Friday, 16 February 2018

Running without goals...

My last blog was all about me not giving up on the triathlon dream before it began, hmmm well I have to confess to not going near the pool or bike since. I quite like swimming and would happily put in the effort to get better at it, my stumbling block is the cycling, I just don't enjoy it! Sorry cycling friends but I don't. I haven't made a final decision about the triathlon but I will over the next week or so. The thing is I want the exercise I do to be fun, to look forward to it as it's what I do when I'm not working!

This brings me onto the main point of this blog running without goals...

I have had the happiest week's running for a very long time, obviously it helps that I am a lot less stressed than I have been for a while and my mental health is improving so I feel more like me again, but it's not just that. I haven't raced since September last year when I did the Colne Engaine 5! This is mainly due to not having any money to enter races but it's great.

Running group friends at parkrun (photo by Mike Eldred)

It's half term this week so a week to do as I please and I have had some great runs, some with friends, some on my own, some with my dog,  loving running and supporting my friends at my running groups, today we ran far enough to warrant having coffee and cake at the end! I have started listening to music again on some of my runs. The best bit though has just been waking up and deciding as I put my trainers on where I'm going and how far, sometimes I don't even decide this till I get going.
Yesterday I had the whole day without much planned so I packed my race vest with some drink and a bag of jelly beans and just headed out the door, it was a beautiful morning and I ended up running 16 miles and loving every step.

Race vest and headphones ready for a long one!

I am still run streaking and am at day 412, with my streak now 2083 miles long, I have set myself a little goal of reaching 2500 miles at day 500! (So not running entirely without goals ha ha!)

I'm sure at some stage I will return to racing as there are lots out there I still want to do, and completing 100 miles is still firmly at the top of the worm food list. For now I am going to continue to run 'just for fun' and see what happens. Surprisingly I have found some speed recently (fast for me I hasten to add!) whether that's because I am feeling better or because I have no races to train for or a mixture of both who knows.

Enjoying a 'just for fun' long run

Hope you are all having as much fun with your running as I am, and if you have booked yourself into races enjoy the training and the events themselves.

Happy running xx

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Nearly giving up before really starting...

I had just about convinced myself that a triathlon wasn't for me, especially a crazy ironman distance one. I hadn't done any swimming or cycling in December and the first part of January hadn't been much better with just one trip to the pool. So last weekend I decided just to run. The result of the extra running mileage was that it actually made me feel so much better mentally and physically and a little spark of craziness was reignited!!

I hadn't really realised how poor my own mental health had become until this last week when I have really started to feel much more positive. I have also realised that I am not responsible for making my son better (it's taken a while!) It is his illness and he is responsible for his own recovery, of course I will always be there to support when he needs me to.

So now I am feeling more like me again with a renewed energy and excitement for getting out there and doing stuff I am going to give this triathlon my best shot. With long work hours some days and Bonkers Fitness sessions it's going to be a juggling act to fit the training in but lighter mornings and evenings are on the way.

This weekend I have run 18 miles, cycled 18 miles and managed my longest swim of 1250m. Still much work to do but I have a decent base to work on and I still have 24 weeks!

If anyone reading this wants to sponsor me or donate me a road bike I will be eternally grateful but for now I am still winging it on the second hand one I have, just need to actually get out on it!

So here's to 24 weeks of crazy training and enjoying it... Must remember I am doing this for fun and not let it become something stressful.
Photo by Mike Eldred

Have a happy week running, swimming and cycling xxx

Monday, 1 January 2018

Not about running...

I need to write this, it's nothing to do with running and all about being a Mum to a son with a mental health disorder. It's been in my head to write for a while but I wasn't sure, was it appropriate? Should I just write it in my journal as a private thing? Would it upset anyone? Like all of this I'm not sure but I am going to write it anyway.

Jim's struggles with his mental health began over two years ago, the first I knew was the discovery he was using cannabis and solvents. Help was sought and I thought that was a scary time over. I put it down to a teenager experimenting and was glad he had stopped or so I thought.

