A year in review.

How do I sum up a year of changing my life?

How do I sum up personal achievements that I could never imagined possible?

How do I sum up friendships & family that have supported me through thick & thin?

Like this:

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The Road to Birmingham (Half)

Where on earth to start?

My training for the Bupa Great Birmingham Run has been spot on.

Following the plan Captain Shabba Paul Ross did for Shrewsbury half for me, with a few adaptations, meant I’d broken my PBs for 5k, 10k, 5mile, 10mile and even 13.1 miles in a training run. I feel great. Fit, strong and well up for a go at smashing my shrewsbury time of 2hrs 33mins. Even if it was only by 3 minutes to take me to 2hrs 30mins, it was game on.

Then. My foundations went.

A fortnight before Brum, I ran a 10 mile race in Rugby, with fellow shabbas Daz, Simon & Ross. We’d all had good runs, and enjoyed a drink and BBQ afterwards.

I went into work on the Monday to an email confirming that the restructure we’ve been waiting for since February was being announced the next day.

So Tuesday. We get the announcement. Our department is being reduced by 40%. Off you go to wait for your 121 meeting to find out what this means for you.

My 121. A meeting with someone I trust and respect. Hands me a letter. Your role is at risk. And explained my options. I can request to leave with a package, or request to go into a pool for a role. There are 12 people for 4 jobs. You have 2 weeks to decide.

I rejoin my colleagues. We go to the pub. And work from that moment on is a constant battle for information, clarity.

And although I’ve been aware this was coming for some time, the reality was horrible.

Over the fortnight, I’ve drunk too much, cried, ranted, raved, talked Chris’s ears off. But I couldn’t run.

Every time I tried, or planned to, I was overwhelmed by panic, emotion and found an excuse not to go.

I was skipping meals too.

All in all, not good prep for running 13.1 miles.

But I got out the other side.

The constant support from Chris, and the few friends I managed to tell got me to a point where I could run. And I went out and blew up.

I knew I would, but I also knew I couldn’t do that in the middle of a half marathon, I had to break the barrier before then.

The next day, I ran again. And it was fine. I enjoyed it. The demons were at least back in their box!

So Sunday arrives.

I’ve decided, given everything, that PBs were off the table, and the goal was now survival.

I meet my fellow Shabbas. And the girls from RMR I’ve got to know. I Dissolve all over Lozza. Give her sister H a huge hug – H gives great hugs.

Then start to get stressed as I need a replacement timing chip (either I didn’t get one or I chucked it!).

My brain feels remarkably calm at this point, but I’m pretty sure I was twitchy, rambling and leaking nervousness in reality.

I sort my chip out. And find Lee & Charlotte- Lee in full superman outfit, and make sure Charlotte has her brand new Shabba shirt to wear.

We make our way to the starting pens. With a loo stop and a loo queue selfie with Fi Wright my lovely RMR and Twitter friend.

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After a superman moment where Lee lifts a girl over the fence, we find our starting pen. In all the crowds, Lee & I sneak into green start with Charlotte.

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After hearing Tammy & Si getting a shout out for their fab Wonder Woman & Superman outfits, we were off.

First job. Don’t go too fast. Pb or no PB on the table, survival in a long race means slow & steady.

My first mile was 10mins. A little quick but it was down hill. I caught up with Matty B & his sister Kay – she was running her 1st half to raise money for PKD which her son has. After a quick hello, I carried on. I heard ‘go on Shabba!’ From the crowds and there were Matty, Phil & Kay’s family cheering. That was a lovely boost.

After a while, I noticed a familiar group. Wendy, Sam, Marissa and Gray (aka Charlotte!). All were running their first half, driven by Wendy wanting to raise funds for the local breast cancer unit that had treated her. We ran together for a while, but I’m used to running alone, and find it hard to pace myself to others. They were doing brilliantly. So proud of them all.

I also caught up with Phil who was running in a morph suit, as usual, but with the added extra of a gorilla carrying a man in a cage suit. Nutter!

There were a couple of points were you could see runners coming back the other way. I managed a high five with Sara M who I’ve FINALLY met! And a shout to Simon Potter in his Macmillan vest.

