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As is customary at this time of year, I’ve made some resolutions. Yes, I know that everyone makes New Year’s Resolutions, and no one ever keeps them. But I think there are two reasons for this.

 

1. They set unrealistic goals.

2. They make a general statement about where they want to be, without looking at what needs to be done to get there.

 

I’m hoping to avoid these errors. I remember making resolutions every new year when I was in the midst of an eating disorder. Of course, every year I would plan to lose weight. That was all I ever wanted. Of course it wasn’t all I wanted, but in the absence of sound mental health and with no feeling of self-efficacy or control in my life, I imagined that everything else just happened to me. Losing weight was the only thing I could actually control, and so I resolved to do that, every year.

It’s not just those with eating disorders who make those kind of resolutions. It’s maybe one of the most common ones to make – to lose weight. Especially after the excesses of Christmas. And I’m betting most people usually fail.

But here’s the problem – you’re making a resolution that involves denying yourself, punishing yourself, and adopting a lifestyle that is less desirable than the one you currently live. When you make a promise to lose weight, more often than not it’s attempted through dieting and denying yourself of the things you enjoy. And it’s accompanied by reluctant, frenzied exercising which is done purely as a means to an end and not for enjoyment in itself.

Of course people fail, when you look at it this way. And the same goes for any resolution – if you’re not excited about it, truly motivated, and without a clear idea of what you’re doing and why, it won’t be important enough to you to stick at it when the going gets tough.

So I have promised myself that although I AM making resolutions, they’re not just for the sake of it – they will be things that are important to me. I will not make promises that I don’t think I’m capable of keeping. In fact,I’m not making any promises at all, just setting goals. And as well as those goals, I’m going to look at what needs to be done to achieve them. I’m going to ask myself every day what I can be doing to bring myself closer to those goals.

And I accept that I won’t be able to progress towards every single one of them, every day. The list is too extensive! But to get where you want to be, you need to work out exactly where that is first. And so by identifying what I want to achieve this year in every area of my life, I’m taking the first step towards getting there.

 

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

 

Food and Recovery
Stop weighing myself on a regular basis
Pay more attention to hunger signals, and eat slowly

Running and Fitness
Achieve a sub-40 minute 10K
Achieve a sub-1:30 half marathon
Run a mile in under 6 minutes
Work up to completing a full run in my Vibrams
Join a running club
Establish a home practice in yoga

School and Work
Pass my placement, hand everything in and qualify as a social worker
Get a job as a social worker!
Enjoy what I do, and not feel so anxious all the time that I’m not good enough
Stay on top of assignments and don’t let myself get too overwhelmed

Relationships
Stop taking my anger and frustration out on Matt
Spend more quality time with Matt that doesn’t involve watching TV!
Make new friends, by pursuing things that I’m interested in and reaching out to people more

Money
Set a budget and stick to it

House
Do all of the home improvements that Matt and I are planning as soon as possible. Aim to be finished my mid-February?
Establish a weekly cleaning day – Matt has suggested Thursday

 

So I’ve done the easy part. I’ve made a big list of everything I want to achieve this year. The hard part is doing it! And that’s where running comes in.

Running? What’s that got to do with sticking to resolutions?

Well… my experience of running has taught me that I am capable of things that I never thought possible. This time a little over two years ago, I was a complete non-runner. Not just a non-runner actually, an anti-runner. I disliked people who ran. I couldn’t understand it. And like many things in life, when you don’t understanding something you tend to be fearful of it. I wasn’t homophobic, I wasn’t xenophobic but oh boy was I runner-phobic! I would actually scowl at them in the street. And when my dad, sister, brother, sister-in-law AND boyfriend went running, I would shake my head in disbelief and mild pity.

But deep down, what fuelled my negativity towards running was the fact that I just could not do it! I had tried. I knew it was good exercise. I wanted to be able to run for miles. But every time I tried, I would make it no more than 100 metres before I decided it was too hard and walked back home with my tail between my legs.

Fast forward two years later. Not only can I run, I am GOOD at running. I LOVE to run. I eat, sleep and breathe running (and eat, sleep and breathe BETTER because of running!). How did this happen? Could it be that somewhere deep inside me there lies a well of determination, stamina and willpower that had gone previously untapped?

So if I can go from despising running to it being an indispensable part of my life, what else could I do if I set my mind to it?

