2019, it’s lovely to meet you

Am I supposed to start the 2019 blog posts off all happy smiley positive with good news and excitement for what’s to come? Well there will be some of that but I’m going to start a little bit grumpy: I don’t like New Year! Well I do and I don’t. I have an affinity for points in the year where you naturally reflect or plan ahead, where you dream, where you learn. The start of a new academic year, the start of a new Semester even, birthdays, the end of holidays, finishing a book, sometimes, simply finishing a week or even a day. New Year is simply that for me – or it would be if it didn’t come with all this bollocks about being a better you in the new year. I am the same slightly grumpy, slightly mad and slightly bitchy me today as I was yesterday. I don’t change much! I still don’t like people, I still have broccoli cravings and I will still eat cake. I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions. I have a very simple plan that is completely independent of New Year, or any of those other ‘fresh start’ moments. I plan to keep on running as long as I am enjoying running. If it turns out I hate it, well then I won’t run. There are things I’d like to achieve this year, of course, little challenges that keep pushing me out of my comfort zone because that’s where the fun happens – but resolutions? Nope.

I started today with a Double parkrun. I am not a parkrun fanatic or even fan really. This may be hugely unpopular but parkrun freaks me out a little bit. It’s a bit too cult like. I like going along to the odd one and I really like the idea of doing them when we’re on holiday. I have so far ticked off the Brisbane one and then 3 local ones. I’ve only done the Cliffe Castle one twice (new PB today after doing the Myrtle Park one first – happy Jess). I am looking forward to maybe trying a Washington DC one and the new Hamburg one in 2019. Anyway, I digress. Double parkrun this morning. The first was Myrtle Park in Bingley. Hilly. But really not impossible. However, as we waited the place seemed full of club runners and cocky buggers talking about course records for their age groups etc. I felt out of place. I mean FFS, I felt out of place at parkrun! I got a grip and remembered #myrunmyrules. It’s a 4 lap course which I thought would be dull and hard but it’s a lovely and twisty or as one of the little lads we saw said, ‘twiggly’ course. After the first lap I wasn’t sure I’d manage the hills another 3 times but after the 3rd lap I was pleasantly surprised to still be running and to want to finish running. The last hill was a bit of a push but it felt good. The course measured a little short on the Garmin but whatever the actual distance my pace was decent and I felt strong (Home at 36 and half ish minutes)- good sign for Dopey next week!

Then we hopped in the car and drove across to Cliffe Castle. This was the second time for us at this venue. I had a few doubts here. There were people. I don’t like people! But I wanted to do the Double. Finally we set off and settled into a slow trot at the back of the pack. The course is quite narrow making overtaking tricky particularly when you are a slower runner who has to negotiate getting past those even slower while not getting in the way of those runners lapping us. Cliffe Castle is a 3 lap course which is actually mostly downhill with all the up coming in one stint. I walked that. Maybe one day I’ll run it but not today. Again it was a nice plod round in January sunshine in a lovely park setting really. On our final lap we seemed to fall into step with dog Diego and his human for a while. Diego was distracted by everything and ran head first into one of the parkrun signs. I don’t think he hurt himself so it was ok to laugh. Cliffe Castle has a nasty little incline as you approach the finish and I’d watched it come closer as we plodded the final stretch. I was a little concerned about this incline, I wasn’t sure if I could run it. Then Kath said, ‘come on my little Dopey, finish strong’ and out of nowhere I found the energy to power up the hill feeling surprisingly good. Parkrun 2 done. This course also measured slightly short. So maybe my Garmin just doesn’t fancy the distance today.

