The Dark. 

“I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” – Galileo 

I’ve never been a big fan of the dark. I’d happily stargaze forever but I couldn’t do it alone. When I was little, grandad would tell me that it’s never *really* dark. There’s always light to be found if you know where to look for it. That’s true of the sky and that’s true of life. 

Sometimes it gets very dark. And I’m not talking about the winter. Or when you flick a switch in your living room. I’m talking about the type of dark that encircles you. Makes you feel isolated and scared. Makes you feel embarrassed and ungrateful. And makes you want to just lie down and not move. It can come all of a sudden or you can spot it lurking on the horizon and, despite your best efforts to stave it off, it just gets you by the scruff of the neck anyway. 

Over the years, you learn to ride out storms. You try to learn how to know the signs. Sometimes you need someone to show you the best path. Sometimes you need a hand to pick apart your puzzle and help you figure it out. Sometimes you just need to sit in silence with a hand squeezing yours. 

Sometimes it feels like it will never get light again. Sometimes it hurts more to find light than to remain in the dark. But here’s the thing: it will always get light again. It is always there. Even if you don’t look for it it will find its way to you. 

You might, over time, learn to accept the dark. To understand it and not to fear it quite so much. 

As Galileo said of the night, you might learn not to fear the dark so much. You might find your light in the dark. 

Often, darkness has a stigma whereby acknowledging its existence makes you weak. But you’re the opposite of weak. Remember that when you pull yourself out of it for the millionth time. 

Although everyone has light and dark in their lives, it varies. And some are unaffected by their dark. That doesn’t make you less of a whole person. It’s all relative. Remember that. Your battle is yours. 

You are not weak. And it doesn’t stay dark forever. 

Advertisements

Great Scottish Run 2016

I’ve never been one to deal well with post -race blues. This is why I knew I’d need something after the Awfy Long Swim to keep me from getting fidgety…

Having been scouring the net for a decent sized race towards the end of the summer (but not a marathon because hell no), an email from Great Swim happened to remind me about The Great Scottish Run. 13.1 miles around Glasvegas. Flat. Fast. Take my money. 

Having discussed race ideas with the bearded one, I decided to register him as well. Brian has been progressing well with the running and much to his outrage, I put him down for a 1:45-1:50 finish. #lolz. Well I wasn’t gonna let him have an easy time of it, was I?! 

Meanwhile, I popped myself down for the 2:15-2:30 category, thinking I’d not have the time to get below my current PB of 2:15. 

Immediately after the swim, coach and I set about adding to the graft I’d put in all year with my strength and conditioning. 

What followed was 6 weeks of metabolic conditioning, full body workouts, threshold work and LISS work. At times, gruelling. For the most part, INCREDIBLE. I can’t believe what my body is getting good at. It’s pretty exciting! 

El Magico Fifty. 

Two weeks on the trot, the day after a hellish metcon workout, I bashed out sub 60 minute 10ks. Something which has previously been illusive and required MEGA teeth gritting with DOMs that would last for days. 

But here I was, bashing the miles out with little-to-no muscular punishment. 

The week before the half, I was able to run 18km with ease and comfort at a pace I was miles away from when I arrived at the VLM start line earlier this year. 

So. October 2nd 2016. Brian and I found ourselves on a packed train to The Weege. It was freezing. Beautifully sunny but very cold. We shivered our way to drop bags and then parted ways. He was off to the white start. For fast folk. And it was pink wave for me. 

Frosty morning. 

I somehow managed to weave my way right to the front of my pen. Probably to the disgust of faster runners behind me, but to be honest I’m sick of having to pick my way through so fuck it. I’M GOING FIRST. ME. 

I was nervous. And excited. But nervous. Obsessively checking over my body in my head making sure everything was as it should be. The  11:50 start time became 11:57 and the atmosphere was amazing. The race starts in George Square and in the bright autumn sun it was perfect. Absolutely bang on, Scotland. Nice one. 

The walk to the start. 

As we set off, I was overtaken by literally everyone. Pegging it up the hill of St Vincent St is brave, guys! 13.1 miles is FAR. 

Running out towards the west end, my watch beeped 1km at under 6 mins. Oooooops. It was NOT the plan to beast it. 

I’d already clocked the 2:10 pacer in the start pen, that was the first and last time I saw her. Not because I was behind her, as per VLM, but because I WAS AHEAD. 

Omg. Just keep it consistent, Bean. You got this. 

2km was still quick. Bugger. Running down a motorway was pretty cool. (It was closed, I wasn’t lost). All the sights of Glasgow, from rough and ready to sprawling homes and gardens. All in crisp October sun. Lovely. 

By 3km my quads woke up and decided they were not happy at all with the situation. After a lecture they settled down for what would turn out to be a hard bit of graft. 

To my amazement, pacing stayed pretty consistent. I wasn’t being overtaken by anyone in fancy dress. The weather was incredible and so was the support. I stuck to my plan of gel at 5k and 12k and took water at each station to sip. 

Pollock park arrived. Along with a surprise hill. Which was not what I ordered. Legs continued to protest. Lungs stayed on my side, luckily. 