Around Edgbaston cricket ground I found a lost looking Simon Partridge waiting for Tammy as they’d gotten separated. Don’t worry they found each other and had a very special family finish.

Around this point I got angry. Questioning what I was doing and why. So I grumbled to myself a bit until I was distracted by a voice saying “you’re Tammy’s friend!” I found out later her name is Erika. We ran together for a while, through the shower, and chatting although I’m pretty sure I wasn’t very coherent!

All of a sudden, I hit the 10 mile marker. I hadn’t really noticed the distance till this point. But this was the mile everyone warns you about. This is the mile with THE HILL. I also realised that even if I walked the next mile, I was going to pb.

Ok. I dug in and all of a sudden I was racing not running anymore.

The hill was tough, long and slow bits as well as short and steep bits. But it was beaten with only a 30 second walk, which was more a mental break than a physical one.

And then there was Broad Street. Toe down. Here I go. I pushed. And then I heard the roar. Above the noise of the crowds, I heard my Shabbas. I grinned and went for it. I heard another shout – Thommo and Emma from the West Brom Harriers.

I crossed the line. Stopped my watch.

2:21:25.

I text Chris.

I then burst into tears. And sobbed my way through the chip removal, water point & goody bag collection.

I met Aimee from the Sweatshop Running Club who Chris runs with and we had a lovely chat.

I got my bags.

I found my Shabbas and went for a celebratory drink.

Everyone had done fantastically. It was great to relax with everyone smiling, laughing, hugging.

And then it was time to go, and celebrate with my family.

But I survived my race. I survived and knocked 12 minutes off my time for Shrewsbury.

But I didn’t do it alone. I may have run alone, but the journey to the start line only happened because of the amazing support I have at home and away.

Thank you.

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The one where I stop being scared.

Over the last few years, I’ve dipped in and out of blogging about my quest for a healthy lifestyle.

There’s been food changes, and activity changes, particularly in recent months my new found passion for running.

Through it all, I’ve always swum. I’ve always been a swimmer.

Even when I did no exercise at all, I’d say I was a swimmer.

I was quite good as a child but chose not to go down the competitive route as I didn’t like the idea of 6am swims, but it’s always been part of me.

So when Chris started going open water swimming, and a few friends suggested I give it a go, I don’t think anyone was prepared for me to react the way I did.

In private there were tears, terror and full on sobfests.

Why?

Because open water swimming has always terrified me.

There is no rational reason for this fear, I’ve never had a bad experience. It’s just always been with me.

I’ve managed sea swimming before, but something about a lake totally terrified me.

So one week I went along to watch, and totally fell in love with the location.

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So the next week I decided to have a go.

I put my swimming costume on inside out.

I put the wetsuit on inside out.

But I got in the water and swam.

Face in, front crawl wasn’t working so I switched to breast stroke.

I was swimming. The water was nice.

I still had to stop at each buoy as I could feel the panic rising.

The current didn’t bother me, the weeds didn’t bother me.

What the hell was wrong with me?

I got out to calm myself down, and catch my breath.

Chris kindly took a photograph.

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After 20 minutes of giving myself a talking to, I got back in.

Yes, I was terrified, and still got back in.

This annoyed me. I’d gone along with the rationale of ‘I’m a swimmer, I have no reason to be afraid, once I get in the water I’ll be fine and love it.’

So I got home, and had a good chat with my Shabbasister Lozza who has experienced similar issues in her journey to become IronLozza. She helped me see that I’d done well. I’d faced my fear, I’d got out & gone back in while I was afraid, and that should be celebrated.

Then last week she asked me to join her, and her friends Sarah & Liz (who I also chat to on Twitter) at their open water session.

I agreed.

I was still afraid but I will not allow myself to be restricted by fear, especially one with no grounds and is all in my head.

She also gave me a tip.

Write two lists. One listing things I’d be leaving behind, and things I’d be taking with me, metaphorically speaking. And then on the day, leave the ‘behind’ list at home and take the ‘take’ list with me.

I did.

It helped.

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I arrived with nothing more than butterflies. And a big smile & a ridiculously small back pack.

I met Sarah & Liz who are gorgeous & lovely.

I got in.

I swam, lost my breath, switched to breast stroke. But I didn’t panic.

