Stunning Running

Last weekend we went to a lodge on the edge if Kielder Water. It was our little anniversary get away. It was lush. We planned on a walk somewhere on the way on Friday, and runs on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

We set off Friday morning and drove north to the National Trust property Wallington. We had some lunch and then walked a little loop through the estate and woodland along the river. Then we had cake. This was a good start to the weekend! We visited the Kielder observatory in the evening but it was ridiculously windy and cloudy so we didn’t see anything much. The talks were interesting though

On Saturday morning we set off on a 7 mile loop around the Bull Crag Peninsula. The running was both harder and better than I imagined it would be. It was surprisingly hilly and it didn’t occur to me until about 4 miles in that one of the reasons the running was tough was because I wasn’t walking the hills. I was just running, looking at the amazing landscape and every now and again stopping for a photo. At the end my legs were tired and I was grateful to walk the last bit and look for red squirrels and very excited when we saw one!

The rest of Saturday was lazy and taken up with reading a whole stack of magazines which I’d left to pile up for ages and ages.

Sunday was long run day and I was anxious about this for some reason. We had decided to run out to Kielder dam and back – a total of about 13 miles. I prepped our tailwind for fuel, made sure watch and phone were charged and off we went. The first part of the route was the same as the day before but soon we were in new territory with Kielder Water on our left coming in and out of view as we zig zagged our way through the woods on the ‘waterside’ path.

I walked a few more of the hills on Sunday. I nearly had a meltdown in mile 2 because I seemed to be really feeling the uphill pull on that section. I got over myself and actually ran almost all of the first 5 miles which took us to the Tower Knowe visitor centre which was closed but did have some toilets that were open. From there it was another mile and a half to the other side of the dam so we jogged across, had a little break as we marvelled at the views and then set off back.

We took more pictures and walk breaks on the way back. By mile 8 though I was wondering if maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew with this pretty undulating 13 miler. For the next 3 miles or so I had a battle in my head to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Then we were nearly there anyway and we walked a bit through a section of wood just before the Waterside Park our lodge was part of, the bit where we’d seen the squirrel.

The rest of Sunday involved more reading, the hot tub and a bottle of prosecco. I felt properly happily tired. We did go for a little walk once it got dark to look at stars. Wow, even with the lights of the cabins, reception and pub/restaurant, we could see so much more than we can ever see at home. I couldn’t work out the camera settings though to get enough exposure to take pictures so gave up and just looked at the night sky for a while.

Monday we were going to have a little sunrise run. I was tired and my legs were heavy. It was also very slippery with frost on the tarmac bits and I was not at all impressed with that. We went the other way along the water this time and after not quite a mile and a half came to a road/tarmac bit which was frosty and we couldn’t really see how long the tarmac stretch was so we called that it, turned round and then stopped about half way back to watch the sunrise.

We had breakfast, got packed and headed towards home. It was a 23 mile weekend and while I was definitely tired I was not broken. I am getting fitter but actually the most important thing about the running over that weekend is that we were just running for fun, doing our thing and that on all of the outings bits of it were effortless, bits of it were really challenging and I loved every minute, even the hard and bloody awful ones.

Run 1000 Miles Ambassador

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness… so I can’t quite put into words just how excited I am about this. I’m jumping up and down squealing kind of excited and a little choked up and overwhelmed. But let’s go back a bit. In November Trail Running Magazine asked for expressions of interest for becoming an ambassador for the 2019 iteration of their Run1000Miles challenge. I paid no attention. Kath commented on the post saying she nominated me, I still paid no attention because, come on, it’s me. I’m no running ambassador. But there were lots of positive comments and ‘likes’ and encouragement so I thought what the hell and sent the email.

