500 Miles and Running with the Black Pup

IMG_2178It has been a funny old week. Well actually it hasn’t, or at least I haven’t been able to find anything funny about it. It’s probably been hilarious. The foggy tiredness started to descend on Sunday evening; a vague darkness settling, clinging, making itself at home. The black pup had, somehow unnoticed, crept into the room. She was asleep in the corner and I was cross I hadn’t seen her coming in. I went to bed. Maybe she wasn’t really there, maybe I was just tired (‘nah, I’m here, you know that kinda tired, it’s me).

Monday. Bank Holiday Monday. Monday was supposed to be long run and sort our shit out day. We were due to do 11 miles. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting up but eventually did and put my running kit on and then froze. I was rooted to the spot. There was no way I was going OUTSIDE. I mean seriously – like OUTSIDE? Freezing had nothing to do with running or the distance. I was quite happy about the idea of plodding along for 11 miles with my run/walk intervals, it was actually quite appealing but it would mean LEAVING THE HOUSE. Fuck no. The pup lifted her head: ‘Hi!’

I spent most of the morning on the sofa while Kath went and did the food shop and after a little while I started to want to run. When Kath got back I got changed and considered the possibility of leaving the house. Hm. The pup looked up again ‘Hi! You going out? Nah you’re not really are you’. I hesitated, she might be right. I hovered in the kitchen a little. Kath opened the door and gently nudged me out of it. I stood there for a minute or two and if Kath hadn’t been between me and the door I probably would have run back in. Instead we set off gently jogging down the street and I settled into a steady rhythm. I kept running for the entire 3.75 miles and then we walked up the hill home stopping for blackberries here and there. It was a definite win. It wasn’t 11 miles but it was a run. The pup was sulky and she was zapping all my energy. IMG_2177

Tuesday I worked from home and the plan was to run from Bolton Abbey to Burnsall after work. I was looking forward to it. I had an ok day. The pup was in the room and she lifted her head every now and again but generally kept quiet. She was there though. She was making me tired. We set off to go on our run. The route is stunning and I was looking forward to it. The run/walk intervals were set to 2 minutes run and 30 seconds walk. We set off. I felt tired and creaky but I was sure I’d settle.  I’m not quite sure when the negative chatter started. The puppy was bouncing along enjoying her time out and pointing out that I was feeling creaky. ‘Tight calf muscles?’ she would giggle periodically ‘comes from being unfit that’. The first mile was soooo slow. At least that’s what I thought. ‘Wow so slow?’. I tried to reason – lots of the route had been uphill, it was undulating generally… the pace was actually fine but I couldn’t shake the negativity. With every step it got worse.

IMG_2172I knew I was physically fine. Logically I knew that. I also knew that I was running well within myself, I knew the route was gorgeous, I knew…. but I couldn’t make myself believe it. By just under 4 miles I felt dead on my feet. It all felt totally pointless. The pup was bouncing round in circles – ‘you can’t do it, you can’t do it’. I decided to pull out of the Great North Run. I decided to bin long distance running. We stopped for a minute or two and I took a few deep breaths and kicked the pup. She growled but took off  and I got my act together for a bit and kept going. By just over 4 miles she’d caught up and she was on form: ‘Can’t do it, can you? Soooo slow, you won’t make the cut off time. Wow, it’s a wonder that butt can move at all – have you seen the size of it?’ She was relentless. I was tired and I gave up. I was pretty sure that was it, no more running because it just makes me miserable. I wondered if I could sell my Dopey registration. We sat by the river for a few minutes.

