‘Everyone is at exactly the pace they are meant to be’

Well, honestly, I have been struggling a little with running post marathon. It feels like a huge effort and while it has sort of been nice to be out, I haven’t massively enjoyed it either. This morning was gorgeous though and it seemed like a good day to head to Bolton Abbey and do a little loop. Kath went further to get her miles in (she has a half marathon in mid June which I am not running) and I decided I would do the Barden Bridge loop using run/walk. I wanted to enjoy it and not worry about huffing and puffing my way around.

Bolton Abbey was perfect for running this morning. It was warm enough to be comfortable in short sleeves but the trees provided cover from the sun. It was also very very quiet. After the usual pee stop I said bye to Kath as she set off in the opposite directions and plodded my first 2 minutes. That felt a bit like hard work. I was grateful for the walk break. I tried to consciously look around, note the green ground cover from the wild garlic, the odd patches of blue from the bluebells, now at the end of their glory and the comings and goings of lots and lots of little birds. I tried not to think, just react to the beep of my watch – run – walk – run. Don’t think, just be.

I watched the river gently make her way, nudging the ducks to where she wanted them and giggling softly as the ducklings tried to resist. I felt content. I hit a mile and glanced at my watch. Wowsers I was going super slow. It felt like I was working so much harder than the pace would suggest. I felt disappointed. I carried on. I was now conscious of my breathing, I seemed loud, I seemed heavy footed, I could hear my heart beat and the blood rushing round. I could also hear the negative chatter. For the next mile I concentrated hard on ignoring the noise, on watching a dipper and a wagtail and on putting one foot in front of the other: Beep – walk, beep-run, beep-walk…

I briefly stopped at 2 miles – on Barden Bridge where I saw the first human since leaving the Cavendish Pavilion. I let two cars cross the bridge, took a couple of photos and continued, feeling slightly grumpy about being slow and now struggling to enjoy the run. It felt like all I could hear was my running noise and chatter about how crap I was. I don’t know what drew my attention but it suddenly occurred to me that there were so many far more positive noises I could be tuning into. Whatever it was, it made me listen and suddenly the bird song grew louder, the gentle breeze was singing in the trees and next to me the river was gurgling and sounding content.

‘Hello’, the river goddess Verbia whispered to me ‘how’s the running love?’ I don’t know why she has an accent like my grandma’s but she does – very West Yorkshire with slight hints of Lancashire in the vowel sounds from living so close to the border all her life. ‘Oh, it’s nice but it’s slow and feels so hard’ I said – not out loud I don’t think. ‘Oh, but why rush?’ She gurgled. It was rhetorical of course ‘ Look around, everybody is just at the pace they are meant to be’. She was gently teasing me I think. Nudging me along, letting me know that I was ok but as with any goddess, you just never quite know, there’s always a mystery, always an edge. She seemed all knowing and a bit bemused by me as she made her way slowly along the familiar path. But I did look around, I saw the cows in the field lazily chewing the grass, I watched some sand martins (I think) play around me seemingly flying high, swooping down and looping round for the pure joy of it. I giggled, Verbia gurgled back.

I saw a very speedy runner with a dog come towards me. She was past in a flash and briefly I felt crap about being slow and so laboured. ‘But you’re not her’, I glanced at the river and understood. Me and the other runner were each running our own run, with our own thoughts and our own battles. I smiled, I was enjoying the run again, the pace seemed unimportant now. I nodded a thank you towards the Wharfe as I turned very slightly left to go past the aqueduct steps and onwards into the woods.

I saw Kath. We stopped briefly for a quick chat and then continued on our ways. I had about 1.5 miles to go now, she had about 3. There were a few more people about on this stretch, not many though and mostly I ran in glorious solitude with time and space to notice the different greens, the changing feel of the footpath, the nobblyness of the tree roots. I ran the intervals as they fell, no cheating and it felt hard but my head was in the right place. It wasn’t even that I used mantras or tried to drown out the negative with positive chatter. It was just that after my little ‘chat’ with Verbia it felt like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing this morning. Like this was my time to run, my time to be at each point along the way exactly at the time I got there. Just as the Wharfe meandered along with a calm inevitability, so did I. I felt slightly disappointed when it was over. I even briefly considered going on in spite of feeling physically quite tired and being a bit of a sweaty mess but arriving at a gate and the bridge back across the Wharfe to the Cavendish Pavilion which seemed busy with people had broken the spell. The magic had gone even if some of it has lingered all day.

