Monthly Archives: May 2013

Defeated

Warning: This is a bit of a pity post. I’ve had a rough week of being ill and I was at the end of my tether. So this post was a bit of a blog bleurgh of how I was feeling.

I’m trying not to feel defeated but that is exactly how I feel. It just seems to have been one thing after another since the end of last year. A calf injury, a virus and a nasty back injury seemed enough. Events tend to happen in threes and they were my three, or so I hoped. But no. Since trying to come back from these things in April it just seems like I have no luck with running. A heel issue forcing me to take time off again and now I’m ill again.

Yesterday lying in my bed shivering from this horrid illness I read Adharanand Finn’s book Running with the Kenyan’s from cover to cover. I really enjoyed it and think it’s a great read even if you’re not a runner. In the book he talks about running being a primal need. Running is a primal urge that causes us to get up every morning to pound the streets, to feel the stirring of something primeval. This drew a wry smile from me as my chest heaved and my body throbbed thinking of the virus attacking my body that has evolved alongside humans. An organism with it’s own primal urge to invade it’s host. And right now this virus is defeating my primal urge to run.

The way I feel at the moment I’m wondering what is the point. I try and try and try and there just seems to be obstacle after obstacle. The latest obstacle isn’t the virus so much but the fact that after writing my post about asthma the other day, my own GP informs me that my long dormant asthma has returned. I’m now on steroids and an inhaler and under advice not to train or do any running. Not that I could if I wanted to, I couldn’t even run to the front door right now.

I’m trying so hard not to feel self pity because that is a waste of an emotion, there are people in the world that are far worse off than me. I think the reason I’m so upset is because I love running so much, maybe too much, and every obstacle that prevents me from running just feels like a cruel hint from the universe that maybe I should just leave it alone and use my energy elsewhere. I’m not elite, I’m not amazing but I have the primal urge within me that Finn talks about. However everything else in my life right now seems intent on beating that urge down and I just wonder whether I should give in to all these things, call it a day and admit defeat.

One Year Ago: A Running Recap of the Edinburgh Marathon 2012

I can’t quite believe that this picture was taken one year ago this weekend. This weekend sees the festival of running in Edinburgh and last year I took part in the Edinburgh Marathon as my first attempt at the distance. When I look back at everything that happened  to my family last year and the things that I had taken on alongside training for the marathon I do feel a sense of pride in myself that I got to the start line and that I completed it.

After training for nearly 6 months in the cold and dark I don’t think anyone could have predicted the scorching heat that welcomed us in Scotland. I had picked Edinburgh as I thought there would be a chance of drizzle and that the temperature would have been comfortably cool. Well the Running Gods were clearly having the last laugh that day as Edinburgh turned out to be the hottest place in the country at a balmy 30 degrees. The sun bounced off the tarmac everywhere, blinding you as you walked round the city. I therefore decided that I MUST have sunglasses. Cue my husband and I walking around Edinburgh for most of the day before the marathon looking for some. Not good marathon prep!

The evening before the marathon we ate at a beautiful Italian restaurant. It was no real surprise that it was full of runners and the lady serving us said they had been really busy. Back in the hotel I made my pre race preparations: painting nails, defuzzing, arguing with myself over which shorts to wear, ironing on my name letters. I remember the Eurovision song contest being on and drifting off with Graham Norton’s commentary in the background.

I woke fairly early, probably way before 6am on the morning of the marathon and headed over to Cafe Rouge where the hotel breakfast was served. The options were really limited. There was porridge but I’d stopped eating porridge before running as it messed with my stomach. I asked for toast. The waiter looked at me with concern and made sure I was certain that was all I wanted. It was, I felt sick to the stomach with nerves and the thought of putting anything in my mouth to eat made he physically heave. The waiter must have taken pity on me though because along with toast he brought out a basket of pastries which I did nibble on under the watchful eye of my husband. I recall two women in running gear coming in and both asking for Full Breakfasts and I remember thinking how on earth can anyone eat a plate of fatty food before they run?