I didn’t expect to get picked. I am not the obvious choice when you think ‘running’ so not an obvious choice for promoting a running challenge or for encouraging others. I’m not your typical running role model or poster girl for physical activity. I thought that maybe I could be a good ambassador precisely because I’m not what you might expect in that role and it seems that some agreed. So let me tell you a bit about the challenge, a bit about me and the challenge and a bit about why being an ambassador for it means the world and confirms everything I love about the challenge and the group.

The challenge is simple. Sign up, join the facebook group, run, track your miles, post about your runs, share pictures, encourage others, be encouraged, see where you get to, done. Some will reach 1000 miles before Easter, others won’t get to 500 in the year. It doesn’t matter, it’s about the journey (sounds nauseatingly cliched, I know but it’s true). It’s about having a great running year however you define ‘great’. It’s about getting outside, enjoying being out, about encouraging and being encouraged, about learning and sharing and most of all about enjoying running.

I first joined Run1000Miles in 2017. Kath had joined and she kept saying how lovely the group was and that I should join. I just thought it wasn’t for me – it’s a 1000 mile challenge by Trail Running Magazine – not for me. 1000 miles was so far beyond my imagination and trails were and often still are scary things that cause me to fall over and/or freak out. But then curiosity got the better of me and I joined and lurked in the Facebook group for a bit and I realised that the group of people were my kind of people. I’d found my running tribe. They welcomed me, slow, ploddy, fat, scared of trails me into the group and they were (and still are!) prepared to share my little successes and wins, help me through my tricky patches when it seemed me and running were going our separate ways and share their experience and knowledge to make me a better runner. With their help and encouragement and, frankly, their belief in me I pushed myself through a tough 7 miler on News Years Eve 2017 to finish the year on exactly 500 miles. 

I was excited to sign up for 2018. I really wanted to try and run more miles. I won’t make 1000 but I’m going to get closer than I ever thought possible. 1000 miles was my wildest dreams goal, my ambitious but possibly realistic goal A was 750 miles (I had B and C goals to but they don’t matter now!). I’m less than 5 miles away from achieving the 750 now. I love the group on Facebook. There is a notable absence of arrogant, patronising, rude or all of the above twats. There is a genuine understanding and acceptance that we are all at different levels and that my lightening fast run pace might well be someone else’s slow recovery jog; that a mile can be a huge challenge and covering it a big win; that miles and pace and hours are just numbers. I am in awe of some of the runners in the group – some because they’re fast, some because they can go so far, some because they can go so high (and come back down in one piece), some because they deal with mud like it’s nothing, some because they get up every morning and despite (and sometimes because of) the demons we all have pull their trainers on and run. Most of all though I have valued the the stories, the encouragement, the support and the inspiration and I have loved being able to be a part of that. 

Having me as a 2019 ambassador confirms that I was right about the trail running community and particularly the community we have built in the Run1000Miles Facebook group – it really is for all of us. It doesn’t matter where in our running journeys we are. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow we go, how much we walk, where we run, whether we can run far or not, whether we can run vertically up and back down, whether we splash through puddles or slide through mud, get stuck in boggy moors or stumble our way through woodland tree roots. What matters is that we all run and get outside and that is somehow important to us in and that we understand that and that we support each other and celebrate each other’s successes. I don’t have any sort of sporting memories that go anywhere near that so I’m making new ones and maybe as ambassador I can help others re-write their relationship with exercise and running in particular. 

Join me  – sign up here and then join the Facebook Group and see for yourself – try it, you might just surprise yourself by running a whole lot more than you thought you could. 

Brontë Running

What a lovely day it’s been. Our training plan suggests 10 miles today. We planned to repeat the Haworth run Kath did on Wednesday. We woke up early, made porridge and took it back to bed. After getting up and pottering about for a little bit we set off to walk to the station. We had a bit of a discussion about what miles to count for this adventure and decided that it’s about time on our feet and a decent striding out sort of walk would count. After a mile and a half we arrived at Keighley Station and proudly presented our local resident’s passes at the Worth Valley Railway ticket booth. If you’re local, buy yourself one of these, they’re a fiver and give you 50% off tickets.

