January Stuff and a bit of Running

So, that silly month which starts out with you not quite knowing what planet you’re on, what day it is or whether it is still acceptable to have mince pies and prosecco for breakfast and ends in you running out of money and in a perpetually frazzled state wondering how it is possible that that you really only just had ‘a break’ is finally over. One of my friends replied to a text asking how she was saying that she was a bit ‘januaried’. Yes, that’s it isn’t it. We’re all recovering slowly from having been januaried – sick of people and enforced frivolity and craving solitude and quiet.

January sees resolutions, new fitness regimes, healthy eating crazes… all the things that don’t work and can be hugely damaging. I hate running in January. I hate going to the gym in January. I hate buying a salad in January. January is the month we seem to get all judgy – or even more judgy – of each other. Obviously I am only running, going to the gym and eating a salad because it’s January and my resolution is to lose weight. Obviously. That must be it. Why else would a fat woman run, go to the gym or eat a salad?

Well that’s not been my January. I didn’t make any resolutions. I’m working on the basis that I was fabulous last year and will be fabulous again this year. Clearly I don’t actually believe that. I’m a woman and an academic and I’m fat and unfit, I have my issues and imposter syndrome is my normal. However, I’ll let you into a secret – I like salad! I don’t eat any differently in January to any other time. I eat healthily overall except when I don’t. I eat out too much and I have a sweet tooth. I could do better, I could also do a lot worse. Second secret (it’s not really) – I have been to the gym once so far this year. I don’t give a toss. I enjoyed that session, I’ll enjoy the next when it eventually comes.

Now, this one really is a secret, I may have enjoyed my running in January. My friend Liza said she wanted to print t-shirts with ‘I’m not a beginner, I’m just fat’ on them and I would wear that. I think it’s what us fat, slow runners need in January. No people, I’m not out here plodding along for the first time because it’s January and I want to lose weight. I don’t need your unsolicited ‘Good for You’ comments. I’ve run two marathons and several halves, trust me, I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing and it has very little to do with losing weight! I am actually just trying to keep my black puppy at bay but you go ahead and judge, it’s fine, you’re januaried too. And yes of course you are just being supportive and encouraging, I know this and when it’s not January I love you for it!

I have undoubtedly had the best January ever in running terms. I have run just short of 62 miles for the month. Yep. 62 miles. I am thrilled with how my #Run1000Miles Challenge is going. Yes, I am a little behind schedule but I am ahead of where I ever thought I could be. I haven’t pushed for miles. In fact I had a week where I just ran 4 miles. I have cut a few runs short because my feet and calf muscles have been sore and had one disastrous run where I just felt shocking. I have run at home, at Bolton Abbey and in London this month. My shortest run was just 1.45 miles and my longest 5.8 (although most miles in a day were 8.66). I’m not sure I enjoyed the runs, some I did, some I didn’t but looking back over the month I enjoyed the running. In spite of having gone back to basics with run/walk and being slow I feel like I’ve made progress and I have enjoyed being outside, I have made fewer excuses, I have been more consistent and I have pushed through ice and mud. I’ll make a decent trail runner yet!

So here’s to February, to the quality of light changing, the greyness giving way to something a little more hopeful, to days slowly getting longer and running continuing to be something I actually want to do. It started well with a stunning moonlight run which was partly terrifying because it was slippery in places and I didn’t cope well with that. But it was undoubtedly utterly beautiful.

IMG_8440 2

 

The one where Kath steps on a grouse

I don’t know where to start with this one. I had a shit day yesterday. No reason, no reason at all but I barely made it off the sofa. I didn’t go out and run because every time I thought about it, I fell asleep instead. Doesn’t matter though, we can move rest days around and run today and Monday instead. So the plan for today was about 6 miles and we thought we might do that at Bolton Abbey. I was quite looking forward to our Bolton Abbey loop – quietly confident that I could make it round without a meltdown. Not sure where that confidence came from given the last run but there it was anyway.

