New shoes and bouncing dogs

Sometimes, inspite of all planning and good intentions, life makes it impossible for you to do the things that you want to do. This is what happened a couple of weeks ago and for the first time since I started this blog, I had a week where I didn’t run. It wasn’t intentional, it just wasn’t possible. Work was crazy busy and I was in London for a couple of days which meant a run was not practical (as I wasn’t staying over) and on the one day when I could have squeezed one in, I felt ill. It was a strange feeling and I was very surprised to find that I definitely missed running. The first day was ok as I was in London and as I always now get off the tube early to walk (trainers and suit are now my thing) I hit my 10000 steps easily (in fact I smashed it). The following two days after however, I was chained to my desk from very early until very late and I don’t think I managed to even do 3000 steps.  Thursday I was back in London again but was feeling twitchy. Very twitchy and also quite irritable. I felt like I had ants in my pants and although I managed to rack up over 10000 steps again, I was missing going for a run. I planned to go Friday but woke up feeling unwell and so couldn’t. The idea that you can miss going for a run sounds ludicrous, but nevertheless there we have it. I am in new territory here and it’s strange.

During the course of the week, Unofficial Trainer got back in touch. She had made (with her starring complete with her cat watching her) 9 videos for me. Each video shows me how to warm up different parts of my body needed before a run. It includes the three I already knew… along with six others I had never seen before. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology (more specifically Whatsapp) I can watch these whenever I want to and they have definitely helped. I am very grateful for the help. Unofficial Trainer should set up her own YouTube Channel – fame awaits.

After a week of not running, on Sunday we were signed up for the Sport Relief Mile. Husband and I were running 3 miles (5k) and Daughters were running 1 mile. Our mile(s) were at Horfield Leisure Centre. Parents-in-Law accompanied us to help with daughter duty as the 3 miles started 10 minutes before the 1 mile which would have left Daughters alone for 10 minutes. There was a brilliant atmosphere and an extremely enthusiastic aerobics instructor led us all in a warm up before we set off (no concerns for my warm up today). Then we were off. 3 miles was 9 laps of the track and then 10 minutes later Daughters went off for 3 laps. I was secretly pleased as I felt confident that with some parents there with toddlers doing the mile, there was no way that I would be last (as is always my worry). There were lots of people running and there were also huge variations in running ability. As I hadn’t run for a week, I did find it quite hard. It was also the first time I have run on grass. I can’t decide if I liked it or not. It was softer and so my knees didn’t ache afterwards which was good, but I’m also not convinced that I preferred it. My secret plan, I am ashamed to confess, was to catch up to Younger Daughter, who I knew wouldn’t run the whole way around and so I would be “forced” to walk some with her. Cunning plan eh? Unfortunately, I was three quarters of the way around the track when the One Milers set off and I didn’t manage to catch Younger Daughter up at any point during the race. Of course I was overtaken by an ecstatic Sporty Daughter who ran the entire 3 laps and really enjoyed the whole thing (she must get her running legs from her Daddy). She chatted with me and said that she was going to run with me for a bit so Daddy could catch her up and then they would cross the finish line together. However, when I warned her that Daddy would definitely go for a sprint finish (which he did) she decided not to wait and shot off like a rocket. She was buzzing afterwards and definitely now wants to do more running. This pleases me enormously.

Unfortunately Younger Daughter was knocked over by a big dog who had been running around the field (owner no-where to be seen). Husband thankfully had been a few hundred metres behind Youngest and had seen the whole thing and so had tested his sprinting ability to get to her and offer Daddy hugs. My poor little girl was very upset by the whole incident (as I would have been) and so needed her Daddy to walk with her for a lap. Once she had finished and was safely deposited with Grandparents he was off again. He overtook me as I proudly announced that I was on my final lap but he joyfully told me that I had miscounted and was only on my eighth so had another one to go. My disappointment was palpable. I couldn’t believe it. But anxious not to lose face in front of both (now finished) Daughters, I set off for my final lap and ran the whole thing even though I was completely wrecked. I was so relieved when I finished. My stupid watch had paused itself half way around and so I only had stats for the first 3k but they seemed respectable. It had been (almost!) enjoyable. I also had my first medal – this was huge. I hadn’t realised that I would get a medal. It had also been wonderful to do something as a family. Sporty Daughter was very excited at having run without stopping and so was how planning her next race already.  When all the cash and online donations were counted my Daughters raised £145 and I am very proud to be their Mum. Thank you if you sponsored them.

