I Have a Cunning Plan

28 Feb 2017

Start of Week 8 running accountability post.

So in my last accountability post I was telling you about how Mrs P talked me into signing up for a 10k race with bells, whistles and jingles on: the Banchory Beast. Described as “a 10k obstacle race in Aberdeenshire over rough muddy terrain, dirt tracks and forest. It has over 20 mega obstacles on route”. It’s graded as ‘fairly tough’. We are beginner joggers. It’s in 6 months. How? Why?

Well, Mrs P does like a challenge, and I’ve got the breaking strain of a warmed-up Kitkat on a sunny day in the desert, so am easily persuaded. So we joined a team of much-fitter friends and paid up. Nothing like parting with hard cash to focus your mind on getting out the door for a run 3 times a week, eh?

And yes, we started from not being able to jog longer than between 2 lamp-posts, and in 6 months time we’re going to be running one hell of a long, tough obstacle race. What’s the plan, Stan? Well, we’re going to continue with the twice-weekly JogScotland runs for 3 more weeks until the 10 week course is up. Then we’ll swap one of those runs for a local parkrun course that we heard has a beast of a hill in it. And once a week run with the Intermediates in our JogScotland group. We’ll continue our once a week solo runs and work on things like distance and speed through interval training and other things that Professor Google and JogScotland recommend. Or we think up. And training for obstacles? Well, we’ll get the running sorted first, I think, but general MuTu for continuing to strengthening our core muscles in the meantime. More on that in the next accountability post. I shall come up with a cunning plan.

To keep us fully-focused on our 6 months of training, Mrs P found a shorter, entry-level mud fun run to do very soon: the Rebel Dubbit Dash It’s got mud, obstacles, tough terrain, and is only (‘only’!) 5km. However, as sharp-eyed Mrs P spotted, your entry-fee also gets you a bottle of free beer at the finish line. I tell you, you were shang-haiing people to form a team with us! So we’re going to be doing that in April.

At the moment, my goal is to become fit enough not to die on the Beast or Dash course.

Let’s check that objective: is it specific? Measurable? Achievable? Realistic and relevant? Timely? All ticks. Great! And the sub-goal is to get fit enough to actually enjoy them. What’s not to love about slithering around in mud with your pals?!

So: how is training getting on? How much progress have we made this fortnight towards our goals?

Well, I had a wee setback and had to miss a run (and cancel some teaching I was really looking forward to!) when I thought I was coming down with another cold. I normally get one cold a year, so to have 2 within the space of 3 weeks is just not on. When the cold kind of lingered, but didn’t become anything more than mild, I analysed a bit harder. It coincided with me choking on some cake (I know, I know, I’m sure you can’t believe that of me. Ahem). And actually, 3 weeks previously I’d choked on some of my dinner then had 5 or 6 days of sore chest, coughing, congestion, runny nose too. Oh… To cut a long story short, I’ve now added to my training plan: “Stop snorting your cake”. Winner.

And the times? Well, as of last night, I can now run for 6km – 50 mins – without stopping (and that included 6 sprint intervals). The best times are creeping away from total snail pace:

1km – 6 mins 56
1 mile – 11 mins 17
5km – 39 mins 46

Even better, I’m beginning to unlearn some of the unhelpful stuff I’ve believed up till now:

‘You’re a quitter’ – 7 unbroken weeks and 50 mins solid running say that’s not true.
‘You can’t run’ – see the above.
‘You’re so slow’ – partially true for a short while longer. But I can sprint at 16kph and my average pace is increasing every single week.
‘You can’t do it’ – I am.

The Friday before last we tried a run in a local park. It was fun in that the warm-up was a very effective and interesting trot along tree-rooted tracks that I found quite exhilarating, but I wasn’t mad on running the same dark circuit twice. And I think we annoyed the 20,000 dog walkers, as the footslaps, lights, heavy breathing and hi-vis upset some of the dogs. So last Friday we did our usual 6km local run and arrived at the road bridge that’s been closed for weeks at our halfway point. We normally nip between the barriers because we’re not as heavy as cars (!) Only this week, there was no bridge. It was gone. Empty. In its place were a few diggers, workmen in hi-vis jackets and some enormous room-sized grey lego blocks. We asked whether we could still cross. The man smiled and laughed and waved at the sandbag dam across the rushing stream. We thanked him and nipped across, starting our mud obstacle race training a few weeks early. My trainers are not as grippy in the  mud as I thought…

Talking of hi-vis, the other big development for me this fortnight is stopping feeling quite so self-conscious about running. Yes, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could suddenly look like I’m a runner first, before running? As in: having lithe toned legs, fewer chins, cheeks that don’t switch to ‘beacon’ for the rest of the day after the first km? It took a bit for me to properly accept that runners don’t look like runners; they look like people. If you move along the planet’s surface with both feet off the ground at once, you’re a runner (or a crazy, mixed-up jumper, but that’s another story for another time). It takes me a long time to see very obvious things, sometimes.

...Speedbird 294 Heavy, you are clear to land on Runway Grumpy 18...