On the way up to Haworth the train was a diesel locomotive and the carriages were more commuter train than sociable and fun seats with a table. We got a seat right at the front though and it was lovely just making our way out of Keighley, to Ingrow West (what happened to Ingrow East? Does it exist? Did it ever?), to Oakworth via Damems. Just after  Damems we stopped for a little while – not quite sure why. Possibly because there were a couple of blokes working on the tracks. We arrived in Haworth, waved the train off and nipped to the Ladies’ Room. I’m never quite sure whether I’m allowed in a Ladies’ Room.

We walked through Haworth Park and up Haworth Main Street (which those of you not local may have seen as it was part of the Tour de France in 2014) and turned left towards the Brontë Parsonage and then started run/walking as we got on a track and through a field just beyond it. My hay fever is not yet under control and my chest felt quite tight and I was struggling to breathe properly. It required focus. That didn’t really change all the way round so I think I probably appeared a bit grumpy at times. I wasn’t it was stunningly beautiful and glorious and I loved it. I just found it even harder than normal!

So after the field there is a short stretch of road which is a steady pull up a slope and we ran/walked that, crossed the road at the end of that section and then made our way along IMG_8940a track hugging a dry stone wall separating a field from Haworth Moor. It’s a well signed route to Brontë Waterfalls and beyond to Top Withens. It’s what you might call undulating. Honestly, I don’t think the hills on the initial stretch are too bad really – certainly not if I could actually breathe. I’m looking forward to having another go. The terrain isn’t too technical really but there were a few bits where I needed to concentrate and it was good to practice and just keep moving. I’m happy with how that went.

We reached the Waterfall – it was a little trickle really. We didn’t take a picture but Kath 31084267_961162334063915_7898002905209241600_ndid on Wednesday  (so here is hers!) and instead we got some on the little stone bridge which led us on our way to Top Withens. As we made our way up here I started to feel a little flakey. I had a bit of tailwind but I think maybe not IMG_8934enough. As we were close to Top Withens I felt a little faint, had some more tailwind and started feeling better. We walked a bit further and then picked a spot to sit for a few minutes and drink in the beauty of the moor. I was trying to spot the grouse – they were there, I could hear them grumbling but I couldn’t see any around us.

After a few minutes we walked up to Top Withens and spent another minute or two in the ruins and looking around. Somehow I don’t imagine Emily and her sisters walking the moors in weather like this. It’s never warm, sunny and dry when I think of them – it’s always wuthering. Always. The Killjoy society (as Kath called them) have added a plaque to Top Withens to inform us all that it is not Wuthering Heights:

We then started to make our way back down. I felt much better, a little rest and more

IMG_8957tailwind had obviously worked wonders. We jogged down the hill – good practice and pushing out of my comfort zone a bit on the steeper bits. On Wednesday Kath did an out an back run but we decided to do a loop instead and head back via Stanbury. The track from Top Withens towards Stanbury is a very runable track with no real technical sections. There are some stones and some loose gravel but it was easy to pick a route, even for me. I tried to run the downhill and run/walk the flat. We must have been around 5 miles in by now. Once we were off the track we ran/walked the road until we got into the village – the road through is narrow and there isn’t really a pavement so we walked. Once the road widened we started run/walking again.

IMG_8956I briefly wondered whether we should do a tiny detour to go visit my grandma’s grave at Stanbury cemetery but I didn’t want to. It felt like it was pointless; she lived and breathed  this landscape, being out in it and enjoying it as we were seemed somehow more appropriate than giving a nod to the grave stone. So we turned right and ran along the reservoir. We chose a more gradual climb back up by turning left along a track and then we were back on the edge of Haworth and retraced our steps through the field, down the track to the Parsonage. 7.61 miles of gorgeous Brontë country.

We stopped in the Haworth Steam Brewery for food and couldn’t resist a cheeky half – I think actually it was the name of the beer that persuaded Kath that she really had to try some – it’s ‘a good pint’ apparently.

