Week whatever

Seriously, I don’t know where I am right now. Two weeks post marathon & two weeks pre marathon. Tired, mostly. This week started off meh & ended much better – the nice weather has had an awesome effect on my mood, for sure. I almost forgot about the double marathon thing.

Monday: ‘rest day’, if rest is a 12 hour work day. Bank holidays are great unless you work for an essential service, retail, or in comms for critical infrastructure.

Realised I missed going to pole, so went for a lesson to make sure I could reliably hang upside down without failure. It turns out I have retained a bit of strength, but have lost some skill. Will keep practising.

Haven’t missed the palm callouses

Tuesday: back on the speed work. After running on an achy Achilles’ tendon, I realised I am not particularly capable of knowing my limits. This session felt difficult, & I kept thinking I was incapable before realising that I was only a few days post marathon. The intention was 3 fast km sandwiched between a warm up and cool down at a slower pace – by the end of the second fast km I was unhappy, so kept the rest of it steady. Had a good stretch & a good dinner though.

Wednesday: the plan was an easy six miles. As is usual for working-at-Parliament days, though, I didn’t have time for lunch & ended up going home straight from Edinburgh and having an early dinner. I’d read this great post from Jordan earlier in the day & having had similar feelings during my own speed work the evening before (as well as a similar, if much slower, London Marathon experience) I decided to give running a miss. It was miserable weather & I had stuff to bring home from work, so it all worked out well really.

Thursday: gym time tonight: it’s still super busy at peak times but it was good to just lift & not think about running. 3 miles was on the training plan, but cleans, deadlifts, split squats & planks substituted.

Indoors is better

Friday: didn’t fancy resting, so Cyclebox it was. 45 minutes of hardcore spinning, working my legs without too much impact. Still incredibly tough though – early class means no breakfast, & it’s difficult to last the distance on the sprints. Need more coffee next time, or the 0930 rather than the 0730.

I get to keep an eye on the trains when I’m here too

Saturday: went for a faster parkrun, & happy to see gains on this distance; 26:06 felt quite relaxed. 7 miles in total.

Sunday: a longer but steadier run around Glasgow: 5 miles on my own with podcasts, 6 miles with Frontrunners, and a final couple of miles with the Cyclebox inaugural run club.

lovely colours

Cyclebox’s promise of “just a bit of HIIT” turned out to be repeats of the Kelvingrove steps & some Monument Hill sprints. I will not do this at the end of a long run ever again, but I have ideas for my Tuesday coaching sessions.

After today, I disagree

Total miles: 25. Lowest weekly mileage for some time, but I think the rest & change did me good. Serious shoulder & back DOMS from cleans & deadlifts means it’s been too long away from that sort of workout.

Nutrition: good, apart from a couple of busy days. Plenty of protein, good lunches, less coffee, frequently vegetarian. I am trying to eat less meat & dairy & it’s a challenge.

Feeling: OK. Mood up & down, and despite lots of good sessions I have fallen out of love with running. Work has been very busy & I get stuck in a cycle of getting stressed about being too busy, then annoyed when the run does not go well or eating nonsense. Usually managed to keep off that, & the week ended much more positively than it began. The nice weather definitely helped.

I am not really feeling positive about Edinburgh though, & I cannot be bothered at all with the Great North Run which suddenly seems a lot closer. The dawning realisation, not helped by blog post archives, that I have spent all of 2019 either running, thinking about running, or doing laundry loads made up of sweaty gym clothes, is not good. I am bad at responding to texts & emails. I have forgotten to send birthday cards or even birthday messages & I spent a good chunk of a nice holiday thinking about running, or how I wasn’t running enough or eating too much. I am in a fairly good place, & it’s been a good exercise in discipline & dedication, but marathon training is tough on life. I miss my other hobbies, & sleeping.

But with only two weeks to go, I might as well run the thing. I hope the excitement returns soon. Speedwork will need to be up to standard next week; hopefully I am fully recovered now & can get the most out of the next few sessions.

I’m here

It’s just 40 days to go until the London Marathon, and 70 days until Edinburgh. This week and the next are going to be difficult. Long runs and speed work stack up day after day, rest days and cross-training days are over far too quickly. Trying to fit enough running around work, family, friends and sleep doesn’t always go well, but it’s important to balance sticking to the plan and getting the miles in with listening to your body.

Most people who run – most people who exercise, probably – will tell you about the positive effect it has on their mental health. There’s something about those endorphins, or the sense of achievement from pushing further and faster than last time, that can often help with clarity, challenge negative thoughts, & just generally make you feel good. Or at least feel a bit better. Whenever things aren’t going that well for me, getting out for a run is usually the thing to do. Running in a club or with a group can make it even better, especially with JogScotland groups that have Jog Leaders.

JogScotland and SAMH work together to promote the mental health benefits of jogging, and the beginning of this year saw the launch of I’m here – a campaign to promote open and honest conversations about mental health. Participating Jog Leaders undertake specific mental health awareness training to increase their confidence to start and participate in conversations about mental health, and know where to signpost people for more support.

I haven’t done this training yet, but it’s on my list of things to complete in 2019. I have had some great chats with people when running, and I am so very grateful to my running pals who are honest and open about their struggles, both in real life and online. Short runs and long runs are equally good for motivational chat, whether it’s getting through that last sprint finish of a 5km, or a half way through a marathon training run when you feel like your entire body is disintegrating and your mind will follow. Company and motivation is so necessary in the difficult moments or when self-doubt sets in.

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Real talk: I don’t have an entirely positive relationship with running & it doesn’t always keep me mentally or emotionally healthy. I compare myself to other people too much, and get frustrated with my limitations. I don’t take criticism well most of the time, & I can be extremely moody if something’s not gone quite right for me (This includes at work or in other professional situations where that kind of behaviour isn’t appropriate, & it’s been noted on several occasions by colleagues.)

