My 2019 Running Year

Magic Heron

It’s the end of 2019. I have finished my running year on 502.88 miles with a slightly frustrating trot out at Bolton Abbey this morning. I’m in a reflective mood as well as in a planning mood and that’s making me look back on the running year that was 2019. It started with such promise, such achievement and then fizzled out a bit and I think maybe I’d got a bit grumpy about it all but this year I got to run in some amazing places, see some fabulous things and as always I learned a lot – particularly about what I do and don’t want from running and what I do and do not like about it. So let’s look at 2019.

January was awesome. I came off a 114 mile December feeling really strong and actually feeling ready for Dopey – well as ready as one can feel for Dopey. And Dopey was awesome. I don’t remember the tough bits. I know they were there. I know the marathon was too hot and I know the waiting around was a pain but what I remember is the feeling of achieving the impossible and then I remember nearly falling asleep in my celebratory glass of wine.

Happy Run

So if January was dominated by Dopey, February was dominated by trails and getting off the tarmac and into the beautiful countryside. I ran in the snow along the canal at home and we had a stunning running weekend at Kielder Water with some breathtaking views and some lung busting hills. I was running well. I confirmed the running well by smashing the Harewood House Half Marathon in just 58 seconds over three hours having had a blast out on the course (I will have to go back for an under three hour go but I’m not ready for 2020 and will be doing the 10k instead). I loved my running in February but by the end of the month I was getting really tired.

By all accounts I was still running really well in March. I ran nearly 100 miles that month and didn’t really struggle with it – except that I really wasn’t enjoying it. I didn’t write about it much – just the one post from last March on the blog. Almost all of the March running was done from home and thinking about it, I spent an awful lot of my time going backwards and forwards along the canal.

Before it started going wrong

In April I got to run in Leicester. I went to University in Leicester in what seems like a lifetime ago and I was there for a conference. Running from town up to the university past the places that seemed both familiar and a bit strange was fun. Then I got a cold. Then I ran the London Marathon. I didn’t like it. I loved seeing Dad at around mile 7 and then it was really downhill from there. It’s not a marathon I have any desire to ever do again. If I ever decide to have another go at 26.2 it will definitely not be on that course. I was done with it all. I think I have blocked most of it from memory. I remember slipping on the lucuzade runners had emptied on the floor and going flying at mile 15 and being in pain and fed up and trying to think if I could work the logistics to pull out but deciding that just finishing was easier. Goodness I hated everything about running while out on that course.

After the marathon I fell out of love with running. I just couldn’t be bothered with it. I couldn’t motivate myself to get out. We had a lovely adventure walking one of the Yorkshire three peaks (we meant to do them all but never got round to it) and I had the odd little trot out including at Bolton Abbey but I didn’t make it to 30 miles that month. June was similar. The running I did was rather stunning tourist running in Washington DC , Gettysburg and on Chesapeake Bay and then there were some hikes in Shenandoah National Park. All fo that was kinda cool but I wasn’t feeling the running. I nearly pulled out of the Solstice Saunter at Bolton Abbey but in the end went and had a good time. But really, running was all a bit meh.

Shenandoah Trail Shoe Selfie

Things didn’t really change in July and August. I kept going out for the odd little plod but that was that. In September and October the wheels came off. I ran a total of 4 miles in September and did not run at all in October. I actually thought about just packing it all in completely. In November I managed just over 10k but it seems that very slowly in December I am starting to enjoy being out again. I obviously decided I wasn’t ready to give up completely because I agreed to go see the guys at RunRight, more on that as that story unfolds. Partly I blame a busy semester for my lack of running – not because I was too busy to make time but because it was a rough term which zapped every little bit of headspace, willpower and brave I had. I had nothing left for running – probably because I was already struggling with running and it felt like one more thing to fail at. That perspective has slowly shifted over the last week or so. Maybe I’m ready to be back and enjoy running again in 2020.

Getting back into things at Bolton Abbey

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!

Splish Splash I was having a….

Run. I was having a run. No that sounds wrong. I was running. Well sort of. I was out there putting one foot in front of the other at varying paces. It looked like it was going to be another of those days where it just doesn’t happen. I have a ton of marking to do – the kind that takes forever because it’s formative so needs even more detailed feedback, we went out for lunch and that took longer than we wanted it to and the weather – urgh.

Anyway, I had ordered some new trainers ridiculously reduced – some Inov8 Roclite 305 gore-tex ones for under 50 quid. I mean it would have been rude not to. So I set myself a target of 5 more essays and then I could/had to go run. I put long pants on – yep time for big girl pants, too cold for 3/4 now I reckon – a long-sleeved top, my rain jacket and then because light was fading fast, a bright neon yellow t-shirt over the top. I looked a right plonker but I wasn’t about to be cold! Then I put the new shoes on and set off.

I can’t really do a proper review because it was only a short plod and I walked the uneven, muddy, trail-y bit because I couldn’t really see where I was putting my feet and my ankles were quite stiff and I am terrified of injuring myself. But  – why the hell did nobody tell me about gore-tex trainers before? I had so much fun not avoiding puddles and splish sploshing around that I started searching  puddles out to jump into them – and I still have dry socks. I can do puddles and have dry feet. It’s magic! I never had gore-tex trainers before. Getting some somehow always felt like a step too far – they’re for proper runners. I don’t really go anywhere where I need them, or for long enough that wet feet really matter… so the complete crap would go in my head.  I tried some once and they felt really tight and inflexible compared to the non gore-tex version so I presumed they were all like that. I was wrong. Love these. Bring on the puddles!

Happy running and splish splash splashing about!

