Why Sport Needs Feminists

So last week I was watching the BBC 2 show Icons, which was celebrating the achievements of some of the greatest figures of the 20th century. The shortlist was made up of men, and Clare Balding made a really astute comment on why this might be the case. When asked if she was surprised no women made the shortlist, she said:

“I wasn’t surprised, disappointed but not surprised because I think you can’t be an icon unless you are allowed to have the limelight and I think the 20th century largely was the history of men told by men”.

I love Clare Balding, and so I tweeted a condensed version of her speech, saying “YASSSSSS ! Brilliant summary of why no women made the shortlist. The 20th century was a history of men as told by men.”

Clare Balding

And boy oh boy did that tweet get some attention (by my standards). I got accused of “moaning”,  was asked to name one woman who was worthy (ROSA FREAKING PARKS), got told that men are the reason my life is so good and was told that feminism is killing our culture. When I challenged this last point (made by someone who considers themselves an egalitarian rather than a feminist) I was told that women in the west “are vastly more privileged than men” and that feminists are “smashing western civilisation”.

I’m always interested in the opinions of others and so I did a bit of reading around feminism vs. egalitarianism (this article by Beth Turnbull was particularly useful), and after some research I still consider myself a feminist.  To quote Beth’s article:

“Egalitarianism is not an alternative to feminism. It’s like saying, “Why worry about exercise? Why not just worry about health?” You can’t really have one without the other. And don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with egalitarianism. It is simply a broader view of the fight for equality. Feminism is a narrower focus of that view; a focus on bringing women up to the same places men have been for years.”

So why am I mentioning all this in a fitness blog? Because a couple of days after this debate on Twitter, I saw a new petition on my timeline called #SeeSportyBeSporty by Totally Runable, calling for sports coverage in the media to be more gender equal. Despite the 2012 Olympics, where women won one third of all British medals, currently less than 3% of photographs of sport in the newspapers show women playing sport. and this article from 2014 shows that just 3% of sports articles at that time were about women as well. So this is where feminism comes in – not to tear down men, but to raise up the stories of women doing incredible things in sport (and all other sectors for that matter).

SeeSportyBeSporty

So we need to push for change – for more coverage of women in sport (you can sign the #SeeSportyBeSporty petition here) so that young girls can see themselves represented across the board. We need to keep shouting about the achievements of women like Jasmin Paris, Desi Linden, Dina Asher-Smith, Laura Muir, Jo Pavey and countless others (I’m focusing on runners here as that’s my passion but there are so many women doing incredible things in sport). When I google “Boston Marathon winner” I want the first result to name both Yuki Kawauchi (who I think is brilliant BTW) AND Desi Linden. We need to push for equal coverage and call out aging white men who write articles for crappy newspapers claiming that women’s sport is not as good as men’s and that’s why they don’t deserve equal coverage. And we need to keep telling the stories of female 20th century sporting icons like Tanni Gray-Thompson, Kathrine Switzer, Bobbi Gibb, Joan Benoit and many more. Because their stories are incredible, exciting and inspirational, just like the men’s stories are.

And I know this is ever so slightly off-topic, but this is a good time to shout out to Dr Jess Wade, who has written literally hundreds of Wikipedia entries for women in science (as well as other underrepresented groups) whose achievements have been overlooked in the past, in the hope of attracting more girls in to STEM in the future. Awesome stuff.

My 2018 Sporting Review

It’s really hard when your personal life gets in the way of your blog. I’ve had so much I’ve wanted to tell you about, including the St Neots half marathon and the Ely Runners Annual Christmas Run, but my personal life has just meant the blog posts haven’t been able to appear. But fear not, fair reader. Race/run reviews are just as valid a month or two after the event, so they’ll both be coming soon.

In the meantime, as it’s new year and I’m clearly not very imaginative, I thought I’d look back over 2018 and see what I achieved with my running and fitness. As it turns out, it was a pretty awesome year.

parkrun Love

2018 was the year that I well and truly threw myself into parkrun. I’ve always waxed lyrical on here about how brilliant it is and the importance of volunteering if you’re a regular runner at your local parkrun. But since one opened in Littleport, a mere 10 minute drive from me (or a 5.5 mile run on those mornings when I’m feeling super keen), it has become a humungous part of my life. I’ve hit the 25 volunteer credit milestone, and have even got my dad involved (he hit his 25th volunteer credit at Littleport’s New Year’s Day event)! I’ve done 36 parkruns in total since I joined in 2015, and 20 of those runs took place in 2018.

