Autumn Running Hamburg and Home

In the last post I mentioned our Ernie-cat. Ernie cat got worse. He was a really very very IMG_2284poorly cat. We finished his course of antibiotics but if anything her was worse – so back to the vet it was and this vet felt a mass in his tummy that shouldn’t be there. We put pretty much everything on hold, nursed Ernie for 48 hours and then took him in for surgery. Two big lumps were removed from his intestines and then the silly little bugger wouldn’t eat at all. It took us another 2 days to tempt him. Running was – unsurprisingly – hit and miss. I managed 5.5 miles on the Wednesday before his surgery but then nothing until the following Tuesday.

IMG_2825On the Monday though I did do something running related. I went for a counselling session to talk about the running meltdowns I seem to be having on every long distance run. It was really useful to chat things through. I can’t even recall the detail of our conversation now but the upshot is that I am probably just putting too much pressure on myself and that I have internalised some of the objective measures of ‘good’ running such as pace even though I would logically (and rightly) say that pace doesn’t matter and that #myrunmyrules is the mantra to run by. I felt loads better after that chat.

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On Tuesday I was working home and Kath had already run in the morning but wanted to go to the gym so I said I’d run a loop and then meet her there. I ran 5k faster than for a long time. It’s not a PB as such I don’t think but I never really kept track – my Garmin tells me it’s a new record so it’s the fastest this year. I wasn’t trying to go fast. I just realised as I went down a gentle slope that I could just stretch my legs a little more and that felt good so I kept going. I felt it but it was a good sort of feeling it. Then on Wednesday I went out again to clear my head and switch from one work task to another. I felt strong and comfortable running and I purposefully didn’t look at my watch trying to get back to what a good run should be about – being outside and enjoying the movement. I felt really good until about 5 miles, then a few tummy rumbles and cramps set in and I started to feel quite uncomfortable. By 5.5 miles I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep running the entire 10k. I really wanted to though. By 5.75 ish miles it was clear that continuing running would be a mistake. I stopped to walk a little, and then alternated sprint/walk/sprint in short bursts until I hot 10k. Then I walked back home. A new 10k PB – and this might be a real PB. Again I’m not sure because I’ve never really kept track but I don’t think I have ever run 10k with a consistent 12 minute mile pace. It felt good.

IMG_2665I didn’t make it out on Thursday and on Friday we flew to Hamburg early in the morning. Very early. We had a lovely weekend staying at Dad’s, wandering round Hamburg a bit, seeing Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk and getting a couple of runs in. These were good runs in the real sense – not in the pace or distance sense. They were good because we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On Saturday morning we set off from Dad’s flat and  went through residential streets basically in a straight line until we hit the Alster. Then we went clockwise round the Aussen Alster stopping for views and to take pictures and chatting away as we trotted along. Running didn’t feel hard, it felt like a nice way to spend a gorgeous sunny morning. Before we knew it we’d covered 3 miles and I still felt absolutely fine. Eventually we came up from the Alster crossed a bridge and stopped for a couple more pictures of the city sky line and then made our way back down and anti-clockwise round the Binnen Alster finishing IMG_2828on Jungfernstieg and getting the bus back. We’d just missed the number 5 bus which was the most direct route and while waiting for a bus for a whole 6 minutes might be nothing here, for the busiest bus route in Europe that just seemed unacceptable so we jumped on the number 4 instead. We then had to get off earlier than anticipated because roadworks meant the stop we wanted was out of action – that did give us the chance to go through Kath’s favourite and undoubtedly best named tube station in the world – Schlump.

The rest of the day was all views (from the Elfie), cake and afternoon naps before heading out to the Arena to see Toruk (it was fab).

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Sunday was meant to start with a run but Kath had a nasty migraine type headache so running was out. After we established that horizontal was worse than sitting or standing we went for a walk and slowly the air and gentle movement eased the headache and nausea and she began to feel better. We walked along the Isebekkanal for a while and did a loop coming back past my Oma’s old flat and then did a loop in the park ‘Am Weiher’ opposite across the main road just because, said hello to a couple of geese and then headed back for breakfast.