That, dear friends, is why I feel confident in my ability to achieve – or at least work towards – my goals. That, and a loving, positive approach to them. So if I don’t always do what I know I should, or if they fall to the wayside at times, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m going to remind myself why they’re important to me (if they still are… because things change, right?), and if I decide they’re still worth pursuing I’ll pick myself up and get on with it again.

Of course it’s easy to pick and choose which goals you want to work on and neglect others. Sitting here in the library blogging about ‘staying on top of assignments’ is a convenient way to avoid actually doing them! So I have a plan. I’m going to identify one thing from each area, every day, that I can do towards a goal. It doesn’t have to be big or time-consuming. I just have to set that intention at the start of the day, so that I can be sure that the way I’m living is consistent with where I would like to be headed.

I’m sure you’re thinking this all sounds lovely and idealistic… but it’s only January 6th, how long will I keep this up? I’ll be honest, I’m asking myself the same question! But then I remember how determined I was to run, and how that determination has stayed with me – and I am reminded of how capable I am of making changes when I really set my mind to it.

So I’m going to finish this mammoth post off with my list for today. It’s a little late in the day now, so my intentions will have to be small ones.

 

  • Concentrate on eating my dinner mindfully
  • Go for a run, and do another mile in my Vibrams
  • Spend half an hour reading for my next assignment (seeing as I’ve already done some – but not enough! – today)
  • Be nice to Matt for the whole evening (yes, unbelievably, I have to set this as a goal because I usually find something to have a go at him for!)
  • Stay within my weekly budget (I doubt I’ll be spending any more money today, but so far I’ve done well)
  • Clean the bathroom

 

See, those are all easily achievable daily goals! And they correspond to each area of my life that I identified bigger goals in.

Maybe I should have added ‘Update blog regularly’ to the list! I’m not quite sure where it would fit so for the moment I’ll just keep it in my head – but at least I can tick that one off for today!

 

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Back in November, I took part in the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K for the second time. I didn’t write a race report at the time, probably because I wasn’t too thrilled with my performance. Well, I’ve avoided it for two months now. Time to give it a mention.

The weather was crappy. It was really cold, so cold that I couldn’t think straight and didn’t want to leave the warm shopping centre we were waiting in and go to the start line. The race started in Leeds city centre, ran out to Kirkstall Abbey, and back again. It’s a notoriously dull, but fast, race. It’s one of the flattest courses in the area (which is mostly hilly).

Last year I managed it in 40:57. I was aiming for sub-40, and was disappointed to fall short. It was my first proper 10K though (the only one I had done before that was on a beach so my time wasn’t comparable), so I was happy enough. I figured I’d return a year later, with more training under my belt, and smash the 40 minute barrier.

It wasn’t to be. A summer of very little training due to injury and an avoidance of speedwork meant that not only did I come in at over 40 minutes, I was actually slower than last year. I ran it in 42:31.

Matt did it as well, having got a taste of racing after the Donadea Forest 10K. He did great! He ran it in 45:28. For someone who is not a natural runner (or so I thought… the Chevin Chase proved me wrong!), that was a great time. He plays cricket from April to September, and when the season is over he usually takes up running and trains for the Chevin Chase, before putting running on the back burner again and focusing on cycling (his first love, apart from cricket) and training for the start of the season. So considering the race was in November, and he had less than two months of training under his belt, he did really well.

At this point, I would add a photo. But the race photography was shockingly bad! Every race I’ve taken part in (including the Great North Run, which is the world’s biggest half marathon), there has been at least one good quality photo of me, and usually lots. The Abbey Dash is a big race with plenty of photographers and the previous year there were loads of me. This year there were only two, and in both I was obscured by other runners. The ones of Matt were slightly better, but not great. And there don’t seem to be any photos of two other people we know that did it at all. Which is so unusual, especially for such a large race.

Can you tell I’m disappointed?

Anyway, I have vowed to do more speedwork and try again next year.

Speaking of trying again… I also did my first ever Chevin Chase! I had been looking forward to this race, because it was the one that inspired me to take up running. I was supposed to do it last year but a nasty cough stopped me. I had been looking forward to it for months. I had high hopes. Despite a long break from training over the summer, I was optimistic. And when my injury returned after the Abbey Dash, I remained optimistic while I rested up for a few more weeks.