Lucozade was on offer. I imagine the elites and the super speedies took all the orange because all we got was raspberry (Ever puked up a raspberry daiquiri? That’s what it tastes like) alternatively there was “Tropical” which is basically Passoa puke. Lovely. 

Around the 8 mile mark I spotted the flame-haired Anne, my pal’s mummy who has so many running medals I’m surprised she isn’t in the record books. Hello’s and good lucks exchanged and we were in Bellahouston park. 

Pretty soon I was at the 10 mile mark with the telly chopper overhead. I was still in a pack but I was passing a LOT of people. I WAS GETTING FASTER. 

The sun had taken its toll on a number of runners who were receiving emergency care at the road-side. Huge shout out to the volunteer medics who kept everyone safe. Two of the four people I passed were completely unconscious. I hope they’re ok now! 

I spotted a lucozade station up ahead and figured a sugar boost would help me to the finish line. I bravely took a slug of Pukeozade and immediately my stomach turned into a fiery furnace of sulphuric acid. 

Nice, that Lucozade stuff…. 

I’d made it this far ignoring fire in each of my shoes.( I MUST see a chiropodist. Must. ) but my feet became lead weights as I crossed the squinty bridge onto clydeside for the “sprint” to the end. I was still at 5:50 /km. My elapsed time was under 2 hours. If I stuck at this I could get sub 2:10! 

My feet burned, my hips ached, my quads were screaming, but I was KILLING THIS! 

To put this in perspective for you, my relationship with running has been difficult at best. Forcing my body to do something it’s not designed for and not willing to do has caused me numerous problems. But taking on a strength coach has seen times tumble. So while my times may not be impressive to most, to me they are huge achievements. I could feel myself welling up with pride for my wee body. 

I pushed on under the railway bridge and towards Glasgow Green. The Finish chute loomed. I saw Brian waving and cheering (1:49 was a bloody brilliant first ever half!)…. I saw the gangtry. I saw  2:07.10 on my watch. 

SMILE FOR CAMERAS. SPRINT. MORE CAMERAS. FIST PUMP. SPRINT. 

2:07.39

Nailed it. NAILED IT. 

I can’t wait to see my majestic* finish line sprint** photos. 

*agonised

**death-shuffle 

I cross the line beaming proudly. But what’s this? Oh god, my body is rejecting life. Water. WATER. Finish pack. Find Brian. Sit down. Yes. Sitting down is nice. No, don’t make me get up. 

I force a 9 bar down my neck. I’m sure it’s normally very tasty but I may as well have squirted expanding foam into my ruined face. I chew for days. Eventually I start to feel the benefit and manage to avoid the dreaded sugar crash that floored me after VLM. 

Of course what you really want after any event what you really want is a long, painful shuffle to a train station! So hobbling back to Queen Street while trying not to puke and shit myself at the same time was exactly all the fun I needed right then in life.

That was hard, hard work. 

But. 

Amazing. 

I’ve really worked for that. And it’s paid off. It’s made me want to take a wee break from distance for a while, but I’ll be back. 

Home for Chinese and the most epic sleep with early Physio to flush toxins from my achy legs and I feel tip bloody top. 

Thank you, Glasgow! And especially huge thank you to the amazing volunteers who cheered us on and kept us all safe. 

The Familiar Twinge

… We’ve all felt it. The pop, tweak or twinge that makes your sweat go cold. That “Oh fuck. Fuck fuck fuck” moment when something you’re doing makes the usual weak spot give way. The moment of silence before the screaming agony works its way through your nerves to your pain receptors.

It’s like seeing a flash of lightening and waiting for the rumble of thunder. Knowing the next coming days or weeks are going to be spent being moderately high on prescription pills.

Here’s some background info for you: I have a weakened spinal column from various injuries sustained as a clumsy child and as a clumsier adult. Nothing serious or life threatening, mostly hairline fractures to vertebrae that healed fast but left me with compressed discs that seem to decide for themselves when they would like to cause me trouble by swelling and trapping various nerves. And that’s just my thoracic spine.

My lumbar spine and sacrum were damaged in a fall down the garden steps 20 years ago. So if it’s not the top of my back getting itself worked up into a frenzy, it’s my lower back that wants to party.

And by party I mean fly sporadically into spasm and make me turn into the actual devil for a week.

Into this cake mix of pain, you can add 20 odd years of avid couch-potatoism, several university years of fudge cake breakfasts (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss those) and an honours degree in binge drinking and poor life choices.

Basically because of all this neglect, I’m usually only ever one violent sneeze from a trip to the chiropractor.

About 8 years ago, I reached peak-chub. I spent a weekend at T in the Park with my girlfriends and woke up on the Monday unable to walk. “Just a bad hangover” became several trips to doctors, physios and eventually an Osteopath who pointed out the unusually pronounced curvature in my spine, uneven leg-lengths (more so than a normal human my age) and my weight was a factor too. I was ordered to lose weight and shape up or face a lifetime of pain. This lasted until graduation, when the stresses of grown-up life and near constant access to a biscuit tin led me down the same path again. Finally, in 2012, size 16 and very deeply unhappy, I spent 3 months hooked up to a tens machine. The camel’s back had literally given up and I HAD to make a change.

