Finishing the unfinished 

On 19th December, I shuffled around Exeter parkrun, over the moon to finally be able to run 3.1 miles without stopping. Today, I ran 13.1 miles without stopping, and at a respectable pace too. I’d never have admitted it, but I’m not sure I really believed this was possible 23 weeks ago!!

Turns out that there’s a lot to be said for consistent, focused training with plenty of rest. There was something in Matt and Chrissie’s nagging after all!😉 Despite having run around 20 half marathons, I’m not sure I’ve ever prepared properly before. Not really. I’d look at a training plan and think I knew better, yet never spotted the patterns of injury and under-achievement. I really am a very slow learner! This time I followed this simple plan: four runs a week including a long run, two 3 mile runs, and a medium run that was a ‘pace’ run every other week. Plus a session of cross training…..which, I confess, was more like two swims plus one other! Not at the expense of running or rest, however. And I think the benefits to my core and shoulder have been significant.

The mileage crept up week by week, and I barely noticed. My legs have felt fine throughout; possibly due to regular sports massages….and a bit of stretching / foam rolling, although I could do far better!! My 5K and 10K times also improved dramatically. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the training, especially the morning runs in the beautiful spring sunshine. 

Having run 12 miles last weekend, completing the race today was really the icing on the cake!

 

Posing

Posing in front of start-line scenery

  
At the start

PURPLE start pen!

 
I confess that I had tried predicting my finish time based on my result from the Ottery 10K. It came up with about 1:52:30, which I didn’t hold out much hope for, as I still don’t feel confident enough in my fitness to really push it. So I’m pretty delighted to run a very comfortable 1:54:09.  Although I did wear a watch, I didn’t pay much attention to it during the race and ran very much based on how I was feeling. As I expected to be finished by 10am, I also didn’t want to totally break myself and spoil the last part of our weekend in Edinburgh!!  What on earth is going on; I barely recognise myself!!

 

Enjoying the Scottish sunshine (and cake) with Caro

 
I may not have the K-team on tap anymore, but I still feel their influence on a regular basis. Their chirruping is forever trapped inside my head😉 “So tell us, what did you do well, and what could you have done better?!”

As mentioned above, the training went really well, and I think I picked the right plan (short of having a coach write something bespoke). Whereas I’d previously have thought ‘oh I don’t need to run four times a week, what’s the point of those 3 mile runs anyway?’, I trusted the expert running coach who wrote the plan and stuck to it pretty religiously. I believe that this helped build my fitness and leg strength, and also meant that the mileage increases each week came in smaller increments.

Chrissie bugged me extensively about going for sports massages last year, but I couldn’t face the additional time commitment or cost. Now that I’m in a more rational and relaxed place, I’m really enjoying this addition to my routine! I love my masseuse, Lizzy, and bend her ear good and proper once a fortnight. She’s super-supportive, and it’s become a kind of therapy! She is mean though. Ouch.

Although the dramas of last year were something of a ‘perfect storm’ of contributory factors, we all agreed that my electrolyte intake wasn’t ideal (although not bad enough to put me in hospital!) I’ll be looking into this more in future, but I think I did a pretty good job this weekend. I had electrolyte tablets in my drinks last night and this morning, during the first half of the race (followed by a gel with electrolytes), immediately after the race and again with lunch. I also ate some pistachios and two bags of crisps in quick succession! I do love crisps. Any excuse. Seriously, I have felt tons better than after previous half marathons, so there may be something in it. 

What didn’t I do so well…… Chrissie advocates minimising dairy consumption and cooking familiar food the day before racing. We had lunch at a restaurant and dinner at our friends’ house……with plenty of cheese! I knew this was a risk but the two social occasions were pretty important to me, especially in the light of the past 12 months, and the gamble paid off. I did avoid dairy this morning, however, and powered myself with overnight oats, banana and peanut butter, which I’m sure would receive the Wellington seal of approval!

Finally, the purple pen may have been pleasingly apt, but I must be more optimistic about my finish time in future!  The course narrowed in the last few miles – I felt strong and had plenty in the tank, but finding a way through was very challenging.

