May you live in interesting times (or not)

So that was an “interesting” Summer.

We survived moving my daughter out of her student house and back home for a month, and then re-moving her and all of her stuff back into her next house. We managed to rearrange furniture so that her room could be described as “cosy” rather than tiny (it is very small).

We survived my son receiving his excellent A level grades, confirming his place at Exeter and then panicking to get ready to move out. We’ve seen a LOT of Ikea this summer -2 different Ikeas in 2 days was a new high. I feel partly Swedish.

We survived moving my son and his mountains of stuff down to Exeter. Helpfully, his room is huge, with plenty of space for everything. That’s the difference between what the same amount of money buys you in Oxford and in Exeter!

I then survived a week of coming home to an empty house (well, the cats were there and hungry so they were pleased to see me) and life was settling down as myself and Mr B&T embraced our newfound empty-nest freedom. All was going well. Right up until the moment on Tuesday afternoon when I was called down to the Finance Director’s office and abruptly told that due to cost savings my job was now redundant, and I would have a meeting with my manager in the morning to discuss the situation.

Oh – and I could go home for the rest of the afternoon if I wanted.

Redundant?

Now?

ME?

Shocked doesn’t cover how I felt. Shocked, shaking, unable to speak, slightly teary is probably closer, but still doesn’t cover quite how stunned I was. Imagine being unexpectedly slapped hard in the face – that was basically how it felt.

When I stopped shaking long enough to drive safely I collected my belongings and drove home. Walking into the house mid-afternoon didn’t stop the ever-hungry cats from greeting me expectantly, but I just felt empty and unable to breathe. Instinctively I changed into running gear, found running shoes in the garage and left the house. Because I hadn’t run for nearly 3 months my Garmin took ages to find any satellites. I wore my oldest, saggiest leggings so I didn’t look too keen, and I set off walking. I chose my most runned-route because it heads out towards the woods on lanes, byways and footpaths but is still fairly even, hard packed trail. I might need a run, but I didn’t need to twist my foot again. I walked for 5 minutes or so as a warmup and then tentatively started running. I continued tentatively running for 10 minutes, then walked again. Each step was a mindful monologue of “is my ankle okay? Yes, it’s okay. Is it okay now? Yes – still okay”. At the furthest point from the village I did indulge myself with a short but heartfelt face-screwed-up-proper-ugly-crying-wail. Thank God I didn’t meet any dog walkers at this point. My husband called at the precise moment I hit the hill so chatting to him gave me the perfect excuse to walk back up the hill.

I did manage another 10 minutes of running and then another 5 of walking, and I had just enough road left for a short trot to finish. I was actually pretty pleased with 40 minutes for 3 miles – and my head felt so much clearer (although my face and eyes were much puffier). My foot felt fine afterwards but a little tender the next day, but to be honest the entirety of both my legs felt pretty stiff by then. I felt a little guilty for running, and did call my run on Strava “Don’t tell the physio!” Hopefully no long term damage done, but immense short term therapy achieved.

I had another meeting on Friday, another trot out, and then a day of tentatively poking my foot and ankle. I’ve just had my final ‘consultation’ meeting and am officially redundant with 4 weeks notice which thankfully I don’t have to work. Just a short handover meeting on Monday to come and I’m done.

What a strange feeling. Might go for a run this afternoon…

Two pictures worth a thousand words

I was going to write a post about how pleased I was that I got out for a run. I was mentally drafting a paragraph where I described how chuffed I was that after 5 miles I chose an extra 3 miles rather than a 2 minute trot home. I was even thinking how best to describe the weather (four seasons in a day, sunshine, all accompanied by incredibly gusty wind).

However, I think two pictures I took sum this run up better than any words.

Photo of dark sky over lane
Dark clouds over a deserted lane

And as I squinted through the wind and hail, this was the amazing sight that greeted me:-

Complete Rainbow
Beautiful

It’s a “No” to Janathon, but “Yay!” to Veganuary

So after posting a very short activity for New Year’s Day, I also managed a swim on the 2nd (to test out one of my Christmas presents – more on this another time!). After a strong(?) start, I then returned to work on the 3rd and Janathon went awol. PAH.

On a more positive note, I volunteered to run as a 33 minute pacer at parkrun on Saturday 5th, and I am pretty pleased to say I managed to achieve a run time of … 33:00 minutes. I may have peaked at pacing just 5 days into the year.

Proof!

Another success so far this year has been my participation in Veganuary. My attempts at being vegan again, after a break of about 23 years, came a cropper in December when a work colleague gave me a milk chocolate advent calendar and I couldn’t hurt his feelings by not eating it. (I was also delighted to finally feel like part of the team. I’m so needy!) Veganuary was just the push I needed to start again, and with my daughter accompanying me, I think I’m doing pretty well this time. Well – apart from *those* crisps – who in hell puts milk in Thai Sweet Chilli Crisps? Walkers Sensations- that’s who. Double PAH!!

