Sunday, May 30, 2010

Everything you always wanted to know. After last week? Probably not but here it is anyway.

I was tagged by running and living. Well .. she tagged her first 15 commenters (I know! She's very popular!) and I was number 14. Squeezed in - that's me! And now I'm going to tag whoever would like to me tagged so think about it. 7 random facts people!

1. Only a few people know, because I haven't blogged about it yet, that I have basically made my husband take up running. He's been sort of running 5/6/7 milers and has done a few longer runs recently (10/11 miles) and then - last week - he did his first ever half marathon. Now that is a BIG deal. Let me rewind for you - we met as students, have been together and in love for over 18 years. 7 years ago I took up running and he has been very supportive of me as I lost weight and gained confidence. I very much wanted him to start as well - running has brought me a great deal of happiness and joy - but also did not want to push it. You've got to *want* to run training miles, no good doing it with me forcing him. So to see him out there running and to go to a race with him to race it together - it was fabulous. We ran the White Peak half together, where we also met up with masses of running blogging / podcasting buddies. And we ran it. On the hottest day of the year so far and in new shoes (hmm yes - the rookie lost his running shoes last week and had to buy new ones the day before the race..) my wonderful and amazing husband finished his first half marathon. He only stopped speaking to me for the last 2 miles and I think our marriage was briefly suspended half a mile before the finish, but he's already talking about his next one. So well done Adam!
Yep that's him and me lurking in the corner. The photos for this race are diabolical - my legs look like gigantic short treetrunks. I am only 4 lbs away from target weight folks - what is this? Is this what my legs are actually like? I know. I know. Yes.
2. My son is called Felix because I was casting about for names for him and went though one of my old American history books and found a list of supreme court justices and was struck by Felix Frankfurter.. Poor Felix has 4 names - the first 2 are the family names (Adam Matthew) and the second 2 are his own, and my choices, Felix Emerson. Being the birthgiver and the stretch mark receiver, I also insisted he be known as Felix and not as something so ghastly as little Adam or whatever. (Remember on Dynasty they had LB? Little Blake? Oh man. That is bad.)
3. I'm Dutch. Well, many of you know this but for those who don't know - I've lived in the UK for years now but am Dutch. I grew up all over the world until the age of 11 so grew up bilingual even though my parents weren't, which made life in the English-speaking world easier for me. But when it comes to football (soccer) which I hate, I still support the Dutch. Thankfully there was no Dutch entry in Eurovision. The Dutch are good at herring and licorice. Not so good at music.
4. I cannot bear rodents but am not afraid of spiders.
5. After last week's post I got LOADS of lovely comments and feedback and emails so it's perhaps not clear enough that I am okay. I am okay. It has been rough, and I don't have all the answers (sorry) but I am okay and, yes, stronger for it. Stick that in your pipe midlife crisis and SMOKE IT!
6. Listening to Barbra Streisand singing can reduce me to tears. I am not proud of this. But it has done, and will do in future. I am powerless.
7. I met my BFF, Dawn, a few months after we each had our first child. We were waiting to see our health visitor at the doctor's when we overheard her saying something stupid and looked at each other as if to say "who is this woman?". We bonded, and making a great friend in my thirties is one of the most lovely surprises life has thrown me so far. She is truly 100% supportive and loving and with me all the way not to mention that she cracks me up on a regular basis. We live 130 miles apart but speak most days - I am very very lucky to have her in my life.

All is good folks. 15 weeks until the Robin Hood marathon which you are all getting way too excited about. We don't get to go a'stealin' through Nottingham (sadly) and I don't think we actually run through Sherwood Forest. On the upside, I don't think Russell Crowe, the latest and totally annoying and humourless Robin Hood, will be running it. One more week of dossing about, running 30M or so to just keep the legs ticking over and the Pfitz will start giving it to me again. I am slow so we will have an interesting few weeks. Goodnight for now, and good luck to you all!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Once more unto the breach, dear friends

Sometimes it seems to me I can never put my finger on what is troubling me until it is behind me - the shape and form it takes is never very clear until I have some hindsight. Telling you all last week that I was going through a midlife crisis was a good example of that. I have been going through something for months and strangely, it was not until I actually wrote it down that it seemed to both take on a distinct form and be something I could move beyond. I have thought about writing about it elsewhere on a different blog - I'm not sure who lurks here - but I think that this blog has been about a lot more than running for such a long time and you are my friends, not just my running friends, so I'm going to put things out here, in a succinct form and preserving the privacy of those involved. So for all of you looking for just running stats (like my blog was ever the place for that) move onto the next item in your googlereader now.