Then we slowly started walking back. The pup found it all hilarious and bounced around mocking me. I felt silly. I wanted to try running a little more so we ran/walked a bit – sometimes sticking to the intervals, sometimes just going by feel. I tried to think rationally and logically about the run  – prompted by some questions from Kath. Analysing it hushed the puppy a bit, she’s not keen on the science brain. Why did this run go so wrong mentally. Why could I not silence or at least quieten the negative chatter? Well, partly I think I had no plan. I assumed that because I had abandoned the idea of a long run on Monday that Tuesday would be the triumphant return to the distance. I had unrealistic expectations about pace based on the previous week’s 9 miles on the flat andIMG_2182 when that just didn’t happen (and it was never going to) I had no plan B and because of the depression absolutely no mental energy to stop the negativity and self doubt. I need a Plan B and C and possibly D. What I should have been working with was that Plan A was to cover the distance at a strong pace using the intervals, maybe Plan B could have been to cover the distance using the intervals as set – whatever the pace; Plan C to cover the distance adding extra walks where needed…. If I hadn’t built up the run quite so much in my mind and had articulated (at least to myself) the possibility of other plans or other ways of running it, I may have had a chance. Maybe not, it may simply be that the puppy was too much for me on that day. In the end I still covered 8.8 miles and in the end it was within Disney Pace (16 minute mile is the pace requirement for the Disney races – it was 15 something or other). That should be a win. It felt like total failure.

Back at the car I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I felt dead on my feet and everything hurt. I felt like I could sleep for months. Back at home though I couldn’t settle and I didn’t sleep well. Wednesday I worked on a workbook for one of my modules (frustrating, templates, urgh) and then drove to Nottingham for a gorgeous few hours with my friend Bex. It was just what I needed and I think maybe the pup stayed here in West Yorkshire. I think maybe Bex terrifies her a bit so she left me alone for the day and it was nice, it felt like maybe the darkness was lifting a little, feeling less clingy. By the time I got back it wasn’t long before I went to bed. Thursday I worked from home again and I vaguely wondered about a run but I couldn’t shake the tiredness and the non-specific ache. We’d booked a yoga class in the evening and I spent most of the late afternoon looking for an IMG_2167excuse not to go. But we went. I was again creaky and not at all bendy or strong but it was good to have to leave the house and to spend some time focusing on nothing but trying to get into and hold the poses. Black pups aren’t allowed into the gym.

This morning I actually got shit done. Kath had an appointment at Bolton Abbey and I went with her and while she was there I went for a run. I was dubious. I wasn’t sure I was mentally any stronger than Tuesday. But I had a different plan. I knew I had about an hour and I had 3 possible routes. The shortest would only be about a mile or so but I decided that if I wasn’t enjoying it or I wanted to stop then that mile would be fabulous. The next loop would probably be about 4 and a half and the longer would add another mile onto that. I had also decided to leave the run/walk intervals as they were and see – my ‘rule’ was that with every beep I would consider changing the pace – that way I could run for longer than the two minutes or walk for longer or whatever but on every beep I would need to think about whether to change. I also decided I might take some photos (dotted through this post for you) and that I was absolutely not thinking about pace. In fact this wasn’t a run at all. It was an outing, it was an opportunity to move and be outside and enjoy myself. If running happened then that was great but, I told the pup quite firmly, we were most definitely not going for a run. ‘Yeah, that’s because you can’t’ she said but she seemed to lose interest.

IMG_2181I set off on the first running interval  – all good. Then another, all good. Then I walked up a long sloping hill. Then I ran down the other side. And that’s how I continued – walking up, shuffling down, running on the flat, stopping for pictures. I didn’t stop after the mile loop, I kept going. I was doing our usual loop now but the wrong way round – I didn’t want any markers that might give me an indication that I was slower than usual. I didn’t want those visual clues to derail the positive of being out. I kept going. I went for the middle loop so crossed the Wharfe at the aqueduct and worked with the same pattern of run walk roughly to the beeps but sometimes running more and sometimes walking more. I chose the top path from the Strid and made good progress walking the up hill bits. Then there was a slight downhill and I started running and it suddenly felt different.  It felt effortless. I only had 100 metres or so before I had to stop to cross a little bridge behind a couple walking their dogs. They let me past but then their dogs came with me so I had to return them. I felt sure the effortlessness must have been an illusion.

