Right, so, where to start… During our week off last week I planned to to run lots, get back into yoga, potter about the house and sort a few things that I keep meaning to sort but never get round to. I did none of that. I spent a huge amount of time sitting on the sofa staring into space and not quite knowing what to do with myself. By Saturday I was beginning to feel like I was winding down enough to have a proper break… I did get out once or twice but it was all a bit meh. So that went well.
During that week Disney also released more information about the re-opening of the parks and what measures they have put in place and once that sunk in we realised we had a decision to make. The nature of the changes taken together significantly change the feel of the holiday and many of the things we really enjoy doing will not be possible. We agreed that we would cancel the January Disney trip – there is no point in going all that way and paying all that money, increasing the risk of Covid-19 infection and dealing with the logistics for something that isn’t as close to perfect as we can make it.
With the trip cancellation also comes the cancellation of the marathon. While I know it is all the right decision, I am of course disappointed and a bit sad. I was beginning to get my head around marathon training – though I was struggling. Now I don’t need to worry about distance. I took some time to think about what I wanted to do and what might help with getting me running consistently again. I trawled through a few running programmes and eventually decided to start again at the beginning. I now have the time to properly consolidate and re-build without worrying about having to build distance. I picked a basic 6 week beginner 5km programme to start this week. I did run 1 yesterday. It was sort of nice to head out to do something that I was absolutely confident I could do. Run 2 is coming up tomorrow.
I have also started using the Nike Training Club app for some workouts to do at home. I like it because it means I don’t have to make decisions. I often end up not doing anything because I can’t decide what to do or what order to do a set of exercises in – the app just asked me some questions and then spat out a plan. I’ve done 4 workouts on it. Today I changed the settings to reduce the level a little. The level it was set at meant that there were too many exercises where I had to do a modified move (like side planks and planks with leg lifts etc) and I was getting a bit disheartened. Having had a quick scroll through the new version I think I have a better chance of completing the sessions fully. I’ll let you know.
So overall it is all change. Marathon training is off and I’m back on a 5km plan. It feels ok. It feels like it makes sense and I have my eye on either a consolidation 5km or a 10km plan after this one. Hopefully going back to these plans means I can start really enjoying running again rather than just ticking things off hoping that the enjoyment will follow.
Oh and for those of you wondering how Odin is doing. Here he is showing us all how to stretch out those shoulders.
Well week three of marathon training didn’t go to plan. Nothing happened to de-rail the plan, I just didn’t go out to run. I started off ok with a loop out on Tuesday for my 30 minute run. Painfully slow and not exactly fun but done on the right day and ticked off. On Thursday for run two my anxiety levels were through the roof and I decided not to go because it was the sort of anxiety that would just make a run miserable and counter-productive. There was always Friday.
Well Friday there was but I was dead on my feet. I felt absolutely knackered and could barely keep my eyes open. Ok, I thought, well I can go out Saturday and Sunday and still get the runs in. The gap and then back to back is a bit inconsistent and annoying but it’s ok. Well Saturday was such as non day. I struggled. It was one of those quite physical depression days. I barely moved off the sofa and everything I did just didn’t seem to turn our right. The lunch I made wasn’t very nice, the bread I made slightly overdone and then while playing with Odin he scratched me on across my eye. What I should have done on any of these days is get up and just get the running bit done. The longer I am awake, the less likely it is I will get out – but of course depression also means that getting out of bed early is just impossible. So let’s try and remember that going out for a run as soon as I am awake enough to do so is a good plan and see if that helps a little for week 4!
I managed to go out this morning. I managed to haul my arse round 4 miles. It was painfully slow and looking at the stats afterwards just makes me miserable and grumpy (so let’s not look). But it’s done. I’m down one run this week and I will try and catch it up in week 4. It’ll make me feel better. So for this coming week I would like to run my 30minute ish runs on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and then my long run of 5.5 miles on Saturday or Sunday. That should be do-able. I’d quite like the rain to stay actually because there was hardly anyone out and about today and I’d sort of forgotten that I actually quite like running in the rain.
As for cross-training, I am really conscious that I have hardly done anything and that I should. However, I am also conscious that having a plan of stuff to do seems to stress me out. I need to find a better way of doing some strength work and stretching without it feeling like it is too much or freaking me out. So maybe for this coming week I’ll just say I’d like to do something, let’s say twice. Yes something twice sounds ok. I’ll go with that.
