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Sometimes you HAVE to run!

I’ve got a stinking cold, its on my chest too, the sensible option this week in the lead up to Mens Health survival of the fittest would have been to have skipped running. But sometimes you need to run. Running for me is an anti-depressant. It enabled me to come off tablets and it keeps me in check. I wish I could say which part of it has such a positive effect on me but it does.

This week my eldest son turns 8. This usually means my depression and PTSD symptons get triggered. Not all birth trauma mums get affected around their childrens birthdays but I am one that does. Every year the memories and flashbacks plague my dreams. Last night was no different. I woke up twice, once I was mid scream, which it seems woke up my youngest, the second time I woke up I had tears streaming down my face and a soaking pillow. Both dreams had contained the usual memories. The horrible painful memories. The fear. The hardest part is that although they are in my dreams I know those memories are real. They actually happened. That physical pain actually happened. Those words that are hard to hear were said.

So I did what any runner does, put my shoes on and ran. I ran hard for the first mile. Angry with myself that although its 8 years on those memories still have such a powerful affect on me. I know theres no time limit on birth trauma, I know that from talking with other birth trauma mums. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

This week feels especially tough as I need to say so much. I need to talk it through. And I don’t have anyone I feel I can talk it through with and thats difficult for me. But I do still have my running. And after a while of being angry I started counting my steps and zoned out for a while and that was peaceful. I managed to block out the difficult memories for a short time. That horrible feeling of anxiety and being on edge. And now I feel calmer for it.

It may not have been the best idea for my physical health. But for my mental health it was what I needed.

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Muddyrace.co.uk Beginners Training Day!

So today I set off for Cambridge with one of my running friends to take part in a obstacle course training day. I was really excited about today seeing as I have rather insanely agreed to doing Mens Health Survival of the Fittest next weekend! Walls were the one thing I was really worried about so was keen to get to practice how to get over them!

The drive up had been dry but foggy and I was relieved to arrive and find it wasn’t raining! Don’t get me wrong I was excited about getting caked in mud but rain before you’ve even started is never fun! We set off for a little jog around the course before a warm up which involved warming up with your partner, me and my friend had a right giggle trying to tap each others hips and then doing push ups and then slapping our hands which showered us in a spray of wet mud!

Once warmed up we were grouped off and then sent to our first obstacles, our first obstacle turned out to be the wall and then a cargo net and a-frame. The wall it turned out wasn’t too hard, with some help from my new chums! Its also given me some cute bruises! The cargo net was fun and not as bad I had thought, I loved sliding along the mud on my stomach! The a-frame wasn’t too bad the first time around but the more people used it the slipperier it got, it was pretty high and I have to admit not my favourite thing to do!

After we moved onto the monkey bars and then jumping over the wooden fence posts. Monkey bars I cannot do! I can hang if the bars aren’t too wet but I haven’t mastered swinging very well yet! Must work on my upper body strength! The jumping over was fun! I wasn’t sure I had the guts to release one hand in order to bring my other leg through but I managed it and didn’t fall flat on my face! Landing in huge puddles of mud made it even more fun!

Then came what can only be described as two flat panels of MDF leaning against one another with a rope to help you climb it. It turned out it wasn’t as easy to get up as first appeared. The wood had a ledge half way up but trying to reach that was tough! Pulling yourself up a wet slippery rope on a flat wet slippery surface where your feet are slipping isn’t easy! A good shove from my friend and I made it up, then had to try getting over and slowly lowering myself along the rope the otherside. First time I managed the slowly, one hand at a time lowering, after that I kept just plunging to the ground on my stomach! It was hard work and not my favourite!

Our next obstacle was the huge a-frame cargo net. Rob taught us how to get up it, not looking at our feet, something I didn’t find all that easy! And then swinging our legs over the top and ‘abseiling’ down the other side! It turned out trail shoes have a tendancy of getting stuck in that net! We then had to run around and do tyre run. I quite enjoyed the net. I felt pretty safe on it and enjoyed trying to get over quicker!

After the net was our final obstacle, the inverted wall. It was a mega inverted wall! None of our team managed to get over without assistance. We ended up giving each other a leg up and then managed to try slowly lowering ourselves to the ground! It was hilarious landing in the mud at the bottom!

Once we had all been educated on each of the obstacles we got a turn to run the whole of the obstacle course which included tyre carries, all the obstacles we had done during the training segments as well as some nice smelly pools of muddy water and some hills to climb. We made our way around with a lovely chap who we had befriended in our group and who was an invaluable resource at pulling us out of ditches and helping us over walls!!!