A bit of introspection leads me to believe that this is very misguided perfectionism – I don’t want people to think I don’t care or am not taking their criticism seriously, but this manifests as being at best, withdrawn & at worst, rude. It happens with running if I’ve not had a good run, and sometimes I can  get through it quite quickly but an other occasions the darkness takes over and it takes time to get back to me. I’m always willing to be honest about these feelings when speaking to other runners, particularly new runners or those who are struggling – it’s OK to be frustrated, even at something which seems fleeting or trivial. The I’m here campaign builds on the ethos of how jog leading and coaching is all about learning from each other and providing the right support at the right time.

Instagram’s great, truly. Three of my most inspiring follows are Jordan, Bethan and Penny. They’re all much faster runners than me but their drive, discipline and skill is extremely motivating & I enjoy their insta posts & blogs. But in the past couple of weeks, they’ve all posted about self-doubt, bad days and the effect this has on their confidence and motivation. I am glad when people are willing to share their low points as well as their successes. It can be difficult in an environment where everyone’s insta is full of motivational slogans, and everything must be about beating a challenge & training every day for hours and giving 110%. Life’s not always like that, and it’s easy to get caught up in other people’s projections of what they want their lives to be like. I panic about the mileage that other people are logging, or the weights they’re lifting, or the achievements of someone ten years younger than me, and I feel distinctly average. Knowing that everyone has a low point or several is a good reminder that we’re all human. Marathon training is tough stuff, and it’s fine to sometimes struggle with it. I listened to this episode of Jogging Shorts for part of the weekend’s horrible wet training run and it was a good reminder about listening to what you need.

Whatever happens in the next 40-70 days, I am going to try my best, enjoy every km & be happy for the opportunities I’ve been given. If I manage a pb, even better. If it sparks a desire to become a six star finisher I’ll need to get richer as well as faster, but we’ll see. I’m nearly old enough to move from ‘senior’ to ‘veteran’ category  (this in itself is not great for mental health…) – & I’m glad to be getting a couple more marathons in before this move. But mostly, I need to remember that I’m good enough.

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Old but a fave – always run with your squad

 

sounds

Over the past few weeks, with the long run taking 2-3 hours and the midweek easy run often taking over an hour, occupying my mind when running alone is becoming a bigger deal.

Some runners don’t run with music. I didn’t at first, because I was always on club runs. Chatting is nice, or listening to other people chatting if you’re not feeling it. Sometimes they are necessary: my headphones ran out of battery during the very hilly mile 9 of the (much missed) Great Edinburgh Run a few years back, and the collective noise of 70-ish people huffing and snorting their way up Queen’s Drive was loud and irritating.

When running alone I do generally take headphones, even if I don’t use them for the whole distance. Sometimes you just need the boost but you don’t know when. I don’t listen to headphones when it’s dark or if I’m out very early or late, either. But I’ve been running by myself for the majority of this training cycle, and having something to listen to has been good for breaking up the monotony of longer runs.

 

I am not obsessed with sound quality, but I do like over-ear headphones more than earbuds and will never go back to wired models after so long with wireless Bluetooth. For running & training, the quality does have to be good enough to block out the traffic or the terrible gym music as well as being comfortable enough to not be irritating. I have tragus piercings in both ears so earbuds are not always the best choice, but I have a few pairs of headphones on rotation for varying uses.

I currently have three sets of wireless headphones that I run with:

 

The Skullcandy Ink’d are probably best for running – the neck band is comfortable and they block out a lot of external sound, but sometimes start feeling uncomfortable after a while. I picked them up randomly because they were on sale very cheaply, and I thought they would be good backup, but I use them more than I thought I would.

The snappily-named JBL E55BT over-ear headphones were a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and I really like them. I use these most often when in the gym/lifting or for general daily use. Clearly not sport headphones, but I run with them if I have no other option – they are slightly too big for my head and the movement can be annoying, but if I’m on a steady run then they’ll do, and they have the longest battery life. No good for faster treadmill sessions, though.

The Urbanista Chicago sport earbuds are new and my current faves. I really love this brand, and have worn Urbanista Boston for years after (again) picking them up cheaply in duty-free years ago. Although considered sport headphones, I sometimes found the linking wire with the battery pack to be heavy and irritating when running, although fine for everyday use. The Chicago is much lighter and the earbuds are a bit more comfortable – I’m enjoying getting used to them, and finding the perfectly fitting earpiece, as there were six sizes and shapes included. The sound quality is nice, although the controls are a bit cumbersome if wearing gloves. They’re definitely water-resistant: my last two long runs have been in torrential rain and they’ve coped very well.

In terms of music choices… yeah. Very variable. I don’t get obsessed with bpm, although there are a handful of songs that I know will slow or speed my pace, because I’ve been running with them for years & they are such old friends. I have a general racing/running playlist that I add to as required. Generally upbeat, sometimes not. Some obvious choices, some choices I’d never admit to in public. Sometimes I want to run slow & feel melancholy, sometimes I need the hi-NRG nonsense with a constant beat to keep the feet moving. Songs that have got me through difficult races can be good or bad depending on mood.

This training cycle, I’ve also been making an effort to listen to podcasts on the longer runs. Music can make me run faster than I need to sometimes and the flow of a podcast makes the miles slip by. Starting with the very good From Your Big Sister, I’ve since spent my Sundays listening to On The Engender, Jog On, podlitical, Standard Issue and 2 much girls. I’m still happily working my way through previous episodes of most of these, but any suggestions for running/fitness/feminist/political podcasts are welcomed…