Run #30 Reflection: 2 little ducks 🦆🦆

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It was as if the stars and planets aligned, the various Gods of this world were all smiling down on me, or I’d simply got out of the right side of bed (which, ironically, is the only side of the bed I can get out of in my new flat for lack of space in the bedroom). I can’t really describe to you what this run felt like other than, well, glorious. And I can’t believe I’m using that word to describe a run! But it really was. The night before I’d had a decent dinner (salmon, broccoli and sweet potato), had a decent night’s sleep, got up feeling relatively refreshed and had a good breakfast (my usual porridge, seeds, almonds, cinnamon and honey) as well as a bagel and coffee. A friend of a friend who’s run the London marathon before suggested I had a plan for my race day run, something I hadn’t yet considered. And so in preparation for the day itself, I thought it was worth putting my plan in to action to see how well it played out before I did it for real…

So, as above for preparation. I set off late (I’m always late – better change that for April 23rd!) but it was only by an hour; I was trying to mimic what it *might* be like on marathon day so I felt adequately prepared. So I set off in my shorts, vest, running belt (I look like Lara Croft of Runners World, just not as hot or fit) and my new runners (I’m in love with them, sorry old Asics). The sun was shining proudly against a clear blue spring sky. It happened to be the weekend that there was a mini-kind-of-heat-wave in England. Not ideal although I guess helpful just in case the end of April throws up some lovely weather for everyone but runners (well, I don’t like running in the heat, anyway). At least there was a bit of a cool breeze. But unlike my last long run – the failed – 20 mile attempt – today, I was in the zone.

In. The. Zone.

My music was pumping (thanks to a friend for putting together a unique Spotify playlist for me – old school hip hop with some power ballads!). I was focussed. I just kept on visualising the London marathon. My mind wasn’t wondering, my legs weren’t aching and I didn’t feel sick. The only thing that was a slight discomfort around mile 15 was the fact that I needed a wee, and then the added agony of trying to decide whether or not to have a pee in the bushes (I decided no – I just wanted to keep on running). I was doing 3 loops of a route I’ve come to really enjoy in Swindon, my new home. Running out towards Coate Water Park – a favourite childhood place and actually, still one of my favourite places as an adult – felt so good. A mix of hills and flat running and then, when you get to the park itself, opportunities to shelter from the sun in the shade of the woodlands and the chance to enjoy the view of the lake – not to mention the challenge of darting out of the way of children on scooters at the play area! I’m sure some people in the park had a serious case of déjà vu throughout the afternoon. But it was glorious. Absolutely glorious. It just didn’t feel like that much of a challenge. How can that be, when Monday was so tumultuous and trying?

In fact, this was such a glorious run that not only did I meet my 20 mile target, but I went for another 2 miles. TWO MILES! That was like another half an hour (my pace had slowed by then!). I was chuffed. So bloody chuffed. Not only had I reached my target, but I’d surpassed it. It was so important for me to try to reach 20 miles before the marathon; mentally, I needed to know that physically (and mentally) I can do the bulk of it. I should have started tapering at this point, doing a 15 mile run today but I just simply had to do at least 20 miles. And I did, and then some. 22 miles. I can’t quite believe it. And yet, I can. I now believe in myself. And that is the best feeling of all of this.

So come on April 23rd and the additional 4.2 miles – I’m coming for you.

Run #30 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 5

Enjoyment = 5

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Run #13-19 Reflections: Cross-training in a Caribbean climate 🌴🍍🍌

 

“You’re going home a different person”

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The words whispered in my ear as I’m hugging my sister-from-another-mister goodbye after 10 incredible days in the Caribbean. And she was right. I was going home a different person. I had arrived on the other side of the Atlantic drained, dishevelled and depressed. I was leaving the tropical island refreshed, rejuvenated and regained in confidence.

How?

I was true to myself.

Taking time to do the things that not just give me pleasure but a sense of purpose and identity was critical: dancing; swimming in the sea; spending time with old friends; making new friends; experiencing a different way of life; yoga; reading; podcasts; trying new activities; hiking; writing; trying new food; eating healthily; getting enough sleep.

