Ice, Ice Go Away

Running is sort of on semi-hold while the weather decides what it wants to do. I’m trying not to be grumpy about it. I get stupidly scared in snow and ice. While part of me really wanted to go and play in the snow, face some of those fears and rediscover some of the winter childhood joy, now is not the time to risk injury or to add to stress levels. So running is paused until the last of the ice has melted and the paths are safe again.

For once I am not too concerned about the pause. I have been doing my Body Coach App workouts so I am at least doing something. I am also confident that I can run/walk the distance on my plan so am happy to just tick those weeks off for now and pick up the plan wherever it falls when I can get outside again. This weekend I am to do a 2.5 mile run and maybe, just maybe I can do that tomorrow.

I seem to be managing 1 run a week in-between cold snaps. Last Tuesday I had a therapy appointment at Bolton Abbey and took the opportunity to have a little trot out while there. I was only going to run/walk from the Abbey to the Cavendish Pavilion, grab a coffee and walk back to the car park with it. However when I came out of my session the path towards the bridge across the river and beyond towards the Cavendish Pavilion looked really busy with dog walkers and families with small children. I really didn’t fancy trying to navigate my way through that lot. I briefly considered not running and just heading home but the sun was shining and my brain was whirring from therapy. Running would be good.

So I set off in the opposite direction for a little trot out along the river and soon moved off the path onto grass. It had that delightful consistency that you only get from slightly frozen wet fields – squishy and crunchy at the same time and a little bit spongy. I trotted along in my 30seconds / 30 seconds run/walk intervals and wondered why it felt like such hard work. Then I remembered that for the last year or so I have hardly really run properly off road. The bit of running I have done has been road and canal towpath – and the towpath locally here is proper path not mud. I have not run on grass and mud for absolutely ages. And it showed.

The section I ran is only about half a mile each way so I ran a little loop round the field which also tested out my feet and ankles more on the slightly longer grass and avoided the muddy bits where lots of people had walked. Then I ran back up to the Abbey and round it back towards the car park to make up my 30 minutes. It wasn’t a great run in terms of pace or even how I felt doing it – a bit sluggish and can’t be bothered but it was 30 minutes of moving my moomin butt in the sun, it helped my brain stop whirring and it felt good.

The run really got my quads and I was sore for a couple of days after but not sore enough to not do the Body Coach stuff. I have a week to go on Cycle 1 so I’ll do a review then. I’m quite enjoying it all. I’ve switched rest days around a bit this week as I was just dead yesterday but overall I think it’s going pretty well. Now, if the weather goddess would be so kind and remove the ice, I can get going properly on that 10km plan!

Marathoniversary

Dopey 2016 finisher photo

5 years ago we finished our first marathon and our first Dopey Challenge. There’s a string of blog posts about that experience starting with this one. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the marathoniversary this year. Partly because I am not really running and partly because we were supposed to be there now and should have run the marathon in Florida today. But the universe had other ideas and as things stand I am grateful that we are not there and that I did not have pull out of or cancel the marathon because given the health issues and lack of running I wouldn’t have been able to get ready anyway.

So, all in all it has been a positive day full of happy or at least positive memories and thoughts. Every now and again I have got a bit grumpy or sad. I have felt annoyed at myself for losing fitness and not building on the Dopey and marathon experience but then I reminded myself that I have built on it, that I have learned a lot and that I didn’t lose it all. I completed another 3 marathons after that including another Dopey in 2019. So most of the time I was thinking about the sense of achievement. I still have a sense of wonder at the idea that we ran 48.6 miles over 4 days only about 12 months after not being able to run 100 metres and being so unfit that walking any sort of distance wasn’t really fun. My memories from Dopey 2 are more fun in a way. It was less overwhelming, I was fitter, I knew what was coming, the conditions were better (less hot) and I kept my sense of humour through ESPN Wild World of sport, the sense of achievement from Dopey 1 is something special.

Before Dopey 1 and that marathon I had absolutely no clue whether I could do that distance. In fact the safest assumption based on a year of running, was that I probably couldn’t. When stepping up the distance during that training cycle I had so many fails at the new distance the first time round but on marathon day there was no second chance, no having another go tomorrow. I also never really believed. I didn’t believe I was going to finish, never mind finish within the allowed time for the challenge until I actually did. And on that first attempt I had nothing to draw on. I generally don’t really believe I have done 4 marathons, if you asked me run 5km tomorrow I am not sure I would believe I could do it. Running still very much is something other people do. I am not quite sure what it is I think I do. I just struggle to see myself as a runner, as a marathon finisher, as a Double Dopey. I have to actively remind myself that I did that and that it is a big deal. I have to force myself to remember that I worked for it, that it took lots and lots of little steps that eventually, collectively took me to the finish line. Now, though I have that memory bank. I can force myself to remember what it took to finish the marathon. I can remember that one foot in front of the other really does get you there. I didn’t have that on the first one. It was just step after step into the unknown.