Refreshed we made our way down Main Street and had a look in a few shops. I was surprised. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Haworth and the shops are so much better

Sociable Shadows

than I remembered! There’s Mrs Beighton’s Sweet Shop which is just scrumptious. We saw some lovely things and witty cards in Wave of Nostalgia, some gorgeous artwork and more witty things in Hawksbys Gallery. And then we went to see our friend Sián at her shop Sian Alison Designs where she sells amazing jewellery made with local flowers. I absolutely love her forget-me-not designs but have a look at her Facebook page or if you’re local pop in – the pink heather stuff is lush too.

IMG_9006We walked back through Haworth Park. There seemed to be an abundance of small pug like dogs about today and we had just commented on how the noise of their laboured breathing would get on our nerves when a lad of about 8ish walked past one and exclaimed in a broad Yorkshire accent: ‘They make like they’re dying’. We burst out laughing and were still giggling on the platform as we waited for the train back to Keighley. The return journey was on a steam train with a buffet car so we had another sneaky beer as we watched the familiar landscape choochoo past. In Keighley we watched the steam loco change ends and then popped into the supermarket to get milk, some salad and also a  banana for Kath to eat on the way back. Another 1.5 mile walk and we were home.

A little over 10 and a half miles done today. Year to date – 210.27. And my April mileage is sitting on a very very satisfactory 65 miles, highest monthly mileage so far this year and there’s still a while left! Happy Running!


Hawkshead Prep

Tomorrow is the next ‘race’ on our calendar. It would be nice to finish this one! We are having our second attempt at a Lakeland Trails event. The first one back in October didn’t really quite go to plan. So I have scaled down ambition and expectation for this one at Hawkshead and been rather more realistic – I’m doing the 10km rather than the longer 17km distance. I’m looking forward to it. I had a bit of a wobble the other day when I decided I was just going to pull out rather than make a fool of myself and as I was coming home on the train today I had a few minutes of being absolutely terrified and really not wanting to do it. But now I’m a nice mix of excited, looking forward to it and a little bit scared.

Don’t ask me what I’m scared of, no idea! I know I can do the distance. I can run the distance straight off on the flat and I’m planning on run/walk/run anyway. I’ve  had a number of runs up at the distance, over the distance or close to the distance throughout the end of March and April. The distance is fine. The hills, well the hills are always to be reckoned with – it’s the Lakes. But hills are ok too. I have hills here. I walk. Quite simple really.

Lakeland Trails Hawkshead Course Profile (from the Lakeland Trails website)

The coffin trail might ask a question or two  – near vertical and about a mile long apparently – but I’m not enough of an idiot to try and run it. I’ll be walking, looking around, taking it in and maybe, just maybe, stopping to take a picture or two (and some deep breaths)! Time, well no actually I am not scared about how slow I’ll be and how long it might take. I’ll genuinely happily come last. I’m not concerned because I know people won’t actually be waiting for me to finish so they can pack up because there’s the longer distance still to come. We set off at 11am, the first batch of longer distance runners go at 1pm. I’ll get back to wave off the #Run1000Miles people doing 17k who are coming for our meet up. So the scared bit – it’s minor and it’s a healthy scared; an appreciation that it’s running, it’s trail running, it’s trail running in the Lakes – things can go wrong.

Anyway, we’re sorted. We’ve packed a change of clothes, baby wipes and deodorant so IMG_8830meeting the others won’t be too unpleasant for them. I’ve got my kit sorted with an alternative packed in case the weather hasn’t seen the forecast, I have a choice of 3 pairs of trainers and I can’t decide – it’ll come to me tomorrow. We have some nibbles and plenty of water for the drive up and back. My watch is charged, my phone is charging and I remembered to hunt down the safety pins for our race numbers. Sorted!

