I've had lots of thinking time this week. After Sunday's race, my arm and shoulder blew up again. No need to bother the hospital this time, despite the intense pain and complete lack of joint mobility for 48 hours, I knew all I needed to do was wait and it would get better. It is, slowly, but I haven't been able to drive or work or walk the dogs or do anything useful, so I retreated into the quiet and stillness, and read and slept while I waited for it to heal.
My reading matter of choice was two books on ultra running. One by Vassos Alexander who reads the Sport on Chris Evan's radio two breakfast show, and who runs 100 mile races, and the other by Ira Rainey, a runner from Bristol whose ultra running career began when he realised his overweight, unhealthy and unfit lifestyle in his forties was going nowhere and he decided to get fit and run 45 miles round the Green Man path, and who also turned to 100 mile races after that experience. Both touch on the mental side of running, particularly over long distances, and on our approach to and experience of pain and injury.
In that light, I've decided to view this shoulder pain as a challenge, something to be understood and overcome. I've been turning over in my head what might have caused the sudden break-down in the integrity and strength of the joint. It's the same side as my achy hip so the two are connected. My sports therapist will doubtless focus on science (a large muscle, known as the latissimus dorsi, connects our lower back, hips, arm and shoulder, and it kicks in and over-works when the glute muscles are weak, which I know mine are on that side), but I think there is a more metaphysical thing going on.
I recently read an interesting article on our perception of pain. The crux of the research was that pain isn't always proportionate to injury. In Vassos' book he describes a moment, mid-race, where his ankle is becoming so painful he thinks he may have to stop. Most runners consider a DNF (did not finish) an absolute last resort, so he tries something a fellow ultra runner told him- instead of trying to ignore the pain, you focus everything you've got on it until it fades. It works: after growing to an unbearable crescendo, the pain simply fades away and he's able to complete the race.
This kind of psychological stuff fascinates me, because so much of running, especially over long distances, is about what's in your head. I spent a chunk of last year doing a counselling course which provided an insight into how individuals function psychologically. One of the things that stuck with me is that only an individual can really know what is good for them. Carl Rogers (founder of Humanistic Psychology) called this the Organismic Self, but we can just as easily think of it as instinct, or a sense of being drawn to one thing and away from another.
Sometimes, having confidence in knowing what's right for you gets shaken by the reaction of others who disagree. Humans learn from birth to fall in line with the wishes of other people because it makes survival when you're vulnerable more certain. As a trait, it can be carried through into adult life and cause problems when the wishes of others begin to run counter to what is good for us. Rogers called this Conditions of Worth- obeying other people's conditions of worth in order to receive their good opinion leads to the formation of the Self Concept. If the Self Concept it markedly different from the Organismic Self, the strain of trying to answer to both can lead to unhappiness and ill health.
A few weeks ago, someone made a throw-away negative comment about my running regular long distances, along the lines of it wouldn't last. It got under my skin, although I suspect the person concerned had no idea that it would. I have noticed a trait in people to assume that, if you undertake and complete significant physical or mental challenges, you must be tough and impregnable and therefore immune to criticism. The absolute opposite is true: it takes huge amounts of determination and self-belief to enter, train for and complete something like a marathon, and it is never easy. Anyway, the remark got into my subconscious and, without me realising it, it worked away, eroding the self-belief which is such an integral part of long distance running (80% in the head, right?). Subconsciously, I altered my direction so subtly that I didn't even notice it. And then the shoulder crashed with such complete and utter violence, delivering such a tremendous shock that I've been knocked out of my normal life this past fortnight, that it forced me to stop and think, really think, about what's really going on here.
The question I've been asking myself is this: is this shoulder pain, which has come out of nowhere and been too excruciating and debilitating to ignore, my Organismic Self trying to make itself heard because I have come subtly off a path that is good for me? And if it is, what is it trying to say?
Over the last three days, because I have not had the distractions of normal life to obscure that inner voice, the answer has been forming, growing louder and clearer.
I don't enjoy running fast, but my response to what I perceived as a negative comment about running long distances was to slip back into chasing PBs (personal bests) at shorter races. I shifted focus away from what I love about running, which is primarily the experience of running for hours on my own with Pop, quietly through the landscape, testing what I'm capable of. I felt the hovering judgement of that person's statement, just waiting to pounce if something went wrong on a long run (which it can do, that's part of the territory and not a reason not to do it, you just learn from it and overcome it), with a smug I told you so, and I allowed that to manipulate me. It happened so subtly I didn't notice. Usually, I can resist the judgement of others and the mass focus on ability being proved by speed that exists in this sport, preferring to submerge myself in a place where time doesn't matter (long distance running), but those conditions of worth are tenacious buggers and this one got hold of me.