Reflecting on that first marathon today made me realise how often I go back to it, how often I draw on it. Sometimes it isn’t the memory as such but the emotion linked to the achievement. There is something so powerful about knowing that you did something impossible. There is an unshakable calm that comes with knowing that nobody can take that achievement away, that you made a point that wipes out decades of negativity about what your body looks like and can do from others and from yourself. There is something special in knowing that you can just keep going, that it’s ok for things to get tough, for things to hurt and for things to seem impossible. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes it is fun to do the impossible.

And running has felt impossible lately. I really wanted to get going after our run on the 1st January but then it got really icy and I just don’t do ice. I think Covid-19 added another layer of anxiety about the possibility of slipping and hurting myself and putting pressure on medical services. I also didn’t really have any long pants that fit well. So that was another excuse not to go out in the cold. I ordered a bigger pair of Alpkit Koulin Trail tights and they arrived the other day so no excuse there anymore. I’ve been doing my Body Coach App workouts so I wasn’t as worried about not running as I might have been but still, I wanted to be able to go out and enjoy running again. So today, with the ice mostly gone and the roads definitely clear I decided I wanted to try my 2 mile run in spite of not having done any of my runs during the week. Kath came with me. The first mile is all downhill so I decided I would see if I could run it all. I did give myself permission to change my mind though. But I didn’t need to. The first mile felt lovely. I didn’t feel like I was taking it easy as such but I also didn’t feel like I was pushing the pace. I was just running. It was almost exactly a 12 minute mile. It’s been a long time since I have run that mile in that time.

After the first mile I was just going to turn round and run/walk back up the hill but the road was quite busy so we kept going to run a loop instead and dropped into run/walk intervals of 30 seconds each. I managed the intervals to the bottom of the proper hill and walked up that while Kath ran up and had a rest at the top and then we ran home on the intervals. The last bit was quite tough but I just kept thinking about that marathon and the fact that I only had another couple of minutes, not another hour or more to go. If I could get myself through ESPN Wide World of Sport and finish from there, I can do another couple of 30 second intervals. It worked and I am very happy to have run today.

When the #DinoRun doesn’t go to plan

A little while ago some fellow #Run1000Miles runners started what has now become a fun little running game of taking their dinosaurs out for a run and taking a picture. Kath and I thought we should do that for a bit of fun too but it turned out we didn’t have a dinosaur. I mean come on, how does that happen? How do we not have a dinosaur? Then Kath found a dinosaur while sorting out a box for the loft but I never made it out for my longer run yesterday because of a rather dodgy tummy and the day before that I had some other random excuse. In short, the #DinoRun still hadn’t happened.

Today I decided I would get out. Kath and I made beetroot chocolate cake and I took some to drop off at Kath’s Mum’s with a gentle run/walk so as not to turn the cake into crumbs on the way. We had a quick chat, obviously at the requisite distance. After that I walked up the hill passing a couple of dog walkers and enjoying seeing the views from a different vantage point. I don’t often go that way and when I do, I go the other way round the loop I was on.

It somehow felt wrong to take Kath’s dinosaur so I nicked her idea instead and took the closest thing we thought we had to a dino – a platypus. She sat happily in my pocket on my right thigh looking out, every now and again reminding me to perhaps at least try to go a little faster. About half way up the hill we had a little break and look out over the valley before continuing on. I walked up the hill. I’m not actually sure that I could have run it even at my fittest but today was not the day to try. I just wanted to enjoy the warm sun and cool breeze and being out.

When I got to the top I crossed over the road to stay the required distance from a couple walking and once crossed back started run/walking – fairly half heartedly to be honest. I didn’t quite trust my tummy and I was enjoying being out without worrying about effort. I ran/walked for a little stretch. Stopped to look at a sleepy lamb and take platypus out for another look around. She was quite insistent about sitting on my shoulder and I had to negotiate hard to get her back into my pocket.

I carried on run/walk and was just thinking I might manage the next little up slope before enjoying a longish flat and down when I suddenly caught sight of a little lamb gang bouncing around in the field. I briefly thought ‘ooooh look lambs’ and was still smiling as I hit the tarmac and wondered how the hell that had happened. I landed with an oomph and just stayed still for a minute. Then I think I swore. I picked myself up off the roadside and brushed off the worst of the gravel and dust. There was a cyclist who came past me without making eye contact as I just started walking on. He must have seen me fall and pick myself up. I shouted after him: ‘I’m fine thanks’. There, always feel better for a bit of pointless passive agression.

My left hand felt bruised, my right was grazed and my left knee and shin took a bit of a battering too. I called Kath to explain I was hobbling home and to ask her to run me a bath so I could clean myself up and pick the gravel out of my hand and knee. So my planned 6ish miles didn’t quite go to plan. Because my tummy wasn’t quite playing ball I had already decided to cut it short and then I threw myself on the tarmac because I was distracted by lambs. I literally tripped over nothing – I checked – I fell on the most even part of tarmac on the entire stretch of road. Muppet.

Anyway I shall have to try another #DinoRun or rather #PlatypusRun that is worthy of the platypus. And I need to make sure that next time I fling myself at the ground I do it somewhere more forgiving than tarmac. Trails are definitely safer! I’m also going to have to find some of the yoga sessions which do not involve downward dog or anything like that because my hands are quite sore.

