So today was meant to be our 20 miler. Well that wasn’t to be but the drama wasn’t really about running. Neither of us slept very much because Ernie-cat was really struggling to breathe and was all wheezy and sneezy. We were worried about him. We know that he’s not getting better and that how long he’s still going to be with us can probably be counted in days or weeks rather than months so we had to wonder whether this was it, was this him suffering too much?
It was early, we had a cup of tea and porridge in bed and cuddles with the cats and then we got up. I felt a bit grotty – the beginnings of a cold which have been the beginnings of a cold since Thursday. I also felt emotional – it’s Rachel’s birthday today. It would have been her 40th. I miss her. And then there’s our Ernie-Cat. So getting out for a run was not a given – it was tempting to curl up in bed and try and sleep or at least hide. We decided that we would change plans slightly – rather than running all the way to Skipton we’d run a little bit that way and then head back in the other way with lots of options for coming off the canal and finding other ways home if we needed them.
We made it out the door and kept plodding along mostly in silent togetherness as we ticked off the 2 minute run and 30 second walks. Occasionally we’d walk longer to have a drink but mostly it was just one foot in front of the other, lost in our own thoughts. Mile 5 came fairly quickly and then we hit the muddy path as we made our way through Silsden and towards Skipton. I kept thinking that if I could just nudge us to 8ish miles in that direction …
Just after 7 miles comes a stretch of canal towpath that goes very close to the road and is noisy and not very nice to run along – we turned before that and headed back. The mud was zapping my energy but we kept moving. All the way my mind was all over the place. It pinged between Rachel, happy memories and things left unsaid, the random joy of moving, the effort, our Ernie-cat as a pot-bellied kitten, his operation and his journey back to fat cat status over the last weeks and that horrible noisy he made in the night trying to breathe. And then, at maybe mile 8 ish I blurted it out ‘ I don’t want Ernie to die’. We walked a bit.
We made our way to 10 miles. It was a relief to get off the mud at 9 miles. I just didn’t have the energy for it. At 10 miles we both gave up trying to be brave. We had a little cry and talked about our Ernie – like the first night him and Shackleton spent in our house, in the bedroom with door closed and we lost them. We spent about an hour looking for them until a bowl of food brought Ernie out from under/behind the bedside drawers which, it turned out, didn’t have drawers going all the way to the back leaving a kitten sized gap. Anyway, from 10 miles we just walked back home. Arriving 3 hours and 17 minutes and almost exactly half marathon distance after we left. We had some food and a bath (ouch – chafing) and are looking forward to a Sunday roast at Kath’s mum’s later today.
So it wasn’t 20 miles but there are lots of positives to take from that run:
We actually left the house and set off
5 miles seemed like nothing
My Roclites were great on the mud
The 2 minute/30second intervals actually seem to work ok and I can see myself going far longer – particularly if there’s no mud
There was no running meltdown or drama really – there were tears and struggling to control breathing and a bit of a meltdown but none of that was about running
We ran 10 miles yesterday and my legs weren’t really that tired today
We got home in time to call the vet and get an appointment for Ernie
Ernie cat went to see the vet. He got a thermometer up his butt and and an injection is his neck and we will try and help him clear his sinuses with steam. He’s not getting well again but he’s hanging on for now! After the indignity of the thermometer he came home, had a treat and fell asleep on Kath who fell asleep on the sofa. Isn’t that what Sundays are for?
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 not 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.
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 things 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.
Today 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:
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 back 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.
We 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!
I feel good about yesterday. I have had a few ‘should have pushed harder up that hill, could have taken a walk break out down this or that slope, should have pushed on through the mental doubts a bit more, could have run just that little faster on the slower miles’ sort of thoughts but actually, I’m happy.
I fell asleep about 8.15pm. I slept really well until 11pm and woke up thinking I’d had a right good night’s sleep. Hm. I dozed off again and slept in fits and starts until 5.30am ish. Still, I feel quite rested this morning and I’m a big fan of afternoon naps! So, let’s see where we are after running 13.1 miles faster than I ever have before
Nothing is injured, nothing really hurts or is really sore
My hip flexors are tight
My calves are tight
My hamstrings are tight
But none of them are ridiculously tight. I’ve had far far worse – it’s what I call smug tightness – reminds you you achieved something
My feet feel a bit tired and I got one little blister but it doesn’t hurt – it must have popped during the race anyway
Vaseline will have to be my friend for a few days and undergarments will have to be carefully chosen for exactly how they fit and where exactly they sit- should have used bodyglide for bra and knicker line!
I haven’t had any post long run/race cravings and I’m also not eating everything in sight like is normal post running
I’m looking forward to a day of being a tourist
Looking back at the race, we got lots of things right. Having porridge about 3.5 hours before race start works. It could probably be a bit closer, maybe 3 hours but I think previously I have eaten too close to the start – like 90 minutes before and then I get tummy issues. I obviously need longer and yesterday that time frame of 3 hours plus worked. I was beginning to get a little nibblish when we set off but that was fine, that, I think, is the feeling I am aiming for.