Toronto Half – the morning after

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

  1. Nothing is injured, nothing really hurts or is really sore
  2. My hip flexors are tight
  3. My calves are tight
  4. My hamstrings are tight
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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!
  8. I haven’t had any post long run/race cravings and I’m also not eating everything in sight like is normal post running
  9. 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.

Happy Monday!

Tailwind: Tummy Friendly Fuel

Right, rest day today. Just as well really. My legs felt quite tired walking up to the office this morning and back up the hill this afternoon. So I thought I’d catch up on some the the things I’ve been meaning to write. First on the list is a review of Tailwind Nutrition.

I have tried various things for fuelling on long runs. It’s odd. I have a pretty cast iron stomach generally but that does not carry through to running. When it comes to running I have the most ridiculously sensitive tummy. So any sort of gels and blocs are out unless I am actually sitting on a toilet. I also really can’t stand the artificial taste and the texture just freaks me out. I tried some cliff bars for fuel and for recovery – apart from the pretty artificial taste, they didn’t do anything for recovery other than pile on calories and fuelling is pointless when the only place the fuel makes you run is to the loo.

I tried porridge bars which I do like but they’re quite dry and I can only eat a little bit and need water with them and they’re just a bit of a pain to carry and then repack if you’ve had a little bit and also I probably need more than one bar if I’m doing over half marathon distance and it was all getting complicated. That said, Stoats porridge bars are awesome and I love them for long walks, picnics or a well needed boost at work. They powered me round two marathons but the downside is having to stop and walk for quite a bit to eat, drink some water, wait till it’s all settled…. It was sort of fine for what I’ve done and the lots of walking approach to long distance but I don’t think it works well for trying to run a bit more or at least keep the walking intervals consistently short.

Then we tried some torq energy drink which was used at an event we volunteered at. That just gave me horrible tummy cramps – I mentioned it here. Kath’s experiences are similar. We get on best with home made things and real food like dried apricots and nuts but they’re not always easy to carry on a run unless carrying a pack and not practical to take/make if we’re travelling abroad for a run/race (and we do always have half an eye in the Dopey Challenge!). So we’d pretty much given up on finding something easy, convenient and effective that would travel well. Then we kept seeing comments about tailwind. Lots of people were saying that it really worked for them and that it was nice to tummies.

We ordered a starter pack. It can contain 1 stick pack of each of their flavours  – 7 packs in total – but we decided not to get any of their caffeine containing flavours  (Green Tea Buzz, Raspberry Buzz and Tropical Buzz) because Kath is really sensitive to caffeine.

So the stick packs are dead simple to make up – just add water, give it a stir and/or a shake. Done. I tried it on a couple of short runs – you can never be too careful! First the lemon flavour and then the naked unflavoured one. On both occasions there was no ill effect on my tummy at all. From those runs I can’t really say whether the fuelling is good or not because I didn’t go far enough. They were just a tummy test. I then used another lemon one at the Lakeland Trails event where I was out for 2 hours and taking little sips throughout did I think help. I had some more the day after on a longer run and it definitely helped there – maybe I felt it more because I already had tired legs. I tried the mandarin orange flavour on the 10 mile adventure to Haworth last weekend and from that experience I think I can say it works – when I was feeling really flakey I had a good few sips and then kept sipping at more regular intervals and felt better and then fine for the rest of the run. I don’t think just water would have done that.

According to the instructions though I am possibly not actually having enough (which is presumably why I went flakey in the first place) – they suggest one stick pack in 500-700 ml of water to sip over an hour. I don’t drink that much when running, ever. I made up 500 ml and had about 2/3 of that over the two hours we were out on Haworth Moor. I’m still experimenting with what really works over the longer distances/durations and in different conditions but I am really excited to have found something to fuel with that is easy, convenient, seemingly effective and that is nice to my tummy. I’m sure I’ll get the mix right for me over time.

Here’s what’s in tailwind for those science, nutrition, whatever geeks among you (from their website)

Screenshot 2018-04-23 20.10.37

The flavours are all quite nice – they’re subtle and not in your face artificial. They don’t leave an aftertaste and I found all them refreshing. I think I actually most like the naked one. Kath’s favourite is the berry flavour and we’ve just ordered a multi-serving bag of that (they come in 30 or 50 serving bags). In addition we’ve ordered more stick packs to take with us on our travels – we’ve ordered lemon, berry and naked ones; too much of a risk having the mandarin ones because it’s really just a matter of time before we get water bottles mixed up and it all goes horribly wrong (Kath is allergic).

So tailwind gets a big thumbs up from me for ease, for taste, for effectiveness and also for non stickiness and non messiness. Water bottles just rinse out easily and there’s no residue or aftertaste or anything. There’s no gooey or sticky consistency that you feel like you can’t wash off your hands or out of your bottle. Really it’s all just as it should be.

It’s not the cheapest but it doesn’t compare badly at all to other products out there  and honestly, I’d rather pay a pound or two more (on a 50 serving bag for example) for something that doesn’t give me tummy cramps! There’s something else though. It’s a gimmick in a way but my sort of gimmick and it feels like a genuine gimmick (yes yes I know). The customer service is lovely. There’s always a personal touch and if you tell them what your next event is, they may just email you to say well done. Here’s what I got from Tracy at Tailwind checking on me after the weekend she thought I was running in the Lakes

Hi Jessica,

I cannot find your results on line 😦  How did you get on?

As it turned out – she was a week early and after we’d had a little email exchange and she checked my Hawkshead 10k result I got another one:

Hello!!! Congratulations you were not last on the list 😉 as you suspected!!!  Well done you!

Now maybe I am just a sucker for marketing gimmicks but that really did make me smile!

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