When we finished the route, suitable drenched and mud covered we then got to take part in some drills involving tyres, squats and running. My quad had completely seized up and squatting was absolute agony but we got there in the end.
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Then it was time for a quick group photo before getting out of our wet clothes and into something much warmer!! When your hands are freezing and your muscles are seizing up we discovered getting very wet tight clothing off is quite a workout in itself! Car heaters on full blast and we were off to talk about our adventure warming up over a huge bowl of hot chocolate!
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I absolutely loved the morning and although I am now bruised covered, which I LOVE, my mum thinks I’m a weirdo for how often I keep checking to see how much the bruises have come out! And I ache all over! It was awesome. I cannot wait to do mens health next weekend and feel way more prepared now! Its going to be awesome!

The day was organised by the brilliant website muddyrace.co.uk, check them out, they are also active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it was held at a brilliant training ground called Fortitude Fitness, a great assault course in Cambridge!

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Purple Patch Grand Union Canal Half Marathon – Race Report

Sometimes a race just goes badly. That was this one! I had roughly a month between Bournemouth Half and this one. My training was all planned. Then I was struck down with a stomach bug for over a week and then as I felt better from that I was struck down by a knee injury. My months training went out the window and I only managed snippets of it so I knew going into this race it was going to be tough. It just surprised me how tough it was!

The purple patch half starts at Cowely Recreation ground which is only about 30 mins from my house so we didn’t have to leave too early which was nice. We arrived and followed the signs to the car park on the nearby industrial estate got parked and walked back around to the start. It was a pick up on the day situation for race numbers so I grabbed mine before spotting some RMR friends. We got ourselves numbered up and gear on before it was time to remove my lovely warm hoodie! A horrible moment! For the first time I had done the bin bag trick! I’ve seen people do it and always swore I never would, I now realise how clever they are! The wind was kept off me and I stayed relatively warm! There were horribly long queues for the toilets, not enough toilets for a race of this size in my opinion. A few people were getting tetchy they were going to miss their start time and we let a lady skip a couple of places as her wave was about to start!

Our start had been scheduled for 1010 although my garmin shows we started at 1015, I hadn’t noted the delay when we were lining up. Once we got underway the first part of the course was a lap of the park, boring, I think their theory was it would space people out ready for the canal path, it didn’t! We then got onto the canal path and came to a stop as there was a bottleneck as the path narrowed dramatically. This was not going to be a pb race clearly! A bit further on there was a gate which again slowed everyone down as we waited to go through it with a few people daring to take the narrow strip of path next to the canal! Once we had cleared that gate there were no futher bottlenecks and delays.

I had been excited about the course, it was somewhere I had never run before and I hoped it would be interesting. It wasn’t! We crossed numerous bridges, went under various other bridges, steadily climbed as the whole route was going upstream of the canal so there were frequent sharp rises at locks which were tough. Thrillingly the photographers all seemed to be positioned at the top of these slopes, DREADING the race photos! After 4 miles or so it started to really space out and I felt like I was totally alone. There werent many marshalls other than some at occasional bridges and at water stations. A couple of marshalls offered no encouragement at all, a bit of a bug bear of mine!

My Dad and eldest son had come to cheer me on and managed to see me at mile 2, 4 and 7 which was lovely, it really kept me going as mentally I found it a really tough race. My legs felt tired, despite the fact I’ve not run much at all this week to try and ensure my knee injury was as settled as it could be! I felt drained in myself and I think that was partly due to this weeks lack of sleep thanks to a poorly little one. It became apparent early on this wasn’t going to be my race. I knew my slowest time for a half marathon was going to be beaten! I felt like I could be near the back but wasnt fussed if I was, I’ve been last in races before and it doesn’t phase me, in fact I was kind of wishing I was to have the company of the sweeper bike!! The route was mind numbingly dull. Once you’ve seen one canal boat you’ve seen them all along that stretch! That and the trees were all the same! At one lock we saw a field of horses, that was a pleasant change, and I spotted one run down building that looked really cool, but other than that it bored the heck out of me!! At mile 12 the marshall said the finish wasn’t far we were just through the park and that was it! A mile of thinking ‘we must be nearly there’ was awful and it was a steady incline through the park, 2 ladies in front of me stopped and walked it and I decided to just keep on running. I’d put my spotify on half a mile before and it was playing out loud as I had no headphones, one of my favourite songs came on and I told myself to push. I could see the finish but not the turn back to it, eventually I reached it and after 400m over wet soggy leaves and uneven ground the home stretch was in sight. I spotted my son right next to the finish line and felt quite emotional to finally cross the line! Mentally it had been a really tough race.
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You win some you lose some and I know not every race will be good which is why I’m not getting hung up on this one. I think had my training gone well then I’d be annoyed if I’d run it like this but I didn’t train how I wanted to and that showed in the run!

