Thinking, Planning, Panicking…

ZeEF%DznSiO%e%mKWvVt+QRight, 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 R3NzJfMTTuK8GnIFHbqsnAfor 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.

jtHQDqJPRue1IKKqqBGavQSo, 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:

  1. Monday – 30-45 minute run: Run the long way round to the Co-op to get some shopping
  2. 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
  3. ‘Long’ run Saturday – 3 miles so maybe get up early enough to run the sheep look without fear of people.
  4. Yoga of some kind every day

 

The RunDisney Universe decided – it’s 26.2

It was runDisney registration day today for the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in January 2021. Remember this, the most awesomest present:

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.

Lockdown: You do You

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.

Stay Safe

Accountability post

I have not been running to a plan at all lately but theoretically my 10k plan starts tomorrow. It’s a plan from a Runners World I think and I like it because it has 3 runs a week on it. I might run more, I might not but experience has shown that when I have a training plan with more than three runs a week I tend to not manage it and end up missing key elements of the plan – like the speed sessions. So with three runs a week – most of the time split into one long, one pace practice or speed and one easy, I am more confident that I can stick to the plan as well as fit in the sessions with RunRight and some yoga.

Kath is in the process of adding a new spreadsheet to our files to track our 2020 miles for the #Run1000Miles challenge. I’m excited about having a blank sheet to work with! If you haven’t heard of this or signed up, do it. Have a look at the Trail Running Magazine website for info and get yourself into the Facebook Group for lots of advice, support and encouragement as well as pictures of stunning landscapes. It doesn’t matter whether you make the 1000 miles or not. It’s a fabulous challenge and I still think that for me it is doable. I managed 500 miles with a rather last minute 7 miles on New Year’s eve in 2017 and then I ran over 800 miles in 2018 and am at just over 500 miles for 2019. So I am again setting my target for 2020 at 1000 miles. I need just a little more consistency.

So really I am writing for accountability – Either tomorrow or Tuesday (tomorrow may be tricky as we have a funeral to go to) I need to get my moomin butt our for 40 – 60 minutes of easy running. Obviously for me that means run/walking. My easy running is basically walking so I shall be giving myself a break and accepting that while earlier this year I could run a long way without walk breaks that is no longer the case and intervals are fine! I also need intervals at the moment because my calf muscles are protesting if I try anything more ambitious that running for about a minute at a time. Which brings me to the next paragraph.

The other thing I really need to and want to do as I head into this training programme is doing all the things that are so easily neglected. I want to keep doing the yoga after running to stretch out everything that is pulling tight. My calves are suffering but I suspect that the cause is really my hamstrings which seem ridiculously tight. And then there’s the strength exercises and sessions with RunRight which I will pick up again mid January when I am back from a workshop in Germany. The sessions that is, the exercises I need to seriously pick up today really – I have been doing some of them some of the time and I was giving myself a break because everything was just so impossible (thanks black pup) but we are now in excuses territory!

So please do keep reminding me to do yoga and exercises, keep asking me about them and holding me accountable. In particular remind me that I want to do them because they make me a better runner. I am actually not at all keen on gym related stuff or on strength work or any of that – except of course I like feeling strong and capable and I totally get that that takes work so I need reminding that while I might not like the process I do like the result and I usually enjoy having done it even if I don’t enjoy doing it. I also say that about running of course so maybe one day I will actually enjoy a strength and conditioning type session while I am doing it rather than just afterwards. Who knows.

Anyway – this coming week I want to tick off

  • 40-60 minutes easy
  • 5-6 x 1 mile at 10k pace with 800m recovery
  • 70-90 minutes long

I’ll let you know how I get on

“I got bored of rules”

In my most recent therapy session which is a week or so ago now we were talking about some of the more creative things I am doing with my teaching for the coming academic year. As we were discussing those things I suddenly heard myself say “Well, I got bored of rules”. It’s quite a big statement that and I am sure it’s one we’ll come back to in my sessions but I’m not quite sure why or how but we didn’t linger on it and got side-tracked into something else. I don’t remember now. But that simple statement and how I had no idea I was going to say it, how I hadn’t thought about it and how it surprised me as much as anything in that moment have stayed with me. I’ve been thinking about it on and off since then.

I got bored of rules. Well yes I did but not recently. I think I probably got bored of rules a long long long time ago. I got bored of rules the minute I figured out that most of them make no sense, that most of them serve no real purpose, that most of them are bad rules. Was I a pain in the arse child that constantly asked why? I honestly don’t know – ask my parents. I am, like we all are full of contradictions though. I mean it seems a bit odd for someone bored of rules to study law, right? And perhaps even odder then for someone bored of rules to teach law. It’s also odd for someone bored of rules to have coined #MyRunMyRules as their running mantra. So here’s where the blog post splits – keep reading here for the running bit or click over to my academic blog for the other stuff.

“I got bored of rules” seemed to, in that moment, sum up so much of life. Sometime in the middle of the London Marathon – probably about when I picked my tired body off the tarmac around mile 15 – I was done with running rules. I was done with the unwritten and unspoken rules that you have to enjoy the achievement even if not the run, I was done with training plans, speedework, hill repeats and running familiar paths and loops. I hadn’t really realised just how done I was with the rules around running, even the ones I made myself until I said it out loud in the little quiet comforting space where I go for help to unswirl my mind. I have tried, with some success to free myself from some of the running rules which are not helpful to me: I try not to be ruled by pace. The rule that faster is better doesn’t apply to me. I try not to be ruled by distance – I don’t have to go further and further or higher and higher. But fundamentally my rules are still rules. I must run. Running is good for my mental health so I must run. But I don’t want to. But I also don’t want to not want to run. I want to want to run. If you’re rolling your eyes – welcome to my world, I roll my eyes at myself all the time.

So what about running without rules, without a watch, not setting a distance, choosing routes with options and just seeing what happens. Ah yes, those runs. Those runs have hidden rules. They’re the runs I must enjoy. They’re the ones to rediscover the why and the fun and the love of running. That’s what they are for. But at the moment I don’t like them. I don’t like feeling like I have to rediscover a love of running I never really had in the first place. I have vague memories of quite enjoying the odd run and not hating running but… Anyway running just seems so full of rules, so full of things I ought to be doing or not doing. So not running is the obvious solution isn’t it. Finding something else that I want to do which gives me some of the same benefits. Well yes but while I don’t actually want to run I also very much don’t want to not run. I miss running while at the same time hating every step of every run I am doing at the moment. And while I am somehow pushing back against all the shoulds, musts and ought tos in all sorts of areas of my life I am also craving the discipline of a running programme.

I want to follow sensible rules. I want a programme to tell me how far and how fast I should run on any given day. I want the programme to make the decision for me. I want the rules there, on my wall planner and I want to tick each run off with a little sticker and more than anything I want to break the rules. I want to do Wednesday’s run on a Friday and cheat on the hill repeats and add a mile on on Sunday and skip the speed session altogether. I don’t know what any of that means. “I got bored of rules” somehow says everything and nothing about how I feel about running right now.