In the course of the past year, there have a number of changes in my life. Two in particular, concerning my daughter's education and moving house, were decisions I have had a hard time coming to terms with. I have never, in the past, had a problem with accepting a compromise once it had been agreed, but in this case I kept going through the decision process in my head, repeating all the steps, ending up at the same place and yet not finding any peace with that. On top of this, I was feeling a general sense of unease at the fact that I was nearing 40 (next year) and that I had not achieved much (I know that is debatable, but bear with me - this is what I felt). I was worried and concerned about how I was going to fill in that part of my life that was mine in a useful and productive and enjoyable way. I also started to feel very guilty about the fact that I lead a comfortable life and the good fortune I have - I felt I had done nothing to deserve, or earn, these things. Then, at the end of last year, I found myself very suddenly and unexpectedly on the receiving end of a great deal of very unexpected, harsh and unpleasant criticism from someone whom I loved and trusted. Coming on top of the issues I was struggling with outlined above, this felt like an assault. And, looking back, that's how I reacted. It just unmoored me. I did not feel safe, mentally, anywhere. An attack, after all, could come when I least expected it. I felt I could no longer trust my instincts. I found myself looking back over my life, amazed at the certainty with which I, in the past, have made decisions. How did I always know what I wanted? I would find myself incapable of making the simplest, most mundane of decisions.

Running did keep me going. Having a schedule to follow, gave me something to do. At a time when I really did not know where to turn or what to aim for, reading the day's instructions gave me something to do and to aim for. But you can also imagine that with my frame of mind at the time, training was just not a mental priority and perhaps this is why I went off the boil a bit. I enjoyed some runs, I enjoyed some races, but overall I was just getting through it.

During all of this I was never alone. My husband is, and has always been, a complete rock and incredibly, unbelievably supportive. I'd find myself casting out idea after idea, trying to get some focus back in my life - yoga retreats in India, neuro-linguistic programming - and he engaged with all of it and supported me. (Incidentally, I went for none of these things). My friends were amazing. Supportive, kind, willing to listen to me again and again as I questioned everything, every decision I had made. My parents too - it's amazing how I got to nearly 40 to realise what wise and wonderful people they are. A lot of the things they have said have stuck in my head and have been instrumental in working my way out of my situation.

Because I have. A week or two ago, I went to a lunch party, full of self-doubt and criticism (here I am, a living cliche, woman without a job going out to a charity lunch) and I met a very sparkly, friendly, engaging person who reminded me of how much fun it is to be around creative and sparkly people. And that there is a creative and sparkly person inside me as well. And somehow, my mind clicked into a better place. Nothing medical, nothing magical. The engine just started up again.

Now let's get things straight here. First off - I know a little about depression, and I know I was not depressed. I was just, somehow, stuck. I tried my old coping strategies - fake it till you make it, and doing the opposite of me, but somehow I was very aware of faking it and not making it and of consciously doing the opposite of me. It didn't work. I knew that I just had to get through this time as well as I could, with as much personal integrity and honesty as I could bring to my situation and the people around me. And that, somehow, I had to take - yes, learn! - something.

And I have learned some things. I have learned that, despite being “gobby” at times and pretty extraverted, I find it hard to be assertive about my thoughts and feelings when I know people are not going to be happy to hear them. I know what I want but I’d rather not have a fight to get it – I’d rather win people round with reason and charm. It’s a strategy that’s worked for me often, but this time it did not work and I have had to face up to the fact that sometimes I need to be braver. And be able to handle the fallout. So, once more unto the breach, dear friends. I'm back in the game.

I don't yet know "what I'm going to do with my life". I'm carrying on with things - my lovely family who give me plenty to do and engage with and my running. And I'm exploring new things. Fear of failure has held me back in the past, but I'm determined that is not going to be the story of my future. I've thrown out a number of lines and will let you know when I can feel a bite..

As always, but more than usual this time - thank you for reading.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

6 is the new 5 - and other goals.