I’m so impressed with the work my friends James and Charlotte have put in to making Littleport parkrun happen, and to the amazing army of volunteers who step up to make sure it happens every week. A really lovely community has been built up, and I’m so proud to be a part of it. Being 1st lady at the New Year’s Day run was a nice bonus too, especially as I was 85% prosecco.

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A 5k PB

After starting 2018 slowly recovering from suspected posterior tibial tendonitis, I didn’t have high hopes for my Kevin Henry season this year. Dealing with the nerves is always hard work as it is, and I just didn’t feel like I was particularly fit.

Turns out I was wrong. I don’t know if it was the spinning that I did during my injury that kept me in good shape or my better mindset after working with Dan Regan. I suspect it was a combination of the two when on the 12th July I managed to knock a second off my 3 year old 5k PB, hitting 20:18. I still can’t quite believe I managed it, and just thinking about it makes a stupid grin break out on my face. Plus there’s the lovely symmetry of achieving 20:18 in 2018.

Half Marathon

Back in March I had to transfer my place in the Cambridge Half Marathon due to the fact that my injury hadn’t recovered in time for me to get the training in. Because of this, I was so excited to get a shot at the St Neots half marathon when they opened up a number of places for those of us on the reserve list.

I have never done a big run on my own before. Usually with every big local race there are at least half a dozen other Ely Runners signed up, so I was spectacularly nervous when I realised that no one else I knew was going and I would have no one to hold my hand on the start line. But I got through the nerves, and I am so, so proud of my performance on the day. I’ll let you know how I got on in an upcoming blog post, but I know that St Neots 2018 is a race that’s going to stay with me.

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My Longest Run

Prior to 2018, the longest run I had ever done was around 14.25 miles at the 2017 Wings for Life World Run. But this year I took part in the Ely Runners Christmas Run and covered 18.5 miles with my running buddy Pete. It wasn’t quite the same as longer runs I’ve done before, as there were plenty of pauses, the pace was slower (it’s a cross-country route) and there were snacks including rolo vodka (!), but it was amazing to know that my body was capable of keeping going over that distance. Plus it was the first time Pete has ever run more than 13.1 miles and the world didn’t end. Good to know.

A Triple Trophy Win

I hadn’t even realised until I started writing this post, but I somehow managed to win three trophies in 2018. I was the first lady at the Waterbeach Running Festval 5k back in May, I won the Ely Runners Female Kevin Henry trophy in September, and I was also first (old!) lady at the Ely Festive 5k in November! Needless to say, if more races offered a 3 course roast dinner as a prize I reckon more people would get in to running.

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Coaching

I have thoroughly enjoy doing more coaching this year, both with the Ely Runners Beginners’ group and the juniors. Seeing people step up to running their first half marathon, or getting a crazy 5k PB at the age of 14 is mind-blowing. I look forward to them all pacing me in the very near future.

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Radio Chat

Towards the end of 2018 I was contacted by Richard who hosts the Richard ‘Spanners’ Ready radio show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. His show is a mix of chat about life, love, kids, music, cars and sport, and he was keen to feature local bloggers on the show and I’ve been lucky enough to be a guest twice. Richard’s show is so funny, and we’ve so far covered breathing techniques for running, the joy of parkrun and how to get in to climbing. I really hope he wants to keep these chats going into 2019, and I look forward to when we finally run a parkrun together. I’m not letting you off the hook on this one Richard.

What’s Next?

It’s easy to glance back at a year and feel like you’ve not achieved much, but taking the time to sit down and properly examine the time that’s passed can show that actually, in many ways, 2018 was a pretty good year.

So what’s next for 2019? I’d still love to get that sub-20 5k, and I’m hoping to do at least two half marathons this year (I’ve only ever done one a year before). I’m also hoping to get on to a CiRF course to take the next step in my coaching journey, as helping other people to achieve their goals is one of the best feelings in the world.

What are your fitness goals for 2019? Let me know in the comments below.

When the Anxious Athlete Takes Over

As it’s World Mental Health Day today, it seems like the best time for me to talk about my anxiety around running.

At least, it used to be just around running.

Earlier this year, I found that the sort of anxiety I used to have on start lines – you know, the fidgeting, wondering if I had time to make it to the toilet (AGAIN), generally being so tense I could have snapped, occasionally crying – had started to worm its way in to my every day life. I would go for a walk at lunch only to find that I would suddenly have to rush to the toilet (apologies to the person working in Paperchase who I literally ran away from as she tried to serve me). I started having panic attacks on the train which resulted in my holding up an entire 8-carriage to London. As someone who has to commute by train every day, the mere thought of simply getting to work would fill me with dread and I stopped wanting to leave the house.

