Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now. 

I am taking part in a Wolf Run in two days. I am woefully unprepared and undertrained. But it’s gonna be ok. Here’s why…

Here are the links to the previous diaries –

1st October 2015

8th October 2015

15th October 2015

22nd October 2015

30th October 2015

And here’s the last instalment of my training diaries…

31st October 2015. I look like I’ve got into confused Halloween character a bit early in the day; my face is an unflattering shade of devil red and I’m walking with a kind of hunch-back zombie shuffle after today’s run in the woods with my Wolf Run team mate. One week to go. I wobble uncertainly between excitement and fear like a beginner tightrope walker. There’s going to be a number of challenges that I’ve never had to face. A lake swim. Mud pits. Monkey bars. A full 10k cross country on my own two feet /arse/hands and knees. Climbing stuff. Dodging stuff. Crawling under and over stuff. I’m going to have to break through, vault over and swim away from my comfort zones and wave them goodbye.
3rd November 2015. 

 Today was a Good Run. Ran a mile through heavy clay mud and rain, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. Did some stretches. Ran back, still concentrating on the breathing. I focus on Now. Not thinking about work. Not thinking about how far I need to run. Not thinking about the Wolf Run itself. Breathe. Imagine my feet light and bouncy. Feel the centre of my chest stay high and leading me forward. Breathe.

5th November 2015. Had planned a last run but seem to have run out of hours in the day, what with bonfire night tonight! So I take Ella-the-dog for a walk in the rain and ponder stuff. It occurs to me that I have spent most of my life trying to make things safe and cosy. Physically and emotionally I have been fearful of any small discomfort. Cold/heat/dirt/drama/socialising/high heels/strangers/smells/looking stupid/certain food combinations/dance music/the sound and feel of knives on plates/embarrassing myself unintentionally/getting hungry/falling over/not getting enough sleep/Being judged/getting out of breath? I worry about these all the time. Urgh!

And so my comfort zones have remained small. When I was young, and riddled with irrational fears and hallucinations, my father taught me a neat trick. To mentally create a circle around myself which nothing scary could cross. I used this a lot with some success until one day in my early twenties when I suffered a panic attack and drew my circle too small. I was stuck, helplessly huddled in a tiny space for nearly two hours with cramp setting in as I tried to keep my limbs from leaving the safety of my tiny circle. Luckily a flatmate arrived home and freed me. I have not consciously created a safety circle since then.

And yet I think I have created a life for myself rather like this circle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely inside, with cushions, milky coffee, a pile of books and a gorgeous family to cuddle. But a beautiful padded cell is not a healthy place to live. The past eighteen months or so have allowed me to at least push the boundaries of my circle outwards. And I think the past couple of months of training have taught me that maybe I don’t need that circle any more. What do I need to be protected from? That circle is now superfluous. It’s time to dissolve it, rub it out, knock it down. I am going to make an idiot of myself on Saturday. A cold, muddy, wet, wheezing, aching idiot of myself. But I’m ready for it. And I think this will be how I destroy my circle.

*title is quoted from Maya Angelou

Here Comes the Rain Again

Only one week to go before the Wolf Run. To say I’m scared witless would be an understatement.

I haven’t set myself up for any kind of sponsorship because I have a fear of not completing the course. Or indeed not turning up. But if you would like to sponsor my team mate I promise to try extra hard to get to that finish line. Here’s his page. Just Giving

24th October 2015. It’s cold. It’s p***ing down. Low cloud provides minimal visibility from less than half way up Crook Peak.

  Isn’t the view marvellous?!!

Today I power my way up, in leggings and a vest top, cheerily shouting out hello to the various groups of bemused and bedraggled hikers in their head-to-toe waterproofs and sturdy walking boots. I then skid and slide my way back down, nearly careering into my husband Simon and Ella-the-dog who are walking up through the cloud Ella-speed. Then I head BACK up the hill, with my own personal Darth Vader soundtrack, pausing only to wave at a hedge that is posing as Simon. Finally I walk back down with Simon and Ella who have heroically waited for me at the top. This is more like it. I am pretty darn proud of myself.

