next morning, in spite of soreness in core muscles I had no idea even existed, I went for a run.

We went to Bolton Abbey and we ran the short loop using 30 second run/ 30 second walk intervals. We stopped for photos, we soaked up the colours and we enjoyed being out. I see things differently when I run than when I walk. I see more. That might sounds counterintuitive but it’s true. When I just go for a walk I get too lost in my own world and thoughts. When I run I am much more focused on the surroundings, the colours, the sounds, the smells and I am much more likely to see the wildlife, the birds…

So I ran. It was slow and ploddy but it was ok. I’m not done yet. I did miss it. I just didn’t know I did.

Dopey 2019: 5k day

Today is 5k day. The first of 4 running days making up the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend and the Dopey Challenge. That thing we’ve been training for, that thing I really wanted to do again for some unknown reason, well that thing starts here.

Before we fell into bed after Expo day we got sorted. I woke up at 1am again but dozed off for the alarm to wake me at 2.30. We are still pretty much on UK time so it really didn’t feel that bad. We had a drink in bed and a bagel we’d picked up yesterday. They were dry though so not that nice. Normally I wouldn’t eat anything before a 5k but as we had to be there such a long time before actually running I didn’t want to be really hungry by the time I set off. We got on the first coach at 3.30 and tried to find our inner zen. It was cold! I had planned on long sleeves anyway but I was so glad I decided to wear the official 5k t-shirt over the top. I was still cold.

From the coach parking area we walked a short distance to the security, we didn’t have bags so walked pretty much straight in. I remember last time we did Dopey I was completely overwhelmed on half marathon day because I’d presumed the crowds would be the same as for the 5 and 10k races so I must remember that things will step up significantly on Saturday. Anyway, in the waiting area they had characters for pictures but the lines were really long and we didn’t want to stand in a queue for half an hour minimum. We went to the loo. Event organisers take note – no queues! There were sooooo many loos. We found a bench and huddled together trying to keep warm and watched people and listened to the DJ until it was time to move on to the corrals. There were only 3 for this race and we were in B. It was actually nice to be in a crowd, it made it quite a lot warmer.

We went through about 4.30am and waited and waited some more. The hosts, presenters, whatever you call them did a pretty good job of entertaining us. Just before 5.30 there was the usual National Anthem and then we were off. Once we started moving from the corral it seemed to just move along ok. It probably took us just over 20 minutes to cross the line. They released little mini waves from within each corral at two minute intervals. So, I thought as I came to the line, this is it, Dopey her we go.

The run was amazing. The first couple of hundred metres were a bit stop/start and very slow because people were still clustered together and many were walking but it soon thinned out and people found their pace. I settled in. I had no idea how fast I was running at all. I didn’t care. I felt good and the pace felt comfortable. We made our way out of the Epcot parking lot and into the backlot entrance and then into the park. There is something truly magical about seeing Epcot in the pre-dawn darkness. I was in danger of being overwhelmed again but instead I realised I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. We ran a chunk of the world Showcase and turned left after France and round a little backlot and came out in the UK. I don’t even remember now what the music was but I was humming along as I ran.

There were quite a few characters on the route but I didn’t want to stop, I was having too much fun running and soaking it all up. We turned towards Future World and the ‘golf ball’ looked spectacular as we did a loop away from it before returning and exiting the park into the parking lot and across the finish line. I know I loved the 5k last time too but this was even better. It was easy running, I was just having fun, running confidently and comfortably, not worrying about pace or anything. It was the perfect start.

We picked up our medals. I love the Oswald medal. Obviously I haven’t seen the others properly yet but I think this one might actually be my favourite. Again, race organisers take note, there was lots of space, there were lots of volunteer to first give you the medal, then water and Powerade, then space blankets, then snack boxes and bananas. Once we’d got all that we headed for the buses and encountered a rare Disney logistics fail. The buses could not depart until all runner’s had started and cleared the parking lot section of the race. This seemed idiotic. We waited longer for a bus than it had taken us to run. We had thought about going straight to the animal kingdom which opened at 8am this morning but there was no way of doing that. Given that we had to go to a Resort first we thought we might as well dump our stuff and get changed.