Over the next year it became clear that Jim wasn't well, and we began the fight to get referred for help for his mental health, it seemed he needed to be suicidal or psychotic to get help. I am not going to write about every episode in detail as this is more about my feelings, how I deal with it (or not!) but to sum up he has been admitted to psychiatric units three times, attempted suicide twice and had one episode where I had to take several weeks off work to care for him. He has tried countless medication combinations which work while he takes them but the side effects mean he often gives up on them or he begins to feel better so thinks he doesn't need them. Then there is the drug and alcohol abuse... Often people asked me whether the drugs triggered the mental health issues or did he self medicate due to how he felt. The answer to that is we will never know. 

He has just been discharged from hospital again and the drug and alcohol addictions were addressed along with the depression, psychotic and delusional thinking. His diagnosis has been changed from bipolar to schizoaffective disorder manic type but they are just labels the treatment is much the same. Will things be better this time I'm not convinced right now.

As a Mum this latest episode has been the hardest for me, I don't know why but I have come close to breaking point. The constant worry from the last couple of years became too much, I didn't know how to help anymore, I could see him deteriorating, the drug use increasing but he is an adult and assured me he didn't want or need help. 

Work became my escape, I was happier at work than at home and I could mostly switch off for the day and if I couldn't there were people I could talk to, who would give me a hug, listen and understand. There were days I dreaded going home because I didn't know what would be waiting for me, I live with a constant fear that he will die, either accidentally or because the suicidal thoughts become too much. 
It's hard watching someone you love struggle so much, knowing they are making choices and behaving in a way that will make things worse and being powerless to stop it. Long gone are the days where a cuddle and some calpol makes things better!
I don't know where we go from here, I hope that something or someone will have an impact on him, help him to see things could be better. That this illness doesn't have to stop him from leading a happy and fulfilling life, that if he just takes care of himself he can feel well and achieve all the things he dreamt of before he got ill.

As for me I am trying to take better care of myself, not put my life on hold, do the things I want to do. Looking for ways to ease the fear and worry that comes with this. 

So if I am distracted, unsociable or neglecting friends and friendships it's not because I don't care it's because I am struggling, I'm not good at asking for help, too many years of going it alone as a single Mum but I am going to try... I want 2018 to be better for us all, and the only way I think I can do that is by looking after me so I am strong enough to be there and deal with whatever the next months bring.

Love you all xxxx 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

From runner to triathlete...

Before I go any further I am just going to say this is all John Stoneman's fault!!

I have been feeling the need for a new challenge for a while, at parkrun a few weeks a go a triathlon was mentioned, John said if we were going to do one it should be an Ironman. Don't you hate it when an idea gets planted in your mind and you can't get rid of it. Anyway to cut a long story short I sort of signed up for one, not an official Ironman but ironman distance. It looks unlikely John will be joining me but I am committed.

So on July 8th 2018 I will be in Kent for The Bastion, for those that don't know ironman distance is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle ride and a marathon! I can run a marathon...

I can't (at the moment) swim 2.4 miles or cycle 112 miles...

I went for a swim last weekend and managed 1km, some was front crawl, lots was breast stroke, it was hard and I have a long way to go, I forgot to mention the swim is an open water swim! The plan is to work on my swimming in the pool over the winter and move to open water in the spring. 

I remembered a work colleague was selling a road bike and on investigation he still had it, it's an old style road bike but in immaculate condition and for now it means I can get some training in. I went for a little test ride this morning, a bit like my swimming it needs some work!!

I have about 9 months to get ready, I have some serious work to do on the swimming and cycling but am looking forward to the challenge. I will be seeking lots of help from all you swimmers and cyclists.

