Messing about in boats

“Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING – absolute nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,’ he went on dreamily: ‘messing – about – in – boats….’


So said Ratty to Mole in the Wind in the Willows, and that’s what we spent doing today. On Wednesday, me and Ginge will have been married for four years and what better way to celebrate than on the canal? The canal running was the inspiration for the trip (I’ve said  before, I’m not bloody obsessed) because without it, we never would have known about the Foulridge tunnel and we would never have spotted Tigerlily, the hire boat that we borrowed for the day. We ran this section as our first canal/camping adventure at the end of May; it was grey and miserable on the Saturday, and grey, miserable and wet on the Sunday. Luckily, we were blessed with better weather today.

Blue skies were very welcome

It was strange being on the other side of the fence for once, normally it’s me peering at people and saying hello as I plod past them, but today we were the object of people’s greetings and curiosity. It also made a change for there just to be two of us on a boat (we’ve been on narrowboats two years previously, but they’ve been more, ahem, party boats. On one trip, we ended up split into a girls’ boat and a boys boat, and I snuck onto the boys because I will not be defined by gender stereotypes. And the girls’ boat was like a scary floating hen do) and not incurring the wrath of canal dwellers as  a drunken ship of fools passes their moorings.

One mile of darkness...

...being dripped on by stalactites...

...but there was light at the end of the tunnel.

We navigated our way through the mile long tunnel, had a picnic in the sunshine, knitted, listened to Test Match Special, stopped for an ice cream, acquired two head injuries (I’d have to have some kind of helmet if we lived on a boat, I’m short but clumsy) and no one fell in.

Not a bad spot for a picnic

Dinner guests (I always imagine swans to be hollow, but have never tapped one to be sure)

I’ve also had three days knee rest and will be ringing a Twitter recommended physio tomorrow – thank you all for your wise words on my last post.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Do you remember, back in June, I had a week or so when my running felt fantastic? I was fleet of foot and light of tread, I bounded, cantered and gamboled through the streets without a care in the world. I remember it, but unfortunately my legs have completely forgotten and now seem to think that they are made of lead. Very achy lead.

On Sunday, I did 6 miles with Ginge. It wasn’t pleasant (except the company) and I needed all of his best cajoling and encouragement to get home. I put this down to a training phenomenon I like to call ‘clumping’. Clumping occurs when you skive/weasel/postpone a planned session, but then end up with all your sessions clumping into a short space of time. Last week I ran on Tuesday, slept through Thursday morning’s allocated slot, chose to ignore Thursday evening’s replacement slot and ended up running Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I know that I do this during the Athons, but I like to think that I’m trying to work harder at the moment.

On Monday I rested. It was nice.

On Tuesday, I gulped and hacked out 10 miles with Ginge. Poor Ginge has no inclination to run a half, but still accompanies me – he’s great. He’s also bloody annoying, because he does it with a lot less effort than I do. It was grumpy, painful and bloody hard work. I struggled to find a rhythm, pausing after a mile because it felt as if someone had fused my ankle bones together, then my legs felt heavy, then my dodgy knee made me trot in an awkward fashion, then I was too hot, then it started raining and I was too cold, then my legs went heavy again, then my feet hurt… This continued for, oooh, seven miles before I actually found myself settling into it.

I suspect that some of this was all in my head – the route contained two hills that I have failed in the past, I was nervous about hitting double figures and it was Tuesday bloody night. Some of it was in my legs though – the niggles that have lurked during Juneathon seem to have all starting shouting for attention at the same time. I’ve thought for a while that my knee was flaring up (anterior pain around my patella) but have been ignoring it because deep down I know that the inevitable solution will be rest and I don’t want to rest (I realise the incredible stupidity of this approach).

On Wednesday, I went to yoga. I was apprehensive about going because I don’t trust my knee in flexed weightbearing positions. I also fancied a night on the sofa. I sought advice from twitter, followed the wise words of @GlasgowOsteo and tried some massage, which seemed to do the trick for a bit (I ran up and downstairs without wincing) and survived yoga.

