2021 Running

Was it really May when I last posted? I had 8 started posts in the draft folder – all now pointless and irrelevant and thus binned. But May? Really? Well that tells you something about my running year. It wasn’t really. I started tracking my mileage in 2017. I ran 500 miles. I had my best ever year the year after with 810 miles. I will finish 2021 on about 108 miles. A long long long way off the #run1000miles ambition. But never mind. I was going to review some running highlights and reflect on some of the crappy stuff but somehow running just hasn’t really featured much in 2021. I have mostly just not been running. When I think back I can’t remember the runs. 2021 was not a running year. It wasn’t a fitness year either. Although it was the year I started the Body Coach App and worked fairly diligently through the first few cycles before stalling completely. I have renewed simply because when I am in the habit of doing it I both enjoy it and feel the benefits.

So what has 2021 been in running terms? A reminder that I want to run. Having run so little over the year, having struggled to try and start again again again – and failing has put into perspective that running is actually so much part of my life now that the idea of not doing it at all is just nonsense to me. The year has also highlighted how much I learned from marathon running – something I wrote about at the beginning of the year. Anyway, I could artificially try and pull out some positive platitudes from my year in runs but that would be meaningless. It wasn’t a running year. It was just a year with quite a lot of crap, with some great opportunities – some taken, some not, some real achievements and a good bit of change thrown in. All year though I have been ‘getting back to running’ or as it turns out, not quite getting back to running.

2022 might not be any different. I might spend the year starting again and then starting again and then starting again. However, for no real reason I feel really positive about my 2022 running. That positivity is certainly not evidence based but it’s there nonetheless. I have had 4 outings over the last week. Short little runs like the just under 2 miles on Christmas Day and my 30 minute plods out this week. I am aiming for a new year 3 miles to complete Week 1 of Half Marathon training. Yep, half marathon training. I briefly considered whether I should just aim for a May 10km instead but at heart I’m a distance runner. I want to run over 10 miles consistently and regularly and signing up for a 10k rather than the half just seemed like an excuse. Anyway, the plan is to run and write more regularly; to get back to that magic spot where running and writing about it supported each other and both were just things I do. Hopefully therefore this blog will become more regular again and obviously to have something to write about I will actually have to run. I’ll update on plans as I go. For now I really just want to wish you a Happy New Year.

I hope 2021 was kind to you, that you and yours stayed safe and well and that Covid impacts were mild. I hope 2022 is everything you want it to be. I am hoping for a calmer year, with fewer big changes, for time to breathe and time to think, for the peace of mind to read for fun, for time outside, for experiencing the total joy of movement a good run can bring and for the sense of satisfaction a hard run finished brings. Have a giggle and cake filled New Year, stay safe!

Happy New Year from the 6 of us

March Planning

Black cat lying next to a calendar with a person looking at  the calendar planning
Kath and Einstein Planning

My February roundup is actually pretty much contained in my Body Coach App Cycle 2 Review. I did a bit of running and a bit of stuff from the app… and it was fine. I have now done a bit of planning for March and I have changed a couple of things. So the first thing to note is that I have gone back a week on the running plan. I could push on but I’m in no rush and I don’t feel settled into it so I am repeating a week before moving on. It feels sensible and right. I don’t need to reach a specific distance by a specific point and I’d rather feel comfortable doing what I am doing than constantly pushing for further. I will continue with the two 30 minute runs during the week. I think I will try and run as much of those as I can without walking – but depending on the route there will likely be some walking. West Yorkshire ain’t flat! My weekend runs this month will go up to 5.25 miles and I will try and do those run/walk with 45 second running/30 second walking. Let’s see how that goes. I might even repeat another week if the 4.25 miles I am to do this weekend feels really hard.

I am still aiming to do 5 Body Coach workouts each week but if I am struggling I am happy to drop one and just do the run. I so far quite like the cycle 3 workouts so maybe motivation won’t be as much of an issue as in Cycle 2 and I can get them done in the morning. I have gone back to work on a phased return today so I now need to fit work into life again so there’ll be some experimenting with how that works best. I like the idea of a workout first thing and then running after work to draw a line under the work day but that might not actually be feasible. We’ll see.

Cycles 1 and 2 suggested that having the rest days as I had them didn’t really work. I had Tuesday and Saturday as rest days. It seemed like a good idea in planning. It left one weekend day free from workouts and running to devote to other things and then split the week into 2 workout days, one rest day, 3 workout days, one rest day… Except that on the Saturday I often felt like I wanted to do something, the workout or run could be done any time without fitting around other commitments (and now work) and somehow felt less pressured. This was the case even where I had completed workouts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday already. Somehow I never felt like I needed or wanted the rest on Saturday or on Sunday. Monday was also good, a workout somehow nicely sets up the week. On Tuesday I’d welcome the rest day and then not really get going again, sometimes going for a run or doing a workout on Wednesday but struggling or then taking an extra rest day on the Thursday. So for March I am trying something slightly different. I am going to workout/run on 5 days and then have 2 back to back rest days. So Tuesday and Wednesday become rest days. It might not work but it is worth seeing if it does.