Onto the next one! Brighton 10km next Sunday!

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Big races vs Little races!

I was reading womens running the other day where they had an article discussing what people preferred in terms of size of races and it got me thinking about what I like… This year I’ve run 3 ‘larger’ races and the rest have mainly been small races. So in the past year I’ve done

Kingston 10k – Small
Bushy Park 10k – Small
Valentines 10k – Small
Silverstone Half Marathon, – Large
Electric Run UK - Large
Edinburgh Marathon - Large
Turks Head 10k - Small
Polesdon Lacey 10km - Small
Staines 10km - Small
Kempton Race for Life 2014 – Largeish
Elmbridge 10k - Small
Womens Running 10k Finsbury Park Inbetween!

Bournemouth Half Marathon - Large
Fuddy mudder Southampton Small

So theres been quite a mix!

Support

Edinburgh blew me away with how big it was, I remember looking down the slope at the start at the 4 other pens that were in front of us and it was wall to wall with people, and it had two start lines! Ultimately running that although it was large it wasn’t as well supported as many large races are so I’d say it let the large race side down there! But thats mainly the routes fault, if it was based more around the city I’m sure it would have been better supported.

Electric run was big but didnt require large support, however the crowds there were nuts! It was dark and at times claustraphobic whilst lining up!

Silverstone was large and well organised, again like Edinburgh I stood on the start going, oh my god this is mental! It felt huge! Poorly supported again due to the route.

Most people usually say they like large races as they have more support, I think this only applies if the route allows there to be support. Support isn’t such an issue for me for 5k, 10k distances. For half marathons its nice to have a bit of support but spaced out is fine, Bournemouth was beautifully supported, regular gaps where you could just get in yourself but plenty of times when there were loads of people cheering you on. For me marathons are important to be supported well. Next year I’ve signed up for 3 marathons, insane I know, all of which I hope will be well supported. Brighton I know will be as I was there this year to support and the crowds rocked. Liverpool I’m told is well supported so I know that should be ok and I’m excited to run past my teams home ground. Bournemouth I know from experience will be patchy.

Goody bags and bling! 

I think people tend to assume the bling is best at larger races. Certainly I can’t deny some of my favourite bling this year has been from big races. Silverstones medal rocks, its lovely. Edinburgh I like because its big and chunky and just makes me feel proud of myself! That being said Polesdon lacey had an awesome chunky medal that I really like, its bling tastic! The medals from some small races can be generic ones, I think the only ones that applied to was Bushy, Kingston and Valentines 10ks.

Some races hand out tshirts and I do tend to favour the ones that hand out tech tshirts as I can wear those on runs if I’ve run out of clean kit, who wears cotton shirts to run in anymore?! Cotton ones are handy as bedtime tshirts though. My bug bear is the lack of female fit shirts and also the races that don’t let you choose sizes!

In terms of goodie bags I think my best ones were Womens 10k and Bournemouth, both had some fantastic freebies in such as Spatone and small boxes of cereals, those are handy! Oh and heat relief patches! I HATE ‘goodie bags’ that are simply filled with leaflets, they all go straight in the bin!!!!

Overall I think theres no right or wrong answer, every race is different. Just as some have hills, some are flat, some are PB chasing courses whilst others aren’t. Every race is unique. There are certain things I look for when booking races, namely a medal, bag storage, car parking etc but aside from that we all experience races differently. The person at the front will have a different race to one at the back. They are all unique!

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Depression, Running and Injury

I’m injured at the moment. I have finally admitted that fact to myself after a week of pain. The problem is I’m not good at resting when injured. I have a high pain threshold generally and joint pain is something I’m good at withstanding so I have run through it a couple of times, its probably not helping the injury I know. The trouble is running is my therapy, its my drug. I spent years on anti depressants and when I started running regularly, following training plans and completing races I managed to come off them because I learnt that if I was getting myself down, or my thoughts were overwhelming me that I had to go for a run. If I was pissed off about something that could bring me right down, I run. If I’m struggling to get out of bed and not stay there all day, I go for a run. Its what gets me through.

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This summer was especially tough with hurdles I never envisaged coming this time last year. In reaction to that I signed up for new events, got myself out and training and used that to get me through day to day when really I wanted to shout and scream at the world or just curl up in a ball and stay there forever.