 I’m so pleased to have completed the Laura Douglas memorial series at last. I thought about her all the way round, her home city of course! A job well done. That’s my verdict at least😀

The Husb (who provided excellent support and baggage services today!) and I are off on hols to Mallorca this week, and I will be taking the whole week at least off running. I was planning to do lots of swimming, but Caro’s talk of jellyfish has provoked second thoughts. Cycling up some mahoosive hills is starting to sound strangely appealling……

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Back on the road….

My road bike

Ah, lovely lovely Suzie Specialized. Yes, that is dust you can see. Poor love hasn’t had a wash since Alpe d’Huez either!


Selfie with view

Incapable of smiling and taking selfie simultaneously #notagrimacehonest


Selfie with cat

Warming up, with help!

What else. It’s London Marathon day! I love the London Marathon. The theme music sends shivers down my spine. Running it in 2005 didn’t go sooooo well, but I do love to watch.   And I was delighted to hear that my three friends, Sharon, Marie and Claire, all absolutely smashed it!! Nice one ladies. 

My own running continues to progress well. Yesterday, I drove up to Killerton an hour before parkrun, to record six miles……which made the requisite nine in total. I hadn’t been to parkrun since January so it was great to be back, and on the Killerton event’s 5th birthday too, with record attendance. Great fun, and great to chat (and eat cake) with Steph afterwards.

So, it seems I am track for Edinburgh. Shouldn’t tempt fate, given the debacle of my twisted ankle last year, but fingers crossed. I’m thoroughly enjoying training and progressing; turns out that Coach Matt’s endless reminders about consistency, focus and appropriate training had some basis! I’m sure he is laughing heartily if he is reading this😉

Swimming hasn’t happened as much as it should have, but Susan and I are entered into an AQUATHLON next weekend. This is a first for yours truly!! 600m swim (in an awesome outdoor pool) followed by a 5K run. I might actually come last on the swim, but that just gives me more people to overtake on the run, right?!

I will report back🙂

 

 

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Better?

Kind people ask me how I am on a regular basis. I’ve been on an upwards trajectory for a long time now, and have proclaimed myself ‘better’ about twenty times! However, lately there has been a step change, presumably down to another increase in my thyroid medication. This time, I really do feel better, and have objective (ish) evidence to prove it. Back to the old format, here you go.

Swim

Two weeks ago, I swam 1500m without stopping. Last week I did the same, with an additional 4 lengths warm down to make it a mile! I didn’t fall asleep at work either time; in fact I felt fine all day. I’m currently swimming about 30seconds slower per 100m than a year ago, but I’ll still take it!!

Bike

On my last ride with The Husb, I had a proper, hill-induced tantrum. Poor old Cecil* was thrown on the ground in disgust, and a sugary snack required to return me to good humour. Now that’s more like it! Enough of the ‘just happy to be alive’ nonsense, the real me is back for sure.

*my robust hybrid. I have not yet ridden my carbon-fibre beauty, and promise wholeheartedly to contain this ridiculous behaviour when I finally do.

Run

I’ve been running rather a lot. Four times a week, in fact! The more objective evidence that I’m better is that I took 2 mins off my 5K time at the running club between January and March, and also that I ran the ‘Fast Friday 10K’ on the lovely flat quayside in just 52:43. A way to go yet, but during both races I felt like myself. I could push a bit without seeing stars, and I’m pleased to report that the old competitive streak is alive and kicking🙂

 

smashed it indeed. thanks to Sharon for the place!!

 
But the absolute clincher was on Friday morning. I got up at 5.45am to run 8 miles. I only realised halfway into the run that not only was everyone else still in bed, but that they would think I was nuts. And this was bizarrely comforting to yours truly🙂

I recorded this small video while out on my run. Sometime a picture isn’t enough! #luckygirl

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On it

It’s official. I am back in training for an actual event: I have entered the Edinburgh Half Marathon! A handy goal, and the small matter of some unfinished business from last year. I’m really looking forward to it, despite pace predictors predicting a personal worst. I am a changed woman😉

I’ve run a lot of half marathons. Most of them without adequate preparation…..eg I’m really fit from rowing, I don’t find running particularly difficult, and someone has dropped out at the last minute so I’ll run ‘for a laugh’. The laughter seems to stop around the 8 mile mark, however! Even Malta last year was run on the back of preparation for Alpe d’Huez (although it clearly wasn’t too shabby….). So, despite currently feeling grossly unfit and sluggish, with a sensible timeframe and a base built over several months, I might go into this feeling PROPERLY READY!