So that’s the first 6 miles of the year bagged. I am ahead in the #Run1000Miles challenge. I doubt I’ll stay ahead for very long but it feels good to start as I mean to go on! Anyway, here’s my 2019 pledge. I am going to have a crack at the 1000 miles this time. My A Goal is to get to 1000. B is to run a little further than in 2018 and my C Goal is to run and enjoy it whatever the mileage. In fact goals A and B are premised on enjoying the running. I won’t be a mileage slave, it doesn’t work. However what does seem to work is enjoying being out, not taking things too seriously and just seeing what happens – miles take care of themselves that way. I am really excited to be able to share my running adventures with the #Run1000miles gang again this year, but more importantly I am excited to see what everyone else is up to and I’m looking forward to again being inspired by the mileage, the elevation, the scenery and crucially the sense of joy that is so ever present in the Facebook group. If you are a runner, wanna be runner, maybe runner or a I could maybe possibly, perhaps but not really sort of runner, come join us and see if you can surprise yourself running further, stronger and happier like I did last year.

Happy January and Happy 2019. Keep being the amazing, fabulous you!

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!

September round-up

September has been a miserable running month really. It started so well. It started with relatively happy running and a decent build up to the Great North Run and then overall a solid GNR and an awesome post GNR run and then I got this hideous cold/flu/chest/throat thing. Then I thought I was getting better and got out for a 5 miles come-back run which I loved and then I wasn’t better so I have now had 3 weeks with hardly any running and it is annoying the hell out of me.

I will finish September on 31.2 miles – my worst mileage month by over 10 miles. I am stuck on 532.51 miles and my hope of reaching 800 miles for the year is slipping away. I am behind on my Dopey Challenge training plan, I am losing fitness, I’ll be putting on weight (I haven’t bothered getting on the scales this morning for my Sunday Weigh-In because I actually just don’t want to know today). I have spent three weeks mostly on the sofa and trying to push through to get work stuff done and keep things ticking on as best I can so I don’t get even further behind. In short, I’m grumpy.

I’ve had two back to back nights of 11 hours sleep and I think I am beginning to feel a bit more human again. I’m working at home tomorrow so will aim for the same again! There are still extraordinary amounts of snot but I don’t feel poorly today. Tempting as it is to pull the trainers on I am resting today. Tomorrow evening I’ll be off to my yoga class for the first time in what feels like forever and then on Tuesday I am back on the training plan – 45 minute run. I should be ok. I was half marathon fit for the GNR and I have only missed one long run of 13 miles so while it might not be pretty I should manage the next scheduled long run of 15 miles if I take it nice and steady. I know I have time, I know I don’t have to go the full distance as dictated by my training plan and that I could afford to drop back to the  previous long mileage on the plan but not running is playing havoc with my head. The enormity of taking on Dopey is there in the back of my mind and I don’t want to just drag my butt round, I want to enjoy it. Or at least most of it. Chances of enjoying ESPN Wide World of Sports are pretty minimal – it’s the part of the marathon I am least looking forward to – though if I can make it through that I’ll finish!

So, it’s 100 days until we fly out to Florida. 100 days to get Dopey fit. I’ve just been looking back and in 2015 I had flu a little later than this cycle and I still got myself Dopey fit (ish). I should stop worrying and just get on with getting better and then get the training done. I know I can do this, now I just need to believe it.

 

 

500 Miles and Running with the Black Pup

IMG_2178It has been a funny old week. Well actually it hasn’t, or at least I haven’t been able to find anything funny about it. It’s probably been hilarious. The foggy tiredness started to descend on Sunday evening; a vague darkness settling, clinging, making itself at home. The black pup had, somehow unnoticed, crept into the room. She was asleep in the corner and I was cross I hadn’t seen her coming in. I went to bed. Maybe she wasn’t really there, maybe I was just tired (‘nah, I’m here, you know that kinda tired, it’s me).

Monday. Bank Holiday Monday. Monday was supposed to be long run and sort our shit out day. We were due to do 11 miles. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting up but eventually did and put my running kit on and then froze. I was rooted to the spot. There was no way I was going OUTSIDE. I mean seriously – like OUTSIDE? Freezing had nothing to do with running or the distance. I was quite happy about the idea of plodding along for 11 miles with my run/walk intervals, it was actually quite appealing but it would mean LEAVING THE HOUSE. Fuck no. The pup lifted her head: ‘Hi!’