So I did and I’m hoping that I’ve caught these things before it’s too late. Before I’m 50 and confined to the use of a walking stick as my core can’t support itself. You only get one body after all, and I wish I’d spent more time looking after it and treating it with a bit of respect instead of shoveling it full of chips and sambuca.

It’s not been plain sailing, by any means. Quite often, as I travel along this road of athleticism, I am reminded of my weaknesses. Physically and mentally. I’m not patient. Therefore any injury is a massive set back. Even when it isn’t. My back, shoulders, hips and knees are weak. I took on a coach to target these areas and the improvements, especially in recovery time, have been significant. However, injuries can and will appear…

This time, I should’ve seen the signs. I’ve been incredibly stressed with work. I’ve had pressure piled on both there and with my running. I wanted sub 60. So I worked hard and got it. And my body needed a rest. It told me this mid deadlift. Ping. Bastard. Ouch.

Rest it is, then.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. By some amazing happy coincidence (and probably definitely not because her eldest daughter is so terribly afflicted by Clumsius Maximus) my mummy is a therapist of many kinds: Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Bowen, Reflexology and Remedial Massage. Often she’ll be facebooked at 6am. “Help I’m broken can you fit me in today?” SuperMum will then knead and smooth the knots away as best she can.

Since I last experienced chronic back pain 3 years ago, (and by chronic, I mean pain that lasts for months in its acute phase) I have been very proactive in my own muscular rehabilitation. I started gently with beginners Pilates and then introduced walking long distance before even considering running, cycling or reintroducing swimming. Eventually I found a coach determined to make me stronger than ever.

I know too many people who live with varying degrees and types of chronic pain. From my pal who’s shoulder sporadically stops working, to my dad and his plantar fasciitis and my mum with her arthritic knee that popped one night and never recovered.

Pain changes a person. It’s a real test of your personality. It makes you tired. So so tired. And irrational. And irritable. It can even change the way you look.

Personally, my mind goes into overdrive. Self confidence goes through the floor and I HATE not being able to do stuff. I feel lethargic and withdrawn.  Not to mention crabbit as fuck (nothing new there, eh?!).

It saps positivity, even when it only lasts a few days it will leave me exhausted for a week afterwards. It’s horrid.

Pain management becomes key. I’ve learnt, through years of experience, how to manage different types of pain and more importantly *when* to manage. Niggles are the bane of every athletes life and will often disperse on their own. Some muscular pain, I’ve found, is best treated with gentle exercise. Other pain is definitely meant to be left the hell alone. I’m a fan of foam rolling as a way to improve mobility and conditioning in muscles and to iron out knots. It’s not for everyone and I know some of you reading this will tut and say you’ve never needed it. But it helps me and doesn’t do any harm.

I’m keeping everything crossed that this latest relapse buggers off soonest so that I can race my favourite race on Saturday. Although I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I may have to DNS for the second time this year. *Sulks*

Birthdays, Bikes and Bells. 

Where to even start!! 

It’s been a crazy week. The first of a fortnight off work (finally. It’s been AGES) but hectic none the less. I had a birthday (mine and other half’s) and a half marathon and cake-dates and a new bike. 

Let’s start with the bike. 

Built by Brian and his dad, my Dedacciai carbon framed beauty would’ve cost around £2k new. They have worked to build this absolute beast. And she weighs less than one of my cats. 

Hello Stella.  
Then the half marathon happened. Loch Leven half was my nemesis, this year. Last year I shouldn’t have done it. 2 weeks out from Edinburgh and properly injured, I forced myself to walk/run it in 2:27. 

This year is a different story. 

The plan was consistency and no injuries. I’ll probably know more in the morning but so far the only aches and pains are standard post-endurance niggles. 

My splits are pretty even. Although I did set out pretty quick by the looks of things. And I managed new PBs over 10k, 15k, 10miles and 20k. My final time for the half was (I think) around 2:16. I’m so proud. I didn’t walk. Apart from when taking on water. So all of 2 minutes walking in 2 hours is huge progress. 

  
The race itself is brilliantly organised. It’s a very “clubby” event though, so even at my relatively not-shit pace I was still quite far back in the pack. Because it’s such a popular race for experienced and fast 1/2 marathoners and marathoners, they all beast it in under 90 minutes. 

I smiled the whole way. I took a gel on around 10k in where there was a water station to wash it down. That was sensible. I got a boost before I started to flag and I really felt the benefit. At one point, I passed my buddy Michelle (another of Coach’s clients) who was in a bit of trouble. I checked she was ok and she waved me on. I managed to shout and wave at a Marshall further up to tell them to go find her. I know she’s fine now and took the tough decision to withdraw (she needs to save herself for Edinburgh in a few weeks). She took the most amazing finisher pic of me which I’ll show you in a bit. 

Oh. It was HOT! It rained a bit and was quite cool at the start, but as we turned a corner onto the flat ‘moss road’ on the way to Scotlandwell (where mum, dad and Lissie were all waiting) the wind went away completely and it was MELTING. Short-shorts and t shirt combo was the best choice. Even with SPF30 I think I have sunburn. Oops. 