I actually feel like I have turned a little corner in the last month or so. I’d been running three miles a few times a week. It was gradually becoming easier, but the step change actually came this week, on returning from a fairly slack three weeks on holiday. The first run was a struggle (jet lag) but the second was a breeze. And perhaps more notably, I didn’t remember to record either on Strava, and didn’t particularly care! Blimey. Even more tangibly, yesterday I upped the distance to five whole miles, and it was fine. I didn’t even have a nap in the afternoon, in fact powering through to dinner out with friends in the evening. AND THEN. Today I cycled eighteen whole miles for cake with McSwede! I realise that isn’t very far but, on the back of yesterday, I’m quite pleased with myself. No naps today either.

A man and a woman in running kit

Happy runners

(I did have a bit of a giggle when I consulted Strava to find out what I was doing this weekend last year. 68.5 mile bike on Saturday, followed by a ‘casual half marathon’ on the Sunday. Lol. I’m slightly in awe of the woman I once was!)

So there you go. Half marathon training starts tomorrow! Progress update soon🙂

 

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A little bit of crazy

I think I went a little bit crazy this time last year. It wasn’t funny at the time, but I’m highly amused by myself now!  I do have a slightly obsessive personality, and drive myself nuts worrying about random things. At the height of my training (and magazine ‘fame’) I became completely obsessed and stressed about the possibility of accidentally getting pregnant. I did about a million tests, regardless of minimal risk. Chrissie was patient, the Husb despaired….. I also became unable to tolerate any remotely gory images. I’m squeamish at the best of times, but memories from Grey’s Anatomy would haunt me for weeks, and I had to start hiding people from my Facebook feed if they allowed anything vaguely unpleasant to appear. What? Why?! No idea. I’m happy to report that both sets of weirdness disappeared relatively quickly, and have yet to reoccur!

I have to laugh at myself.  It didn’t stop there either. Back in the summer of 2015, I was arguably in the best shape of my life. But I still wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel I looked lean and athletic, still thought I was carrying too much excess weight, wasn’t seeing the anticipated visible effects of all that training. So unfair. I thought I’d lose weight during those months of swimming, biking and running, but my weight stayed stubbornly stable. Looking at myself in the gym mirrors now, I now see how ridiculous this was! The numbers meant nothing, I’d replaced the small amount of fat I had in January with muscle by June. Any remaining excess was probably keeping me healthy! A couple of months of nothing, followed by a couple more doing very little, has ensured that all the muscles I did have (paltry or otherwise!) have well and truly wasted away. My legs currently do not look like my own! Why on earth didn’t I appreciate myself at the time, instead of chastising myself for still not living up to some unrealistic aspirations? Sigh.

Standing at the top of the Croix de Fer

Nope. Not athletic in the slightest.

Aside from meaningless aesthetics, I am quite fascinated by just how much strength I have lost in the intervening months. Given the years and years of training, I would have expected to retain a reasonable base, but this does not seem to be the case. I’m so wobbly!  I was always pretty rubbish regarding balance and coordination (I maintain that this is because my limbs extend so far from my brain) but I didn’t realise how much core strength I’d built over the years. My lunges are laughable. I keep falling off the wobble board in the gym! I can barely plank for 30 seconds and my form is terrible – a far cry from the several minutes I once held to prove a point.

Training is the answer😉 and I’m now up to 5 or 6 sessions each week, which is so welcome even though they are quite short. I managed my first ‘Fitball’ class on Thursday which was great fun, although must have been amusing for anyone who was watching given aforementioned wobbliness. McSwede paced me for a set of intervals on Tuesday and, although I was a broken woman that evening, it felt amazing to get the legs moving again. Buoyed by our experience of Killerton (muddy, hilly) parkrun last weekend, the Husb and I ventured to the event at Parke yesterday. A National Trust property on the edge of Dartmoor……means even more hills. It was brutal! But I flipping loved it. I’m very unstable on the rough ground, but that makes me think it’s helping in the long term. Both events have a fantastic atmosphere and lovely views, a real treat for the soul to get the weekend started. It’s so good to get back into trail running, great big grin😀

The view from the start at Parke parkrun

Waiting to start Parke parkrun

We deserved cake after all that…..so headed back to Exeter to visit one of our favourites, The Plant. We’re experimenting with veganism for January (check out my other blog, veggiefoodielove.wordpress.com, for more details!) so cake has been thin on the ground. After a period of abstention, the raspberry and beetroot cake did not disappoint!

