Spring time lockdown running

Ok, let’s have a post that’s actually about how the running is going shall we. The last run I wrote about was the run that didn’t go to plan. Honestly, getting out and running has been a struggle. After that run and the fall I didn’t make it out for just over a week. Partly I was sensible and waited for the worst to heal and partly it was an excuse. I was anxious about running. I was anxious about people, I was frustrated with my spectacular lack of fitness and motivation. Recovering from a fall is a legitimate thing to do… but not for weeks on end.

But in the end the pull of the bluebells was too strong. Kath had been telling me about them, how gorgeous they were and how the mix of bluebell and wild garlic is just so evocative of here, of home. I dragged my butt out of bed early to make sure people wouldn’t be an issue and then we set off on a tentative run/walk to the wood. We walked the narrow path through the bluebells and it was a stunning morning and absolutely worth getting up.

I managed a repeat early start a couple of days later allowing me to run our sheep loop without worrying about people on the canal towpath. It was really hard and my ankle was stiff – it has been on and off since the fall but seemed particularly bad that morning. My hay fever symptoms were also through the roof making breathing a bit tricky. Still, early mornings along the canal with ducklings and lambs and busy little birds everywhere is always worth it. Just need to remember that.

I had another couple of short 2 mile-ish outings at the end of April. I’ve been trying to play with intervals and other things to focus on because my brain has once again decided that I can’t run at all. Some of the runs have been 30/30 intervals which is fine but feels stop start at the beginning and then doesn’t actually seem to get me much further in terms of endurance. Instead I have tried to sometimes run for the first mile and then pick landmarks, other times to run to a certain landmark or place before dropping into run/walk intervals (this used to be mentally different from running a certain distance but I am now getting to know the distance of those points so it’s not working as well as it was) or running for a certain amount of time – just to give my brain something else to think about before it spirals off into ‘you can’t do this so why bother’ mode.

For my first May run I decided to go up towards Ilkley Moor. I have never actually been able to run all the way up but I certainly can’t now so my plan for that particular route at the moment is to walk up to the top and then run back down. I was thinking that doing it once a week would be good. It’s a pull and if I do it every week I will start to feel the benefits of the hill on the up and running down gives me change to get used to running at a slightly faster pace than I could manage on a flat or undulating route. I had 2 miles up and 2 miles down in my head and enjoyed the lapwings and curlews as I walked up. As I got to about 1.75 miles I could see people up ahead and it started raining. The rain was actually lovely but the prospect of catching up with the people, passing them and then doing the same again not long after as I turned round did not seem appealing. I turned early and gently jogged down in the rain. It was gorgeous.

My other two May runs so far have been short. I wrote about yesterday’s run last night. It was a tough run. I have really struggle to run continuously. A few days ago I went out and decided I would try and run 15 minutes continuously, whatever the pace. I made it to just over 17 minutes at a painfully slow trot. Yesterday I wanted to run the loop as far as the bottom of the steep hill to come back up home. I nearly gave up so many times but the reason for running was at the forefront of my mind – particularly because I was/am still not entirely comfortable with it all. It seemed wrong to not make it to the hill. Disrespectful somehow. I made it, so just over 21 minutes of continuous running and I even managed a few more little bursts of running on the way home which is not something I have managed recently.

So why the continuous running at the moment? I know I am not running with great form, that I should work much more on strengthening and building up the muscles to run properly and that I don’t have the strength to run for more than about 30 seconds in proper running form… Yep I know. I know that I am increasing the injury risk. I know I am not running efficiently and I know that I am probably undoing some of the work towards good running form that I had put in. But honestly, my brain is full. I don’t want to go out to run thinking carefully about form. I don’t want to run concentrating hard on knee lift and foot placement. I barely have the brain power to make myself go out at all. I am already thinking more than I want to about possible routes and how to avoid people. I don’t want to think about running. I want to run so I don’t have to think. I want to run to give my brain a rest. Now is not the time for me to be worrying about perfect form. That’s not to say that I don’t think it’s important or that I am ignoring it totally. I have short bursts during my runs where I try and concentrate on form. I am also doing some of my exercises some of the time. Right now though, the relaxation yoga, the stretching, the breathing and the being able to run continuously are more important for me to stay mentally healthy. If running right now was just about drills and form and strength exercises I wouldn’t be running and that doesn’t seem like a good option.