Two short runs

Well what a week! After last weekend’s incident I headed to a conference. My favourite conference in fact. The Association of Law Teachers. I was the Chair of the Association until I handed over at the AGM but more importantly than that, the Association’s members and conference delegates are my academic tribe. It was also great to be in Leicester where I did my undergraduate degree. So when I woke up on Monday morning I was excited to see that I still had plenty of time for a little run. It was just starting to get light. There were a few drunk blokes outside the hotel so I turned right instead of left and looped back round rather than running past them. I plodded my way up New Walk thinking about my student days. When I hit University Road I detoured onto London Road to run past the pub I used to work in.

Then I looped round Victoria Park and onto Leicester University campus, had a look at the Law School, took my usual crappy selfie and looped back. I had planned to take some more photos on my way back down New Walk but it felt good to be stretching my legs. I felt comfortable and strong so instead I just kept running and pushed the pace a little.

I got back on Tuesday evening – the usual exhausted but happy post conference delirium. Wednesday I had to go into the office and I thought my hay fever had started – turns out it was the beginning of a cold. I felt proper poorly for two days, then I felt a bit better on Saturday morning but not well enough to run so I volunteered at parkrun while Kath ran 10 miles plus parkrun. Today I felt a bit better again so we stuck with our plan of heading to Bolton Abbey. I had over ambitious notions of trotting round my loop but it very quickly became apparent that my lungs weren’t up for that. I made my way round the loop with little bits of running and stops to look at the bunnies on the Easter trail and lots of walking to just look around.

It may not have been the run I was hoping for but it was good to clear the old stale air out of my lungs and get some fresh air in. It was lovely to see the birds being busy and I spend ages running along watching a dipper in the Wharfe. The goddess Verbia was quiet today. Calm and calming. ‘You’re mind is ready’ she seemed to be saying ‘and your body will be too, just allow it to heal now’.

I crossed the river at the aqueduct and as I took a minute to just be I saw Kath coming along – she’d gone to Barden Bridge. I trotted towards her and then we walked/ran the rest of the loop together. It was lovely. We finished with our Bolton Abbey tradition of coffee and bacon sarnies. We were watched by a robin and a gorgeous female chaffinch.

It was a lovely morning.

Bolton Abbey Christmas Ducks

Before the last Dopey Simulation which we finished yesterday, we had a lovely little trot out at Bolton Abbey last Sunday. We gently plodded our way round the Barden Bridge loop with just a couple of walks up the hills. We were planning on going round the Abbey but neither of us really wanted to so we agreed to call it a day after that loop and bank a really lovely positive run.

We had our usual coffee and bacon sarnie and then got a second coffee to take away and walked towards the strid to look at the lights lining the way to Santa’s Grotto from the Elf Hut and to be near the river and see if Goddess Verbia had anything to say. She seemed a bit shouty and busy – not in an unsettling or stressful sort of way though. It was quite nice watching the Wharfe go about her business.

We walked the bottom path past the sulphur well and as we walked back up to the main path we saw an unexpected duck off to the side (sorry the photo’s a bit crap). He seemed quite jolly, if a little lonely. There was a female duck on the main path who seemed happily going about her business. Eventually she toddled off in the other duck’s direction so maybe his loneliness was short lived.

It was a lovely calm morning and not even hordes of children with obnoxious parentals and grandparents who get in the way could spoil that. As we walked back towards the car we met a group being led towards Santa’s Grotto by an Elf trying his best to keep the little creatures from running ahead by telling them that if they stayed behind him he’d tell Santa how good they’d been. Both Kath and I admired his efforts but couldn’t help laughing because his facial expression rather suggested he had the naughty list all planned out.

The Goddess Verbia and Squirrels that drop out of trees

IMG_2402Ok so those two things are not actually related as far as I know but then you can never be sure with a goddess.  It has been a tough week. Monday feels like soooooo long ago. I recovered reasonably well after my 14.5 mile adventure last Sunday and Monday I was a little tired but not actually sore. Tuesday things did not go to plan. My plan was to drop Kath off at the station, leave the car at the station, run back home, get ready for work and make my way back to the station – this does make sense. No really it does. There are no car parking spaces after about 7.15am and I wanted the car to be there in the evening. Anyway, because the university has a timetabling system which isn’t supposed to be able to timetable us in two places at the same time, but apparently can do exactly that to at least one of my colleagues, I ended up teaching at 9am. It threw out the rest of the week and I have been slightly confused ever since. I know, doesn’t take much.