Running makes me ‘well’. It gets me by day to day. Its my drug. So when I can’t do it because of injury it does tend to have a huge knock on effect on me. The irony of it is for one of my university courses I did a research study about how injury affects the mental health of athletes! I wasn’t even much of a runner at the time but clearly I somehow knew it could have a detrimental effect.

Everyone tells me to go out and cycle instead, or walk, but I don’t get the same effect from those, if I did then I would do it! Running is what does it for me. If I’m angry, upset, emotional, I run the hell out of my legs, often getting PBs on those runs because I just put everything thats in my head into my legs. Not being able to do that on a week thats quite frankly an emotional washing machine is really hard. My emotions are all over the place at the moment and I’m tearful constantly, even around the kids which rarely happens. So not being able to just lace up whenever I want and run is really hard.

Injury wont last forever, or it better not. But the short term is absolute hell.

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My favourite running apps!

Theres no doubt that running these days has evolved from when my dad used to go out with a simple stopwatch and keep his times on an excel spreadsheet. I got a garmin last xmas but prior to that I tracked my running on my nike+ app. It was easy to use and my favoured app amongst the dozens there are. So heres a few of my favourite I still use.

ENDMONDO

Endmondo has a simple interval workout on it that I use, on the occasions I can be bothered to run intervals (HATE THEM). Its uncomplicated and keeps track of my previous workouts so I can compare.
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STRAVA

So I recently discovered you can link your garmin to strava. My Dad is a massive strava fan and is always on about beating his personal bests for segments. I hadnt used it because I dont use apps on my phone at the same time as running when I have my garmin but discovering that my garmin can link to strava opened doors for me! I am yet to sign up for the premium features and I do often disagree with the average pace that strava gives me as its often different to garmin but I like the competitiveness of trying to beat my time on ‘Segments’ and creating new ones. I’m not a speedy runner and I’ll never be top of any of those segments but its nice having that little personal best to try and beat!

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Segment example

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Strava also has challenges you can join

MY FITNESS PAL

OK so its not strictly running but on the subject of apps that garmin can link to it turns out garmin and myfitnesspal are also friends! Which is really handy if your using it. However I also noted it works both ways in that if you enter a run manually onto the myfitness pal it shows up on your garmin connect list!

GLYMPSE

Now this is the most important app I think I need to tell you about, especially with nights drawing in. Glympse tracks you, enabling a loved one to see where you are. Its pretty simple. You set up a ‘Glympse’ to send by turning on your GPS and location settings, you then select the period of time you want them to track you for and then send it to a person in your contact list. So for example I can do a 12 mile run and set it for 2 hours and my folks can track where I am at all times. On their phone it comes through I believe as a website address that they simply click and can see where I am. My mum says its pretty accurate as she has used it to track me and has then watched me coming down the road and I’ve arrived at the same time as glympse says. You can send it to more than one person and I also think it could be handy for races if you have supporters trying to see where you are.

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6 months of training planned!

This week I felt really unwell and had to skip on a couple of runs, boy did that kill me, I’m awful at admitting I can’t do a run. I would rather try than not go but I felt truly horrendous. After skipping on Tuesday and Wednesdays runs I went out Thursday instead!

However not running gave me some extra time on Wednesday to do some planning. I opened up Google Calendar and added in all my training runs for my Hal Higdon marathon training plan, I worked backwards from the marathon as my maths is awful and I couldn’t figure out when to start otherwise! Then I came up with some form of training for my current time between half marathons, its only 4 weeks so its not like I could follow a standard training plan!

I’ve also added to my calendar some strength workouts according to the Muddy Race beginners training plan, strength for me is my biggest weakness in the respect that I can’t stand strength training! If I went to the gym I’d be game for weights machines but I don’t. I find sit ups boring. Planking boring. Squatting boring. But I know with Judgement Day and Brutal fast approaching I really need to improve my upper body strength so I have to do it. And I know I’m a sucker for being stuck to what my calendar says. My first strength workout was Friday, it was hanging over me all day until I eventually did it in the evening. I knew if I didn’t do it I’d feel massively guilty! So I did it!

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Novembers training

It does feel good having my training all sorted between now and April does feel a tad daunting, thats 6 months of training planned basically! And also incredibly organised, it wouldn’t have happened had I not had that morning of non running. Its kind of nice knowing I don’t have to think about it.

Annoyingly today I ran 10 miles and have screwed my knee right up. Its been painful a few times after runs recently but I’ve just ignored it! Today I can’t ignore it. It hurts. Alot. I’ve taken painkillers, put ice on it, and I am PRAYING to god it goes away! I’m doing the runner thing of being in denial!