I no longer felt like me.

I don’t really know what triggered this all. At the start of the year I had some stressful things going on and it’s possible that they just accumulated to breaking point, and I’ve always carried stress in my gut. But what I was certain of was that this situation couldn’t continue. I’m nothing if not proactive, so back in March I had some tests done at the doctors which all came back clear, and so reasoning that the problem was more mental than physical, I booked an appointment to see Dan Regan, who as well as being a fellow runner, is also a hypnotherapist. A friend had had a really positive experience with him and couldn’t recommend him enough, and his testimonial page was full of faces that I recognised from the sports scene in Ely. Thankfully Dan does free consultations so there was no massive upfront commitment, but as soon as we’d had that initial meeting I knew I wanted to work with him.

When it comes to picking a therapist of any kind, you have to be comfortable with them, and Dan and I got on immediately. Plus having shared knowledge of pre-race anxiety meant that he knew exactly where I was coming from. Over the course of 6 sessions he taught me coping mechanisms (some worked for me, some didn’t), gave me audio recordings to use at home and of course we had the hour long session to talk things through and do some hypnotherapy.

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Smiling when running!

And you know what? It really worked wonders for me. Don’t get me wrong, IBS is still a part of my life (I wasn’t expecting Dan to cure that!) and I still have situations that make me feel uncomfortable, but –  bar the odd wobble – the sheer panic I used to feel in that situation has gone. Instead I focus on my breathing, or tense the muscles in my legs or play word association games in my head. Even when it comes to races, even though I still get nervous (don’t we all, to some extent?), I don’t let it overwhelm me to the point of terror. If my stomach decides it’s not going to play ball I just accept it, and refuse to let myself despair over it. Instead, I focus on what I’m about to do and make sure I’m near those people who know what I’m dealing with and know how to help me through it.

And that’s where I need to say some thank yous. As well as to Dan, I need to thank my ever patient husband who went out of his way to try and minimise stressful situations for me, to Justin for being an epic sounding board on the way to races and to Pete who would try and distract me with games on the train and who was the one who purposefully blocked the train doors with my bike so that I wouldn’t get stuck and find myself going all the way to London.

Seriously Pete – who knew giraffes weighed that much?!

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I still consider my anxiety around my stomach issues to be a work in progress, but I have Dan’s audios to hand, an amazing support network around me and I’ve recently been enjoying pacing other people rather than putting myself under pressure to run super quickly. That’ll come back with time though. For now, it’s enough for me to be finishing a run with a massive smile on my face.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you can find a number of resources available here.

That Time I did 5 Races in 16 Days

I love racing. I’m always SO chill on a start line, taking selfies, having a laugh and generally putting everyone around me at ease. I’m an utter delight to be around.

Are you laughing yet?

I am the absolute worst when it comes to races. I panic, I whinge and I infect everyone around me with a general air of dread. You know – the kind of feeling you get on a long haul flight and the person with questionable hygiene who you spotted eating cheese and onion crisps in the check-in queue heads down the aisle towards the empty seat next to you.

But for some unfathomable reason, I managed to find myself looking at my race calendar and working out that I had managed to somehow schedule 5 races across 16 days. During a heatwave. My days looked like this:

  • 28th June: Girton 5k
  • 1st July: Marcus Gynn 10k
  • 5th July: Ely Runners Mile Handicap
  • 12th July: Kevin Henry 5k League Race
  • 13th July: Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog

You know what it’s like. You see a race in February and you’re like, “ooh, that sounds fun!” So you check you’re free, and if you are you sign up and pop it in your diary. And if you’re an idiot like me, it doesn’t even occur to you to check if there are any races already in your diary, say, the day before…

But anywho, I was signed up and despite the heatwave that made me feel like my brain was expanding out of my ears, (see my thoughts on summer running here) I committed to each and every one of these blinking races. Here’s how I got on.

GIRTON 5k

It was the Girton 5k that first introduced me to Ely Runners so it will always hold a special place in my heart. However, it was really toasty the first time I ran it in 2015 and 3 years later it was no different. I also didn’t learn from my previous experience and forgot to plonk myself at the front of the group, which meant that not only did I get tangled up in runners, I also got tangled up in the race markings when a larger chap in front of me swerved at the last minute and I ended up having a disagreement with a pole and some tape. Elegant. Throw in some narrow paths and runners who stopped dead mid-race due to the heat meant it wasn’t a speedy race, but it is an immensely fun one. I came in at 21:30 and was second in my age category so I was pretty pleased with that one. I’d recommend the Girton 5k to anyone looking for a fun, sociable 5k with some difficulty to it.