On the morning of the race, all optimism had disappeared. Standing on the start line with Matt (who had been training his ass off!), I felt a sense of foreboding as a strong wind blew around us. My legs didn’t feel strong, I hadn’t been training on hills at all and my injury was still hanging around.

The first couple of miles is all uphill, and it’s a bitch. I could feel Matt breathing down my neck, which wasn’t a good sign – I’m usually way faster than him. As we ran into the forest, I began to feel nauseous – seeing as the run is on Boxing Day, after a day of eating sweets, chocolate and a big Christmas dinner, this isn’t surprising. I also began to develop a stitch, which worsened to the point of me slowing down and running with one hand clasped against my side.

As we ran out of one section of the forest, across the road and into another, it wasn’t getting any better. Usually in race photos I look strong, like I’m barely exerting any effort at all.

This time was notably different (I’m the one in the blue top)!

 

 

My form is all over the place! Oh yeah, and I’m being overtaken by a guy in a suit!

By the time we reached the big hill that is notoriously difficult, and reduces most people to a walking pace, I was totally spent. I ran up it, but slowly enough that Matt, who had lost me for a while earlier in the race, gained on me again and nearly caught me up. And he was walking! The last mile or so is all downhill, ut there are to stiles to go over which usually get congested. It was at the first of these that Matt caught me up while waiting to climb over. He overtook me afterwards, and when I caught him up again at the second stile, I gestured for him to climb over first seeing as he had been ahead of me. After that I lost all motivation, and he flew ahead. I could always see him, but running into a ridiculously strong headwind, his large frame enabled him to power away down the hill. He’s got more natural speed than me over a short distance, so I was doubtful of my ability to catch him up.

I think if I had known how close we would be at the finish, I could have sped up and overtaken him, or not allowed him to overtake in the first place. But I felt rubbish, and I was also totally shocked that he was beating me.

He crossed the finish line first, and I followed 12 seconds later. My time was 56:35, for a hilly route that was just short of 7 miles. I tried to be as happy as possible for him, while secretly seething! Of course he’s enjoyed his gloating time over the last week.

I’ve resolved to run the route every week between now and December, so that I can run it again properly and royally kick his ass!

Really, I need to keep this injury at bay and get back out on the hills, and doing some speedwork. Then I can try again in the Abbey Dash, and try again in the Chevin Chase. And maybe run times that I feel proud of.

But you learn. Nothing in life is perfect. And I can’t run every race perfectly. I think 2011 has taught me that it’s okay not to have a great race – you just learn from it, and work on coming back stronger.

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Last Wednesday night, as I crawled into bed, I started planning what to do the next day. I was done with uni for the week, and I had been to the shop to stock up on ingredients for a baking extravaganza. I had decided to make pumpkin cupcakes for my nephew, and take them over to Ireland with me. I was going across on the ferry with my parents, so I could easily bring them in the car. I bought orange and purple glitter, and a pumpkin which Matt could carve for Halloween after I was done with it.

I was also planning a run, first thing. I wanted to go to the Chevin, find the big hill that everyone complains about (the one I got lost on!) and do some hill repeats on it. It would be brutal, but it’d prepare me more than anything for the Chevin Chase.

So with all of these thoughts in my head, I began to drift off. And then I heard a text message come through. Quite inconvenienced to have been disturbed as I was falling asleep, I picked my phone up and reluctantly checked it. It was from my dad.

“Pick you up at 8:45 tomorrow morning.”

Excuse me, WHAT?! At first I thought he’d got it wrong. Or maybe it was after midnight, and he meant tomorrow as in Friday, which is the day I thought we were going to Ireland.

But no, it wasn’t after midnight (and even if it was, my dad certainly wouldn’t text me at that time!). I rang him in a panic. I suspected that I had made a fundamental error and had got the day that we were going completely wrong.

The phone call confirmed it: we were going to Ireland on Thursday, not Friday!

After the initial surprise had worn off, I remembered my hill session!

“But I was going to run to the Chevin and do repeats on that big hill tomorrow morning!”, I complained.

So, having accepted that I had no choice but to abandon my plans for Thurdsay, and set my alarm early to pack rather than to run, I began the long journey to the ferry port with my mum and dad (the reason they choose to spend all day driving and take the ferry rather than fly and be there, door to door, within three hours, is my mum’s fear of flying. She actually finds this arduous trip preferable to the anxiety of a 45 minute plane ride).