I looked back over my training log for this year and during the first half of the year I did twelve long runs of 18-20 miles and two marathons (26.2) along with a handful of 10 - 13 milers, and not once did I suffer anything like what I've experienced this past fortnight. By contrast, in the past four weeks I've done four fast, short distance races and now I can't move my arm and my lower back has seized up too. I don't think it's a coincidence. When I run at home - quietly, slowly, walking bits when I want to - nothing bad happens: no pain, no immobility, just simple enjoyment of movement and of passing through a landscape, and afterwards a happy, hungry, satisfied glow of tiredness and a fulsome sense of wellbeing, as well as looking forward to the next one. After a speedy run I get an acute elation that fades and leaves behind a sense of dissatisfaction and dislocation once the adrenaline has subsided. If your focus is always on running faster how can you ever derive lasting pleasure and satisfaction that isn't fleeting? It evaporates before the next race which you then have to run faster and so the pressure in your mind and body builds. For me, that way madness lies, it's a hiding to nothing. And while long runs can take it out of you and leave you exhausted and sore and challenged, I've never felt dissatisfied after one.
The shoulder is certainly highlighting some muscle weakness which I need to work on correcting. But on a deeper level, it is reminding me that what I love doing more than anything is long distance running, and I should trust that feeling regardless of what other people have to say about something that has got nothing to do with them whatsoever (and moreover, something they have no direct experience of themselves).
As with last year when I was in the throws of despair over knee problems, I've put my trust in that sense of knowing myself and have booked my first ultra run, a beginners distance of a little over 30 miles. It matters because it is physical evidence of my promise to myself to remember that only I know what is good for me, and what anyone else says or thinks is irrelevant, and to put my trust in that.
I'm talking here about running, but really these things apply to life as a whole. People are very keen to tell other people what they can and can't/ should or shouldn't do, instead of trusting them to make the right decisions for themselves and offering unconditional support for those decisions. People love the satisfaction of saying I told you so when something they disagreed with hasn't worked. But really, what right do we have to do that? To impose our will and judgement on another person. No one can really know where something will take someone else, or that trying and failing at something isn't a necessary process for them that will lead them somewhere new and wonderful. I think we could all do with remembering that from time to time, both as advice givers and receivers. After this experience I'm going to renew my efforts to listen more and advise less.
Food for thought?
Hope all are well?
Sunday, 16 September 2018
After a tentative parkrun yesterday which I ran slowly, chatting to friend Keith who looks a bit like a mad professor with electrocuted hair, I decided the arm was good to go for the Hursley 10k this morning. It's a multi-terrain (cross country) race through the lovely grounds of Hursley estate and Ampfield wood.
Last year it poured with rain beforehand and the course was one giant bog with people slipping and sliding and falling over as they did their best to try and avoid the mud (hopeless strategy- much better to plough through the middle of it), this year it was baked solid into ankle-turning nobbles. Despite this, it was a lovely run with a few good hills thrown in -these suited me fine, but they were met with increasing groans by my fellow competitors :o).
I got round in a faster time than expected, despite taking it steady, and felt good at the end so it was a useful outing. The ache in my hip was mild and got no worse during the run and eased off after it, so I hope that is now resolving itself. I could really do with getting one more long run in ahead of the marathon, but I will have to play that one by ear.
After lunch we took the dogs out for a walk and discovered an old walnut tree on the side of the lane which was dropping its fruit. We collected a couple of pocketful's and I'm debating what to do with them. I've just bought Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Much More Veg having watched the series on TV and it's fab, packed full of enticing recipes, some of which I'm sure must contain walnuts. I'm particularly keen to try this one.....
To add to the free food bounty, we collected an enormous bag of eating apples (four varieties, none of which you can get in the shops and all of which are delicious) and a huge bunch of spinach from my in laws' oh-so-productive garden, as well as a basketful of cookers from our tree. The cookers are small this year but there are masses of them and I am once again putting them out by the gate for passing friends/ family/ neighbours/ travellers to help themselves. On Friday, a lovely chap came to the house and asked whether I'd like some courgettes by way of a swap. We're already growing them so I politely declined, and we had a nice chat about which veg had done well this year and which hadn't. Before he went he told me that he was going to make blackberry and apple crumble when he got home with our apples and some blackberries he'd picked that morning. After he'd gone I found myself musing that that was exactly what I love about handing out free home-grown fruit and veg at the gate: that spirit of sharing where no money changes hands, just delicious, home-grown goodness.