Yes I have been a bad - silent - blogger recently. And a bad - silent - commenter as well. It's my life people - I'm trying to enjoy the downtime (ie not-training-for-a-marathon-time) to pick up the stitches I've dropped in my life while I was training. I've dealt with admin, with domestic issues, with some personal issues (though sadly, to no avail) and tried to take the time to not rush into my next training cycle. I've tried to focus on the opposite of me - fight the impulsive decisions, reassess past situations before planning new ones.

The problem is that I'm going through a sort of mid-life crisis. I won't bore you with the details of it - for now - suffice it to say that coupled with my crisis are feelings of guilt for even having it and feelings of boredom over having it at all. While part of me is in mental freefall, the rest of me is just sitting there, yawning, thinking "haven't we been here before sweetie?". Or something a bit harsher than that. Like I said, I'm not going to bore you with it apart from the fact that I thought, initially, that I should perhaps not train for a marathon at the moment, to free myself up to resolve my "issues". But that is just too boring a prospect. And what I'm going through I'm just going to have to go through and resolve, one way or the other. And that will take time. And while I'm taking that time (have I mentioned before how impatient I am? This is a challenge, indeed) I might as well do something. And for lack of another good plan, I shall train for a marathon. So here we go again.

The marathon I am training for - and this is the opposite of me - is the Experian Robin Hood marathon. You were of varied opinions about it when I polled your thoughts about it - but the overwhelming reason for me to do this is because it is close and, after the debacle of Boston, I can pretty much guarantee I can get to the starting line. I would say to you that I am going against my instinct and not turning this into a foreign jolly like I usually do, but that would be a very narrow truth - IronJen is going to be in Paris the week before the marathon and I am determined to make it out to see her (I know - that is so good of me). I am sure that we will be able to add to my iron stores by drinking some lovely champagne..

Now onto the cryptic (catchy?) title for this post - I have made some decisions about my training:
- I'm using the Pfitzinger 12 week program, fitting in 2 weeks extra for summer holidays. 18 weeks - well 20 - was just too long for me to keep my focus for. Don't know who I was kidding - true type A (and superfast) runners Aron and Jen warned me about this but hey - only one way to really, truly, find out.
- I'm really going to cross train this time. No really! I have started doing yoga once a week, my bike is being services as I speak, and I have found about new, less daunting, swimming lessons on Sundays. Stay tuned for another update on social group behavior. The 100 pushup program has been on my iPhone for oh, a year now? Now I want to have guns like Michelle's. Keep me to it!
- In the warm-up to it all - I have 3 weeks to go - I am trying to keep my mileage between 30 and 40 miles per week but also trying to move my general knocking-about-not-really-training-just-chillin-and-listening-to-my-tunes runs to 6 miles instead of 5.

And I have got to - GOT TO - move 5 pounds. Off. My butt.

So there we have it. I've boldly put it all out there, now all I need to do is go out there and do it.

I will leave you with some shots of my latest run, in Derbyshire (3 miles uphill followed by 3 miles downhill), and the local wildlife.

sheep in the car park where I left my car..

more sheep on the way uphill - don't you love their trough?

me. yes they are crow's feet. From smiling, people.

green and pleasant, if not sunny, land..

off-roading it a bit - this was a particularly LONG uphill so I was happy to take a photographer's break.

Hope all your running is going well - about to go and check you all out. TTFN!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

It's the training, Stupid.

I've said before that personal growth for me is a very slippery slope. I am not very good at listening to myself and being intuitive - I charge ahead like a blinkered horse and the life lesson that I need to learn has to be hammered round my head, usually several times, before I take note.

But first back to the last 2 weeks. My oh my, are you guys lovely. Read the comments. You are wonderful! I could not have asked for a more supportive and kind and thoughtful readership. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. If I didn't go into a sharp decline last week it is because of all of you. I felt so loved and so cared for. I felt kind of embarassed, actually - there are worse things in the world than missing the Boston marathon. I think.

The week of the Boston marathon was, though, very weird. The weekend passed in a haze of confused emotions: sadness, anger and resignation. I wondered whether I would be able to bring myself to even follow my friends running Boston but in the event I was glued to the computer and watched all of the race, rooting for all my fabulous running buddies out there. Watching the race unfold I was also struck by how hard the course looked. It really is hilly. And it twists and turns an awful lot. But Chris and Meg and Emily and Jill and all the rest of you - you did an amazing job on this bear of a course. It goes without saying that I wanted to be there with you. But I wasn't and so I just thought of you all. Very hard!