This morning, I was out of the door at the obscenely early time of 5.30. I am both proud and ashamed of this. I ran 5 miles. I felt as if someone had swapped my legs for someone else’s and they just wouldn’t work properly. I am frustrated.

Tonight, I have ordered a foam roller and continue to apply copious amounts of Deep Freeze to a vast acreage of my upper legs. I am fighting the urge to go out tomorrow morning just to see how it feels. I have also entered Jog Blog’s competition to win a set of Cram Alerts just in case I can’t make it home one day…

Here is a picture of a man guarding some cows at Jodrell Bank. Hopefully this offsets my pitiful whinging.

Just a walk in the park

I’ve been aware of Parkruns for ages, “…if only there was one near me…” I would sigh. Then a few months ago I realised that there is one near me. Did I start going? Did I heck. So when I went down to the Juneathon picnic and Hels and Louise enthused about them, they  shot down pretty much all of my excuses and anxieties (the list is too long to go into, but I’m sure that you can guess the bulk of them).

Suddenly (and soberly) I heard my voice saying that yes, I would do one the weekend after. The plot thickened when the peer support/bullying/can’t-back-out-for-the-shame-of-it side of twitter emerged. If I would do one up north, Sue would do one at the same time in Cardiff.

Before I knew it, Saturday morning was dawning (I say dawning, it was belting down with rain, I’m just assuming there was a dawn somewhere behind all the clouds). I’d printed out my barcode and lovingly wrapped it in sticky tape to waterproof it, my bag was packed, my Garmin charged and my Parkrun picked. I had a choice of two runs, but opted for Pennington Flash because I know where it is and that at least removed one aspect of my stressing. With windscreen wipers swishing at full pelt, I set off down the M6, parked up and immediately I was intimidated by the sight in the car park.

Flash, I love you...

There was a large huddle of lean, athletic looking types in matching yellow tops. They looked very serious. What had I done? It emerged that they were a team from The Stragglers running club who are running from John O’Groats to Lands End to raise money for Macmillan (you can read more about them here and sponsor them here). An extra twenty serious proper runner types joining us? Excellent.

As I followed a less intimidating couple to the meeting point (all of the Stragglers bounded past, warming up effortlessly) I was struck with the horrible thought that I had forgotten how to run. I called myself an idiot and carried on trying to work out the mechanics of how the run worked, before giving up and asking a friendly marshall. The course is described as, “a 400m run along a bridleway to a 3 lap clock-wise loop (1400m per lap) consisting mainly of a gravel trail with a grassy downhill section towards the end of the loop. Runners then finish with the same 400m run down the bridleway back to the start/finish”.

What goes down, must go up

With hindsight, I realise that the downhill section would inevitably involve a corresponding uphill section and, given that we run three loops, there would in fact be three uphill sections. This, combined with me setting off far too fast, combined with the wind and rain, made for a more challenging run than I had expected. Later that afternoon (after several hours of clicking refresh on the results page) I discovered that I had finished in 29:53 – 50th out of 61 and second in my age group (on closer inspection, second could also acurately be defined as ‘last’ – clearly all the rest of the 30-34 year olds have better things to do on a rainy Saturday morning, they’re probably all hungover or raising children or something).

The thing is, I know I can go faster. I’ve gone faster in my training runs. I want to go back and do it again to prove that I can go faster. I suspect that this is one of the purposes of Parkrunning and I’ve fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

Here is the prerequisite photo of a duck

Redefining my body

Regular readers (hello both of you) will know that Wednesday night is yoga night and tonight was indeed that.

We spent most of the session doing quads work to build up to doing a bridge posture in three increasingly strong positions. I say three, it was actually four. The fourth version had us all gathered around our teacher, marvelling at how amazing the human body can be and returning to our mats with the intention of doing any version but that one. It was not to be. “You can manage that”, she said to me, “get two blocks and have a go…”. Unconvinced, I followed her instructions and up I went. My arms went a bit wobbly, so down I came. After a minute to recover, I went for it again… Up I went, no wobbles, strong arms, strong legs and very proud of myself.