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MARCUS GYNN 10k

Now the Marcus Gynn 10k is an important race because it is named in memory of the wonderful Newmarket Jogger Marcus, who sadly passed away on the 11th February 2016. Marcus was a school friend of my husband’s and the original running blogger in my life, so I was damned if 30 degree heat was going to stop me from running for him. Had it been any other race I would have bailed without a second’s thought as I know how badly the heat affects me, but not this one. And it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. I stopped at both water stations to properly take on fluid and found myself having to drop to a walk on the final hill but I still crossed the line as 7th woman in a decent time for me of 45:43, maybe 2 minutes over what I could manage on that course if it wasn’t being scorched by Satan himself. Most importantly of all I got to meet Marcus’ beautiful nephew, who was one of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen. This race is a seriously special one, and body willing I will do it every year.

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ELY RUNNERS MILE HANDICAP

Nothing instills fear in the Ely Runners gang like the mile handicap race. We’re all long(er) distance runners and rarely train for speed over such short distances. Pre-race we all cluster together beneath the trees on Amherst Field next to Ely Train Station like a bunch of meerkats under threat, wondering how we’ve managed to make such bad choices in our lives. I was especially irate when I realised I had been given the same handicap (6 minutes dead) as a fellow ER who had been a good 70 seconds faster than me at our 10k handicap back in June. Also, I found myself in the “fast” group for the first time (anyone with a handicap of 6 minutes or less) and this meant that I would be at the back of the group, watching everyone run away from me. As it turns out, I prefer this to being chased. If I know that statistically I should be at the back of the group then I won’t panic. If I know that statistically I should be at the front of the group and I falter, that’s guaranteed to make my mental strength wobble. I ended up managing 6:04, so although I missed my handicap, it was 1 second faster than last year. I’ll take it!

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KEVIN HENRY 5K LEAGUE RACE

Despite the nerves they produce, the Kevin Henry league races are my favourites. I’m much happier running in the evening than the morning, and the support from my teammates at these runs is incredible. Everyone is so pleased when you show up, as EVERY runner wins a point for their club, just by being there. It really is a race for everyone. I had planned to pace one of our juniors during this run, but 5 minutes before the start I found out she was ill and I found myself having to run my own race, which I really wasn’t prepared for. However, something magical happened that evening and I managed to beat my 2 year old 5k PB by one second, coming in in 20:18 (20:16 if Strava is to be believed)! It was just one of those runs where everything came together – the course is flat, the weather was good and I managed to settle in to my pace. Don’t get me wrong – it flipping HURT – but after thinking that 20:19 was the best I was ever going to achieve, there were some tears when my time was finally confirmed. Now I have decided that I’m going to try and push for a sub-20. I know it may not happen, and if it does it won’t be easy, but this run has set a fire in my belly and made me want to see if what I thought was impossible could in fact be a reality.

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WIBBLY WOBBLY LOG JOG

I’m not ashamed to say that the name of this race is the reason I first signed up to it in 2016.  I mean, how could you not? The first year I did it I LOVED it. It was my first proper trail run and the novelty of it meant I was so busy taking it all in that speed was secondary. The second year I did it on EXHAUSTED legs and tried to run it hard. I hated it so much that I was swearing at squirrels and trees. So I was slightly reticent turning up to this year’s run the day after my 5k PB race. And to be honest, it really was hard, and I was so incredibly tired by the time we hit the last mile. But Pete and Rob, my fellow Ely Runners, dragged me to the finish, and I managed my fastest time there by 5 seconds in 38:49. It also produced one of my favourite ever Ely Runners group photos.

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All in all, I am so, so proud of what I achieved in these 16 days. A 5k and 1 mile PB, and course PBs both at Girton and the WWLJ. Plus I got to run for Marcus, which is something I hope to do every year. I’m not sure I would recommend squeezing in so many races in such a short space of time, but who wants to bet I sign up to all of these again next year? Just please, PLEASE let it be cooler in the summer of 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

How I’m Coping with the Heat – A Runner’s Guide

Spoiler alert – that was a proper click-baity title. Because I’m not coping with the heat. At all. I am one of those British people who moans constantly as soon as it gets above 20 degrees. I need to move to Shetland.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a winter girl through and through. As well as being a Christmas monkey (yes I will share Elf memes from around September until you mute me), I love the feeling of icy air in my lungs when I run, not this hideous soup-like substance I’m having to breathe through every time I step outside. I’m the girl who went out when it was so cold that her eyelashes froze together, and when she warmed up resembled Alice Cooper as her mascara ran down her face. Plus I am incredibly fair. My version of a tan is looking ever so slightly less blue in the summer. I am losing hours of my life to applying factor 50 every day, and am sweating from my knees for crying out loud. And don’t even get me started on just how terrifyingly red my face is capable of going.