After a loo stop we were about to set off when we noticed that although shooting season has started, the grouse moor which is part of the estate wasn’t actually closed for shooting today. That meant that we could, in theory, head up onto the moor and do part of a 10 mile loop Kath did the other day and which she said was absolutely stunning. Going up to Simon’s Seat was, according to the signs just over 3 miles. Kath told me that the way up was steep in parts and we’d walk a lot of it but that I’d be fine. I am not good at not doing things as planned and doing ‘new’ and ‘different’. So this was a bit of a curveball. I took a deep breath and agreed to try.

We crossed the wooden bridge opposite the pavilion jogged along the riverside for a short stretch and then started our uphill walk. Basically that was pretty much it in terms of running for the way up. There were one or two more little jogs but mostly I walked. After a short stretch on the road we turned right and entered a field. There were a few sheep lazily grazing and paying no attention to us at all. We had another little jog and a hop and a skip through some muddy patches. Then it got steeper and we made our way up a narrow and uneven path. I was ok walking up but really quite worried about how I would get back down.

20839466_800811696765647_375096594_n

We had another couple of little jogs through the wood and as we emerged from the wood onto the open moor we were welcomed by stunning views and a lovely warm breeze. As we made our way up the path with one or two short little bursts of running (shuffling?) we saw several grouse scuttle across the path or off into the heather and several sheep who seemed a bit narked that we were disturbing them. Other than that we seemed to have the world to ourselves. There’s a steep bit which felt like it went on forever and ever but eventually we got to the top and managed a little jog and run/walked the undulating section which followed. The last bit up to Simon’s Seat was uneven with boulders and puddles and we just made our way across that, stopped for a few minutes at Simon’s Seat and then made our way back down. Instead of going back the way we came we went the slightly longer but more runnable route towards Lord’s seat.

From Simon’s Seat to Lord’s seat there is a short section on moorland path – bouncy – and then the rest is huge flags. We’d only just got onto the flags when Kath happened on an unsuspecting and rather outraged grouse. It must have been sitting minding it’s own business right on the edge of a flag and as Kath put her foot down she felt it just about get itself out from under her. It made a sort of ‘I’m an outraged grouse and you just stood on me – how dare you’ noise and flew off. Just a few steps later a newt or something similar went through the same experience. I’m not sure if the wildlife or Kath got more of a fright really. Running on the flags was better than I thought it might be. It’s uneven with up and down steps all the way along and it took concentration but it was ok. At the end of that flagged section we were back on the track/path which did have lots of loose stones and gravel but was ok to run on.

20769987_800704573443026_4512205543365530105_n

I fell in behind Kath and somehow everything clicked into place. For a little while – maybe half a mile or so, everything felt effortless. I felt completely in the zone and running felt like the most natural and easy thing in the world. I felt like a proper runner. Even when that feeling passed though it was still great. Because I was going downhill it didn’t take too much effort and I could look around and take in the stunning views.

20864377_800812606765556_556903218_n

I was dreading the steeper downhill. I am not good at downhill and the sections coming up were steep sections. I resolved to just keep running, no matter how slow. I did keep running, all the way. I tried really hard to trust my shoes and they were fine, they gripped. I slowed and I think I may have been quicker had I walked but I wanted to try and keep running. My quads were protesting a bit about half way down but I did it. We walked up the next little slope and then kept running until we got to the gate back into the wood. We ran most of the stretch through the wood and then ran/walked the narrow and technical bits standing in to let walkers through by a section that had freaked me out because it was muddy, wet, steep and narrow. We seemed to have to wait for ages until they’d all gone through and that gave me far too much time to think about the next sections. The next 100 metres or so were a bit more stressful than they needed to be because I’d over thought it.

Back across the field, now with some cows in that thankfully didn’t seem at all interested in us  and back down the road to the pavilion took us to 7.4 miles. We were even back in time for bacon sarnies and coffee so a good trip out all round. Oh and it’s Sunday so weigh-in day – I have stayed the same.