Despite the amount of blackberries still in the hedgerows, I have stopped collecting them myself because we have so many already in the freezer. The fieldfare are already back in any event and they will need them, as will the Dormice who need to fatten up ahead of their winter sleep. The squash and pumpkins are nearly ready in the garden, as are the carrots. The courgettes are still producing but there are not so many now, likewise the toms, which haven't been especially prolific but have provided enough for our needs.
I'm having a good think about what to grow next year- we usually shift our emphasis from year to year depending on what has worked in the soil here and our own preferences. Next year I am giving up one of the flower beds for veg, partly because the flower beds are additional work and partly because I think the space is better used for edible veggies. We're trying to eat more veg so I think this makes sense. I'm not a massive meat fan for lots of reasons, and so eating more veg feels like the right thing to do. I feel better on it and I think it's good for runners, nourishing and clean.
That's the round-up of news from here- hope you are all well and have had a nice weekend.
Wednesday, 12 September 2018
It wasn't busy at that time in the morning so we didn't have long to wait. I was dreading that I'd injured the rotator cuff which can take ages to heal. I was also dreading having to move it for the examination. It had eased off a little in the car so I had some movement back, but I still couldn't lift it out to the side without the sort of pain that makes you feel faint and cold.
The nurse asked lots of questions about falling on it (I hadn't), did it come on suddenly? (it did), were there pins and needles in my fingers? (no), then asked me to lift it in various ways and push against his arm. He poked and prodded and unbelievably, there was no pain at all. Nothing, even when he eventually asked me to lift it sideways. I just couldn't believe it and kept saying to M I don't get it?
The good news: the nurse is fairly certain no rotator cuff injury, damage to the bone or ligaments. The not so good: it's probably soft tissue damage (either muscular, which would be OK, or tendon, which would be less so) and it will probably take a week/ ten days to heal with rest and ice. If it isn't better then I have to go to the GP to follow it up.
I felt a total fraud what with the complete lack of pain throughout the examination and having the full range of movement in the joint, but he said increased shoulder/ arm pain is common at night with these type of injuries because of the position of the arm. The blood flow settles and inflammation increases plus calcium can gather around the joints. I'm dreading going to sleep tonight, it really is the most uncomfortable thing I've ever experienced, way worse than childbirth!
As you can imagine, I am like a bear with a sore head (arm) cooped up at home with one working arm and unable to work, go running, drive, walk the dogs, do yoga or anything else remotely useful or productive. I hate waiting for things to get better. I HATE being inactive :o(. The only good thing is that it is forcing me to rest my hip, which was fine by Monday but which I think probably does needs a decent chunk of time off if I want to be fit for my next marathon in three weeks. I had pencilled in one more twenty-mile run this week and a half marathon the week after which I very much doubt I'm going to be able to do now. I just have to hope I've banked enough mileage over the past few weeks to get round. That's assuming my shoulder heals in time. Grrrrr. The dogs are fed up too because I can't get them up into the fields for a good run :o(
Hope you are all well?
Monday, 10 September 2018
This was a race I felt I ought to do because it's local. It's not one we'd ordinarily choose, being all the bells and whistles with added fanfare and razzmatazz (you know my preference is for quiet and low-key). However, I decided I'd do it and then got quite grumpy about the whole thing when collecting my number on Friday took two hours instead of the forty mins it should have done.
The race is held at New Park in the middle of the forest, between Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst. The traffic, as any long-suffering local will tell you, is AWFUL at the best of times. Imagine 5000 runners plus supporters all travelling that way in the course of a couple of hours on a Sunday morning and you can see how it quickly takes on nightmarish proportions. For that reason we left the house at 7.30am on Sunday for a race which started at ten. A journey that would ordinarily take in 20 mins took just over an hour and we then spent the next 20 mins sat in a queue for the carpark :o(.
Finally parked, we whizzed over to the start which was way over the fields to see our friends off on the marathon. It was Naomi's first one so we wanted to be there to wave and cheer. Trying to spot two people in a field of 800 proved impossible. While we were looking for them, the organisers were telling inspiring stories about people who'd overcome huge hurdles to run the marathon that day. I am full of admiration for the folks who do this, it's extraordinary how determined people can be to recover from things and set themselves really tough challenges and it is inspiring to hear them, but after the third tail of strokes and paralysis and terrible accidents and you'll never recover and walk again dire warnings from doctors, I had begun to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all and rather wished they'd just say well done to all of you for getting to the start line today, off you go and have fun.
We relocated to get away from it and took up position at the start, hoping we'd see our friends go through there, which we did. I then trotted back to the car, bumping into various friends on the way, had some breakfast, changed, got some water and put my number on before heading back to the start area.
