Punctures, tigers and zombies

Over the past few weeks I have run in rain, wind, sunshine and snow – the standard array of February weather. My sister has finally taken back her silver reflective jacket that she lent me whilst she was unable to run but now she is back running, I’ve had to return it. I loved that jacket and I’m not embarrassed to say I miss it! Obviously I tried to steal it and “forgot” to return it several times, but in the end I had to give it back.  This has meant that I have had to improvise my “reflective” night time running strategy since and so now have a high viz long sleeved T-shirt, high viz vest and I also purchased some flashing lights to go around my legs. I look like a Christmas Tree…but I am visible and people can see me in the dark, which of course is the important point.

Running in the winter is miserable and the “Trundlers” group (we run but slowly) has been an absolute life-saver and game changer for me. I’ve met a really lovely lady (Hattie) who runs at a similar speed to me and we get on famously. Thursday nights are now Trundler Nights and myself and Hattie are going to use these evenings to build on our distance as she has also signed up for the Bristol 10k. We’re planning to do the usual 4-5k Trundle with the rest of the ladies and then will gradually add a bit more on each week after the run until we get up to 10k. We managed 6.5k a couple of weeks ago and this had been the furthest I had run since early December.

Hattie had not ever been to a Park Run so I persuaded her to join me. I wanted to test my speed a bit to see if all of the extra lunges, squats and kettlebell classes were actually helping and so I decided to seek out a flat Park Run and so opted for Chipping Sodbury which is a 3 loop FLAT course, much in the vein of Little Stoke Park Run (which I still miss). It was fantastic. We met Running and Fitbit sister there too and so all set off. It was good. I took the first 2 loops steady and was largely running with running sister, which is always something I enjoy but then as we approached the final half of the loop, my running watch showed that I was close to a PB so we went for it. I really, REALLY pushed myself and even finished with a sprint (I have never, ever done that before) and I got a new personal best not only for Chipping Sodbury Park Run but also my fastest time full stop at 5k at 38.28. I was VERY pleased.

It demonstrated extremely clearly that the extra work is having an effect. I do feel stronger and although I am no longer losing weight and sadly I think I have reached the point where the only way I am going to lose more weight is to really look at my diet now and change what I’m doing (I don’t think gin is included in any diet plan I have ever read), I am smaller and leaner. (Not lean…you understand, there is still plenty of work to do, but I am seeing a change). I measured myself at the beginning of the year and I have lost 1 cm from my tummy and my arms are half a centimetre smaller too. I have bought a couple of size 16 tops and a pair of size 18 jeans are beginning to feel a bit loose. This is good and it has made me more committed to keep trying.

Of course, when things are good, the law of sod means that then things will start to unravel.

The following Saturday, Husband, who is only a couple of weeks away from competing in the Bath half marathon and so has been focussing on longer runs (he is up to 18km which took him 91 minutes – which is less than the time it took me to run the Bristol 10k last year, just to add a little bit of context for you, he is fast) was keen to try Chipping Sodbury Park Run as I have been raving about how great is is so much. I’d been 3 weeks in a row, once with my daughters, once with Hattie and now today. Sporty Daughter, who is not yet 11 so is not allowed to run unaccompanied without an adult yet at Park Run is frustrated by my lack of speed and so was desperate to have a real crack at getting a good time on it – and for this she needed Husband and will LOTS of kilometres under his belt for the week, he was happy to run a bit slower so she could try.

When we set off from home that morning and it was ABSOLUTELY freezing. It was snowing and the wind was bitter. As we pulled off the M4 and into Chipping Sodbury, disaster struck as “check tyre pressure” flashed up on the dashboard. Luckily we were only metres from a Kwik Fit so we pulled straight in as we had already had one puncture earlier in the week and didn’t want to take any chances so far from home and also on a date where we had 2 family birthdays to attend later in the day. The time was now 8.35am and we were still quite a distance from the Park Run so daughters and I jumped out the car and then started to run. To be honest, it may seem strange and people who I have told this story to subsequently, have largely responded “why didn’t you just abandon Park Run” but it genuinely never occurred to me. We were going to Park Run – so we went to Park Run.