I love this pic dad took of me. Mum shouted “bloody hell she’s not crying this time” and I got the giggles. 

  
Around 11km there’s a not-terribly-steep-but-terribly-steep-after-11km hill. I overtook a lot of walkers and this became the theme of the second half of the race.  
Having been in their shoes last year, I seized the opportunity to encourage and try to motivate each runner I passed. I know the route so was able to give those unfamiliar with it, a brief summary of how little they had left. I made some people smile, dished out some fist-bumps and high fives and continued on my journey. That was nice. 

I’d had a stitch on and off for a few miles and knew it was because of my quicker-than-normal pace. So I used breathing techniques and sipping water at water stations to make it fuck off and, for once, it worked. 

By 12 miles, my head was starting to question itself. “Walk. Just a bit. Go on.” But my legs kept going. I’d been feeling pretty worried about my shins coming into this race but they’d stopped niggling around 4 miles. By 10 miles, the IT bands were starting to ping a bit. And the old hip problems were causing some minor stiffness. But I just kept the pace slower and pushed on. 

Once I passed the “one mile to go” marker and ran into the housing estate before the school, I started feeling a bit anxious about the finish. I’ve no idea why I get this. It’s bizarre. I could have honestly stopped here and walked the rest. 

But I didn’t. 

Suddenly; I burst into a cacophany of bagpipes, cheers and neon Lycra and there was the finishing chute. 

I picked up my knees, high fived my buddy as I passed, waved for dad’s camera and sped over the line in 2:16. 

That’s 11 minutes faster than last year. And I’m not (so far) broken. 

  

So there we go. And the medal? A cowbell. Odd. And I’m not sure what the link is, but there must be an in-joke in there somewhere between the clubs. 

Today I have mostly eaten everything in sight. And legs permitting, I hope to give Stella her first flight tomorrow. 

It’s a very exciting time for this budding triathlete. 

  

Huge well done to my future bro-in-law too, who finished in under 2:10. Go Sean!!!

 
Peace out, for now x 

  

Diagnosis Almost Murder

WARNING: CONTAINS SELF PITY AND WHINING.

“It’s not a Labral tear, Ginnie.” Said the doctor.

“You’re sure? Like…. Positive? Because Google said…”

“STOP GOOGLING. I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s almost absolutely 100% IT Band. Google that if you have to. And see your physio. AND NO RUNNING.”

So there we go then. IT Band Syndrome. PhysioDan is in agreement. And I am still in pain. Albeit because Dan spent an hour kneading my leg like dough today. It hurt so much I almost punched him.

No running. No swimming. Some limited cycling. SOME. As in half an hour at a gentle pace. And then ice and then two days rest.

*googles gentle pace*

Just as well it’s not a triathlon that I’m training for.

Oh wait…

Panic. Sheer panic. And then depression. And now The Rage builds inside me with every minute I’m not releasing “the bad miaows” (stress). I hate this. AND IT IS ALL MY STUPID FAULT.

Cue self pity. ALL THE SELF PITY. And the worrying. And the paranoia. And the fear.

Training is my therapy. And now I’m back to sitting about with ice on my hip like I’m 86. Stress levels at work are increasing and I have lost 80% of my thinking time.

Being injured or “temporarily inconvenienced” has its benefits in that for the first week I didn’t feel bad napping or sleeping longer or reading. But now (although totally ridiculous and complete bollocks) it’s like I can feel my fitness, muscle tone and stamina disappearing.

My brain isn’t coping well with any of this. Stress in the office means that I write MANY lists. Which I find very useful. These lists usually contain very many things, but yesterday I was struggling to remember that we needed eggs.

So I wrote another list:

2015/01/img_8933-0.png

See? Eggs.

What did I buy in Sainsbury’s?

Oh yes of course. Grazia. After I got home (I walked, by the way) I cried for 15 minutes. I really wanted an omelette.

Stress, hormones, pain, tiredness, more pain and various other issues are all sitting inside my head and this is making my usually sparkly, ebullient personality dull and grey and a little bit annoying, if I’m honest. I’m snappy, irritable and withdrawn. And I HATE EVERYTHING. I can’t even pick a decent song on my iPod (and yes thank you there is a good selection…)

Reading back through this its all very woe is me. Which is a bit shite really because that’s not what this journey is supposed to be about.

However none of this is supposed to be easy and sometimes the journey gets a bit shit. My lovely, supportive buddies who encourage me endlessly need to know that, despite my enthusiasm, this is HARD.

MoRunning, Mo Problems

Uh oh. Here she goes. Yet more moaning about running.

WRONG. You wish. This is a ANOTHER POSITIVE BLOG ABOUT RUNNING. While the title suggests otherwise, that is actually just because I found it really funny. No, you shut up.

Just after I got the all-clear from PhysioDan to start running again in July, I registered for the Edinburgh MoRunning 10k. Ambitious? Yes. Stupid? Probably.