We had a lovely morning in the Animal Kingdom and then came back to the hotel. We’re both really tired and are trying to stay off our feet. Today’s a 21000 step day, that’s very light for a Disney theme park day. Apart from being cold pretty much all day, today has been a great day with lots of fun and smiles. Anxiety levels crept up a little as I got more tired later in the day and I had a few really self-conscious moments today too but overall another really good day. I’m about ready for sleep (it’s about 8pm) and ready for another 2.30am alarm. 10k tomorrow. We are all set. I’m excited about it and a little nervous but really only a little.

2019, it’s lovely to meet you

Am I supposed to start the 2019 blog posts off all happy smiley positive with good news and excitement for what’s to come? Well there will be some of that but I’m going to start a little bit grumpy: I don’t like New Year! Well I do and I don’t. I have an affinity for points in the year where you naturally reflect or plan ahead, where you dream, where you learn. The start of a new academic year, the start of a new Semester even, birthdays, the end of holidays, finishing a book, sometimes, simply finishing a week or even a day. New Year is simply that for me – or it would be if it didn’t come with all this bollocks about being a better you in the new year. I am the same slightly grumpy, slightly mad and slightly bitchy me today as I was yesterday. I don’t change much! I still don’t like people, I still have broccoli cravings and I will still eat cake. I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions. I have a very simple plan that is completely independent of New Year, or any of those other ‘fresh start’ moments. I plan to keep on running as long as I am enjoying running. If it turns out I hate it, well then I won’t run. There are things I’d like to achieve this year, of course, little challenges that keep pushing me out of my comfort zone because that’s where the fun happens – but resolutions? Nope.

I started today with a Double parkrun. I am not a parkrun fanatic or even fan really. This may be hugely unpopular but parkrun freaks me out a little bit. It’s a bit too cult like. I like going along to the odd one and I really like the idea of doing them when we’re on holiday. I have so far ticked off the Brisbane one and then 3 local ones. I’ve only done the Cliffe Castle one twice (new PB today after doing the Myrtle Park one first – happy Jess). I am looking forward to maybe trying a Washington DC one and the new Hamburg one in 2019. Anyway, I digress. Double parkrun this morning. The first was Myrtle Park in Bingley. Hilly. But really not impossible. However, as we waited the place seemed full of club runners and cocky buggers talking about course records for their age groups etc. I felt out of place. I mean FFS, I felt out of place at parkrun! I got a grip and remembered #myrunmyrules. It’s a 4 lap course which I thought would be dull and hard but it’s a lovely and twisty or as one of the little lads we saw said, ‘twiggly’ course. After the first lap I wasn’t sure I’d manage the hills another 3 times but after the 3rd lap I was pleasantly surprised to still be running and to want to finish running. The last hill was a bit of a push but it felt good. The course measured a little short on the Garmin but whatever the actual distance my pace was decent and I felt strong (Home at 36 and half ish minutes)- good sign for Dopey next week!

Then we hopped in the car and drove across to Cliffe Castle. This was the second time for us at this venue. I had a few doubts here. There were people. I don’t like people! But I wanted to do the Double. Finally we set off and settled into a slow trot at the back of the pack. The course is quite narrow making overtaking tricky particularly when you are a slower runner who has to negotiate getting past those even slower while not getting in the way of those runners lapping us. Cliffe Castle is a 3 lap course which is actually mostly downhill with all the up coming in one stint. I walked that. Maybe one day I’ll run it but not today. Again it was a nice plod round in January sunshine in a lovely park setting really. On our final lap we seemed to fall into step with dog Diego and his human for a while. Diego was distracted by everything and ran head first into one of the parkrun signs. I don’t think he hurt himself so it was ok to laugh. Cliffe Castle has a nasty little incline as you approach the finish and I’d watched it come closer as we plodded the final stretch. I was a little concerned about this incline, I wasn’t sure if I could run it. Then Kath said, ‘come on my little Dopey, finish strong’ and out of nowhere I found the energy to power up the hill feeling surprisingly good. Parkrun 2 done. This course also measured slightly short. So maybe my Garmin just doesn’t fancy the distance today.