I did a full lap.

After a rest, we went again.

This time I thought about my technique and what I was doing with my swimming.

I enjoyed the second lap (apart from cramp, but the water was only 18 degrees!).

I lost my rhythm but I switched to breast stroke, then switched back to front crawl.

I started to enjoy myself.

Lozza, Sarah & Liz went off for a third lap. I chose to stay In the shallows just being in the water & enjoying the quiet, the scenery & reflecting on where the panic had been coming from.

My conclusion – although I’m a strong, experienced swimmer, open water requires a different rhythm from pool swimming, just as a sprint is different to a marathon. Finding the rhythm hadn’t come naturally to me, therefore my brain panicked.

After our swim, we went to the local McDonald’s for a coffee & a chat.

I’m not sure, but I think I sat there with a massive grin on my face.

The girls were brilliant. They hadn’t pressured me, they hadn’t made me feel bad for holding them back, they didn’t coach me, the were patient, kind and understanding. They let me figure it out myself. And for that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

I’m going again next week, in my new wet suit, which has the logo ‘No Fear’.

‘Nuff Said!

Market Drayton! Mixed Results! Much fun!

So.

11th May 2014. Market Drayton 10k. This was supposed to have been my first ever race. In typical Sarah style though, I’d jumped the gun, and already done Action Heart 5 and Fradley 10k in February.

So, you’d think that I’d be calm, relaxed and ready to enjoy the run, having had the chance to experience a race atmosphere.

Yeah. Right.

I was awake at 5am. Between 5am and 10am I must have visited the loo about 15 times.

Nervous? Moi?

Ridiculous really. The day was going to be great fun. The race has a great reputation for atmosphere, and about 15 Shabbarunners were going to be there.

Anyhow, me & Chris got ready, said goodbye to the children & my parents & hit the road.

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We soon found our fellow Shabbas, and I finally met Nikki in person. She’s just as loopy as she is on Twitter!

After a warm up jog round the field with Ian, Lee & Greg, it was time to find our starting positions.

I found the 60minute plus area. At Fradley, I ran the 10k in 1:06:20, and in training I’d got down to about 1:04, so had no illusions about being quicker than an hour. This is where I bumped into our West Brom Harrier pals, Jo, Wai & Lee. Chris was in the same start line up as me, as although he’s a lot speedier than me, he’s got a painful ankle, and had decided to just run a slow 10k, and not risk injuring himself before his Rock ‘N’ Roll half marathon in a couple of weeks. Fellow Shabba Marissa was with me as well, fresh from her honeymoon.

And then we were off.

With over 2000 runners, the first mile was very congested, and it was quite hard to find space to settle into a pace, but about the half mile mark, I spotted someone from work cheering on, and managed to catch his eye, and exchange waves.

From there on it was a case of finding a rhythm, and trying not to get swept along too quickly.

The course was pleasant going through the town centre and housing estates, it was lovely to see the local residents sitting in their gardens cheering us on, even when the rain started.

About the 2.5 mile mark, there was a water station, so I grabbed a bottle of water. After taking a few mouthfuls, I decided I couldn’t run with the bottle, so got rid, as a lot if people were doing.

And then I got a stitch.

No problem, slow breathing down, slow feet down. It’ll pass.

It did.

For 5 minutes.

Then it was back, on the other side.

Repeat for the rest of the 4 miles.

Yes. I ran 4 miles with a recurring stitch.

After a while I just forgot about it. I was aware of it, but not hindering me.

I was keeping an eye on my pace at this point too. I covered the first 5k at bang on 30 minutes, I realised if I was sensible I was on for a good PB time, even if I did slow down for the second half.

This was when the course got a little more undulating too.

I don’t mind hills, going uphill. But I’m wary going down hill. I’m so clumsy I have visions of losing control and tripping going down hill. It’s not happened – yet!

There were a group behind me, obviously running as a team who we’re doing shout outs at the mile points, and every now and then calling to other runners “give me a yeah if you’re running for fun!” – I managed a thumbs up! It they kept me smiling!

I was following a guy in an Ironman morph suit, and although he’s not as special as the Shabba’s Morphman, his suit was well designed for *ahem* accentuating his rear view , so I enjoyed the view and kept on going!