And yes, of course this blog post is just an excuse to share the photos of Odin and Einstein helping us with our planning.

A ‘not quite’ sort of day

1st of March. Hmph. Time seems to be flying and yet not moving at all. Time is weird. I went for a run today. I didn’t want to. I did a workout too this morning, didn’t want to do that either. I didn’t sleep well. My knees hurt in my sleep and I couldn’t get comfy at all and wherever I turned there seemed to be a cat making it impossible for me the stretch out or move. I didn’t make 30 miles in February – I nearly did but not quite – because I did not want to dodge all the people that the glorious sunshine brought out yesterday. They were everywhere and in hordes, even on the roads. So no quick 30 minutes to just tip the mileage over 30 and no 4.5 miles to fulfil my obligation to the plan.

Yesterday’s sunset

Anyway, I woke up early. Not that it felt like I had been asleep much. An exercise session was on my mind but I thought if I just keep quiet maybe that feeling that I should just get it done would go away and I could stay in bed drinking coffee, cuddling cats, watching the sun come up. Well there was no sun to be seen in the fog anyway and then Kath uttered the words I didn’t really want to hear: ‘I was thinking about doing a workout’. Oh sod it then, let’s do it. Let’s start the month positively. It was actually fine and I did feel better afterwards. There was a lot of ‘not quite’ in the session though, the not quite managing the same number of push-ups as yesterday, not quite sprinting on the spot until the timer beeped and not quite managing the bear crawl for 30 seconds… not quite.

I left my sports bra on as I had planned a run today and having to change bras is a major factor in not actually making it out the door (no? Just me? Oh ok). Kath headed out after she finished work. I was still faffing with stuff but decided I wanted to get it done. I wanted the first day of the month at least to go to plan. Well, not quite. I got changed and headed out. I felt cold. I rarely feel cold running and even if I do it’s only for a few steps really. But throughout the whole run I could not get warm. I couldn’t quite get into a rhythm, not quite. I was always not quite settled. I told myself that if I got to the end of the road and still wasn’t feeling it I would turn round and come home. At the end of the road I was neither settled nor more unsettled and on autopilot I just kept going. Everything though felt not quite right. I dropped to run/walk. I’m not sure why. I was going downhill. I had been quite clear in my head about the planned loop but now I just couldn’t face it. I turned off early and significantly shortened the loop. I kept going on run/walk. Sometimes though I didn’t run the full 45 seconds – not quite. I met Kath coming in the opposite direction as I huffed and puffed up a gentle slope. She turned round to come with me. From there it was uneventful, a walk up the hill, a run/walk home. I was supposed to do 30 minutes. I did 28.22 minutes. Not quite. I only covered 1.86 miles, not even 2 miles. Not quite. I also didn’t really feel better after the run. I felt better when I put my sticker on the calendar for today showing that at least on Day 1 I stuck to the plan – even if not quite.

Running Wins

I don’t feel like I am winning at much at the moment. Things I thought I knew and was sure about, things I sort of know I am good at, things I love doing… all have been put into question over the last year and particularly over the last 6 months or so. So I take my wins where they fall. And this week’s running wins are both so unremarkable and so bloody huge at the same time.

I have yet to hit 50 miles for the year. I haven’t been hugely focused on running. I haven’t forced myself out in bad weather, I have stayed in when it’s been icy and I have kept distance low and running intervals short. I have done more Body Coach App sessions than runs and I am ok with all of that. I am quite happy to not push too hard right now because my brain can only do so much at a time and doing routine things sometimes (but no longer most of the time!) uses up a very silly amount of brave. On Wednesday I did my Body Coach App session in the morning and it felt good to have got it done and out of the way. In the afternoon I was tempted to do naff all but put my big girl pants on to go out for my run. I fully intended to run/walk but as I set off my knee felt a bit funny. Not painful as such just a bit vague and unreliable. I decided I wouldn’t take the first walk break and just keep going to see if the knee settled. It must have done because I don’t recall thinking about it again at all. I had sort of settled into a nice little plod. As I made my way down the hill I thought I could always drop into the run/walk when I got down the hill. I didn’t. Soon I’d run the first mile and I felt comfortable so I kept going. I wondered if I could get to two miles – the route I had planned would have a killer hill at about 1.6 miles so I changed the route and went along the canal towpath. As I plodded along I started to think about running the entire 30 minutes. I never actually decided to do that. I just kept entertaining the idea and as I got closer to the 2 mile mark and ticked off little landmarks the notion of just keeping going until the 30 minutes was up didn’t seem ridiculous. It didn’t seem possible either but the idea wouldn’t let go and when I turned round with 5 minutes to go the psychological boost of ‘heading home’ helped get me there. I was very pleased with that indeed. It was 30 minutes nonstop and it was 12.35 minutes per mile pace. Happy.