Before we set off, I ran to the deli for some sweets to keep me going. They sell my favourite vegan gummies!

 

 

I brought a copy of the yoga sutras to read, and sat in the back of the car munching on sweets and sipping on coffee, while contemplating the meaning of life according to Patanjali.

 

 

By the time we arrived, it was late and there wasn’t time to go for any sort of run. My dad said that he was going to run the following morning, and invited me to join him. Now, the fact that Kildare is probably the flattest county in Ireland pretty much put paid to my planned hill session.

Nevertheless, my dad did his best and the next day we got up early and drove to an area nearby that had some undulations (they don’t qualify as hills where I’m from!).

 

 

See, you can’t even see any hills in the photographs!

 

 

It was a beautiful run though. The air was crisp, and the early morning sunshine made the dewy grass sparkle.

 

 

The sky was a beautiful blue colour. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

 

 

After we finished the run, while my dad stretched and paced around, I skipped the cooldown and had some fun playing with my shadow, which was really long because the sun was still low in the sky.

 

 

One more for the family album!

 

 

Did I mention my dad’s a kickass runner? His half marathon PB is 1:31:-something. It was my aim to beat him when I started getting good at running, and I finally did it in the Kildare half marathon with a PB of 1:31:05. Then he reminded me that he got his PB at 57 years old! And on the same day that I was running in that race, he was running in the full marathon – his first ever, which he finished in a time of 3:53! To make it clear why that’s fast, he was 63 at the time.

He takes it easy when he’s training these days, so when we go for runs I’m now the faster one. But he still runs at a reasonable pace and it’s a great way to spend time together, running through beautiful countryside and chatting easily.

So that was my hill session. It wasn’t the gruelling lung-buster that I had planned, but it was a great way to start my birthday – doing what I love (running) in the early morning sun, surrounded by lush fields and trees, and sharing the beauty with one of the most important people in my life.

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With only two months to go until the Chevin Chase, I’ve decided it’s time to step up my training and get back out on the hills. The period of time that I had off due to injury over the summer has affected my leg strength, I think. I’m finding it harder to run over trails and up hills, and I don’t have the same confidence that I used to have when running up steep inclines. Back in the spring I was running between 14 and 18 miles every Sunday, beginning with a big hill, running up a hill in the middle and ending on the same hill that I started with.

The Chevin Chase is a particularly special race for me. It was while standing up on a snowy hill with my dad and nephew on Boxing Day, waiting for my brother, sister in law and Matt to run past, that I had the idea to start running and maybe sign up for the race the following year. I was a few weeks into recovery, and had the feeling that almost anything was possible.

I took to running so quickly that I ended up running in five races before I got anywhere near to doing the Chevin Chase! In the weeks leading up to it I started to feel excitement at the prospect of finishing my first year of running the same way that it began – up on that hill, on an icy festive morning – only this time I would be taking part myself.

But it wasn’t to be. A few days before Christmas I started to sniffle, and then sneeze, and then cough… and by the day of the race, I was struggling to even walk up to the finish line to cheer on Matt and my dad without wheezing and spluttering, never mind run the course.

This year, I’m determined to take part. And I want to do well, too. I’ve seen the results from previous years, and they’re good… so I’m not expecting to win or even place in the top three. But I’m just going to train really hard and do my best, and I’m hoping to maybe surprise myself.

The great thing about the race is that it takes place in an area that is right near me, and that I often train on. But I didn’t know the exact route, and so Matt and I decided to run it together today so he could show me. That way, I could train on sections of it or do the whole thing to get a feel for the course beforehand.

I was hoping it would be a sunny day. The Chevin is a beautiful area of woodland situated high up above a valley, and on a clear day you can see for miles. Seeing as Matt is a slower runner, and we set off with the aim of sticking to an easy pace, I decided to take my camera and try to snap some pretty photos along the way. It turned out to be a grey morning, although the sun came out later on.

I took photos anyway because I really love it up there and I often find that when I’m running through a particularly beautiful area, I want to photograph and document it. My runs, especially the long ones, often feel like adventures. And they sometimes feel like my little secret, because no one else is there with me and I’m out exploring forests and trails and paths. I don’t think photos can do the beauty that I see on these runs justice. But I still want to take them, because I feel so lucky to live in such a stunning area and I really want to capture it.