After breakfast and a final check in the hotel that I had everything, we walked down to the start line at the end of Princes Street. The sun was already high in the sky and you could tell it was going to be a scorcher. I checked Twitter and Liz Yelling had tweeted good luck to Edinburgh Marathon runners with words of caution which were along the lines of: it’s hot, don’t go for PB’s, in this heat run to perceived comfort. Perceived comfort, perceived comfort. These words from a marathon expert, an international athlete, lodged themselves into my brain. I think it was the best advice I ever had.

Running the marathon in that heat last year was brutal but I did as Liz Yelling said. I found a pace that felt comfortable in the heat and one that I could maintain. Before long you could tell the people that had started off maybe too quickly and had started to walk. By mile 16 the number of people walking had increased further but with no real tree cover we continued to be exposed to the beaming sun. The organisers of the marathon brought out extra water supplies but I think my favourite part of running for me had to be the people of Edinburgh and Musselburgh. They brought out their hoses and sprinklers. They handed out cups of water and jelly beans. Little kids sprayed us with super soakers (though I’m sure that was also for their own entertainment). People were generous and supportive and yet again a marathon brought out the best in both runners and supporters.

Running through the grounds of Musselburgh House at around 19 miles it got tough for me. The heat was taking it’s toll and I really had to dig deep mentally to keep my legs moving. It hadn’t helped that I had accepted a gel from a volunteer. Yes, rookie error. I learnt from my mistake the hard way by taking a gel that I was unfamiliar with. It had caffeine in it, something that I hadn’t tried during runs, and I had a massive head rush and felt dizzy and sick. Once I realised what the problem was I drank plenty of water to try and flush it through a bit. Gradually I felt a bit better and carried on with the ‘digging deep’ efforts.

By about 21 miles the course was not a pretty sight. We were starting to see more supporters again but this didn’t stop many runners dashing off to the side to vomit as the heat really started to effect people. Seeing vomit usually makes me want to vomit so I had to put my head down and blinker myself to the vomit fest around me.

The benefit of having my name on my vest soon occurred to me as I realised that the Kat everyone was shouting for was me. My whole body was screaming at me to stop but instead I decided to take the Madagascar penguin approach ‘Smile and Wave Kat, Smile and Wave’. Someone shouted that I was looking fresh. I wanted to stop and say ‘seriously, you think that helps? I don’t feel fresh, I’ve run 23 frigging miles’. It was weird little conversations with myself like this that helped to distract me from how far to go. But then something amazing seemed to happen. 23 turned to 24 and 24 turned into 25 and then 26 and a grin erupted on my face as I realised I was turning a corner into Musselburgh Primary School. And there was the finish line.

I shouted and yelped and screamed as I crossed the line and the volunteer in front of me asked me if I was ok. Seriously? I wanted a high five and a bear hug from someone, not a concerned look! It took me a few minutes to find my husband but it felt like 10 or even 15 minutes as I tried to keep moving my aching legs to find him. Then it was a quick stop in the Macmillan tent with the fantastic Physiotherapy Student volunteers and the best cup of tea I’ve had since the one I had after giving birth for the first time (I’m not joking, if you have a baby or run a marathon, those cups of tea are the best).

A hot sweaty bus ride then had to happen (boo) where husband presented me with this:

20120527_150213 (1)And then when we jumped off the bus at the end of Princes Street my husband dragged me into the first pub we saw by the theatre where this happened, plus some chips and a chat with a German man in is seventies who had also run some marathon. I shared my chips with him, seemed only right.

After the marathon I had some time off and I had a plan in my head about what I wanted to do in running. I had set myself some goals but as with life and sometimes our races, things don’t always go the way you want them to. A stressful year, illness and injury were the prevailing themes for the rest of the year so I still can’t quite believe I managed to train for that marathon and run it in that time on my first attempt (3.39 baby). Writing this has made me wonder if I will run another marathon. I hope I do because it seems a bit cheeky to refer to myself as a Marathoner when I’ve only done it the one time.

Good luck to everyone running in Edinburgh this weekend. It is my favourite city in the UK and it is a fantastic place to run a marathon. I also highly recommend getting everyone to give you a pre marathon bear hug to fill you with positive, good luck vibes. Enjoy it, embrace the atmosphere and smile!!

025

Asthma

I wrote this the other day as I was feeling a bit emotional. I wasn’t going to publish it but I think it’s really important that people understand how awful asthma is.

