Crap Words.

This post sort of has something to do with running and it sort of doesn’t. I’m being vague aren’t I? This post is just one of those that ended up rumbling around my head as I went for my 20 minute jog today (yes I did say jog, I’m taking it back bitches).

Anyway I digress. I was mooching on that there Twitter and spotted a couple of tweets by the awesome Helen from Diary of a Newbie Strongwoman. The one which I’m referring to and which inspired this post was this:

‘Can I just take a minute to express how much I FUCKING HATE the term MILF. We are people not sodding objects’.

Amen to that. It got me thinking though. There are other terms that refer to women and occasionally specifically to me and exercise which I despise:

  • MILF
  • Yummy mummy (ugh, puke).
  • Post baby body (this one always riles me).
  • Hot
  • Badass (oh do fuck off).
  • Skinny (again, fuck thee off).
  • Skinny minnie (please just go away).

I can’t stand these expressions, they do not define what I do or how I feel about running. They have nothing to do with running and instead conjure up the image that I’m bothered what people think about my body. I’m not, really not. I would much rather people used words to describe my attitude, my approach to running and the way in which I achieve my goals.

So to end my ranty negative post on a more postive note I thought about some words that I would happily use to describe me as a runner:

  • Passionate
  • Determined
  • Stubborn (love that one).
  • Feisty
  • Committed (even though I’m injured).
  • Athlete (apparently we all are but my phone auto corrects my name to athlete. It’s a sign!).
  • Competitive
  • Inner strength

Ok, now that probably is a long list but give me a break, I’ve been injured and I’m trying to be inspired about running again, ESPECIALLY after getting my Good For Age entry confirmation for the Virgin London Marathon through!

So now over to you….

Which words relating to health and fitness to you hate?

Which words would you use to describe yourself in relation to your chosen fitness endeavours?

Crossroads

My life seems to resemble a period of undirected running training right now. You know those periods where you’re between races and you’re just ticking over? Those times where you wonder whether to turn one way or the other during a run and for some reason you feel hesitant? I have come to a cross roads and I really have no idea where to turn.

My youngest son has started school and I always had this time in my head for when I would be able to get things moving on for myself. I had planned to do more running, have a decent training plan set up, be working more or at least have a plan in place for kick starting my career. Well now that time has come and I’m just floundering, really splashing about with no idea what I’m supposed to do.

For the last few years I feel like I’ve sacrificed myself for others: my children while they have been really small and supporting my husband through his period of illness. I’ve been the one who’s kept trucking on and on and all of a sudden I don’t feel quite needed any more. Surplus to requirements. I don’t seem to have running available to me either, I’m still injured. And my enthusiasm for CrossFit has waned as I just don’t feel I’m up being around loads of super positive high fiving people right now (doesn’t that sound awful?). I just feel lost, so totally and utterly lost and I don’t know what to do.

Being injured really doesn’t help matters because running is where I find clarity and I find it strengthens me mentally. Running is where I go when I need to make sense of things and I can’t do it and this seems to compound my floundering even more. Possibly this is where my insomnia has been stemming from too. I have weird guilt about being at home and not feeling that I’m contributing, guilt about not being able to run and endless supplies of mother’s guilt.  I am going round and round in my head trying to figure out what I should do for the best but the answer is not forthcoming. Instead I seem to be run down and weepy. I hate feeling like this, impotent and out of control.

My head is just full of endless thoughts and I don’t know which way I should turn. I just feel like I need to stop thinking. Maybe I need to just rest and stop and just embrace being for a while. Hopefully then I’ll be able to see the wood for the trees.

Ba Ba Ba Ba Banana….Loaf

As a family we eat a lot of fruit. The boys go through the fruit bowl like it’s squishy liquid gold that might be stolen by fruit thieves unless they devour it. I seem to go back to the shops two to three times a week to replenish and within that there are always a pack of bananas. The boys like their bananas but they only seem to like them under ripe, sometimes even eating them green *dry retch*.