As part of the whole Movember thing, all proceeds go to Prostate Cancer UK. It’s a brilliant event and a very deserving charity. This year I even managed to convince Sean (future bro in law and Cancer survivor at 24) to enter. He’d shaved an epic tasche for the event.

Pre-race pic….

IMG_7437-0.JPG

(He’s the one not wearing pink)

Sean, being a seasoned pro* (*lucky sod who just happens to be a very good runner) was set on a sub 60min and was as excited as me! It was really lovely to have a running buddy along for the occasion.

As a trained Marathoner, I couldn’t help but sit in awe at his pre race nutrition strategy: 2 bananas (barely chewed) and a giant hot chocolate from Starbucks. With cream. His efforts put my porridge and mint tea to shame. “Ha ha” I thought. “You’ll see that again on The Hill…”

Upon my gung-ho “it’ll be FINE” entry back in sunny July, I set the goal of sub 1hr. Equally ambitious. Equally stupid.
Or a PB. Sub 67 minutes. Less stupid. Still as ambitious.

I had to leave those dreams behind this week when mid Monday night 5k, my fabulously reliable and not at all annoying left knee (Medial Ligament. The bastard) decided otherwise. “Fuck you. No PB. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT”

I rested all week. Avoided bike which can sometimes help and sometimes hinder (remember how I don’t hold back very easily? Yeah…) and my mummy surprised me at work with my dad in tow on Friday and managed to K-Tape my knee in my office. Win.

With OH loaded like a pack horse with bags and coats, we set off for the start line.

I referred previously to the warning given to Sean regarding The Hill: The route consists of the roads up and around Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. You climb around 400ft in the first 2.5k. And on the 10k you do two laps. Brutal both physically and mentally.

Last year, I casually ignored warnings of The Hill from the other runners. Boy did I regret that. Having shot off the line (like an absolute fud) I quickly learnt of this Hill and its debilitating and mortifying effects on the human body and up-chuck reflux.

This year I kept that delightfully horrifying thought in the back of my head and managed to keep running the whole way up the first time. Slowly, but no vomiting.

However…..

Because I hung back a bit at the start so as not to be immediately swamped by pros, I got stuck in traffic. Absolutely nothing against a fellow Plodder, (I’m still a 10-11 minute miler) But seriously. 5 of you lined up across the road so no one can pass? Annoying. Once I eventually hit the flat section by the wee pond (small – not a pond of pee, my non-Scottish pals) at the top of the hill, I almost twisted my ankle having to swerve suddenly to avoid a runner who had come to an abrupt stop, not due to injury, no….. Because she was fannying around with her phone holder as she wanted to take a fucking SELFIE. Now…. I’m cool with selfie-taking (You’ve all seen my Instagram… and we all love RunSelfieRepeat) But in the middle of a road packed with runners, 3k into a race? Don’t stand sodding still. Get out of our fucking way. I, along with several others who, having just come out of a brutal hill-climb and then had to make a quick and evasive manoeuvre, may have called a fellow runner a twat. Oops.

At about 3.5k you come to the 1.5k of downhill bliss. By this point I’d found Natalie. Fellow Maggie’s Centre marathon runner. Having been plagued with injury and loss of mojo since May, this was her first run since Edinburgh and she did brilliantly! Kept me chatting the whole way. Certainly helped the time fly by and was great to catch up with a pal.

We cruised through 5k at about 32 mins. Just below PB time but happy and feeling strong. I knew, however, that The Hill Take Two was looming. At about 6.5k I could give no more. I’d got passed the steepest part of the climb but my breathing wouldn’t regulate, I had horrible anxiety and I knew my HR was through the roof. We walked for around 500m and then set off again at a 6:30/km pace. Much better. The anxiety stuck with me till the end but happily, the rest of the run was without issue. The downhill was really fun. It’s quite steep at first and once over the line, my back was hurting quite a bit. (*makes mental note to start regular hill training*)

Chip time 1:04:57. A PB. delighted. I know I can work on improving that now as I head towards 2015’s goals.

Sean smashed it in 56mins. A brilliant time for a cracking runner and wonderful guy. Super proud. 2 years since his diagnosis and he’s kicking my ass already.

Fantastic weather was appreciated and, despite baggage, my OH managed to climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat (as in, the actual Cairn, Scottish pals) and back down within an hour to watch us finish 8 minutes apart. He should probably also get a medal because the bag weighed more than a car.

So a very happy Bean this evening. Knee has shut up, anxiety has gone and I’ve eaten half a box of pastries. Good Saturday.

IMG_7445.JPG

#SheBelievedSheCouldSoSheDid

The Exciting Thing

Today something magical happened. 

You all know of my struggle since Marathon. The damage to my hips has been significant enough to make even walking slightly Quasimodo-esque. Running has been out of the question and also largely banned by physio. Initially, it looked like running would never ever be the same. But…

Last week, I was told to try running. Gently. For a short distance. Today I did it. 

1 mile. 9:52. Mild discomfort only. I felt exactly the same elation as I did when I finished the Marathon. Except more because I wasn’t actually dying and it wasn’t the middle of a thunder storm and my sister wasn’t making me cry. 