I’ve also decided that as well as trying to get more sleep, I need to start feeling generally “well” again. So many odd symptoms, including bad sleep, are really starting to get me down. I’m certain they’re all just menopausal “it’s my age” stuff, but I’ll likely punch anyone who says that to my face. (PMT-type rage is just another symptom). So – I’ve purchased a box of horse tablets for “women of a certain age” and I’ll try and remember to force one down every night. Worth a try I reckon.

I’ve found that when I’ve dragged myself out for a cold, dark run after work then I sleep much, much better that night. I’m using this as a successful prod to get myself out there after work. (I can do it as long as I don’t sit down when I get in. If I sit down, I’m done for). As an added bonus, I feel like superhero running in the dark on my own, wearing my extremely bright chest torch. Who doesn’t want that!

Does anyone have any top tips that might help with sleeping, or with coping increasing age? Please share if you do!

I wasn’t lost …

… I just didn’t know where I was. Well, I knew roughly where I was but I couldn’t see how to get back home. Right – excuses out of the way, I’d like to describe my run this week (yes there’s only been one. So far).

I grumbled home from work, in a foul mood and telling myself I’d feel better after a run. In my running gear I decided I’d go out of the front door, turn left at the end and do my usual loop. I ran down the drive, turned right, and realised I was already going the wrong way. Ah well, never mind, I’ll run down to the green, then up between the houses to the village hall, turn left and go round that way, I thought. Brilliant. I made it to the footpath by the village hall, and was struck an inexplicable desire to see where the footpath that went straight over went to.

It went across many fields and through gateways (with me peering through each one to see if I could spot the local cows before I ran into it). It ended up near the local long barrow which was approached through armpit high grass.

Ah – there’s the stile

What an adventure! Now I just had to turn around and heard back the way I came. Um- just needed to find the path. Then I just needed to remember how I got into that field. Then I realised that where I thought I could squeeze through onto a footpath I actually couldn’t, and ended up squeezing over and through a very rickety gate.

Ah – there’s the path!

Safely back to the village hall and I simply had to get out of one field, across the cricket pitch and home. Easy peasy, except I couldn’t get out of the field. Up and down along the electric fence I finally gave in and clambered over. I managed not to snag my Lycra, but just at the point of no return I realised the barbed wire had caught my trainer lace. I managed to wrestle it free just as I crashed over the top, then had to slink past the village kids at cricket practice.

Still, I’d made it back home safely. I wasn’t too badly nettle-stung (only both legs from ankle to knee), and I felt like I’d had a real adventure.

Roll on the next run!

Celebrating 10 years of running – by starting again

I suddenly realised today that it s round about  10 years since I started running. Not continuously, obviously, have you read my last post?!)

Back in 2008 myself and my family travelled to Alberta, in Canada. We were visiting our very good friends who had emigrated there the year before. We also managed to fit in some skiing (we were in driving dstance of the Rocky mountains – we couldn’t not!)

As with every other time I’ve been skiing, for a few weeks beforehand I made a desperate attempt to gain even a little fitness before I had to encase my feet in the plastic prison of ski boots again. This usually involved very short runs which were swiftly abandoned when my face turned puce and I could no longer breathe.

Our holiday was amazing  It was so good to catch up with our friends again, and the wide, open beautifully groomed pistes were a joy to ski on.

When we returned home and recovered from our jetlag, my husband and myself bth comented on how fit we felt. It was obviously all of the high altitude training we’d been doing. Buoyed up by the rush of oxygen to the head, I decided to pop out for a little trot around the block.

I was amazed. It didn’t feel quite as had as I remembered, I didn’t feel like I was dying, and I actually quite enjoyed it. I started popping out several times a week, making sure I was avoiding neighbours and the bin men as much as possible. I should point out that at this point I was running in a T-shirt and jeans, so as not to look like I was actually running. I had a cheap pair of trainers bought from a high street sports shop, and a pedometer. All the gear!

It was only when a neighbour commented that she’d seen me “dressed so I didn’t look like I was going running” that I realised my cover was blown, comfort would win out over shame, and I bought my first lycra.

Sore knees nearly brought me to a halt, but online advice took me to my local running shop to get some “proper” trainers. I felt like a total fraud, compounded by the fact that I nearly fell off the treadmill (I’d never been on one before) and the assistant had to stand with her arm behind my back to stop me doing it again. Red faced, I left the shop with a large bag of the most expensive shoes I’d ever bought, and life was never the same again.