Just to add to my challenge I will be doing all of this on a very limited budget, I entered through Macmillan and have pledged to raise at least £500 for them
I don't currently have money for a flashy bike, swimming lessons or new kit so this will be triathlon on a budget unless anyone out there wishes to sponsor a Bonkers runner tri-ing (sorry!!) something new! 

I am going to blog weekly about my training and swimming and cycling progress (or lack of!) I must remember not to neglect my running. That's it for now, I sort of have a base to work on so time to #TrainHardNoExcuses...
Image result for funny triathlon quotes

Happy running, swimming and cycling!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Touch the Bird 300

November 2015 I thought Touch the Bird 24 was a brilliant idea, 24hours of running laps of the hill at Great Notley Country Park, it was great, had loads of support and raised lots of money for Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Fast forward to this year, I have joked since hat challenge that the hill is 'my hill' and one parkrun morning I found this at the top! (thanks Mark) it now hangs with my medals at home but it got me thinking, maybe it was time for another challenge...

So Touch the Bird 300 was born! I had completed 265 reps in 24 hours last time, surely an extra 35 wouldn't be much harder! I even planned a better time of year, July, the weather would be good, more hours of daylight etc etc...

On Saturday 29th July at 9am as parkrun started I began my first lap, the weather was as I had imagined, it was summer, the park would be full of people and it would all be lovely!

I was raising money for Bipolar UK this time as my son had been diagnosed the year before and it had turned our lives upside down. Someone said to me during the run that with the up, and the down and the level bit, the laps of the hill represented bipolar somewhat!

I had my friends Andreea and Dan as base camp support, and Mark, who also has bipolar and has been a great support to me, also was there much of the time and clocked up a lot of laps with me especially during the night. Thank you so much for being a great support crew, definitely wouldn't have got through it without you.

150 laps in...

As we got into the afternoon the rain started and my romantic ideas of watching the sunset over the hill disappeared. I had had about 40 people join me at different times to run some laps and I am so grateful for your support. We had some good discussions about mental health too which was great. A special mention to Netty, Joby, Jane, Michelle, Ian, Sandra, the Hawkins family who came back to the park more than once to support me, would be interesting to know how many laps we ran in total between us. Thank you to every single one of you that joined me, you had no reason to spend your weekend with the crazy lady on the hill but I am so glad you did.

Evening supporters!

During the night the rain continued and my feet were soaked, I changed into dry socks and trainers but the second pair were soon soaked too and my feet were beginning to feel a bit sore on the bottoms but it was bearable. I had a few bouts of feeling sick but know it's usually because I haven't eaten enough. Dan was brilliant at force feeding me!

I'm not sure what time it was but we were into Sunday, Dan suddenly said was that lightening, we dismissed it until the clap of thunder arrived. A thunder storm would possible halt the challenge for a while as being on a hill with a giant metal bird in a storm probably was a bit risky but for now we continued as it wasn't overhead. Fortunately the storm stayed far enough away that we could continue but the rain, oh the rain, it poured and poured!

 Touching the bird with it's pretty lights!

Finally the rain did stop and there was a hint of daylight, not the beautiful sunrise I had envisaged but always good to get rid of the head torch. I felt awful between about 4:30am and 7am I just wanted to sleep, I would do a couple of laps and then sit down and tell the guys to let me have two minutes, which they timed to the second and I had to wake up and do a another couple. I was so relieved when we finally go to 250 laps as I felt like I was never going to get there! I have to apologise to Mark, Andreea and Dan for being particularly stroppy during this stage! I think I retired from running at one point!
About seven my head gave up telling me I needed to sleep and with Ian and Joby arriving back at the park I knew I couldn't quit, I had to get through these last laps. As the morning went on more people arrived and my posse grew, I could finish this off!
The weather improved and I changed into my last pair of dry trainers and it helped a bit with the sore feet.

Finally at just before midday I was on lap 300, it was an amazing feeling to complete the challenge! I think I am done with the hill now! So you can all stop with the mutterings about 500 laps!