And then, once Boston was over, it was a weight off my shoulders. Really - there was a very unexpected sense of relief, not only that the moment that could have been mine had now passed, but also that this training cycle was over. Yes, I had contemplated running another marathon. Quite a few of you recommended it and I even signed up for one when I got in from London on the Friday night before Boston. But after marathon Monday, I was done. Just done.
As in, stick a fork in me. As in, I am not running a race.

You've all been here in this training cycle with me - you know that it has not been a cracking one. I have kept the pedal to the metal in my training since January 2009. Then, I was fresh. After London I started chasing the BQ. Although I don't recall my training over the summer being fabulous, looking back over my stats I was fast and tight, and even the minor knee injury hardly stopped me. Then, after qualifying, things went wobbly for a bit. I went wobbly for a bit. I picked myself up, put myself through a 20 week training schedule and .. well .. it wasn't the best training cycle in the world. I lost my mojo. I was not as fast as I would have hoped to be and indeed had been, last year. I got injured and this injury kept popping up again. I know that, had I run Boston, I would have limped off that course. And that would have been fine with me - Boston is worth that. And taking 3 weeks off to heal would have been something I could have coped with, while gazing at my medal and that fugly but oh-so desirable blue and gold jacket. But I'm not injuring myself for a little marathon I don't care about and haven't trained for. That is not - in any way - to denigrate or minimise the effort and achievements of those who do train for it and will run it. But I trained for Boston. And, for better or worse, this training cycle is now, officially, over.

It's amazing - the amount of people who say to me "All that training! For nothing!". And I really have checked in with myself to see if that's how I feel. And it's just not how I feel at all. If anything, this weird experience has made me see that it's the training that's the point, not the race. Which I didn't realise at all, and would never have known had I not had this experience. It has been a difficult 6 months for me and my family - my training, however flawed, has kept me focused and on track in my life beyond running. The training, in short, has proved far more of an end, than a means.

So what did I do, and what will I do? Well - we have been living in a weird domestic situation for 10 months (adding to my stress) where we have been sharing (admittedly large) living quarters with my father-in-law and his girlfriend while they do up our old house to move into. The whole situation has been incredibly stressful (running out of the door was, at times, essential) not in the least because there was no definite date when they were moving out. In that weird way that things sometimes come together, the final stages of the move-out occurred on the morning I set out for London, then Boston. So... once I'd come through the weekend and marathon Monday, I buried my head into moving for a week. I emptied boxes, I cleaned wardrobes, I decluttered relentlessly - I kept myself very busy. And then this week, I got back onto the road - slowly. I am determined to give my knees enough rest to recover from whatever is bugging them. I am determined to give my mind the rest I need to go back into another training cycle with some vim and vigor.

Speaking of which - what's next? I'm asking you, actually. What's next? Although I have not heard from the BAA yet, I am assuming that next year's place is mine. (And if it isn't, well then it isn't.). So I want a fun race next. Another marathon. This autumn. What can you recommend my friends? There's a local one which appeals, even though it does not come highly recommended. It's the Experian Robin Hood marathon in Nottingham. It doesn't come highly recommended as it is both a full and a half marathon and the course of the full joins almost the entire half-marathon course, before the half-marathoners finish and the few marathoners carry on to run another 13.1 miles, in relative solitude. However, however, however. As someone who trains mostly alone, I don't fear that. In fact, in a way it would be fun to do a marathon where I wouldn't feel I was missing out on atmosphere by dialling into my iPod for the second half (I've never ever raced with an iPod on). Also, there's a certain appeal in running a local-ish marathon - not having to make elaborate or expensive plans to get there (and I can't think a volcano could prevent me from getting to Nottingham). On the other hand - it would be more fun to go somewhere. So what do you think? What can you recommend? I want to run and enjoy the race. Which races did you enjoy?

Finally - it's a good thing I'm so philosophical - now - about missing out on Boston. Guess what came in the post for me today? My official results.

Thanks guys! I really must be a big girl now...