 

 

We started by running about 2 miles from our house to where the start line would be. From here, we began the ascent towards the Chevin. The first couple of miles are a gradual uphill climb, starting on the road and then turning into trail. Eventually we reached the woods.

 

 

Matt ran ahead when I stopped to take photos. In this one he looks a little crazed!

 

 

The middle section of the run is mostly flat, with a little downhill. Of course this means that you have to climb up again later! I showed Matt how to run downhill like a fell runner – windmill arms and try not to think too much! I pelted at full speed down a couple of the descents.

 

 

You can just make out the valley in the distance, but it’s not all that clear here because of the mist.

The steepest part of the course comes about two thirds of the way through. Apparently most people walk it, but having done Hellrunner I felt confident that I should be able to run up the whole thing. Matt told me to go ahead and meet him at Surprise View. “Run to the top and turn right”, he told me. I wasn’t sure that I’d know where to turn; he assured me it was obvious.

 

 

After running for a little while, I spotted a wooden post that marked out a path to my right. “This must be the right turn”, I thought. I also felt a little smug; while it was certainly not easy, the first portion of the hill was nowhere near as bad as other people had made it out to be.

Apparently Matt had overestimated my navigational skills (he should know not to do this… the first time I ran alone on the Chevin I managed to run right off the path and into the middle of a steep, slippery hill which was impossible to run down but which, having already run about 10 miles, I didn’t have the strength to run up. It was getting dark. I stopped running, stood still and began to cry. Eventually I found my way out by running through a tiny path and jumping down a wall into a car park, where I began to recognise my surroundings).

I quickly realised that this couldn’t be the right path, and I ran back down it, shouting for Matt. There was no reply. I noticed that after levelling out for a few metres, the hill continued further along. I realised that I was probably not at the top of the hill, and so I continued running.

Turns out the second part of the hill is where it gets really hard, and although I made it to the stop without stopping or walking, I did stretch the definition of ‘run’ to include a clumsy, slow stagger as I tried to lift my legs over the rocks and progress up a gradient that was steep enough to warrant having steps built into it.

Upon reaching the top, I saw Matt waiting for me.

“Only you could get lost there!”

 

 

The clearing at the top of the hill is known as ‘Surprise View’ because, well, the view is a bit of a surprise when you get there (unless you’re a local who is already familiar with it, in which case it isn’t remotely surprising but it’s certainly a nice sight).

The mist is obscuring the view in this photo, but if you look closely you can make out the fields and trees in the distance. It’s hard to see just how high up it is unless you’re there.

 

 

Instead of running back towards the finish line, we took a different route home. As we picked up the road I tried to up the pace and we settled into a nice rhythm. It felt comfortable for me, and although I wanted to go faster I stayed with Matt. It turns out he wasn’t feeling quite as at ease as me! But I pushed him to speed up with a few hundred metres to go, with the aim of getting the pace of that final stretch under an 8 minute mile.

My legs are surprisingly sore now. I guess it’s been months since I ran that far (apart from Hellrunner). I need to start upping the distance of my long runs again. I haven’t felt any shin or calf pain in a few weeks, and I think that’s a good sign. I’m going to try and do at least 10 miles on a Sunday from now on, and I think I’ll do those runs on the Chevin. My speedwork and hillwork will also be done there, using the toughest parts of the course. Within the next few weeks, I want the distance of my long run to be around 15 miles.

After I had showered, I quickly threw some more muffins in the oven (using the rest of the ingredients that I saved from yesterday), before heading over with my sister to see our parents. I took muffins, and we shared them out and ate them with coffee.

As I predicted yesterday, it was the perfect accompaniment to a delicious muffin. And the ideal reward for a delightful run.

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Cheesy title, I know.

On Saturday I completed the Donadea Forest 10K, in Ireland. I went over there to babysit for my two nephews while my brother and sister in law went away for the night for their anniversary (I love that they can go away so easily and leave the boys with family…I hope to be that kind of parent one day). They had planned to do the race anyway, and so my brother invited me and Matt along too.

We had an early start, getting up at 5:30 to catch our flight dressed in race gear so that we could drive straight to the start line. I’ll admit, I wasn’t feeling it like I normally do before a race. Ordinarily I get a huge adrenaline rush and it carries me through, no matter how reluctant I might have felt beforehand. I don’t know if I’m just getting more used to racing, or if the pressure of expectation got to me. I’m still after a sub-40 time, but I knew I hadn’t trained properly for it. I decided to just do my best and try to place as highly as possible. I had looked at last year’s times and they were good so I was just aiming for top five really.