50 miles reached

In 2017 it took me to mid April to reach 50 miles, in 2018 I’d done it by the 24th January, in 2019 I hit the 50 miles mark less than half way into the Dopey Marathon on 13th January. This year, well April fools day it is. Still ahead of 2017. I am amazed. It is of course easy to get disappointed and grumpy about those stats and I do absolutely miss the headspace I found when running 80-100 miles a month. That seemed to be a sweet spot where running was lush but not too tiring. At least that’s how I remember it. Anyway, be that as it may I actually feel pretty good about things as they stand.

I didn’t even reach the 50 miles running but having set off on a run/walk up the hill with the plan to walk up to the moor and then jog back down. Because of more sitting and generally moving less during lockdown everything feels a bit tight and grumpy so we were both hoping that walking up would be a good warm up and would loosen everything and then we could have a gentle jog down just to keep things ticking over. Nice and easy. We didn’t run down. Kath’s knee was niggly and I had a kit malfunction – well not really. My pants just wouldn’t stay up. I think I need a half size smaller for them to stay up. A size smaller would be too small I think but as they are I can’t run in them for more than a few steps without having to retrieve them from round my ankles – and they don’t have a draw string or anything. Unfortunately I didn’t know that before we set off as I haven’t worn them for ages. They will now be relegated to at home yoga pants.

Anyway, the walk was gorgeous. As we set off there were lots of garden birds like blue tits, blackbirds and robins. Further up there were some goldfinches and then we were treated to our first lapwing arial display in a field just above one of the farms. As we carried on up the hill we saw fewer and fewer garden birds and more and more lapwings. Then we could hear the curlews and then we saw them and as we stood and watched and listened everything was perfect. There were other little birds that we couldn’t identify but we looked them up later and there were meadow pippins and possibly stonechats. The higher we went the more grouse there were too. First we just heard their grumble and then they started popping up everywhere. Love grouse.

We turned round when we ran out of road. It was tempting to go up the path to the trig point but if there were other people on the path we wouldn’t be able to pass each other at a safe distance. We were already slightly irritated with other people because in spite of the very clear instructions to not drive to somewhere to exercise, several cars had passed us with people doing just that – there’s nowhere to go, the road ends so there’s no other reason to drive up it.

So, I said I was pretty happy with things in terms of the running. I am, as unlikely as that might seem given my tendency to be really critical of me. Since the lockdown started I have got out more. In fact 20 out of my 50 miles have been covered since the 24th March. I am no longer grumpy about running or my lack of fitness but instead am looking forward to getting out and just doing something. I am walking lots but that’s fine. When I run, I run slowly and that’s fine. Somehow the mindset has shifted and the pressure is off. I am enjoying it, whether that it is a nearly 5 mile walk with one or two jogs or a quickish mile with a walk home as I did a couple of days ago. Any training plan is out of the window really. I presume the two races we have booked will be cancelled anyway so it’s not like I have to be ready for anything. And if they don’t cancel them, well let’s worry about that as and when it plays out.

Bushfire Relief Run

Sometimes you just need a reason. Kath signed us up to the Relief Run – the bushfire fundraiser with all the money going to the Australian Red Cross. She signed us up to do the half marathon distance as a team so running together we needed to cover 6.55 miles. That’s a pretty long way on my current (total lack of) form.

It was really frosty this morning and there was no way I was heading out on the slippery roads and towpath. Just no. I may be a wimp but I am a wimp with all limbs intact! So we postponed our run til later and went for a walk at Harlow Carr Gardens instead to have a look at the Japanese Art exhibition. We decided we would run when we got back. When we got back we both felt hungry and a little flakey so we decided we would run once we had eaten and let our lunch settle… our day had all the hallmarks of never quite making it out the door. I felt really tired and like a nap might help…

Eventually we got our act together, decided that this was important, it meant something, it was an actual reason to run that was beyond the ‘it’ll be good for us’ stuff. So we wrapped up warm and headed out. Intervals were set for 30secs/30secs to keep me vaguely honest. I was ok-ish for mile 1, ready to pack it in throughout mile 2. Having a reason and not wanting to let Team Dopey down kept me going to about 2.5 miles when I settled a little more and it all seemed ok until about 4.2 miles. Then we walked a little extra to let my tummy settle – it was just having a funny minute or two.

We walked up what was the golf course and then didn’t run much more really. I made myself run down the trail from the wood just to practice the terrain and then we run/walked until we met chocolate labrador puppy Buddy and his humans. Kath had met him before and told me all about him. After a puppy cuddle we carried on but mostly walking as my feet were a bit achey and then on the last downhill bit my left calf tightened loads. We walked from there and it turned out we had actually calculated distance pretty much spot on and didn’t have to walk/run laps round our estate!

I found this run hard. I didn’t want to be out there. I went out because there was a reason to, a good reason, a reason that matters more than me. I am glad I went. I had a recovery drink after and have been curled up in front of the log fire but somehow the run has left me emotional and tired and I’ve also not been warm since we got back – although I wasn’t cold on the run. I’m having a bath next which will hopefully warm me up. Well, it’s 6.55 miles. I got there. It wasn’t pretty but I got off the sofa and did something.