Last night I think my son had an asthma attack. He doesn’t have a diagnosis of asthma yet and I hope I’m wrong but I have a horrible gut feeling that it might be. My gut feeling comes from what I recognised in him last night and similar incidences previous to this. The relentless cough, not eased by water or  slapping on the back. The audible wheeze coming from his chest. The panic and the distress on his face as he tried to gasp and breath. I recognise it because I’ve been through it.

The last bad asthma attack I had was when I was 19. I was away with my family on a tropical holiday in Malaysia. I hadn’t been bothered by my asthma for months, it had been dormant and I just took my inhalers out of habit. Taking them had become an ingrained daily ritual. I didn’t really feel I needed them but I still took them. I don’t know what happened to trigger the attack that night. I don’t know if I ate something or inhaled something but I remember the dream that woke me up.

In my dream I was swimming just off shore of the hotel we were staying at. I was swimming underwater. In this dream I became aware that I needed to come up for air so I tried to swim back to shallow water. But I couldn’t. And the more I tried to swim to the surface the more panicked I became. As I woke from this nightmare I came round to the sound of my own wheezing and my gasps for breath. I took my inhalers but they seemed to do very little to relieve me. That night my mum came to my rescue. She lay in bed with me the rest of the night cradling her 19 year old daughter while I lay propped up in her arms trying to catch my breath.

I’ll never forget that night. It has faded in memory but I remember being truly fearful that I was about to die. Terrified that any moment I would lose consciousness and I would pass away. Terrified that there would be one final gasp and no breath would come. Every breath was a fight against the invisible hands gripping around my chest, choking me of air. This attack lasted for hours but eventually my medication started to work and the attack eased off.

5 year old boys have no comprehension really of life or death or what their breath really means but last night I saw terror in my son’s eyes. I felt helpless. He had been out at a local pond with his friend collecting tadpoles so I assumed he might have had some kind of allergic reaction to something in the environment that had set this attack off. We gave him piriton and as luck would have it this seemed to calm things down.

I really hope this is a one off and that he doesn’t develop full blown asthma like I did. When people drop into a conversation that they have a ‘touch of asthma’ I always wonder if they experienced the same thing as I did and my mother before me. The sleepless nights sitting up in bed, scared to lie flat as it made everything feel like it was closing in on you. Hearing the crackling and wheezing off your chest, not believing that this horrible noise is coming from you. Coughing and coughing and coughing because for a moment each time it helps you get some breath, not realising that in fact coughing makes your airways spasm even more. That is my experience of asthma.

Why would I write about this on my running blog? Because I really believe that running and being a sporty child helped my asthma. I think being fitter and stronger gave me some reserves to cope when I had a bad attacks (Doctors often recommend swimming to children with asthma and I was in a club for a while but it turned out chemicals in the water exacerbated my condition).  I truly believe that running helped it and without it I may have had more attacks and importantly asthma never prevented me from training or competing unless I was really unwell.

 Thankfully I grew out of my asthma and my attack at age 19 seemed to be the beginning of the end of it. I know asthma can recur but I really hope it doesn’t. More than anything though I hope my son doesn’t take after me. He can have my running genes, he can have my stubborn genes but I certainly hope that he gets to skip my asthma genes. If it does so happen that he takes after me I will make sure he stays fit to fight it through his love of cycling and swimming, hopefully with a bit of running thrown in too.

Training Diary and Running’s Not All Plain Sailing.

My training diary for last week isn’t actually that impressive. I haven’t managed to build on the previous week so I’m feeling a bit lost and a bit well yeah, lost is the best way to describe it.

The week had started relatively well with a 45 minute run that was nearly 5 and a half miles. I’m still plodding, I’m still not getting anywhere fast but I’m taking the approach that it’s better to get the miles in rather than worry about how quick. I suppose you’d say I’m trying to build a solid base again and regain my engine. I felt positive and I felt keen for running.

Tuesday was a bit of a disaster. Massive mood swing, plus forgetting things on the school run, plus not making it to an appointment plus a bunch of other stuff had meant that I wasn’t feeling Tuesday much. Tuesday was being a dick. So that evening when my husband came home from work I made what I thought was a positive decision: I would go to a running club. I jumped into the car and drove in the monsoon that was pouring from the sky, playing some funky tunes to get me in the mood. And then I hit all the traffic. On the motorway and on the duel carriageway. My mood dipped again, I was too late for the running club and I drove home cursing the universe. When I got home I decided to write Tuesday off and go to bed.

