Midnight cycling and mountain climbing

photo-from-dyrham-park-10kYesterday I ran 11.1k (according to Fitbit) or 10.8k if you prefer Runkeeper (another app for storing your run information for those not in the know). Either way, it was significantly longer than the 10k “event” that I had signed up for and it was definitely my longest run to date (genuinely EVER!) Dyrham Park 10k has been on my agenda for a month or so now and I was quite looking forward to it, even though my preparation had not been perfect…

I had completed 2 more HIIT classes as I promised you I would the last time I blogged. Each were as difficult as the first, but honestly I did enjoy them. Having the very enthusiastic Sally, walk around and encourage us in the middle of a 40 second plank (which I can’t do without a rest yet) straight after a sprint and after some squats, helped me get through the pain at the time and the chit chat with the ladies afterwards (and a bit during too, if only under the breath shared swearing) definitely made me want to return.

Unfortunately TMR (This Mum Runs) were only running them over the Summer and so now they are finished I am back to having to self motivate myself to do the workouts alone. Needless to say, with the school run, life and the 10k on last week’s agenda, I haven’t done one since. If anyone feels like joining me on something like this (lunchtimes or evenings, I really can’t do the morning bootcamp thing) I would be very keen to hear from you. Applications particularly welcomed from people who like batman leggings….

I had also been cycling to and from work a fair bit and have been quietly impressed with my speed. I have been going with the mantra that any exercise is good and the more varied activities that I can do, the better. Cycling is free and essentially perfect for commuting. There was an evening over the Summer when both daughters were having a sleepover at Hockey and Fitbit Sisters’, which left Husband and I with a free evening. We treated ourselves to dinner out (steak, vegetables, no chips) and drank a little bit of wine. Ok quite a lot of wine. If it’s a choice between chips and wine, I choose wine.  When it was time to get home, we had the inspired idea of cycling home as both of husband’s bikes were at the office. The old me would never have contemplated such a thing but the new (and slightly drunk) me thought this was a genius plan, so we set off. My bike is a more traditional sit up “lady” bike (because when I was more sedentary and heavier, I suffered with terrible backache so thought this would be the best option) but husband’s bikes are sportier and I had to lean forward over the handle bars. So imagining that I was Laura Trott, we set off (in the dark) along the cycle path to get home. Any policemen or women reading this will be pleased to hear that we didn’t cycle on the road at all, but I did give Husband quite a race. He was surprised (and so was I) as to how much faster his bike goes compared to mine. The different position seemed to make quite a difference. Needless to say, I would quite like a new bike now.

So with cycling, some HIIT classes and a couple of 5k runs (which were difficult in the heat) under my belt, I knew with the 10k approaching that I had to try a longer run. I set off on a Sunday morning to attempt an 8k run. As always, part of it was horrific but some of it was ok. I was worried that I didn’t have the stamina to run the whole distance, so allowed a couple of walk breaks (30 seconds maximum) but when I got to 8k I felt ok so kept going. I managed 9.5k and was most relieved.

The week after we went to Woolacombe on holiday. We had a glorious time as the weather was superb and over the course of the week we were joined by friends and family and we were on the beach 5 days out of 7. I meticulously hit my 10000 steps each day apart from one, but despite my best planning I didn’t run once. When we returned, I had only 1 week until the 10k.

I was now beginning to inwardly panic as I felt that I wasn’t properly prepared so knew I had to drag myself out as soon as we were back. I decided to ask Football Mum is she fancied a longer run on the Sunday (one week before the 10k) as it’s always better to run with company and happily she was keen. We ran 8.5k and had a good catchup at the same time. The sun was shining and it was a really glorious morning. We finished in the local coffee shop and I felt a bit better about the following week. During the run there was quite a funny moment where we were discussing our favourite foods whilst having a little walk break, when we were overtaken by a super speedy man, running. We took it as a sign from above that we should stop thinking about food and start running again…which we did! Motivation comes from many different sources.

With just 4 days to go, I decided to go for a final 5k run home from work. I wished I hadn’t bothered. It was hot and sticky. I looked like I had been swimming by the time I got home and everything hurt.

The thing is, and I wonder if this is the same for really experienced runners, I still have very real highs and lows with this whole exercise malarky. I know I won’t ever stop now as I feel the benefits too greatly, but equally I really thought that by now (and I am 8 months into this)that it still wouldn’t be so incredibly hard. But some days, actually most days, it is. Even on the days when I feel ok doing it, it’s still hard. The high afterwards and health benefits keep me going, but I’m beginning to think it will never get any better than it is now. I’m not sure what to say about this, but I’m just being honest. It is still very, very hard.