As a runner I know that bananas are a good source of energy and a quick and easy thing to eat on the go. However once they go past a certain stage of ripeness they don’t seem that appealing any more. Plus I could take bananas or leave them. I craved them during my first pregnancy and ate so many that by the time my son was born the thought of a banana made me heave. So this week we ended up with a load of bananas ignored in the fruit bowl. Obviously the only solution was to make a cake of some description.

Another good reason for me to make this cake is my ongoing stomach issues. With the help of a GP we’ve narrowed it down to some kind of lactose intolerance. Vomiting up brioche and cheesecake has not been fun. I’ve switched to most lactose free products and found that I can just about get away with a tiny bit of normal milk or butter. However things that I used to eat and take for granted I can no longer eat. I love a wee treat with a cup of tea but this week a Twirl chocolate bar made me ill. The only solution therefore is to try making my own treats so this banana loaf is the first attempt at home made goodies.

The recipe I’ve used is from a classic book that I’ve had for years. I think my mum has the original copy and when I moved into my first house I bought this book: Delia’s Complete Cookery Course. You can also find it here on her web site. In the loaf I did today I didn’t add walnuts as I didn’t have any but it still turned out ok, just with less bite. I’m even a little it tempted to try it again with some dark chocolate drops in place of the walnuts, or even half walnuts, half chocolate

All-In-One Banana and Walnut Loaf

Ingredients

75g/3oz of soft margarine or soft butter

110g/4oz caster sugar

1 large egg, beaten

225g/8oz plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 medium bananas (Delia adds the word ‘peeled’. Would some people not know to peel them?)

grated rind 1 orange

grated rind 1 lemon

50g/2oz walnuts roughly chopped

Pre heat oven to 180/350 or gas mark 4.

Grease a loaf tin that is 9 x 19 cm ( 3 and a half inches by 7 and a half inches). Line it with greaseproof paper which is also greased.

Place the margarine/butter, sugar and beaten egg in a large mixing bowl, then sift in the flour and baking powder.

In another bowl In another bowl mash up the peeled bananas to a pulp.

Use an electric mixer to whisk the sugar, butter, egg and flour together until combined. It may look a bit dry at this point.

Next add the orange rind and lemon rind, followed by the mashed banana and the chopped walnuts. Whisk the mixture again. Transfer to the tin, level it off and pop it in the oven for 50-55 minutes on the centre shelf until the loaf is well risen and springs back when pressed with your finger. Leave to cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto the wire rack to finish cooling.

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Serve with sliced with a spread of butter and a cup of tea.

The Wonderful Void

The other day I came across this fantastic blog about running on Oatmeal. This blogger, through his comics, illustrated how I feel about running and more. It as like he had taken all my thoughts and feelings about running and presented them to me in picture form. The last page of the comic really struck a cord with me and reminded me why I am so passionate about running and why I miss it when I’m prevented from doing it: The Void.

In Oatmeal’s comic he talks about running to find the void, to find clarity, to find the silence. And that is what I miss most when I’m not able to run. When I run it isn’t just about training or races, it is about the meditative state that I get into. Being aware but also being not quite aware. A level of awareness that keeps me safe while I run but also allows me to drift off into the nether regions of my mind. Thinking but also not thinking. Listening to my heart, hearing my breath, tuning myself into the hum of the traffic as it whizzes by, gradually sinking deeper and deeper into a trance. And when I find that void state, when I drop into the black hole that running has created for me, a mile can go past and I won’t have noticed.

However the void isn’t always completely silent. When I’m there the thoughts that have been crowding my mind trough the day can form a more orderly queue and I find I can go through them one by one. Or images of my family and loved ones flash across my mind’s eye as I pound the pavements. The anger or frustration that I may have been feeling can be expired by my breath as I run towards home, unburdened and cleansed. All these things fall into the cavern that is my void and melt away.

I’m not quite back into running again just yet, my calf injury has flared up again. When I read the Oatmeal post I realised why I get so angry when I can’t run. I have become addicted to the Wonderful Void, the peace that I feel when my body is running. Experiencing the void helps me not mentally but physically too. I’m sure the reason that I have been having bouts of insomnia recently is because I haven’t been able to touch the running void. I’ll try to be patient, let my body heal, get stronger and eventually I’ll be able to find the void again.

Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise and Me Being A Pedant.

The other night my husband and I were debating what to watch and we happened to find the film Jack Reacher on one of the film channels. I haven’t read the books and I don’t know much about the character but what I gathered is that Jack Reacher is supposed to be some kind of uber tough, ex services bad ass dude who can beat up five people all on his own.

Ok, fair do’s. This is what happens in this kind of film, a bit like Liam Neeson in Taken. All fists, elbows and feet lashing out to defeat those who seek to hurt him. And for the purposes of a film like this I am usually happy to leave common sense at the door and just enjoy it for what it is: nice brain less viewing on a Saturday at home after the kids have gone to bed. I say usually happy because Tom Cruise then uttered this line as he was debating with some police man bloke:

‘….the train station is 3 miles from here and I can walk that in 24 minutes…’

Woah. Hold the boat now! What?

I turn to husband and ask him if that’s what Jack/Tom just said. Yes, says my husband, probably irritated as I tend to ask lots of questions during films like this. I shut up and continued to watch the film but my mind was boggling over what Jack/Tom had claimed: he could walk 3 miles, roughly 5k, in 24 minutes.

Now back up there a minute Jack/Tom. I have some issues with this. You can’t just throw something like that out there and not expect me to have a little think about it. So of course as a complete saddo I get on the old internet.

The UK leading time for a 5km race walk this year by a man is 19 mins 27 secs. For a woman it is 21 mins 45 secs. A time of 24 minutes would put Jack/Tom at 16th in the UK men’s rankings. So Jack/Tom is saying he can walk (not run) 3 miles in around the same time as the top race walk athletes in the UK.

Yes, I know I’m being pedantic but bear with me.

I know Jack/Tom is meant to be an ex services bad ass but he’s out in the dark, wearing heavy clothes, a bulky jacket and a normal pair of black shoes from where I’m watching on the sofa. He’s new in town and presumably doesn’t know his way around. What if there are hills and inclines on his way to the station? What if the terrain changes? Would he be able to maintain the walking pace required under these conditions for a 24 minute 5km.

More questions: Are we talking just normal running or actual race type walking, like the athletes who can cover 5km in 18-19 minutes? My last Parkrun was 23 minutes. Is Jack/Tom saying he can beat the majority of a crowd of Parkrunner’s just by walking?

Tom who is playing Jack doesn’t look like an endurance athlete either. Sure he appears fit but he doesn’t have the lean physique that a speedy race walker would typically have. He just doesn’t look like he’s suited to moving quickly along the road. Is he saying that he’s done this before and timed it? Has he been practising and reduced his PB for walking 3 miles to 24 minutes?

This is what was going through my mind for the rest of the Jack Reacher film starring Tom Cruise. I’m not even sure if I understood the film properly because all these questions were race walking through my head. And just so you know, if you mention Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher on Twitter, people get a bit feisty about it. I should probably go and read the books now, I may find further evidence of this 24 minute 5 km walk. Or stick with Disney films, they’re far more accurate.

 

No Running. Just Camping and Dolphins.

So recently I wrote a post called Strong Before Long. I should also have included the words Strong Before Fast. A week last Tuesday I was feeling really happy about running again and I decided to head down to the running club at the CrossFit Box I train at from time to time. It was a session that I really enjoyed: 1km, 800m, 600m, 400m and 200m. It was hard work but I love intervals, always have, it’s how most of my training was done years ago. I completed the session and I felt kind of happy with my calf.

Next morning I was not so happy. My calf felt tight but not a normal ‘done exercise’ tightness, more like a painful ‘what the feck have I done now’ tightness. It seemed to ease after a bit of walking around but it didn’t feel right. I decided to err on the side of caution and rest off for a couple of days. By the Friday I was sure I was fine so I headed out, determined I was going to aim for around 10k.

I took it slowly, making my pace nice and steady. There was a niggle down my calf and into my shin but I was sure once the blood started flowing it would ease. I stopped a couple of times to stretch and eventually things seemed to settle. But around the 5 mile mark I felt the niggle return and then a distinct ‘ouch’ pain deep in my calf. I slowed to a jog, stretched again and aimed for home. I wasn’t limping but I wasn’t happy.