Wednesday was slightly more positive. I went out for a run, went out a little bit too hard at the beginning but kept going and ended up doing the longest run I’ve done in months. 56 minutes and over 6 and a half miles. It was slow, I made hard work of it but I was buzzing with my effort. Thursday is a no for running in the day with a 3 year old with me so I ventured out to CrossFit and ended up bagging myself some PB’s in the floor press and on double unders (that would be fancy skipping).

Friday I didn’t manage to get any running done but I was hoping to have a decent weekend of running. Saturday afternoon it was warm and I felt happy after a bike ride with my eldest boy so threw on my brightest shorts and headed out into the sunshine. And then I ran into some trouble. After 2 miles my feet were killing me. I felt aware of my left foot being really uncomfortable and I was sure it was rolling around in the shoe. My heel started to play up which frustrated me as my heel had been pain free. Then my right foot became sore and my right calf tightened. I tried to carry on as I was hoping to run for an hour. But no, I made the decision to turn back. My feet were so cramped I almost stopped and walked. When I arrived home I thought I’d feel really pissed off. Another run attempt shot down in flames. Buggeration! But I was strangely calm and reflective.  I identified what I thought was the issue (my footwear), accepted that what had happened was pretty much out of my control, reflected that actually the rest of me had been feeling pretty good and the result was that I was positive even though it had been a crap run. Who was this person? That doesn’t usually sound like me!

So that was my running week that was. Lots of ups and downs and little challenges to face but all in all I think I’m ok. I felt a bit of the self made pressure of not running drop off as I await my new trainers to arrive. Circumstances being out of my hands means that I feel like I have a ‘Do Not Run Right Now’ pass so I don’t have runner’s guilt. (And the footwear issue does make sense as my symptoms only occur after running in these trainers, which are actually over 9 months old. Oops). I know that there are other things I can do to maintain my fitness: CrossFit, circuits, cycling, swimming, aqua jogging. So I shall try my best to do other things this week and aim to enjoy them. Hopefully, imaginary Running Gods permitting, I will be back out plodding the pavements next week.

Training Summary for week beginning 13 May:

Mon: 45 minute run, 5.37 miles covered.

Tues: Nothing, don’t ask, don’t go there, I’m not speaking to Tuesday.

Weds: 56 minute run, 6.56 miles covered.

Thurs: CrossFit class. Double unders plus floor press (25kg for 5 reps PB). WOD 7 rounds of 1 minute on 1 minutes rest of 200m sprint plus max reps shoulder to overhead for remainder of minute (20kg on bar).

Fri: Rest and fun stuff. Sat: 3.91 miles hobbled. Sun: A little bit on the turbo trainer on the turbo trainer which has taken up the boys play room. HA!

image

Operation 20/40 AKA: Madness!

Goshity gosh, what have I let myself in for? Operation 20/40 you may ask? Well Operation 20/40 refers to a challenge that I have got myself involved with. Cat over at Marathon Widow Diaries had mentioned it when we were at Write This Run and I made the rookie error of saying ‘yeah go on then, I’ll have a go’. So the challenge is that over the rest of the year (because I think I’ll need that long) I am going to try to break the 20 minute mark for 5k and the 40 minute mark for 10k. It is a massive feat but one that I honestly think I could be capable of.

Currently my PB’s for both distances are as follows:

  • 5k = 21.30 from Cardiff Parkrun 25 February 2012
  • 10k = 42.10 from Shock Absorber Women’s Only Run 22 October 2011

Leading up to the Edinburgh marathon last year the shorter distances had taken a back seat as I had wanted to concentrate on being able to finish a 26.2 mile course. However after the marathon I had been keen to work on speedier distances at the track and I had been really enjoying some hard interval sessions. But then I got injured, was ill, got injured more severely and spent 6 months not able to do much of anything *sob*. So now that I am back running I needed something to motivate my running. I don’t see myself entering any half marathons or marathons just yet so this challenge seemed like a good place to start.