This enormous victory happened because of one major thing: I’m a determined little bastard. 

Competitive? Me? NO!

This determination stems from my very VERY competitive nature. I’m the worst kind of competitive. I will go out of my way to win if I can. And I’m competitive with MYSELF. A good example would be a new phenomenon I’ve discovered since re-kindling my Swimming Love. 

Picture the scene: You dip into the water. You’re ready. Garmin set to Swim mode. In your peripheral vision you spot a swimmer of a similar age/build. They are head to toe in club kit. They mean business. They’ve seen you look. They know you’ve clocked them. DAMMIT. You’re already weak. So you swim. You swim hard. Fast. Relentlessly. 8 hard years of turn practice and  stroke perfection coming back to you. You overtake. A lot. Then they start to gain on you. So you push a bit harder. You’ve surpassed your planned distance for the session. You care not. YOU WILL WIN. 

Absurd. But awesome. And yes. I won.

The Determination

One thing I’ve learnt about myself over the last 6 months is that I am a lot stronger mentally than I ever thought I was. It takes a special kind of grit to push yourself to run a 5:40:16 Marathon and still be able to function at the end. (I use the term “function” VERY VERY loosely. I basically ate Pringles and Bananas constantly for 2 hours while crying like a toddler) 

It takes an even greater mental strength to realise at 5:05 hrs that you have not a hope in hell of finishing sub 5 or even sub 5:30. And when that moment is in a deserted street in Prestonpans while you stretch your seized quad beside a man dressed as a smurf, that feels pretty damn bleak. I tell you.

I wanted to run a marathon for me. I wanted to do something good with it, so I did. I helped a wonderful charity. I wanted to run a marathon to prove a point. That I COULD. I was fed up of being chubby, of telling myself I couldn’t do things. Or that I wouldn’t. I needed to change that and I am so so happy that I did. 

There’s a song on repeat on Radio 1 at the moment, and if you can get past the fact that it’s a wildly overproduced pop-fest with a slightly chavvy edge, the lyrics stick in my head…. 

“I never held back from the edge
We all hit the same line in the end
But I don’t wanna fall down too soon
Take every moment I can with you
Not over till we’re in the clear
Hold tight and let go of the fear
All the trouble we’ve left behind
We’re not gonna get home tonight”

Here’s a link to the audio… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES8U9phh0SE

It just makes me think, I’ve let go of so much negativity and self-doubt. I actually heard myself speaking to a colleague today saying “the only thing standing in the way of you doing something, is yourself” and that is so true. Loads of people have scoffed and said “there’s no way you’d run a marathon” and “if you’re this injured do you really think you’ll ever do another one?” and I’ve realised a bit that those people don’t matter. You can do things to prove the haters wrong, and it’s a happy by-product of achieving your ambitions, but in the end, DO IT FOR YOU.

I can and WILL be #RunnerBean once more. I can and WILL be #TriathlonBean within a year. 

 

Bring. It. On. 

 

 

10485879_10152454162555675_1795798197464364328_n

And So It Continues…

This blog isn’t going on sabbatical until my next mission….

… Because I’m already on it.

I’d quietly, to myself, decided that I’d do another marathon before I ran 18 miles in training and somewhat significantly damaged the ligaments in my left hip, and then ended up with a rather severe bout of tonsillitis which I think pretty much screwed the rest of my training and left me an exhausted, antibiotic fuelled wreck for taper.

Then I entered the ballot for VLM2015 and told everyone. Big fucking thumbs up, Bean.

This gives me until October when it’s revealed whether or not I’ve made the cut, to get my hip better and focus on another mission. #TriathlonBean

Yep. I can feel my non-athletic friends rolling their eyes.

For me it’s not about winning, or being the fastest, or the fittest. Let’s face it, none of those are a realistic ambition. However, having shed the two stone I’d gained in my early twenties, I now need to be the fittest and leanest that I can be, for me. (Also, I like medals. I like them A LOT)

I went for my first swim speed test last week. I swam 1000m Front Crawl in just under 23minutes. Good pace. I felt strong and my technique hadn’t lost it’s edge despite the 12 year hiatus. That’s the benchmark set. I want to get to 20 minutes.

The cycling is getting faster. And I’m almost never encountering instant brain-death now. I’m bound to my MTB until such time as 1) I no longer dodge death once per ride 2) my road bike is built 3) I’m no longer terrified of clippies.

The only thing missing is running. And I miss it very, very much. Despite my initially troublesome relationship with running, it didn’t take me long to fall for it. I dropped music on long runs and enjoyed peaceful birdsong and the shade of the trees. I make it sound heavenly and problem free, which of course it wasn’t. However, the health benefits (pain aside) have been significant and it’s lead me to some amazing places and brilliant people.

I’m very lucky that most people I know are incredibly supportive. But I get a lot of concerned questions whenever I discuss my athletic ambitions.

“Aren’t you worried you will lose too much weight?” – no. Carbs are my friend. I love them too dearly to be bony.

“Are you mental?” – duh.

But the most frequent is this: “are you a bit addicted to exercise?”

