Dopey Simulation 1 – Miles in the Rain

Today I had a lovely little run/walk at Bolton Abbey and by ‘little’ I mean 10 miles. Nothing happened, nothing at all. No drama, no struggle, no serious tiredness, no pain… So that wasn’t necessarily expected. Long runs often mean some kind of drama and this one came after a 45 minute run on Thursday and a 4 mile run yesterday. So let me tell you about just how uneventful this run was.

We got to Bolton Abbey at 9am, had a pee, set off separately – I wanted to run 1 minute, walk 1 minute to make sure it was nice and easy and I have enough left for tomorrow. Kath did her own thing and I watched her disappear up the slope, got distracted by something and then couldn’t see her anymore. I didn’t know if she’d gone the top or bottom way. I just kept plodding along in the rain, passed a red spaniel with its humans and it said hi and bye. I got to mile 1 and then mile 2 and saw Kath at the other side of the river and jumped up and down and waved but she didn’t see me. I crossed over Barden Bridge and saw two blokes with a black dog which was excited to come through the gate into the field with me.

Half Way Point

Mile 3 came and went and then mile 4 and I was happily running a minute and walking a minute. I briefly stopped at mile 5 to take a half way picture and plodded on. A little after that I met another red spaniel, a baby spaniel (with her humans) who had trouble keeping her excitement under control. I plodded on, mile 6, past the Abbey and up through the grounds and then back down the other side down through the field and into the car park, along the car park and towards the Cavendish Pavilion. There was a split second where I wondered whether maybe the 7ish miles I’d done was enough and the temptation of a steaming cup of coffee was real but I quickly turned right across the bridge to tackle the aqueduct loop the ‘wrong way round’. 

Kath coming down the hill

7 miles. I was just about to walk up the steep long section that usually terrifies me running down it the other way, when I saw Kath coming down it. We had a quick chat and on I went. I wasn’t strictly sticking to the 1 minute/1 minute anymore now. I walked a little more of the uphill and ran more of the downhill rather than taking the intervals where they fell. 8 miles. Then pretty much 8.5 miles as I reached the aqueduct and crossed over – and on I went. I was getting a little tired now but it was all still very comfortable.

I met a couple more dogs and their humans, 9 miles. I stopped for a picture with Rudolph and plodded on. I tried to text Kath to ask her to order me a bacon sarnie so I wouldn’t miss the breakfast serving time but I had no signal. I counted down the Advent Calendar Christmas trees as I passed them and weaved my way round small people and their obnoxious parents who seemed to fill the entire path with prams, bags and swinging limbs. I could see Santa’s grotto. 10 miles. I sped up. I had just a few minutes before breakfast would end. I made eye contact with an elf outside the grotto who tried to stop a family from stepping out of the grotto and into my path but failed and I nearly mowed down ‘grandma’ who seemed to take my ‘excuse me’ as her cue to step further into my path and fling her arms out. We did a slightly awkward little dance and I was through. Just a few more steps and I was done. Tailwind rebuild recovery and a bacon sarnie together with a huge cup of coffee seemed like a suitable way to celebrate a good run

Me and Rudolph

So how are we doing with the Dopey simulation? Well it has all been about the rain – the run today was mostly in the rain. The run last night was all in the rain – it was a plod but  I got out after a day of 6 hours of teaching and the best part of 10 hours at work. Thursday I actually managed to get out when it wasn’t raining. Kath and I happily plodded our sheep loop and just as we got back it poured it down. So there we are, it’s going well. The big one is tomorrow. 20 miles. I’m mildly terrified but also looking forward to it. See you on the other side.