…Speedbird 294 Heavy, you are clear to land on Runway Grumpy 18…

In that spirit of just getting on with it, I’ve added to my night-running lights. I’ve been using the minxes’ shoelace lights that flash with every movement, a headtorch around my wrist, and 2 flashing red clip-on lights on a hi-vis vest. My MIL sent me a wonderful surprise: a proper, real, runner’s hi-vis jacket! To that, I also treated myself to a pair of trainers heel lights and a pair of armband lights (£10 for all 4). I tell you, there are aircraft leaving the Aberdeen Approach paths and setting up their landing patterns on me! But the way I see it, if I fall over into a ditch with only my feet sticking out, I’ll still be seen. My fellow runners sing “O Christmas Tree” as they pass me, but I don’t mind. I don’t care that I’m danger of having ‘All the Gear and No Idea’ because that’s slowly coming together.

So that drivers coming up behind me don't mistake my butt for a new roundabout

So that drivers coming up behind me don’t mistake my butt for a new roundabout

And finally, talking of my MIL, she and FIL were visiting recently. She’s known me a very long time and so the running was a bit of a surprise to her, too. Rather than just raise an eyebrow and let me get on with it, as the rest of my family discreetly are, she eyeballed me and told me how much she admired me and was proud of me. What a lovely, sweet thing to say! I was and am really touched. There’s just something about getting praise from your mother / mother in law that top trumps all other possible praise. I’ve tucked that away in my Motivational Memory Banks for long-term keeping.

Oh aye, and finally-finally, with us running over 5km 3 times a week without stopping by Week 7, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve done better and faster than the (brilliant) Couch to 5k plan that I originally thought was beyond me. Big thumbs up! Let’s see what the next fortnight has in store.

End of Month 1

13 Feb 2017

Here we are at the start of Week 6 of running. Blimey! Way back, I thought I was agreeing to a maximum of 10 weeks of hellish jogging to accompany my determined friend, Mrs Persuasive. Instead, we’re now both as keen as mustard and have been keeping up our 3 running sessions a week: we run twice a week at night with other absolute beginners in a JogScotland group; the other weekly session is in the morning either alone or with my partner in crime. I prefer those early runs: although they’re hilly, they’re out in the countryside and away from town. Fresh air, birdsong, empty roads, a precise 6km circuit and views of snowy mountains – just heavenly! Mrs P is a bit faster than me, we’ve got similar stamina levels, and obviously I love being able to chat with her or comfortably stay quiet as we run around. The quiet countryside has another advantage – no-one else can hear you f and blind your way round that first 15 minute warm-up (it coincides with a loooong hill). Some people power up hills with pumping arms; others drop their hands and take tiny steps; me and Mrs P turn the air blue. Hey, it works for us…

One of the things that’s been motivating me out the door each time is seeing clear, obvious improvements every single run. To be fair, when you start at the rock bottom of Extreme Sport Biffdom, you’re always going to see an improvement at first! First it was accomplishing moving for any sustained length of time. Then it was seeing ourselves get faster and jog for longer. Finally being able to complete 6km at a jog/walk faster than I can fast-walk it was a big milestone for me! As was running in the rain and a few degrees below 0degC for the first time. On our last run together, we blasted through all of our fastest times for everything with each km run. Tonight, I’m determined to run the entire way up a particular nemesis hill without stopping again, to show it wasn’t a fluke last week.

So how are those stats looking? (Oh come on, you know by now I’m a total stats geek!)

Over 5 weeks and 72km total run, my time for moving over 5km is now 40 mins 31 seconds. My fastest time over a km is now 7m 25; fastest over a mile has been 12m 12.

Not wonderful times I know, but I’m very proud of this progress, and I’m looking forward to the next month. I still can’t believe that I actually feel this way!

menuThe warm-ups are still difficult for me. If I’m in public and can’t swear, then I generally motivate myself over those still-horrible first 15 – 20 minutes by thinking and chatting about what’s for my dinner later. So of course I persuaded Mrs P that we’d reward ourselves for completing a whole month of running with a great big huge Chinese Takeaway. I brought big bowls, napkins and forks with us that night, and we ordered before we ran. I tell you, we absolutely raced that last km back to the start! Then we sat giggling in the car like a pair of schoolgirls playing truant, troughing half our takeaways greedily (kung po chicken and egg-fried rice. Huge chunks of fresh vegetables and enough chilli to make my mouth feel as alive as the rest of me. But the less said about the crispy seaweed the better – I spat it out. Sugary!) Well, we’d figured they’d be freezing by the time we’d driven home. Honest…

This leads me to something that puzzled us briefly this past month. My friend is also doing MuTu to help her strengthen her core, so we frequently compare notes on how our bodies are getting stronger (or not: those sore legs from my idiotic session hurt for 5 days). My friend mentioned she’d put on 2lb. We agreed that it was unlikely to be muscle gain this early on. I guessed that it could be down to all the additional water that she was drinking. I’d also read some articles describing how new exercisers can put on a little weight for the first week or so as their muscles hold on to fluid to help themselves repair. It’s only a little and it soon goes as your muscles get stronger. That all sounded sensible to us. I stood on the scales to see whether I’d similarly gained a couple of pounds.