I can now fully understand why people become addicted to exercising. I’ve found it incredibly hard both emotionally and physically to have to cut out running. If I don’t, I risk permanent damage to my hip until it’s repaired and strengthened. There is no accurate time frame for this, which for a control freak like me is VERY DIFFICULT. Also, it fucking hurts. But I feel like I fucking NEED to run. I threw a massive paddy last week when my quad and calf cramped just as I was getting into a fast lap of Loch Leven on the bike. Don’t think OH was *quite* prepared for waterworks combined with “FUCK SAKE I NEED TO BE ABLE TO THIS”

Is this what the Marathon has done to me? Am I now destined to wander the earth in search of the next endurance event to throw myself into?

I have my limits. I think. I just need to find out what they are….

Taper Madness

Right.

Following yesterday’s whiney, wallowy blog, (Terror and being hated by my own body) I manned up a bit and did some thinking and some googling. It turns out that what I am experiencing is actually a thing. I know. Shocker. Some call it a Taper Tantrum, others Taper Madness. (It’s a thing if Runners World have written about it… )

I thought I would go back to the start of tapering and talk myself through what I’ve actually experienced while reading through the article. It completely rationalised everything and I woke up today feeling still a bit bruised and tired, but much MUCH better than yesterday.

Week 1: “First week of my fortnight off work. Week after my 20mile run/walk/cry/vomit”

Symptoms: STARVING at all times. Completely exhausted. Fell off bike on day two and got a concussion (probably unrelated. I’m accident prone…) Aches and pains. Inability to walk down stairs due to quad-related difficulties.

Explanation: I’ve just completed my longest run. Ever. I’ve also just had a particularly nasty bout of tonsillitis and a week of strong antibiotics. Of COURSE my body is broken.

For Next Time: Make sure not to go out on a bike, drink plenty of fluids, eat plenty of protein and watch the carb intake. Try and maintain mileage over the week to around 30% less than previous week.

Week 2:”2nd week off work. Week after concussion and 1/2Marathon PB”

Symptoms: Craving sugar like some kind of crazed junkie. (Actually considered making sugar-butter icing JUST to eat it with a spoon. THAT is a sugar addiction…) weight gain (thank you sugar), feeling of complete and utter desolation. LOTS of tears. LOTS of tantrums. Inability to walk without a limp. Back pain, hip and knee pain, weird run, weird walk. Just fucking WEIRD. The best way to describe the pain is like being in a dream, when you are trying to run towards or away from something, and you…just….can’t….move.

Explanation: Over the last 6 months, my body has become addicted both physically and mentally to running. And now, after building up for ages, I’ve cut right back. A further 50% to what I was doing before. All of a sudden, I’m moving less and eating more. I’ve put on weight, I definitely do NOT feel strong and I’ve got these phantom aches and pains. When I should be feeling my strongest, I’m actually feeling weak and useless.

For Next Time: Remember that I’m on a come-down. Maintain protein levels at a higher level than normal to aid muscle recovery. Include healthy fats and carbs. The pains are mostly in my head but there is a lot of science that points towards pain coming from the body repairing itself. In the same way a scab sometimes hurts more when it’s healing. A muscle or joint hurts more during it’s recovery. So basically I’m like Wolverine at this point. Only less hairy. (No less grumpy…)

I’m now about to go into week 3. Decided to cool the running off a bit and visited mum today who worked on my pelvis, hams, quads and lower back with massage. That’s certainly eased whatever it was. Last night I walked 3 miles out and 3miles back and it took me over an hour and a half. Very frustrating but I know it’s as important to keep the joints and muscles moving as it is to let them recover.

This week is Sports Massage, final Physio, Gentle Walk/Jog/Runs and pilates with my race on Sunday 25th. Carb-loading will be kept to a relative minimum as I’m already carrying 5 extra pounds of holiday-chub and I don’t want to add strain to my ankles. (I’m certainly no heifer but every little ounce counts) I plan on increasing carb intake over this weekend and into the beginning of next week. From Wednesday onwards I shall cut back and concentrate on grazing. (Basically, instead of 3 meals (1 small, 2 medium) per day, have 4 or 5 small meals containing lighter foods with moderate carb but plenty of healthy fats) Saturday will be the same. With small snacky meals all day and porridge with honey and banana about 2 hours before bed.

 

 

Oh shiiiiiit. It’s getting real.

Also, I have now got my race number….

Image

I’m planning on blogging the night before if I haven’t worked myself into a pit of fear and despair…

Anyway. If you’re going to be there on Sunday 25th, look out for me. I’ll be the one smiling at the cameras and trying not to collapse in a heap….

The trouble with Bean

I have this thing. Which is quite annoying. You see, I’m incredibly accident prone. Which is funny because I’m the most paranoid, over-careful person you’ll meet. So it’s like I make myself fall over and fall off things and get sick.

I posted last week about my bout of super delightful tonsillitis which thankfully fucked off. However, I’ve since been left with a very tickly cough and resulting sore throat.

I gave up donuts and pizza’s and took up running to be HEALTHY and LOOK what it’s done to me??!!

