The Universe vs Girlrunninglate

I’m beginning to think the universe has it in for me at the moment.

The day after my last post, I was at work and my back went. Yes, you heard that right. After the groin pull and allergic reaction to medication in the lead up to the Cambridge Half Marathon, both of which I had mostly managed to recover from, my back went. What was I doing I hear you ask? One armed pull ups? Kickboxing? Wrestling a bear?

No, fair reader. I turned. Yup. I made the fatal error of turning around.

Turn 1.gif

At first I was in denial. I just thought “nah, that hasn’t actually happened. I’ll Taylor Swift it and just shake it off.” But as I walked down the stairs from my office, I knew I was in trouble, and this was then followed by a Bridget Jones-esque 10 minute sob in the toilets. Nicely handled Thomas.

The next day it hadn’t eased up at all, and when Alan called to ask me how I was doing in the lead up to the half, I told him what had happened, and he asked me “do you think that maybe your body is trying to tell you something?” I then burst into tears again (2 days running – excellent!) and told him that I wasn’t ready to quit yet as I had physio and osteo appointments lined up later that afternoon. By 6pm I had the information that my L3 joint had locked up, probably because I have a terrible habit of carrying my stress with me all the time, and it had been an incredibly tough 10 days, both physically and emotionally. It was nothing mega serious, but I was uncomfortable and in pain.

It was probably my conversation with Stacy that really pulled everything into focus. She knew how emotionally invested I was in this race as I wanted to #RunForMarcus so badly, but as an athlete who has had her share of injuries in the past, she said “look at the bigger picture. If you run this, how much is it going to set you back coming out the other side? Will it mean a whole month off just because you’ve put your body through something it wasn’t strong enough to do? Also risking further mechanical injuries by running with a technique that protects your back. If you knock your hips out of alignment etc. it could be weeks before you’re back running again. Could you cope with no exercise?”

I hate it when she’s so flipping sensible.

My choice was, which will I regret more? Not running this particular race, or running it and injuring myself in a way that could take me out for a potentially long period of time?

When I then woke up yesterday morning with my back still painful and stiff, I knew my decision had been made.

crying

I look just like this when I cry

It’s so hard to let something go when you’ve worked so hard for it. Especially when I felt like I had already come through so much to be ok to run it. But sometimes things aren’t meant to be, and sometimes you have to just be sensible and make a tough -but ultimately right – decision.

I then decided that rather than wallow at home, I was going to go and support my friends and cheer them through it. The race was going to happen whether I was running it or not, and I knew I could at least be useful by being a fleece-holding cheerleader, so I got up at silly o’clock and headed to Cambridge with four of my friends who were running.

I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t easy standing there at the start line and chatting to Andy from Ely Runners as he commiserated with me, watching all of the runners bubbling over with nervous energy and wishing I was one of them. But as the starting horn sounded, I cheered everyone off and then scuttled across Jesus Green to the Round Church where I hoped to see everyone at the 2.5 mile mark.

img_20160228_155809.jpg

All the super-fasties at the start. The eventual winner, Aaron Scott (1:06:47), can be seen in the dark headband with his head lower than everyone else’s.

After witnessing a scuffle between an impatient cyclist and the marshals (he wanted to cross the road just as the first – very fast – runners were approaching and when politely asked to wait he started ramming them with his bike before throwing punches), I managed to spot loads of people I knew and cheered them on as loudly as I could. I then crossed over to hang around outside Trinity ready to catch them when they looped back and hit the 11-ish mile mark. My attempt to catch Aaron on camera failed miserably (TOO FAST!) but I managed to catch local writer and all over stupidly fast person Liz Fraser, as well as my awesome friend Pete:

I then just started cheering on random runners, shouting out their names as they ran past (putting their names on their numbers is the BEST idea) as I remembered from my own experience of running the Cambridge Half that hearing people cheer you on by name is a brilliant boost.

After I was pretty sure I’d spotted everyone I knew, I headed back to Midsummer Common to get to the finish. I again spotted Andy from Ely Runners and managed to give him a congratulatory hug on his incredible PB before being told that as a non-runner I was NOT allowed to be in that section (way to kick me when I’m down!) and instead I walked around to the end of the runner’s funnel to meet everyone.