25th October 2015. It’s a perfect cold frosty morning as my Wolf Run team mate and I head out. My trainers are still wet from yesterday and my hands are like blocks of ice by the time we’ve walked up to the woods. But it’s a lovely 4.something mile run (ok, I’m still needing to walk some sections) and boy is it muddy!! We were both skidding all over the place even with off road treads. You know what I noticed about my trainers wide toe boxes today? There’s more room for the mud to squish around my toes…

27th October 2015. Finish a tedious morning at work and head out for a 2 mile run-walk-run across the fields. I focus on my breathing and not stomping down on my heels. I also feel under some pressure to keep my form from collapsing when I am watched so intently by horses, cows and sheep. In fact one horse quite definitely mutters something derogatory as I stumble past. I feel that quadrupeds could at least attempt a little sympathy for what Daniel Vitalis refers to as Homo sapiens domesticofragilis.

30th October 2015. Another post-work run across the fields. I manage 2 miles with only one minute of walking and no inhaler. And I have a revelation… I seem to have lost my fear of mud!! Just as well…

The non-running training, admittedly no longer on a daily basis, but all frequently. Deep breath… Resting squats, hang time, toe spacing, neutral feet, 10am coffee curfew, cold showers, jumping, hydrating, stretching and flexing. Plus:

  1. Kelly Starrett‘s couch stretch for hip extension, which I loathe but effectively opens out the hip and helps alleviate some types of knee, hip and back pain
  2. Startett’s hip flexion for 30 seconds on each side should give me a more fighting chance of being able to “run with good form and balance and channel power from my posterior chain.”
  3. I have fuelled each run this week with a fabulous Paleo Isotonic Super Booster. I do recommend you try it; it tastes lovely and zingy and gives you just the right amount of zip-and-go!

Ready and Poised to Wax or Wane

Two weeks to go now until the Wolf Run and it ain’t looking great…

17th October 2015. Despite 6 blasts of salbutamol I deafen myself with the sound of my own tuneless wheezing as I charge up Crook Peak today with my weighted backpack. It’s about 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) and the northerly wind is causing my lungs to protest loudly. Birds take off and fly away, squawking at the horrific sound of high decibel wheezing while cows, dozing beside the track, shake their heads sadly at me as I cough up muck and spit into the wind. There’s stuff I still need to learn here and I’ve only got three weeks to learn it…

18th October 2015. Run up to the woods with my Wolf Run team mate in order to break in his new trail shoes. Disappointingly it’s fairly dry so he doesn’t get the full boggy experience. I am aware that this sounds harsh, but it is entirely his fault that I’ve had to go through this trauma of trying to get fit to a deadline. He trumps my bramble lasso experience by getting his ankles tangled in some barbed wire. So I guess we are quits now.
19th October 2015. Take dog for 4.5 mile walk across fields. Her top pace is a 19 minute mile so I guess it’s a stroll really! We negotiate gates blocked by cows; inquisitive horses, cute but feisty sheep and many dogs off the lead and out of control.

 The three things I most hate to have shouted at me? Don’t worry, he won’t hurt you! always cheerfully yelled as dog runs up slavering, growling and getting in the way. She just wants to say hello! Which is generally preceded by the damn dog jumping up and getting muddy paws all up your legs or back and ahhh, why don’t you let your poor doggy off the lead? Seriously? Sorry if I sound grumpy. I am still PMSing. Seems the last Equinox has knocked my cycle off schedule. I feel like I am trying to move through water and all I want to do is sleep.

20th October 2015. Keeping it honest… Today has been a day of binge eating, sofa sleeping and absolutely no training whatsoever. Zero. Zilch.

21st October 2015. My 12 year old arrives back from school with the news that she has run 2.3 km in 10 mins 42. What the hell?! I want her to run in my place but my Wolf Run team mate rudely reminds me that the organisers would notice that she is much younger than me and that my race t-shirt would be far too big for her.

22nd October 2015. Cycle is back on track but I still can’t run. Cramp, clumsiness and nausea will not let this happen.