I haven’t blogged for a while so there’s lots to catch up on. I have been running quite consistently and I have also been writing – lots. I’ve finished my book (with my wonderful colleague Sanna) and once my brain has recovered from that last effort of pulling it all together I will be really excited about it but to be honest, I haven’t felt much like writing anything else.  So, more to remind myself really but to give you a taste of what posts are to come over the next few days, I need to finish writing these:

  1. Review of Alpkit trail tights and other stuff
  2. Review of Tailwind – so far the only drink/gel/bloc thing that doesn’t give me tummy cramps or make me feel sick. I’ll be using it tomorrow – don’t really need it for 10k but useful practice for the half marathon coming up
  3. Update on planned races
  4. Run down of April running and mileage update
  5. And of course, I’ll tell you all about how it goes tomorrow!

Treadmills and Mud

It has been one of those weeks. I mentioned in my last post that the black puppy has been hanging around and I have struggled with depression all week. I’m not all that good at acknowledging it and often don’t until it’s too late but running and writing about it seems to help me realise that it’s sneaking up on me. So I’ve tried to be careful, early nights, no booze, good food, lots of water, trying to reduce the caffeine. And maybe that has worked because I’m still standing. At the same time though I have too many unfinished things on my desk at the moment, I don’t feel in control and I am struggling to prioritise.

Anyway, after my 8 mile story last Saturday, I managed another 8 miles on Sunday. I woke up on Monday, opened an eye and slowly slowly moved a toe, then my ankle – nothing. Hm, ok. I sat up. Still nothing. But I ran 16 miles over the weekend – why does nothing hurt? The running gods work in mysterious ways, best not question it. I enjoyed my rest day. I was also looking forward to running on Tuesday. I felt on top of the world.

Tuesday I missed my chance. I just couldn’t make myself get out of bed early enough to run before work and by the time I got home it was slippery – the sort of slippery that doesn’t bother most people but makes me curl up in a ball and cry. No matter, I thought – I can use the treadmill at work tomorrow. Oh what an idiot I am.

Wednesday – meetings at the different campuses and then evening teaching. Basically a 12 hour day. Really the perfect candidate to take some time out in the middle and head to the gym. So that’s what I did. Here’s how it went:

  • Me: Hi, be nice
  • Treadmill: *raises eyebrow
  • Me: 5km – we can do 5km
  • Treadmill: *angrily flashing – programme your pace in woman
  • Me: Ok ok, let’s go slow – 7.5minutes per km
  • Treadmill: *sniggers
  • Me: *sets off running
  • Me: Why is the treadmill so uneven?
  • Treadmill: I’m not uneven, you’re wobbly
  • Me: Urgh, hate this, this feels tooo fast
  • Treadmill: *Sniggers
  • Me: Surely I’ve done a km by now
  • Treadmill: Hahahahahahaha – NO
  • Me: Urgh, can’t do it
  • Me: Oh ok, Bon Jovi ‘Have a Nice Day’, thanks Ipod
  • Ipod: You’re welcome
  • Me: 1.5 km. Really. WTF is this?
  • Treadmill: Get off if you don’t like it
  • Me: I don’t like it, I don’t like it, I don’t fucking like it but I need to do 5km and some hills
  • Treadmill: *sniggers
  • Ipod: How about Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger?
  • Me: Thank you, yes, that’ll help. Good
  • Me: Right, some hills
  • Treadmill: *sniggers. Are you sure?
  • Me: Hill repeat 1 – OMG; Rest – yay; Hill 2 – FFS
  • Treadmill: Oxygen?
  • Me: Fuck off – Hill 3 – that was more than 30 seconds up!
  • Treadmill: Nope
  • Me: Last hill – bring it
  • Treadmill: OK
  • Treadmill: Sorry not sorry
  • Me: Bitch. Right, 3km done.
  • Ipod: Excuse me but my battery is a bit low
  • Me: Ipod, don’t you dare die
  • Ipod: Sor…
  • Me: Stupid fucking electronic piece of fucking junk
  • Treadmill: Concentrate, you nearly fell off
  • Me: what do you care
  • Treadmill: I don’t. Wanna slow down?
  • Me: Yes, Yes I do but you’re not winning this.
  • Treadmill: *raises eyebrow
  • Me: 1km to do. Just 1km. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming
  • Me: Oh look suspected drug deal outside the building opposite – oh actually I think they’re just sharing sweets. Mmm sweets. Wonder if I have any chocolate in my desk
  • Treadmill: Stop wobbling
  • Me: Nearly there, nearly there, nearly there
  • Me: Done it!
  • Treadmill: 5 minute cool down
  • Me: Go fuck yourself, I’m off
  • Treadmill: Suit yourself but I’m telling you – cool down 5 minutes