Anyway. The lack of adrenaline meant that I didn’t push it anywhere near as much as I should have done. My pacing worked out at 6:50 minute miles, which is about 15 seconds per mile slower than my PB. It was through the forest and there were a fair few undulations so it was to be expected. I think I easily had a sub-42 time in me though. I managed 42:28, placing fourth. Fourth place is becoming a common achievement in races these days. It’s the third race in a row that I’ve finished in that position. I’m not too annoyed because it’s still good, but after placing second in the Kildare half back in May I’ve had taste of what it feels like to get a top-three finish and it’s exciting!

But considering the winning female ran for Ireland in the 2008 Olympics I’m not complaining!

The photos that were taken during the race were available on Flickr for free, which is nice considering you can pay up to £15 for a race photograph in the most expensive races (credit goes to Peter Mooney for all the race photos in this post…the set can be found via the above link).

The race was super well organised too. It was set up by the same woman who organises the Kildare Half (and Full, this year) Marathon – the first race I ever did. There were wrist bands for those who had indicated a sub-40 PB, to allow them access to the front. And yes, I lied about my PB and got one!  I didn’t realise that was why they asked about your PB during the registration process…and I’m only 58 seconds off! Although that is quite a lot over a short distance.

They also had apple crumble and custard for the first 400 finishers. This was Matt’s motivation for running. He had me look up last year’s results beforehand to calculate the likelihood of finishing in the apple crumble bracket! This was the first 10K he’d ever done, and so he didn’t have a great idea of what time to expect. He’s run the Chevin Chase a couple of times, and is training for that again this year. But it’s on Boxing Day, having spent two days drinking and eating far too much. And it’s very hilly, so you can’t really gauge your 10K time from it. He decided that he was aiming for sub-55, but would really like a sub-52 time.

After I finished I stood behind the barrier at the finish line to wait for my brother, who I was expecting next. He crossed the line in around 46 minutes, at which point I settled down for what I thought would be a five minute wait for Matt. As I was chatting to a fellow competitor standing next to me, to my surprise Matt came flying across the finish line in just over 47 minutes! It was way beyond what I was expecting, and he was surprised too!

Having surprised myself in races before, I know the feeling you get when you exceed your expectations and have a super great race – it lasts for days afterwards! I was so pleased for him. Now he’s signed up for the Abbey Dash with me and is aiming for sub-46!

The medals were a nice touch too – they were made out of wood and designed to look like little chunks of a tree trunk.

I realised after the race that all of the time off I’ve had this year due to injury has meant that when I run I’m just aiming to get out there and put the miles through my legs, without really pushing it. I’ve been so grateful to be running that I haven’t thought beyond that. I remember how I used to feel when racing, and I would describe it as feeling like I was floating. Of course it was hard, but I was able to switch off to an extent and just let my legs do the work. I want to get that back.

With that in mind, I set out for a run yesterday with the aim of keeping to around 7:30 min/mi pacing. I was hoping to do at least 5 miles, but I decided to run to the Chevin and it ended up being over 10! My average pace ended up being 8:15 min/mi but that’s because it’s hilly there, and I was running on trail. I was also slowed to a walk at one point when I ran down a little path that disappeared from underneath my feet and I ended up trapped in thorny foliage! I had to turn back and go down a different route, but not before I had a chunk of my knee taken out by a branch!

It didn’t hurt too much at first so I didn’t bother to attend to it. Of course that meant running the rest of the way home with bloody streaming down my leg. I wonder what people were thinking! I’ve got to admit, I felt pretty tough. I can only dream of being as hardcore as true fell runners though, who run through sprains and breaks sustained from throwing themselves down hills. I definitely need to do more of my runs on the Chevin and start getting my legs used to the downhills as well as uphills.

After I’d cleaned myself up it didn’t look quite so bad. But then the stinging started, and with it being on my knee, it hurts whenever I bend it now!