I set off running again. Nope, there it was again. Wow, running is easy. Everything IMG_2183
aligned. I was breathing easy, all the creakiness had gone, there was no heaviness in my legs, I was running easy and just for the hell of it. I think I picked up the pace a bit and I just kept going and it felt amazing and joyful and free and light. That last half mile is, I think what we run for – for those occasions when it all comes together and running feels more like flying. Then I was back at the Pavilion and slightly irritated by people getting in my way. I got coffee and waited for Kath and then I got work shit done while she went for a run. It was a good morning.

The pup is here though. She’s lounging about and every now and again lifts her head to say something less than nice or helpful. She’s making me tired – that relentless sort of tiredness. The darkness feels less clingy and I am slowly slowly regaining my sense of humour about some things. It will take time. The pup isn’t one to just pop in for a cuppa and then bugger off again. She’ll linger. After today though I feel more confident that she is actually sort of under control. Like a sprained ankle, I know she’s there and she is stopping me from functioning fully but really is not stopping me from doing that much. I just need to rest more and be kind to myself and be aware of her.

Today’s run also took me through 500 miles for the year so far. I’m now just over 501 miles. I am really proud of this. I managed 500 miles last year – on New Years Eve and exactly bang on so I have now officially done better than last year! I won’t make the 1000 of the #run1000Miles Challenge but that’s ok. I’m running more consistently than I was and I am fitter and stronger than I was – whether the black pup agrees or not!


Warning: running may lead to Yoga, Pilates, Gym….

I don’t actually like the gym. We have been doing yoga at home – sometimes more and sometimes less consistently. However, its not really enough. I very occasionally popped into the gym at work but I often don’t get there because work stuff side tracks me or I want to get home…. So after much deliberations we joined the local council gym for a month in June to try out the classes and have another go at doing some useful cross training.

June was pretty good and we decided it was sensible to come back and get into a good exercise/cross training routine. So far we’re doing pretty well. One of the guys at the gym did us a short programme designed to support our running. It consists of some step ups with weights and then lots of stuff to strengthen core and glutes. I like it because it’s short and should work fine if done twice a week. In fact we have been doing this a little while now so it is probably time to go see him again and get a new one.

In addition we have done a fitness pilates class which I find quite hard but good and I enjoy it. Again the work on core strength helps and I think I am probably getting better even with only having done it twice since we’ve been back (and twice in June before we went). Last week we also tried a yoga class which I loved. The instructor was fabulous and very focused on form and technique coming round and putting us all in the right positions. I could most definitely feel that! We also tried a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class in June which I sort of hated but loved having done. We are having another go on Thursday next week. So with 2 gym sessions, 1 pilates, 1 yoga and 1 HIIT class as well as the running we’re pretty busy getting fitter. We might not be able to do all of this every week and if I’m honest, the HIIT class might prove too much for me, but we’ll see how we go.

I lost 2 pounds in the first week back from Australia, I’m sticking to Sunday weigh in just to keep track and eating is focused on fuel and eating yummy things that are overall healthy without going over the top. I feel quite content with all of that at the moment and I am getting stronger. It feels different not going to the gym for the sake of going to the gym or to lose weight or tone up but to go to support my running. It feels like there’s a good reason and somehow that makes it more enjoyable.

Australia (Not) Running 2

After our Cairns run we headed north for a 4 night stay at the rather fabulous Silky Oaks Lodge. It was just a few minutes drive from a small town called Mossman but it felt a million miles away from everything.

We had a little treehouse and actually did very little while we were there.

I went snorkelling in the Mossman river twice

and we walked the grounds a fair bit often bumping into the brush turkeys (we’ve called them all Brian)

We also took part in a couple of the morning yoga classes which were a great way to start the day.

On our second day there we had a trip to north of the Daintree River for a 4 hour guided rainforest walk which was just amazing.

So it’s not like we did no exercise, we just didn’t run….