Instead of getting all emotional and upset this time I was realistic. I called myself every name under the sun and realised that maybe a hard interval session on concrete (duh) probably wasn’t the best for someone coming back from injury. Instead I focussed on getting ready for my first ever camping trip with the boys. As in MY first time ever sleeping in a tent, not just my first trip with the kids.

As always when I’m packing to go somewhere I packed my running gear. This was a positive move from me despite the soreness in my calf. I had enjoyed running along the coast in Cornwall so much at Easter that I really hoped I’d be able to do the same along the Pembrokeshire coast. After we arrived and set up the tent on Monday I noticed that there were a fair few runners around and this started to give me the itch to go out running. It’s infectious, runner see’s runners and immediately wants to go for a run. The NHS should investigate this phenomenon. I waited until the following afternoon and after giving my husband a headache, debating with myself whether to go or not, I finally went.

It did not go well. I was on unfamiliar narrow country roads. Cars whizzed past really quickly. I tried to stick to the ‘face the traffic’ rule but that rule makes no difference when the roads are so twisty turny that cars can’t see you until they’re on the corner. I tried to follow a bridle path but it turned out this was the way to someone’s house. Whoops. I started to feel my calf cramp and feeling very despondent I went back to the camp site.

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But instead of bitching and moaning I decided to get on with my family holiday. It was out of my control, I just had to wait it out again, rest it and see what happened. In the meantime there were more pressing things to be done like go to the beach, cook on the camp stove, fly kites, climb cliffs and watching dolphins.

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I think I can make running a bit more of a big deal than it actually is. It means a great deal to me but I’m not running for world peace or finding a cure for cancer. It’s just running and while it’s not great for me right now there are so many other things that are. I need to ease off the intervals and the long running for now. Focus on getting myself comfortable and ready to start training for the London Marathon next April. My first ever camping holiday has reminded me that sometimes there are things that are more important and just as much fun as running. Not running isn’t always the end of the world.

Run With An Idea Debate: Real Runner’s Don’t Walk

Welcome to another debate from Run With An Idea. This week’s debate is:

‘Real Runner’s Don’t Walk’

When I first saw this topic I was sure I’d be of the opinion that yes, of course, real runner’s don’t walk. And while it is true that many runners would eventually hope that they could complete a course or training run without walking, I don’t agree with the fact that walking makes you less of a runner.

Lately I’ve been injured and even though I’d rather I was able to run an entire run like I did months ago it’s not always possible so I use a walk break to allow me to stretch, gather my thoughts and complete my run. People who are new to running usually start with a walk/run programme, and there is nothing wrong with this. It is another form of interval training to build fitness in a safe way, a bit like a fartlek. Trail runners are occasionally forced to walk because terrain or incline mean it’s not safe or possible to run. So there are plenty of occasions when walking is valid, it does not mean that they are any less a runner. If ‘runner’ runners were really honest they would admit to occasions when they’ve been forced to walk.

The thing I have always loved about running is it’s accessibility to all. I love that anyone regardless of ability can put on a pair of trainers and get out the door to get fit. Running snobbery like this can really irritate me as running is not an elite club. Elite running is an elite club but not running itself. I can see now the type of runner who gets annoyed by walkers and thinks that they don’t belong: male, club runner, checks their watch a lot, tuts at other runners, you know who I’m talking about. There would be no reason for them to tut if race organisers would place people in pens according to their predicted time. Or maybe they could have separate pens for runner’s who know they’re going to need walk breaks.

If you run you are a runner, whether you need a walking break or not. People should not be discouraged from a hobby that keeps them happy and healthy to satisfy running snobs. What would we rather? That runner/walker’s stayed at home and became sedentary again? No, they are runners and they should be supported for doing everything possible to keep them active and moving.

And just so we’re not down on all walkers: Rob Heffernan from Cork, the winner of the 50km Race Walk World Championships, completed the course in 3 hours and 37 minutes. Two minutes faster than I ran my marathon (42km) last year. Walking isn’t necessarily something to be sniffed at.