It’s a Sunday in December. It feels cold. It has been grey all day and I am not sure it ever really got light. There’s been wet stuff falling from the sky or just hanging in the air and even our youngest two cats don’t want to go outside. It’s the sort of weather that would usually make me pull the duvet over my head and hide, reach for more mince pies and just alternate mugs of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and hot water until it is time for a hot bath a hot water bottle and bed. In short, it’s a West Yorkshire December Sunday.
A run today certainly would have been, erm, let’s say bracing and actually if fitter I might have quite enjoyed a relatively speedy sheep loop followed by a shower and lounging in front of the fire. But I am not fit and speedy isn’t an option at the moment. But just staying in wasn’t an option either because Kath and I are doing the Lakeland Lapland Festive Virtual Ultra. It started on 7pm on the 10th and runs to the 22nd December and in that time we need to cover a total of 234km between us as Team Double Dopey. It works out at 9.75km each every day for 12 days (with the cushion of a 13th day if we need it because of the activity upload window they allow). My plan was always to walk mostly as I really wasn’t sure how I would be doing at this point. The plan was also for Kath to cover most of the distance and me to contribute as much as I can. And that is pretty much how it is working out.
The challenge has been good for getting us out of the house more than we would have otherwise. We started with a walk round the neighbourhood on the 10th, then we had a run each and a joint walk on the 11th and yesterday we both ran and today we walked together. I spent most of yesterday being disappointed with my run and most of today being quite proud of it. I changed the running intervals from 15 seconds to 30 seconds and thought I would run our sheep loop with an added loop we call the farm loop. It goes along the canal but instead of out and back along the canal it loops round some back streets and through a farm yard.
I managed the intervals quite well. I slowed to slower than slow snail’s pace through the muddy bits down the hills and my feet were getting sore because I tense them too much but it was all fine. I stopped at a canal bridge to chat to one of our friends and while there saw Kath coming back from the farm loop. She stopped too, briefly and then I set off again and she came with me to keep me company on the rest of my run. I’d got cold so getting going again took a bit of effort. I didn’t make the farm loop but did a shorter out and back and kept the intervals going until just after 5km. Then I walked the remaining 2km home to make sure I didn’t injure anything that was niggling. I am happy with that – though I wasn’t yesterday – it’s a good run/walk effort and I keep forgetting just how poorly I was and how much better I am doing. Patience…
We finished yesterday on exactly 50km. Today My legs felt tired but mostly my feet were both quite sore. My right calf muscle also felt tight. That and one look at the weather meant I decided I wasn’t going to run today but would get wrapped up for a walk instead. Kath agreed. So we set off in the grey drizzle that, over the course of our nearly 11km, just got worse and worse. We both grumbled a bit about being cold and my feet were a bit tender in sections but it was also really nice to be outside. Towards the end we started talking about having hot chocolate to warm us up when we got in and somehow just that in itself was lovely. The anticipation of hot chocolate and dry socks is something powerful indeed. The last km or so was quite tough. I was tired. Part of me was grumpy about that. I have no business being tired after a 10km walk that wasn’t even marching or striding out but I am trying to be kind. I am still recovering and slowly slowly building fitness. The last bit was also into a headwind that was driving the now quite heavy rain straight into our faces so it wasn’t much fun. But then we were home and quite soon we were warming up from the inside with hot chocolate (80Noir Ultra of course) and our feet were dry and cozy and the daily distance for the Lakeland Lapland ultra were in the bag. And that feels like a good day.
Late morning today I decided I wanted to head out and add some kms to Team Double Dopey’s efforts in the Lakeland Lapland Festive Ultra which Kath and I signed up to in what must have been a fit of madness. 234km between us over 12 days. Yep fine. Not an issue… aaaargh. Anyway I will do a separate post on that adventure in due course. For now, the plan was simply to add a few miles to our total.