More presents, the sales, gait analysis and closing in on 500 miles

I may have got a little over excited about my monorail highlighters on my birthday. So over excited in fact that I forgot to mention that Kath was also buying me a new running watch. We chose it together on my birthday for delivery the next day. I didn’t look at many because Kath has a Garmin Forerunner 235 and I like it. I borrowed it for a run/walk the other day just to be sure but basically I knew that that was the one I wanted.

It arrived the day after my birthday and I set it up that evening (so easy I didn’t even IMG_8259have to find a child to do it for me). It does everything I want it to and more. It also does some things I really don’t want it to. I will see how I go but I suspect the function that tells me to move if I am sitting still for too long will have to be turned off and I’m really not sure I’m made for smart notifications. I don’t think I need my watch to tell me when my phone’s ringing. Old school, I know. I’ll do a proper review when I’ve taken it out a few times but for now I absolutely love it. It’s nice and light so I forget it’s there and it works well as a watch as well as general activity/step tracker and then the running watch. In terms of the running watch, my favourite feature is the run/walk alert features that means I don’t have to programme or set intervals for a run. I can just set the alerts and programme the run time or distance or whatever or not programme it at all and just set it to go when I set off. The beeps are loud enough to hear without being intrusive but there is also a slight vibration which is great because I can imagine that there are situations where you don’t hear the beeps.

IMG_8257Also for my birthday I got a new yoga mat. I needed one. My old one was baby pink, full of holes where cats have stretched with their claws out, and it may have survived a lamb incident or two earlier this year. It was in a state. The new one is pretty. It’s much thinner that the one I had before so I wondered how my knees would do. It feels great though – supporting, non-slip but more stable and easier to balance on than the one I had before. Again, full review to follow when I’ve used it a bit more. It’s a Bionix Professional Support one. I can’t find a link to a site that isn’t just a selling site so no link for now.

Today we went into Leeds. It wasn’t as bad as that sounds. We went early enough for it to still feel relatively calm when we got there. After breakfast (Weatherspoons Bagel – yummy) and a close encounter with a former student (ribs still slightly sore from the unexpected hug) we headed for Up & Running. We were heading for a gait analysis. Yep, finally I had decided to be brave enough. I made Kath go first and she is completely neutral in her running. She just runs on her toes quite a bit. So that was her done and off looking at the gorgeous trainers all around us. My turn. It was fine. I ran maybe a little slower than I would usually but then I always do on a treadmill. Hate treadmill running. Hates it! The first neutral shoe showed a slight overpronation on my right. We tried a different neutral show that supposedly offered more support but that didn’t seem to work for me – it was worse. Then we tried some more supportive ones and went for a few pairs some of which made it worse, others worked but then were wrong for my foot shape. Eventually we tried a pair of men’s Brooks Adrenaline and they felt really nice as soon as I put them on and seemed to work for the running too. I quite like the idea that the shoes are expecting me to take them on adventures – I just hope they’re not expecting too much. I also like the idea of ‘Run Happy’. They were in the sale. Sold.

As we were there and I actually need to start thinking about new trail shoes as that’s IMG_8264really where I do most of my miles, (although a lot of the canal towpath would be fine with road shoes) we asked to see what trail shoes they had in our sizes in the sale. They had a pair of Hoka Speedgoat and something else I now can’t remember in my size. I tried them both but the Speedgoat felt comfy – a bit weird – but comfy. So at 30% off I thought ‘what the hell’. Kath bought some Hoka Vanquish 3s for the road which she is now wearing sitting on the sofa  – not sure if it’s love or she just can’t be bothered to move. She also bought some trail shoes – they were definitely love at first wear: Saucony Peregrine. We’ve been for a little run and I think Kath thinks they’re magic go faster shoes because she left me plodding along at my run/walk to put down a fairly blistering (for us anyway) 9 minute something mile. I wore my new Hokas – see mud on them and everything – and I think IMG_8263they’ll be great. I didn’t tie them tight enough at the beginning and realised about a mile in that I was moving around in the shoe too much and it was making my feet hurt a bit. I re-tied them and did them too tight so then my feet were in agony. I did my first hill repeat and then stopped to re-do the laces again. I seemed to get it pretty much right then because the pain eased and I managed the remaining 4 hill repeats (the heart rate data is interesting!) and then run/walked the rest of the 4.8 mile loop with Kath who had just finished her hill sprints when I arrived at the hill – she did another 4 with me… There’s always one!