There were lots of funny moments during the challenge, Marks Klingon opera singing, and lots of other things, some of which need to stay on the hill! One that did make me laugh though was about 6am Sunday morning a dog ran towards us and Mark said oh look normal people are out now,I looked at him and said 'Mark that's a dog!'

One of the best messages was from Ronnie Staton, who said 'it's the same hill as the first lap and that was easy' That was a great one to keep me going up and down and up and down.

The final lap!
So just to finish with some thank yous to everyone who came out and supported me, all those that sent messages of support day and night, everyone that donated money I am almost at £900, the park rangers who let me use the park and have 24 hour access, the loos were great!! Everyone at Great Notley parkrun and junior parkrun.
Just a massive thank you to every one involved.

So what is next... well I have signed up to go back and get Robin Hood 100 finished!!

Happy running xxx

Friday, 12 May 2017

Train like a Champion and a Marathon PB...

It's been a while since I have updated my blog (again!) so have a few things to write about.

Firstly I am still training predominantly using the Maffetone Method, still eating mostly low carb, high fat and my run streak has reached 132 days and I am still enjoying it.

Last Christmas (no I am not about to burst into song!) Andreea brought me a place on Ronnie Staton's Train like a Champion workshop so towards the end of April we headed off to Oxford for a day learnng how to injury proof and improve our running. It was a brilliant day and highly recommended if he is coming to a town near you.
We learnt drills to put into our training plans to improve flexibility, balance and engage those forgotten muscles, I am making them a part of my training as they fit in brilliantly with the whole holistic approach I am applying to my running this year.
We also learnt about good posture and a check list of cues to think about whilst running to improve form. Ronnie also spoke about mind set and what he said really struck a chord, the three Rs 'Real, Raw and Relentless' and perception, not attaching emotions to things such as the weather, it is what it is.
This Girl was Inspired!

So with all this in my head and feeling inspired I started to wonder if I could maybe go for a decent time at Halstead Marathon (and I do remember saying in an earlier blog I had lost interest in PBs etc!! But a girl can change her mind!) I decided I would 'go for it' at parkrun the next weekend and see what happnened, maybe I had left it a bit late in the day as I only had a couple of weeks to go. I surprised myself by running a 25:49 parkrun, my fastest in two years! Now the seed was firmly planted I was going to 'race' Halstead Marathon...

I kept my plan mainly to myself being a little vague as to was I was going for... My previous marathon PB was 4:22 set in 2014 at Halstead. I had no idea if I was in shape to get anywhere close to that so when a friend asked, I said I would be happy with sub 5! My gold time was sub 4:15 but I kept that completely to myself. On the morning of the race I was strangely calm and enjoyed the pre race atmosphere and catching up with friends I only seem to see at marathons.
I had written my pace on my and and some motivation up my arm
I started with Richard my usual partner in crime, the weather was perfect and I was excited to get going, Halstead Marathon is described as undulating (they lie it is hilly!) but I actually like the hills. I was wearing my heart rate monitor but not to keep to MAF pace just to see what it did over 26.2 miles. As for fuelling for the first time ever I didn't carry any water, Halstead has plenty of water stations so decided to rely on those. I consumed some jelly babies and a couple of gels on the way round but no where near the amount I would have done before LCHF!
As the miles ticked by I felt good, really good, I was focused and enjoying myself! Richard told me I was going too fast a few times but according to my watch I was bang on pace so ignored him! It was good to see some familiar faces around the route giving fantastic support. I did the first half in 2:03 and still felt good, the second half is all too often where it falls apart for me...