Grumpy Grouse and too many miles

So last weekend we were due to run the Bolton Abbey Half Marathon in the Run for Manorlands event. I was not as nervous about it as I thought I might be. I felt good after the kingfisher miles when I woke up and thought that actually it might be ok and I would worry about the remaining miles to get me to the 20 it said on the plan after the event. However, Kath was struggling. It was clear that doing an organised event with people, a fixed time and fixed route was not going to work or be good for either of us. We decided IMG_2851not to go and run round here instead. Soon it became clear that that wasn’t going to be healthy either. A long run was too much for our fragile brains. We did manage to get out in the afternoon for a short little run and walk and even got Kath home for the start of the rugby while I toddled along to the co-op. I saw a very pretty duck on the canal if I remember my days properly.IMG_2886

I then actually managed to run twice during the week! On Monday and Thursday I dragged my butt round roughly 4 miles. I don’t really remember anything much about Monday’s run – it was along the canal and it was in the morning I think and it was promising to be a beautiful day. On Thursday we went up. Kath went ahead and she picked me up on her way back down. I plodded my way up Ilkley Road towards Ilkley Moor and saw pheasants and inquisitive fluffy cows and a kestrel. Just as I was beginning to long for enough breath to be able to swear at the hill something caught my eye – red kites circling above me. I stopped to watch them for a while, got my breath back, marched up the hill and saw Kath. We stood together and watched the kites a while longer before making our way back down.

 

We moved the weekends around so this weekend then became our long run weekend. Yesterday the plan said 8.5 miles walk. We vaguely toyed with the idea of getting the train up to Haworth and running to Top Withens but as we went to bed on Friday we were talking about plans and agreed that Kath should just get out and run if awake early and ready to go. She did exactly that and was back not that long after I’d woken up. I had actually planned on going back to bed for a bit but Shackleton had other ideas and was curled up in the warm patch I’d left. So I sat on the sofa a while cuddling our Ernie-Cat and when Kath got back we had breakfast and then did sort of nondescript Saturday IMG_2950things for a while and then I set off on my run. I was planning on taking it really easy and do a 1 minute run/1 minute walk with more walking if needed. I wanted as much as possible in the tank for today.

I had a lovely run out. I stuck to the intervals all the way with the odd longer walk or longer run to let people pass or to get past them. At no point did I find it hard, at no point was there a mental battle, I was just out enjoying the autumn sun. I stopped the watch after 8.5 miles and then walked the remaining half a mile home. It felt good to have had a positive outing and to have completed a full week of the Dopey Plan.

IMG_2953Today was the big one. We were supposed to cover 20 miles. We’d already said we would probably not cover the entire distance because we wanted to go to Bolton Abbey and run there and go up to Simon’s Seat on Barden Moor. Anything over 16 ish felt ok in my head given the terrain we would cover. I felt up for it this morning, perhaps a little anxious but generally fine about going. We parked in the top carpark because there are still roadworks blocking the road down to the Cavendish Pavilion. We set off from there and made our way down to the stepping stones and crossed over the bridge. We stayed on the bottom path and ran/walked until we started going up, then we more walked/ran and eventually just walked. So the elevation profile gives you a sense of our adventure today:

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Basically it was a hike with a little, tiny little bit, of running thrown in. To be honest, the up was fine. It was hard and I am so totally not hill fit but it was fine, it was a challenge and one I knew I’d rise to – might just be a matter of time but if there is a hill I will get to the top of it eventually. I could have run some of the bits along the top – particularly for example the ridge line between Lord’s Seat and Simon’s Seat but the path is flagged and the flags were wet and I’m a wimp and also I was conscious that I had a very very long way to cover still. we reached Simon’s Seat. No really, it’s there.

 

We’d been running in a mixture of low cloud and mist and that easterly wind they talked about on the forecast – yep it was there. Still it was somehow lovely. There were no other people for a start. It wasn’t a menacing wind, just a wind and the mist and cloud felt like it was hiding us from the world beyond, keeping us safe from the hustle and bustle. There was a hint of magic in the air interrupted only by the chuntering of the grouse.