It’s the running club 5K handicap on Wednesday. Hopefully all this parkrunning has been good preparation. ‘Race’ report next time!

 

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Time to draw a line

Two milestones were reached on Friday. Firstly, the consultant told me that the bones in my shoulder are pretty much fixed. Good news! Secondly, the Husb finally received the insurance money from our extended stay in France, and the resulting travel rearrangement. It felt like ‘The End’! That’s a bit melodramatic, but with the additional start of a new year, now seems like a good time to draw a line under things and move on. I’m bored stiff of hearing myself talk about The Drama and The Recovery, so I must be a proper bore to everyone else. No more! Unless asked, obviously. But I really don’t mind if you don’t. I’ll never be able to thank everyone enough for their support, or to apologise for all the worry that I’ve caused, albeit unintentionally! I’m still utterly overwhelmed, incredibly grateful and thankful, and definitely feeling the love🙂

So what does this year have in store? If it’s alright with everyone, I’ll be opting for rather less drama🙂 Just getting back to my ‘usual’ fitness levels feels like a big challenge at the moment, but it’s good to have a bit of focus at least. I have been thinking hard about my goals and aspirations, and had been quite keen on the idea of ‘taking part’ in a triathlon. Just to do it, because I love it, and it would be fun. But the consultant pointed out (in a stern voice)  that breaking my shoulder again (eg by falling off my bike at speed!) would be very bad indeed for my shoulder. So I think that one is shelved, at least for now.  I am a bit sad about this but, as seems to be the case of late, I mostly see the other opportunities and feel happy that there’s plenty of other fun stuff out there. Whether or not this blog should still be ‘Trying to Tri’ is certainly up for debate, although I am not sure I can face the complications associated with changing it!

Running and swimming, with a bit of strength work, is more than enough to keep me busy! So here are my tentative goals:

  1. Complete Edinburgh half marathon. Unfinished business from last year! Still probably my favourite and most familiar distance to run. I won’t be breaking any records this time, but that’s ok with me! It’s far more fun when you aren’t busting a gut anyway.
  2. Win(?) the running club 5K handicap series. This sounds rather grander than it is – the winner is the most improved over the series of monthly races. My fastest parkrun so far was 6 1/2 minutes slower than my PB, so I reckon I have plenty of improving to do! The winning part is probably out of my hands, but it seems like a valid aspiration.
  3. Complete the Great Manchester Swim. I will cover this in another blog I’m sure; let’s just say it wasn’t my idea….but for me it’s great motivation to get back to swimming a bit further, and I did love the Great North Swim. It may be partially granny-style, but let’s wait and see! The course looks ace.
  4. Run a faster half marathon later in the year, maybe Bristol. Only ‘maybe’ because of potential holiday plans – it’s one of my absolute favourite races so I’ll certainly be there if it works!
I’d also definitely be up for a team triathlon……if anyone is willing to have me as the runner. Give me a few months and I might even be an asset😉
 
I’ve been in Warrington this weekend, catching up with the parentals and various friends. I ran parkrun with KTG on Saturday, which was ace because it was parkrun and we had a good chinwag, but also because it started at Vicky Park. My running ‘career’ started at Vicky Park with lovely (aka freezing cold, miserable) cross country races when I was about 10 years old. It then continued at the same venue with my years at Warrington Athletic Club as a very slow sprinter. Being back there reminded me that I’d really love to run on the track again…..  I had a quick google as I remembered that Exeter Harriers run 3K races on the track for all-comers, but unfortunately we’ll be on holiday for the next event. Will keep my eyes open. Anyone know anything about old-lady athletics? I really fancy track racing but no idea if I’d be anything like fast enough! My 5K PB is 21.58, is that ridiculously pedestrian? Answers on a postcard.
 
