A walk with running bursts

Happy first day of meteorological spring. It’s sunny in patches and windy here. Not freezing cold but not exactly warm either. Except that there is a noticeable warmth in the sun now. It’s no longer a distant ball of light in the sky. It’s like it is thinking about maybe sharing some of that warmth and just slowly testing out what that might feel like.

Since the session on Thursday I have done very little. I could hit you with all the usual excuses but it just is what it is. Some days I can want to do something, really really want to do it, have very intention of doing it, not understand really why I am not doing it but still not be able to do it. Some days that just is the way it is.

Today threatened to be interesting in that sense. I’d gone to bed really early yesterday. I slept on and off for 12 hours and when I woke up Kath wasn’t there. I have no idea why I found this worrying or odd. She had said she might go for a run. But I couldn’t see a note, the house was eerily quiet, I walked all round it and even checked under the sofa (FFS, she’s not a cat!) and panic was setting in a little. So I ran back upstairs and got back into bed to hide. Then I saw the note – you know the one that wasn’t there earlier (obviously it was) and then I just felt silly. Great start to the day that.

We went to Bolton Abbey. It was tempting to say we’d just go for a nice walk, to just forget about running… but trust in the process remember. Don’t think about it too much, just tick off the runs, tick off the exercises, just follow the plan. Ok well, I’m already behind on the plan but never mind. 30 minutes was required for the next run on the plan so we made our way up to the Strid and back. We basically walked and threw in a few short bursts of running really concentrating on form. The bursts varied from 10 to maybe 25 seconds and some were on the flat, some were down and some were up and some were a mix. So I guess really we went for a walk with some running drills thrown in. The focus was on knee drive and not heel striking but landing much more mid foot. It was ok. It’s done. I feel less panicky and less silly.

Another one ticked off. Another sticker on my chart, another step close to believing its possible. And another cup of Bolton Abbey coffee to soak up the sun and watch the people go by with.

Un-Possible

Aaaaaaaargh. I have spent a lot of time screaming into a void lately but that’s another story. I’ve had flu or a bad cold or whatever and it was awful. I still have a chesty cough. I didn’t start the Harewood House 10k, I haven’t run. I went out for a plod last Sunday and honestly it’s hard to see any positives from that (thought of course, objectively, there are some – I left the house for a start). I had a session with RunRight today, with Mark, to have another look at my run and to once again try and iron out the issues with my form. I knew I was starting from zero again and while frustrated I thought I was ok about that and accepting of the fact that I had to start again somewhere.

Well, about that. I have spent the last 5 years very slowly shifting my focus from the number that appears on the scales when I step on them or the number that’s on the labels in my clothes to what I can do. I have stopped worrying about which bits wobble, how heavy I am or how much of a tape measure I might need to get it round my hips. It was (is!) just not important. What was important was what I could do. What was important was how strong I felt, how fit I felt, how easy it was to power up our hill, walk up the stairs at work, run 6 miles, how sleep comes easy when you are actually physically tired in a good way. Well the problem with focusing on what you can do rather than the numbers is that it doesn’t work when you can’t do it.

I cried all the way home – just silent tears rolling down my face. I’m not quite sure why. The session was good. It was exactly what I needed. Seeing the videos and having Mark point out where the issues still are and talking about how to fix them was really helpful. I feel more motivated. I have my Disney training plan and Mark’s instructions on what to do. It was good. It was a positive start to the next chapter of the running rollercoaster. Well, I hate rollercoasters. Running has been non-existent, I am not strong, I am not fit. Focusing on what I can do is not a positive because what I can do is, well not a lot and certainly so much less than I could 12-14 months ago. So running and exercise generally, right now, feel like just another thing I am utterly rubbish at. There is of course lots going on here:

  1. I have had bursts of good progress and then something happens and I am back to square one. At square one it’s hard to see there was ever progress. In this case the set back was the flu. Two days before it really hit I had a good session with Katy at RunRight, a hard session but I made it through and felt really positive and motivated after. Now it seems impossible to see how I could even get back to that level.
  2. For all sorts of reasons my confidence is low and anxiety is high. That doesn’t help in remembering that there are lots of things I am pretty good at
  3. It’s the anniversary of Rachel’s death tomorrow so quite frankly the world can just fuck off
  4. I have not been this unfit for a long time. I know that it just takes time and consistency to build it again and I know that if I do my exercises, go out running regularly and stick with it, my fitness levels will go up to a level where everything is easier really quite quickly. I know. I have the evidence – it hangs on my wall in the form of Dopey Medals. I know. I just don’t believe.

The problem is, I don’t feel capable and so much of my energy has been focused on well-being which draws on strength and fitness and feeling capable. I feel physically weak and unfit and that translates into some pretty big mental wobbles which make it harder to even begin to put any sort of effort into getting fitter and stronger. It’s a cycle and it’s a cycle that is really difficult to break. It just feels pointless.

So what’s the solution? Is there one? Think about numbers again? Well, partly it is tempting. I could shift a stone pretty quickly and maybe I would briefly have some sense of achievement for bringing down the number but it would neither be healthy nor sustainable nor would it change anything at all. I am barely heavier that I was 14 months ago and I am wearing the same size clothes mostly – though some of them fit a little differently just now. Being lighter, wearing the smaller items in my wardrobe would not make me feel any more capable, any stronger, any more unfuckwithable. It wouldn’t make me healthier, faster or stronger.

I don’t have an answer. The only answer is to keep getting up every morning and trying. It’s accepting that some days getting to work with all items of clothing on the right way out and round is a win and also that some days there is no win. It’s accepting that I am where I am. Whether I like that or not is irrelevant, it just is. It’s also about trusting the process. It’s about trusting that every little tiny bit of doing something is better than not doing anything. It’s about not thinking too much, it’s about not allowing the head to take over, it’s about having made the decision that I want that version of me back, the one that can run all the way up the hill home and still have enough left to swear about it… I know what I need to do. I know I can do it because I have done it before. It’s all written down, all I need to do now is follow the plan, tick each day, each exercise, each run off. I don’t need to believe, not yet, I just need to do. Belief can wait. It’ll come and when it does, well when it does… I might try believe 6 impossible things before breakfast (Sorry Lewis Carroll).

Yep, starting again?

What do you do when you are struggling to get back into running, struggling to run a mile and generally struggling with being heavier and far less fit than you were? Well naturally you sign up for a hilly half marathon. Of course you do. Never mind that it seems totally unrealistic and undoable, you just decide that in 5 months time you will run 13.1 miles most of which are on upward flat sections. Yep. That’s what you do. Yes.

So having established that this is the done thing, I am delighted to tell you that Kath and I have now signed up for the Suzuki Midnight Sun Run in Reykjavik on the 25th June. The elevation profile looks like this:

So I should probably give you a running update and tell you how much progress I have made since the beginning of January. Yes, well, about that. I ran on the 5th January – dragged my butt 6 miles to go have breakfast. And then I carried my running gear across Europe for a few days while I popped in to see Dad in Hamburg and then went to a workshop/conference in Osnabrück. I meant to go run while I was over there. I am normally quite good at running when away from home like that but somehow it just never quite happened. The workshop was pretty intense and they were long days with late dinners and even though I was awake early enough every morning, I felt too full still and it was still dark and I had no real idea of where to run… excuses excuses excuses.

Torture Device!

So then I got back and started marking and that was that. I basically didn’t move until I was finished (I still have extensions and paperwork but mostly I am done) and here we are another week disappeared. On Thursday I had a strength and conditioning session. The first one since I gave up sometime in December because everything just felt impossible. I was in two minds of whether to go back but actually I didn’t hate the session. I found it hard but it was good to be doing.

Wonky headband!