As I ran I went through Ronnie's running cues every so often 'long neck, tall spine, wrist to ribs, core engaged and midfootish!' It made me smile but also really helped me keep my form and I think lessened my usual hunching over I am guilty of when getting tired. There is a long hill at 14 miles and I shouted to Richard to talk to me, he was a bit rubbish and told me to talk to another lady who was running near us. So I did, I ran the whole of that hill for the very first time (this was my 7th Halstead Marathon) and realised Richard was no longer with me, so I pushed on alone (sorry Rich!) I did keep thinking he will catch up soon but he never did. So it was just me and my head for the last 12 miles. Ronnie's other advice was to just be in the 'now' and it really worked, I just kept telling myself for this bit I was on I was still running at my target pace and that was all I had to do. At 20 miles I began to realise I just had to keep pushing and I would get that sub 4:15 it would be close but I was on pace and still feeling strong. I knew Jane, Andreea and Michelle were marshalling at about 25 miles so I just kept going.
Excitement began to build I was going to do it. I crossed the finish line in 4:13 with the biggest smile, my mum was there and it was the best feeling. It was strange waiting at the finish for my friends to finish it's always the other way round! I am still smiling nearly a week later!

New PB!!
I am still surprised by how even my mile splits were and that without any long road runs, intervals etc I was able to run a marathon PB. Perception, seeing things as they are, if something began to ache I acknowledged it then moved on, and focusing on each mile at a time was such a big factor in my success. Asking myself why I wanted that PB, giving it value, it was important to me. I really believe that everything I have done over the last six months has helped, MAF, diet, run streaking and making my running my time for me. Life has been stressful over the past year so it is vitally important to me that my running is a source of enjoyment, time for me and not something else to add pressure or stress. Everything I have worked on, this whole holistic approach to training has got me to this point and long may it continue.

My seven Halstead Marathon medals!
Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to where I am today, I love you all xx

Happy Running xx

 P.S. I got a PB and beat Richard!!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Great Notley parkrun blindfolded...

A few weeks a go I got a free download of the book Achieve Anything in just one Year.

Each day it gives you an assignment to do, start or think about, well yesterday the assignment was to try something new or out of your comfort zone. I asked my Facebook friends for some ideas and quite quickly I had a list of things I could do. I have written them all down and will try and get through some more in the next few months (possibly not a naked parkrun!) I decided a blindfolded parkrun was both achievable and would mean something to me (my son is registered blind) so Richard agreed to be my guide runner and Len supplied a rubber dog toy thing that he had seen used by a blind runner and his guide at another parkrun.

I met up with Richard and Netty for our usual run to parkrun and once there Richard and I had a practice go, It was very strange and a little disconcerting running without being able to see. Richard tried as well so he could understand what it was like and hopefully be able to guide me safely. I was a bit concerned that after getting coffee on his Leeds hat last weekend I may end up in the lake!

I managed to start my watch and we were off. To me it felt like I was running fast but it felt like Richard was just walking beside me. I know Great Notley parkrun route like the back of my hand, but without Richard I wouldn't have had a clue, his constant commentary kept me focused and feeling relatively safe. The sharp turns were the hardest and it's not something I would normally give any thought to at all. The hill was actually ok as I could feel easily ascending and descending.

The biggest thing I discovered was how tiring it was, I had to completely concentrate and listen to Rich 100% of the time, there was no going off into my usual random, running thoughts! It is no wonder Ben is so wiped out after travelling from college to home by train, I now understand why, and I was only 'blind' for just over 45 minutes.  As each mile went by my confidence, and I think Richard's, grew and our mile splits certainly show a massive difference from first to last mile.
Mile splits
So all in all in was an interesting, and I think enjoyable, experience. Of course there is no way to properly feel how it is for a blind runner as I knew the course and once I had collected my finish token and been scanned I was able to take off my blindfold and carry on with my day. It has given me some insight into running blind and the  trust you need to have in your guide. Good communication was imperative and for me I had to trust I would be safe but Richard was a good guide and once I got over the initial trepidation it was an experience I am glad I have had.

Turning up in the same shirt... Good job I couldn't see!

Thanks to all the runners who supported today and the Great Notley core team who constantly put up with my craziness! Thanks also to Lis for giving me the idea. I couldn't have done it without Rich, thank you for being a great guide x

Happy Running xx