It has been a long, long winter. Normally it doesn’t bother me but this year, and also when I look back, last year, I have struggled to keep things in perspective at times.
Running has been haphazard thanks to two sinus infections and a chest infection in quick succession. The latter saw me on steroids which had more of an impact than I’d anticipated, and so the return to training has been cautious.
Finally, I got out for a decent long run on Sunday.
It was a beautiful day. The sun was out when I set off, and stayed out for most of my run. There were some impressive rain showers early on, but thankfully they were short-lived.
It was the first run of the year in just a single layer of clothing, (admittedly long sleeves and long tights), and it was great not to be rustling along in my jacket. I was trying out a new backpack that I’d wanted for ages, and it felt brilliant.
It was also a rare daylight run, and after months and months of running in the dark, at last there was no need for my headtorch.
The world was out enjoying the weather and the scenery. Dogs were being walked, children were learning to ride bikes, sheep were being rounded up on the hillside. The highland cattle I’d seen on my last run down this route had increased their number by one, a tiny calf who could just be seen sticking very close to its mother.
For me, a long run isn’t a long run without a hug from a dog along the way. I stopped counting border collies when I got to ten. It was a similar story with black labradors. No greyhounds this time, but I did see a couple of whippets.
This week’s dogs of the day were Maisie the Westie and Ben the miniature Schnauzer, both happily showing off their newly clipped streamlined spring coats.
My route covered a mixture of the newly designated John Muir Way down to Strathblane, then up the Stockiemuir Road to Carbeth and then onto the popular West Highland Way, before crossing the road at Glengoyne distillery. I had my now customary stop at the stile, and paused for a think before stomping up the hill and then picking up the Pipe Track that runs back to Blanefield.
I’ve been quite homesick lately, and the stile has become a bit of a place to sit and think about friends and family far away.
Glengoyne is a favourite whisky of one of my dearest friends. We go back to days of Ducatis and random meetups with unknown bikers in car parks. It has become a tradition that each time I run past the distillery, I have a quick stop to take a picture of the distillery for her, as a reminder that it’s still there.
Despite being just nine miles from home, I’ve never been to visit, and I hope that when I do, it’s with her.
I’m just home from work, I feel sick from the bus journey home, I’m tired and I’m just starting to come down with yet another cold.
I live by the hills just north of Glasgow so obviously it’s raining outside.
I check my peak flow. It’s just above the self-imposed limit where running is questionable, but my chest feels OK and after being inside all day, I am desperate for some fresh air. I get changed and head out of the front door.
All my other winter running kit is in the wash so I’m wearing a pair of incredibly badly fitting running tights that were stashed at the back of the drawer in case of an emergency. They are slightly too see-through for daytime public consumption, and they don’t stay up without a good yank every couple of hundred metres.
I’m also wearing a very brightly coloured top that is too bright for daytime public consumption, especially when worn with these running tights. My colour coordination this evening leaves much to be desired.
It’s raining quite heavily now. I’m actually really glad about this because it means the footpaths won’t be icy, and so I am less likely to slip over.
It’s 16th December and this is my 16th day of running this month.
This is an informal challenge to run every day in December (including Christmas Day), for 3 miles or 25 minutes, whichever comes first.
I first heard of it last year, but didn’t think it was something I’d be able to do. The previous winter had been incredibly icy and my asthma had been pretty bad so I didn’t feel able to commit to running every day.
So instead, I challenged myself to log an 80 mile month, a challenge set by Bangs and a Bun, whose running/fitness blog had helped inspire me when I first started out on this incredible journey in early 2012.
As a direct result of my 80 mile month, I learned how to manage my asthma on really bad days. I pushed my distances way further than I thought was possible, and just when I thought I’d left it too late, I managed to clock up 50 miles in 8 days and completed the challenge.
On my very worst asthma day last winter, I set out for a short run. It can take a while for my lungs to warm up sometimes, but this time nothing was happening. I almost turned round and went home. But I happened to look at my Strava and realised that not only had I already run a mile and would have to run a mile home again anyway, but it was a fast mile and I was on track to hit a new PB for 5k. So I carried on. I still have no idea where that came from, and it was another sign that my life had really changed.