I was also honest with myself.

I knew I was off balance, out of kilter, off point. I had to put that right before I was completely gone in the wrong direction.

And so I did. My time in St Lucia helped me press the re-set button. Probably seems rather obvious – that’s what most people experience on holiday, right? But this wasn’t simply a holiday. This was one of the best ways for me to recover. I guess a rather elaborate and extreme time out, something I’m only too aware that I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to experience.

And 2 months on, the positive remnants of my time on this beautiful island with beautiful people who helped me make some truly beautiful memories remains.

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MY MINI UPDATES FROM ST LUCIA:

  • Not really a run but after a 30 min strength and conditioning session followed by 3 hours of kayaking, this was all I could manage! My ‘run’ included 25c, a witch’s house, and a stray dog chasing me because it wanted to play!!

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  • 40 minute run in 27c heat plus some strange looks on the way; afternoon spent reading Harry Potter and listening to podcasts on the balcony; a few chores to earn my keep; drinks at the marina; my first St Lucian street party, at Gros Islet, where I learnt to wine to Soca and Dancehall; more sore feet!!

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  • First Soca-cise class (think zumba but Caribbean style!) plus an impromptu dance off at the end of the class; a drive down south; pick Shauna up from the airport; reunite with Seeliy as we hike to the waterfall; drink cinnamon tea; eat cinnamon cake; try banana ketchup and some local spiced rum; drive back up north; stumble across street food where country music’s blaring out at the side of the road; dance (badly) at a Salsa party where I had a go at Salsa, Kizomba and Bachata; meet up with American Med students from Friday night at a local bar; learn to swing dance; teach Irish dancing; have my first PB&J (peanut butter and jelly) sandwich; play Irish poker; go to bed just before the sun comes up; ruin my feet some more – lost a toe nail at Salsa And that was supposed to be a quiet day!

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  • ROAD TRIP to the south; trip to local village with our new BFF Seeliy (whose daughter happens to live in my home county, Wiltshire!!); Atlantic Way walk with Seeliy’s son Kiandi; my first St Lucian cocktail at The Reef; a relaxing read in a hammock; first taste of bake and soya with some local juice; a walk up to a lighthouse; kettle bell swings with a coconut; watched Ciara and Shauna ride the waves; drive to our Airbnb place for the night; a challenge to find any food; after eventually finding food, we cooked way too much of it; an early night which turned in to a sleepless night thanks to the karaoke bar blasting out the tunes (and screeches!) until 3am

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  • Road trip continues in the south; tour with St Lucia Eco Adventures started with a hike up to an incredible spot with a view of Gros Piton and Petit Piton, 2 mountainous volcanic plus which are a UNESCO world heritage site; learnt about indigenous plants to St Lucia; tried a few fruits (tamarind, gooseberry); got battered by some plants!

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  • My final day… a chilled morning around the house, taking time to soak up the amazing  view of Rodney Bay; afternoon on the beach reading, dozing and swimming; another amazing (and exhausting) Soca-cise class; dinner at the marina and drinks with friends; my first proper Caribbean rum (with ginger – so good!); salsa social which included a new dance I really want to do more of, Tarraxinha – a form of Kizomba. A perfect end to a perfect wee tropical adventure!

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Run #13-19 Ratings & Reflections

Achievement = 5

Enjoyment = 5

I think all the above says it all for both!

The Cotswold Way Reflection: I did it my way😊

After a bit of an emotional and tiring day on day 4 I actually took the decision to come home instead of going to the B&B for what was supposed to be my last overnight stop on the route. The 4 days ultimately served their purpose: I got fresh air, peace and quiet and time to reflect on things and because of that I returned much calmer. I also feel good for challenging myself, doing some exercise and spending time in the outdoors. Slightly annoyed I didn’t complete the whole thing but I gave it a go and considering how the reality of it all panned out, I think I did myself proud.