Following the Sport Relief Event, on Tuesday I decided to run to work in the morning. This was the first time I had contemplated running to work since week 2 when it had been a complete disaster. I knew that I needed to eat before I set off so scoffed some breakfast biscuits at 6.45am and then set off at 7.45am to do the 5k route I had plotted. As much of this blog demonstrates, most runs are hell on earth whilst I am doing them, but this was one of those rare (very rare) occasions when everything fell into place and I seemed to be able to do a convincing impression of a runner. I walked only on 3 occasions and for each of these I only walked 20 steps. As I neared the end of the run, I was keeping an eye on my watch as it occurred to me that I might be able to beat my PB set at Park Run and so I practically sprinted up Cattle Market Road, grunting like a piglet as I tried to better it. I didn’t but was only over by 7 seconds. I was delighted (although a bit gutted about the PB), as well as extremely red faced and sweaty. The three flights of stairs at work to reach my office made my legs burn and I gratefully drank the water that Hockey Sister had put on my desk. Husband was off running errands and he had my clean clothes to change into and so I was spend 3 hours in my running gear….sweating and not smelling of flowers. Of course, the law of sod would of course dictate that this would be the day that I had 3 unexpected visitors in the office, much to Hockey Sister’s amusement. At lunchtime, Youngest Daughter’s Godfather happened to be in Bristol attending a work conference and so thought he would pop in for a cup of tea. Luckily he is one of my oldest friends and so was not phased at all by the horrific sight before him and also, thankfully, saw the funny side. As he was leaving Husband arrived and so I did get changed, but as it was now 2pm I decided (ill advisedly as it turned out) not to bother having a shower and so although now in jeans, was not smelling fragrant. Of course then my Dad and his Lady turned up (also unexpectedly) to a visit. Seriously, you can’t make it up. When I’m at work looking presentable, with blow dried, straightened hair, in full make up – the only person who arrives is Alfredo the Seagull (yes we have named the Seagull that sits outside the office window). When I am stinky, hair soaked in sweat, barefoot because my feet are so hot, the whole world turns up.

So although the run to work was a success, in future, I really need to ensure that I have a change of clothes at work ready so I can shower as soon as I arrive. Otherwise, you know that Gary Barlow will choose this day to come and meet me to discuss a change of career to become an Auditor.

Good Friday came and I had a planned a run with Football Mum. I’d had a couple of days off work and we’d enjoyed a couple of hugely enjoyable Family days in London and Legoland respectively. As I drove home along the M4 on Thursday night in the dark and driving rain, I was seriously doubting my sanity in booking in a run for the following morning. When the morning came, I was tired but crawled out of bed thinking “at least it will be done and I can enjoy the weekend”. However the good news is that the weather was glorious and the sun was shining. When we set off along Wick Road, things were feeling ok and we enjoyed a wonderful 6.3k in the fresh air. Poor Football Mum suffered a blister and so we walked the last kilometre but it didn’t take away from the enjoyment one bit. There is something about being out and about early in the sunshine,that is difficult to put into words. It really was a lovely way to start the Easter weekend. I had completed my 10000 steps by 10.30am.

By now, the trainers that I had bought in Sports Direct in January were looking a bit tired and as I am now sure I will never stop running, it was time to go and buy some serious running trainers. I asked Husband to consult his brother (who has numerous marathons to his name) to recommend a running shop close to home, (Marathon Sister had recommended one but it was a fair distance away) and so we decided to go on Easter Monday, early, before it got busy.

I was feeling fairly intimidated as I walked in, but I had no need to be. The chap that served me was nothing short of amazing. For those of you that have never bought trainers from a shop like this, it involves the slightly humiliating activity of running on a treadmill and then being videoed for analysis. Embarrassingly, I didn’t know how the treadmill worked so stood there like a lemon for a few seconds before my new friend came to my aid. The treadmill was also set a lot faster than I usually run, so I had to practically sprint whilst the critical filming took place. Watching my bum wobble as I ran was definitely NOT a highlight of my weekend, but happily the analysis showed that my ankles and feet are good – allegedly perfect for running (little does he know..!). I was then presented with a selection of very brightly coloured trainers. I asked what I was looking for when I tried them on and was told that “they should feel like slippers”. This was a bit of a surprise to be honest, as I was expecting him to say that they should support you “here” etc, but slippers was definitely not expected. I struggled to choose between a pair of Brooks and New Balance but in the end went for a bright blue pair of New Balance. They are so comfy I want to wear them all the time. I took them out for a short 4k spin on Monday evening and they are great. I have become someone who loves trainers. I have numerous high heels that I have no interest in wearing as I only want to wear trainers. I really don’t know who I am anymore.

