Dopey 2019: Arrival and Expo Day

Well Dopey 2019 is underway. It’s 5k day. I meant to blog last night to tell you about travel and expo etc but I was too tired! So today you’ll get two posts. Let’s start with getting here. We actually set off on Monday afternoon and drove to Manchester airport. We’d booked an airport hotel just in case the weather was going to be bad. As it turned out we didn’t really need it but it was still nice to get our Disney World adventure started. We had an early dinner in the hotel, watched TV for a while and then got an early night.

In the morning we had a cuppa in bed and an apple, showered and wandered down to check out of the hotel and into our flight. Everything went smoothly and even security was pretty fast- unusual for Manchester. Then we sat in the lounge and had breakfast. Eventually it was time to board and we got settled in. Then we sat on the tarmac for ages because there was in issue with one of the luggage containers. We finally took off an hour later than we were scheduled to. Otherwise the flight was fine. We watched Deadpool 2 and a little while later we watched Christopher Robin. Then I listened to music for a bit but eventually got bored and we watched Solo. Then there was just an hour to go. Just after we landed we saw a heron as we were taxiing to the terminal building. Herons are my good omen birds, they are majestic. This trip is going to be fabulous! Immigration was fast but luggage took ages to come and then there was a little wait for the Magic Express to take us to the Contemporary Resort. We were also the last drop off. So by the time we got here it was 6.30pm or 11.30 pm at home- way past our bed time.

Tired as we were, we still had a little walk over to the Magic Kingdom. How could we not. I was excited to see the Christmas decorations still up. I had expected them to be gone. We walked up Main Street USA to the castle and back through the shops. It’s funny how a place can be so so far from home and yet so utterly familiar. I always find it overwhelming. I don’t understand why I like it, I shouldn’t. This icon of corporate America should not work on me. But it does. It makes me happy in a way that is impossible to describe. It makes the Magic of life tangible, it makes dreams come true and it makes me cry happy tears every time. This time was no different.

Then I unpacked, we had a bit of food and then we crashed into bed and I was out like a light. I woke at 1am and didn’t think I’d get back to sleep but then it was suddenly 3.30 and after dozing a little while we decided there was not point pretending that we weren’t wide awake. I made coffee and we sat in bed talking, reading and catching up on social media etc. I suddenly felt a bit anxious about the Expo, a bit daunted by what was to come but also excited. I finished unpacking and we began to sort what we would need for the day. At 6am we went downstairs to the Contempo Cafe where Kath got a snack of 2 boiled eggs (I took a porridge bar with me) and we filled our Resort mugs with hot drinks and had a mini breakfast watching the world go by. After that we walked the Contemporary Resort running track, saw another heron and got ready for a proper breakfast at Chef Mickey’s shortly before 8am. After filling our tummies and saying hi to Mickey and friends (again, why do I have fun here? It’s utterly ridiculous) we headed for the bus to take us to the Expo at ESPN Wide World of sports.

There are always horror stories about long queues and merchandise being sold out etc but that is just not our experience. If you want to learn how to do a huge event, ask these guys. As we got off the coach we could already hear an announcer giving out info about where to find various aspects of the Expo. Signs were everywhere and clear so we quickly found the arena in which to pick up our bib pick up area and didn’t need to queue to get ours. Kath nearly ended up with the wrong half and full marathon one though, luckily she checked just as we were walking away. You have to have your picture taken with one bib to avoid cheating so they can check that you really are running all 4 races I suppose. Then we picked up our shirts, all 6 of them. Again it was clear where we needed to go and it wasn’t far for us Dopeys. In fact ours was in the same area, I think all others had to go to a different building. Somehow though even these simple directions appear to be rocket science for some. We kept tripping over lost looking people who needed to be pointed in the right direction by volunteers. We tried our shirts on while we waited in line for a Dopey picture. The sizing is odd. None of the shirts are the same size and the 5k t-shirt is way bigger than the long sleeved Tees for the others but of course they only swap them in batches. I was happy to keep mine but the men’s small was too big on Kath and there was no extra small available so she swapped for a woman’s cut.

Once sorted we headed to the exhibitors bit, walked through, looked at a couple of things but didn’t see any good gloves, no soft bottles at all and race number magnets that were really expensive. So we didn’t spend anything there but I was impressed with the space again. It was busy but the booths had all been given space and the paths between exhibitor stands were wide enough to accommodate people. Impressive!