Then around mile 5, there was a short(ish) sharp hill. It was totally energy draining, but I ran it all. Hills are my friend!

Then it was back onto the school grounds for the finish. The change from concrete to grass was very heavy on my legs, and I’d decided that as I was on for a PB regardless that if I couldn’t sprint finish, then I’d still be happy.

Yeah right.

I saw the Shabba flag near the finish.

That was it.

I kicked it up and managed a sprint finish.

I stopped my watch at 1:01:28. Just under 5 minutes off my Fradley time.

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Thank you Jonnie for taking this picture. It may not be the most flattering picture, but my face says it all!

I met up with the Shabbas, delighted with my PB. With our enormous goodie bags and yoghurt stash, we went to spend our free beer vouchers. It was a great few hours, chilling, giggling, rehashing the race, and just generally being together.

Unfortunately, from about 5 minutes after I’d finished I’d been experiencing awful stomach cramps.

These continued for the rest of the day, leaving me curled up in agony with a hot water bottle, and 24 hours later, I’m still not right.

After a long chat with the Tron of Lozza, a Shabba sister, and more experienced runner, we think we’ve pinned it down to dehydration. My nervous loo trips obviously didn’t help, and despite me drinking plenty, before hand, it obviously wasn’t timed right. But she has given me some good tips, and I think I can fix it before my next race on 1st June.

I’m delighted with my run, and enjoyed my day enormously. Can’t wait for next year!

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Happiness is…..

Happiness is….

Seeing my sister for the first time this year, and falling asleep on her couch while she plays games with the children & Chris.

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Happiness is….

Arriving in Swanage to stay with my in laws, and having a view like this:

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Happiness is….

Waking up early & going for a run along the beach:

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Happiness is….

Watching the children have fun on the beach:

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Happiness is…

Walking to the top of a cliff with the family, with your son striding off confidently, while your daughter overcomes her fear of falling, to reach a view like this:

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Happiness is…

Running sub30 at Parkrun for the very first time, when you didn’t expect to yet!

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Happiness is:

Your husband saying “I knew you’d do it.” And the wonderful friends I have in the Shabbas, and the wider twitter running family sending wonderful congratulations messages that make you tear up.

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Happiness is….

Spending the afternoon on the beach, relaxing in the sunshine with Chris, watching the children do what children do, and having a 99!

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Happiness is…

Knowing no matter what, I’m surrounded by people that care.

Happiness is…

Me!

Parkrun, PBs, Pelsall & Perhaps?

It’s been a funny old weekend.

Full of happiness & excitement, hope and suspense.

It started at Walsall parkrun on Saturday morning.

I’ve been frustrated with my recent parkruns, as I’ve lost the ability to pace myself over three laps, going out too hard, dying on the second lap, and then having to work on the third.

So I decided to try an experiment, with a music playlist with a set tempo, to see if my musician side would react to having a metronome and regulate my pace. Forget time, forget PBS, just balance over three laps.

After the first lap, I was a bit surprised that I was running sub 10 minute miles – this is quick for me. But decided to ignore the pace still, I felt comfortable, and just decided to go with it.

As I passed the finish funnel, Chris shouted “keep going Sarah!”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t resist yelling “Na! Thought I’d stop!”

At which point, I could hear all the volunteers laughing and saying “that told you!”

The second lap, was as consistent as the the first, and then the third lap started. I still felt good, and was still going at the steady pace I was working at, and started to overtake people who I’d had in mind as people to aim for – but not yet, I wasn’t ready! Just shows what I know!

For the last hill incline, I was joined by Daz and Chris C for their cool down. It’s good to have company, when you’re tiring, it gives you a massive boost. This felt different though, I still had legs in me and was pushing myself. As we turned into the downhill, they were both egging me on, and then on the final straight, I could hear Daz yelling at me to go for it, and another runner on my shoulder shouting “don’t let me overtake you!”

I didn’t, that last sprint felt hard, but I loved it.

And when I looked at my watch, I couldn’t believe it. I’d taken 35 seconds off my PB for that course and 2 seconds off my full PB.

My goal for this year is to get a sub-30 minute 5k.

On Saturday, I ran 30:42.

I may need to set a new goal soon!