So with any challenge or goal I need to identify potential barriers:

  • I have zero training volume at the moment. Right now I am only just back up to an hour of running. There are no miles in these legs so endurance is at an all time low.
  • Confidence is low too. Nothing like being injured to suck all the self belief you had out of you.
  • Time can be limited sometimes due to looking after the children and running them around but I need to find a way round this to enable me to train.

However I need to acknowledge the good points I have going for me in this quest:

  • I’m a tenacious little bugger and I will try my best to make this happen.
  • When I’m fit and well I am a really good runner. Honest!
  • When it’s hard I can dig deeper than most. I don’t mind feeling a bit sick or feeling my legs burn. I’ve thrown up at track sessions before so it really doesn’t bother me.
  • I’ve got a turn of speed on me from my middle distance days. I just need to build the endurance back up so that I can get my ‘kick’ back.

For the next few weeks I think my main aim will be to build up the regular runs and mileage again so that I have a solid base of fitness to work on. Once I feel that I can run comfortably on an almost daily basis I think I’ll start throwing in some different sessions: speed, intervals, hills etc. I’m going to continue with my sessions at Dragon CrossFit in Cardiff as a source of strength and conditioning and I might also go and join the athletics club. I don’t know why but being ‘affiliated’ would feel so much better than being ‘unaffiliated’. It might make me feel more of an ‘athlete’ for this challenge.

So I’m up for it now. I’m gonna’ get On It Like A Car Bonnet. Operation 20/40 Madness is ON!

 

It’s Not Running, It’s Flying

There are runs when it feels so good that you feel like you are flying along. In those moments I either imagine I’m a superhero, Kelly Holmes or that I’m in the scene of a movie (I never imagine being chased, I would probably start to believe I was being chased and run to the police station). On other days though, when the fatigue sets in, the thought of a run feels like nothing short of torture. I struggle during those times and it’s so easy to let the negative thoughts creep in telling you to stop and turn back home. I actually had a run like that today. But I kept going and I felt all the better for it. Let’s face it if I had stopped I would be feeling really crappy right now.

Recently I came across this quote which was shared by someone on Twitter. I think for the really good runs it can explain why we, well I, feel like I’m flying. But for when times get bad this is a nice way to think about running rather than thinking about what lies ahead of you.

‘When you walk, one foot is always on the ground. When you run, most of the time you are actually airborne. For example: a 6-foot-tall runner with feet about 1 foot long was found to take 1,250 steps while running 8-minute miles. Thus, while covering 1 mile—5,280 feet—he was in touch with the ground for 1,250 feet and airborne for 4,030 feet.

Put another way, he was in the air for 76% of the time. So don’t think of it as a 10-mile run. Think of it as 7 miles of flying.’

Quote from “Running is Flying” by Paul E. Richardson

castell coch

Write This Run, Running and Blogging.

As I drove home from Sunday’s inaugural Write This Run event I was full of regret. Did I regret going to Write This Run? Not at all, my regret was lots of little regrets: I hadn’t spoken to this person or that person. I had neglected to take more pictures. That I didn’t chat to Liz and Laura more (although I think they were run off their feet) and that I didn’t give more people hugs!

I’ve been blogging on and off for 3 years. I started off my blogging journey with a parenting blog but it never felt like quite the right fit for me. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the bones of my children but I never felt right about sharing it with the world. Running Mum had sat on the sidelines for a while and a few months ago, despite being injured, I deleted the parenting blog and decided to have a real crack at my running blog. This I have no regrets about doing.

Since dedicating my blog life to my running blog I have had my eyes opened to a wonderful community of people. People who are just as passionate about running as I am. A running community that throughout my injury sent me well wishes and lovely messages encouraging me not to give up. On Sunday I got to meet some of these people in real life, and even though it’s always nervy meeting strangers off the internet, there was no anti-climax. Everyone I met in the room at Write This Run was as genuine, warm and friendly as I thought they would be. Write this Run itself was a fantastic day and I learned new things but also had some things confirmed to me that I think I already knew, back there in the recesses of my subconscious.

Phillipa Moore who writes super blog Skinny Latte Strikes Back talked about being honest and having integrity. I found myself nodding along in agreement as I’ve always tried to be honest on this blog and being dishonest here never made sense. A bit like lying about your 5k PB, you’re always going to get found out so why lie?