So today I’m resting my legs after my adventure run. I’m also feeling stiff from Wednesday’s yoga session. I turned up to the class only to find that my regular teacher wasn’t there and someone was covering for her. I was disappointed because I really like her style, but I’ve had the guy before and I do think he’s good too. Anyway, then no one else showed up for the class and embarrassingly I had a one to one lesson! It was pretty cool, but a bit awkward. Fortunately I’m becoming more comfortable with my abilities in yoga now and I wasn’t put off by being the only person there. It meant that I got his full attention and he could make any corrections right away. He didn’t make too many, which I take as a good sign. And during a couple of the forward bends he was able to encourage me to go deeper than I might have normally. I think I often don’t push myself quite hard enough. I know you have to work with your body’s limitations, but when he applied pressure to my back at one point I realised how much further down I could go.

I’m writing this listening to a little soundtrack that I’ve compiled of relaxing music, most of which is from my Monday yoga class. She plays great music but it’s such a mix that I can’t ask for her playlist because it’s too varied. So I’ve taken to memorising some of the lyrics of my favourite songs and trying to search for them when I get home. I’ve discovered Ingrid Michaelson as a result.

I’m thinking about putting the songs together onto a CD for my friend as a Christmas present. She started doing the class with me a few months ago and she loves it so much that she’s stuck with it, and has done some of the other classes too. She’s become my yoga buddy! It’s great to share the experience with someone. I know she loves the music that our Monday teacher plays so I think she’d appreciate it.

I’m going to try and establish a home practice too, so having the music from my class to listen to might help me to get into the zone.

The more I read of the Yoga Sutras, and the deeper I look into the philosophy of yoga, the more I feel like my attitude and outlook on life is shifting. I think I might be on the cusp of something new. I can’t articulate it. All I can say is that I’m feeling a lot more content and the sense of direction and purpose that I used to have so clearly a few years ago (when I was so clear about my beliefs) seems to be returning.

I’m also reading Life With Full Attention. It’s designed as an eight week course in mindfulness, written by a Buddhist but really accessible to everyone. I’m hoping to cultivate a more mindful approach to every day life, and actually I want to apply it to my running too. I find that running is like a form of moving meditation, and the two often go hand in hand. Lately I haven’t felt that way quite as much, and I want to get that feeling back. The book suggests a mindful daily walk, but I want to use some of my runs instead.

I’ve set out my aims for the week, although limiting my TV and laptop time were two of them and I’ve already failed that today! It’s something to work on anyway.

I have more to talk about and a recipe to share too! But I think I should save that for another post, this one is getting to be a little long.

I’m going to check out some more photos of the race that I’m just found – while I was writing this I got an email and apparently there was an official race photographer! So I’m excited to see if there are any more photos of us.

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Personal Best

It’s been a busy week and so as usual, I have left it longer than I wanted to post.

My poor little legs are tired, and they’re currently resting in front of me on the sofa. I’ve taken up cycling on a regular basis now and combined with all of the yoga I’m doing they’re just tired out. I have a 10K race tomorrow which I know they’re not going to be on top form for. Not that it’s a PB attempt. My times are slowing these days, and each new race I do is less likely to produce a personal best. Fortunately I’ve been able to enjoy finishing near the front of the field instead. In the last 10K I did, I managed fourth place. Which I was happy with considering the size of the race.

But then I got injured, and I hardly ran. The marathon didn’t happen. And I have completely abandoned speedwork in favour of gentle plods as my legs get used to running again. In fact I’ve never been a fan of speedwork, despite the fact that if I did it regularly I’m pretty sure I could smash that 40 minute barrier for a 10K that has eluded me since I came so tantalisingly close last year. Well, to say it has eluded me is slightly inaccurate seeing as I’ve only completed one 10K since, and it was hillier so unlikely to be faster anyway. The truth is, I’ve avoided racing the distance since because I dread how much faster I’d have to run to get that PB. It’s not like half marathon pacing, where you’re going fast but still able to switch off to an extent and let your legs do the work. It’s running-flat-out-until-you-think-you’re-going-to-puke-but-it’s-okay-because-all-you-have-to-do-is-hang-on-for-40-minutes-and-then-it’ll-all-be-over pacing.

Of course I could just run it for fun and enjoyment, with no competitive element whatsoever. But who am I kidding! Even if I pretend that’s what I’m going to do, it’s unlikely I’ll do anything other than bolt off that start line and cling on for dear life throughout. I’ve seen last year’s times, and they’re good. Not elite standard, but we’re talking women finishing in the mid-30’s. I probably won’t even place top ten. So I need that PB to at least get something good from the race.