HOWEVER. I am still managing to run and there are a few tiny things that I am doing that are making life that little bit more bearable. For me at least. Sorry for my husband/officemate/friends/fellow train users/everyone I come to contact with who is having to deal with the worst version of me right now.

FIND A WHINGE BUDDY

When you find a fellow hater of heat it is a glorious thing. Take for example my running buddy Serena (check out her awesome blog here). We spent a lovely time on Saturday morning discussing the futility vs necessity of showering in this weather (shower, get sweaty dressing, repeat until the four horseman of the apocalypse turn up and ask if that thing they can smell is you) and how much we miss running in the cold. We knew we could offload on to each other without risk of a judgey eyeroll and someone saying “what do you mean? It’s lovely out there!”. Try telling that to the grass you lizard-human hybrid.

ARM  YOURSELF

Due to my dependence on our often lacklustre summers, I had (somewhat accidentally) found myself with 5 races in the calendar within 19 days during this heatwave (at time of writing I’m 3 down, 2 to go).  This has meant that I’ve had to arm myself mentally and physically for these challenges. Physically, my water intake has gone up, especially in advance of a race. I sweat A LOT in these conditions so I have to make sure I’m well hydrated. During my 10k last weekend I stopped at both water stations to properly drink and pour some water on my head. I’ve also dug out my O.R.S Electroylte Hydration Tablets, something I’ve only ever used during half marathon training before. In addition to this, I’ve been stocking up on Ronhill Visors from my local independent sports shop. These are super lightweight and have been an absolute game changer in this heat. If there are none left in Ely you know who to blame.

Mentally, I’m trying to make sure I back off slightly in races. This isn’t easy when you’re competitive, even less so when you’re racing against people with a much better tolerance of the high temperatures, but it’s an absolutely necessity. People have been collapsing on runs in this weather, and I don’t intend on being one of them. I’m finding that I’m coming in around 2 minutes over best race pace on a 10k, and around 40 odd seconds on a 5k. I can deal with that, mainly by reminding myself that this is excellent training for winter.

NAP LIKE A CHAMP

I’m usually a pretty sound sleeper. I can drop off quite easily, and generally if I wake up in the night I don’t tend to remember it. But in this weather I can find myself taking at least 30 minutes to drop off in my bedroom, which has been sitting at around the 26 degree mark since this heatwave hit. So I’m grabbing power naps when I can in an attempt to simply top up my energy levels which have really dipped over the last couple of weeks. I’m also a big fan of the Mama Mio Liquid Yoga Spray, which I use on my pillow to help me to try and relax.

ICE LOLLIES, CONSTANTLY

I’ve recently discovered Rowntree’s Watermelon Ice Lollies and the thing I never thought would happen has happened. They have knocked Twisters off their decades long spot as my favourite ice lolly. Get yourself down to your local supermarket and thank me later.

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The Addictive Pain of Spinning

When I was about 22 years old, I don’t think anyone would have described me as fit. I was a member of my local LA Fitness, but that usually involved maybe 30 minutes on a cross trainer once a week and the occasional Body Pump class to the strains of Car Wash (the Christina Aguilera version. This was 2004 after all).

But then one day, my gym buddy suggested we try a spin class. I was young and optimistic back then, so I said “Sure! What’s the worst that could happen?” It looked like quite good fun with the disco style lighting and easy on the eye instructor, plus it was just cycling right? At this point in my life I was getting the park and ride bus to work and probably hadn’t been on a bike for a good 6 years but you know what they say about learning to ride a bike…

Oh how wrong I was.

About 3 minutes into the class I knew I was in trouble. The instructor was like some kind of hyperactive giant toddler with rage issues who liked to go up to individuals in the class and scream at them in a faux American accent to “PUSH! PUSH!” like the worst birthing partner ever. The music was insanely loud but maybe it was trying to drown out the sound of my sobs. At about the 10 minute mark I was desperately trying to find a way to sneak out of the class unnoticed, but I knew that my legs were not going to support any attempts to extract myself from the devil machinery. I was stuck with it. And I hated every last miserable second of it. When I finally stumbled from the bike, sore in parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed, I vowed to NEVER spin again.