It was at this point that I lost it slightly. The sight of all of the jubilant runners and the excited chatter of PBs just hit me in a way that left me almost emotionally winded, and the sheer disappointment just came out and I burst into tears yet again. But I was also so, so happy for everyone who had just achieved something utterly incredible. I just wished I could have been a part of it.

But you know what? I was. I cheered people on as loudly as I could, my throat sore from my efforts. There is something brilliant about being able to give people the encouragement they need when there are still 2 miles left to go and their legs are shouting at them to stop but they’re mentally battling to keep going. I may have missed out on an awesome medal, but this race just wasn’t meant to be for me. I’m going to properly get over everything that’s happened in the last couple of weeks, get some emotional and physical balance back, and then come back better and stronger. And quite frankly, I’m done with crying.

Ugly Crier

How I actually look when I’m crying

 

Advertisements

Finding Focus for the Cambridge Half

Sometimes, things don’t always go to plan.

Take the NYE 10k. I had a miserable time of it, and it really threw me. It was mentally and physically difficult, and I felt weak and my confidence around future long races took a serious hit, leading me to doubt whether or not I even wanted to run long distance anymore. It felt like the joy of it had completely gone.

This Sunday (the 28th February), it’s the Cambridge Half Marathon. As training, I’ve done one 7 mile run, two 8 mile runs and two 11 mile runs. These training sessions have been spread out and sporadic, not helped by the three weeks of training I missed due to the awful cold-afflicted time I had of it at the end of January. Most of these runs have been tougher than I’m used to, because at the moment I’m probably only at around 65% of my peak fitness. This also means that I’ve picked up niggles along the way, including a “grumpy” knee and a pulled groin as recently as last week. All of this piles up so that I stress out and run in a tense, stiff posture, making myself more likely to get hurt. It’s a vicious cycle. In addition to this, I’ve been struggling with my hydration due to medication, and this weekend have also developed an allergic reaction to something that has covered parts of my body – including my feet – in a sore, uncomfortable rash. Awesome (and attractive).

theplague

So I admit that I’ve been tempted to bail on the Half on numerous occasions. At times it felt like the universe was telling me to. I knew a PB would be hard to come by, and I was worried about doing myself more damage on a long run that I was unprepared for. But then something awful happened that made me snap out of my funk and regain my focus.

A fellow local runner and blogger Marcus Gynn lost his fight against cancer on the 11th February. Now I know Marcus for a variety of reasons. My other half grew up with him, and had always told me stories about Marcus, mostly based around his Duke of Edinburgh shenanigans, including being chased by a bull in his bright orange high vis jacket, and setting fire to himself so that his fellow DofE buddies had to roll him down a hill to put him out while he laughed his head off. Since then I’d bumped into Marcus at a variety of races, due to his sheer love of running (his medal haul was pretty epic) and the fact that we ran at a really similar pace. I remember how tickled my OH was when he saw this race from the 2014 Cambridge Half and Marcus and I were the only runners in the photo:

fb_img_1455367689066.jpg

Marcus would have loved to be running the Cambridge Half again, and here I was whinging that it was hard. Of course it’s bloody hard sometimes. If it wasn’t we’d all be nipping off for a 13 mile run before work. So I’ve completely reassessed why I run. I started doing it because like Marcus, I loved it. If I’m not at peak fitness I don’t have to push for a PB. I can just enjoy it. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to run with my friend Rachel, soak up the atmosphere, and run it for Marcus. I’ve sorted my niggles out with some epic osteopathy sessions with miracle-worker Melissa at Spritely Osteopathy and with an intense sports massage from Megan at the FAST Clinic (damn my stubborn glutes!) and I’m trying to get a handle on this rash. But if I have to slather my feet in Vaseline or even crawl this run, I’m going to do it. Unless anyone’s up for giving me a piggyback?