 

IMG_2758A little while later Kath said she felt better and would like to run so we got ourselves sorted and got the bus out to Planten Un Blomen which, bizarrely, I had never taken Kath to before. We started off running round the outside of the park mostly stopping on and off to take pictures. We past the ice-rink that gave me the scar under my chin. I’d forgotten the ice-rink completely and if I’d thought about it at all I don’t think I would have said it was there but as soon as we ran towards it, I recognised it and remembered skating out into the middle, turning round to skate back, making it to the edge, reaching for the edge, thinking I had it and then searing pain in my knee. None of us realised until a good few minutes later that my knee wasn’t the problem
but that I actually had blood pouring out of my chin which had spectacularly split open. The only other thing I really remember about that day is that it ruined my at the time favourite yellow top because there was blood all down it and it had to be cut off me because it couldn’t go over my head.IMG_2752

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IMG_2774Anyway, I digress. We ran past the site of my first ever sporting accident (hm) and chatted away, stopped for pictures and looked at the autumn colours. It was stunning. We made our way past the museum of Hamburg History and looped round the end of the park before doing another little loop just for fun so we could run on a little trail and cross some stepping stones. Then we looped randomly round the gardens stopping to spend some time in the Japanese Garden with stunning colours. Then we hopped on the bus back, had some food and later drinks with the parentals.  Monday we flew back home.

Australia Running 5 – The Towns and Cities

Brisbane running was fun. The Southbank was fun. The conference was rubbish but it didn’t matter. We just did our thing.

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The first Brisbane run was on a Friday morning and we plodded along the Southbank a little, crossed over a bridge and went back in the opposite directions along a footpath and eventually into the Botanic Gardens. The cyclists were a little annoying but it was nice to be out and about. Cyclists were a theme in Brisbane – fast, rude and not always competent – and I didn’t really get used to them.

Saturday we met our friend Jenny who lives in Brisbane for the Southbank parkrun and Kath set off running and Jenny and I chatted and walked round. We’d never met in real life but we got on well and had breakfast together afterwards. On Monday we ran a loop very similar to parkrun and then on Tuesday we thought we’d go a bit longer and I really wanted to run 10km without walking. Well, not quite. I was defeated by the slope up onto the bridge on the way back. Things had got hard at about 4.5 miles (it was actually quite hot) and the slope at 5.5 miles made my legs go to jelly and refuse to carry on. I walked a bit, grumpy and then ran the rest to take us to 6.21 miles.

All in all Brisbane was good for running.

Alice Springs is a funny place and even after having spent time in Sydney after and now IMG_1724being home for 2 weeks I am still not sure how I feel about it really. It’s the place where ‘the State’ meets aboriginal culture and can’t cope so throws some tourists in for good measures. It feels like a microcosm of something although exactly what I can’t quite put my finger on. After sitting on a minibus for most of the previous afternoon, getting up and heading out the door for a little run felt both alien and exhilarating. We plodded along next to the river bed – the sandy dry river. It hadn’t rained since February and there was no water to be seen. We had a little cheer squad of parrots in a couple of places and as the sun climbed so did the temperature from a pretty cold few degrees when we set off to a pleasant warmth in the sun by the time we got back an 40 minutes or so later. It was good to be moving again.

IMG_1757Sydney was great for running. Our hotel was in a perfect location, close to the opera house and then the botanical gardens. We kicked off our Sydney running with a 4.5 mile plod across the Harbour Bridge and back down to the opera house and into the gardens. A proper tourist IMG_1761run with photo stops and stops to look at things. I struggled to get going a bit but it was fun. Running across the bridge was a very tourist thing to do (and possibly a commuter thing to do, too) and the views were great but in terms of running, it’s not actually that nice – it’s noisy and polluted! The climb we did a few days later was fabulous (and a little terrifying) though.

