A step back in time

Malpas estuary

Malpas estuary

An interesting thing happened to me this week: I became the runner I was when I first started.

For most of my adult life I was a dedicated chain smoker. To give an example of how much I enjoyed smoking, Vince would often lament the fact that he didn’t have a single photo of me without a cigarette held loosely in my hand or dangling out of my mouth. To add to this I was considerably underweight due to my lack of interest in food (oh, how times change!) and gained the majority of my calories from beer down the pub. Any activity was limited to walking to places. That was it.

My life changed when I started Tae Kwondo classes on a whim. My first lesson was a struggle not to faint and throw up, but I went back. I kept on going back as I moved up the belts, then to First Dan. But I still smoked. Sparring was becoming increasingly difficult, and I would be dying by the end of each two minute round.

I took up running to try and increase my cardio fitness. My first run, I had a cigarette before hand, ran down the road 30 metres and then had to stop as I was wheezing and had a stitch. I started then with the walk/run technique, maybe doing two or three miles a week. At the time I was training for my black belt grading as well and it was clear that something had to give.

I had started to hate being a smoker. I hated the hold it had over me, the fact that I would feel stressed and anxious whenever I couldn’t smoke. The continual counting down of hours until that next cigarette. Every meeting I was in, I would gaze at the agenda, plotting my smoking breaks. I would project hatred onto every person who said ‘just one more thing before we finish…’ Aaargh shut up shut up I want to smoke!

Of course I had tried to give up a few times. I had thrown out my tobacco in a rage, only to rummage through ashtrays again to smoke a dogend later on. I know you’re judging me. I’m judging me.

I gave up in the end. I read Alan Carr’s The Easy Way To Stop Smoking and that was it. I haven’t smoked since, or even thought about smoking. And it’s been six years so its fair to say that I’m over it. The book was great and I recommend it to people all the time, but I think the real reason I quit is  because I was sick to the back teeth of being a smoker. I resented the impact it was having on my performance and sport. I hated the fact that the habit owned me, rather than the other way round.

Why have I become the runner I was when I first started? Over the last week I’ve had bug…not a bad illness, just a wheezy cough and the desire to sleep it off. Yesterday I felt  a bit better so joined the local running club for a trail run around the estuary (always beautiful on a spring evening). It was like going back in time, wheezing, heavy legs. No matter how hard I pushed there was no speed there, no strength. I was at the back of the pack the whole time, struggling to keep up.

Sometimes its hard to see how much I’ve improved over the last few years, it’s easy to forget where I’ve come from. I can remember as a smoker being amazed that I had ran (shuffled!) two miles. I imagine now going back and telling that person that she would be entering mountain ultras, 100ks and 100 milers. I wouldn’t have believed it. My family would have laughed me out of the room.

But here I am. I’m not too worried about my weakness last night since I’ll be back to normal in a few days. The run served a purpose though…its made me realise how remarkable the body is and what it can achieve-even when you’ve thrown a load of crap at it!

Becky :)

Is that girl OK?

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Have you ever had the experience where you’re out trail running or hiking, and you come across a person who looks a bit forlorn and lost? Sometimes they’re gazing sorrowfully out over a vista, barely registering your existence as you run by. On the coast path you see them a lot standing on the edge of cliffs, perhaps they are just looking at the view but I always stop and ask ‘you ok?’. My worry is that they’re about to throw themselves off. (Sad to say this isn’t a particularly rare occurance)

I eagerly awaited Annie’s photos from our trip to the Lakes and now I have them…but the photos of me admiring the view haven’t come across in the way that I’d hoped. Clearly I’m not a natural at conveying happiness.

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And my personal favourite:

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In case you’re getting a bit concerned, here is the evidence it ended well:

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Good times. thanks to Annie for the photos!

Becky :)

Fell running and scrambling

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Hi all,
I’ve had a much easier day today up in the hills. For a start there wasn’t persistent, torrential rain which made a huge difference.
We just did a circular loop today from Keswick upto the peak of Blencathra, before dropping down to the north side of the hill, heading west over the hills before joining onto the Cumbria Way and travelling back to Keswick.
It took about six hours. It should have been five, except that we took a little bit of a wrong turn and then foolishly decided to try and climb down off the peak to a path down in the valley below.
At the time Annie and I were quite calm and composed. The rocks were wet with moss and running water and we had to be really careful not to fall. We had scrambled some 70-80 foot down before realising that it was too dangerous to go further and that we should climb back.
Now I’m a pretty crap climber. For one thing I have no upper body strength, and for another, I’m just a tiny bit scared of heights. Especially slippy, mossy heights where I don’t have a good handhold. We had also made the classic error of dropping down to some ledges going down the rocks, but of course it meant that we couldn’t reach the same ledges going back up.
Of course, we did survive and make it back up. We were both really calm scrambling back to the top, shouting advice to each other and then, when we were safe, we carried on running. It was only after an hour or so we turned to each other and said ‘it was a bit scary back there, no?’. It was the first time I felt it was safe enough to let the panicked part of my brain have a voice. Both Annie and I agreed that free climbing and scrambling isn’t really for us. I at least want ropes next time!
Other than that it was a fantastic fell run…easily runnable trails and hills. I’m also pleased that we got to test out river crossings on this trip. I watched a reality series on Netflix the other week; a survival show where a group of random people had to survival and travel through the Alaskan wilderness (or maybe it was Canada?). I can’t remember the name of the show now but I do remember that when they crossed a river they linked arms with the person next to them. This stabilised them and they crossed the river easily and quickly. Annie and I did this a few times these last few days and it works a treat. I’ll never cross a river any other way now! Today the river we crossed was quite fast flowing (plus freezing from snow melt) but it was easy with us crossing together arm in arm. And that’s with the water going up over the knee (which was a surprise since we were expecting just over ankle height).