Anyway, the problem with going all that way up is that at some point you have to come IMG_2973back down. I’m not a fan of down. It took me longer to get down from Simon’s Seat (about a mile) than it takes me to run 5km on the flat. It pushed a whole load of buttons and took a huge amount of mental strength. The views were pretty good when I remembered to look and we had some giggles on the way down. More grouse – they must the grumpiest bird on earth. They sort of go from a slightly surprised but more irritated alarm call to a grumble to flying away chuntering like they are muttering grouse profanities under their breath. We did get really close to one which grumbled but refused to fly off – though I am now muddled as that must have been earlier between the two Seats.

Anyway the down. A few times Kath reminded me to just keep moving and that it is actually harder if you stop. She probably has a point. At one point though she called back saying ‘just keep your momentum through this bit’ as she glanced back she just saw me perfectly poised balancing on one leg saying ‘yep, too late’ as I ungracefully flung myself forward, slipped on the mud, wobbled, caught myself and whimpered. We dissolved into fits of giggles before moving on. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, we were down, on a proper lane. I set the run/walk intervals and waited for Kath to re-tie her shoelaces. I felt drained. It had been a physical challenge in the sense that  the up is pretty brutal when you’re actually not all that fit and that my ankles and core most definitely got a workout on the way down and it had been mentally pretty tiring. I really wasn’t sure I’d have another 10 miles or so in me. Kath read my mind (usually does) and suggested that we could split the run. So rather than turning towards Burnsall, we’d simply head back towards Bolton Abbey and then head home and go out again later in the day. That sounded like a more manageable plan and would still justify the medal the Run for Manorlands team had so kindly posted us.

IMG_2975We ran walked a lot of the way back. It was ok. In fact some of it was actually fun and I felt strong and positive and there weren’t any major battles going on in my head. I was tired and my back and hips were tightening but it was all ok and the scenery was stunning. We made it back to the Pavilion, Kath stopped at the loos and then we did the last push back to the car. We drove home and planned to go straight out again. As we got home Kath wondered whether maybe actually we’d done enough. We’d been out a long time and we had worked hard. I should have listened – that was the sensible call. At the very least we maybe should have had a longer rest. But no. In my head the 12.6 miles we’d done were nowhere near close enough 20. In my head I needed to go out and do more. So we set off. About half a mile in I decided that actually it was good to have made myself go out again. At a mile I knew it it wasn’t. I had nothing left. There were people, too many people and it felt like Kath was running really fast and I couldn’t make myself go any faster. Then there was some traffic noise and I physically flinched and then there were more people and I could see more ahead and I couldn’t run and I couldn’t stop the rising panic and I couldn’t find the words to explain to Kath and we got our wires crossed and I just wanted to be somewhere else, somewhere quiet, maybe with the grouse. We walked home. Another 1.85 miles added.

As we got in the house I started crying. I’m not even really sure why. 14.45 miles will have to do for today. It’s not 20 but there are no ups or downs like the ones I tackled today at Disney. I had a lovely time out there – I shouldn’t have gone out again, not straight away anyway, but we live and learn. I don’t feel broken now, tired yes, broken no. Every time I close my eyes I can hear the grouse chuntering and see that one suspiciously watching us as we made our way past. We saw herons and dippers today too and for the first time realised that the pretty birdsong we couldn’t place belongs to a dipper. It’s been a good day and the 1.85 mile meltdown doesn’t change that.

Sunday weigh in – I’m the same and Ernie cat has put on 400grams which is awesome news!

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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.

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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Bolton Abbey to Burnsall – well nearly!

Kath had a day off today so after spending some time sorting the most urgent emails and planning my conference paper for our Toronto trip we headed over to Bolton Abbey. We were planning to run from there to Burnsall and back – roughly 12 miles. I was a little apprehensive. Not quite sure why but I think maybe because it’s a sort of milestone route in my running journey. The first time we tried I couldn’t do it and had probably my most dramatic running meltdown where I actually had to sit down by the river for a few minutes to stop sobbing. That route has always been a big deal. I was so anxious about it  and wrote about that the day before we tried again. Then we did it.