The physical positives are there for all to see, but psychologically I have also experienced a change. I am a confident person and have always been a confident person. One of the reasons I think I allowed myself to get to the size and weight that I did in the first place is due to my self esteem. I used to joke that I had “reverse anorexia” in that I used to look in the mirror and say “you look great” and I meant it, and I believed it. Other people’s opinions of me have never bothered me (much to the annoyance of many of them) but as I have said before, it turned out that I did care what my daughters thought. Although I have always encouraged my daughters to be sporty, It was the only time I was embarrassed because I could never really join in. However, in the spirit of “well 2016 has been a bit different hasn’t it?!” I booked myself and both daughters into a climbing lesson on a Saturday afternoon whilst husband was entertained by Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

My girls were genuinely delighted that I was going to be climbing with them and we had a brilliant afternoon at Clip and Climb in Bristol. When I have watched my daughters climb before, they always had a friend holding the rope but the potential comedy image of my youngest daughter shooting up towards the roof on the end of the aforementioned rope, as I fell off the wall was too much for me to contemplate, and so I was advised by Youngest Daughter’s Godfather that this would not happen at Clip and Climb – and he was right. The harness was not flattering (at all) but it was physically challenging (it hurt to lift my arm up to scratch my head the next day) and we loved it. We are going again…soon.

I enjoyed the thrill of trying something new so much that I have also signed up to try Stand Up Paddleboarding in a couple of weeks with TwinMum and I have also emailed the local rowing club about their beginner’s course (not that they have got back to me yet). I want to try all the things I have never been able to try before. I have a list and I’m going to slowly work my way through it.

So yesterday, Dyrham Park 10k arrived. I was running with GodMum and we met there along with her husband (whom I went to school with) and their children, one of which is my Godson. Curly Sue was there along with a TMR lady whom I had met at one of the HIIT classes, and a lady I have been talking to online through the Run4Life group. Much like myself she has taken up running and has lost lots of weight. She is incredibly positive and I liked meeting her in person very much. I hope we can run together soon. I know I’ve said it before, but I really have met lots of lovely new people through running.

The National Trust Dyrham Park is a beautiful venue. The Manor house reminded me of “Pemberley” from Pride and Predjudice, (although no sign of Colin Firth in his white trousers) with a sweeping frontage set in a lush green backdrop. The course was described as a “10k with a couple of cheeky hills”. This was a lie! It was all grass (which is relatively new for me as I have only run on grass once before) and the course took you all over the Estate. At the start of the “event”, GodMum and I were right at the back and the tailrunner ran with us for a bit, (I have come to expect this) but as we pushed on, slowly and walking a teeny bit when we needed to, we did overtake a couple of people. It was a strange sensation overtaking someone. I felt a bit guilty about it, because I know what it is like to be at the back, but at the same time, I was delighted with the achievement of not being last.

Running on grass, although undoubtedly kinder to your knees and joints (as I could tell when I discovered I could actually walk this morning), it is hard if you are used to running on concrete.

So all was good, we were running on grass, under trees, we saw some deer grazing, met some friendly ladies at the water station who gave us jelly babies (important sustenance for the runner) and all was going well. But then we encountered the “cheeky hill”. Oh my days.  I cannot think of a famous hill that I can liken it to that is steep enough. Perhaps the book “Heidi”? It was a Mountain. Before yesterday morning, I was borderline obsessed with completing the 10k in under 90 minutes. It became clear, as soon as I saw the hill that this was not going to happen. We walked up it (running up any part of it was simply impossible) and were genuinely puffed out….after walking. I am not unfit and it was not easy and this was in the middle of a run! The course was 2 laps. As soon as we went up the hill the first time, our objective changed from a desired 90 minute PB, to simply completing the course with my hip still fully functioning. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, at the end of the first loop, my fitbit surge told me that I had run over 5.5k which meant that the whole course would be over 11k. This would be the furthest that I have ever run.

But we did it. Curly Sue was there and she came back to run the last 1k with GodMum and I after she had finished and encouraged us over the finishing line. I was hurting and GodMum was hurting but we did it. I felt no guilt at all yesterday afternoon as I ate a full roast dinner and ate apple crumble and custard for a sweet. I wore my medal all day.

When I weighed myself this morning I had lost 3 pounds and I felt proud.

11k is my new best ever distance, but I am determined to crack the 90 minute 10k. At some point in the next 6 weeks I am going to run a double harbour loop to see if I can do it. If you would like to join me, let me know…dyrham-park-10k-medal-photo