 

 

The next day we got the ferry to Manly and then set off on a run round Manly North Head. I was struggling a bit, feeling a bit tired and we ended up walking quite a bit and stopping for photos of course. It was a stunning route that started at Manly Beach and went along the coast a little to Shelly Beach before climbing up the edge of the cliffs and then heading inland a little. Going through the North Fort parade ground was a little weird and at some point we got our loop a little wrong but it was all fine and it ended up being a gorgeous run which we finished  with scrambled eggs on toast and coffee from a lovely little cafe back at Manly Beach and a walk in sand thus ensuring my happy feet.

After that my Sydney running dipped. My feet and ankles felt sore, maybe from running on hard surfaces more than I was used to. So on the next day I sent Kath off on her run and I jogged to the opera house, did a loop round it and then went back to the hotel. It was nice to be out but that was enough. On the last day I wanted to have a nice run following the route Kath had told me about along the edge of the gardens. However I hard a cracking bruise on my left knee, not sure where from but I’m blaming the bridge climb and it hurt with every step. My ankles were still tired too. I made it to the opera house again before deciding that being miserable is not part of my running deal – I persuaded Kath to keep going and waited for her on the opera house steps. I did a few stair repeats while I waited but they were a bit half hearted and in the end I just sat and watched the world go by.

Australia wasn’t a high mileage month at all but we did run and we had some really nice runs that made me realise how much I can enjoy it and that is something worth hanging on to – I like tourist runs!

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Australia Running 3 – Kewarra Beach

Our adventure continued on Cairns’ northern beaches. After arriving at the Kewarra Beach Resort and Spa we had some lunch and then turned our attention to running. We realised that in order to be safe we really needed to go quite soon so as to avoid croc time. So we let lunch settle as long as we could and then set off for a beach run. The first bit was still on wet sand close to the water which was sort of hard and bouncy.

The tide was coming in so we soon had to move higher up the beach and running got tougher. I couldn’t really run on the proper sand – walking was hard enough but I did manage on the in between stuff.

I turned at about 1.5 miles and completed a very satisfying 3 mile plod. It wasn’t half a workout for my ankles and feet though.

The next morning we had a little plod out the other way. We didn’t have that much time because we were heading on a day trip to Kuranda but we got out for a little sunrise mile. I wasn’t going to run. I was going to go and sit while Kath did her thing but it was just too inviting.

Happy running!

Australia Running 1 – Cairns

I have some catching up to do. I am now actually in Brisbane and tomorrow I have to switch into work mode so before we go and enjoy a NRL game this evening I thought I’d spend a bit of time catching up on the running we’ve done while on our adventures. Not that there is all that much running to talk about.

After Endure24 we next had a little jog out on the Tuesday after before we set off for the airport, then a whole week went by without running – some of it spent on a plane of course and much of it spent having an amazing time in a barrier reef cruise where instead we snorkelled and even tried a SCUBA dive, walked in the rainforest, found Nemo and hung out with sea turtles.

Once back in Cairns we did want to stretch our legs though and I was pleased to have dry non moving land under my feet again. I hadn’t really anticipated just how seasick I’d get – should have known really, I. And get motion sick standing still… Anyway, on Kath’s birthday morning we had a cup of tea and then headed out for a plod out along the water. It was a lovely morning and it felt good to be moving. We had a pelican cheer squad and could watch the sun come up and Cairns slowly waking up.

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Re-assessing “Unfuckwithable”

Quite a long time ago a friend shared the following on Facebook.

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I love it. I think we should all be unfuckwithable because if we are, if we can achieve that  then the world would be a better place because we could brush of the idiocies of life, we’d be less defensive, more collegiate and more supportive of each other, we’d be more here and now (ok so maybe the therapist is working here – she’s not keen on the past or the future, she’s all about the now). Running helps me get there. A good run can make me completely unfuckwithable because the warm post run glow, the slight smug post run IMG_8580ache, the calm post run tiredness, the heightened awareness of my own body and the mental clarity that follows a good hard run all tell me that I am me and that me is all I need to be. I’m not better than anyone else, I’m no worse, I’m me and if that’s not good enough for you then, frankly, that’s your problem and not mine. You can’t fuck with me because in that moment I am completely and totally in control of who I am, what I am and how I am and who does and doesn’t matter to my world.