I am so inspired by my new trainers and recent runs that I have finally decided to bite the bullet and join the This Mum Runs Wednesday evening 5k. This is a big group of ladies and I will have to run 5k pretty much without stopping. The Red Lady has also been influential in this decision. This will definitely challenge me but it’s time. The 10k is getting ever closer and I need to start ramping my training up. Husband and I are also going to Park Run this coming Saturday.

PB, I’m coming to get you….Blog Shoes

1.67 and 18

There are varying opinions on the internet as to how many times you have to repeat something before it becomes a habit – some say 21 days (personally I don’t think that’s long enough) to 66 days. I’m now on day 72 of living a more healthy life which I am sure is long enough to qualify. Running, watching what I eat and generally making better choices is now a habit and I feel that this has taken a bit of the pressure away. It’s just something I do now. My daughters no longer really comment when I arrive home, sweaty and stinky and my Mum has taken to getting me a drink ready for when I get home. It’s no longer a big deal in our house.

So now it is a habit, I felt it was time to get serious. In our family we have a history of high cholesterol and I was last tested 6 years ago with the promise to re-test every 5 years. Needless to say, I did not get tested last year. However, with my new resolve and determination to be healthier, I now needed to know how my insides are bearing up.

The appointment was called a “Well Woman” check-up. It was the Full Monty – weight, height, dreaded BMI, how much alcohol, how much exercise, diet and then the results of my cholesterol (which I had had a blood test for the previous week).The appointment was with a friendly nurse who was very jolly and seemed to almost apologise when she asked me to get on the scales. She suggested that I take off my belt (which I need these days otherwise my trousers fall down), trainers, empty my pockets – at one point I genuinely thought she was going to suggest I stripped to my underwear – and then she weighed me. As I am now a fully paid up member of the “scales club” there were no surprises there and she confirmed that my BMI makes me obese, but not morbidly obese.

I told her about my new lifestyle and she seemed impressed and was visibly gobsmacked when I told her how much weight I had lost. We had a really good chat about the ease of the Fitbit and how it works and by the end of the conversation, she had pledged to buy one for herself. (I’m beginning to think I should start charging Fitbit commission.) My blood pressure is very low (normal but low) and my cholesterol is 5.9 which is apparently higher than is ideal but still within the normal zone. Importantly it means that there is no need to have a conversation about “Statins”.

Finally, according to the statistical information gathered, I have a 1.67% chance of dying from a heart attack in the next 10 years. I have literally no idea how they can possibly know that from asking me how many gin and tonics I drink in a week but there we have it. Of course, what we will never know is what these numbers were if I had had the tests at the end of last year…but best not to dwell on that.

I have now lost 2 stone in total. Literally half of my clothes don’t fit and the suit I mentioned a few weeks ago, (that I last wore the day I found out I was pregnant with Sporty Daughter) was slightly loose when I wore it yesterday. Now this is obviously brilliant news in that I am getting smaller and fitter, but from a work perspective is proving problematic. For years I have pressed my nose up at the window of Hobbs Clothing and have yearned to be able to fit into one of their suits. They only go up to a size 18 so this has never really felt achievable previously, but today, Husband bought me 2 new tops (from Sainsbury’s) and these were both a size 18 and they fit….so maybe I will have a suit from Hobbs? This is another goal I have set myself.

One of things that I love about writing this blog is how interactive it has become. You lovely people “tag” me in on funky running leggings that you see on Facebook, private message me to find out when I’m going to post the next blog (sorry for the lateness but work is REALLY busy at the moment), and also brilliantly, message me suggestions for any questions that I pose. Thank you. Please keep doing this. I adore it. A couple of ladies I know have started the couch to 5k because, well let’s face it, if I can do it, literally anyone can. I have the beginnings of an idea about a party at some point later in the year to celebrate this……..I’ll keep you posted.

This week out of the blue, “Unofficial Trainer” messaged to ask some questions to see if she could assist with my trouble running the first kilometre. Now it’s a work in progress, but we seem to have established that it is indeed due to my lack of warm up and stretching before I set off. She is working out a warm up for me (as I hope this blog confirms, I don’t really know what I’m doing!) but in the meantime, I decided to allow myself a longer walk to warm up (another 250m) and I also spent a good 5 minutes before I set up performing the (3) stretches I know over and over. I also decided that I should just man up and run through the pain. My runs usually start with me having this sort of conversation with myself but sadly I am not usually able to keep my promise to myself.

On Sunday last week, I decided to test the theory. Stretching and warming up definitely helped (I suspect that there may be a few seasoned athletes out there banging their hands on their foreheads #facepalm style as they read that – er…obvious – but it’s only obvious if you know.) I managed 6k and some splits were fast and some were very slow. I am now doing my absolute best to run up hills as and when I encounter them and if I can’t manage them in one go, l only allow myself 20 walking recovery steps in between running again. As is usual on my runs, most was run but some was walked. It was mainly good but did take me just under an hour and then I was annoyed that I couldn’t recreate the 7k from the week before.

