Back to basics

Day 2, 2018.

So yesterday I set myself some ground rules.

Today was about working out how to make them work.

I had some activity choices:

  • Run early morning
  • Run after 2 plus hours in the car, the day after running 2 back to back parkruns
  • Go to the gym and cross train.

The early morning run was crossed off my list as my running kit was muddy/wet/smelly from doing the New Year’s Day parkrun double the day before.

The fun when I got home was crossed off as well. I haven’t run further than 5km since October, and although I’d felt fine running 10km yesterday, having had a stress fracture, I’m hyper aware of upping the intensity too quickly.

The parkruns were great fun though. Meeting up with some of the Walsall parkrun crew, and Neil & Pilla made for some happy, splashy running.

So gym it was!

When I was injured/rehabbing, gym and cross training were a huge part of my routine and I enjoyed doing it and the results I got.

So I dug out my old notebook with my go-to session in and hit the gym!

Man I had fun. At one point I realised I was dancing in what was supposed to be a rest interval.

I did a 5kin warm up on the bike, then 30x30s HIIT exercises with 30s recoveries. My go-to list wasn’t long enough, so I threw in some physio exercises I’d been given and a few bits I remembered from my circuits days.

Had to scribble it down when I got home so I can replicate it!

And my excuses about ‘evenings are too busy’?

Pah!

I have everything I need at home to do this session in the lounge.

My other ground rule I’ve worked on today is the ‘home organisation’.

As soon as we got home, we unpacked, sorted laundry, I packed some bin bags for the tip, and had a five minute blast at clearing my floordrobe.

Somehow, still, got time for a bath, do a basket of ironing and do some knitting too!

Back to work tomorrow, and working from home. Let’s see how sticky my resolve really is!

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2018: the year of progress

Day 1 of 2018.

I’m not into ‘new year, new me’ type resolutions. Life is an adventure and setting too many goals can restrict your opportunity to take a chance if it doesn’t fit the mould of what you’ve set yourself.

What I do like to do is set myself some ‘ground rules’ to start the year well and work on improving the good habits I’ve learnt over the years.

So here’s my thoughts/plans for what I’d like to find/build/grow this year.

  1. Keep building a routine that means the home we live in is tidy and clean. With all the family chipping in and helping.
  2. Find a balance in the routine we have at home that means all of us get to do the fun stuff. Regular parkruns, going on parkrun tour with friends (I’m at 39 unique venues, it would be nice to get to the 50). And I’m going to try a running club out to see how that feels. I also want to restart the habit of one activity a day (Run, walk, swim, gym, class).
  3. I’m determined that this is the year I reach a healthy weight. I’ve come so far since I made the choice to change my lifestyle, but I’ve never quite reached that moment of saying ‘yes, this feels good and this is healthy’.
  4. Take time to read books and knit. They are hobbies I enjoy, but don’t do enough of. I’d also like to learn something new this year. I’m considering sign language or quilting (I like the idea of a race t-shirt quilt for keeping memories).
  5. Be generally kinder to myself. I’m good at seeing the positive in others, but the first to criticise myself. So this year I’m going to find a way to change that. And writing is one of the ways I find this space, so I think there may be more blogs to come this year!

I think 5 is enough! And they’re all based around things I’ve been working on anyway, so I see this as a work in progress, not a new start.

2017: the year of endurance

This year has been a funny one from a running perspective.

My annual mileage is at 401 according to my Strava year long report.

It’s my lowest annual mileage since I started running.

This is down to a few factors:

  • Work has been busy, including lots of one day travel with early starts/late arrivals home.
  • My daughter has joined a competitive swimming club which means three nights a week she has training. This means my evenings three nights a week involve staying home with our son, or lots of drop offs and pick ups.
  • Mojo. I’ve just not ‘felt it’.

Despite this, I’ve had some cracking events and achieved some personal goals which make me smile.

At the start of the year, I said I’d like to get my mileage up to 10miles, a half marathon and then work up to the Chester Metric Marathon (26.2km or 16.2miles).

BTR Liverpool jointly run a half marathon in Liverpool with Vitality. This year they had a 10 Mile event alongside it, so I was in!

