PROGRESS!!

I am pretty proud of myself. Today I ran uphill, downhill, wiggly hills, flat bits, and even stopped at Pokestops. I beat my time and gave myself a stitch but I dont care. It might not be the worlds fastest time but right now I feel like a champion. 

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Sooner than you think…

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It’s been a day since I wrote this, so its technically 8 and 64…

My races are sooner than I think. My first 5k is in less than 10 days and the Great Scottish Run 10k is… Well, not over 100 days anymore.

This is a mental game. All the doubts come out.
‘Can I do it?’
‘Will I walk?’
‘Will I be too slow?’
‘Should I go at all?’

The answers are ultimately unimportant. These haven’t been fleeting fancies. These are things I have been practicing for near daily since April. I go out and every time I tell myself you can physically do this, people do this all the time and you have no excuses.

I guess seeing it in numbers is scary.

Fear is good. Fear makes me run harder.

Too blind to see success.

Its been a while since I blogged. I felt the same way about blogging as I felt about being back from China; the adventure was over.

This wasn’t true of course, this was just cabin fever setting in. I spent a week at home not doing much but watch TV and going my daily run, not a bad life but I felt bad. I imagined I should be doing something else, something drastic but this was all wistful, I was fine and in a nice place with people who loved me. It was the lack of routine before university that was making hours drag.

This all sounds very waffley and sad. It was easy to focus on this. But after today’s run I can see that my daily run had worked wonders.

I had been using my watch to track my 5k runs, running the distance with fewer stops and walks. I am still slow but there is improvement.

46 mins.
44 mins.
42 mins.
And today? 40 mins!

Woah hold on. That’s been less than 2 weeks and there’s 6mins difference? That’s like having a cup of tea! More than an ad break! I can shower in less time!

6 mins is substantial. I can consider that success.

Now let’s not rest on laurels, I’d like to get sub-30 mins pretty soon then move onto 10ks, but at least its progress.

Reflecting on this has allowed me to see my ‘wasted days’ were not in fact wasted and being a negative Nancy gets you nowhere.

Now running? That gets you places.

I get knocked down…

I fell.

Well, I didn’t fall flat but I stumbled enough to make my ankle twist and shake me up.

It was a cross country run; puddles, mud and potholes. I was going downhill. I was weaving, going a fair pace. It was a small puddle. Instead of weaving it I take a big step, a leap over. The mud gives way to my right foot which in that moment supported my body weight. The mud slid and I went with it. My ankle bends to stop me falling. I slide back and my hands go out to stop the fall happening. I end up in a starter position, looking like I’m waiting for the gun to go off. I’m relieved that aside from a pair of muddy palms and mud on the side of my shoe I am unscathed, spared the humiliation of a mud covered face through housing estates.

Then the pain hits.

My ankle interrupts my momentary relief to alert me to the odd position it is in. It starts as a murmur and quickly escalates to a scream of pain. I realise it twisted much more than was safe. I can feel the unnaturalness of what it has done and I am sorry.

Ultimately I am fine, there is not a breakage, nothing out of place and I will live to fight other puddle based battles, but my nerve has gone.

They say running is a mental test and I would agree. The mental will to keep going km by km, mile by mile is what separates you from success and failure. I feel I have conquered my will when it comes to going forward but I have a new beast in my way. Hills.

It’s not going up hills that bothers me, walking or running. Its going down. I am convinced I will fall, smash my head open and die… Quite melodramatic I know but it is a fear none the less.

It started in China. The private school I worked at had marble floors everywhere which is not very ‘health and safety’ when all the corridors were outside, summers have rain daily and the winters are foggy and damp. I worried when kids were slipping and sliding all over. I slipped myself a few times and each time I walked a little slower and held on a lot more. It developed into a fear of going downward generally, hills, stairs, small dips, the lot. Climbing the great wall was amazing… Up until I went up a staircase, looked down and the panicked about going downstairs.

Running roads in Scotland has seen a development of this fear, either avoiding down hill sections completely or walking down only. Mum pointed out ‘won’t your races have down hill bits?’. Damn. I couldn’t avoid it forever.