Apparently I looked shocked. This had something to with the fact that  I was shocked. My explanation for this was that I didn’t expect to be able to do it because I have pathetically weak arms. “No you don’t” she said, “you have strong arms. Redefine your arms!”.

Many of us run the risk of being defined by our own perceptions of ourselves – you know the sort of thing: I don’t do hills… I’m a slow runner… I’m not a racer…  It’s only when someone challenges us (or we challenge ourselves) that we realise that we can be something else.

I am redefining my body every time I run.

I have a cunning plan, or, Juneathon – the aftermath

It feels like ages since we were trapped in the tyranny of Juneathon, but it’s only been ten days. Originally, my plan was to have a couple of rest days and then (gulp) start following a proper half marathon plan in preparation for Folkestone in September. What actually happened was that I had a couple of rest days, then had a canal running plan scuppered by Peter Andre (well he’d been playing a concert at Haigh Hall the previous night and there was another day of music due to start when we tried to park up on the Sunday), then it was Monday and back to work… So two rest days became four and then I realised that I had to get my trainers on otherwise I might never run again.

The four rest days did give me chance to pore over the training plans that I was considering and I spent that time comparing and contrasting the Runners World Garmin-ready plan with the 2:09 Events plan. The two are fairly similar (well they are for the first four weeks, I can’t bring myself to look past there) but turn out to be exactly the same in that I hate them with a burning resentment. I appreciate that a training plan will keep me focused and help me to reach my potential, but they’re rubbish and harder to schedule than any of the bloody Athons. My main complaint is that they don’t seem to allow for, well, life. Or fun. Or any kind of running that’s not determined by The Plan.

I have planned my first three weeks on the kitchen calendar and have had to negotiate – the Juneathon picnic, giving blood, going for tea at my mate’s house, the wedding of an old rugby mate, the inevitable resulting hangover from the wedding of an old rugby mate and our fourth wedding anniversary. This is in addition to the fact that sometimes I like to run and have a natter with my mate. And sometimes I like to run an unknown distance along the canal stopping to take photos of ducks. If anyone knows of a plan that incorporates that kind of activity, let me know.

As it is, I’ve done the first week back to front, substituted the scheduled intervals for an Audiofuel pyramid and ‘rescheduled’ today’s three miles because I tired and quite frankly grumpy.  The 2:09 plan states that this week’s training is for ‘getting time on the feet and the start of a gradual build up of training’ and having just done 30/30 during Juneathon, I think that this is the least of my worries. My current mindset is to use the plan as a guide rather than, well, a plan. We shall see how successful this is over the next couple of months.

Yesterday was the Juneathon picnic in Hyde Park. In true Athon style, I was up stupidly early to catch the train down to London (although I am now beaten in the Most Miles Travelled to the Picnic category as Unshod Northerner came down from Darlington. Pah) where I successfully negotiated the Tube to meet up with Helsie who introduced me to the delights of Borough Market and the most amazing brownies ever at Konditor & Cook (their sausage rolls are rather gorgeous too, despite the inclusion of carrots).  Despite a lack of directional skills, we made our way over to Hyde Park and located JogBlog, there’s a six pack under here and jen runs 2011 who were guarding the picnic while abradypus, I like to count, unshod Northerner and Journalathon ran round the park. Food was scoffed and we were joined by disjointed tales and it’s better to burn out than fade away before catching trains/retiring to the pub then catching trains home.

Things I learned at the Juneathon picnic:

  • All the Athoners I have ever met have been, without exception, lovely
  • Unadulterated flapjacks are more popular than pretending-to-be-healthy-flapjacks (with sultanas and seeds)
  • In a test sample of Juneathoners, 75% will order a pint of Doombar in the pub
  • I am embarassingly indifferent to doing races
  • I appear to have said that I will (might) do a Park Run next weekend as everyone says that they’re great
  • I am better at taking photos of squirrels (and ducks and bridges and trees) than I am at taking photos of people

According to Hels, he's plotting to take over the world