The queues for the loos were immense, but there were big signs up saying priority would be given to runners in imminent races if time got short. There was a family of four in front of me: mum, gran and two kids, none of whom were dressed for running. We were ten mins before the start of the race when the organisers began asking people who weren't running to step aside so the half marathoners could go to the loo first. These four stayed resolutely put and then hurried to the loos as the doors opened, preventing the half marathoners from using them first. Hmmm. Aren't people selfish? I just couldn't do that. Equally bad was a woman who tried to push in front of other half mara runners because she was doing the race too!
I managed to get to the start on time despite the loo-hogging incident, said goodbye to M who was off fishing but was going to see me at mile 6 before heading down to Cornwall, and positioned myself with two friends from the running club. We were so busy chatting we didn't notice we'd lined up behind the fast boys and girls and it was only as they were about to start that we realised. Hastily, we shuffled back to the medium speed runners group amid good-natured catcalls from the faster ones about bottling it already?!
In a few more seconds we were off, 1900 runners all pelting under the start and heading into the forest, all vying to get ahead of one another.
Quite a lot of the race was on gravel tracks, which I realised early on I don't like running on. They zapped my energy and meant my foot was continually twisting. Not good for my hip which, sure enough, started aching about four miles in. Grrrr. The first 6 miles were hard work generally. I felt out of synch, was working hard and surrounded on all sides by people heaving away. The advantage with smaller races is that, after a few miles everyone thins out and you can breath a bit more.
At six miles in we came off the gravel (momentarily :o() and onto the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. Here I saw M waving and taking pics, then we headed off among the giant Redwood trees the drive is famous for. At this point I fell in with a chap who runs marathons but was nursing a sore calf so he was taking it steady. I'm always a little suspicious when the first thing a runner tells you is he's injured- it sounds like insurance in case you run faster/ stronger/ better than them! Anyway, we spent the next mile or so chatting, which I was grateful for because it took my mind off how my race was going and made things easier. A little after that the 10k runners joined us and suddenly we had to weave and dodge through a road full of slower runners. They were a good natured bunch though, calling out good luck! as we zoomed past.
At mile 8 a runner had collapsed on the side of the road. The marshals were literally dragging him to a seat, his legs hanging limply behind him and his feet scoring the earth. They turned him over as we were running past and although his eyes were open they were unseeing and had rolled back in his head. He was the most terrible green/ yellow colour I've ever seen. I really hope he was OK. It was very sobering and it shook me up a bit. I tend to think of half marathons as relatively easy training runs these days, but here was a timely reminder that they are tough races and if you're unwell or don't get your nutrition and hydration right they can bite you badly.
As we approached mile 9 I was getting into my stride and left my new friend with the bad calf behind, just as the ambulance for the collapsed runner appeared on my right, lights flashing. By mile ten I was feeling much more comfortable and had picked up my pace. Looking back on strava later, I realised I ran the last 8k much quicker than the first 12. Runners are always chasing the Holy Grail of negative splits (running the second half of a race faster than the first), so I was pleased. My km times came down from 5.40 to 5.14 then 5.05 and finally 4.45. Good.
I hadn't intended to try for a PB, but all the distance work I've been doing has meant my race times have been coming down without a huge amount of effort. I realised I was in with a chance when I hit mile ten at 1:30 hours. My previous half PB (last summer, but over hills) was 2:02, and I'd done 13.1 miles in 2:00 dead on at the flat Thames Meander at the start of August. Getting to ten miles in 1:30 meant I'd got 28/29 mins to play with if I wanted to come in under two hours. Normally, it's not a problem covering three miles in that time, but this was at the end of a half marathon and my hip was aching fit to burst.
So, a choice: did I slow down, nurse the hip and lose the PB, or did I block the pain, grit my teeth and go for it?
No choice: of course I went for it :o)
I passed Maureen, whom I'd met at the Wickham 10k a couple of weeks ago (she'd been in front of me all the way but I'd pipped her at the post) at 11.5 miles having run with her a bit early on and then watched her zoom off. I knew that I'd have to keep up my pace or she'd have me. I tried to ignore the ache in my hip which had travelled by then into my knee and foot, and pushed myself as hard as I could.
The minutes were ticking down and I was feeling pretty knackered, but I kept going, checking the watch every now and then and seeing two hours getting closer and closer but still I though do-able.