When did running become so fuelled by competition and compulsion? I know it takes some of the enjoyment out of it. I need to work on getting that feeling back that I had when I first started. I would bounce out of the door with a smile on my face, thrilled at the ease with which my legs carried me mile after mile. These days I trudge, Garmin in tow, frequently checking my pacing and berating myself for not running fast enough.

Once a perfectionist…

So anyway, returning to where I left off in my last post, I’ve got into yoga in a big way. And it’s sort of changing my life. I’ve always been mildly interested in it, although my motivation used to be a desire for flexibility and grace. Completely missing the point, of course. Last year, in my brand shiny new recovery mindset, I took it up again and this time it stuck (like so many things…I hadn’t realised how pervasive my negativity and self-hatred had been). More recently, I’ve begun to take up to three classes a week.

And whereas before I would berate myself for not being bendy enough (because I was too fat, I’d tell myself), and want to give up because I didn’t see instant results, these days I have begun to understand the meaning and purpose of yoga. The physical practice can’t be taken out of the spiritual context from which it began, but this happens too often when it’s practised in the West. The philosophy behind it is fascinating. I have begun to read a translation of the Yoga Sutras, and I can feel my attitude shifting already. I am beginning to incorporate the lessons that I am learning from them into my everyday life.

It all fits really. I started being kinder to myself, albeit in a very forced and deliberate way. Slowly it started to come naturally, and as a result of this very deliberate change I became attracted to things that promoted and enhanced my wellbeing rather than worked against it. It’s almost as if the more positive energy I put out there into the universe, the more positivity I attracted back. And so I have gravitated towards a spirituality that is congruent with this new attitude. I spent so long consumed by self-pity. And I am starting to ‘get’ it. I am taking responsibility for myself.

I’m not going to continue to abuse myself and then, when I don’t get where I want to be in life and when I stay miserable as a result, regard my failures as proof that I’m a useless person. That’s the easy way out.

Happiness and recovery don’t just happen. You can’t just sit there crying about how horrible you are and hope that self-esteem and self-worth just lands in your lap. You can’t abuse your body on a daily basis, call yourself fat, and deny your body of its basic needs and then expect to one day love yourself enough to eat.

You stop crying first. You stop abusing yourself first. You start eating.

And then those changes begin internally, and you start to believe that you’re worth it.

I can’t explain how yoga fits in with all of this without going into far too much depth. I feel like I need a nap too, so I’m not in a big writing mood.

I repeat myself a lot in here. I know that. But it’s because what I’m talking about it so important to me. I need to hear it over and over again to make sure that I stay right on track. When I feel those negative thoughts creeping in, I need to remember why it’s so important to stop them in their tracks.

Whether that’s a little voice telling me that my downward dog is crap and I may as well not bother, or one that yells at me for being a ‘fat whore’. We all have our own version of that voice, and some are louder than others. And without that constant reminder not to listen, it’s easy to stop hearing it as a distinct whisper and believing it to be your own thoughts.

That’s enough musing for one day; time for a warming bowl of soup and maybe  a few more Sutras.

Wow…I don’t think I could fit the vegan stereotype more if I tried.

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So I was glancing over my recent entries and I noticed two things.

 

1. I tend to write awfully long entries.

2. There aren’t enough pictures.

 

Yes, this is a space for me to vent when needed and work through whatever issues I’m having. And it’s for me, no one else, and how it looks really doesn’t matter. But I don’t think it’s doing the best job of representing my lighter side right now. And there is such a thing as too much self-analysis. As important as recovery is to me at the moment, there are so many other things in my life and I think they deserve a little space in here.

So in light of this, I am sharing a collection of things that have made me happy lately. And really, just looking at these photos serves as a reminder of all the wonderful things that exist out there, and how great life can be when you’re choosing to participate in it.

 

Does it count as cliff diving if you’re bombing?

 

The ‘Bog of Doom’ during Hellrunner! The look on my face is significantly less impressive than last year, possibly due to the fact that it was about 10 degrees warmer this time around and I knew what was coming!

 

I’ve been baking like a madwoman lately. I think I just have too much time on my hands while I wait to start uni again. I baked polenta muffins again in my new silicone muffin cases and they looked so pretty I just had to take a photo. This time I experimented by adding lemon zest and raisins – they were lovely.

 

That’s all for now. No lengthy ramblings this evening!

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