It was 2 km to Park Run and we all ran it. If I’m being honest, it was further away than I had remembered but we were committed. Husband caught us up before we arrived (having left the car at Kwik Fit) and we got to the start just in time. He and Sporty Daughter went off like a rocket which left me and younger daughter jogging and chatting. I love running with my little girl and I love that she enjoys it too. However on the final lap she was pretty tired (and so was I as we had run to Park Run at a fairly brisk pace) and we were both wet from the snow and although sweating, were also cold. At this point, my 9 year old had run 7k and so we walked a bit. She was nearly crying as she didn’t want to “slow me down” – frankly this was laughable as the fronts of my legs were so cold they hurt (need to get thicker leggings for the next winter season) so we walked a bit (whilst making silly voices and pulling funny faces) and then ran the last bit. She was pleased to have finished. Husband and Sporty Daughter cheered us over the line having finished nearly 10 minutes ahead of us. Sporty Daughter had taken 8 minutes off her 5k time for a new PB of 31.11. She was elated. She has also subsequently used this new found confidence to get into the school cross country team (which she was desperate to do) and this also makes me very happy.

We then had to get back to the car so walked the final 2k back. My daughters had completed 9k and it wasn’t even 10.15am. Quite a morning.

However, the snow, cold, extra exercise seemed to have taken a toll on me and for the next few days I was unwell and was feeling shattered. This meant that I didn’t run until the following Friday. I was in London awaiting the arrival of my bestie galpals from university and so before they arrived I had time to squeeze in a quick run. We were staying on Trafalgar Square and so I ran up to Buckingham Palace, down Birdcage Walk and back to the hotel. Tourists are not helpful when you are trying to run and it was also unseasonably warm and this all combined to make the run hellish and I only managed 3.5k. However, knowing that I was about to embark on a weekend of drinking that would make no-one surprised if we woke up to find a tiger in our bathroom, I knew that I had to do it.

A weekend of socialising duly followed and then on Monday I woke up at home groggy and dehydrated. I had planned to run to work but I bailed and as usual spent all day regretting it, but then still couldn’t be bothered to run home. Youngest daughter goes to a gymnastics class in South Bristol on a Monday night and so husband suggested that I go with them in the car and then I run home. I reluctantly agreed. I told myself that a really slow run/walk was all I needed to get back in the groove and so I set off. What I hadn’t factored in was that although I was running along a main road, parts of it are fairly isolated from the road and as we have already established that I am a bit of a scaredy cat in the dark, it meant that I was really quite uncomfortable on various sections of the run. What also hadn’t occurred to me was that when you are feeling unsure (because let’s make no bones about it here, I was scared for a large proportion of the run) it makes you run fast, REALLY fast. I glanced at my watch at about 4.2k and was very shocked to see that I was on for not only a PB but a STONKING PB. I sprinted the last 600 metres and ran 5k in 37.01 minutes.

I really pushed myself and used all the new techniques that Curly Sue has been teaching me, knees lifted, shoulders down, arms pumping and it worked. You cannot believe how happy I was. I cried a bit as I panted to get my breath back and then me, being me, was annoyed that I wasn’t 2 seconds faster to get a time in the 36 minute bracket, but for the first time (probably ever) I actually felt like a runner. I ran fast, strong and consistently. Each kilometre had been run at a speed of less than 8 minutes and there is something very psychologically uplifting about having a “7” in each of your kilometre time splits and this was the first time I have ever managed it. The “7s” have been creeping in since early January but usually at the beginnings of runs, but I had never managed it all the way through. I know I can go faster too as I stopped a couple of times at traffic lights to cross roads. This blows my mind but I’m going to try for a sub 37 minute 5k before the end of March. I think I can do it and I never thought that I would be typing that.

I’ve learnt 3 things this week.

  1. 56 hours of excessive drinking appears to be excellent preparation for a fast run.
  2. It’s true you do run faster when you feel like you’re being chased.
  3. It’s important to rest when you need to.

I need to think about this in the run up to the 10k and incorporate this into my training. So I guess the week before the race I will rest, download the “zombie running app” (yes you are chased by zombies as you run) and then head to Wetherspoons the night before and we’ll see what happens……(only joking Curly Sue!)