The NF has a nasty sting in the tail- just as you hear (and see) the finish and think you're home dry, you realise that the final half/ three quarters of a mile turns away and leads you round New Park. M had fallen foul of this three years ago so had warned me and I was therefore mentally prepared for it, even so, by the time I hit the last half mile I was properly hanging on for dear life, still overtaking people but by now at full pelt and wondering how much further there was to go and how much longer I could sustain that pace. My hip and leg had mercifully stopped hurting (adrenaline is a wonderful pain killer!) and then a lovely marshal yelled two hundred metres to go! I knew I could hold on but I had no idea what the time was, having long since lost the ability to check my watch as I put all my effort and focus into running.
The crowds lining the finish area were superb, cheering and waving and yelling everyone in. I heard my name being called but as we all had our names on our numbers I assumed it was that rather than someone who knew me. I just kept running as fast and hard as I could and feeling ever so glad that the finish was now rushing up to meet me. I stopped the GPS as I crossed the line and couldn't quite believe the time said 1:54. I'd knocked 8 minutes off my previous half marathon best!
For a moment I thought I was going to do an M and need to lie down. Instead, I contented myself with bending over and putting my hands on my thighs while I got my breath back. I felt my back being patted and looked up to see Maureen, who'd come in 20 seconds behind me. We congratulated each other, grabbed our medals, took a piccy then I went off to find my fellow club members, all of whom had done PBs (the fastest was 1:22! Amazing!). On the way I bumped into Kate, who is part of my 5-10k group, and realised it was her who'd been calling my name at the finish. Three of my 5-10k group did the 5k race and Kate came an impressive 4th in her F50 age category. Not bad for her first race eh? I was very proud of them all.
There was a carnival atmosphere at the finishwith a main stage with a band performing and people sitting round having picnics and chatting to each other. It was all very good natured and the warmth, while hard work for the runners, made it perfect for the spectators. I went to the car and changed out of my wet top, phoned M and told him my result. He was stuck in a traffic jam in Bridport. Then I went back to find our friends who were waiting for Naomi to come in off her marathon.
By 2pm there was no sign of them and I was starting to feel faint from lack of food. I rushed off to grab a bacon butty (manna from heaven) and returned in time to see fellow club member Al come in, slower than normal for her. I called out you ok, Al? and she shook her head- it turned out she'd been sick all the way round, but had still finished the marathon. That woman is made of steel. Ten mins later and at last we saw Naomi running in with Matt who'd coached her round. We all went mad, whopping and waving and jumping up and down and, although she looked exhausted after 5.20 hours of running across country in muggy heat, she was grinning from ear to ear. I rushed up to the finish and gave her a big hug and she slumped against my shoulder, exhausted and sobbing. It's an emotional thing, doing your first marathon. I cried for ages on M's shoulder after doing mine and it still brings a lump to my throat when I remember it now.
Needless to say it took me an hour to get home, with 20 mins of that spent queuing to get out of the field. In the end I got out of the car and got the thermos of tea from the boot, the lady in the car behind grinning and saying I wish I'd thought of that, we could be here some time!
I'd promised the dogs a walk when I got back, having had to explain to Pop that, despite the running kit being on that morning, she couldn't come with me. I got home to two very expectant faces and waggy tails, so had a quick bath and went straight out into the fields, finally getting home at 6pm in time for supper, with my watch telling me I'd covered 20 miles that day. I was RAVENOUS and ate a whole pizza, a bowl of chips and fresh salad from the garden washed down with an ice cold beer. Yum!
After that I fell asleep :o)
A top race, although I think a one-off because there are plenty of smaller ones that don't have the overhead of driving/ queuing time, gravel tracks and also come with a lower entry fee.
I'm now on hip rest for a few days, because of course it ached like hell this morning. I also seem to have knackered my shoulder. No idea where that's come from! Oh well, aches and pains are part of running sometimes.
Hope you all had a good weekend?
Friday, 7 September 2018
Well friends, it's been a while, hasn't it? A combination of mum being busy and no one bothering to consider my needs to express myself on our blog. Poppy gets more mentions these days than I, for heaven's sake, and all because I take on the enormous responsibility of staying at home and minding the house and my boy quietly while the ladies go out and enjoy themselves running round the lanes. I ask you!
But, I shan't grumble. This is a nice opportunity (at last) to bring you up to date with my happenings, uninterrupted by either Mum or Poppy.
Last Saturday, we went to parkun. Mum and Dad were marshalling and Poppy and I were too. It actually wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped- lots of standing around while people ran past and only a couple of dog's bottoms to sniff. The highlight was a Westie who ran half of it then came past on the second lap being carried by his Dad, who was still running. The Westie looked very regal, despite the wobble to his jowls caused by his Dad running, as if he was used to being carried everywhere and much preferred it that way. My Dad laughed so hard I thought he was going to choke, but I swelled with pride when (after a few minutes of struggling to regain self-control) he patted me on the head and said: well Teddy, you'd never dream of being carried anywhere like that, would you? I took it at face value, but I'll admit my confidence was shaken just a little by Poppy sniggering in the background. Could it have been an oblique reference to my dislike for jumping into the boot of the car and requesting a pick-up instead, or my preference for being carried over stones? I think it's more than a little uncouth when dogs scamper thoughtlessly over every surface with no regard for how it actually feels (like Poppy does). It makes us look stupid.