Anyway. I ran/walked/cried for 20 miles on Sunday. OH came with me and ran for the first 6 before his knee gave in. I continued to mile 10 then turned back. Mile 8 was pretty brutal. I had one of my stitches that won’t go the fuck away. Then I got a bit pukey because I was trying to push through it. OH had caught me up walking by this point and was luckily on hand to clean me up and kick my arse into moving again.

At around mile 11, the humidity was getting to me. I was fucking miserable. The midgies were unbearable and for the first time in a long time I fucking HATED running. Hated it. Then a lovely man passed by, giving his daughter a piggy back as his misses pushed a pram and said “chin up,darlin, you’re doing well” and I had to wait 5 minutes until they’d passed so I could stop and sob and have a serious fucking word with myself.

When times get tough (and they got very fucking tough that day…) a wise chap I know has given me a few techniques to try and get myself to HTFU. So. Serveral shouty swears at myself, some serious reminding myself of how lucky I am to even be able to run in the first place, and I was on my way again. Around mile 13, I stumbled upon OH again who was freezing and waiting for me. He had really fucked his knee so was in no position to run back with me. He walked and I ran/jog/walked and eventually after 20.1 miles and 4hrs 12 mins, I got home.

I hurt. I had really given that last few miles everything. But I had smashed the big mental barrier I’d built for myself from day 1. My legs were actually ok. My hip wasn’t but fuck it. I’d only have 6.1 more miles to go on the day. AND I’m ahead of sweeper bus pace…

Monday arrived and myself and OH departed for 4 days in the highlands for our joint birthday. Mountain bikes strapped to the back of the car, suitcases full of kit. Perfect.

Except I’m Bean. Which inevitably means that something will go tits up.

I’m a very nervous cyclist and after 15 years of very little bike action, I’ve recently rekindled my love of it. Albeit very slowly and not too steep, please.

OH is very confident and lacks the Fear Gene that I have in abundance. He can quite happily throw himself down the side of a mountain at speed. Me? Not so much.

So on our Birthday, we had a huge breakfast and then set out a few hours later to adventure along the Great Glen Way. The first 6 miles were flat, slightly potholed canal track. Perfect. Nice and quick. Rainy then sunny. Cold, highland air. After 6 ish miles we reached Bridge of Oich where the lovely easy path stopped and the Great Glen Way got a bit fucking mental. Pot-holed muddy grass with hardcore forestry paths, steep ascents, descents and then….. The Tree Roots. About 100m in I shouted along to OH that I wasn’t doing too well. We were on a time limit so we decided we’d head back to Fort Augustus. Easy enough?

No.

50m later, I hadn’t quite got up to enough speed to avoid the large tree roots and my front wheel slid off one, large chunky tyres failing to find grip and bedding into the mud in front of a root 6 inches high. Bang.

I came off sideways, my right shoulder hit the ground first, then my head, then my hip (which has a VERY impressive bruise). The bike landed on my hand. When I opened my eyes seconds later, OH was swearing as his already damaged knee twisted while getting his clippies off his pedals to try and get me up. I was bashed to hell but I was fine. Oh. I was also crying like a fucking toddler. “I *sob* hate *sob* this *sob* my *sob* head *sob* hurts”

“Get up, you’re ok. Take your helmet off”

No blood from my head.

“OH MY FACE IS IT MY FACE”

Typical.

My face was fine. But I was feeling VERY sick and dizzy and we both knew I’d given myself a concussion. We were at least 40 minutes cycling off road from the main road and my helmet was compromised and I had concussion so our only choice was to walk. For over an hour. Until we reached the sanctuary of a nice flat canal path. OH with his totally trashed knees and clippy shoes was not in the mood for Bean’s Concussion Banter.

“Did it look cool?”

“no”

“Oh. This is JUST like an episode of 999. Hours from anywhere.. DISASTER STRIKES”

“It’s not a disaster. you’ve bumped your head because you’re a fanny”

At one point, nausea got pretty bad so I was rushed into the shade of a tree while Mr “Just got my First Aiders Badge” used his iPhone flash bulb to check my pupil dilation.

Anyway. Hours of scary middle-of-nowhere-ness later, we arrived back at our cottage and I was chucked in a car and driven very quickly to Raigmore where a very lovely doctor lady examined me thoroughly and told me I’d be fine.

She also mentioned that I was very lucky to have been wearing a helmet and wearing it properly. Any looser, there’d have been brain damage.

When I told her I was training to run the Edinburgh Marathon, could I go for a run later? She said “NO! Rest. And no more bikes…”

Brilliant. Think I’ll hang my shiny new replacement helmet up until AFTER May 25th…

Damage Sustained to Forward RHS of hemlet. This was a slow crash at no more than 8mph on a track. The rock I hit with my Right temple was the size of a tennis ball.

Image

My Right Shin/Calf… (thankfully no muscle bruising)Image

The bruise on my Right hand. I didn’t use it to break the fall. My reflexes aren’t that quick. Instead I broke the fall of my carbon fibre handle bars, which, as it turns out, are quite heavy when attached to a bike….

Image

 

My shiny new Bell Ventura helmet.

Image