I reviewed tailwind for fuel the other day. We used that again yesterday and it worked. I had two 125ml bottles and didn’t actually drink it all. I’d made it up on the strong side. It definitely helped and caused no tummy issues at all. Towards the end – in the last 5k, my calves were beginning to just be a bit crampy and I had a couple of big sips and it stopped. I think we also got the water stations right – in that we ignored them mostly. I stopped at one because I felt thirsty. I have to walk to drink the water though and then walk a little longer for it to settle. I don’t get the same with sips of tailwind – I can easily get my bottle out of my pocket, have a sip and put the bottle back within a 30 second walk break. I suspect I could sip it on the run. I think when I focus on water stations I drink more than I need and risk upsetting my tummy. I’m much better with slightly more frequent little sips of tailwind.
With our last order of tailwind we got 4 stick packs of their Rebuild recovery drink. I had packed them so immediately after we finished we picked up our bag and sat down, stretched a little and I made up the recovery drinks. We had one of each flavour. I poured the powder into the water bottles we’d packed and gave the bottles a good shake – it mixed well. Kath had the chocolate one. She said it was quite nice and that I’d probably like it (safe bet, it’s chocolate). I had the vanilla one. Well. The smell is terrible. As I went to take my first sip I breathed in and nearly gave it up as a bad job. It smells absolutely vile. It’s hard to explain but the smell turned my stomach. I took a sip anyway. It actually tastes better than it smells. It’s drinkable but it wasn’t exactly pleasant. I got it down and at least it doesn’t have a lingering after taste. I do think the recovery drink helped though. Kath did not go flakey like she often does straight after a long run so there was no rush or stress to find somewhere for food and for both of us it stopped the post run cravings and munchies. I also think the lack of any real soreness is due to having it and of course due to keeping moving. It seems Rebuild does exactly what it says on the tin (well packet and website) and I really do think it helped repair muscles and restore energy.
Today is all about active recovery. We’re going to explore the Distillery District and when we get tired later we might come back to the hotel and have a swim – we may also have to venture to the Eaton centre – we never go shopping unless we’re away somewhere. Somehow it seems more fun when on holiday.
It’s about 7pm and I am sprawled on our hotel bed reflecting on the Toronto trip so far. The running part, well rather the official running part, is now over and soon I will have to get my head into work mode – but not yet. I have a couple of days.
Today we ran the TorontoMarathon half marathon. It was great but let’s start at the beginning. We left home Friday morning – we were meant to go for our final little run on Thursday evening but by the time I got home we were both tired so we got up early on Friday instead and went for a little plod. My hay fever was bad so I actually only did about 2 miles but it felt good to stretch the legs. The flight to Heathrow was uneventful, as was the wait at Heathrow – it was just long. As we boarded the flight we were upgraded to World Traveller Plus (that’s British Airway’s version of premium economy)
which was nice because it meant we had a bit more space and it was just us to on a row. The flight was also uneventful. Apparently though things were not so uneventful in Toronto and Ontario generally. Storms and high winds cause lots of damage and power outages and lots of flights were delayed and/or cancelled. The knock on effect was that we spent an hour sitting on the plane on the tarmac while we waited for a place to park at the terminal so we could get off. We abandoned plans of trains to downtown and took a taxi. The hotel lobby was busy and huge and disorientating as we came in but we got checked in and crashed into bed.
Saturday morning we woke up early and after a cuppa in bed (yes I have become that woman who packs Yorkshire tea bags…) headed out to find some breakfast. We walked to the Hilton Hotel where the free shuttle buses to the marathon expo were leaving from and found a Tim Horton’s almost opposite – well when I say found, it’s hard not to find them, they’re everywhere. We had coffee and porridge with maple syrup – which of
course I loved and Kath found too sweet. Then we waited for the bus for a little while – they were using the classic yellow north american school buses which was kinda fun. The expo was my sort of expo – small and manageable and not too busy. It was also well organised so we got our race numbers, activated the timing chip, picked up our t-shirts (I have issues with race t-shirt manufacturers. I ordered a women’s large t-shirt. Their definition of large and mine are different. It’s so tight I don’t think I need a bra! Unfortunately they couldn’t swap shirts so it’ll go into the ‘wear underneath stuff if it’s really cold or wait for a miracle’ pile). Then we thought we’d just have a quick look around. A good hour or so later and with our wallets a good bit lighter we left and got a shuttle back. Back at the hotel we rested and I dozed off a bit I think. Then we met our friend Heather and her family for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory which was really fun. The food was good too and I decided I would once again run a half on lasagne! That worked for me before so it should work again. Back at the hotel we got all our kits sorted and bag packed and got an early night. I slept really well until about 1am. After that not so much and at about 4.30 am we gave up really. We had a cup of tea and a porridge pot, I made up our tailwind drinks bottles, did a final check on our bag and got dressed.