I was growing increasingly bored and was ready to go home when one of the runners came over and made a ridiculous fuss of Poppy, asking what breed she was and was she a puppy (absurd, anyone can see she's five), and then ooohing and ahhing when mum told her Pop had run twenty miles last week. She even risked her own life by giving Poppy a ruffle - everyone knows you don't do that three weeks between bath-and-hair-cut appointments.
She managed an unconvincing oh, and you're sweet too, in a last-minute way to me as she was leaving. Clearly a human with very little in the way of good taste when it comes to dogs, especially as Poppy had rolled in fox poo the day before (although I expect she worked that out by herself, after it was too late).
Poppy reminded me that it was only fair that she got some attention because last week a builder who came to the house talked to me all the time and ignored her.
I've had a nasty outbreak of wet eczema again. It necessitated some special cream but thankfully no V.E.T. visit because I had only just been for my inoculation (something mum suspects might have influenced the wet eczema....). I had it on my cheek and it's left behind a nasty grey scab :o(.Thank goodness, the cream sorts it out quite quickly so I seem to be better now. It's stopped itching at any rate.
I was well enough yesterday to go for a long walk with mum and Poppy through the fields. This turned out to be well-timed as the farmer was busy spreading poo on his fields. I had a great time sniffing and eating it. I even managed a lightning-quick roll before mum realised what I was doing, screamed something unrepeatable (I'll only say it was extremely unladylike) and I was forced to cut the roll short. Poppy went one better later on by rolling in a dead bird she found :o).
Later in the walk we found lots of small holes the badgers have dug which had quite a lot of blackberry-coloured poo in them. Mum was surprised when we both took no notice of it. Bless humans, they just don't understand, do they?
We met our friend Percy while mum was picking blackberries in the hedges. Percy is a very old beagle who shouts a lot and has a permanently sunburnt nose. We saw him last week as well, when we walked back through his farmyard and his new cousin dog, a golden retriever called Tiki, or something like that, came bounding out of her farmhouse gate and decided to follow me and Pop back to Percy's. Apparently, she's too new to understand about not following people away from her gate. Percy's dad had to come out of his house (with Percy) but Tiki barked at him and hid behind mum because she doesn't like men. In the end, we all delivered Tiki, who was very wriggly like a silly snake and kept jumping on Pop who didn't like it AT ALL and kept snapping at Tiki and saying NO!, while all the while keeping her tail tucked firmly under her bottom which is what she does when she's nervous (which isn't as easy as it sounds). I shook my trousers at Tiki in a I think you'll find I'M Top Dog around here way - it seemed to work because she didn't try jumping on my head.
We tried three times to get Tiki to stay inside her gate. In the end Percy's dad (who once found a polished mesolithic hand axe in the field behind his house- I know what this is, a rare tool belonging to ancient people, but Poppy has no idea at all because a) she isn't as intellectual as me and, b) she never bothers with book learning) had to shut the gate to keep her in.
We were glad to see Percy again (despite the shouting) and were quite sad when our mum and Percy's dad finished talking about all the wildlife and history they have on their farm and about blackberries and Percy carried on his walk away from us down into the woods. But the good news was we had the poo-field to look forward to on the way home and that quickly distracted us.
Perhaps because of the poo field, this morning we have been to see Mrs D for a hair cut and a bath. We are shiny and slim-lined and clean and we smell nice (according to Mum, who keeps burying her nose in us and sniffing), but don't worry, it won't last.
We were very thirsty when we got back.
After we'd satisfied our thirst we had, of course, to patrol the garden - just in case any interlopers had been in while we were out. Poppy ate some grass because Mum told her greens are good for you.
And I performed the more useful job of checking the clinic step hadn't been interfered with.
After assuring ourselves there was no evidence of anyone in the garden who shouldn't have been (not even Mum's mole, who has recently moved in to the top end where she is allowed to burrow happily around the compost heaps- the soil is presumably worm-rich up there), we returned to the house where I had a nap while Poppy Kept Guard.
This is because being Chief Dog is much more tiring work than being Second In Command Dog.
This afternoon I plan a little more light snoozing, some garden patrolling, a bit of snacking, some barking when people go past the house and finally a nice sleep in the sitting room while mum and dad watch Vanity Fair recorded from the other night.