I loved every second of it.

My next goal was a half marathon. So bring on the Rock’n’Roll half in Liverpool.

Again, I had an absolute blast!

And I ran the Chester Metric as well. This was tough, but I had an amazing time and ran my longest ever run in the kindest company of Moza.

So this was my year of finding my endurance again.

But there have been other things along the way that have made me happy.

My 40th birthday parkrun and my 100th parkrun:

Numerous parkruns on tour around the country with friends and family.

Halloween and Christmas parkruns undertaken with dignity.

As well as being a regular RD at Walsall arboretum.

I was lucky enough to get a Great North Run place and raised £750 for Cancer Research.

And had a blast at Swanage fun Run and the Walsall Santa dash.

But when I look back at the year, four main things stand out as things that made me happy.

  1. Running Market Drayton 10k with Wendy. I was under the weather, she felt under trained, so we ran together and looked after each other.
  2. Equinox with the Shabbas and friends. Always a highlight because of the challenge, the friendship and the fun.
  3. Great Mids Fun Run. 8.5 miles of smiles and fancy dress.
  4. And seeing my lovely friends become regular parkrunners, and achieving things they never thought they could.

So, what was this year’s triumph?

I kept going. I ran when I could and where I could. I had fun, I ran short, I ran long. But most of all I ran.

Running scared? I did tonight. 

I do must of my running alone. Apart from parkrun & races. A busy work & family life means I have to fit running in when I can. 

On a Tuesday, my daughter has a 90 minute swimming lesson. So I’ve started fitting in a 3 or 4 mile run. 

The pool is at a school in a nice area of Birmingham and faces onto a well lit dual carriageway. 

I’m aware when I run I am lumpy, and jiggle. And yes this makes me self conscious. But running in the dark means hi-vis and lights. 

Be safe! Be seen!


So off I go. 

There are plenty of cars, bikes, runners, people and it’s well lit. 

Half way I become aware of foot steps keeping pace with me. 

I look over my shoulder thinking it’s another runner wanting to pass and there’s a man and his mate running on next to me, mocking me. 

I’ve often wondered what my fight or flight response would be. 

Apparently it’s fight. 

Are you trying to be funny?

Do you realise how intimidating that is?

Another woman passing by asked if I was ok. 

I thanked her, said yes, and ran to the McDonalds (where I was planning to turn around at). Sat down. And burst into tears. I text Chris to tell him what had happened. 

I’m now 2 miles away from my daughter. Alone. In the dark. And frightened to run back knowing I have no other choice. 

I ran the first mile terrified and catching my self with a sob. 

I ran the second mile fuming. 

These men were to trying to hurt me, they thought they were being funny. 

And yet. 

They’ve made me fearful and made me feel initimidated about something I love and struggle to find time for.  

I’ll not quit. I’ll be back out there. 

I will not run scared.  

This Girl Can Tri…

I’m walking towards the swim start. My wet suit is round my waist just waiting for the final zip to be done up. 

My heart is racing. My head is too. “I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I can’t.”

The tears are rolling down my face in sheer terror and self doubt. 

And there’s the start line. 

My phone buzzes. A tweet. 


Deep breath. Ok. One step at a time. 

Wet suit on. Cap and goggles on. 

“Excuse me, can you zip me in please”

“SARAH”

I look up. And there they are. My friends. Waving and smiling. 


“Right ladies – big smile for the camera!”


“Ok. Can you swim to the start line please”

A klaxon

And I’m away….

How did I get there?

After 8 months of injury, I get the all clear. After lots of people telling me I should try a triathlon because I swim, cycle and run, I find out Liverpool Tri is a closed road bike Tri (quite rare and after a couple of falls off the bike I’m very nervy!) I sign up in a whirlwind of ‘wahoo I’m not injured anymore!’

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the long time out injured results in a recovery injury. 

Fast forward 3 months and I’m running. Biking a bit – still wobbly and slowly. And loving the open water swimming – even managing a placing at an event. 