So, I have 12.66 miles left to hit 500 for the year. I have 3 days. The weather may of course have other ideas but let’s see!

Training Plans and an Uphill Waddle

I went for a run. It’s run day on the training plan and I actually went for a run. Lately, you see, I have done anything but what it says on whatever plan I’ve been supposedly following. When it said long run I’ve gone short, when it said hills, I’ve just sworn, when it said short run I didn’t go, when it said rest I went long… chaos basically which is fine. In fact I quite like chaos, it adds a surprise element to life.

It’s quite hard to make any real training progress with chaos though, particularly when you’re like me and chaos basically means you don’t do the hard stuff. A little order was called for, not regimented ‘you must do this’ sort of stuff but just following a basic framework. It’s Tuesday and Tuesdays is 45 minute run day. Some Tuesdays have  45 minutes with stuff (like surges or hill repeats etc) but not this one, this one was just ‘easy’. The notion of ‘easy’ running amuses me. Easy pace is basically walking! Anyway. I got home after a good day and couldn’t really be bothered. I hadn’t drunk enough water, drunk too much coffee, eaten too much for lunch and it was hot. But nonetheless I set off.

I kept reminding myself to go slow in the sun and not worry about pace – just plod out the 45 minutes. Enjoy, look around… I puffed my way up the hill then towards the wood, past our Dino and up the slope into the wood. I nearly walked on the slope – I suspect I would have been quicker if I had walked. Down the golf course and along the canal. Bloody hell this was hard. One foot in front of the other. I wanted to stop at the bridge but I wasn’t anywhere near 45 minutes yet. So on I went. Somewhere between the next two bridges I decided that I would plod out 5km and then try and march up the hill home. It’s a steep hill. Almost immediately after I made that decision I started doubting whether I’d make the 5km. I did but it felt like wading through treacle. I was surprised when Strava told me I got a personal best on that last section. It also tells me it was 5km in 39 minutes dead.

Anyway, for the walk home – I went the most direct route – directly up in an almost straight line up a little snicket. I was hot, bothered, slightly dizzy in places and thought I was going to puke. I felt like I kept marching, stopping, marching, stopping but it was probably more like waddle, stop, waddle, stop. I got home. I had ticked the required 45 minutes off the list  – there is some order.

I collapsed on the living room floor and just stayed there a few minutes contemplating life (actually just sweating so much I was surprised not to have left a noticeable wet patch – can your eyeballs sweat?). Then slowly I got myself together and did some fairly random post run yoga – I couldn’t be bothered to get my mat or the iPad to follow an actual sequence so I did my own. My hamstrings are little bitches and totally intent on making my life miserable so they need a good stretch to keep them in check: ‘half monkey’ seems to really work for me for that. I thought my hips had been a bit tight but alternating ‘bridge’ and ‘happy baby’ a few times sorted that. Then I went in search of water (wasn’t hard, Kath had given me a full glass as I walked through the door). In spite of the uphill waddle I now felt pretty good about that outing.

I haven’t really done enough yoga today – I’m trying to do more but let’s take the small victories – I did manage 20 minute morning yoga yesterday which always sounds like such a lovely thing but the morning one on my yoga app is actually quite tough and after moving from downward dog to plank for what felt like the 150th time (ok, 3rd), my arms didn’t work anymore and I face planted. I have therefore settled on a new ambition in life: being able to do that sequence without putting my nose in danger. I also did strength exercises much to the cats’ amusement/bemusement. Ernest stared at me intently as I side-stepped with a resistance band. Actually maybe he just got a bit excited every time I got near the food bowls. Anyway, it’s only Tuesday and I already feel pretty good about exercise for the week. Tomorrow is strength yoga day. Next run on Thursday.