I know it must be scary reading some of my posts; I really don’t mean to upset anyone but I want to be honest because it’s helping me recover and I hope it’s helping in a wider sense in contributing to an honest, no-bullshit conversation about dealing with a mental health illness. Showing the ups and downs all at once shows how not so black and white depression is. You can feel elated yet down at the same time; motivated and disinterested all at once; brave and scared in the same instance. It really is bloody confusing! And I know it must be like that for people on the outside looking in, not knowing how I (or others with depression) are feeling. But I can tell you one thing: support, no matter how big or small, makes the world of difference. I don’t expect anyone to understand this illness – especially when I don’t myself – but knowing there are people who care about you along the way despite not understanding is what really matters.

Run #8 Reflection: First long run of 2017 DONE!

nYou know the bit where Charlie, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, shows Grandpa Joe his golden ticket and, after years of being bed-bound, Grandpa Joe yelps “Yippee” in a burst of glee and springs from his bed, rejoicing with a little jig? Well, how Grandpa Joe felt about Charlie finding the golden ticket resembles how I felt doing Sunday’s run.

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WAS BUZZING!

I went with my old running partner, Rachel. We did the Cardiff 10k together in 2016 and attempted the Bristol Half a couple of years before that (let’s not go there…!). The aim for this run? 50mins, non-stop. Running around the Downs in Bristol on a Sunday morning was very different to running around the small streets of a little north Wiltshire town. Not only were there other runners out and about, of all shapes, ages and levels, but there were loads of people out for other reasons, too; walking, cycling, boot camp, football. I felt energised for running with someone else (Rach is great at setting a pace for me – her stride is longer than mine and so I run behind her trying to keep up), energised for being surrounded by other runners and people, and simply energised by the run itself. The sun was shining but there was a lovely cool breeze to keep us at a comfortable temperature. Oh, and I gave my new bit of kit a go, too: my running belt!

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I decided to get one of these as I get so, so thirsty on runs. I try to hydrate enough throughout the day and ahead of runs so I don’t need to bring water with me but any run over 45 minutes and I’m gasping for a drop of H2O. So I thought I’d give this a go as when I run with bottles in my hands, my shoulders get tight and I my focus moves on to them instead of my run which isn’t all too helpful. And I was really surprised, the belt worked really well and didn’t annoy the hell out of me like I thought it would. Winning.

With people, the run and water fuelling my body and mind, motivating me to put one foot in front of the other, we not only achieved the run’s aim but we surpassed it (ok, only by 5 minutes, but still!). I still can’t quite fathom how I’m supposed to do this just over 5 times more but let’s just keep on taking one run at a time and hope that across that time it just happens!

Run #8 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 5

I don’t feel like this run could have gone any better!

Enjoyment = 5

I felt like I’d won the golden ticket.

Oh, and as a reward, Rach and I went for brunch after – well done to us!!

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Run #6 & Run #7 Reflections: AM v PM

Last week I finally got a good run of runs in: 3 in a row (that’s good for me!). Being new to running like this with a proper schedule is taking some time to get used to. It’s fine in theory but juggling ‘real life’ with the training isn’t always so easy in practice (as me writing this post a week late shows). So I was really proud that I got 2 short runs in last week followed by the long Sunday run (see next post). And this is how those 2 runs went…

Run #6: Early morning run in the fresh air and frosty countryside

Wednesday morning. Clouds criss-crossing the blue sky as it the white fluffy lines were scratches and tears in the smooth sheet above my head. The ground glistened as if a million slugs and snails had conquered the land at night, leaving their mark behind as dawn broke. But really it was just frost. And as I drew in my first breath as I took my first steps on the run, my trachea felt like it was frosting up, too. The air really was icy. Despite this being a bit uncomfortable, the run felt so good for my feet, my body, my mind and my soul. I love running out in to the countryside. The mix of green, gold and brown fields sprinkled with sparse trees, silhouetted against the sunshine just brings me so much joy. Adding to this, music. While I do enjoy running in silence at times – just taking in the sounds that surround me at that one given moment – on this particular morning I was joined by Witney, MJ and Bowie to name but a few. Music is also something that is medicine for my soul. And the mix of that morning’s sights and sounds really felt heavenly. Isn’t it amazing that you can have a slice of paradise simply on your front door? That morning, I felt incredibly grateful and at peace… despite the puffing and panting!