She also spoke about content and that having good content will bring people back. This has always been a concern of mine as I’ve never quite believed that I have good content and that readers would want to come and read my blog. It still amazes me when I have comments. So content may be something that I need to continue to work on i.e. blog about something other than being injured, I mean come on, BOOOOORING!

PR stuff and stats still boggle me and I was glad that so many other bloggers, including Phillipa, stated that they really don’t worry about hits or back links or how many people have read something. It still comes back to content and blogging with honesty and integrity. Blogging and the idea that you get free stuff still feels weird to me. I still don’t feel confident approaching PR’s so I was really glad that there are bloggers out there who don’t take this approach to their sites.

Rhalou Allerhand glitter disco pant wearer and runner blogger extraordinaire had me in absolute stitches as she decribed her journey from porn hack to running magazine goddess. I have followed Rhalou on Twitter for ages and ages and we had a very all too brief chat towards the end of the day. The girl should write a book about her running adventures in the mountains and one regret of the day is that I didn’t give her the hug that I should have done. Next time Rhalou!

Kevin Betts AKA 52 Marathon Man spoke to us about his running journey with such passion and humour that I was thrown from laughter to tears and back again. His talk resonated with me on such a personal level that I had to gulp down some rather large sobs as I remembered one of the main reasons that I started running again. Depression hit my husband so hard and has affected our family in so many ways that running became my coping mechanism and a source of strength for me. It was refreshing to hear someone talk about such an important yet taboo subject in such a candid way.

From a professional point of view I was thrilled to listen to both Donna DeWick and Karen Weir. It was inspirational to listen to Donna and how she went from a diagnosis that for some individuals would have meant the end of all physical exertion to Paratriathlete. Classifying Para-athletes is something that I would like to do as a Physiotherapist so it was a real privilege to get an insight into Donna’s life as an athlete.

Karen’s talk gave me a real buzz and I may have felt a bit smug as she confirmed for me what I firmly believe: we don’t have to go barefoot if we don’t want to. (Yes, in your face barefoot preachers! Too much?) I thought her talk about the technical aspects were excellent and put across in such a way that a beginner could easily take up running with her tips.

There were of course other great speakers and to round off a fantastic line up we were presented with Scott Overall, Team GB Olympic Marathon runner. He gave a very relaxed talk about his running history: from a kid at a local school competing in cross country, training with Mo Farah as a junior right through to the Olympics last year. He also gave us an insight into his plans for this season, which will see him make a return to the track. Scott’s talk made me all nostalgic about the Feltham Arena track which shut down many years ago (er what legacy *cough*) and I was lucky enough to catch him for a very brief chat about Feltham and our old coaches.

Following Scott’s talk we got the chance to follow the Olympian round the grounds on a 5k run. I’m sure some of us *looks at Cat Simpson* could have kept up with him but a group of us stuck together and had a really nice chat while we ran, being watched by the deer who were clearly wondering what the humans were up to. During this run I yelled ‘Flake and Cake’ at poor Claire. She must have wondered who this nutter was shouting her blog name at her but I’d spied her all day and it finally came to me who she was *dur*.

This ended our day at Write This Run. I drove up the mile long track from the golf club to the main road but as I did I stopped and gave Laura from Life Laura London a lift to the gate as it was tipping down with rain. We had a very quick chat and as she jumped out all the little regrets started. I wish I’d got to chat to Laura and so many other people. Write This Run was a brilliant day and it made me keen for more running and I was left craving more events like this.

A huge thank you to Liz and Laura who had this idea, without them we wouldn’t have been brought together. I hope that the next person Liz stalks in Bushy is my hero Sonia O’ Sullivan. She’s a regular at Bushy Parkrun *hint hint, nudge nudge*.

It was a pleasure to meet and chat to the people that I did and I really hope we can meet up at another running/blogger event. I felt a bit sad hugging Cat and Mrs B goodbye but I was equally as happy to have met them. It really was a great day and I know that we all left inspired and for me a renewed enthusiasm for running and blogging.

Find more information about future Write This Run events at http://www.writethisrun.co.uk! Go, do it now UK people!