Run #20 Reflection: back to reality!

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While I crashed back to reality, facing the brisk wind in the Welsh capital, the edge of this harshness was softened not only by seeing another good friend but softened by my new running tights, a birthday present from said good friend. So I pulled on the junior size jazzy black and white leggings (yes, junior – Nat reassured me they’ll stretch and I’ll fit in them… hmmmmm) and we set off for a short run around the block and the park, with super Seth in tow (the most awesome cocker spaniel!). I must admit, I’m not a massive fan of running with other people. I know I’m not the fastest and I don’t like to push myself too hard; I want to get fit, train well and make sure I get across that finish line come April 23rd but I’m quite happy at going at my own pace in my own time. Now Nat’s super fit, as is Seth! So the pace was a little quicker to what I was used to. Plus, I was a bit rusty. While I’d been doing lots of different kinds of exercise in St Lucia, I hadn’t done all that running – something which I kind of need to be doing! So my legs were a little out of it on this run. However, I did complete it and I did enjoy being with Nat and Seth. Still not something I’d do for every run but I realised much of my dissatisfaction of running with others comes from my own self-consciousness, lack of belief in my own abilities and me comparing myself to others. When I ease off on those, running with others eases, too.

Run #20 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 4

Ran pretty quickly but had to stop a couple of times for feeling short of breath.

Enjoyment = 4

More enjoyable than what I was expecting (no offence Nat!).

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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

Run #28 Reflection: well that didn’t quite go to plan…

20 miles. That was the aim for what would be my longest run in my London Marathon training. But I fell short of my target. At least I didn’t literally fall over, though – every silver cloud and all that…

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Well, things started off pretty positively. I was motivated for the run but that feeling soon evaporated. I decided to take a different route which I thought would be a good idea just to shake things up a bit but it actually meant I became quite distracted on the run, and not in a helpful way; while the weather conditions were perfect and I love running in the countryside, I was too aware I was running an unfamiliar route and with the roads being a bit busier than what I’m used to, I spent half my time jumping up on to the grass verge with stinging nettles and all to make sure I didn’t get squashed on the country lanes. Then, my thighs started to seize up around mile 7, something that’s not happened before. Another thing that’s not happened before is me getting a stitch. I had no idea what to do except to squeeze away the pain. So with my stinging ankles, my tight, heavy thighs and my pained stomach, my body really wasn’t in the best shape.

Neither was my head.

Barely an ounce of sleep the night before mixed with a stressful and unexpected start to the day had left me in a bit of a fog. With the help of my therapy sessions in recent months and just simple good old practice, I’ve learnt how to clear foggy days. Often when I’m running I’ll either put negative thoughts on hold and deal with them later or I use my running time as a sort of therapy session to sort some things in my head out. I was unable to do either on this run. I couldn’t silence the unhelpful thoughts and I couldn’t concentrate enough to manage them, either. So much so I turned off my music just so I could have a bit of peace and quiet. At least it was a beautiful day, with the sun shining aided by a breeze to keep me cool. And the Wiltshire countryside really is something; trees, green fields, daffodils, pretty little villages – perfection. Just a shame my run didn’t reflect the scenery.

As my legs and head became heavier and heavier, my running became slower and slower. I needed to be back by 7.45pm as I was going to the cinema with my sister. Another unhelpful pressure playing on my mind I realised after. Ahhhhhh, the power of hindsight. So I kept on checking the time, more so than I usually would on a run. And then suddenly I was about to lose the ability to tell the time. My phone battery had plummeted to 2%. Bugger. I was 10.43 miles in to my run (thanks Runkeeper). Half way. It was 6pm. There was no way I was going to make it back in time for the cinema. Panic set in. I haven’t had a panic attack for a couple of months now but the warning signs were all too familiar. But despite all the above, I managed to take a deep breath (well, many deep breaths as I was pretty knackered from running 10.43 miles non-stop!) and work out what to do which turned out to be something I really didn’t want to do and something that I’m still kicking myself for for even considering.

It had already started to play on my mind to calling it a day on the run. I was trying to battle that thought but the thing with having negative thoughts and being in a low mood is that everything becomes a vicious cycle. I was beating myself up for even contemplating giving up. Then I was getting stressed with myself for being so hard on myself – something I’ve actively been trying to do less of through my therapy sessions. My thoughts soon escalated to questioning why I had even bothered entering the marathon and thinking I could do a challenge like this. I was telling myself that I won’t be able to do it, that I haven’t done enough preparation, that if I’m having a breakdown now at 10.43 miles then what will the rest of the race be like?! What was the point?