I didn’t get out to run until Wednesday afternoon. That didn’t go to plan either. I thought I would just try my Hokas one more time. You know just because. Well my legs don’t like them and my achilles tendon detests them. I got about a mile and three quarters in and had to walk because it was screaming at me. As soon as I took the Hokas off it was fine. I then meant to run again on Thursday but that didn’t happen mainly because I decided to rewrite my lecture for the nth time. I did make it to yoga though. Friday I taught for 6IMG_2418 hours starting at 9am and finishing at 5pm. Anyone who can give a 2 hour lecture, pull together an outline for a paper, have a chat about LLM dissertations, mark 2 LLM dissertations and then teach 2 two hour workshops and then still function on any level at all never mind run is not actually human. I nearly feel asleep in my pint!

So Saturday. It’s a wild sort of autumnal and I love it. The original plan was Cliffe Castle parkrun again but neither of us really wanted people. We went to Bolton Abbey Instead to run our little loop. Dopey Plan has 3 miles on it today. We haven’t run at Bolton Abbey for quite a while. The colours were spectacular and the Wharfe was well up. It was warm. After the usual pit stop we set off at a gentle jog up the first slope. About half way up I thought maybe  I should have gone with Kath’s suggestions of walking to the top and setting off from there. But I made it and recovered. The noise from the Wharfe encouraging me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. As a reward, just as we got to the top of the slope, a mass of leaves in all shades of yellow and orange gently floated to the ground all around us. It felt like natures very own congratulations confetti.

IMG_2414On we plodded. I could’t really decide if that cold I had is still lingering, whether I have lost most of my fitness or whether I just felt lazy today but it just seemed hard going. I focused on looking around, taking in the different colours and smells and consciously acknowledging the temperature variations with every landscape change. They were really noticeable and marked today. Descending (usually) into colder air actually felt really nice because I was far too warm in my long pants and with my rain jacket on. I took it off after about half a mile and tied it round my middle. As much as I was trying to look around and take in the wood it was the Wharfe that kept pulling my attention back to it. The sound of the water, sometimes gently encouraging but mostly urging us on with a more or less forceful roar, was always there and somehow demanding my focus.

As I walked up the hill alongside the Strid and struggled to catch my breath I tried to consciously draw strength from the power of the water surging down. I briefly closed my eyes, tripped over a stone and swore but I liked the idea of drawing on the power of the water. As we descended again I asked Kath whether she knew who the goddess of water was – not ocean but water more generally and we decided we didn’t know. Whoever she is though, I liked the fact that she was offering her strength for us to draw on so freely. All we had to do was listen. I tried to concentrate on that.

We crossed over the aqueduct and headed back towards our starting point. I’d sort of wanted to go further but the plan said 3 miles and I was finding it hard so we agreed that a positive shorter run would be better than a miserable longer one. I kept running. As we moved away and up from the Wharfe a little I missed the noise. It was like it was no longer talking to me urging me on. Running got harder. I was just beginning to fall a little behind Kath as I watched a squirrel climb up a really big tree a little ahead,  and then fall out of it. It landed really close to Kath and both of them nearly jumped out of their skin and stared at each other for a split second before carrying on along their way each as incredulous as the other. Laughing had helped me catch up.

We walked up the nemesis hill and then down the other side and the Wharfe was back. First with very gentle whispers and then with more urgency. At one point the path runs right next to the river and I imagined it pulling me along with it and I knew I’d be able to finish without walking. I powered up the last two slopes and kept going along the path taking us back to the bridge and across the Wharfe to our starting point. I’d found it hard, much harder than I probably should at this point in Dopey training, but I enjoyed every step. I also enjoyed our breakfast and watching the wind and the rain while drinking my coffee.

So when I got home I searched for information on a water or river goddess and I can do better than just some generic deity. Meet Verbia, the goddess of the River Wharfe. I know very little about her but I think I like her and I am certainly thankful for her help today. She often has a calm efficiency about her as she flows along her way but it doesn’t take much to get her going with some urgency and power that is a little bit scary. However it does take a lot to make her burst her banks (sorry Kath, I know rivers don’t burst their banks, they overtop but bursting banks sounds more dramatic and tantrum-y) and lose her shit. She’s feisty but controlled. I don’t know if she makes squirrels fall out of trees too.

Bolton Abbey to Burnsall – well nearly!