I’ve been doing the Sunday (now Monday) weigh-ins and the scales are not moving at all. I guess that means they’re not going up and of course I am not really surprised they’re not going down. I have not changed anything for any weight to actually come off. I do think making our own treats – like these yummy Mickey Ears scones Kath made – helps. There is something nice and more mindful about eating stuff we’ve made (and there is generally less crap in home made stuff). Cooking from scratch also helps, being bored, not moving much and not drinking enough water doesn’t help. It’ll come eventually, as I get back into running (well, presuming this iteration of my running journey mirrors the last) my relationship with food will also change again. I will crave fresh fruit and crunchy veg (broccoli mostly) where I now crave the comfort of mashed potato made with loads of butter and I will inevitably start drinking much more water. I’ll keep you posted.
Right, well, it seems I didn’t dream signing up for another marathon. Oh well. It’s taking a little time to fully sink in and I am still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I went for a little walk/run up towards the Moor earlier but turned off to run/walk a loop rather than straight up and back down when I saw how many people were walking up/down the road to Keighley Gate. As I was walking I was thinking about the 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon and how on earth to get ready for it. 26.2 miles is just such a bloody long way. Remember what I said after London when I was reflecting on the things I learned out on that course? I said ‘You have to really want it’. After Dopey 2019 I said ‘I am really not a marathon runner’, after London 2016 I said I was done with the distance and after Dopey 2016 I said ‘I have done a marathon! And yes it was awful for the most part…’. After every marathon I have had both a sense of achievement and the sense that I could do better. I have also felt like I didn’t really want to do another one even though I am yet to run one where everything comes together in really good conditions. Dopey 1 was overwhelming, London 1 was ok but with patches of feeling poorly and was too soon after Dopey, that same pattern repeated in 2019 (but you can’t choose when you get a London place!) and Dopey 2019 was close to perfect but marathon day was so hot… London 2019 was just horrible…
I have been thinking about all of this and wondering whether I want another 26.2 enough. I think I do – we’ll see as time goes on I guess. My Dopey 2019 marathon is the fasted I have done at 6.18.49. Part of me really really wants to go under 6 hours and London 2019 suggested that was within reach until I fell. Anyway, while I was thinking about that I was also thinking about my training plan. I was settled on the Disney plan until my silly little brain caught me off guard. As I was thinking about the plan it occurred to me that running two 30-45 minute runs during the week and then a long run at the weekend getting longer every 2 weeks was actually not a huge amount of training. I panicked about whether that’s going to be enough, whether I need more. But then I remembered the London training plan I used last time – it didn’t work for me. It was too hard (mentally I guess) so I ended up skipping runs and going in under trained. If I can stick to the Disney plan, I can run the marathon. I know this. So I tried to put that particular little wobble to bed.
Then came the next one. I have been struggling for motivation. I feel like I was waiting for the plan to start and didn’t quite know what to do with myself in the 6 weeks before that. Rather than taking pressure off it seemed to be putting it on. I felt like I needed to be somehow ‘plan ready’ although I have no clue what I think that means. That feeling lost and not knowing where to start was so overwhelming that yesterday I never made it out for my run in spite of having looked forward to it all Friday. So today I had a little re-think. There is no reason why the plan can’t be extended a little. It would solve to things that we’re obviously bothering me. First it would solve the waiting and being plan ready problem. If the plan starts now, the plan starts now. Second, it would allow me to build in some consolidation. I like the plan because it is gentle in one sense. It has a long run and the week after drops to low mileage at the weekend and then increases mileage the next weekend and so on. It’s like one week on and one week off. However, the mileage on the ‘on’ weekends increases pretty relentlessly and arguable in relatively big jumps. Looking at it jumping from 15 to 17 seems like big jump, never mind 17 to 20 miles. I have re-written the plan, starting this coming week and have added some repeats of distances at regular intervals to consolidate and build confidence.
The reason I like a plan is the same reason I like rules – so I can do something different… No, more seriously, the only thing that makes me less likely to run than having a plan is to not have one. If I have a plan I tend to do something even if I am constantly changing the plan, moving things around and making a new plan. If I don’t have a plan I don’t run in any way consistently at all and consistency is going to be key. So while I have mapped out each week until marathon day, I fully expect things to change, for me to decide I don’t need a consolidation week at a particular distance and just crack on, just to find that the next distance seems impossible and needs doing more than once. I feel happier now there is contingency built in for niggles, colds, can’t be bothered days and I didn’t quite make the distance runs. It feels safe. And maybe because of the current situation with Covid-19 or maybe just because I no longer have the luxury of not really knowing what a marathon entails, having a safe feeling training plan is important. Without it I simply won’t go out as much as I need to.