I also have my eye on a couple of 10Ks in the run up to Edinburgh, and will keep up the parkrunning for as long as it fits in. I am hoping to venture to Killerton soon…..maybe even next weekend. It’s muddier, rougher and slower than Exeter quayside so, as a self-confessed flat Tarmac kinda girl, you’d think I’d shy away. But actually, it’s just nicer. The venue is gorgeous, and I do like a good view, but it’s not that. Maybe it’s because it’s more established, maybe not. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’ve also suggested to the Husb that we venture to the Parke parkrun one weekend for variety, and then I’m sure we’ll manage a bit more parkrun tourism if we’re ever elsewhere at 9am on a Saturday!
 
I have absolutely no photos to share this time, how dull. Will do better next time! 
 
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Acceptance

Today I rode my bike. Not just round the block like last time, but a proper ride recorded on Strava! Ok I’m bigging it up a bit too much here, it was only 19K, dead flat, and ‘pedestrian’ to say the least. But I loved it🙂 We rode along the cycle path next to the Exe estuary in the SUNSHINE, drinking in the stunning scenery, spotting brent geese grazing in the fields, and breathing the fresh clean air. Good for the soul….and the body of course! And then we went for a lovely lunch involving halloumi – double win.

If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen

Regular readers will know that I’ve been complaining about fatigue ever since the dramas of August. I’ve been wholly convinced that this has been due to the trauma itself and the shoulder surgery, and then more recently my underactive thyroid – and I’m sure this is true for the most part. But now? I can manage ‘normal life’ just fine, especially since the recent addition of thyroxin to my system. However. If I run a bit too fast (2 mins faster at parkrun this week!), swim a bit too far (a whole kilometre yesterday, woohoo!) or introduce something ‘new and challenging’ such as riding a bike (ffs!), I’m a sofa-bound zombie once again. Finally I am forced to admit the true cause of this…..

…..Yes, friends, after 14 solid years of training and competing my (not-currently-so) little butt off, I’m forced to accept that I may simply be UNFIT!! It’s such an alien feeling. I didn’t recognise it myself, but gradually comments from friends along the lines of ‘now you know how we feel!’ and the penny has dropped. I’m so slow sometimes….!

I’ll forgive you if you’re laughing at me right now, I’m laughing at myself too!

So there we go. Slowly does it and I’ll get there. Once the clock ticks round to 2016, I think it may be time to stop feeling so defined by what’s happened. The effects have been quite bizarre, in that I haven’t felt particularly upset or traumatised by any of it, but I do think about it every day at the very least, and I do use it to explain or excuse lots of things. Maybe 5 months down the line I can start to put it to bed and look forward instead? I guess we’ll see, but here’s hoping!

Although progress is slower than I’d like(!), it’s still a real treat to be getting back into things. Firstly, I’m so much more appreciative of things I’d have dismissed before as easy or dull. Today’s ride and parkrun being the prime examples! I am finding real joy in these small steps, and taking a good hard look at my über fit self of a few months ago!! I’m pretty sure she was far less fun….. Also, retracing steps from a while back evokes really vivid memories, in a way I either haven’t experienced before, or was too focussed on my training stats, lol, to notice. Riding along the canal today, in the sunshine, reminded me so clearly of the happy times I spent rowing in the double scull with Mrs Wheeler. Riding along a particular stretch of cycle path took me back to some of Coach Matt’s particularly evil running intervals that I completed near the Turf Locks pub, so that I could meet my work friends there for chips and beer in the sunshine (ok ok, mine was probably a shandy!) Looking back through my Strava log transports me to particular sessions, all of which I feel super positive about and impressed with my former self, even though I was no doubt unsatisfied at the time! Some of that can be weird though. How the hell did I ever swim 2K at Vobster Quay, then cycle home on my own, nearly 130K!? It feels a bit like I was a different person!

Anyway. Onwards! I’m hoping that 2016 will see me reach sufficient fitness to complete some small goals. No times or placings in mind, just to make it to the finish line. Then I might allow myself a modicum of performance-related pickiness ;) 

Happy New Year everyone!!

Ps I’m writing this using a new app, BlogPad pro, because the WordPress iPad app is rubbish beyond politeness. If anyone has any experience with BlogPad or anything else for the iPad, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

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