IMG_8586Unfortunately though that unfuckwithable state is fleeting and fragile. Or at least that’s how I’ve thought about it until now. Today though I wondered whether the bar really has to be set that high, whether it really has to be something that is so hard to achieve and impossible to hang on to. Maybe there is more than one way to be unfuckwithable. On the one hand there is this almost mythical thing but then there are other things that achieve the same thing but perhaps in a more context specific way. Let me try and explain. I woke up this morning around 6.15, 15 minutes before my alarm, with a very slight hangover, slight regrets about food choices and not really feeling up to going for a run. But then what else was I going to do? I was awake and my hotel room was so tiny that staying in wasn’t really an option. So off I went. It was raining, I was a little grumpy, I wanted to run for 30 minutes without walking. After 3 minutes I was huffing and puffing like a steam train. I kept going, then I hit the busy busy busy just fucking busy Great Portland Street tube station with people everywhere and traffic just coming from all directions (not actually true at all – it’s a fairly orderly junction actually but it felt like it) and I was proper grumpy and even more grumpy that stopping for the lights meant I wasn’t running my continuous 30 minutes. I crossed the road and got into Regent’s Park feeling like all the energy had been sucked out of me by the traffic and the busyness of a Thursday morning on the streets of London. I’d done half a mile. I was seriously tempted to just turn round and go back to the hotel but the quiet of the park felt like bliss so I IMG_8584made a decision. I wanted to have fun – so I ran from point to point taking pictures (some of which are dotted through this post). I didn’t run/walk, I ran/stopped – sometimes to take a photo, sometimes to talk to the ducks or geese, sometimes to look at something. It may have been the slowest 5k in history but I had a blast and it was my run with my rules. I passed other runners (said hello to all of them, mostly they seemed incredibly disturbed by that) and not once did I feel self-conscious or concerned about my pace or odd about stopping. I’d decided that this is what I was doing and somehow achieved a level of unfuckwithableness related to the run. I just decided.

Later this morning I was sitting in a cafe listening to the wonderful Liza Vallance (Artistic Director/CEO of Studio 3 Arts) talk about her work and her running and the importance of helping people share and showcase their experiences and stories and I realised that up until this point whenever I have met my heroes I have been disappointed.  Not this time. We’re part of the same running club online so I guess we’ve ‘known’ each other since I joined the Clubhouse in December 2015. I have looked to Liza as a role model for running and for life more generally. She’s creative, strong and real and today I got to meet her. Conversation came easy and time flew by and I met my hero and she was just normal – basically everything I thought she would be and more. Listening to her I realised that collectively, when people come together to do something that is meaningful, we become unfuckwithable. It’s that being united in a mission, the instinctively knowing and agreeing that something is important and knowing that the people around you have your back… IMG_8576

Then I checked my Twitter on the train home and I had a message from a student I taught in his first year. He’s now coming to the end of his degree. He said:

“You taught me how to think. That’s the most important skill. Cannot thank you enough Jess.”

It’s hard to explain what that means in the current HE climate and this blog isn’t about that so suffice it to say that it validates everything I believe in and do and it makes me – if not unfuckwithable – then lessfuckwithable in relation to how I do what I do. And I don’t mean that I am not open to criticism and debate, just that I’m right to challenge and right to ask my questions and right to keep pushing and that I can’t just be put back in my box.

So maybe it’s time to reassess unfuckwithable. Maybe it is something that is more about being more settled and confident, less concerned about what other people think and more interested in doing what instinctively feels right. The hard run as described at the start maybe makes it easier to remember that but actually thinking about it slightly differently might allow me to get there more often for longer. I’d always assumed I could get there only through running hard and long but maybe I simply have to decide and remember what’s important.

On a slightly different note – we’re starting a 15 week marathon training programme – possible with a couple of adaptations for me – mostly during the week where the runs go to 7 miles and I might do them by time rather than distance. More on that another time. For now have an unfuckwithable evening and rest of the week

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I do like pretty coffee