I do hope you are all well?
Monday, 3 September 2018
Running teaches you a lot about your body and a lot about your mind. Specifically, and inevitably I guess, it teaches you about your physiology, because strains, sprains, aches and pains all manifest when you ask your body to step up and do more than it's used to. Being able to tell the difference between an ache and a pain is key when it comes to addressing running injuries- we all ache, but pain is often a signifier of something that needs attention.
On the Thames Meander, I got an ache on the outside of my left thigh at mile fifteen. I put it down to the mileage and it was fine afterwards, but it reappeared last week and after the twenty mile run on Thursday it was pretty sore, so I went to see Steve, my physio, and, after a good bit of poking and prodding and flexing my hips every which way, he told me my piriformis is tight.
Runners get to know their piriformis well. It's a small muscle located in the hip which rotates the hip and stretches and pulls back the thigh so it's absolutely central to runners (and walkers come to that). A tight or inflamed piriformis is a common problem for new and experienced runners alike. After ten minutes of thumb-of-death massage and a few more of sharp-needles-in acupuncture, I was good to go (gently) so having had Friday and Saturday off and spent some time Sunday morning rolling about on a tennis ball (if you've never done that before try it, my God it hurts when you hit the spot), I ran the Overton 5 yesterday.
The race was part of the Hampshire Road Race League so it was pretty much all club runners and the pace was fast and furious as a result. I had anticipated a flat race so was rather relieved to meet up with B at the start and be told it was hilly.
We'd had to put our estimated finish times down when we entered and a result were herded into four pens like a bunch of cattle, to be let out one group at a time. I always put a slower time down then I end up doing; I don't like to be thinking about race times at all and as a result I was right at the slower end of things. The start was rather confusing as the faster runners had been gathered together and counted down properly while everyone else was just sort-of left to their own devices and vaguely waved in the direction of the road where the start was. It was unclear where the timing section began and many people around me started their Garmins as soon as they hit the road. I waited and eventually saw the strip over the road which signified the timer and began my Garmin then so the time on my watch was at least correct. Other people were stopping to restart their watches as they realised their mistake. It was all a bit chaotic, and felt like the only runners who mattered to the organisers were the fast boys and girls.
Anyway, we set off, me going deliberately slowly as I had no idea how my hip would hold up. M has a sore ankle so he's off games for a fortnight and as a result he was waiting for me a little further into the route. We had a wave and a quick shout as I went by.
I was feeling grumpy about all the other people around me. Usually I'm happy as a lark at the start of races. I think it was because this one was fast from the get-go and I knew it would be over quickly, so there was a lot of hustle going on. I like to settle in to a race with the knowledge that there are three or four hours of running ahead of me so there is no rush and plenty of time to get into it. But a five mile race isn't like that. It's over almost before it's begun. For this reason I don't run many of them but I was here and so I gave myself a stern talking to and tried to stop being annoyed.
People start off way too fast in races across all distances and I knew most of those rushing past me for the first half mile were going to soon regret it, be out of puff and walking before long. That annoyed me too. Why can't people pace themselves properly? I was grumbling to myself as they flew by (downhill). Sure enough, as we came to the first hill loads of people were slowing down and some were already walking. Still feeling irritated, I went up a gear and ran on up the hill, overtaking people all the way. That lifted my spirits, the more so because my pace didn't slacken at the top and I was able to go up another gear and claw back more places as we came over the brow of the hill. I really don't know why I was feeling so grumpy. It was hot, but I'm used to running in the heat so I don't think it was that. In any event the grumpiness went as I started running faster :o).
From then on I carried on overtaking- only two people came past me after the first mile and that improved my mood too. As I settled into the race and warmed up my pace just got faster and faster. I can only put it down to the marathon training having made me strong and fit generally. Slower endurance running gives you a really good base for the shorter, faster races, which seems odd but there you go.
I caught up with B about three miles in and gave her a wave as I went by. There was another hill ahead and I again overtook people on it, then at about four miles I saw my buddy Malcolm ahead and decided I would reel him in. If I'm running well I can take Malcolm, but for the past few months he's beaten me at every race we've done together so it felt good to get the edge on him. I called out a hello as I ran by- he was lovely and said well done! That's a great pace! which gave me a lift.