At around 6am we left the hotel. The shuttle bus to the start left from the Hilton again and we just got on one as we arrived and were off. Nerves finally set in during the drive across and I suddenly started worrying about everything. Once there we found some loos and had a little wander round. We ended up sitting in the foyer to the Douglas Snow Aquatic Centre for most of our wait and chatting to a lovely lady called Patricia. She took this photo of us and another lady we were talking to before we headed out to the start line.
I loved the low key approach of this event. There was no over enthusiastic calling to the start line. We didn’t have to spend ages in the start area. About 10 minutes before we set off we wondered out, found the area where we were meant to start – it was all based on an honour system of course so the elites were at the front and then it was by time so anyone over 2 hours was at the back. We saw a 2 hours 30 pacer and lined up a little way behind him. Then, just like that and without any fuss or drama we were off. We ran the first bit without walk breaks as always. I think we took 3 or 4 out and then dropped into 2 minute runs/30 seconds walk. The course is described as flat or downhill. That’s not entirely true – there is a hill and there are a few slopes but I think it is probably considered a fast course and that makes sense.
I took a fair few walk breaks out on downhill sections and I went strong to over half way. I had a wobble for miles 9 and 10 where I suddenly panicked about the distance and being in unchartered territory – which is nonsense because it’s not unchartered, I’ve done this a few times now, and because I felt physically fine! I think it was just the knowledge that at the last attempt over this distance I was physically gone by 9 miles and pulled out at 10. I got going again for mile 11 and I’m not sure what happened for mile 12 – fasted mile of the day and much faster than I usually run even on short distances! In the final mile my right hip flexor was making itself known and my calves were getting a bit crampy and I was also really emotional. I was actually going to finish a half marathon! And that I did. Chip time 2 hours 48 minutes 40 seconds. That’s 7 minutes and 9 seconds off my previous best. Sub 2.45 I’m coming for ya!
The course is basically a north to south route and for much of it you can keep your eyes on the CN Tower (picture below taken from shuttle pick up point rather than actually on the run). I missed it when I couldn’t see it! It’s obviously a city run and whether you find the route interesting or not rather depends on what you find interesting. I liked running through different areas of Toronto – starting with what seemed like a pretty wealthy neighbourhood with family houses rather than high rises. I also kept chuckling because the streets are soooooooooooo long. We spent a long time running along Yonge Street for example which would have taken us all the way downtown. We turned off eventually though and went through an area which seemed to have wooded areas on either side of the road before turning again and heading towards the CN Tower again and then past it and the Rogers Centre where the Toronto Blue Jays play. With around 1km to go we saw Patricia again. She’d finished and was walking home but stopped to cheer us on and take a couple of pictures. I was struggling now so it was a great boost to see her.
After crossing the finish line we collected our bag, sat down and had our tailwind recovery drinks (chocolate apparently ok, vanilla tastes marginally better than it smells – which is awful), pulled our tracksuit bottoms and long sleeved tops on and then went and collected some honey water and an apple (there were bananas too but they looked very green still and there was some bread like thing which neither of us liked the look of). Then we went to a fenced off area to pick up our Moosehead Brewery can of Cracked Canoe – we didn’t actually manage a full can each. I don’t know how people can drink alcohol immediately after running.
Coach Kath – she was fab!
Great name for a beer
Not All Ours, Honest!
The organisation of the race was really good and the marshals and police looking after the junctions were fantastic. They were so good at reading the traffic, the pedestrian crossings and the runners to make everything very smooth. We saw one altercation between a cop and a motorist. The cop had told him to stop which the driver had misinterpreted as a wave for him to come through and he nearly ran the cop over as a result. He was still arguing with the cop long after we’d passed them and eventually their voices faded into the distance. All the staff and volunteers, from bus drivers to water stations to finish area via marshals and everyone else, were just fab. Thank you.
We found the shuttle bus stop and headed back to the hotel. From the Hilton we walked a route that would take us past some food options and in the end we opted for a salad box, crisps and a grilled veggie sarnie from a little market. We had that in our room, had a bath and rested a little while. Then we decided we would need some proper food.
We consulted our little travel guide and realised that one of the Pubs featured in there is pretty much opposite our hotel. It seemed a bit odd going to a British themed pub but it was convenient and the bar menu looked good. We both had burger and chips – classic post-race food for us – and a beer and then were pretty much in danger of falling asleep there and then.
We have no further plans today! My half marathon demons have been put to rest. It’s once again my favourite distance – it challenges me on all sorts of levels but it doesn’t break me. It’s been a good day. Night night!