I spent most of the morning on the sofa while Kath went and did the food shop and after a little while I started to want to run. When Kath got back I got changed and considered the possibility of leaving the house. Hm. The pup looked up again ‘Hi! You going out? Nah you’re not really are you’. I hesitated, she might be right. I hovered in the kitchen a little. Kath opened the door and gently nudged me out of it. I stood there for a minute or two and if Kath hadn’t been between me and the door I probably would have run back in. Instead we set off gently jogging down the street and I settled into a steady rhythm. I kept running for the entire 3.75 miles and then we walked up the hill home stopping for blackberries here and there. It was a definite win. It wasn’t 11 miles but it was a run. The pup was sulky and she was zapping all my energy. IMG_2177

Tuesday I worked from home and the plan was to run from Bolton Abbey to Burnsall after work. I was looking forward to it. I had an ok day. The pup was in the room and she lifted her head every now and again but generally kept quiet. She was there though. She was making me tired. We set off to go on our run. The route is stunning and I was looking forward to it. The run/walk intervals were set to 2 minutes run and 30 seconds walk. We set off. I felt tired and creaky but I was sure I’d settle.  I’m not quite sure when the negative chatter started. The puppy was bouncing along enjoying her time out and pointing out that I was feeling creaky. ‘Tight calf muscles?’ she would giggle periodically ‘comes from being unfit that’. The first mile was soooo slow. At least that’s what I thought. ‘Wow so slow?’. I tried to reason – lots of the route had been uphill, it was undulating generally… the pace was actually fine but I couldn’t shake the negativity. With every step it got worse.

IMG_2172I knew I was physically fine. Logically I knew that. I also knew that I was running well within myself, I knew the route was gorgeous, I knew…. but I couldn’t make myself believe it. By just under 4 miles I felt dead on my feet. It all felt totally pointless. The pup was bouncing round in circles – ‘you can’t do it, you can’t do it’. I decided to pull out of the Great North Run. I decided to bin long distance running. We stopped for a minute or two and I took a few deep breaths and kicked the pup. She growled but took off  and I got my act together for a bit and kept going. By just over 4 miles she’d caught up and she was on form: ‘Can’t do it, can you? Soooo slow, you won’t make the cut off time. Wow, it’s a wonder that butt can move at all – have you seen the size of it?’ She was relentless. I was tired and I gave up. I was pretty sure that was it, no more running because it just makes me miserable. I wondered if I could sell my Dopey registration. We sat by the river for a few minutes.

Then we slowly started walking back. The pup found it all hilarious and bounced around mocking me. I felt silly. I wanted to try running a little more so we ran/walked a bit – sometimes sticking to the intervals, sometimes just going by feel. I tried to think rationally and logically about the run  – prompted by some questions from Kath. Analysing it hushed the puppy a bit, she’s not keen on the science brain. Why did this run go so wrong mentally. Why could I not silence or at least quieten the negative chatter? Well, partly I think I had no plan. I assumed that because I had abandoned the idea of a long run on Monday that Tuesday would be the triumphant return to the distance. I had unrealistic expectations about pace based on the previous week’s 9 miles on the flat andIMG_2182 when that just didn’t happen (and it was never going to) I had no plan B and because of the depression absolutely no mental energy to stop the negativity and self doubt. I need a Plan B and C and possibly D. What I should have been working with was that Plan A was to cover the distance at a strong pace using the intervals, maybe Plan B could have been to cover the distance using the intervals as set – whatever the pace; Plan C to cover the distance adding extra walks where needed…. If I hadn’t built up the run quite so much in my mind and had articulated (at least to myself) the possibility of other plans or other ways of running it, I may have had a chance. Maybe not, it may simply be that the puppy was too much for me on that day. In the end I still covered 8.8 miles and in the end it was within Disney Pace (16 minute mile is the pace requirement for the Disney races – it was 15 something or other). That should be a win. It felt like total failure.