Thursday was busy and I ended up not doing anything and then Friday I meant to go in the late afternoon again but my knees were sore from the Body Coach session earlier in the day. This morning though I went to try another 30 minutes. Kath came with me and we picked a different route. So setting out to run for 30 minutes without stopping is psychologically harder than sort of doing it by accident. The route was also different and not mostly downhill. It started down, then sloped up, then down a short sharp hill and then flat and slight down for a bit until it started slightly sloping upwards, though it is barely more than flat. This was about 20 minutes in and this was where it got really tough. Another 2 minutes along and we were in proper upward sloping territory and I had a way to go. I wasn’t sure I would make it up the slope so I had to decide between trying, dropping to run walk, turning off and doing a sharp downhill, flat, bastard uphill, slope down, sharp up and slope down instead. I went for the latter option thinking that if I could get my breath back on the down bit I could have a go at the first hill, recover on the slope, have a go at the second and then finish. The uphill in that particular loop is always further and steeper than I think and I nearly didn’t make it. Kath kept telling me that I was doing it. My legs didn’t think so but my brain seemed to lack energy and focus to question what it was being told so as I was doing it I did it. I did recover enough on the slope to power up the last little hill and then I only had 30 seconds left so I stretched my legs and finished strong. Happy.

I have one more 30 minute run to do this week and I will try running it all again. I might try the same route again and see if I feel strong enough to try the slope this time. I know in the scheme of running achievements running nonstop for 30 minutes is nothing, it’s unremarkable and lots of people do it every day. But somehow it felt like a massive milestone after the crappyness of my running year and craziness of the last 12 months generally. I could have cried after the first one and to back it up today was fab.

Happy Weekend.

Eeyore-ish post about running life

I started a blog post yesterday. I was tired and grumpy and a bit worn down by general crappiness, lockdown and stuff. I wrote

Well, I am about half way through Cycle 2 of the Beginner Body Coach app and my mojo has sort of disappeared. It’s not the app I don’t think. I am just generally not feeling it. I can’t be bothered. I think my really bad period I wrote about the other day sort of threw me off a bit. The bleurghness lasted for the full 6 days rather than just the first couple and I still feel a bit sluggish.

We went for a short run on Sunday. It was our anniversary and it was a lovely start to the day. We saw deer and a kingfisher and I managed to up the running intervals to 45 seconds. It was good. But I haven’t run since. Partly because it’s been cold and potentially icy. I am pretty sure the roads round here would be fine for a 30 minute loop but I just haven’t felt like pushing those buttons. I have missed one Body Coach workout last week and I haven’t done one today. My knees are a bit niggly. I have just started wearing trainers when doing the sessions to see if that helps but if they don’t work I might buy some actual HIIT trainers.

And then I went to bed.

I thought after a good nights’ sleep I might be in a better frame of mind. I wasn’t. I procrastinated for a while. Then I grumped quietly into my coffee for a bit, then I scrolled through social media trying to find something to either grab my attention or provide some inspiration or motivation. Nope. Then I thought I might as well go for that run. It’ll be awful but at least it will be done and it’ll kill half an hour or so.

So I got changed and went out. It’s gloriously sunny and bitterly cold. I don’t really remember thinking anything when I set off running. I wondered if the 45 second running intervals would be hard given that I haven’t run all week. They weren’t. I wondered if it was going to be slippery. It wasn’t. By the time I hit a mile I was sort of settled into a very slow and gentle happy plod. I didn’t know which way to go so when I got to the junction at which I had to decide and there were walkers, bikes and cars seemingly everywhere (there weren’t, just felt like it), I looked at my watch, realised I had done 15 minutes and decided to turn round and just go the same way back. Now this might seem like a bit of a cop out. It’s not. My plan says 30 minutes so doing 15 minutes out and then back is fine AND the way back would be mostly uphill. The kind of uphill I don’t usually bother with because it’s too hard. This time though I did it. Same intervals, no additional walk breaks and only one minute per mile slower than on the downhill.

So do I feel better now? A little maybe, less vague and generically grumpy. I am pleased I went out. The sunshine was lovely and it was nice to manage the uphill running bits.It feels like I have achieved something today. And in a fit of optimism I have left my sports bra on to do a Body Coach App workout later on this afternoon. In the meantime our two youngest cats are keeping me entertained fighting over the hammock (Odin is currently holding the position but Kilian wants it, or just wants Odin not to have it).