Doctor, doctor, I can’t sit down!

Doctor, doctor, I can’t sit down! I think I’ve got ADHD…

… No, Rachel. You’re just neurotic.

Let’s begin with a flashback to my ill-conceived legal career and a good old fashioned caveat: there is no intention whatsoever on my part to make light of the ADHD condition, its symptoms or its sufferers. The same goes for neurosis. I may – or may not – have traces of both. If I were a food product requiring labelling as being ‘free from’ on the Gluten Free supermarket shelf, I fear that I wouldn’t make the grade. I would simply be unable to declare myself to be entirely ‘free from’ either, or both. And so, I would be placed back on the regular shelf with all the other shit full of MSG, wheat, lactose, fructose, traces of brazil nuts and bee pollen. Think Mr Kipling’s Fondant Fancies. They were never fussed about neon icing and E-numbers back in the 80s, were they?

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It’s me in cake form.

Either way, and whatever shelf I’m placed on in Tesco’s – I can’t sit still. I can’t – and won’t – ‘REST’. I HATE THE WORD. I have an allergy to the word itself which would rival most nut allergies on the planet: my head feels woozy and begins to throb; I start to sweat and my HR increases at the mere thought of doing… fuck all. I can’t do it. I’ve tried. *I was even convinced that my tongue swelled up, but that was just a pseudo symptom: my coffee was too hot.

And recently I’ve been doing a little experiment. In a literal sense, I am ‘back running again’ (although that in itself requires another caveat, which we won’t explore just now.) My experiment was this:

I wanted to find out how much ‘rest’ do I really give myself? How much ‘recovery time’ do my legs honestly get?

The facts are these:

Ever since my extended period of non-running from the first part of this year, I have had many weeks of NO weekly mileage, and now quite a few weeks of ridiculously LOW weekly mileage. According to Strava, I’m currently averaging 8 miles of running a week. Down from an average of 50 miles a week in 2015, so a bit of a drop, then. Surely this would help my legs to recover? Hmmmm.

 I’ve also been upping my cross-training activities, including:

  • Interval sessions on the static bike in the gym (a necessary evil)
  • Riding my bike (badly)
  • Attending yoga class 2-3 times per week (lengthening, stretching, and strengthening whilst assisting with my traces of neurosis)
  • Aqua jogging (well, it lasted a few weeks)
  • Walking (Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? We’ll come back to this…)

So, this should surely be the recipe for a miraculous recovery, resulting in legs so fresh I could skip over stiles in buttercup-spattered fields with the (minimal) effort of the nimblest spring lamb, or Ben Mounsey.

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That’s me in the middle.

Has that happened? No. It hasn’t.

WHY?

This, dear readers, is what my experiment has been designed to try and find out. Why are my legs simply not responding, given all the above straight-from-the-Captain-Sensible-book-of-recovery advisable steps?

THE ANSWER?

BECAUSE I CAN’T SIT DOWN.

I bought a Fitbit Alta HR and I wore it for one week. In that week – from Monday 15th May to Sunday 21st May – I walked a total of 75,668 steps (that’s 38.08 miles) without taking into account ANY of the other ‘cross training’ activities OR the fact that we’d done a 16-mile off road hilly walk with over 3,000 feet of climbing the day before this weekly experiment began.

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So, no shit, Sherlock. My legs are not akin to those of the sprightly spring lamb, or to the human/mountain goat cross species that is Mr Mounsey.

Here is what a NON-Rest diary looks like:

Monday 15th May

Speed walk up to the supermarket from work in my lunch hour to pick up 2 x variety packs of Magnums for my boss. I also buy a large bag of ice, so said Magnums don’t melt on the 3-mile round trip back to the office. My rucksack weighs a tonne, and I’m already on tired legs from hiking 16 hard miles the day before. But how could I resist? It’s nice out, and only up the road, and it’s a breath of fresh air, and a break from my desk, and…

Total: 9,095 steps

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I daren’t even imagine how many ‘steps’ this required. Enough to melt a Fitbit Alta HR, I would imagine.

Tuesday 16th May

Walk/jog back home from school drop off… But why go the most direct route home? It’s lovely out, beautiful on the moors, and only adds a couple of extra miles onto the journey. I’ll still be back in time for yoga. What’s the harm in that?

Total: 11,791 steps

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But honestly, how could I resist?