Next we left the second arena and entered another – this one to pick up our pre-order commemorative things, check in for race retreat and look at runDisney merchandise. This was a bit frustrating because nobody could tell us where we could check in for race retreat but once checked in we would get priority access to the merchandise area. Eventually someone let us in and pointed us vaguely in the right direction. This was the closest we came to a sense of humour failure but we were soon back laughing at people getting all stressed about getting absolutely all merchandise for their race distance. We looked at the runDinsey stuff. In the end we each bought a vest and I bought a jacket. There were some nice t-shirts too and mugs and wine glasses and all sorts of stuff but I really do not need more stuff. We found the pre-order pick up, got our things – silly things that will hopefully make us laugh as well as remember our achievements in the future- and then finally found someone who could point us to the race retreat check in. We got that sorted and then headed back to the bus.

I had honestly expected it to be much more frustrating and for it to take longer. On the bus back I reflected on the task ahead. I’m not sure my brain has registered exactly what it is we are doing this week. I was getting excited but I was also not really allowing myself to think about the marathon. We will see how this mental game plays out. Once we dumped our things we decided to have lunch at the Wave in our hotel, one of my favourite Disney restaurants and one of the few you can get a table without booking in advance. We didn’t want to risk getting grumpy because we were hungry. After amazing crab cakes and a beef and onion roll we were ready for some theme park adventures and headed to Epcot. We stayed in Future World leaving the World Showcase for another day. Some of my favourite rides/attractions are here, Figment, Soarin’ and the manatees in the big aquarium. Then we had dinner in the Coral Reef restaurant and had an amazing table right by the fish tank. We weren’t far off falling asleep in our non alcoholic cocktails though!

We were in bed by 8pm ready for Dopey Day 1. 20000 steps for a Disney Day was taking it very easy indeed and it was lovely to do some of our favourite things without any pressure to do everything because we have a full week after Dopey to enjoy the parks. I even got to sit in the warm sun for bit while Kath did Mission Space. It was a really good day and even with the crowds my anxiety levels stayed low. I was excited to get Dopey started!

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!

2018 Running: Further, Stronger, Happier

2018 pledge!

2018 started with a pledge try and run 1000 miles. I never really thought I’d get all the way there. I did say in my first post of the year that I really wanted to have a crack at it but in my head my A Goal was 750 miles, B goal was to run more than in 2017 and C to get out and run and enjoy it. Well I have well and truly smashed 2018! My Year end total is 810.34 miles

January was cold and icy and I struggled to get myself out the door on loads of occasions. I found running hard but I still had some fantastic adventures running at the Bolton Abbey Estate and in London’s Hyde Park with Kath, running to work meetings in Saltaire and surviving a work team building couple of days in the Lake District. I was pushed out of my comfort zone which basically set the tone for the rest of the year – but in a good way.

February saw a fair bit of canal towpath running and it also saw me not finish the Harwood House Half Marathon. It was the first time that I really didn’t mind a DNF and enjoyed the part of the race that I managed. My hip was sore though and took a while to recover. February gave way to March and my running mojo and mileage didn’t pick up – in fact they plummeted further. There was snow and I was restless and grumpy about running. My chart shows a scattering of short runs with long gaps in-between.

April was better. I got my shit together and I got my backside round the Hawkshead 10km run and enjoyed it. In spite of the very slow pace and the terrifying downhill I loved it. I look back at it often and it somehow seems like one of the defining moments of 2018 in running terms. I found it impossible, the uphill, the mud, the slippery slate downhill but I loved it. And the adventures didn’t stop there. We ran in Bronte country, we ran almost to Burnsall, we ran our canal loops that were beginning to look alive in the spring sunshine and I meandered happily into May.

May brought more epic adventures. We conquered the Toronto Half marathon and I suddenly believed that I might have a 2.45 half marathon in me. I missed it this time but I hadn’t really believed I could go under 2.50 so a 2.48 was awesome. We ran on the Moors here and I ran in London and it was all quite lovely. In June the mileage dropped a little and I don’t really remember much about June running. It was fairly consistent but I didn’t blog much so maybe it was just uneventful. It ended with Day 1 of Endure 24 and July began withDay 2 and saw me go beyond marathon distance for the first time ( 6 x 5 mile laps) even if mostly walking.

July was all about low mileage but epic locations. We were in Australia. I ran on the beach, in the rainforest and the Brisbane Parkrun as well as tourist-running epic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House. Australia running was mind-blowing. We also registered for the Dopey Challenge while we were there so our running adventures were set to continue!