Ohhhh yes. And some! I’d gained 6lb.

Now, I rarely gain or lose more than a lb. Even over Christmas or summer. It just stays static. So a gain of nearly half a stone over 2 weeks is very significant. The cause? When I come home after a run at around 8pm and I haven’t eaten since midday, you need to lock up the fridge and hide slow-moving animals or I’ll hoover it all up. I’m so, so hungry! Yeah, I must have been eating 4000 calories to replace the 400 I’d burned off on my gentle little jogs. My appetite and exertion are not exactly balanced…

Meh. Uber eejit.

I stopped eating extra, made sure I ate lunch much later, and luckily the extra chub has sorted itself out. I didn’t cut down or (rinse your mouth out after saying it) diet. So as of today, weight-wise I’m back to where I started (11st 2. And whilst I’m recording stats, my waist is an unhealthy 33” but I’m not panicking because surely running will do something about that).

More importantly than weight gain or loss, though, I’m feeling a bit stronger in my legs (regaining muscle and stamina are my main goals), and my general mood has definitely improved. I’m less likely to spiral into a hard to shift gloom. Can’t say my temper’s calmed down any, though, as The Boss can attribute (from inside his fallout shelter). The minxes have stopped giggling at me in my running clothes and take it as read that on Monday and Wednesday nights, Mummy goes out to have fun running. They actually paid attention when I explained why warm-ups take so long and feel so horrible, and why I want them to persevere on their Daily Mile at school.

And actually, that’s the thing that my mind has really been chewing over this past week especially – what effect my running is having on the minxes. I thought going out 2 nights a week to run would be a bit of a general ‘good influence’ on the girls, and dismissed it as not being anything important. Now, though, as well as them quizzing me on how I could possibly be enjoying it so much, they’re offering up observations. Maxi said that I still shout as much, but the lead-up to the shouting is much longer. She asked whether running was making me more patient, or was it from me sleeping better? All 3 girls know I was the worst runner in my school (if not entire district) and are genuinely intrigued as to why I’m doing it, what I’m actually enjoying and how I’m managing to improve. They sat open-mouthed like baby birds when I described how I feel like I’m hurtling through space when I sprint, now (I know! Me! Sprint! Hahahahaha! It’s just when we did a little introduction to fartlek training and I discovered that I could run an awful lot faster than I thought I could. It was only over maybe 20m, so don’t get all excited…).

There’s that Nike advert and hashtag, #thisgirlcan. I’d always huffed and thought, aye, not me! despite telling my 3 girls that of course they and all girls certainly could do anything they wanted. Well, between us, Mrs P and I are showing 5 impressionable little girls that even us old birds can! It’s never to late to give it a try and just do it (to use another hackneyed advertising phrase. Sorry).

So: lots of introspective analysis going on in my little bubble this month, but it’s all good.

Lastly, to keep us going and on track, Mrs P talked me into signing up for a 10k mud obstacle race in the autumn. I’m easily led. I’m also so frightened by the prospect that Endomondo has recorded my running pace pick up every time either of us spoke the words ‘Banchory’, ‘beast’ or ‘September’.

I’m scared but also have a cunning plan. I’ll tell you about our plan to actually achieve this race without killing ourselves in the process in my next accountability post.

What Can Possibly Go Wrong…?

I’m sat at home, feeling deeply apprehensive, and typing to occupy my racing brain.

Racing.

Ahem.

Back in November, in a fit of bravado, I agreed to accompany my friend on a 10-week block of running sessions for beginners, through JogScotland. We’d encourage each other. We’d motivate each other to keep going. I’d be the Eric to her Ernie; the Ball to her Cannon (I run like a hand-whisk). The idea made us chortle, over a gallon of coffee and a mountain of biscuits and scones. Not so much ‘New Year; new me’ (I rather like the Old Me, thank you very much! It’s taken 45 years of grafting to get me like I am today!), more: this might be funny, what can possibly go wrong?

Well, it’s Day 1 Week 1 for us in just over an hour. I didn’t even ask how long the session will be, because it’s mere numbers: my flabby, middle-aged body will just respond with ‘too bloody long!’ no matter how many minutes it lasts. I haven’t run since I failed a bleep test spectacularly back in 2009. I think this is going to hurt. A lot.

On the positive side, unlike in 2009, I no longer have a big diastasis recti to battle against, nor crunches and sit-ups. I worked hard at the 12 week MuTu System and now my DR is only about a finger-width apart at its widest (where I have an umbilical hernia that’s not causing me any bother at all, so I’m leaving it alone). So my core muscles are stronger than they were 7 years ago. Years of wearing barefoot / flat shoes have given me far stronger ankles and feet than I had back then.

But I’m 7 years older and a whole stone heavier.

Yeah, this is going to hurt. And be cold! It’s windy, rainy and it’s currently 3degC and falling.

Have you any top tips for a beginner jogger before I go?!