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Run #6 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 4

I got up, got out and got on with it. I did have to pause a couple of times to catch my breath and I would have liked it to have been a bit quicker but I’m really pleased with my progress.

Enjoyment = 5

I’m sure you’ve got how much I enjoyed this run. So many good things came together at once on that morning. 

Run #7: Late night run in cold, dark night

My Friday night run couldn’t have been more different. I ran through the streets of my home town instead of going out in to the countryside but it was quieter on the concrete roads surrounded by houses instead of fields. It was rather eerie, actually. While there wasn’t much to look at compared with Wednesday’s run, I still found inspiration from the sky: the stars. I love looking at stars. I know a few constellations and I know a (very tiny) bit about the formation of stars. I find them enchanting, fascinating and weirdly humbling. So as I do my run on that cold, dark evening, I look to the stars to give me some perspective to help me stop worrying about the little things and let go of all the stuff that doesn’t really matter because, at the end of the day, we’re all bits of star dust and we will, one day, become just dust. 

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Run #7 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 3.5

While I got up and out straight from getting in from work, I did find it difficult to plough on through on this run. There were times when I wanted to turn back and I know I didn’t really push myself, which is something I need to start learning and applying if I’m to make any progress in this training for the day itself.

Enjoyment = 3.5

While I didn’t get the same joy from Wednesday’s run, I did like this run. I wonder whether it was more the fact that I got out after work and did a run when I was supposed to. But, like I said, the peace and quiet, along with the starry sky, did play a major part in making it a good run. But you know what, whatever it was that made me smile rather than grimace, I’m grateful for!

 

Run #5 Reflection: First run of 2017 done!

Wahooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First run of 2017 done and I feel GREAT! It was cold, dark, damp and my phone died during my run so for half of it it was silent… well, except for my panting which sounded like a mix between Wheezy – the penguin from Toy Story – and an old foot pump trying to blow up an airbed.

BUT THAT DIDN’T MATTER!

I went out and ran, non-stop, for 23 mins (I thought it was 20 mins and so initially I was chuffed that I did a few minutes more – turns out I was 2 short, oops!).

And again, THAT DOESN’T MATTER!

What matters is I turned up, I gave it a decent go and, not that this really matters either, but I enjoyed it. I feel pumped because I went despite not really feeling it and I feel pumped because I’ve got my body working faster than Southern Rail (ok… maybe not the best comparison); my endorphins are running around, rejoicing, like primary school kids on the last day of term, bringing in their own games and wearing non-school uniform. I really am chuffed with myself.

What was also nice was running in a different, yet very familiar, setting. While I’m at my mum and dad’s for a bit, I’m running around the town I spent my child hood in. Running around different parts of my hometown brings back fond memories and so I spent pretty much my entire run smiling… I should savor this moment as this could be the first and only time this happens!

So all in all a pretty good damn start to this batch of marathon training… now how to keep it up??!!

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Run #5 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 4

Well, I ran without stopping; I completed tonight’s goal (well, I thought I had – I’ll make those 2 minutes up tomorrow); I smiled; I even tried some new stretches before and after my running (I got Paula Radcliffe’s running book for Christmas!).

Enjoyment = 5

Well, if every run could be like today then I’d be a very happy woman! However I know that won’t be the case and so I’m soaking up this feeling and trying to remember it so when I have bad runs, I know there will also be good runs. I’m also going to use this positive experience as momentum, pushing me forwards on to the next run and training session. A journey of a thousand miles and all that jazz!

p.s. GO ME!

p.p.s This gave me a fantastic boost before I went for my run… from a beautiful friend who has run the London Marathon herself and is one of my inspirations 

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P is for Perseverance

Today has been about perseverance.