This year, largely thanks to a great winter of training behind me (which itself was largely thanks to previously unknown levels of commitment and discipline), I did some amazing things. I have run, climbed, walked and cycled in some incredible places and covered some pretty impressive distances under my own steam.
After such a big year, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a bit of a dip. I didn’t finish my last race, back in early October. I took a couple of weeks off to rest and recover, and then just as I was hoping to start running again, I was absolutely flattened for the best part of three weeks with a sinus infection. I had wanted to get going again, but my body could barely make it from my bed to the sofa and back. I’d been incredibly unlucky, but there was nothing for it other than to let it take its course and wait until I was better.
I’d thought about entering the Highland Fling in April but had no idea whether I was capable of completing it, certainly not in the state I was now in. ntries opened not long after my last race, and knowing it would quickly sell out, I needed to make up my mind pretty quickly.
I reminded myself that I’d felt the same way this time last year about entering my first marathon and ultra marathon, and committing to cycle up a big mountain in France. I had no idea whether I was capable of those either, but I’d said yes and then trained and prepared as much as I could. Knowing this had all paid off gave me a bit of confidence to put my Fling entry in.
We had a wonderful week’s holiday in the north west Highlands, with some running, walking and a bit of scrambling. Marcothon would start just after we got back and this year I felt ready to give it a go.
I didn’t expect to love it as much as I have.
I didn’t expect to see the results I’ve seen.
In just over two weeks, I’m pretty much back to the speed I was running at the start of the year when I’d set a 5k and 10k PB. Admittedly these are short distances compared to my ‘normal’ preferred distances, and nothing like the terrain I will be running on come race day, but given how bad my chest has been recently, frankly I am astonished.
The first week, I was absolutely shattered. Even running half an hour a day on top of a normal working day was more than I had done for a few weeks. But within a few days, I felt fine. My legs haven’t been sore at all, just a little tired on a longer run on Saturday.
The hardest days so far have been Day 3, when I was just getting going again and really struggled to shove myself out of the front door, and Day 9 when I had to run at 6am because I was out in the evening and would be in no fit state to run when I got home.
Icy footpaths have been a bit scary, but the worst thing about the ice has been having to slow down when my legs have felt ready to go faster.
I miss running in the daylight, but I know that logging these winter miles will mean that once again I will be ready to make the most of the long summer evenings when they come.
Running is responsible for so much of the good stuff in my life, and the fitness it has given me has pushed me on to do other things as well.
Marcothon has reminded me of just how much I love running, and how despite this being my third winter of training, it still feels like a complete novelty that I’m able to do it, especially in this part of the world.
I feel a bit more like my old self again. There’s a challenge on the table and I know what I am working towards. Away from running, this isn’t always the case, but it’s amazing how having a running goal keeps me going in other areas of life too.
The wetsuit has landed. The first time I tried it on was after a 20 mile cycle ride, and was not a pleasant experience. I really felt this should be an Olympic sport in its own right. The second time, with a few top tips, it was much easier. I am keen to try swimming in it, but ever-so-slightly petrified too.
Since I started my training for Nightrider, and therefore by default, for my Triathlon, my kit has been on the shabby side.
I have a good pair of running shoes (purchased on my honeymoon for one – see other blog for explanation).
My running/cycling top cost me £2 from Matalan last winter.
My sports bra was 5 years old (although not worn much).
My cycling/running tights cost me £15 in the YHA Manchester sale about 14 years ago.
A couple of weeks back, I bought a new sports bra, courtesy of a Tesco clubcard deal with Figleaves. Ended up free.
This week I shelled out for a very blingy triathlon suit – an all in one lycra number intended to go under your wetsuit so that once out of it, you don’t have to get changed again. I agonised for ages over it, and only went for it because it was a) in the sale and b) my Olympic Gamesmaker friend gave me some money towards the housekeeping when he stayed. I was so excited, but it arrived and I was distinctly underwhelmed. It cost as much as my running shoes, and was delivered with a mark and a hole in it. It also didn’t fit so is going back.
In the post today, I received a freebie running vest from the Lymphoma Association, the main reason for all this triathlon business in the first place.
It’s yellow. This is about the worst colour for me, but I’m just going to have to get over it.
Since my last post, the news has been filled with stories of the worst hayfever season in 20 years. This makes my head feel a little better, if not my lungs….