I have started slowly to incorporate these parts, watching my step and taking my time.

Today was a disaster. I slipped and hurt my ankle trying to overcome the thing I was scared of, reinforcing the fear. I limped home and put some ice on my ankle where a faint bruise looked like it was developing. I frantically Pinterest   searched for tips and set about various rubbing and stretching to make sure I wouldn’t be hurt long term. I limped around the living room. Damn damn damn! No no no!

That night I went out to run 5k again in sheer defiance. It was probably a terrible move medically and I would probably be doing more damage but my nerves couldn’t hack the failure.

I ran up. I ran. Screams from my ankle. I ran down. I ran. I didn’t think about the hills. I stumbled once on a pavement kerb but kept going. I was not going to let the fear of falling get me. No. Falling is temporary. Success is long lasting.

I did it. I got home and sat down, ignoring my screaming ankle. I write this now and am still ignoring its intermittent tantrums. I’ll be fine. No matter.

Stand up to your fear. It’s not fixing itself you know.

Testing New Running Gear; TomTom Runner 2

Disclaimer; This isn’t really a review. I’ve never owned a GPS watch before so this is my experience with one and it happens to be this watch. I’m no expert. Sorry.

Now I’m well set up back at home and trying to focus more on distance rather than time ran, I decided to invest in a GPS running watch. It was not a light decision, they are not exactly cheap, but considering my investment in running and races coming up a new motivating tool to help couldn’t go a miss.

I looked up Garmins, pricey. I looked up cheap ones, unreliable. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go. I got an email through from the Great Scottish Run store and thought that was as good a place as any to trust.

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I picked myself up one of these bad boys. A TomTom Runner 2 (not the music playing version. It was a good deal and all but after the panic about my left hand the idea of being totally free on my right hand was terrifying) built to track distance, speed, calories, gps, maps, and all that stuff while also something about my sleep and steps. Awesome!

Set up was super easy. Plug it into its wire, into the usb slot and that is pretty much it. TomTom asks you to register an ‘account’, which every time you plug the watch into your PC updates your data allowing you to see your past runs, GPS maps via googlemaps and general awesome stats. It’s well worth doing.

I wore it a few days to get used to it. There aren’t fiddly clasps or anything, just simple click in buttons into holes. I have the small because despite my round middle I do have oddly small wrists. It’s a good fit. The face of the watch sits nicely on top of my arm and the strap doesn’t feel too tight or loose.

I tested it out in Elie on the beach. Running along the shore line I put it on the % tracker screen, which is awesome for getting an idea of how much you have done without actually bogging down on distance, which for me was great. It was so odd actually running to distance instead of some clock. Things like speed started to matter, it was all too much.

My first clocked run was only about 2K. It was too much pressure too fast and I wasn’t quite comfortable with it yet. While on holiday I didn’t really push myself but upon coming home I really went at it.

The watch is simple to use when setting goals, either time, calories or distance. In this instance I’m practicing 5Ks which I know I can do but having it on my wrist gives you the immidate satisfaction of knowing you did it rather than the old method of looking at maps trying to map a route that equates to around the distance you need.

The gps tracker does all the work which gives running a sense of freedom, not being limited to a certain preplanned route (the idea of which had been demotivating me). This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be running with a free spirit anyway and be able to go where you want but personally I liked having a target, a goal and the freedom to pound random pavements to reach that in any order I liked.

I found myself looping round, taking a housing estate I knew popped out where I was going anyway just because it added another .4km. I looped one block 3 times to make up .6km near the end.

The most satisfying feature was the last 1km. You see it and after the boring 2/3 km middle section it gets interesting. I once again publically cheered myself on, gave a little fist pump and told myself ‘finial stretch! I can do it!’. 4.6… 4.7… 4.8… It was addictive. Seeing the numbers rise as I ran, seeing progress before me that it didn’t matter if it was raining (it was.) I had come this far damnit and I was going to finish!

5.1km in the end showed on my watch. I plugged it into my computer and saw the route I took, the splits I did it in (including the conceded walk downhill, but that’s a story for another time).