Kath had a day off today so after spending some time sorting the most urgent emails and planning my conference paper for our Toronto trip we headed over to Bolton Abbey. We were planning to run from there to Burnsall and back – roughly 12 miles. I was a little apprehensive. Not quite sure why but I think maybe because it’s a sort of milestone route in my running journey. The first time we tried I couldn’t do it and had probably my most dramatic running meltdown where I actually had to sit down by the river for a few minutes to stop sobbing. That route has always been a big deal. I was so anxious about it  and wrote about that the day before we tried again. Then we did it.

So the last time I struggled quite a lot. While the route is stunning I struggled to take it in and I added in additional walks and was in quite a lot of pain at the end of the 11 miles that we did that day. So we got to Bolton Abbey and the weather was looking pretty good. It was colder than it has been and I had dressed accordingly but the sun had come out and I wondered whether I was going to be too warm. We used 1 minute run/30 second walk intervals and started, as we did last time, at the top of the first slope. It took a little while to settle in and I’m still having some hay fever issues but it wasn’t too bad. We saw some wagtails and dippers as well as blue tits, great tits and a couple of wrens early on and before I knew it really we’d reached the Strid, made our way up the ‘steps’ and onwards to the aqueduct and then Barden bridge. It started raining.

We crossed Barden bridge, made our way along a footpath alongside a short stretch of road and then into the first of many fields. The route is part of the Dales Way and runs through fields and on paths running at the side fields and the edge of the river Wharfe. For most of it I was just following Kath letting her pick the route through and trying to mimic her bounciness and confidence (fake it until you make it, right?) but in one rare moment of sensible decision making I decided not to follow her through a really boggy bit and changed direction just as she disappeared knee deep into what had vaguely looked like solid ground. For most of the way we kept to the run/walk intervals exactly. There were a couple more technical sections where we picked our way through more carefully and then a set of steep steps which we walked on both the up and down!

The rain was constant now and heavy. At the top of the steps Kath said we should stop because I wasn’t enjoying it. That pissed me off a bit. I was fine and actually not miserable. I was still going pretty well  – I’d just made a comment about remembering these steps from last time, I think I nearly cried when we got to them on the way back last time. We got back on the same page and continued. About a mile later, with the rain whipping in our faces and the wind making it feel really quite cold, we decided to turn back. Being miserable is not part of the running plan!

It instantly felt less wet with the rain coming from behind (well until my rain jacket was soaked through and everything was just sticking to my back). We took a few walk breaks out and made good progress and before we knew it we were at 7 miles. I can’t remember exactly where but in one of the fields we came across a lamb that didn’t look too good. Kath checked it. It was dead – no obvious reason but clearly dead. It felt awful just continuing on. Obviously if there had been anything at all we could have done for it we would have stopped but there was nothing there to even try and revive. We had an extra little walk to pull ourselves together and then carried on lost in our own memories of lambing and lambs.

After a bit of quiet time we refocused on the beauty of our surroundings. It was still raining but there was lots of gorgeousness – watching the swifts/sand martins play over the river and fields for example, the lambs bouncing, the ewes grazing and watching, the different shades of greens, the moor and Simon’s Seat in the distance. If you’re missing photos – sorry it was too wet to even think about getting my phone out. I started to listen more to the river. Somehow it was talkative today. On the out run it had sounded grumpy to me. It was like it was cross with us or the world in general. It was a slightly unnerving noise when I was aware of it anyway. On the way back it didn’t seem like that. It seemed to be roaring us on through the loud sections and the quieter ones were a mix of friendly chatter, calm reflection and happy gurgling.

Kath managed to avoid the bog on the way back and before I knew it we were through 8 miles and back on very familiar territory. I still felt quite strong. The last mile was more of a struggle and I was getting tired. 10 and a quarter miles done today. We got soaked to our knickers but it was good and we did get a mile and a bit at the end without rain to help us dry off a little. By the end my hips were a bit tight and my ankles tired and as the day has gone on my glutes are saying ‘hi’ but it’s all good and I’m really happy with how I managed to keep moving through the muddy puddles and slightly more tricky terrain. So while it wasn’t the 12 mines we had planned it was good and we’re ready for the half marathon on 6th May. I never really feel prepared for races, ever, but I’m not terrified and that is as good as it gets!

I had more tailwind (reviewed here) today and my two little bottles over the distance today were plenty – it wasn’t hot so if it gets hotter I probably need more  – or the same amount in more water. The new order arrived today too and includes some stick packs of their recovery drink to try so I’ll let you know about those once I’ve had chance to test one.

And just for the record: Happiness is dry socks!

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