Exploring new places, re-trying old ones

After the beach run on Friday we had planned another run from the Wild Running book for Saturday on our way home: the estate drive loop around Cragside house and gardens just outside Rothbury. We got up and had breakfast (not a full fry-up given we were running but a rather delicious bacon bagel instead) and got on the road. Seahouses to Cragside was a lovely scenic drive, not sure how long it took but it really wasn’t far.

We parked, changed our trainers and sorted our pockets out and headed for the visitor IMG_6606 2centre to use the loos. Then we set off. I knew the route was about 5.5-6 miles long and a road running round the estate. That’s all I knew.  I had no idea how much uphill I was going to have to do but just looking at the estate made clear that it was likely to be significant – for me anyway. It was raining, grey and atmospheric. Gorgeous really. We set off on a slow plod up a slope, stopped to walk as it turned into a steeper slope, ran a little as it evened off, walked as it went steeper, ran a bit, got grumpy because it was so bloody hard, kept it together and ran from tree to tree and walked a bit and ran a bit… the first mile and a quarter were relentlessly uphill and my legs were tired from running on the beach the day before, my calf muscles were tight, I was cross at myself for being so stupidly bloody unfit. Eventually though it levelled out and at 2 miles I got my act together and my head in the game – the view helped.

Miles 3 and 4 were awesome – ok so they were mostly sloping downhill but they were gorgeous. We each had our own personal cloud of flies around us which was a little irritating but I started to remember to look around and take in the colours, all sorts of different greens and browns and the rain felt soft and welcoming somehow. Mile 5 contained a few more ups and I did walk a little again but I was still enjoying it and then IMG_6602 2we saw a deer. She’d been grazing by the side of the road and as we approached skipped away across the road and off into the woodland. We caught another glimpse of her a little further on but then she was gone. We puffed up the final hills to the visitor centre and car park and got out wires crossed resulting in both of us being rather grumpy for a little while. We got changed in the visitor centre toilets and then had a jacket potato and drink in the cafe. – and started talking to each other again. Then we drove home. There are loads and loads of paths and trails to explore on that estate and we will undoubtedly be back!

We thought we might have another little run today and had planned a route which would take in the short wood trail and the uphill golf course track. Yep – I’m determined to get better at trail and at uphill – eventually together and I haven’t run the wood trail for a little while. I decided on my Mizuno trail shoes and off we went. All fine on mile one. Just after the one mile point we turned off onto the trail. I overthink this usually, I’m too hesitant, I don’t trust my feet but this time I just kept going – slowly but going. I didn’t stop once on the trail, just kept moving. My feet were hurting like hell. I don’t think it’s the shoes, I think it’s just different running and I was probably more tense than usual. By the time I got to the end of the trail I was pretty much in tears. We stopped a few minutes and I stretched and wiggled toes and let it pass. Rather than push too hard and risk injury we cut the route short and headed towards home. Still, 2 miles run and half a mile walked up the hill home. Happy with that.

So I have had 3 days of pretty awesome running and for that I am rewarding myself with the RunDisney Shorts virtual run series medal for July  (Bling whore, it’s terrible, I know). Rest day tomorrow and then on with the training plan’s next run on Tuesday.

IMG_6609

I brought back Sunday Weigh-In a while back and then haven’t really posted anything on it- it’s because I’m grumpy about it. My weight is resolutely staying the same. Exactly the same. It went down a pound randomly a couple of week’s ago and then went back up to the same number. Quite honestly I am sick of seeing that number. I am going to try and have a saintly week (oh apart from maybe tomorrow where I may be going out for tea) and see if the number shifts. I’ve even made Kath get on just to check that the scales are working!

 

 

Road Running

Quick update

Didn’t run Sunday because K had a niggly knee and I am not known for my willpower or desire to go running on my own. So it’s just as well we went on Saturday. For today the plan said 50 minutes slow. I do like a plan that says slow. I can do slow.