23rd October 2015. I have a day off and head into Bristol with my husband where we walk 2 miles of hills interspersed with a latte or two. When I get home I pull on trainers and head out for a brisk 1.5 mile run. It’s really hard work but I am relived that I can manage it. Roll on the weekend. I can do this…

The non-running training stuff: yep, still with the resting squats, hang time, toe spacing, neutral feet, coffee curfew (now 10am) and cold showers. But I’ve now added the following:

  1. Jumping. With a) a lack of equipment and b) a lack of space I am adapting Kelly Starrett’s standard #12 Jumping and Landing in order to improve my running mechanics. Because who doesn’t want good running mechanics? Firstly ten barefoot and feet together jumps as far as I can all in one go; embarrassingly, this is enough to get me out of puff. Then thirty jumps on my right foot (pretending I have a skipping rope!) and thirty jumps on my left. All these with a focus on straight feet, neutral knees and strong arches.
  2. Hydration. I’m always pretty good at drinking plenty of water and sometimes adding salt to my water to maximise hydration. But this week I’m making sure to drink a 2.5 – 3l daily and supplementing with electrolytes.
  3. Stretching and Flexing.   I’m working on good ankle motion here and doubling up with calf stretches. While blogging and entertaining the cat. Hey, wait! Poppy this IS entertaining! Don’t look away….

Title stolen from a Christina Rosetti poem. 

The Ceiling Hung with Vines and the Walls Became the World All Around 

Three weeks to go until the Winter Wolf Run.

First countdown post. 

Second countdown post. 

10th October 2015. Two mile walk/jog up and down Crook Peak with a 4kg weighted backpack, my husband, our Labrador, a suggestion of sunshine and fantabulous views across the River Severn to Wales in one direction and Glastonbury Tor in the other. We jumped on hillocks, scrambled up rocky outcrops and leaped balletically over tree roots. And I got Simon to take this picture of my trainers in action:

11th October 2015. Easy slow 2.5 mile walk up to and around the woods with husband and dog. It’s mild and dry; the leaves are crispy underfoot, it’s peaceful, it’s beautiful, it feels almost enchanted. In fact the forest spirits are so enamoured of my presence that they send a bramble runner to lasso my leg oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so… 

 12th October 2015. RUNNER’S HIGH!! It’s my absolute favourite weather right now, freezing cold with crystal clear skies. The woods were mostly dark with stunning shards of light piercing through the canopy, but every so often I’d hit a glorious but blinding patch of sunlight. With no pedestrians in evidence the grouse, pheasants and squirrels were out and about enjoying the quiet, and at one point a buzzard silently glided a few feet over my head. I sprinted some sections, walked others, stopped to do some balance work on fallen logs, jumped on and off tree stumps, leaped over boggy sections, ducked under low branches, swerved to avoid those pesky brambles, barged through nettles, and covered about four and a half miles in an hour and ten minutes. For the first time I feel like I could have happily gone further, but am anxious to avoid causing accidental damage to myself at this stage. I’ll see how I go next week.

15th October 2015. The cyclical chocolate craving hormones were roaring their terrible roars and gnashing their terrible teeth at me today so I stared into their yellow eyes (without blinking once) and took myself for a thirty minute walk jog walk jog across the fields. My legs felt heavy and I really had to focus on not stomping through a heel strike but it was still good to recognise how far I’ve come since last month. Yay me!

For my non-running training I’ve continued with the squats, hang time and toe spacing and have added in the following:

  1. Neutral feet. Every time I’m standing in one position for any length of time (washing up, cleaning my teeth, ironing, filing at work) I’m checking that my feet are straight – that’s with the lines from the outer ankle to the pinky toe on each foot parallel to each other. Then I check that the backs of my knees are sufficiently rotated inwards so as to lift my foot arches off the ground. Click here for Katy Bowman’s explanations of how and why. My last pair of trainers were chosen with expert help to “cure” pronation (where the feet collapse inwards when you run, creating an ugly rolling motion that knackers your knees and hips). I don’t want to rely on shoe support that weaken my feet still further over time, I want strong feet that support themselves, my knees and my hips every time I move.
  2. Cold showers. I’ve been periodically finishing off my hot showers with a quick cold blast for years to support my lymphatic system. But, I’m cranking it up so as to be ready for the swimming-across-a-lake-in-November-and-what-the-hell-was-I-thinking section of the wolf-run. Two minutes of the shower set to its coldest setting. Every day. Hardcore no?
  3. Caffeine curfew. I love coffee. But I always tried not to drink it after 2pm because it disturbs my sleep. As of this week I’ve set myself a new curfew of midday so as to allow plenty of quality sleep for bodily repair during this training. And as a result Not only am I struggling to stay awake after 9pm but I am sleeping like the proverbial log! Time to give it up for a bit? Mmmm no.

Quotes all from the fabulous “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.