So, week by week rather than in bigger chunks I will share my plan with you and then check back in to see how I am doing with it. Oh and I am bringing back Sunday Weigh-Ins. Expect I will do them on Monday mornings because I don’t want to ruin Sundays! I usually get some stick about talking about weight loss and weighing myself etc so before you feel the need to get in touch, let me be clear, this is not about being thinner or looking any different, it’s simply that I know what running feels like at this weight and at my, let’s call it Dopey weight and the latter is significantly easier. I have more to say on running while fat but that’s another post. For now, here’s the plan for the coming week:
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.
I’ve been changing my mind about which adventure to pick ever since Kath gave me this. Together we ruled out Dopey – too much standing around for the 5k and 10k, too much holiday time taken up with sleeping, queuing or running – but I really didn’t know whether I wanted to run the half, the full or both (Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge). I kept changing my mind, thinking ‘just’ the half would be lovely, a challenge but nothing that dominates the trip, another 26.2 would be another chance to nail that distance and put London gremlins to bed and doing both would be one of those un-possible things I like to do every now and again. Registering for Goofy would make sense – I wouldn’t have to run both after all and if I didn’t, I would have simply paid for the privilege of choosing not to run (and of course we all know that in the end I would, obviously, have run them both).
So while listening to my staff meeting run past the 3pm finish time set for it, I loaded the website, hit register now as soon as it became available and watched the little dots go round and round in circles (You can’t see them on the photo but they were there).
My staff meeting finished and Kath had also finished and joined the registration queue on the iPad. The iPad got there first, Kath logged in and we completed all the details for the Goofy for us both. We were settled and agreed and all was fine. She hit pay and we got a notification that Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge had sold out. While that was happening I had got into the registration site on my laptop, we looked to upgrade to Dopey but could see that was already sold out. The half marathon was showing as still available so we input all the details for that and hit ‘pay’…. sold out. We looked at each other. I think we both knew that this meant our 26.2 journey was set to continue and we tried completing the registration forms as quickly as possible. And this time, when we hit ‘pay’, it worked.
So, I am never doing a marathon again, except I am. In January. Of course we are presuming here that it will be safe to travel etc. For now we will just hope that that’s the case and if it isn’t, well then it’s not. Registering was ridiculously stressful and initially it sort of floored me and I sat for a while not knowing whether to be disappointed or excited. We knew that the races often sell out and that individual races often go on the first day but when we registered for the 2019 Dopey, places for both Goofy and Dopey were available for a long time after registration opened so we weren’t quite expecting not to get a Goofy spot. When we didn’t we were a bit taken aback. Eventually disappointment wore off and now the excitement as well as the ridiculousness of having registered for another marathon is setting in.
So now the planning starts properly. I’ve been looking at plans on and off focusing on the half mostly as I was going to leave the final decision about distance until later in the year until I had a few decent length runs in me. So I’ll need to have a bit of a re-think and shift in mindset. I’ll use the runDisney training plan with one or two little modifications I think. I can get my head round that and it feels safe and familiar (and I tried different for London and, well, let’s just say that maybe I don’t like different). I won’t go the full 26 before race day like the plan suggests, I never have, and I’ll add some speed and hill to the mid-week runs. I can do this. I’ve done it before. That doesn’t stop me from being terrified though.
Everything is weird. I haven’t really run since my last post. Some days I have done my strength exercises, most days I haven’t. Some days I have done some yoga, most days I haven’t. I’m not really sure why. Doesn’t matter. When the announcement finally came that we were in lockdown and should stay at home as much as possible and only exercise locally once a day I suddenly felt like getting out every day would be important. It’s funny how an announcement, a rule can suddenly change how we think about things. It actually changed nothing for me. I’d already been working at home and had already limited going out to essentials. But the actual lockdown announcement changed something about the way it felt to me.
So obviously I am starting the running thing again at pretty much the beginning. It’s fairly horrible. It’s frustrating and annoying and I miss my marathon fitness – both the physical fitness and mental calm that comes with the ability to just keep running and having a forever pace. But dwelling on that is not helpful. I have made a deliberate decision to pause anything that is about changing my running form etc. I just need to be out. I appreciate that I am shuffling rather than running with good form. I appreciate I might undo the work already done with RunRight but right now everything is about mental health for me. And I just need to be out and if that means shuffling round our loop for 40 minutes then shuffle I shall.
So how is everyone doing? I’m finding it weird more than really anxiety inducing or stressful. I am randomly unsettled and have a really short attention span. It’s like I can’t hold on to a thought long enough to finish thinking it. I’ve struggled to focus on work but have kept some stuff ticking over but really put everything apart from student support on hold. I’ve been reading lots of stuff about how to adjust to working at home and how to keep connected during self isolation/ lockdown. I’m sure lots of it is really useful for lots of people but there are three things that keep jumping out at me that I am just not sure about – stick with me, I will come back to running and how this links.