I made sure I thanked the runner who’d been chasing me down, and Daz and Chris for helping me through that last section.

And grinned for the rest of the day.

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Then on Sunday, it was over to Chris, who was running the Pelsall 10k. There was a mass turnout of Shabbas as it’s a local race for a lot of us, and the first one run there for many years.

It didn’t quite go to plan, starting with us being at the front of a three car rear ender right in front of the common where the start line was.

The damage to my car is minor, and no one was hurt, so once we’d exchanged info with everyone, we joined our friends.

It was a good run for everyone, a little chat about the course being a little short, but even with that, everyone was pleased with their times, and the gang always have fun together!

I was cheerleading & photographer for the day, and got papped a couple of times, while if was papping!

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Then it was home, to find out how our friends got on in the London Marathon.

I took over the Shabba twitter feed, to provide live updates to all our friends.

That was a privilege, as we shared excitement and hope for our friends, we managed to video a couple of them crossing the line. One of our friends dropped off the tracker, which gave us an hour of anxiety, until he crossed another tracking point.

By the end of the evening, this joy at their achievements changed to silliness, and we started on some cracking egg puns, after one of the lads ate 11, yes 11, cream eggs in one sitting!

All of this left me and Chris talking about the future, and I’m pretty sure one or both of us will be putting our names in the ballot for next year!

Stellian’s Superb Saturday! (Warning! Includes a swimsuit shot!)

So this Saturday was always going to be manic, but I was really looking forward to it.

The plan:

Whole family to Wolverhampton parkrun
Chris swim Sport Relief Swimathon – 5k at Wolverhampton Leisure Centre, while we cheer him on.
Parents arrive lunch time.
Me and daughter swim Sport Relief Swimathon 1.5k team relay at Halesowen Leisure Centre
Big family meal out.

For the most part, the plan happened, but a few extra things happened to make it even better!

A mid week chat on twitter with Lozza led to a suggested Tweet Up at Wolverhampton parkrun, along with a new twitter friend Cara.

The run was great fun, I was aiming to keep Lozza in sight, as she aimed for a sub-30 PB, to see if I could run as well as I did the other week with Marissa and Jonnie. I kept her in sight for a lap and a half, but she was flying round (I now know she was chasing a nice bottom!) and she smashed her goal of sub-30! It was great turning into the final straight with her yelling me on!

I’m really pleased with my time at wolves, 31:01 by my watch, 31:05 official time, as I did it all by myself, and my first mile was 10:02, so I’m making good progress towards my own sub-30.

Also really proud of my 6 year old son, who after a half the first lap in full on tantrum mode as he wanted to run with mummy, not daddy, finished the full 5k in 34:35 – I’m going to have to watch him!

The Tweet Up was brilliant, it’s always lovely to meet twitter pals in the flesh, especially when they are as inspiring as Lozza and Cara, both have worked hard to change their lives through running, and are now branching off into triathlons etc.

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It was fabulous to chill out after the run over a coffee and just relax. This did mean that Chris didn’t have his cheerleading at his swim, but he did brilliantly and I’m proud of him.

Then after all the excitement of the morning, it was scoot home to meet up with my parents. They’d brought daughter’s birthday presents, as she turned 10 this week, so there was much excitement from both children.

Then the best bit of my day happened. Me and daughter set off for Halesowen Leisure Centre to do our 1.5k relay. We’d deliberately joined as a team as she was desperate to take part, but had only swum 800m before, so the plan was she’d swim as far as she could, then I would finish whatever she couldn’t, therefore no matter what we’d be a successful team.

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What can I say, she was incredible! She swam beautifully and strongly, she was overtaking adult swimmers and with a bit of pool side encouragement from me, she swam the first kilometre all by herself, only leaving me 500m to finish off.

I swam my 14 lengths at full on full pace, just because I could! And when we got out to be presented with our medals, I realised we were the first to finish! We’d finished ahead of adults swimming in teams, and solo at the same distance! Not that I’m discovering a competitive side to myself or anything.

She’s followed our family rule to the letter and hasn’t yet taken off her medal, think she’s chuffed, and so she should be.

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We then went out and ate our way around the world at our local world food buffet. Perfect end to a fantastic day!

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