Two weeks before the event, I get an email asking if I’d like to be a ‘This Girl Can’ ambassador as I’m taking part in the female only wave they’re sponsoring. (In case You’ve not heard of this, it’s a UK based campaign using real women to encourage women to get active in any way that makes them happy, regardless of ability). I think ‘why not?’ And say yes!

I’m selected and invited to attend a briefing the day before at registration to answer my questions about the event as a beginner. I’m also given a Tech t-shirt to wear if I’d like. 

The briefing did lots to settle my nerves. Phew!


Chris was with me as he’d offered his services as a Tri-maker for the Sunday, and I took the organisers advice to rack my bike up and have a look round transition. And take some daft pictures too. 


I got home and checked my kit. (We’ll gloss over the forgotten run kit bag and only one insole packed!)


The next morning, Chris left at stupid o’clock to go and man transition and do some impressive pointing. 


I followed shortly afterwards. My wave was starting at 12:15, but transition was closing at 8:30. So I decided to go in, get set up and go and watch the different bits of the event – particularly swim exit. As transition was inside, to minimise the slippy floor problem of thousands of dripping swimmers, the rules were that your wetsuit had to be off and bagged before entering the hall. In the briefing on Saturday this led to one lady declaring ‘I’m glad you said that, I wasn’t planning on wearing anything under my wetsuit!’  


I bumped into the lovely Leeny off Twitter (we always find each other at races in Liverpool!) and also caught sight of Jason Bradbury filming for Channel 4 (highlights on Saturday 27th 7am – autographs available at Walsall parkrun from 9am for a small fee). 


I spent most of the morning at the finish line, cheering and enjoying the atmosphere. Chatting with other supporters and bumping into to Tour of Merseyside and Twitter friends. 

At 11:30, I got into the bottom half of my wetsuit. And the panic arrived. By now, Glover should have been there (my awesome friend who was coming to cheer me on and, I hoped, calm me down!). I messaged him, and he was running late, so I began my walk to swim start, in a mental mess. 

But as you know from the intro, he made it as did my Shabbasister Lozza (best surprise ever!) and I got into the water, knowing no matter what, I wasn’t alone. 

The swim began. I deliberately started at the back as I’m not used to mass starts, and gradually just found my pace, and a rhythm and swam. Occasionally a jelly fish bobbed by, and I could see coloured swim caps all around me. 

Before I knew it, I was out the water and bagging my wetsuit. And then into transition. 


It was slippy, so I walked it, and thanks to Chris, super marshal, he cleared the path and snapped me coming through. 

Transition. Remember. Helmet on first. Then number. Then every thing else. Eat. Drink. Go. 

Out on the bike. And the overtaking began. 10k of ‘zooooooom’ as the fast boys over took. And the fast girls. And the slow boys. And the slow girls. And the granny with the shopping basket. 

But there were my cheering squad! 


Now. Let’s do that again. 

But not quite. 

Whereas on the first lap I was surrounded by overtaking and people going back the other way, now there were no other cyclists in sight. 

I pass a marshal point. The radio buzzes. “Can you check if this cyclist is last please?”  

A motorbike engine revs. “I’ll ride behind in case I need to sweep her up.”

No. Please no. Please tell me I’m not going to get cut off. Please tell me I’m not going to get asked to remove myself from the course – because the elites are about to come through and it’ll be dangerous for me to carry on. No. No. No. 

Here come the tears. 

And then he was gone. I carried on. And I’m not sure how. 

My confidence, shaky to begin with was gone. 

I can’t do this. 

I’m going to stop. 

What will I tell the children though? 

It’s one thing to to be asked to stop because I could be putting myself or other riders at risk. It’s another to quit. 

Do I want my daughter and son to think that if things get difficult that the right thing to do is give up?

Or do I want them to know that they can do anything they want if they work hard and believe things are possible?

Ok. I can do this. My goal was to finish. 

At the turn around point I can see at least 2 riders behind me, so I get a grip. No sign of the sweeper. Let’s do this!

Back into the city and there are my biggest fans again. 


Back into transition. Remember, rack bike before you take the helmet off. There’s Chris. “Ok?” “Knackered, but yes.”