I set off with my 15 second run/45 walk alert set and in spite of the very grey day it felt nice to be out. Sometimes I really like low visibility – it means I can’t see how far I potentially have to go and it pushes me to just stay in the moment. Right there. Not even thinking about the next step, just this one. As I set off I realised I was bored of 15 seconds. I decided I would just slowly run the first part of the route without walking. It’s all downhill. I thought it might be nice to see if I could manage that without being too knackered later on. I know I have a tendency to go too fast or miss too many walk breaks early on so I agreed with myself (it was a conversation, I’m an awkward sod even with myself) that I would run no further than to the point where my route levels off – probably just over half a mile in. I did as I was told (by me).
It was happy running. I gently made my way down the hill and it actually felt good not to be stop-starting. I went very slowly, conscious that I haven’t run for any length of time for quite a while. It felt good. Comfortable, familiar. I got the the bottom of the hill and levelled off and used the walk breaks. So ok I was breathing a little harder but I was hardly really out of breath. That’s so exciting to write. I was not out of breath! I haven’t been able to say that about walking upstairs for some time! So I was on a happy plod and settling into my intervals. All was good and as I turned a corner and headed for another slight downhill I decided to try another couple of minutes of running. Towards the end of that run something didn’t feel quite right. I couldn’t work out what, took the next walk break and then set off again and then I realised: My boobs were not as contained as they should be. In fact they were well on their way to escaping completely and given the running, not entirely happy with their new found freedom and bounce.
My breasts had been granted their freedom by the zip on my bra most definitely not staying zipped. It was millimetres from coming undone completely. It was not in a place where it could discreetly be pulled back up, no, that would not have been 2020 enough. My route, deserted until this point had of course also become busy. I stopped to walk and smiled at the runner coming towards me. Once he passed there was a short window of opportunity in which I could unzip my jacket, untuck my top, reach under and re-engage and pull up the zip before a dog walker would round the corner and be in full view. If I got this wrong, the dog walker would get rather more than he bargained for when he set off on his walk. I was also banking on the two cyclists behind me staying put and continuing their conversation rather than setting off again and coming past me and on the couple walking in the same direction in front of me not turning round. Operation ‘put breasts back in place’ was a success and I think the only one who got an eye full was the dog running ahead of its human.
I tried to run a bit more but the zip had clearly had enough of keeping the escapees in and every time I ran more than about 5 steps it gave up a little. So lesson learned: Whatever the marketing crap says – sports bras with a zip at the front should never leave the house. In case you want to know, it was a Sainsbury’s Active Non Wired Sports Bra. I’ve worn it for yoga and for some HIIT workouts too and I actually really liked it before today. It has never shown signs of neglecting its duties before and I haven’t had it long enough or worn it often enough for it to be tired, jaded or bored of its job just yet. I suppose it just doesn’t like running. Well once I have finished sulking with it, it can go on yoga duty. I suppose I should just be grateful that it is December so even if I were the sort of runner who runs in just a sports bra, I wouldn’t have been out in just the bra on a day like today. Although if I had I might have noticed the issue a bit sooner.
Anyway, that didn’t go to plan but the end result is a rather pleasing looking distance.
I wasn’t really expecting to tell you this again this year! I had moments where I hoped and the odd glimmer of total madness where I dared to plan. But I didn’t really believe I would manage another actual run this year. When I last wrote I was testing the fitness water with some HIIT sessions at home – well parts of HIIT sessions. Well they felt sort of awful and I felt not quite right and weird. And then one day, about 10 days ago I managed all 3 sets, and it didn’t feel weird. It just felt hard. It felt like being unfit and not being used to any of the exercises and like maybe having started on the mince pies just a little too early this year. It felt familiar. My body does unfit really well. It understands what it feels like and what is asked of it. It grumbles in all the usual places and ways when asked to do something about it. It wobbles and creaks a little and grumbles but it also secretly knows which bits will be slightly less wobbly first, which bits need nursing along and which bits just need to get over themselves. It knows my thighs lie when they say ‘can’t’ but that my shoulders know their limitations and ignoring a ‘can’t’ from them is likely to result in a dropped weight or face plant. It also knows that my hips are quite bendy, my hamstrings are not. Being unfit and starting to get fitter is familiar territory, I was beginning to come home.