I woke up feeling exhausted – a feeling I’ve come to know rather well and one that hasn’t left my body for about 3 years now. Some days are better than others, but when it comes down to it it’s just different levels of exhaustion. And when the levels are really low, I feel really low. Despite feeling like this today, I (eventually) got up and ready for work. I never thought that at the age of 30 I’d count getting up and out of bed as an achievement, but that’s where my life is at at the moment. That’s not to say I’m not achieving other things (as this blog and hopefully running the marathon demonstrates) but I have certainly had to alter some of my goals and expectations. I’m slowly coming to accept that but it is hard to do on days like today, when all I want to do is feel like my ‘old self’. Deep down I know I’ve got to accept that that person is gone, just as it would be if I didn’t have depression or if I was a different person. We all change in some way or another over time. But for me, when the change feels markedly different, it’s easy to forget that. Sometimes I feel so different I don’t feel like me anymore. That’s a scary and confusing feeling.

Anyway, I got up and ready for work – yay me. But before work, therapy.

Again, another feeling of having to push on through and persevere. I’m keeping a diary of the things I’m doing at the moment and how they make me feel to see if there’s a pattern in my behaviour that links to my thoughts and feelings, and vice versa. It’s a bit frustrating as I’ve been doing this for the past 2 years. Since being diagnosed with depression, I have taken a proactive approach by reading about the illness (which in a perverse way I find fascinating!) and researching various ways of coping with it and I’ve already done this exercise. However, I do think it’s good to re-visit, especially with my counsellor being able to objectively look at things and give another perspective. Plus, I obviously haven’t cracked exactly what brings me right down on some days so that still needs figuring out. Although I do know that since being diagnosed, I have persevered and made great improvements… if I was writing this 2 years ago, well I wouldn’t have been able to. This time 2 years ago I was in what would become my 4th out of 6 weeks off work after being diagnosed with depression and the doctor writing me a sick note. I was broken. I was beyond exhausted. I was completely lost. I had many, many ‘down days’ and didn’t know how to manage them. 2 years on, and my mood has generally lifted through various CBT techniques, medication and that good old healer, time. But I do still have some ‘down days’ and when they’re particularly bad, I struggle in getting up and out of them. So that’s where I’m at at the moment, trying to find out if there are particular triggers for ‘down days’ and working out a way(s) to cope with them so I don’t let the depression overcome me. I guess I’ve been persevering for a while now – just got to persevere for a little longer.

After therapy, work. A number of my friends/colleagues noticed I was a bit more quiet than usual and asked if I was ok. I said I was fine but they knew that wasn’t true. They know what’s up and I know they’re there if I need them, which makes persevering a little easier. That’s one of the things that has made the past 2 years bearable: understanding, patient and considerate colleagues. Many of them have not only helped me but been the reason I’ve persevered at times. When working in an industry that relies a lot on personality and creativity, suffering from something that can change who you are as a person and how you respond to different things is scary, lonely and bloody frustrating! Having colleagues supporting me has meant I’ve been able to continue working in my dream job, even when I haven’t been firing on all cylinders. At times they’ve carried me, propped me up so I can just about function. So I’ve got to persevere, right? If they believe in me and the fact that things will get better then surely I have to do the same? It’s the very least I can do. And you know what? As today’s gone on, I’ve found that I’ve had to persevere less. The day got a little easier, a little less painful. I got stuck in to some editing and script writing – two of my favourite things to do – and I found that the up hill struggle started to plateau. As one of my colleagues who’s become a very good friend says, momentum is momentum – as long as it’s moving in the right direction, that’s all good.

Now for the final push…

I’ve got to run. I didn’t go yesterday because I’d been to the dentist for a root canal and really wasn’t feeling great. So today, despite not feeling great for other reasons, I’ve got to go. Today’s training is 30 minutes non-stop. Yay *hint of sarcasm*. I’m going to listen to Jack Garratt’s album ‘Phase’ to keep me company and spur me on. I saw him at Glastonbury earlier this year and more recently on Saturday night in Cardiff. His music is energising and his work ethic and talent is inspiring. Let’s hope it carries me for the next 30 minutes so I don’t have to persevere too much more today…

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Progress is progress.