August saw the mileage increase again and I broke through the 500 mile mark. While that was fantastic I mentally struggled in August and my black pup was hanging around. September started well with the Great North Run (which I never did fully blog about but it was a solid half marathon which could have been epic if I’d been able to keep my head together. I learned a lot!). Then after that I got a horrible cold/flue thingy that I just could not shake off. When I eventually did I came back strong. The last three months of running have been solid. Mostly they have been enjoyable and while there have been tantrums and meltdowns – particularly on the long distances – I have not, other than in the heat of the moment, fallen out of love with running. I want to run!

December has been my highest mileage month ever. I haven’t pushed for that, it just happened. And I have enjoyed December and still feel physically strong. It’s almost like I might actually feel ready for Dopey! So what has 2018 taught me? Well, it’s taught my to enjoy running and to focus on enjoying it, to make that the key motivation not a side effect or nice to have. I’ve used my hashtag of #MyRunMyRules less but embraced the spirit of it more. I am getting much better at ignoring what I think is a respectable pace and doing my thing. I am growing in confidence and I am embracing a spirit of adventure. Looking back at the year I know I had low points, I know I had a fair bit of ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘it’s all f-ing pointless’ but I don’t really remember that. I have run better, further, stronger and most importantly happier than ever before. The pictures dotted through this post show some of the running moments and memories that encapsulate that (although many of my favourite moments weren’t captured because they were not that sort of moment). I am excited to see what 2019 brings.

Happy New Year!

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.

Running for Mind in 2019

I don’t know about you but I have, for at least the second year running, not really managed a Christmas wind down. The first semester has once again been brutal, I finished work on Friday with a mountain of stuff still left on the to-do list and I feel like I have dragged myself to the end of the term just sort of hanging on. Running has been lovely for headspace and to give me some time to not think and let my brain do its thing and it has been good to work physically somewhere near as hard as I’ve been working mentally. But I can’t say I’ve managed to unwind yet. The second Dopey Challenge Simulation which we finished yesterday shows, I think, just how wiped out I am. I went to bed just after 9pm last night and slept until 8am and then had another 2 hour kip at lunch time. I could go back to bed now (it’s not even 6pm).

But slowly I am beginning to feel Christmass-y. The silly music is on, I’ve had a mince pie or two, the fridge is full of Christmas (and birthday) food, the tree looks lovely and I’ve just lit some candles. Dad is here, arrangements are made for Christmas Day and I have a plan for my birthday (read – do nothing). I’m starting to feel calmer and a little more settled and a little more like I might be able to ignore the work list. I realise that I am one of the lucky ones though. Overall the Christmas break is a good time, a time I like and a time for reflection, cuddles, being together and a good measure of silliness. It’s a time to help my mental health re-balance.

I am pleased to see more recognition on social media that Christmas can be really tough for people for all sorts of reasons so this post has two purposes (yes I know I’ve taken while to get to this point):

  • To remind you that it is absolutely ok not to be ok. You don’t have to be jolly and loud and extrovert and festive. You do whatever you need and remember that there are people you can reach out to. Mind has some links/numbers for us on their website.
  • To let you know that Kath and I will be running the London Marathon for Mind and to ask for your support. We’ve had some really lovely and generous sponsorship already and we really appreciate it.

I’ve been lucky I guess. I’ve never needed Mind’s services as such. I’ve had one amazing doctor and a therapist who is incredible and ‘gets me’. I’m making progress and have far more good days than bad days. Sometimes I can even laugh at the bad days. I’m mostly in a good place and certainly feel like I understand my mental health and ill-health more now. Mind helps with this journey for so many people directly through support services and indirectly by providing information and education. I really want them to be able to keep doing what they do because one day that phone number, that online community or that information leaflet might be a lifeline for any of us. So when Kath was offered a place to run the London Marathon for Mind, I jumped at the chance to link my ballot place and also officially run for them.

Running will be my life-line over the next couple of weeks. I get irritated with the Christmas thing and people and the forced, fake cheerfulness all around and don’t even get me started on New Year and resolutions and the huge damage the fitness and diet industry will inflict in January. Running will be my me-time and headspace. It will make Christmas positive and fun because this is how I roll (sometimes literally) and as I run I often think back to the days when getting out of bed was impossible – running is a win, a huge one. So the Dopey Challenge which starts on 10th January and the London Marathon in April are for those of you who are currently facing your own impossible. If any of you can support mine and Kath’s efforts and sponsor us, you can do so here. I know it sounds cliched but it really does mean a lot to be able to do this!

Thank you!