I decided to try a different tact on my next run. Rather than try and go for distance, I would try for a faster time. So on Tuesday I ran home from work. It’s a 3.5k route that I did repeatedly in January and I hadn’t run it for a while so felt this would be an interesting experiment. Again I allowed myself lots of stretching time before I set off. I was pleased that I was able to run most of it without walking (although still did have to put a couple of 20 steppers in to catch my breath) but I was still horribly slow. I walked home from work tonight and was disappointed to discover that tonight I walked at roughly the same speed that I had run one of the kilometres on Tuesday. Is it better to be quicker but have to walk some or slower and walk less? Perhaps I should try and do some intervals? It’s very annoying. I don’t really seem to be improving but I am still going. That’s all I can say really.

On Sunday, I was in Sunny Gloucestershire and was off to do a run with Fitbit Sister (who had done a run the day before and was really only coming to keep me company). The day was glorious and it was definitely the warmest day I have run in so far. Therefore it was a horrible mistake to forget to take any water with us. For the first time, I went running without a high viz jacket and wore a T-shirt over my running skin (I didn’t need the skin either – it was boiling). I was pleased with the first part of the run – I was able to even have short conversations as we trotted along in the gorgeous sunshine and the first 3 kilometres were good. They felt comfortable and were very fast which again further confirms my theory that I run faster when I am with others. On Sunday I ran my fastest ever kilometre split at 9 minutes per kilometre. In the interests of honesty, it’s only fair that I tell you that I was going downhill for part of it, but still! The first 3 kilometres were all under 9 minutes 20 seconds. Things were going well, despite the (what felt like) unseasonably near tropical Gloucestershire heat until we came to the bottom of Cam Pitch. This is a BIG hill. It’s the sort of hill where you might consider having a sit down half way up it if you were walking. It DESTROYED me. My legs were burning, I felt light-headed, sweat was running in my eyes and down my back, I would have paid £20 for a bottle of water if it had been possible but Fitbit Sister was great – we used the lamp posts and ran between the first 2 and then walked between the next 2 and so on. This lasted for the longest kilometre of my life, but we did get up to the top. I was wrecked. We had to run/walk for another 500 metres even after the hill was finished before we finally managed to run the last bit.

I’ve entered one of the Sport Relief events which is taking place next weekend. Husband and I are running 3 miles and Youngest and Sporty Daughter are running one mile. They were very keen to get involved and they haven’t seen me run since those early allotment days and I am feeling quite nervous. I want them to see that I have improved but I also am excited by the prospect of them seeing me cross the finish line.  If you are able to, and haven’t yet, please consider sponsoring my daughters as they are raising money for this brilliant cause.

I think I will wear the T-Shirt that Marathon Sister 3 bought be back in January – if only to manage the spectators’ expectations……

FullSizeRender (003) Peanut Butter Turtles

Diaries and headspace

Each time I start writing my blog, I re-read what I wrote the week before to get an “essence” of what I was thinking. Last week, the overriding sentiment was that I enjoy running with other people and wish to only really do one run a week on my own. Well this week I have completed 3 runs racking up 18 kilometres (or 11.1 miles) and every step of each run as been on my own.

As a working Mum and wife, I am a slave to my diary. Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) goes in it. If you want me to be somewhere, you have to send me a diary invite otherwise, sadly, assume that I won’t be there. This is a depressing state of affairs to be honest with you. It doesn’t make me proud or happy but I am a pragmatist and understand that it is what it is. It is almost certainly one of the reasons why I enjoy camping in the Summer so much, as there is no timetable and definitely no wifi. Like many of you, as a family we are juggling work, the school run, teacher meetings, piano and guitar practices, football training, gymnastics, birthday parties and this week it has also been Husband’s birthday. For this reason, I have got myself into the habit of deciding when I am going to go for a run for the following week on a Sunday, and I put them in my diary. This way they happen and are also non-negotiable. If I didn’t put them in my diary, I am sure that I would be able to find an excuse not to go; something at work is more important, I need to work through my lunch etc. I am proud to say that I have not yet missed one.

On average I am now out running for around 3 hours a week. If I had told myself in December that this would be the case, I would have scoffed at the prospect as “I don’t have a spare 3 hours in a week”, but I am here to tell you that I do. I have made running non-negotiable. Of course, as I run my own business, I have more control over my time than many others and I know I am lucky. It means I can go running in the middle of a work day and this week, I think that this has been one of the reasons why I have not managed to run with anyone else.