Wednesday 17th May

God knows how I managed it, but I somehow clock up 12,309 steps for the day traipsing up and down the stairs at work from my desk to the kettle and back… 50 times (*oh, on closer analysis of the data, it appears that the 5-mile balls-out run after work was logged here, so this is running and not walking, it would appear. Slight cheat, but you get the point.)

Total: 12,309 steps

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Before, during, and after.

Thursday 18th May

I must have ants in my pants. Or ADHD. Or Neurosis (most likely.)

Walk (the long way) back home from school drop off, and then – after actually sitting down and doing some work – a walk down into town. I could drive there in half the time, or possibly a quarter, but why would I? I get wolf-whistled on the way in, which temporarily makes me feel like I’m clinging onto my youth, and we see an old gentleman in town from years gone by, who asks my Mum, ‘Is your girl [pointing to me] at school, now?’ I am thrilled and immediately dismiss any possibility of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or a sight-degenerative condition that may have caused him to be SO far off the mark. He was undoubtedly fully compos mentis, with perfect vision. I had a brightly coloured baseball cap on: maybe that was it?

Total: 16,972 steps

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Well, would you have missed being out in this?

 

Friday 19th May

Ahh, at last. I have a rest day. Phew! But it’s not absolute rest. There’s yoga. Only I don’t walk / run / cycle / hop or pogo-stick there. I drive there, like any other sane, normal person would do. And I feel lazy. Why? I have no idea.

Total: 4,790 steps (and I feel like a sloth because my Fitbit tells me that I haven’t reached my aspirational ‘daily target’.

Oh, fuck off, Fitbit.

So, you get the gist. Since my experimental week, I’ve realised that I honestly, literally, can’t sit down. I need to move; I am compelled to feel my heart beating in my chest and my muscle fibres twitching, because the alternative frightens me. It’s sedentary and silent; it’s a feeling of non-aliveness that I can remember so vividly from all those years ago when I didn’t know how it felt to move; when my daily step count was a return trip to the fridge for yet another oversize portion of Viennetta, and then back to slump in front of my telly to try and guess the price of a 1994 top-of-the-range caravette and a fully refurbed kitchen (inc. white goods) in The Price is Right.

I never knew how it felt, back then, to feel truly alive. But I do now, and I can’t let that go. Not ever – even if my legs are screaming at me for a rest.

It’s hard to have lived at both ends of the scale, but I have to believe that I can make my way tentatively back along to the middle, where I can still feel the joy of movement and of being alive, and also revel in the beauty of rest and recovery. It feels like I’m being asked to walk along a very high tightrope – it’s easy standing at either end, but wobbly and vulnerable in the middle.

Just don’t look down.

*At this point I’ve been sitting down for far too long. I’m off for a walk…

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Laters…

 

 

 

 

BEWARE: THE DREADED TREADMILL OVERKILL

Last month I was busy crowing about ‘the realities of marathon training’ and my virtuous early morning speed session. YAY ME! (I would have used ‘sessions’ in the plural, but it only happened the once.)

January was a bastard of a month. We all had flu, passing it around various family members like a gravy boat at Sunday lunch.

“Here you go, Mum”

 “Thanks, Till. Gav, it’s all yours…”

 “Cheers, Rach. You want a bit more? There’s plenty left.”

 “Yeah, why not. Pour it over the Yorkshires.”

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This was the best gravy boat I could find.

Once the gravy boat flu was well and truly exhausted, we tried to return to some kind of normality… and then mild panic set in.

 ALERT. BEGIN MARATHON TRAINING. ALERT. BEGIN MARATHON TRAINING.

After all, that’s what we DO in the New Year isn’t it? A spring marathon means only one thing – get all the bullshit of Christmas out of the way and it’s Game On… Or it should be, if you’re not treading water in some virus-infested quagmire, watching the rest of the Running World upping their mileage on Strava, that is.

A N Other Runner: “We’re upping our long run to 16 miles today”

 ME: “But it’s still twelve weeks to go to the marathon!”

 A N Other Runner: “Yeah, but we’re already ahead of the plan.”

 ME: “Oh. Right.” (I reply, thinking I’ll be lucky to get 16 fucking miles in THIS WEEK!)

 Once just about back in the land of the living, it’s return to normality. Work; kids; there’s even some evidence of a world outside the front door again, and it’s CATCH UP TIME.

MONDAY: school run / work / school run. I’m already behind schedule.

I KNOW! We’ve got a gym at work. I’ll jump onto the treadmill at lunch time, and I’ll do my speed sets then. Yep. I’ll get STRAIGHT back into it. Snooze, you lose, and all that!