So if the HIIT sessions just felt hard but not being-poorly-weird then there was no real reason I couldn’t have a go at a run. Running feels scarier simply because I have to leave the house. If I don’t feel well I still have to get home; there might be other people (rude!) and there are other things to think about like traffic, curbs, potholes, dogs, cars, wheelie bins with minds of their own… so I made a very very gentle plan:
Week 0: Complete 4 HIIT sessions
Week 1 (now): 2 runs of 30 minutes running only 10 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run -same running interval
Week 2: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 15 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run using same intervals
Week 3: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 20 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run using same intervals
Week 4: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 30 seconds walking 30 seconds; 1 longer run 30/30 on Christmas morning
The I panicked about everything and did very little. Out of the 4 sessions I managed 2 and I struggled to get out to run. It’s now Thursday of Week 1 and after a day of pottering about in the kitchen baking I decided it was time. I found a pair of new New Balance long pants I bought a century or so ago (it’s 2020, time is meaningless) and got wrapped up warm. Then I went to set my watch and discovered that I couldn’t set a 10 second/50 second alert – it would have to be 15 /45 seconds or I’d have to set up a new workout to upload first. Hm. Ok well 15 seconds run it had to be then.
Kath came with me and we agreed just to do an out and back to the end of the road section of our sheep loop. It wouldn’t be quite half an hour but it would be a good start. So that’s what we did. 15 seconds of running – really concentrating on running form and going at a decent pace. It was pretty good. It wasn’t easy but my legs remember how to run and actually they weren’t too grumpy about having to move a bit faster and get the knees a bit higher and my lungs didn’t protest too much either. 1.5 miles all in and I am looking forward to the next one. I ran.
As I said in my last post, I am back on a 5km programme. In some ways it is incredibly frustrating. It seems a bit pathetic to find myself here, with 4 marathons under my belt, struggling to run for any time or distance even at snail’s pace. But it’s fine. I can’t do anything about that. In other ways it is quite nice. There is no pressure to work for distance now. There is no pressure to do anything at all. So here are my reflections on week 1 and my thoughts on week 2 coming up.
The first run was running for one minute and then walking for 1 minute and repeating that 10 times. The day I did that was hot and humid but the outing itself was fine. I essentially did the first part of our sheep loop, turned round after 6 runs to leave a little extra walking at the end to cool down. The next two runs were both running 2 minutes and walking 4 minutes repeated 5 times. The first one of those I did with Kath on Friday when it was even hotter and more humid than run 1. I used the same route. I found the 2 minute runs up the slopes annoyingly hard but overall it was pretty easy. Yesterday I did run 3 – which was the same intervals as run 2 – and went a fair bit further by just increasing the walking pace I think. I might have been running slightly faster just because it wasn’t as hot (in fact it was bucketing it down).
I have enjoyed those three runs. I haven’t gone anywhere exciting on them – while a bit boring the out and back road route I have been using has a nice mix of gentle down and not too ridiculous up (almost no flat) so makes sure I don’t just run on the flat or downhill. I really noticed that two minutes uphill wasn’t easy. Clearly I have been avoiding running uphill! But I also noticed that 4 minutes seemed like a really long recovery time and that I didn’t really feel like I needed that at all.
I have also been doing a workout plan on the Nike app. I have done 2 endurance and one mobility session this week. I quite like them but I do think they have funny ideas about what beginner level is. In many of the workouts there are several moves that I can’t do fully. I reduced the level of the plan from the lowest intermediate to the beginner level as a result and the plan changed to reduce the overall number and duration of workouts and seemed to change some of the individual exercises. The mobility session I did today was much more doable all round. However, looking ahead, tomorrow’s session includes things like plank leg raises and side plank leg raises… I am not sure they are really beginner moves – I’ll just be trying to stay in plank/side plank for the given duration.
So next week then. The Nike plan has 4 session. 2 endurance, one mobility and one strength. I think each of them has at least one exercise I will need to modify but we’ll see how we go. The runs next week should be absolutely fine. The first two are running 3 minutes walking 3 minutes four times and the third is running for 5 walking for 3 minutes a total of three times. For the first two I think I will stay on the same route – it’ll make me run the hills and should be good for an out and back over that time/distance. For the final run next week I might have a re-think.