Back at the car I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I felt dead on my feet and everything hurt. I felt like I could sleep for months. Back at home though I couldn’t settle and I didn’t sleep well. Wednesday I worked on a workbook for one of my modules (frustrating, templates, urgh) and then drove to Nottingham for a gorgeous few hours with my friend Bex. It was just what I needed and I think maybe the pup stayed here in West Yorkshire. I think maybe Bex terrifies her a bit so she left me alone for the day and it was nice, it felt like maybe the darkness was lifting a little, feeling less clingy. By the time I got back it wasn’t long before I went to bed. Thursday I worked from home again and I vaguely wondered about a run but I couldn’t shake the tiredness and the non-specific ache. We’d booked a yoga class in the evening and I spent most of the late afternoon looking for an IMG_2167excuse not to go. But we went. I was again creaky and not at all bendy or strong but it was good to have to leave the house and to spend some time focusing on nothing but trying to get into and hold the poses. Black pups aren’t allowed into the gym.

This morning I actually got shit done. Kath had an appointment at Bolton Abbey and I went with her and while she was there I went for a run. I was dubious. I wasn’t sure I was mentally any stronger than Tuesday. But I had a different plan. I knew I had about an hour and I had 3 possible routes. The shortest would only be about a mile or so but I decided that if I wasn’t enjoying it or I wanted to stop then that mile would be fabulous. The next loop would probably be about 4 and a half and the longer would add another mile onto that. I had also decided to leave the run/walk intervals as they were and see – my ‘rule’ was that with every beep I would consider changing the pace – that way I could run for longer than the two minutes or walk for longer or whatever but on every beep I would need to think about whether to change. I also decided I might take some photos (dotted through this post for you) and that I was absolutely not thinking about pace. In fact this wasn’t a run at all. It was an outing, it was an opportunity to move and be outside and enjoy myself. If running happened then that was great but, I told the pup quite firmly, we were most definitely not going for a run. ‘Yeah, that’s because you can’t’ she said but she seemed to lose interest.

IMG_2181I set off on the first running interval  – all good. Then another, all good. Then I walked up a long sloping hill. Then I ran down the other side. And that’s how I continued – walking up, shuffling down, running on the flat, stopping for pictures. I didn’t stop after the mile loop, I kept going. I was doing our usual loop now but the wrong way round – I didn’t want any markers that might give me an indication that I was slower than usual. I didn’t want those visual clues to derail the positive of being out. I kept going. I went for the middle loop so crossed the Wharfe at the aqueduct and worked with the same pattern of run walk roughly to the beeps but sometimes running more and sometimes walking more. I chose the top path from the Strid and made good progress walking the up hill bits. Then there was a slight downhill and I started running and it suddenly felt different.  It felt effortless. I only had 100 metres or so before I had to stop to cross a little bridge behind a couple walking their dogs. They let me past but then their dogs came with me so I had to return them. I felt sure the effortlessness must have been an illusion.

I set off running again. Nope, there it was again. Wow, running is easy. Everything IMG_2183
aligned. I was breathing easy, all the creakiness had gone, there was no heaviness in my legs, I was running easy and just for the hell of it. I think I picked up the pace a bit and I just kept going and it felt amazing and joyful and free and light. That last half mile is, I think what we run for – for those occasions when it all comes together and running feels more like flying. Then I was back at the Pavilion and slightly irritated by people getting in my way. I got coffee and waited for Kath and then I got work shit done while she went for a run. It was a good morning.

The pup is here though. She’s lounging about and every now and again lifts her head to say something less than nice or helpful. She’s making me tired – that relentless sort of tiredness. The darkness feels less clingy and I am slowly slowly regaining my sense of humour about some things. It will take time. The pup isn’t one to just pop in for a cuppa and then bugger off again. She’ll linger. After today though I feel more confident that she is actually sort of under control. Like a sprained ankle, I know she’s there and she is stopping me from functioning fully but really is not stopping me from doing that much. I just need to rest more and be kind to myself and be aware of her.