This vow held firm for 13 years (yes I’m 35 – you may gasp if you’re so inclined) until I joined Elyte Fitness to find new ways to stay active during my very stubborn bout of tendonitis. My husband basically made me promise that I would do some form of cardio, as I think he was genuinely concerned that I might eat his soul if I didn’t do something to replace running. So I reluctantly turned up for one of Elyte’s incredibly popular spin classes, and again I hated every last miserable second of it.

I’m hooked.

Now let me explain. This isn’t a self-flagellation kind of deal. It’s just that an insanely tough spin session has the ability to give me the same high I get from a good run. Yes it hurts. Yes you’ll be sweatier than any human has any right to be. Yes you would throw your water bottle at the instructor whenever they tell you to add a gear on if only you had enough strength to lift the bloody thing. It hurts. A lot. But man alive has it kept me fit.

When I started running again I was genuinely concerned that my 5k times would have taken a huge battering. But somehow I’ve managed to come back just over the 21 minute mark, only ever so slightly slower than I’d been before. I’m gobsmacked.

Plus spin at Elyte is nothing like my experience from the early noughties. All of the instructors at Elyte (of which there are many, which means you get a lot of variety in teaching styles which keeps things interesting) are so very good at what they do. There’s no insane shouting that makes you feel like a fitness failure. Instead there’s encouragement to push yourself as you follow the Spivi interactive software they use in the studio. This adds a competitive edge as you cycle through simulations of snowy or sunny landscapes and try to edge out your classmates. It’s a welcome distraction from the pain in your legs. Plus if you’re really lucky, this will all be done to the soothing sounds of a Disney soundtrack…

Now I just have to deal with the fact that every time I go to a class my husband says “but I thought you hated spin?”

I do. It’s just that I love to hate it.

 

 

Mountains and Moire – A Review of Bump, Bike and Baby

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Recently I was contacted on Twitter by Moire O’Sullivan, who asked me if I’d like a copy of her new book, Bump, Bike and Baby to review on my blog. The 300 page publication charts her journey from mountain race runner to mother of two and back again, and after a very quick Google of Moire I rushed to say yes. I’m an avid reader anyway and am always on the lookout for kick-ass women who inspire me to push myself just that little bit harder.

Spoiler alert – I’m going to go a bit fan-girly.

To give you a bit of info, Moire is a bonkers tough mountain runner and adventure racer. As she brought up her two VERY young children, she went and won Ireland’s National Adventure Race Series. Three times. And that’s an adventure race series – not just a single race. I repeat – THREE TIMES.

Adventure racing isn’t something I’ve ever given much thought to. Being from the Fens mountains are few and far between. My legs nearly went into shock after doing the Parliament Hill Cross Country run. But Moire does events that involve cycling, running up a blinking great mountain and then back down again. Then cycling some more. Then a bit more running. Ooh and let’s throw in kayaking and then a swift 2k sprint to the finish. She’s usually moving for about four hours. Just thinking about it makes my palms sweaty, but this is Moire’s life blood, and her passion is more than just a little infectious.

DAR 2016_Bike Mass Start

Her character comes across so strongly in this book and never wavers. Moire is unapologetically stubborn, determined and competitive. She is upfront about the fact that she was never especially maternal, and the desire to have children had mainly come from her husband Pete. As a result, she is completely committed to staying at the top of her racing game during and after pregnancy, whilst learning to become a mother to two boisterous and demanding boys. The book covers living in Cambodia, cycling with a 6 month bump, running with mastitis, Pete regularly having to travel with his work and hospital stays. Throw in Moire’s strict adherence to her training schedule and it’s a recipe that on paper shouldn’t work. But it does, and the resulting family dynamic is all kinds of wonderful. Plus they have a cute dog. What’s not to love?

Quest Glendalough Podium 2016

This is going to be one of those books that I can see myself recommending whenever anyone asks me about my favourite running books. Moire is a natural storyteller, and this is going to appeal to athletes and new parents alike. In the book she talks about thinking of her fellow mountain racers digging deep when things get tough, and I can see myself thinking of Moire’s mental toughness next time I find myself flagging on a run. She makes me want to be a better athlete.

Bump, Bike and Baby can be bought from Amazon amongst others, and you can follow Moire’s blog here. Thanks to Moire and Sandstone Press for asking me to be part of the Bump, Bike and Baby Blog Tour!