Today was the last day before I head back to Cornwall, and the next time I’m up here will be for the 10 Peaks challenge itself. I think I’ve still got a fair bit of training to do, more with the brain than body.
To summarise then:
1. Always cross a river by linking arms with another person.
2. Never climb down anything before making sure you can climb back up. In fact, be sensible and try not to climb anything that may involve you falling to your death.
3. If you do climb and survive, don’t then write a blog post where your unsuspecting boyfriend will read about your idiocy, thus giving him another reason to worry when you next pull on your trainers and ‘just nip out for a run’.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll take a couple of days off for recovery and then hit the trails again for some speed work.

Becky :)

Mountain training for Clifbar 10 peaks Xtreme

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Hi everyone
I’m in the middle of a training weekend in the Lake District. It is my last opportunity to recce the route for the Clifbar 10 Peaks Xtreme in June. It’s been a strange couple of days…on one hand I’ve been very pleased with how much stronger I am, especially on the up hills which is just as well considering the route has 8000m of ascent.
But…a few lessons have been learnt. The weather has been very bad, strong winds and torrential rain yesterday. I felt comfortable even though my waterproof jacket gave up on me half way through the day. To stay warm I was wearing all 7 of my layers which meant that when we dropped down to the B&B in Wasdale I had nothing warm and dry to change into.
I had hoped all my kit would dry out overnight and it did, a bit, but my coat and fleece were still damp. Today was raining again but with no wind. My coat became saturated again and my shoulders and arms felt damp and cold. I was warm enough pushing uphill but for any downhills and plateaus I was cold.
It doesn’t take long to become disheartened when you’re cold and although I physically felt strong the negative thoughts started to sink in. You know the ones: ‘just quit, no one will think the worst of you, you’ve done well to come this far’. If I get this cold and wet during the race I’ll DNF so it’s good to learn this lesson now: buy a decent coat and put lots of warm dry clothes in drop bags.
I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that I may not achieve the 30 hour challenge limit. While we were moving well (despite heavy packs, wind and rain) we’re just not covering the ground fast enough. The elevation is just a killer and there’s a lot of scrambling. I have to re-adjust my expectations or it will knock me down to much on the day when I’m not covering the distance in the time that I want. There was the initial thought of ‘if that happens there’s no point in carrying on’ (thanks traitorous brain!) but that’s ridiculous. I’m happy to adjust my aim for just completing instead but it’s going to be hard…well over 30 hours and that’s with better weather and lighter packs.

So am I feeling positive? I’m not sure at the moment. I’ve spent the last two days being wet and cold and sometimes wondering why I’m doing this. At the same time I’ve been surprised by how much stronger I am now, and as always I’m taken aback by the beauty of these hills.
I’m tired now though and am having trouble deciding on an emotion! Tomorrow we’re having a speed day since the weather is meant to be sunnier so maybe I’ll feel different again then.
Have a good evening everyone
Becky :)

New record for mile reps (Very happy)

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Hello everyone,

Another week has whizzed by and we’re all a little bit closer to some warmer weather. I’ve had a fairly productive week running wise, with two coastal trail runs, and a normal road run but my most happy workout was the speed session I did with the running club.