Running feels different. It is back as something I want to do rather than something I feel like I should. It’s that old favourite book which just sits and waits to be picked up again and while for now I am content flicking through it, gently reminding myself of the favourite bits, the easy passages within it, the chapters with which I feel at ease, I am beginning to wait for the next phase. I am waiting for the little hint of ambition, the readiness to tackle the more difficult passages, the willingness to get stuck in and work harder, the wish to be more systematic and focused, to start at the beginning and work towards the end of volume 1, chapter by chapter. It’s there in the background. I can feel myself mentally preparing for it without really being conscious of it at all. One day soon I’ll wake up ready to once again become a runner.

Running to have breakfast

Weird action shot selfie!

So it might have taken my an hour and a half but with that little 6 miler I have equalled December’s total distance. So I am definitely making progress. This morning’s run was an A-B run with a purpose. Kath’s mum was buying us breakfast at Salts Mill. Kath said she wanted to run there and I quite liked the idea but was worried about how my legs would hold up. After yesterday’s relative success I thought it was worth a shot as long as I left myself plenty of time. I set off at 7.30am and Kath set off shortly after me going a slightly longer route. It was still pretty dark so I opted for running the first stretch on the road rather than canal towpath.

I was running 30/30 seconds intervals and that seemed ok. I wouldn’t call it pain free completely but it was all ok. I was a little worried at about 2.5 miles and at 2.75 decided to walk a little and avoid running up the slope to the canal at Crossflatts and then dodging puddles in the run up to the top of 5 Rise Locks. At the stop I stopped and stretched for a minute or two before walking down the slope. Then I picked up the run/walk again

I actually seemed to settle in more after my walk and stretch and the 6 miles seemed completely doable. It was a little bit of a balance because I actually felt pretty good and kept thinking I could run a bit faster or skip a walk break but whenever I tried my left calf and my right foot quickly pulled me back for a reality check. I next stopped for a quick selfie as I crossed the canal just past Dowley Gap Locks. As I took the selfie I saw Kath in the distance and decided not to wait for her but let her catch up with me. She did as we had just over a mile to go.

The last mile was actually quite nice. My calf was fine and I was now confident that my feet would hold up too. We got to the end and got to the Salts gate just as they opened it so we could go through for breakfast. As we sat down my right foot started really hurting and it took a little while to ease. So, Sunday morning run, breakfast of avocado and eggs on toast and good coffee and a look at a good bookshop. What more could you want?

Christmas Running and 500 Miles at last!

So that’s Christmas 2019 done. It has been a quiet one. After a Christmas Eve pottering about in the kitchen making oatcakes, the last batch of mince pies, chocolate mousse for our Christmas day pudding and what turned out to be delicious braised red cabbage, Christmas day started slowly. We woke up later than we normally do, had two cups of tea and mince pies in bed before opening our presents from each other. Then we set off for our Christmas day trot – our sheep loop backwards to end up at Kath’s mum’s for bacon sarnies and more presents.

The run was lush. Slow and with plenty of walking because my calves are still playing silly buggers and my feet aren’t much better either but we ran down to the canal. We were treated to an absolutely gorgeous sunrise with stunning colours. We stopped for a photo and as we set off again Kath spotted some deer. We stopped to watch them a little while and then were about to set off again (again) and I saw the blue flash of a kingfisher streaking through the air. It landed on a branch just a little further along the canal and we slowly walked towards it watching it. Such a stunning sight. Eventually it flew off and we went on our way too following it and being lucky enough to catch it take off and land further along a couple more times.

The rest of the stretch along the canal was a pleasant plod as we chatted, said Merry Christmas to the ducks and made the one or two dog walkers we met smile with our Santa hats bobbing along. We crossed the bridge over the canal and started walking up the hill. We stopped to watch squirrels and small birds and then saw a woodpecker. As we reached the top of the golf course we met a dog and his human who cheerily informed us that he had already escaped the kids to the lovely peace and quiet of the outdoors. As we made our way out of the wood at the other end we met some more dogs one of which was terrified of us in our Santa hats and after staring at us for a while she pinned her ears back and ran past us as fast as she could.