We had toyed with the idea of going this morning but I wanted Kath to have her knee checked out first which she did this morning and she is cleared to run. Our track record of going for a run after work is poor. Once I get in from work I really don’t like to be parted from the sofa! However, this moomin butt needs to keep moving! We arranged for Kath to pick me up from the station and then to park at Mum’s and run from there. I got changed there and then we set off. We ran along the road which had the advantage of street lighting and of being relatively flat. It has the disadvantage of being a relatively busy road and a boring out and back route.

We set the watch to 17 2 minute run/1 minute walk intervals (51 minutes) and then the Garmin wouldn’t lock onto the satellite. Rather than messing with it we just set off. It felt fast but it also felt quite flowing. Well when I say fast, I mean fast for me – for the rest of the world I am really talking about marginally faster than a brisk dog walking pace. Running along the road is odd. We’ve never really done it before. There wasn’t much to look at and there was the traffic noise so my focus was different and I realised I was focusing on breathing – not in a ‘I can’t breathe’ sort of way but in a ‘oh I prefer to sound of breathing to the sound of traffic’ kind of a way. I was focused on me and that’s not something I am all that comfortable with but it did mean being more aware of form, breathing and when things tightened up and when things felt good.

Surprisingly, mostly it felt pretty good even if hard and on almost all runs I managed to keep the pace until the end of the 2 minutes, I just had one wobble as we were heading up a slope and I lost my stride pattern and everything felt out of sync. I kept thinking I was surprised at how ok it all felt. Ok is not something I usually feel when running.

As we don’t have the data from the Garmin we had to rely on Google Maps which reliably informs me that we ran 4 miles exactly. So that means that finally -for the first time in ages – we managed a decent length run at under 13 minute mile pace.

In other news – Sunday weigh in yesterday showed a 2 pound gain. Hmph but ok – readjusting after the few days of no food and I suppose I’ll have to admit to the chocolate biscuits and the 2 days of university sand which lunches…

In more other news – the Wanderlust TV yoga – we’ve done days 1-4 and it is helping although I was struggling to keep up a little on Day 4. It’s useful to get more guidance on technique and this morning we did the yoga Studio 20 minute beginner am sequence and goodness it is harder when you do it properly! Right I am off to have a bath and then try Day 5.

 

Sunday Weigh In is back

I stopped getting on the scales a while ago initially for positive reasons – I didn’t care at all what the number said, I knew I was getting fitter and stronger and healthier so the actual weight didn’t matter. Then the running got patchy and we fell off the food and booze wagon a bit – which is silly because when we were making the effort we were eating really yummy healthy food that we were both really enjoying. In the run up to Christmas I knew my weight was sneaking up again and just after I suddenly worried that it might even be getting as high as it was 2 years ago before I started running. Clothes don’t fit properly, running is so much harder than it needs to be. A good few pounds need to come off.

So on the 2nd January I set a new baseline – a stone lighter than the baseline I set 2 years ago but also over a stone and a half heavier than I was at my lightest during Dopey training. Hmph. I was determined to have a good food and exercise week but as I mentioned I was ill instead. I have lost 6 pounds but I’m not really celebrating that because it’s more due to being poorly than anything else.

We have a food plan for the week with lots of fresh, yummy things but also included comfort food to guard against the cold and grey ‘pass me the biscuits’ kind of feeling. We’re starting today with pancakes (a healthier version K once found a recipe for, possibly in a Runner’s World or from a Running Bug) – a lovely Sunday treat with yoghurt and raspberries. For lunch we’re having cottage pie with a mountain of veg and for tea a salad with a few nuts and seeds sprinkled in for crunch. This week is relatively conservative with food – familiar things to not upset my tummy which is still getting back to normal. Next week I think we will be more adventurous, we’ve seen some lovely recipes that look healthy and delicious. I’ll try and remember to share.

We’re also going to start running again this coming week. I’m not sure about starting the 10k programme – yesterday I was still quite wobbly after my 2 mile walk so I will see how I feel after a walk today and then see if I need a very easy, very short run week or whether I’m ready to have another go at week 1 of the 10k programme. The programme isn’t aligned with a race so it doesn’t really matter.

Happy Sunday