As weeks go, it has definitely been up and down.

I gained a pound (which I was furious about) I think due to the fact that I ate so much last weekend after the parkrun. I was starving, all day, and so kidding myself that I could eat what I wanted but of course I couldn’t and so paid the price on the Wednesday morning weigh-in. Having said that, I am still losing inches as the photo demonstrates clearly and I have now gone down 2 dress sizes. The T shirt is a Mother’s Day present and is a size 18. I am usually a size 22 and this pleases me enormously.

On Monday, Husband and I ran the 5k loop near the office at lunchtime again. I still can’t run it without walking and this is beginning to really annoy me. If anything I don’t feel like I am making much progress. I am out there and running regularly but I’m not getting any better. On Tuesday I used the app and was supposed to run 10 mins, walk 1 minute and do this 4 times. I couldn’t do it. The first and second kilometre on every run is an absolute killer and on Tuesday it was really hard. I think I could only run for 5 minutes at a time before walking and this was the case for the whole of the first half of the loop. On the second part of the loop I definitely ran more and also clocked much faster splits too with the final kilometre being one of the fastest I have ever run. What does this mean? I want to be able to run 5k, in one go and then build up to being able to run 10k without walking. When I start each run, I can’t even run for 500 metres in one go. I don’t know how or what to do about this. Every time I start a run I am confident that it won’t happen “this time” but it always does. It makes me incredibly frustrated. I may have to enlist the help of “Unofficial Trainer” for advice.

On Thursday it was Husband’s birthday and we had a big dinner planned in town. I really wanted to enjoy the meal and so planned to run a long run home from work. The Red Lady had mentioned that with 10k coming up, I should plan to increase my routes by 0.5k per week so I should be able to run 10k by mid May. With this in mind, I arranged to leave work an hour early and plotted a 6 k route home. I was more than a little concerned about it but knew I had to give it a go. I knew the route and so tried not to look at my watch too much, cranked up the tunes and just went. The first 2 kilometres were hell on earth. I ran/walked, needed my inhaler (which was really unusual), wished I had bought a drink with me, generally felt like crying and thought I was going to die, and then something very strange happened. I just started to run. I kept the speed down (laughable right?!) and just focussed on running. I had the app going, but abandoned it after 15 minutes. I used lampposts, parked cars, hedges anything really as markers and although I did still walk a bit, the further I went, the less I walked and the easier it seemed to get. Please note the use of the word “easier” not “easy”! Nothing about this is easy, but it definitely was easier, and I actually enjoyed it. Yes –enjoyed it! Somehow I got a bit lost on the back roads of Bristol and took a wrong turn. It meant I had to run up a hill (which I managed to do with only 10 walking steps in the middle) but I kept going until I recognised where I was. I was feeling pretty tired but kept going. When I arrived home, I discovered that I had run 7k. Yes you read that correctly. I had run 7k which had taken 1 hour and 8 minutes. I had run for over an hour and I had burnt 9400 calories (which took care of the steak and chips I was going to eat later). I was seriously elated. ELATED. It wasn’t just the fact that I had run the 7k, it was more importantly the fact that I possibly, no probably, could have gone even further if I’d had more time. I believed for the first time that I really could run 10k. This was as big a mental milestone as physical. Mental strength is absolutely as important as physical strength when it comes to running.

Now as good as Thursday was, the mental strength theory was further demonstrated in this morning’s run. As a family, we received some news on Thursday evening (whilst Husband and I were out at dinner) that meant that Friday and Saturday had to be completely rescheduled and we had to attend some very difficult meetings and make some unexpected decisions. The outcome has been positive, but it’s been a very emotional few days and when I woke this morning, I was exhausted. After opening my wonderful Mother’s Day presents this morning, I headed out for my run. I had plotted 6k (hopefully this time I wouldn’t get lost) and set off, as usual knowing that the first 2k would be terrible (which they were). Again I just plodded on. It didn’t feel anywhere near as comfortable as my run on Thursday evening, but I did enjoy the run. I enjoyed the mental headspace that comes from being out on my own. Running gives me time to think. As I alluded earlier, my life is dictated by my diary and time to think is impossible to schedule. When you are a busy person with a hectic life, stuff happens all the time, whether it be to me, Husband, Daughters, work or family and most of the time I just react and manage the situations. Time to reflect is rare but so very, very important.  I really needed it this morning and the run gave me time to think which I valued more than the 6k and exercise. Time alone with your thoughts should never be underestimated and this morning, when I returned after a hard 6k, I was feeling much better about the world.