As I walked to the nearest town – Brinkworth – to pick up a cab from the nearest pub or shop, I realised what the point was.

This.

I’ve had a string of good runs recently. Even better, I’ve had a string of good days mental health wise. It feels great to make progress and take on challenges when you’re feeling positive, encouraged, motivated and energised. When you feel the opposite it can be difficult to see any progress made and everything feels like a challenge. But that’s one of the reasons why I decided to do this. I wanted to be able to achieve something despite my mental health condition. I wanted to challenge the stigma attached to depression and anxiety, showing the different sides, challenges and consequences of the illnesses. I wanted to raise awareness and raise money by being open and honest about my training as I knew it wasn’t going to be easy in and of itself, let alone adding the dark stormy days.

So this training session was just part of the whole experience. It wasn’t ideal, it wasn’t enjoyable and it wasn’t reassuring. But when I placed it in the context of remembering why I was out in the middle of the countryside in my shorts and t-shirt, running belt around my waist stocked up with gels and water, I felt *marginally* better about things. And it was at this moment that I saw assign for my home town stating it was *just* 4.5 miles away. 4.5 miles. I could briskly walk that in an hour at worst. I could manage that. That would be better than getting a cab. I’d still be falling short of my target, but not by as much.

And so with the calming reflection and realisation along with the encouraging sign – literally – I continued to put one foot in front of the other through Brinkworth, on towards my destination. I may not have achieved my initial goal, but I achieved something else along the way which, in hindsight, is far more important. And it turns out not all was lost anyway; my heavy legs were able to manage a bit more than a brisk walk. It’s funny what you can achieve when you think you can’t.

Run #28 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 3

This is tricky because technically I should be scoring this ‘0’ having not accomplished 20 miles. On the other hand, maybe I should be scoring it 5 for not giving up, managing the situation and seeing the bigger picture? So with both of those in mind, I’m going bang slap in the middle.

Enjoyment = 0.5

The sun was shining and the countryside was beautiful; the only saving grace.

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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Pre-marathon-training ‘training’ reflection… 

“So how’s the marathon training going Rhiannon?” is a common question that’s been asked many times by friends, family and colleagues in the past few weeks. It feels good to have people take an interest in something you do. It doesn’t feel good when you give the answer I’ve been giving. “It’s… er,” I stammer. “Well, it was going and now it’s… well, now it’s kind of not going,” I mutter, with my cheeks blushing the way they should blush after a run, not a sheepish admission. 4 runs achieved out of a planned 24. A sixth of runs completed. 16.6% of runs done. Or you can look at it as 20 runs not achieved out of a planned 24. Five sixths of runs not completed. 83.3% of runs not done. Those aren’t great stats.

When I put it all in to context, I’m not surprised nor am I as ashamed with my minimal-track record. The past 3 weeks have been emotionally and physically turbulent to say the least and with a routine going out the window with moving house plus Christmas and New Year, I’m amazed I even know what day it is. And before the break up (see next post) there was the week that knocked me for six as my (then) partner was in hospital and I literally worried sick about them. I don’t want to make myself sick in this process; that’s the opposite to the desired effect! Running on empty is going to do me no good, literally and figuratively speaking. So I get how around 12 runs have been wiped out right there in one big swoop.

But what about the other half? Indeed. What about the other half?

While I keep reminding myself to strive for progress and not perfection, I’ve got to remember that I’ve actually got to put the effort in to make the progress at the very least. I knew that committing to the training would be the hardest part for me, especially when going through a tough mental period. But somehow and from somewhere I’ve got to suck it up. I decided to do this, no-one forced me to do this. I wanted to take on this challenge. So now I’ve got to show up and do that: take on the challenge. I’ve got to go out and train, even if I end up walking for the duration/length. Because come the marathon day, I will complete those 26.2 miles even if I crawl across the finish line with stewards patiently meandering behind me clearing up the banners and barriers, hours after everyone else has finished. I owe it to the Mental Health Foundation, I owe it to those who have – and hopefully will – sponsor me and, finally, I owe it to myself. So yes I might not make every training session becuase life/shit happens, but man alive do I have to give myself a good kick up the arse to get those stats more in my favour because otherwise I’m not making the most out of this experience, I’m not giving myself a good chance and, ultimately, what’s the point if I’m not putting the effort in?