The rest of Christmas day was basically making food and eating food. Then came my birthday and another morning of tea and mince pies in bed. Eventually we got going and set off to Bolton Abbey for our Boxing Day/ my birthday trot round the Strid Wood/Aquaeduct loop. My calves were not playing in spite of starting with intervals. I made it run/walk about a mile before I admitted defeat and we walked the rest of the loop. Still, somewhere along that first mile I hit the 500 miles for the year. I should of course be excited about that. 500 miles is a lot of miles but it’s bitter sweet. At the start of the year double that number was on the cards. I was running the weekly miles needed with ease and was having fun. And then I wasn’t – running or having fun and getting to 500 miles seemed unlikely – so I am pleased to have got there. Anyway, I’ll leave the reflections on my 500 miles til the next post maybe.

I am sort of ready to end this running year, to re-set and start again, to work with the excitement of the endless possibilities a blank spreadsheet and no miles on the clock for the new year brings. The thrill of runs not yet had and adventures not yet started, the fun of planning, the routine of sticking to the plans and the rebelliousness of changing plans, breaking the rules and doing something different. I will end the year on 500 and a few miles but next year just imagine… maybe I will run 1000, maybe I won’t run 500 but just imagine the adventures that await.

24 Mile weekend

Our little Ernie-Cat is giving us a bit of a scare. Last week we took him to the vet because IMG_2475he just didn’t seem right. Last year he had a nasty deep ear infection and we thought it might be that again so we got him checked. The vet didn’t see anything obvious but agreed he wasn’t quite right. He was given 10 days of antibiotics and we kept an eye on him all week. On Friday he just wasn’t right at all. His fur looked dull and he seemed really dazed and confused. The I went to give him some treats and he couldn’t eat them. We decided we would go back to the original Dopey training plan to do the long run on Sunday. We’d planned it for Saturday because the weather forecast looked glorious and much better than Sunday. But Ernie is more important so we took him down to the vet first thing Saturday. The vet had a good look at him and again couldn’t find anything but did take some blood. She said she’d call us in a couple of hours. Those couple of hours came and went as did the rest of the day. The vets were just run off their feet with appointment and emergencies. So Ernie-Cat is complicated. He has slightly elevated white blood cell count and calcium but only marginally. We have found that he is hungry but can only manage really soft food (like our porridge or really expensive cat food).

IMG_2476Anyway you’re not reading this because you are interested in Ernie-Cat. After waiting for the vet all day and worrying and convincing ourselves that it was something nasty and then unconvincing ourselves we were exhausted. We were both ready to just curl up on the sofa where I spent most of the day anyway and not do anything at all. But it was such a lovely evening still. The sun was out and the colours looked amazing. I grabbed a bag, chucked a water bottle into it and filled a little bag with nuts and then found the remaining chocolate and peanut butter  thingies Kath had made in the freezer and chucked them in too. Then I grabbed Kath’s hat and gloves just in case and then Kath and we set off on a walk. The training plan actually had a 7 mile walk for today. We usually run/walk or do some combination of running and walking on the long walk days just because usually walking for that duration when we could be running just seems odd. But we weren’t up for running, walking was perfect.

We walked along the canal towards Silsden. We weren’t at all striding out, we were just walking and chatting. Then we saw a kingfisher. The metallic blue seems particularly striking and vibrant at the moment. We got to watch it quite a lot because it kept landing in places where it was actually quite visible. I tried to get a photo but I couldn’t zoom enough. Then it headed straight for the canal bank and we realised there was another one and there was a split second of bright orange and metallic blue kerfuffle and then they were off and soon out of sight. Stunning. A little further along we watched a buzzard pair glide overhead and a little beyond that we saw loads of geese flying  – well we heard them first. We stopped to watch them a while. We walked on until we’d covered roughly 3.5 miles and then turned just after we’d seen a group of goldfinches fly past. We wouldn’t quite make 7 miles that way (we weren’t going the same way back at the end  – I do know 3.5 miles is half way to 7!). The sunset was now behind us and it was a stunner. The colours were incredible reds, pinks, oranges and yellows.