_Bump Bike and Baby Blog Tour

 

Was my Injury Actually a Good Thing?

Did I mention that I’ve been injured?

Megalolz. I’m only messing you with you. If you follow me on Twitter or you’ve been lucky enough to find yourself within earshot of me within the last four months you will have heard me banging on about my “posterior tibial tendonitis” (try saying that after a few drinks). This has been without doubt the most stubborn injury I’ve had in the last few years, and I’ve had some really low moments during the seemingly endless weeks of stretching, physio, osteopathy, acupuncture, yoga, foam rolling and self medicating with cake.

But now that I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe this happening was a good thing. Yes I may have missed some of my favourite races and my preferred running season (trust me to be fit and healthy in the summer when trying to run outdoors is akin to running in soup) but I’ve been forced to be more creative with my fitness and as a result have seen my perspective shift in some interesting ways.

First of all, there’s the bouldering. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know I’ve found a real affinity with clambering up walls (despite being sweaty of hand and afraid of heights – go figure). I’ve reconnected with friends over climbing, have seen my shoulders develop in a way that makes me want to flex like the hulk whenever I walk past a mirror, have spent time with my niece and nephew at the climbing centre and have enjoyed the encouraging vibe between other climbers. It gives me an adrenaline hit but in a more controlled way than the adrenaline I feel on a start line of a race in a sometimes unfamiliar environment. Having said all this though, being on the verge of tears, stuck at the top of a route with my feet on a hold that looked disturbingly like a large pair of testicles was not one of my finest moments. But the good of climbing massively outweighs the bad.

Look! I’m a GIF! Thanks Oli…

Secondly, when I was deciding how on earth to find something that would get my heart rate up as much as running and Zumba (another exercise form that seemed to be aggravating my injury), I decided to wander into Elyte Fitness and see if maybe they were the gym for me after feeling less than inspired by the other local facilities on offer. Within 10 minutes I was sold on the sheer passion of the owners Lewis and Dawn and I signed up on the spot. I’m so glad I made this decision, as they are full of ideas and plans for the gym, and they’ve built an amazing fitness community. Every time I go there I feel like I’m with old friends and I’ll be writing a separate post on my Elyte journey so far as there is so much I want to say about it.

Because I was finding myself feeling so down about the state of running, I also decided to fire up my Headspace app again.  I’ve flirted on and off with Headspace for some time, but never seemed to manage more than 5 days in a row. Even though they always say not to worry if you miss a day, I would always take that as a sign of failure (competitive, moi?) and end up walking away for another month or two. But I’m currently sitting at 21 days straight of at least 10 minutes of meditation a day, and I am feeling slightly calmer in a general kind of way. I’m not going to claim that I am in some kind of zen like chilled perfection of existence (no one would believe that), but I think the clearest sign that I’m more relaxed and able to see “the bigger picture”, is the fact that I decided to transfer my Cambridge Half place, and I felt completely ok about it. Even though missing races you love sucks, setting back a recovery that has taken 4 months for the sake of one medal is madness. I would have spent the next 6 weeks fretting about building up from 4 miles to 13 miles, constantly wondering if my tendon could take the strain and I would have become unpleasant to be around. So to me it just seemed like such an obvious thing to do.

Another positive to come out of all this is that I feel like I know my body better, and I have a new found respect for it. I’m still making time to stretch and foam roll, and I try and do a little yoga every day (I manage it about 80% of the time). And as a result of my injury I’ve been told by my physio and my osteo that my foot functionality and balance is the best they’ve ever seen (proof that putting the effort into your rehab works!). And really, I’m just so excited to be running again, and am looking forward to getting stronger and building up to my best again. I’ve done a parkrun and a track session and loved every minute as you can see my inane grinning face above. Feeling my lungs fill with that gorgeous icy air is the ultimate tonic to me, and I’m just so grateful to be out there again. It’s lovely to be back with my running family, and I’m going to take my time and build up my distance slowly, and maybe look to do an autumn half marathon. Then again – maybe not? Maybe I’ll just keep doing whatever I like whenever I like, with no pressure, and no expectations.

 

 

How to Cope when you’re a Running Blogger who can’t Run

You know all those times when I’ve complained about how hideous running is and how much it hurts and how it sometimes makes me feel like I might die as I throw a tantrum face down in the mud? You know, the subtle stuff?

I take it all back. I’m a running blogger who can’t run, and it’s awful.