 Job done; box ticked. Nice one, squirrel.

TUESDAY: Speed session done, and I’m virtuous again, but I feel like I’m still playing catch up. I’m down on my mileage and I’ve missed a week’s decent training whilst drowning in Bisto.

I KNOW! We’ve STILL got a gym at work. I’ll jump onto the treadmill at lunch time again and do a steady 10k. I was on it yesterday, but if I take it STEADY today, it’ll be fine.

WEDNESDAY: I fucking hate the treadmill. I’m going to take my OUTDOOR running kit to work today, and I plan to run OUTSIDE in my lunch break. [At 12 noon, reality hits and it’s not pretty: not only is it pissing down but there’s a pea-souper out of my office window. With little/no visibility and nothing to be gained by running outdoors and falling down potholes and/or getting mugged by opportunistic weather-enthused petty criminals of North Halifax, I think again.]

…I KNOW! There’s a gym at work and I can do a few miles on the Dreadmill. What harm can it do?

 [Later]

 Work Mate Dave: ‘Rach, are you limping?’

 ME: ‘Yep. Yes I friggin am limping, Dave. It’s that bastard treadmill. I knew I’d done something to my leg earlier. It hurts to walk.’

 Work Mate Dave: ‘Bloody hell, it looks like you’ve crapped your pants.’

 ME: ‘Thanks, Dave.’

This is precisely what the first three days of my week have looked like. Other options for training quickly evaporated around school runs, pick-ups/drop offs, after school clubs and other activities, including an evening spent traipsing around Lidl’s whilst my child was busy having a life.

THURSDAY: I’M WORKING FROM HOME. YAYYYY! I WANTED to do a nine-miler from dropping Tills at school, but there’s fat chance of that. Shit. My leg still hurts when I walk. I’ll set off early doors and see how I go. I can ring Gav if I need to bail out.

 ME: ‘Gav. Please can you pick me up? I’ve done 3 miles and my leg’s killing me.’

 Gav: ‘We need to get you in with Dave (the Physio, not Work Mate Dave.)’

 And so, that very afternoon I am in with Dave (the Physio, not Work Mate Dave.)

In summary:

  • I have pushed myself to come back from the Sunday lunch family-bucket Flu too soon, being entirely panicked at ‘falling behind’ my purported marathon training schedule, and obsessing over how many miles Billy Bobbins has run in his Marathon Training Plan on Strava (I don’t even LIKE Billy Bobbins, so why am I even following him on Strava?)
  • I have – like some naïve fourteen-year-old cramming for pointless Economics mocks – tried to shoehorn miles in wherever the hell I could. The madness and logistics of the rest of my day/week thrown out the water, I’ve steam-rollered another layer of whoop-ass onto ALREADY dangerously high levels of cortisol. Any why? To keep up with Billy Bobbins on Strava?
  • Treadmill Dreadmill Overkill (which it will.) Once a week it’s a necessary evil. The greatly revered speed session is firmly on my ‘Must Do’ weekly task list. BUT some limp, half-arsed, dribbly-cocked, and ENTIRELY pointless 10k pounding on a revolving belt? Why? For what? Just to wreck my legs a bit more? Or to put something next to Billy Bobbins who’s been out for a sub-7 min/mile twenty-miler on Strava (the Wanker.)

And so it’s this. I am (only slightly) injured as a result of my own impatience / stupidity / inability to consider the full consequence and purpose of ALL my training, and select carefully. I have rehab exercises, I can do yoga (which I love, so this is one very positive thing) and I MIGHT miss out on a race this Sunday (which will upset me greatly because that is a part of my Marathon Training Plan and I want to be on the start line.)

I am avoiding treadmills like the plague, and if anyone locally spots me on one in the near future (unless I am quite clearly killing myself with speed sets which will be cruelly obvious) then please ask the nearest Gym Attendant to remove me immediately from the machine. Either that, or just go and pull the plug.

I’ll thank you for it, later.