10 years on, I have lost count of the number of races I’ve run , except for the marathons – there was definitely 3 of those. I’ve been awarded a County award (I might have mentioned that once or twice), and I’ve had weeks when I simply haven’t made it out of the door with running shoes on. I’ve been bought a road bike, and learnt to swim proper front crawl (face in the water and everything!).

I am a runner!

Starting Over

A few months ago I realised that I simply wasn’t getting out running (or cycling, or swimming  for that matter). A combination of bad weather, dark evenings, and simply feeling like I’d had enough by the time I arrived home after a day at work meant that it just wasn’t happening.

I consulted the oracle (A.K.A. my running friends on Facebook) who gave me various ideas of how to fit exercise into my day. They also wisely told me not to beat myself up if I didn’t manage it – life is too short for any extra stress.

Now I may have taken this advice a little too much to heart, to the extent that I rarely seemed to make it out.  The weather warmed up, the days lengthened, but still I found excuses not to run (usually that hungry teenage boy who greeted me as I arrive home with a look that said “Hi Mum, how was your day, what’s for tea and how long will it be?”)

Last weekend I decided that enough was enough. Work is menial but stressful, and I need my exercise as something positive to help my mental health and to feel good about myself. I needed to pull my finger out, give myself a good talking to, and not take any nonsense. Tough self-love!

Duly admonished, over the next week I managed to fit in a swim (600m of gasping and flailing), a cycle (20 miles of whinging and moaning) and a run (4 1/2 miles of gasping, flailing, whinging and moaning.  I’m nothing if not a multi-tasker).

I felt ridiculously stiff after each of these, it was really quite depressing. I suddenly realised it felt like being a beginner again, and there’s no shame in that. I just need to remember to take it slowly, and Keep Going!

Janathon Day 17. The one with the chest torch

A run. After work. In the dark. On my own. Mmmm, not so inviting.

A chance to finally try out the chest torch I bought myself? Oh well, s new gadget – now you’re talking!

5K later, after running in our dark little lanes I can say the chest torch is a huge hit. I could see at least 50m ahead of me, I could see my Garmin, and traffic definitely slowed down (and one car even stopped) because they could see me coming so clearly. I felt brace and safe. Also, I felt extra hardcore when it started sleeting on me. Running with chest torch

Janathon Day 14. Ruuuuuuun!

(That’s a long run by the way).

Finally up and out today, for a 7 mile up and down run, through woods, along paths and down fields. Whilst it’s true my nose ran more than I did (i.e. constantly), I did find a new footpath to try. It turned out to be less interesting than I’d hoped.  I also demonstrated amazing willpower in running past my own house with my Garmin showing 6.5 miles in order to round it up to a respectable 7 miles. Impressive!

Photo of New footpath
New footpath

Happy New Year 2018!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to do a huge “My 2017 – a review” post, complete with Powerpoint presentation and Strava stats (my stats are rather half-hearted for 2017, but that’s not why I’m not doing it. Honest.)

I think there’s just time for a squinty-eyed short-sighted peer at the year ahead. I really need to be more organised in order to find time for running, swimming, cycling, my allotment, the house, my family (apologies to my family for putting them last in that list!) Having decided to stay on in my what-was-meant-to-be-temporary job, my life needs to become more regulated (boo!) in order to find time for the stuff I want to do (hooray!). As this job is quite stressful and unrewarding, it’s actually essential that I manage to find time for any stress-relieving activities that I can.

This might mean forcing myself out for a run after work, even if I don’t feel like it. I’ve hit the “it’s too dark to run” nail squarely on the head by buying an “Ironman” style chest torch which should illuminate most of the village as I run by. I have entered the tough “Slaughterford 9” race at the end of the month which will act as quite an incentive to get out and train! My son bought me a lovely insulated cup that is meant to fit into the bottle holder of my bike, which hopefully will persuade me to get out for even short rides (in a “Coffeeneuring stylee) . I haven’t been swimming for weeks and weeks, and the worry that I might have forgotten how is enough to have me checking the timetables for a suitable session (just as soon as my “sniffing my way into 2018” cold clears up).

A few weeks ago I asked my Facebook friends how on earth they fitted everything in. I was especially asking a lovely lady, who is a mum of 3, a full time dentist and runs Ultras (not simultaneously). Responses from everyone were basically along the lines of “just get out and do it!”, but also, and perhaps more surprisingly, “don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage it”. This made me feel much better for the last few weeks of the year, and means that the thought I’m taking into 2018 is “Be kind”. I always try to be kind to the people around me, but maybe I need to focus a little more on being kind to myself. Let’s see how it goes!

I wonder what thought other people are taking forward into 2018?