Drink

“SARAH!” “What?” “Turn your number round!” Oops. Swish and I’m off. 

Or am I?

My legs feel like led. I’m pretty sure my feet aren’t coming off the floor. 

Just keep moving. It’s only 5k. Just a parkrun and that’s it. You’re done. 

“GO ON TUCKSHOP!” 

My cheerleaders working hard again. Although I might have sworn at them. (Sorry!)


The run route is quite nice, weaving in and out of the waterfront. Although, by now, pedestrians are drifting across the route as its deserted apart from me. I might have shouted at some of them.

Mile 2. Legs are feeling better. I have a laugh with the people on the drinks station and keep plodding on. 

The elites are now out on the bike, I run past two riders being treated on the floor – nothing serious, but a bit of blood and they’d obviously got too close to each other. 

Mile 3. The elite youth are starting to lap me on the run route. They are utterly amazing to watch. It was a privelege to be overtaken by kids out there being the best they can be.

Legs feeling even better (looking back afterwards, mile 3 was my fastest mile and I negative split the whole run!)

And there was the finish. 

And there was Glover and Lozza screaming and cheering me home. 


And as I cross the line, I hear my name over the loud speaker, and the MC talking about me and This Girl Can. And all I can think is:

“I did it. I did it. I’m done.”

And I was across the line and a volunteer puts her arm round me and congratulates me and I burst into tears. 

I get my medal, and make my way outside. 

A figure runs towards me. 

My son. Hugging me sobbing, garbling something about me going to the Olympics and how proud he was, and refusing to let me go. And there was my mum, dad and daughter all hugging me and smiling. 

My parents and children had made it in time to see me finish. And I was so glad it toughed it out. 


I found Chris and Glover and Lozza (eventually!) and we went off to celebrate and cool off 

Will I do anther Tri? 

Right now, I doubt it. My bike needs more work than I think I can commit to, or want to at the moment. I’ll continue to commute to work and ride for pleasure, but the pressure of a bike event isn’t for me. 

Also – people who do Olympic, half iron and full iron triathlons – I salute you and am in awe of what you do – you are incredible. 

Swimming has always been part of my life and running is where my heart lies. 

I think I’ll look into aquathon (splash and dashes) and I’ll always love road racing and open water events. 

I could not be prouder of what I achieved and I’m happy with my over all result. 

Someone has to come last, and on this occasion it was me. But I did not quit.

If you take anything from my story – it’s this: 

This Girl Can. 

And This Girl Did. 

And That Girl over there? 

You can too. 


Guess who’s back…

After my lovely little tester with my son on Wednesday, it was time to run alone and outside – without any distractions from my little chatterbox. 

So I went back to where it all began. The Sheepwash nature reserve at the back of the local estate is lovely and it where I first learnt to run – back in couch 2 5k days. 

It’s pretty and full of wide, flat, well maintained pathways. 

The plan? 

5 minute warm up, 3 minute runs with 1 minute recoveries, and a 5 minute cool down. 

It was a lot harder than I remember, but I knew there was going to be a difference between outdoors and treadmill running. 

I took it steady and tried to enjoy it. 

  
I covered 3 miles – on the treadmill this session was 2.3miles so I’m stronger than I thought!

Tomorrow I’m back at parkrun and I’m going to give it a go and have some outdoor running fun with mates! 

Every day in every way, I’m getting stronger. 

This week seems to be all about hospital waiting rooms!

  
Week 5 of lower limb Physio. 

Massive progress is being made. 

My balance is improving both 2 legged and 1 legged. 

My ankle flexibility is improving. 

And the Physio keeps making the exercises harder!

I then attend work in full gym gear – today I rocked the ‘be safe be seen’ look or the ‘neon carrot’. 

  
And StreetFIT seems to be making massive changes overall. 

I can see a change in my shape. 

I’m trying new things – tonight was boxing and tricep dips (ouch!)

And I’m getting stronger – I managed to do the v-sits with a weight this week, I’m squatting lower and for the first time ever I planked for 50seconds – never made it past 45seconds before!

I swear I could see steam coming off me in the cool down!!