As we got to the golf course bridge (I forget what it’s actually called) and crossed, the moon was beginning to shine quite brightly claiming its place amongst the clouds. We stopped off at Kath’s mum’s briefly and then walked home, had some food and went to bed ready for a 17 mile run today.

IMG_2526I felt good this morning. I felt well hydrated, well fuelled, confident. A little anxious about the distance but not daunted. It’s only 2 miles more than two weeks ago and there is virtually no uphill in it! Our train was a few minutes late but eventually we were in Leeds and ready to go. We went out the back so we could start right at the end of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. On our way out we saw a heron. Always a good sign!

We set off and the plan was to run the first mile and then settle into two minute runs and 30 second walks. Well, that worked well until about 5 miles as we ticked off the miles chatting about our Disney plans. Then I started finding it hard. Not really hard at all  – I could just feel that there was a little more effort in doing this than in just walking and then my head kicked in. By about 7 miles I was losing the battle. The voice saying I couldn’t do it was too loud, the repeat message was to just give up long distance running and that my absolute limit was probably somewhere around 7 miles. To just stop. So I had a bit of a meltdown. At about 8 miles we sat for a bit and I changed the intervals to running 1 minute instead of two and I tried a bit longer.

I can’t articulate what happens in my head but it is exhausting and its a battle that went on for the rest of the miles. A battle between just keeping going – even just walking – and stopping with the urge to stop becoming near overwhelming at very regular intervals. I tried to refocus on the autumn colours. We saw another heron and there were ducks and plenty of things to keep my mind occupied but I could only ever focus on those things for seconds in-between trying to drown out the voice telling me to stop. Somehow we made it to Saltaire. I don’t really know how but there we were. We had been basically hurdling anglers for the last 2 miles or so and had also mostly walked with just the odd 1 minute run thrown in. We walked up into Saltaire village to get a bottle of water. While the fuelling was good with Tailwind, I was thirsty. I think maybe I need to take just water as well as the Tailwind.

From Saltaire we walked back with just a couple of little runs thrown in – so I did IMG_2544actually run in every mile. Once I had hauled my backside up 5 Rise locks we walked just a bit more and then I managed another little run down the road and then another little run down into the car park and we were done. It wasn’t the run I wanted but the last couple of miles walking and talking things through were probably useful and we finished the 17.26 miles in just under 15 minute mile pace.

I’m mentally tired and I’m trying to be positive about the run as a training run. I covered the distance and the first 7 miles were actually comfortably under 13 minute miles and when I look back I was, like Kath said all along, physically fine. My running form was good, nothing hurt, breathing was fine… On the plus though all miles were within Disney pace except one but I think that’s the one where we went up into Saltaire to buy water. I learned that I need water as well as tailwind and that I need to keep working on the mental side of running. I need to get better at defeating the voice in my head that tells me I can’t do it and I need to stop being annoyed at myself for not running more or whatever. It happened, I got the distance done anyway. Next time will be better.

So, 24 miles covered this weekend means that I have smashed through 600 miles for the year. I am on track with the training and the good news is that I’m not really broken. I’m tired and I’m sure I’ll feel a bit sore and tight tomorrow but it’s all good. It’s all good.

More importantly though Ernie-Cat seems a little happier and more settled.

IMG_2546

Sunday Weigh-In news – I lost 2 and a half pounds if you take the pre-run weight or 5 and half if you take the post run weight (which I don’t because I usually jump on the scales before running).

Happy Sunday.

5 mile come-back

IMG_2336After nearly two weeks of not running I finally made it out of the house today. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to run. I had a work thing in London yesterday and half way through that I started feeling pretty grotty again and I was sooo tired by the time I got home. I was worried that I had caused a recovery set back and would feel crap again today. However, I slept relatively well and got up feeling ok. Not exactly springing into action but ok. I didn’t fancy heading straight out so had coffee and scrambled eggs on toast and then made bread while Kath got the first coat of paint on the outside of our back door.