I’ve also been doing a bit of yoga. I actually really like it when I can get my backside off the sofa! Some mornings I have just done a few gentle back bends and forward folds with one or two downward dogs to plank and back strung together in fairly random sun salutations and other days I have actually followed one of the routines from the yoga studio app. My current favourite for a grumpy back is the morning stretches routine which has lots of happy baby in it and for later on in the day I am enjoying the Rodney Yee hip opening routines.
So all in all it has been a pretty good exercise week. I’m sure the physical and mental benefits will come. I feel positive about both the running plan and the Nike app plan. I am conscious though that I am not really moving much other than when I specifically do some exercise – working at home eliminates walking for the bus/ from the train etc. Anyway, some movement is better than none! I haven’t been taking pictures while out and about so you have all 4 of our cats, in age order, dotted throughout instead. Oh and we’re not talking about the scales, they’re refusing to budge.
Two weeks since I last told you about my running. So that means that 2 weeks of marathon training are done. It doesn’t really feel like it’s done. It doesn’t really feel like marathon training. It has just felt like a fairly horrible, weird, hard slog without any progress and without really settling into it. So in week 1 I was meant to do this:
Monday – 30-45 minute run: Run the long way round to the Co-op to get some shopping
Wednesday – 30 -45 minute run: Head up the hill for at least 30 minutes and try some run/walk rather than just walking up, then run down pushing the pace a little‘Long’ run
Saturday – 3 miles so maybe get up early enough to run the sheep look without fear of people.
Yoga of some kind every day
Well, I sort of did that – I didn’t run on Monday or to the co-op but I did run for the 30 minutes on Tuesday. I had a pretty ok first mile and then a slow second mile with walking uphill. On Wednesday morning it was too gorgeous to not go out so Kath and I walked up towards the moor. We went 3.63 miles but mostly walked and stopped to look at curlews and lapwings. It was a stunning hour and a bit to set us up for the day. On Friday I went out for the second 3o minute run, again an ok first mile and a slower second mile walking up. Then I was meant to do 3 miles at the weekend but that never happened so Monday I dragged myself out and managed 2 miles. So mileage covered but in a rather random way and too much walking.
Week two was the same again in terms of the plan but with 4 miles at the weekend. But I didn’t get out until Thursday where I just managed another 2 miles. I am struggling with people. I get really anxious when there are people. On Saturday I finally managed an early morning run. It wasn’t really any better in terms of fitness and how hard it was but it was a much calmer and more enjoyable run. We saw a deer and some ducklings and a heron. We also saw huge groups of tadpoles along the whole stretch of the canal we ran along – masses of them roughly every 20 metres or so. Today I was supposed to do 4 miles. I was too lazy this morning, enjoying coffee and kitten cuddles and then sitting in the sun so by the time I got out it was too hot. I walked to Kath’s mum’s to drop off some banana bread and then set off from there. I had a decent first mile and dragged my butt round a fairly miserable second and walked almost all of mile 3.
I haven’t done yoga every day. Actually in week one I did something at home every day – upper body stuff, stretches, a little yoga… not much but something. This last week not so much. That’s probably partly Odin’s fault as he arrived with us last Saturday and has kept us busy.
I’m not loving the running. I don’t feel like I am getting anywhere at all. Every mile is as bloody hard and horrible as the last time I went out. I am running very little really. However, I am getting out of the house for each of the runs on the plan. I am not always making the distance and that’s the next thing to focus on – actually run or run/walk the required time or distance before basically stopping to walk up the hill and home. I feel a little like I’m just going through the motions, hanging on until it starts making a difference. How often have I told myself to trust the plan and trust the process… this is again one of those times.
Today I feel tired, not an unpleasant tired but a tired that comes from actually having done something at least a little physical. I will probably not run tomorrow and then see if I can do a Tuesday and Thursday 30 minutes and then 4 miles next weekend to hit the total miles I didn’t do today (next week is meant to be three miles). I’m glad I built some wiggle room into the marathon plan.