So the 5km with the 4 hill repeats took me 40 minutes and 45 seconds. And every single of those minutes was pretty miserable. There just wasn’t anything fun about it. It felt like hard work, really hard work and it was so utterly boring. Anyway, I had a quick shower and got changed, did my teaching and headed home. I phoned Kath to ask her to pick me up but she couldn’t come out. She’d introduced her foot to a rabbit hole on her run in the morning and was in agony. So once I got home we headed for A&E where we spent the next 3 hours to find out that her ankle isn’t broken (thank goodness – she’s already walking almost normally for short stretches). So Thursday I was tired, really tired and every single bit of my body was properly pissed off with me. My ankles were so sore, my feet hurt, my lower back niggled, my hamstrings were more painful than post marathon and everything just felt achey. 5km on the treadmill seemed to have broken me – the running gods and their bloody mysteries.  Friday I was a little more with it but a bit tired and by the time I got home and my ankles felt like they might snap. I didn’t run thinking it wasn’t too bad because I was doing two long runs at the weekend anyway.

Saturday I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I don’t think I ever really woke up. By the time I’d got up, helped Mum buy a new washing machine and then done our shopping I was ready to go back to bed. Running just somehow didn’t happen. Today I was going to have another go. I woke up quite looking forward to it and then between getting up to get a cup of tea and taking it back to bed to come round, our road was covered in snow. My heart sank. I can’t run in snow. I thought I would just see how it went, made some porridge and went about my morning. Eventually it cleared and looked nice out with the road clear and wet rather than snowy and icy. I was stuck on the sofa though. I didn’t think I could move really. But I did. I put my gear on and decided I’d just see how I got on, no pressure for miles. I really enjoyed the first 4 miles or so. I was happily plodding along looking around and was lost in my thoughts yet not really thinking about anything. Then I had to make a decision – carry on along the towpath into the mud or turn around. I have mentioned before that I am really struggling with slippery. It’s not rational and it’s not a normal, healthy sort of fear. I actually panic, I freeze and hyperventilate. Anyway, I thought I’d practice. I decided I would try and walk a section. Just as a crossed under the

Me, Sleet and Mud

bridge into the muddy bit it started sleeting like mad. I stood for a minute, gathered myself and then walked as purposefully as I could. I didn’t stop, I kept moving forward, at times my instinct was to freeze and it was stupidly hard to keep moving but move I did. After about a third of a mile or so I turned and headed back. I was happy with that. I had managed to negotiate a really muddy stretch without having a meltdown. (Yep, I take my wins where I can get them).

I started my run/walk again and realised that I was getting quite cold and that I was starting to feel a bit miserable. I’d had enough. I decided to stay true to my promise of not being miserable and the #MyRunMyRules philosophy. I decided to take the next bridge off the canal and head for home. So I set out for 10miles but I’m happy with my 6.5. Only 9.6 miles of running this week. I was a bit disappointed with that when I put it on the chart but given that getting out of bed has been a win this week, I’ll take it.

Oh and Sunday Weigh In – who gives a toss! No idea. Haven’t been near the scales.

Happy Sunday.