Eventually I thought it was too nice a day to stay inside and went and got changed. My training plan is on a high mileage weekend  – 4 miles yesterday and 13 today but I’d already decided that wasn’t sensible and I just needed to get out today and see how things felt. I decided on a route that would give lots of options in terms of loops and distances. The route was all road and good sections of canal towpath so I went for road shoes – my new Brooks (they’re lovely). I really didn’t know what to expect. I just set off gently. After a minute or so of running I could feel the crap in my lungs but apart from spending the entire run coughing said crap up, I actually felt pretty good. Running was sort of comfortable. I deliberately didn’t look at my watch because I didn’t want to freak myself out if I was going fast or be disappointed if I was going really slow. I kept going reminding myself that I could drop into run/walk if I wanted to and remembering to look around too.

There were some stunning glittering damp spiders’ webs, lots of people getting their IMG_2337gardens ready for winter, cats enjoying the air and warm sun and people doing Sunday things like washing cars and having cuppas in the sunshine. I was trying to think of how I might describe how I felt running. I’m not sure I can quit capture it but being out made me realise just how much I’d missed it and how good it is for me mentally. Running felt familiar – in a good way. It felt a little like when you sit with someone in silence lost in your own thoughts and they are in theirs but there’s no pressure to talk or be sociable. Maybe it’s the ‘just being’ nature of it that I was particularly conscious of today and the words that kept popping into my head were comfortable familiarity.

I dropped onto the canal towpath slightly bemused that running still felt fine apart from the odd cough and spit. It was busy. I suppose people are taking advantage of the autumn sun. I saw dogs of all sizes but all were well behaved and out of my way today which was nice, there were cyclists too and then I saw lots of runners in quick succession, all men. The first was going fast and was working hard – he managed a nod and I gave him the thumbs up. He was followed by a guy going at what looked like a comfortable pace for him. I said hi and he gave me the thumbs up. ‘Cool’ I thought. The third looked the serious type and was clearly trying to catch the guy in front of him (and would do quite quickly). He didn’t acknowledge my wave and smile; ‘roadrunner’ I thought as I went past. Shortly after I heard footsteps behind me and a fourth runner came past me. Just for fun I let him get a little ahead and then tried to match his stride and pace for a little while. Just for a little while though – it was barely sustainable for the 50 metres or so that I tried. Fun though.

Mile 2 came and went and I was nearing the canal bridge at which I was going to cross to loop back. It was busy here, more cyclists, walkers, dogs and more runners. Ladies, was there a memo I missed instructing all women to not run today? I didn’t see another female runner. It was odd. Anyway, there were scout activities happening on the canal by this bridge and further up into the old golf course so I gritted my teeth and ran over the bridge and up the hill. I’ve walked the hill faster than I ran it today but never mind. I pushed on and was glad when the noise from the kids dissipated and all I could hear was my breathing. I realised my lungs were burning. My watch beeped for 3 miles and I walked a bit to let my lungs recover. I coughed up more crap and did a few run/walk intervals between landmarks. I was trying to work out if I’d had enough. I thought maybe I had and was going to head home from here.

IMG_2338I walked up the next slope and then began running again, I ran past the next point to walk up the hill and home. I felt good still, going home just yet didn’t make sense. I ran past the point after that too and thought if I kept going I could hit 5 miles which felt like a very suitable come-back distance. So I carried on. A little way up the next road section which slopes deceptively and annoyingly uphill my legs decided I was mad and that they were now very tired. I walked the slope. After the left turn where I almost double back I knew I just had a little section which sloped downhill left before I’d stop running and walk straight up the hill home. My legs didn’t want to run anymore though. But I did. I pushed on, got to the bottom of the footpath and stopped running. I started walking up the footpath and soon wondered what on earth had possessed me to think it was a good idea to go straight up rather than round. Insane. The three pictures in this post are all from the hill I left til last and as usual the photos don’t to the hill justice – so here’s the strava elevation picture which makes it at least look like it might be a hill

Screenshot 2018-09-23 15.19.38

But I made it home. 13.25 pace overall with a really good run over the first 3 miles. I’m back on the plan now – 45 minutes Tuesday, 5 miles Wednesday, 45 minutes Thursday and then 3 miles on Saturday. The week after is a high mileage week which is good because it gives me this week to ease back in and get fully better.

Oh and Sunday weigh-in. About half a pound heavier than last week.

Happy running.