So that’s the first 6 miles of the year bagged. I am ahead in the #Run1000Miles challenge. I doubt I’ll stay ahead for very long but it feels good to start as I mean to go on! Anyway, here’s my 2019 pledge. I am going to have a crack at the 1000 miles this time. My A Goal is to get to 1000. B is to run a little further than in 2018 and my C Goal is to run and enjoy it whatever the mileage. In fact goals A and B are premised on enjoying the running. I won’t be a mileage slave, it doesn’t work. However what does seem to work is enjoying being out, not taking things too seriously and just seeing what happens – miles take care of themselves that way. I am really excited to be able to share my running adventures with the #Run1000miles gang again this year, but more importantly I am excited to see what everyone else is up to and I’m looking forward to again being inspired by the mileage, the elevation, the scenery and crucially the sense of joy that is so ever present in the Facebook group. If you are a runner, wanna be runner, maybe runner or a I could maybe possibly, perhaps but not really sort of runner, come join us and see if you can surprise yourself running further, stronger and happier like I did last year.

Happy January and Happy 2019. Keep being the amazing, fabulous you!

Dopey Logistics

In the busy-ness of the end of term and pre-Christmas and then the excitement of becoming a Run1000Miles Ambassador and then finding out that both Kath and I can run the London Marathon for Mind, the excitement of finding out the Dopey bib numbers and all that goes with that sort of got lost.

5km Course Map

The Dopey information was released last week. It seems people fixate on this. People spend a disproportionate amount of time worrying about which starting corral they will be in. I remember being very worried about this too when we did Dopey 2016. I was less concerned this time and actually would have been ok starting at the back. I’m more confident that I can do the marathon in the allowed time and I’m no longer concerned about coming last. The proof of time rules were not entirely clear – for anticipated finish times of 5 1/2 hours or less you had to submit a proof of time and it seemed that if your proof of time didn’t match that sort of time you’d be placed at the back.

Marathon Course Map

That’s a longwinded way of saying I was expecting to be at the back because our proof of time was just a few minutes outside what they asked for. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I was then pleasantly surprised to find out that we were in corral F with G and H still behind us. Corrals are massive with mini waves in each so there are likely still be thousands of people behind us and we’ll have a good time buffer. I’m hope I don’t need it, if things go to plan I won’t need it but it’s still nice to know it’s there.

I enjoyed scrolling through the information for the race days and looking at the course maps. I’m getting more excited about it and the expected emotions of anxiety, being scared, self-doubt aren’t… really there. Every now and again they pop up to say hi but they don’t linger – my favourite sort of Christmas guests. And here’s a reminder of my favourite dwarf expressing one of my favourite sentiments.

750 miles

So my running successes and celebrations are a bit like buses! Nothing for some time and then everything happens at once. There was the longest run of the year last weekend and since then it just keeps on coming. Yesterday I shared the news about being a #Run1000Miles ambassador – the excitement of that is not wearing off.

What I didn’t tell you yesterday is that I was supposed to run 45 minutes but just couldn’t be bothered. I was tired and my feet were still really sore from the 20 miles. Not blisters sort of sore but impact, pounding too much road sort of sore. So I went out today instead. I wasn’t massively looking forward to going out, it was soooo cold (not really it just felt like it). I got changed and set off. I had my phone in my back pocket and it seemed to be pulling my pants down so I faffed with that and moved it to me jacket pocket. My pants were still falling down though so I spent more time faffing with trying to tie them tighter – I kept running though.

I got the first mile beep and took a sneaky peek at the time – under 12 minute mile pace which surprised me a little because I didn’t feel like I was going fast. I just kept running , dropped down onto the canal towpath and got lost in just running. I don’t remember thinking about anything. Then my watch suddenly beeped for mile 2 and I glanced. ‘Oh good’ I thought and then ‘what’ and then I looked again. ‘oh’. Mile 2 was 10.38 pace. I was confused. I kept running thinking that maybe I should just slow down a little. By about 2.5 miles it was actually beginning to feel quite hard. But somehow I couldn’t slow down and just kept running. I hit 5k just before I was turning off to go back up the hill so it was sort of perfect. Mile 3 was 10.33 minute/mile pace. I walked up the hill. I covered 3.65 miles. I was confused. I had just run 5k faster, 2 minutes faster, than my previous fastest. 

I got home and popped the mileage into my spreadsheet. I have cracked 750 miles. So in one day I ran fast and cracked the target I set for 2018. I have had a celebratory cup of tea and  piece of chocolate. 

Happy Running