Today’s run also took me through 500 miles for the year so far. I’m now just over 501 miles. I am really proud of this. I managed 500 miles last year – on New Years Eve and exactly bang on so I have now officially done better than last year! I won’t make the 1000 of the #run1000Miles Challenge but that’s ok. I’m running more consistently than I was and I am fitter and stronger than I was – whether the black pup agrees or not!

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Today just is!

Well everything is hard fought today. After a lovely chilled weekend with our friends that was filled with wonderful cuddles and giggles from the kids and just easy togetherness, my brain started misfiring at some point last night. I went to bed. I slept in that uneasy way you sleep when you don’t quite trust your brain to get things right.

We were going to run 11 miles today. After a cup of tea in bed I got up and put running gear on and then I couldn’t move. I was quite clear in my mind that I could not possibly go outside. I could not, under any circumstances leave the house. Yes I do realise that’s ridiculous and not exactly a healthy response to anything but there I was, rooted to the spot. The 11 mile run was quickly abandoned and I managed to persuade my grey matter to shut up for long enough to go downstairs and make some breakfast. Then I set about the slow and so often futile task of having a conversation with myself about how this is all a little silly and the world is no scarier and fucked up today than it was yesterday and that sitting on the sofa is not going to solve anything, it won’t get shit done and it won’t allow me to just be and enjoy the bank holiday either. I wasn’t really listening

To try and do something useful at least Kath and I compared diaries, planned meals for the week, wrote a shopping list and then Kath went shopping. I stayed on the sofa. Where it’s safe. I read posts on the #run1000miles facebook group and enjoyed the photos people had posted of their runs. Other people’s adventures big and small distracted me enough for the chemicals to settle a little and I began to really like the idea of a run. But then there was the door to negotiate with, you know actually leaving the house. I’d also posted about how I was feeling and the comments I got back where so lovely and supportive and I began to feel a little less scared of the world.

When Kath got back we got changed. Then I stood in the kitchen a while pretending I wasn’t really putting off going OUTSIDE. Eventually Kath gently nudged me towards the door and then through it and then stood on the step between me and the door while I figured out if I really wanted to go back in and hide. Once outside I was ok. We didn’t linger for both watches to find the GPS but set off as soon as one had it. I left my run/walk intervals on so I could drop into them if I wanted to. We ran easy. I didn’t want to find out if I had any mental strength to push – it didn’t feel like I had anything at all mentally. Physically though I felt fine. We ran our sheep loop. I slowed off even more than usual on the downhill not wanting to give my persistent black pup any excuse at all to get involved. I still felt physically good so we extended the loop by turning right across the canal and going to the stone bridge and turning round there.

We were talking on and off and Kath had just finished saying ‘We haven’t seen the kingfisher for a while’ when we saw a flash of blue and orange and a kingfisher flew out on the opposite side of the canal just in front of us. You can’t not smile when you see a kingfisher. A little further along there was a heron on the edge of the towpath and we ran past it slowly, hoping not to scare it off – I could have touched it if I’d stretched my arm out. A little while after that it got tough. Probably not actually physically tough but mentally I was beginning to really want to stop. We went post to canal boat to tree to patch of nettles to bush to bench to post….. Before I knew it we’d reached a tarmac section and then the bridge towards home. 3.75 miles run and another just over half a mile walked home on a day where it looked like making it downstairs might be a win. I’ll take that and I’ll celebrate it.

I have no idea why today is like today is. There are no obvious triggers. Sometimes there is no reason, sometimes it just is and that’s ok and most importantly it doesn’t mean that the rest of today has to be like that or tomorrow or the rest of the week.

Happy Running, or just running or not – whatever you need today