Overall I’m pretty addicted to my new companion. It’s proving useful and with less than a month before my first official 5k in about 6 years it’s great to be able to train my time over a set distance rather than just extending my time generally.

I almost can’t wait for tomorrow’s run! Almost…. it’s still freezin’

My most satisfying run to date (Elie #2)

Thursday was probably the best run I’ve ever had. It was fun, adventurous and although not my longest I got more out of those 30 minutes than I have in a while.

This is a town I’ve been holidaying at with Mum (excellent woman) for years. Days spent as kids on the beach digging holes, exploring rock pools and jumping in the sea before lunch at the deli. I know it’s streets, the beach, the loops and flats. I had a while mental map planned.

It had started with a walk along the seafront, into pavements and houses, I set my GPS watch up and GO!

I ran up a hill (you don’t get better at then by walking Pinterest  reminds me), onto the long flat main street where the sun was warm. A long stretch. 1.75km at least.

Onward past the bit I refer to as ‘that bit we park at’ and onto the one way road that loops past the golf course.

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The golf course is in itself a scenic spot, open to the wind and rain but also the views of the sea. I flew down it, stopping only to take a photo. This was fun. Fun!

Back round to the main road where I went down to the beach, looking to see if Mum was where I thought she might be. She was. I stopped to chat and she pointed to the cliff, some cove she said. OK.

And off! Along part of the road I had come and up a hill I have never been up in my times coming to Fife. 

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There was a ruined hut of sorts and a tucked away bench. The sun was warm. I sat down to soak it all in. The view was amazing. Looking across the bay to the harbour I had come from it felt both vast because of the water and small. The sea was fairly calm. I took out my headphones to enjoy the sloshing sound of the waves. A sea bird caught my eye. A large black bird, decent wingspan that it showed off as it spread out to dry in the sun.

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It was a fairly magical moment, the sort described in books or shown on TV. It could have appeared on ‘Coast’ and BBC viewers would have sat in their living rooms thinking ‘how nice’.

I continued, I wasn’t finished. Down the hill and cut down the nearest street headed for the dunes. Dunes. Sand. I came out beside the people, walking with purpose to the shore trying to show I had no interest in interrupting them. I opted to run to the far side of the wall I had come from in order to give myself a long stretch to finish on.

Once again my issues with sand running came into play but I continued, reaching the wall.

But I stopped again. Why was I running past this beautiful place?

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Off came the shoes and earphones. This wasn’t a day to be wasted.

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Into the sea, well aware I would probably not get my feet dry enough to get rid of the sand and thus unless I wanted to be running with veritable sandpaper toes I had accepted this was my finish line.

It was cold but pleasant. What a casual Thursday! Yes I wasn’t helping my training but I felt it was important to enjoy this moment in the sun.

And then it became obvious. The point of beach running wasn’t about just pounding sand underfoot or trying to enjoy a view bouncing past but to finish in a beautiful place and rest my feet in the fresh salty water. Why had I not seen it before?

I stood there in silence for several minutes, feeling more satisfied with every wash of water on the shore.

Thank you beach. I get it now.

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Running on the Sands of Elie #1

I’ll be blunt from the off. I’m not quite Baywatch. I’m not even Chariots of Fire. I plain didn’t enjoy sand running.

I was on a week long holiday in Fife with my mother and sister, a cosy and casual kind of break involving books, good food and various activities involved in the sea (looking at, being near, standing in, taking photos of…). We went to a beautiful place called Elie, a scenic spot epitomising ‘quaint seaside life’. The sands are long and clean, the water clear and the weather… well it was cold but when the sun came out it was idyllic.

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The very colours of the place were beautiful; blue, aqua, green, yellows, browns… it’s inspired many a painting and I couldn’t wait to run along it.

Hmmm… Here is my stages of running on sand.

Stage 1 of sand running:
Accept the invariable truth that regardless of the precautionary measures you take you will end up with shoes filled to the brim with sand, socks that should now be packaged 50% cotton, 50% sand and sandy toes.