There was a mile left to run and my hip was feeling fine, my lungs were working well and my legs weren't remotely tired, so I decided to up my pace again and see how long I could hold it. As I came down a hill I had to swerve to overtake the bloke in front. As I ran by he shouted Show Off. I couldn't believe my ears. Was he talking to me? Surely he understood when he entered that the one thing you can guarantee in a race is that you're going to get overtaken? If you can't cope with that you shouldn't be doing them. Maybe he was talking to someone else, maybe it was a joke, but it really irritated me. If he was talking to me and he thought he was going to upset me it didn't work, I just focused the irritation into energy to help me run faster and make damn sure he didn't catch up with me (he didn't).
Half a mile to go and by now I was working pretty hard. My breathing was in out and my lungs were aching. My legs were good though and bless them they kept me going. There was a final small hill before we turned left into a field and straight down to the finish. I sprinted as fast as I could, hearing M and the other RRRs who were already back cheering me on, and crossed the line in a little over 41 mins, a new 5 mile PB. I was thrilled. I did feel momentarily sick and was completely out of breath, but a short sit down with a friend from Hardley and a drink of water soon sorted that out. I was really chuffed. It had been a lovely race through beautiful countryside and apart from the start I had thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt good to be overtaking, it felt good to feel strong and to know I could just keep running, and it felt good to be running fast (my kind of fast- the winner came in well under 30 mins!).
M did a slow-mo video of me coming in to the finish which I'm adding so you can all have a good laugh...
All Good Stuff. Next stop the New Forest Half (all being well, hip-wise). Hope you all had a good weekend?
Thursday, 30 August 2018
I had scheduled in a long run this morning and, as usual, Pop came with me. To date, her longest run has been 19 miles which she did with M two years ago. It's the one and only time we've ever know her properly tired! I've kept her to 17 with me over the summer, and when it was really hot she did 4-10, depending on the temperature. Now it's cooler, and we've had rain so all the puddles, ditches and streams are full, so it seemed safe to let her do a long one.
We set off, not particularly fast as it's only two and half weeks since I did the marathon, and Pop was as she usually is, in front, ears flying, galloping along, loving being out running. We were doing laps around home so every few miles I had the opportunity to drop her home if it got too hot or if she was tiring. At thirteen miles I needed a pee, so we popped home, she had a drink and something to eat and a chat with Ted who sniffed her all over in a where have you been?! kind of way, and by the time I was ready to go again there she was by the front door, tail wagging and a fierce don't you dare leave me at home look on her face. I gave Ted a well done for guarding the house fish square (which in no way is a bribe to keep him quiet as we leave) and Pop and I set off again.
I was trying out Tailwind, a powdered form of endurance nutrition which you add to water and sip as you're running. It basically has everything your body needs to keep going. It's essentially sugars (carbs) and salts. I'd gone for the natural flavour (ie unflavoured). On recent long runs I've got a bit fed up eating sandwiches every six miles and been unable to eat them at all after 18, and then I've got sick of all the sweets I've had to consume to make up the carbs, so if this worked it would be fab. I've read lots of good things about Tailwind and was curious to see what it would be like. I usually find I'm mainlining sugar by the time I hit 17-18 miles, but on today's run those miles passed with ease. I just kept sipping my water with the mix in it and carried on running, feeling strong and really enjoying it. I even stopped to give directions at 17 miles and was coherent and able to think straight (do you remember those women last time?!).
Five miles on and I had two more to go to get to twenty. I was deliberating whether Pop should stop there. I suggested it as we approached our gate and she set off up the lane instead. She's a very determined woman, our Pop. I walked so she could have a breather up the hill (she didn't need it) and then we ran the last mile and a half together. Twenty miles. I couldn't quite believe she'd done it. She is an amazing little dog.
Anyway, we finished, went home, had a stretch, Ted sniffed us both all over this time (where have you BOTH been??) and Poppy had a drink from the disgusting water in the garden trough even though she has perfectly lovely, fresh, clean water in her bowl. For once I wasn't feeling yuk from eating handfuls of sweets. The Tailwind appears to have been a huge success. I will try it again before the next marathon and if I get positive responses on the next long run I'll switch to it as my training and marathon nutrition.
I barely had time to jump in the shower before I had to rush out and collect L from the bus. I treated myself to some waitrose beans and pasta salads and some salted caramel ice cream (yum), and then the dogs and I went out into the fields blackberrying for tonight's pud, blackberry and apple crumble with hazelnut topping. Poppy leapt and raced and zoomed about in the fields as if she'd had her paws up all day.
I feel remarkably good: slightly stiff and achy and a little bit tired in a nice, I've had proper exercise way and I expect I shall sleep well tonight. Pop has finally succumbed to her bed and is snoozing beside Ted, who is exhausted from all the guarding duty and is gently snoring as I type.
I'll leave you with some more photos of the silver sparrows- it's perhaps easier to see how different they are to the normal coloured sparrows when they are side-by-side....