So the first thing is the advice to stick to a routine or timetable. I think I probably agree with this in very general terms. But these are not normal times and so far I have not found a routine at all and I have not found planning helpful. I have tried to plan my days – both in detail and loosely. All it does is stress me out when I inevitably don’t follow the plan. I am rubbish without structure and I am even worse with it. A list of things to do as I remember then fairly randomly and firefighting emails will have to do for now in terms of work. Staring into space, sitting with the frogspawn, watching too much TV and swinging between the urge to deep clean everything and trying to remember how to put on a bra keeps general life at just about functioning. One day at a time, useful planning might come and if it does that’s fine. I might find I want to and need to plan for some sense of control. I think my point is, we need to stop saying that having a clear routine and plan is what helps us all here because that is underpinned with a number of assumptions about productivity, possibility and everything working the same way for everyone. It’s absolutely fine to plan if that helps you, it’s also ok to be a chaotic mess.
The second bit of advice is about the importance of staying connected, about how we are social creatures and need human interaction to stay mentally well etc. Ok, I don’t disagree although I think the extent of social interaction we need differs from person to person and luckily for me I am perfectly happy with very little of it. So as all these new ways of connecting are suddenly popping up and being forced on us I sit here grumpy. Over the last two weeks I have had to engage with zoom (hm, ok), Skype for Business conference calls (ok – but people do overuse video capability), Skype (was nice to see Dad in his living room), Adobe connect (hm) and Google Hangouts (couldn’t connect) and that is me trying to stay away from stuff. More and more I have the urge to just use a fucking landline, I don’t need to see people sitting in front of their screens with dodgy camera angles. The more we are being told to connect, the more I want to hide under my duvet and not see or hear people. The more these new (ok new to me) ways of interacting online are pushed, the more I retreat to sending a text, using messenger and general Facebook and Twitter posts. I have also realised that the number of people I actually want to interact with during this lockdown is really quite limited. What I need is quiet and peace and my cats. Not people. I appreciate that I am lucky. Kath is here with me, I’m not on my own but as we push this online connectedness, let’s remember that it might not work for everyone.
And finally – the importance of keeping up a good exercise regime, of staying fit. Again I agree in general terms but do you think we could be a bit less preachy about it? Also of course the idea of ‘keeping up’ is quite funny here. I mean seriously, for lots of people this is likely to be ‘have a go at’. There is definitely a link between mental health and exercise for me – maybe there is for everyone, don’t know. But that link is not always positive for me. Trying and failing at a workout, not being able to do a yoga pose as well as I’d like, not doing the exercise I had planned or struggling with just finding the energy to start at all can all impact negatively. Not always, sometimes I am very good at seeing the positive of having tried and sometimes I do trust the process and I know that the benefits come… but honestly, people are just trying to function. Let’s cut the list of must dos right down to ‘Do what you must to stay sane’ – for some that will be setting up a exercise circuit using every room of the house for several hours a day and for others it will getting up off the sofa every now and again. It’s ok.
And how does all of this link to my running. Well, as I was thinking about all of these things I was thinking about all the running advice, tips, invited and uninvited comments I have ever had. And while so much of that has been invaluable the most valuable advice has always come from people who have said ‘this works for me, try it and see if it also works for you’. The genuine help has come from people who have found their way but don’t insist that this also has to be your way. So the planning – people can get quite obsessive and dogmatic about their training plans, or whether to even have a plan. I like a training plan – mostly so I can ignore it and do something else though. The things is – plan or not – do what works for you. Why should anyone else care. And why should you care what others are doing? You’re not doing it wrong. Neither are the others.
The connectedness – people so often suggest that running with friends or in groups is a really good way to stay motivated. I think that’s lovely – for them. For me running with other people (other than Kath and possibly one or two others) just sounds like hell. And the staying fit mantra we’re currently hearing, well it reminded me of the complexity of our reasons for running or doing any exercise at all and how our reasons and motivations change over time. It reminded me of how now might be a good time to very consciously not reflect, to not think about fitness goals or how to achieve, to not worry about fitness lost while in lockdown or how on earth we’ll get back to where we were pre isolation… but instead to just do what feels right for us in the moment. I was thinking about how we set off to run but then walked the rest of the loop after the first mile because there were woodpeckers, and deer and wild garlic and the magic of spring. I was thinking about how sometimes I like staying in ‘Happy Baby’ for much longer than my yoga app generally holds it and how it’s ok to pause the app or just let it move on without me, how dialling things right down or really ramping them up as far as exercise is concerned is really fine. I was thinking about rules and that there really don’t need to be any unless you decide you want them. In fact the only rule there really should be is this: You do you and let everyone else do everyone else.