Stage 2:
Pick your strip. That soft sand near the dunes is no good, you’ll end up falling all over the joint looking like some giggling, loved up couple and some rom-com involving a beach trip, except you’ll be alone and covered in sand. The best bit is that nice wet sand near the waters edge, wet enough to be hard but not so wet as to create sink holes under your feet. Tide just going out you say? Ideal.

Stage 3:
Run a bit.

Stage 4:
Panic about your ankles. As someone who is new to this whole ‘real places’ thing, the constant change in elevation, bumps, dips and general non flatness is a real worry for me. I have a fear of falling and breaking something, even on the sand. I couldn’t get a good beat, I had to keep watching steps, it was too odd. Nope.

Stage 5:
Hate it. I love the location, it’s beautiful and scenic and has more fresh air than I had in a year of Chinese factory district living but I couldn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t used to this and because I don’t normally live near a beach I decided that I didn’t have to get used to it. I was trying this for fun and I was not having a lot of fun. I was too worried about falling over and failing to get a proper run going to even enjoy the fact I’d bothered to put on a sport bra. This was awful!

Stage 6:
Sit down take your shoes off and decide to enjoy the beach for what it was, a beautiful landscape and not a gym.

So there is was, I had tried a miserable 2K and spent so much time panicked and in discomfort that I couldn’t get the Chariots of Fire moment I was seeking. I guess I’m just more of a concrete girl. Still, the view was intense.

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The best blog critique ever…

For as long as I can remember there has been a running family joke; Ee doesn’t use 1 word when she can use 1,000.

I am a notorious waffler, chatter, essay writer and general word user. I love talking, discussing, debating and using every word in the English language. Mum has suffered years of yes/no questions being answered with dissertations worth of answers.

My sister said, after she admitted to reading this blog, ‘only you could take a sport and make it intellectual’. I asked what she meant and she said ‘only you could take a sport and write essay after it’.

I could have pointed out the vast amount of running blogs I read but even then I was touched.

So thanks sis. That was the best blog critique I could ever ask for.

Spooked in China! (Why running late is a bad idea)

Since coming back to Scotland I have changed from a nighttime to a daytime runner. The weather isn’t an issue so there isn’t a need to run in the dark. In truth the dark had always scared me.

A memory from China…
The blazing sun has left the sky. The heat has dissipated and although the humidity is still unforgiving the prospect of running seems reasonable.

It is 9pm.

The track is dark. Some of the lights are dim, the floodlights doing most of the work from up high. A bat might fly past the floodlight creating a batman shadow on the ground while the occasional jumping creature scares me from below.

My headphones keep out most of the strange night noises; crickets, rattles, squawks and other oddities. I’m more afraid than I will admit.

The track is safe, I can see things moving on its flat surface… But the grass? The grass might ripple in the wind. The grass hides the bugs, frogs and, from what I’ve been told, snakes. The grass is a no go zone.

But these are all tangible fears. Its almost understandable that I’d be scared of these things. But then as I run, distracting myself from the laps but thinking, I end up in the strange dark recesses of my mind.

The trees on the other side of the fence seem unfriendly. I grow aware that the lack of light means anything could be watching me. Yeah, anything. Alive or dead, real or fake. Who knew?

Running westward I look into the trees, scanning for nothing in particular but feeling fear regardless. Even worse was running eastward, with my back to them.

Enough of the trees! There is nothing there!

But it is too late. My mind brings forth images of every internet baddie, every ghost and ghoul I knew of. Slender in the trees; the Rake who would follow you from the dark and sit watching you at the end of your bed;  Skin crawler who assumed the form of others in order to lure them to death. Creepy pasta indeed.

I turn the corner, keep going. The bench is there sitting under the floodlight, and it is here I become most unreasonable. Are the legs of the bench fixed? Are they moving? Could they run?

Without realising it I was running faster as if to get away from this unreasonable fear, only to face it again on the next lap. Was it in the same place? Had it moved? I couldn’t answer with certainty, such was my fear.

At the end of the run I wanted out. No hanging around watching stars. I put on my phone’s flashlight and walked quickly home. I did not sleep well.

Convinced still of something just outside my eyeline…