Yesterday I finished marking and didn’t really do anything else other than the odd stretch every 3 or 4 scripts. At some point though, I sort of realised, I am actually going to have to stop thinking about running and actually run. So in glorious sunshine I headed out late morning today to run the sheep loop and pop in and see Mum at the end. It was lovely out. I ran the first half mile or so, then put in a 30 second walk break and then continued on running for a bit. As the ground got more uneven and muddy I dropped into 30 sec/30 sec intervals to protect my calf muscles and feet. That seemed fine.

I walked for a couple of minutes towards the bottom of the former golf course – I have never liked the bit where it switches from muddy path to tarmac and I always feel like it’s damp an slippery so rather than tensing up and making my feet hurt, I just walked through that. Along the canal I stuck to 30/30 again and it wasn’t until right at the end that my feet started niggling a bit. Overall it felt good to be out and positive to actually be moving and doing something.

I was having fun really!

So, work towards the midnight sun run starts here I guess. I’m mad.

Accountability post

I have not been running to a plan at all lately but theoretically my 10k plan starts tomorrow. It’s a plan from a Runners World I think and I like it because it has 3 runs a week on it. I might run more, I might not but experience has shown that when I have a training plan with more than three runs a week I tend to not manage it and end up missing key elements of the plan – like the speed sessions. So with three runs a week – most of the time split into one long, one pace practice or speed and one easy, I am more confident that I can stick to the plan as well as fit in the sessions with RunRight and some yoga.

Kath is in the process of adding a new spreadsheet to our files to track our 2020 miles for the #Run1000Miles challenge. I’m excited about having a blank sheet to work with! If you haven’t heard of this or signed up, do it. Have a look at the Trail Running Magazine website for info and get yourself into the Facebook Group for lots of advice, support and encouragement as well as pictures of stunning landscapes. It doesn’t matter whether you make the 1000 miles or not. It’s a fabulous challenge and I still think that for me it is doable. I managed 500 miles with a rather last minute 7 miles on New Year’s eve in 2017 and then I ran over 800 miles in 2018 and am at just over 500 miles for 2019. So I am again setting my target for 2020 at 1000 miles. I need just a little more consistency.

So really I am writing for accountability – Either tomorrow or Tuesday (tomorrow may be tricky as we have a funeral to go to) I need to get my moomin butt our for 40 – 60 minutes of easy running. Obviously for me that means run/walking. My easy running is basically walking so I shall be giving myself a break and accepting that while earlier this year I could run a long way without walk breaks that is no longer the case and intervals are fine! I also need intervals at the moment because my calf muscles are protesting if I try anything more ambitious that running for about a minute at a time. Which brings me to the next paragraph.

The other thing I really need to and want to do as I head into this training programme is doing all the things that are so easily neglected. I want to keep doing the yoga after running to stretch out everything that is pulling tight. My calves are suffering but I suspect that the cause is really my hamstrings which seem ridiculously tight. And then there’s the strength exercises and sessions with RunRight which I will pick up again mid January when I am back from a workshop in Germany. The sessions that is, the exercises I need to seriously pick up today really – I have been doing some of them some of the time and I was giving myself a break because everything was just so impossible (thanks black pup) but we are now in excuses territory!

So please do keep reminding me to do yoga and exercises, keep asking me about them and holding me accountable. In particular remind me that I want to do them because they make me a better runner. I am actually not at all keen on gym related stuff or on strength work or any of that – except of course I like feeling strong and capable and I totally get that that takes work so I need reminding that while I might not like the process I do like the result and I usually enjoy having done it even if I don’t enjoy doing it. I also say that about running of course so maybe one day I will actually enjoy a strength and conditioning type session while I am doing it rather than just afterwards. Who knows.

Anyway – this coming week I want to tick off

  • 40-60 minutes easy
  • 5-6 x 1 mile at 10k pace with 800m recovery
  • 70-90 minutes long

I’ll let you know how I get on