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2016 REVIEW PART DEUX: JUNE – SEPTEMBER 2016… AND A NEW YEAR’S DAY (AHEM) ‘FUN RUN’

I’m sitting here on New Year’s Day morning, 2017. I can’t stop eating Quality Street, and I’m already having nervous palpitations about a local NYD ‘Fun Run’ we’re taking part in later today. It’s the worst possible combination for me:

  • It’s local. Cue unsuccessfully trying to dodge the Playground Mum who makes a bee-line for me and commences at full throttle with pre-run chatter around ‘Did you have a good one, then?’ and ‘When are you back to work?’. Hmmmff.
  • It’s supposed to be ‘Fun’. This concerns me greatly, as most things in life that are promoted as being fun, in fact aren’t. Not at all. And vice-versa. Why can’t they call it a ‘turn up if you can be arsed, and you never know, you might even enjoy it’ run? Far more accurate.
  • On both previous occasions when I’ve done said (ahem) ‘Fun Run’, I’ve loathed it. In 2015, for example, it was blowing a gale so hard in weather so utterly vicious, that I couldn’t distinguish between my own (genuine) tears and those streaming from my eyes by the cutting, spiteful wind. That year, both children and adults wept in unison – I’m guessing for the same wind/self-induced misery combo.

But I’ll be back again this year, and will no doubt hob-nob with the fully made-up School Mum, and joke with Competitive Dad about how it’s ‘only a bit of fun’ … but he’ll be secretly hoping his Little Johnny kicks my ass up windy hill.

Anyway, back to my round-up of LAST year. Bloody hell, what a year it was. We’re up to early summer, so here goes.

JUNE – THE GOOLE RIVERBANK CHALLENGE & HELLO CROSS TRAINING

It’s the strangest race, over the oddest distance, in the most bizarre location: Goole. Hmmm… Yes, I know. It’s not quite 9 miles, so neither a 10k nor a 10 miler; and it’s along a riverbank. There’s a small section of road, but otherwise it’s grassy banking and (usually) at least half the course is against a headwind. You can rock up and pretty much guarantee yourself a PB. There are NO OTHER COMPARABLE RACES. ANYWHERE. It’s strange, and odd and a good hour’s drive away from home. But it’s also unique, intriguing, and under the radar. So, just my bag.

I found myself running neck & neck with a delightful, friendly lady who MADE me work for my 2nd place position right up to the finish line. I made a nemesis friend! Both of us would have been entirely happy with 2nd or 3rd place (1st was out of reach right from the off) but we pushed each other hard right to the finish. Lovely lady.

I escaped looking a twat in a Viking helmet – a fate suffered by both the male and female winners, and subsequently posted in the Goole Times (or its equivalent.) For that, I am eternally grateful.  Second place was still a lovely thing, and I beat my time from the previous year… without having to wear a nobber of a helmet. Result!

This was also the month I discovered cross-training. Static bike at the gym? What? Yes. I sat on it, and I peddled. Resigned to the notions of ‘running: perhaps less is more?’ and having danced with the devil of overtraining for too long, I decided that a change in tack were needed. And I’ve never sweated as much in my life, whilst realising that there may be something to be gained by partaking in training OTHER THAN running. YES! REALLY! (Do you hear the sound of the penny dropping?)

JULY – HILLS & WIND: THE HALIFAX HALF MARATHON & THE WINDMILL HALF.

The Halifax Half Marathon: I was shitting myself about this one. It’s a nightmare. A half marathon on my doorstep that is 80% up hill, with the last downhill 20% being run on legs so tired you can barely stand up. It is a BASTARD of a half marathon course (and this comes from someone who, over the years, has probably completed close to 80 half marathons in all possible locations and guises.) When I say it’s a bastard, I mean it’s a motherfucker of a route which only gets worse, and never quite manages to get any better. A hard, endless climb followed by… precious little downhill. It’s an uphill, gasping trek to the pub mid-summer, to find the pub closed.

But maybe that brings out the fight in me. I battled with the early, piss-taking hills and they annoyed me to such an extent that I was fired up for the remaining unappetising lumpy miles. I battled and fought with myself and every ounce of my being, and I came in 2nd place. WOO fucking HOO! I was elated. By virtue of the fact that I’d pulled something out of a course that was as likely to break me as any conceivably could.

We stood on a little crappy wooden podium, and – despite the shite medals and absolute lack of fanfare – it felt like a real, personal mini-victory.

The Windmill Half was a funny one. Only a fortnight after the beasting of the Halifax Half, and made infinitely worse by a training run only two days before leading to insanely tired legs. On the Thursday night before Sunday’s Half marathon we joined a Halifax Harriers group to see how we liked it. They shot off like bats out of merry hell, and myself & Gav hung on like limpets to a rock face in absolute shock at the pace and route of said ‘training run’. Whether this was entirely for our benefit, I’ve no idea. But either way, it completely fucked my legs two days before a half marathon. Not clever.