So next time someone asks me how the marathon training’s going, I am going to say “it’s going and it’s going well, thanks.” And I’ll say that with a smile on my face from the satisfaction of knowing that I’m telling the truth because I have been training. Just if you see me over the next few days, hold off asking that question until the start of next week, thanks! 😉🏃🏻‍♀️👟🏅🏆👍🏼💪🏼

Run #4 Reflection: Well, I turned up at least!

A short post because I got distracted writing another post I’m yet to finish and only just realised the time – I need my beauty sleep!

As you’ll soon find out in the pending post, I haven’t ran for a couple of weeks. I won’t wang on about why here. And I won’t wang on about how crap today’s run was either. Essentially, I was too warm, too slow and too unfit. Oh, and I lost a glove… twice! But as the vibrations on my wrist reverberated signals to my brain (my Fitbit telling me I’d reached 10,000 steps) I at least realised that today I showed up to my run and gave it a go. I know as time goes on I’ll need to be tougher with myself if I’m actually to run any part of the London Marathon but for now, with still 4 long wintry months to go, I think it’s enough to give myself a pat on the back for at least going out for a run / jog / walk / wander. Next time though, I need to do a bit more to get a pat on the back.

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Run #4 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 3

Bit disappointed in how much I’ve lost in 2 weeks in terms of habit, fitness, stamina and just sheer grit. I know if I put it all in to context given the past 2 weeks the achievement rating should probably be higher but I know I can do better than today.

Enjoyment = 1

As I said, too warm, too slow and too unfit. Although I did run across my favourite part of Bristol: the suspension bridge. Still not enough to lift the run’s enjoyment rating. Onwards and upwards…

Run #3 Reflection: Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr it’s cold in here!❄️❄️❄️

Just a quick post-run update since my fingers are still defrosting!

Man alive that was TOUGH. And today’s run reminded me why I’ve started training early. Running in the cold is not only, well, cold but it affects your running, as I found out today. I found it really tough to get in to a rhythm with my breathing. I’ve always found running in the cold tricky and to be honest I’m not quite sure what I need to do to help my breathing settle. And to make matters worse, the first 10-15 minutes of running are often the most tortuous for me. So if anyone has any good pointers on getting through those first few gruelling, breathless minutes please let me know!

I also couldn’t get in to a rhythm with my actual running today either. I’m not sure if it was the cold, a new route or just the fact that it was an off day but it was a real struggle to find any sort of pace. Not that I really know what sort of pace I’m doing other than what Runkeeper tells me every 5 minutes!! But I could feel it today that things just didn’t feel quite right. So running, jogging, walking were all in the mix today… some more than others!

But the important thing: I turned up. I turned up, gave it a go and achieved today’s goal of ‘running’ continuously for 30 minutes. And while it didn’t feel great whilst doing the run, it feels great typing these sentences, knowing that I turned up and didn’t bail out. So that’s what I’m taking forward with me today: turn up, and then let everything go from there, whatever that might be!

Run #3 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 3 actually no 4

I’m really proud of myself for turning up and giving it a go, and I’m actually feeling quite refreshed having been for the run, but I’m giving ‘achievement’ an average score as I think I could have stuck at some of the harder bits a little more. Then again, it was my first time running in near freezing temperature and that did really through me. Ok, I’ was going to score it a 3 but I’m going to up it to a 4!

Enjoyment = 2

Yeh, I really REALLY didn’t like today’s run. But I did enjoy meeting 2 friends for a milkshake (banana and peanut butter!) after. Silver linings!

Run #2 Reflection

If you read my previous blog you’ll know that today’s been a bit of a b*tch and so I wasn’t really in the mood for running. But run I must. I decided that to take a different route today, with running through Bristol and along the harbour. And I’m glad I did. A couple of years ago I entered the Bristol Haf Marathon. I completed it, but with a knackered knee and not a great experience of running a race like that. Anyway, today I ran parts of the half marathon route I took in 2014 and it was a good reminder of progress (again, see previous blog!). Nonetheless, today’s run was marginally more enjoyable than Sunday’s largely because Spotify didn’t throw as many random songs in like it did a few days ago! And the centre of town looked pretty and festive, too, which was nice.

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Pre-run woes; the run stats; mid-run photo; post-run relief

So, let’s get to it…

Run #2 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 5

Yep, that’s a massive score (the highest). And that’s because today it would have been so easy not to have gone out running but I did. So a pat on the back for me.

Enjoyment = 3

I felt like I got in to a fairly good rhythm today. Also enjoyed taking a different route – think I’ll switch it up a bit more in the future.

Although enjoyment levels went up when I came home to a glass of wine and dinner cooked for me by my better half 😊🍷❤️