So the last time I struggled quite a lot. While the route is stunning I struggled to take it in and I added in additional walks and was in quite a lot of pain at the end of the 11 miles that we did that day. So we got to Bolton Abbey and the weather was looking pretty good. It was colder than it has been and I had dressed accordingly but the sun had come out and I wondered whether I was going to be too warm. We used 1 minute run/30 second walk intervals and started, as we did last time, at the top of the first slope. It took a little while to settle in and I’m still having some hay fever issues but it wasn’t too bad. We saw some wagtails and dippers as well as blue tits, great tits and a couple of wrens early on and before I knew it really we’d reached the Strid, made our way up the ‘steps’ and onwards to the aqueduct and then Barden bridge. It started raining.

We crossed Barden bridge, made our way along a footpath alongside a short stretch of road and then into the first of many fields. The route is part of the Dales Way and runs through fields and on paths running at the side fields and the edge of the river Wharfe. For most of it I was just following Kath letting her pick the route through and trying to mimic her bounciness and confidence (fake it until you make it, right?) but in one rare moment of sensible decision making I decided not to follow her through a really boggy bit and changed direction just as she disappeared knee deep into what had vaguely looked like solid ground. For most of the way we kept to the run/walk intervals exactly. There were a couple more technical sections where we picked our way through more carefully and then a set of steep steps which we walked on both the up and down!

The rain was constant now and heavy. At the top of the steps Kath said we should stop because I wasn’t enjoying it. That pissed me off a bit. I was fine and actually not miserable. I was still going pretty well  – I’d just made a comment about remembering these steps from last time, I think I nearly cried when we got to them on the way back last time. We got back on the same page and continued. About a mile later, with the rain whipping in our faces and the wind making it feel really quite cold, we decided to turn back. Being miserable is not part of the running plan!

It instantly felt less wet with the rain coming from behind (well until my rain jacket was soaked through and everything was just sticking to my back). We took a few walk breaks out and made good progress and before we knew it we were at 7 miles. I can’t remember exactly where but in one of the fields we came across a lamb that didn’t look too good. Kath checked it. It was dead – no obvious reason but clearly dead. It felt awful just continuing on. Obviously if there had been anything at all we could have done for it we would have stopped but there was nothing there to even try and revive. We had an extra little walk to pull ourselves together and then carried on lost in our own memories of lambing and lambs.

After a bit of quiet time we refocused on the beauty of our surroundings. It was still raining but there was lots of gorgeousness – watching the swifts/sand martins play over the river and fields for example, the lambs bouncing, the ewes grazing and watching, the different shades of greens, the moor and Simon’s Seat in the distance. If you’re missing photos – sorry it was too wet to even think about getting my phone out. I started to listen more to the river. Somehow it was talkative today. On the out run it had sounded grumpy to me. It was like it was cross with us or the world in general. It was a slightly unnerving noise when I was aware of it anyway. On the way back it didn’t seem like that. It seemed to be roaring us on through the loud sections and the quieter ones were a mix of friendly chatter, calm reflection and happy gurgling.

Kath managed to avoid the bog on the way back and before I knew it we were through 8 miles and back on very familiar territory. I still felt quite strong. The last mile was more of a struggle and I was getting tired. 10 and a quarter miles done today. We got soaked to our knickers but it was good and we did get a mile and a bit at the end without rain to help us dry off a little. By the end my hips were a bit tight and my ankles tired and as the day has gone on my glutes are saying ‘hi’ but it’s all good and I’m really happy with how I managed to keep moving through the muddy puddles and slightly more tricky terrain. So while it wasn’t the 12 mines we had planned it was good and we’re ready for the half marathon on 6th May. I never really feel prepared for races, ever, but I’m not terrified and that is as good as it gets!

I had more tailwind (reviewed here) today and my two little bottles over the distance today were plenty – it wasn’t hot so if it gets hotter I probably need more  – or the same amount in more water. The new order arrived today too and includes some stick packs of their recovery drink to try so I’ll let you know about those once I’ve had chance to test one.

And just for the record: Happiness is dry socks!

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