The price I paid? A not entirely disgraceful 1:35, but on fresher legs of course I could have done better. A great day out none-the-less, and I took home a prize in my age category. The prize? An XXXL (male) Slazenger white T-shirt. Possibly the worst prize in the entire world… for a small-framed female runner. Or just anyone, actually.

 

AUGUST – Askern 10 mile and Arthur’s Seat

I was thick into marathon training now, and sandwiching races in between long weekend training runs. 16 miles; Race; 18 miles; Race. It was a pretty tough schedule starting in early August and it would remain tough until the Yorkshire Marathon in mid-October.

So, Askern 10. I ran hard, and I ran well. I’ve blogged about most of these races already so I won’t go into the weather conditions and other pedantics. I (just) managed to bag myself a 10 mile PB (71:12) and came away a happy girl.

Arthur’s Seat was a real treat (no rhyming intended). Piggy-backing Gav’s business trip to Edinburgh, I greedily helped myself to a double-lap of the famous landmark whilst he was busy being paid to impress some folk, somewhere. What a place; what a run! Thanks, Gav (and Lloyd’s bank) for the opportunity J

SEPTEMBER – GOLDEN BALLS AND GREAT NORTH RUN… AND BURNED OUT GREAT BALLS OF FIRE

Golden Balls 20 miler. This was a classic. It was legendary in the Cullo/Dodd book of racing adventures. It had everything: I could write a BOOK about this race, but a mere blog post had to do. I struggled, yet won; Gav struggled, and had to stop & walk. I cried waiting for him at the end, thinking Is it Dubai all over again? as I wept into my newly acquired smoothie maker and cheap bottle of Blossom Hill. But, I WON THE RACE! So what – there wasn’t a massive field, and so what – I didn’t get a 20 mile PB, and I was actually a couple of minutes outside of where I should have been. And yes – I’d struggled. I stopped at one point, thinking, ‘oh, fuck this’ but then somehow dug deep enough to get me through the final 6 miles. AND I BLOODY WON IT! This was a soap opera of a race for all of the above reasons, but (thankfully) had a happy ending.

It was always a big ask to run the Great North the following weekend. My legs were shot from the Golden Balls 20 miler, and I ran the risk of blowing up or pulling out. But, I desperately wanted to do this one. It was ten years since I’d taken part in the GNR, and I wanted to feel the magic of the race a decade on. I was a different runner; a different person.

I’ve already written blog posts about pretty much all of these races, so will spare those with more pressing things to do (like pretty much anything) the minutiae of my mile-by-mile recollections.

It is also with you – the lovely reader – in mind that I have pressed ‘pause’ on this 2016 recap, here. I could bleat on right through until the end of December, but why rush the job? If Back to The Future could stretch its plot so thinly, then I can surely spin out a Part Three to my yearly review.

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Besides, I wanted to update you on today’s ironically titled ‘Fun Run’ as I am now at the other side of said adventure. I know you’re willing for me to tell you of being cornered by the entirely unavoidable School Mum, and the tiresome Competitive Dad with Little Johnny; and the Kansas winds that blew not only my cobwebs away, but also my will to live in one endless onslaught. I know it would be FAR more joyous reading about the calamities of this local non-fun racing spectacular than the honest truth which is that… I LOVED IT.

OH BORE OFF!  – I’m sorry – I hear you. I feel in some small way disappointed that I can’t recount a horrific, saccharine fake-fun ‘family’ event with all the unfortunate trappings, as I, myself had predicted. It didn’t happen that way. Not today. My fear had taken a hold and tried to tell me it would be this horrible, painful, socially awkward experience to endure. But that’s what fear does. Even silly, daft irrational fears like those about A BLOODY 5K FUN RUN (FFS!)

We saw people up there who we really like (I know! Can you imagine?); Family came up to watch and cheer us on; Close friends (and heroes) turned up to both run and support; we chatted to new friends, and caught up with those whose paths we routinely cross on the running circuit, including those whose arses we dream of kicking on any given race day.

I ran hard, and I ran strong. Gav did the same. The Kansas winds stayed away, and we both raced our 5k Fun Run as if it were just that.

I’m so relieved I didn’t let my little Bastard Chimp convince me not to turn up today. But I still have an uncomfortable relationship with the notion of a ‘fun run’. Ask me after any race, and pretty much ten times out of ten I’m in an endorphin-fuelled happy place and would agree whole heartedly with this descriptive precursor.

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POST-RACE HAPPY FACE

Ask me beforehand, and it’s likely you’d be met with a couple of words. One of which rhymes with duck; the other one is ‘off’.