An awesome Twitterer has also set up an account in Marcus’ memory, @runformarcus1. The aim is to raise as much money for Marcus’ family’s chosen charities as possible, and in return you get a wristband with #runformarcus on it that you can wear on all your runs so that a part of him is always with you, cheering you on. If you’d like to donate £5 (to cover the cost of the band plus ensure a decent bit for the charities) or more you can do so here. Please also have a read of his blog if you can. It’s a joy to read and his bravery in the face of his illness is awe-inspiring.

I’m going to #RunForMarcus on Sunday. I really hope you’ll join me.

 

Safety is Sexy!

Ok. Enough is enough. People of Cambridge (and everywhere else for that matter), can we please start taking responsibility for our own safety?

Safety

Jimmy Fallon is wise.

I commute to work by bike every day, and I have lost count of the number of people I see doing stupid things on foot, on bikes and in cars. Can we please use a bit of common sense and not risk our lives and the lives of others simply because we want to get somewhere 5 seconds earlier or because we just HAVE to send that text? Here’s are the WORST things that I see people doing. Prepare your eye rolls folks.

DULLARDS

Eye Roll 1

Here’s a question. If someone is running or cycling in a badly lit area, with no lights or hi-vis, what do you think the chances are of someone being able to see them? It can be incredibly difficult to spot someone in this situation, and there have been numerous times when I’ve suddenly seen someone appear out of the gloom and had to slam my brakes on to avoid hitting them or simply as a reflex because they’ve made me jump out of my skin. As a cyclist you’re legally required to have white front and red rear lights on between sunset and sunrise, and with street lighting being reduced in some areas, it’s even more essential these days. If you’re out walking, maybe consider just having a reflective panel on your coat or bag. And runners, it’s just common sense for crying out loud. At night, just put something obnoxiously bright on ok? It doesn’t have to cost the earth either. Take a bit of responsibility for your own safety and stop expecting everyone else to look out for you.

NON LOOKY-LOOS

Eye Roll 4

One of my biggest pet peeves is cyclists (yes, I’m singling out here but I’m one of you) who just don’t look out for other cyclists. If you’re coming up to a roundabout and a cyclist is already on it, don’t pull on to the roundabout anyway. The other cyclist will have to swerve to avoid you, and more often than not that means swerving into the path of a vehicle behind them. Same goes for coming out of junctions. And if you’re planning to overtake something, just give a quick glance over your shoulder ok? Otherwise if another cyclist is already overtaking YOU, you’re making them swerve into the path of oncoming traffic, which is what happened to me last week.

THE ELECTED DEAF

Eye Roll 5

I get it – on long runs or bike rides it’s nice to have a bit of music to keep you company. But in a city with notoriously bad rush hour traffic and old narrow roads without a huge amount of room for the daily cars vs bikes fandango, it seems a bit nuts to me. Plus if you’re plugged in and a cyclist rings their bell, but you don’t hear them because you’ve got Meatloaf or some other guilty pleasure blaring in your lugholes, don’t then swear at the cyclist when they pass you and make you jump out of your skin. If you really, REALLY need your music, maybe try a pair of bone conducting headphones? Or better yet -run with a friend. Chat and motivation in one.

RED LIGHT RUNNERS

Eye Roll 3

Whether you’re in a car or on a bike this is SO uncool. In the case of bike vs bike it’s the same as the Non Looky Loos. Case in point is the junction where Station Road meets Hills Road. I’ve lost count of the number of times a bike coming down Hills Road towards town has run a red light as I’ve been turning right out of station road. The worst time was when I had to swerve to avoid someone coming at speed, and narrowly missed being hit by the ruddy great bus behind me. When it comes to pedestrians, kids are taught to cross the road when the green man is showing. They should be able to run across a road when it’s their right of way without worrying about a bike (or car!) smashing into them. A bike going at 15mph can do a lot of damage to little bones. And big ones for that matter. Don’t be a jerk. You’ll only arrive 30 seconds later at most. Enjoy the pause.