So this foot niggle that flared up 3 months ago is still going strong, and the current thinking is that it’s posterior tibial tendonitis. Trips off the tongue doesn’t it? These two fun chaps can explain it for me because I think typing the symptoms out in a blog post might tip me over the edge. Upshot is that tendonitis is an absolute bugger, and so far mine is proving to be incredibly stubborn (I wonder where it gets that from)?

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Despite my best efforts to stretch, ice, strengthen, offer up my first born to the local witch… it feels better, I run a bit, and then it feels bad again. There seems to be so little progress and it’s driving me nuts. I will admit that maybe I’ve been trying too much too soon, but in my mind 3 miles with the juniors is not a lot of running. However, when my fabulously patient physio Megan saw me last, she explained that to go from nothing to 3 miles is a lot on a bad foot, and that I need to raise up my rehab efforts and bring down my running so that they can meet somewhere in the middle. In other words, I need to dig deep and find some patience. So my foot and leg exercises are now being done with a 7kg kettlebell, and this week I’ve run for 5 x 30 seconds twice. So in a week, I’ve done 5 whole minutes of running. Insert massive hurrumphy sigh here.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m extremely lucky. I’ve met runners who have battled back from strokes and blood clots, and people who rock up to parkrun week in/week out and have to run/walk it in 50 minutes because they have an illness that prevents them from doing anything more. But running is a huge part of my identity, and after three months of this, I’ll admit that I’m struggling. On a Sunday I find being on Facebook and Twitter really difficult as I see friends celebrate great races, flash their medal bling and record PBs. I’ve had to miss out on two club runs already this season, as well as some of my favourite races like the Town and Gown 10k.

BUT. As difficult as I’m finding it, I’m not going to shut myself off from the world of running. I’ve been volunteering at parkrun, cycling whilst friends run, getting involved in ukrunchat on Twitter, organising my running club’s Christmas parties and congratulating friends on their achievements. I know I’ll be back there soon. I know I will. I just wish it could be sooner rather than later.

In the meantime I’m climbing more, doing yoga, and finding cardio alternatives to keep myself sane. Against my better judgement I’ve even promised my husband that I’ll try a spin class despite claiming that hell would have to freeze over before I would even consider it. He said “even if you hate it and least you’ll get a blog post out of it.”

How well he knows me.

 

 

Dear Running – I Have a Confession to Make…

I’m not quite sure how to say this, but here goes. I’ve been having an affair.

Please don’t get upset. It’s not you. I still love you running. I know we’ve had our ups and downs. You’ve hurt me and made me cry, and sometimes I’ve had to take a break from us when it has hurt just a little too much. And that’s when it came along, when I was at my weakest.

Bouldering.

I don’t know if it was the bright colours, the – ahem – unique smell of chalk mixed with sweaty climbing shoes or the soft “thwump” of people landing on crash mats, but I was instantly dazzled.

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On that first climb I felt scared and made it halfway up before I scuttled back down like a reticent cat. But the second time I went straight up, and for the briefest of moments, I felt invincible. I felt like if I – someone who once nearly fainted climbing up Ely Cathedral – could conquer this climbing wall and look down without passing out, I could conquer anything.

Don’t get me wrong, bouldering and I have had our arguments. I’ve left with callused hands, scraped knees and a bruised ego when I claimed that I was too short for a route only for a 9 year old to race up it as their warm up. I’ve missed a hold and fallen from a height that although doesn’t look that high from the ground, feels immense when you’re up there. I’ve landed awkwardly. But you know what? I find that heart-racing moment when you know you’re going to fall kind of exciting.

I’ve always liked feeling strong, and when I look in the mirror now I can see how much my arms and shoulders have developed. That’s down to bouldering. I like the easy camaraderie of climbers and how when you’re struggling on a route you know there will be someone to offer advice or calm you down when your hands become slick with sweat and you think you can’t hold on. With running those conversations are just that little bit harder when your lungs are being pushed to their limits. And I love the progression. That’s the thing running – we’ve been together for so long that we’ve kind of flatlined, found a steady pace together that works for us. But with bouldering, I’ve gone from climbing 3s to climbing 5+s, and even attempting 6s with a wry smile. I know it’s not always about PBs and winning, but when you’re having a bad day, that feeling you get when you finally grab that difficult hold is up there with a 5k PB, something I’ve not had for two years now.

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But don’t worry running. I have time for both of you in my life. As much as bouldering has given me a new spark, I still need you. Bouldering requires focus and puzzle solving skills, but it takes you for my mind to truly be free to go wherever it needs to as my feet make that beautiful rhythm on the pavement. I need you.

You are my first and strongest love. I just hope you don’t mind if I have a cheeky bit on the side.