THE LAZY BONES

Eye Roll 2

In a car it means flicking a finger. On a bike it means lifting an arm. For crying out loud just let everyone know what you’re doing and SIGNAL. Despite what you may think psychics and mind readers don’t exist. Be courteous to your fellow road users and communicate.

THE MOBILE ADDICTS

Eye Roll 6

You get the queen of eye rollers. Whether you’re a pedestrian, cyclist or driver, JUST STOP IT. Be present.

Although this post has been pretty light-hearted, the message is serious. We’re all trying to get somewhere, and no one is more important that anyone else (no matter what your mum tells you). We just need to make it as safe as possible by looking out for each other and taking responsibility for our own safety.

Stay Classy

 

 

An Evening with Mara Yamauchi

First of all, apologies that it’s taken me so long to write about the evening I spent with marathon runner and Olympian Mara Yamauchi at Anglia Ruskin University – I blame the death cold from hell that has taken over my life and left me mostly sofa bound for a good few days. Never a happy situation for an athlete who likes to be on the move.

So, on the 18th January I – along with a handful of Ely Runners – went to a free talk organised by the Greater Cambridge Athletics Network (GCAN). For those of you who don’t know her (and there are a depressingly large number of those who don’t, given her achievements), Mara Yamauchi is the second-fastest British woman to run a marathon (I don’t think I need to tell you who the fastest is) in a time of 2:23:12. She also came in 6th at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2nd in the 2009 London Marathon. That’s a snapshot of a pretty impressive running resume.

Mara Yamauchi BBC

Photo of Mara thanks to the BBC

As I settled into a jam-packed lecture hall, the first thing I noticed about Mara was how petite she is – powerhouses can come in deceptively small packages sometimes. The second thing was just how she clearly lived and breathed running. On her own website she says “My life’s passion is running. From a very early age, growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, I loved doing sports and being outdoors. At age 11, inspired by the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, I decided that I was going to be an Olympian.” Her passion for her sport filled the room extremely quickly, and she quickly made her audience warm to her by threatening latecomers with 50 push ups!

For those of us who were hoping that there was some simple formula to becoming a world class runner, we were left unsurprisingly disappointed. It takes commitment, serious hard work, S&C, good nutrition, good recovery and the ability to really listen to your body. Mara admitted that she was extremely lucky that running could be her full time job, and sympathised with those of us having to fit our training around family lives and working hours. But she still managed to give us some tips that we could all take away with us, regardless of whether we planned to run 5k, 10k, 21k or 42k and beyond:

20160118_190708

Mara charms her audience

TRAINING

  • You need to steadily increase your training. If you increase the FIT – frequency, intensity and time (length) of your runs all at once you’re more likely to get injured.
  • Your runs should consist of three key sessions – a long run, a threshold run and long intervals (more than 4 minutes).
  • Hill training is great for strength bio-mechanics – increasing the amount of blood per beat of your heart. But she did admit that hill training is tricky around here – she favours San Moritz!
  • Strength training is an important part of any runner’s training schedule. It’s essential for injury prevention and ensuring you hold your form over long distances. The priority with this is glutes – think the clam and leg raises (some helpful images can be found here).
  • The pulling back motion of the arm is extremely important and will help make your running more efficient – work on it.
  • Always try and refuel within 20 minutes of training. A protein milkshake is ideal.
  • An elliptical is good for cross training.

RACES:

  • If you’re planning to run a marathon, you should aim for a 2o mile run 4 weeks before.
  • Races are excellent as part of a training schedule (i.e. a 10k if you’re training for a half.
  • Before a race, check the course and consider your logistics i.e. how you’re getting there. This gives you less to worry about on race day.
  • Nerves are a natural part of racing, and the adrenaline is useful so try and work with it.

These are just some of the tips I noted down in my slightly befuddled cold-y state, but hopefully you’ll find one or two of them useful. Mara also recommended a couple of books – Anatomy for Runners and Strength and Conditioning for Endurance Running – well worth a look if you’re a bookish type like me!

Also, if you get the chance, read up a bit more about Mara. She’s an inspirational lady who simply loves to run, but also isn’t afraid to speak her mind, especially on the recent scandals rocking athletics.