This was my first time ever doing mile reps. We started off with a warm up on Lemon Quay, much to the delight of the local teenagers, and then lined up for the first mile around the town centre. I wasn’t sure of the route so on this one I kept in with main pack, dodging traffic and boys on BMXs, and came in with a first mile of 8 min 10. The second time I knew the way so I pushed to the front, just in time to see the faster runners tear off into the distance. One of the girls is fast. I mean really fast. You know how you think ‘As long I can still see them at the end I’ll be happy.’? Well I couldn’t see her after about 30 seconds. I know the roads twist and turn but there are some straight bits and I just couldn’t catch a glimpse of her. Continue reading

Miss Sulky Pants

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Mornin’ all

Every now and then I try to be ‘a good person’ and not a complete running sociopath. I convinced myself that as part of my New Year ‘challenges’ that I would start giving back to my fellow runners by means of marshalling or supporting them at races. Saturday was my opportunity: to go and cheer people on at The Dark hosted by Mud Crew Events at Cardinham Woods.
Now for a start this was a race that I wanted to do: a thirteen mile head torch trail run through the woods. Awesome. But I thought I might be working…and then I wasn’t…then it was sold out…and you can figure out the rest. Vince and I (and Daisy the dog) went up to cheer everyone on. Being in the woods at night with lots of runners was exciting, the atmosphere was charged with everyone’s nerves and anticipation. The fact that it was dark made it seem surreal. Everyone got bundled together for the start and then 500 people dashed off down the track, the beams of their headtorches bouncing off and through the trees.

Here we have some of the fastest runners in the universe. Honestly. The blur is nothing to do with my terrible photography skills.

Here we have some of the fastest runners in the universe. Honestly. The blur is nothing to do with my terrible photography skills.

Watching them go and lap past us I clapped my hands and did the ‘woooooo’ noises that you’re supposed to make, but mainly I was just thinking ‘I wish I was running it instead of just standing here like a lemon.’ It made me feel more and more glum until I told Vince after about an hour that I wanted to go home. Plus I didn’t fancy trying to drive the van out of the woods at the same time as 500 other people (my atrocious driving is worthy of its own post). I then drove home feeling like a child who has just realised she has slept through Christmas. I thought I felt pretty bad about not running the race… and then I found out that the organisers had arranged for people to dress up as monsters and ghoulies and jump out at the runners in the woods and I was all:

Dark disappointment 001

…because there’s nothing I like more than running, racing and having the crap scared out of me. Hmmph.
So that’s my attempt at supporting other runners. I thought I could be a decent and giving person but it turns out my natural state is to wallow in jealousy and self pity. It’s just occurred to me that Vince has stood patiently supporting me in every race I do when he’d probably prefer to do something more productive. And I do ultras, so it’s standing there patiently for even longer!
I must try harder to be a good person. Maybe I’ll do better helping someone with pacing in a race…or actually martialling? Part of the reason I didn’t enjoy it is that I felt in the way and, at the same time, a bit of a spare part.
Also I tried to take some race photos although I knew it would be a struggle with the exposure time needed for the night time plus the movement of the runners. I have attached the best of them. No, really, these are the best pictures I took that night.

I don't even know what this is. Is it just me or do the lights on the right look a bit like a penis? No? OK then.

I don’t even know what this is. Is it just me or do the lights on the right look a bit like a penis? No? OK then.

 

Hopefully you all had a great weekend with masses of success and general winning at life

Becky :)

Why I’m not a race photographer…

Hello! For the first time ever today I went to cheer on people at a race which I wasn’t actually taking part in- the Falmouth Half Marathon. I had spent all week umming and ahhing over whether to enter or not, but then they made the decision for me by closing down the online entries. I decided to just do the Parkrun at Lanhydrock on the Saturday and a nice little 9 mile coast and trail run after watching the half on the Sunday. I also thought it would be a nice opportunity for me to practice taking some action photos of runners.

I’ve always seen race photographers and thought ‘Pfft! Easy job, easy money.’ Well. I’ll get straight to the point: I’m clearly rubbish at taking action photos…all blurred lines and greyness. For a start I chose the wrong spot to stand in. It was nice and scenic – not that you can tell- but by that point the runners were too spread out and you didn’t really get a feel of ‘ooh this is a great race’ from the photos. And my positioning was a bit off with a ‘Caution runners’ sign in the centre  of the photo rather than off to one side. Oh well. There’s goes the dream of being a race photographer. I will post some of the photos though, since some of you could probably do with a laugh. Google has told me that on overcast days I should try changing my photos to black and white because it produces a better effect. Naturally I will blindly follow this advice. Also I have applied a sky filter to make the pictures seem all moody and full of character…which they weren’t at the beginning.

Here’s my favourite. It’s not really of the race itself but I just like the guy in black watching. He amuses me.

weird guy black & white

In the next I have taken a picture of the two lead men. Unfortunately I forgot to switch the camera from auto focus to manual focus and so really we only have 1.5 lead men and a lot of empty road. Success!

lead men black and white

I like the one below too. By turning it into black and white it looks like the guy dressed as Robin is wearing a blindfold as opposed to a mask. Aaargh he’s running blind! And I like the chap to the far left who looks at though he’s deep in conversation and about to raise an interesting point. But my favourite bit of this photo is the little girl hanging off the railings to the right. Bored. Senseless. ‘When are we going home, Mum?’

bored senseless

…and here is a picture of some of the runners coming past the lake. In this one you can just make out my friend, Debbie. I was going to say she’s wearing a purple shirt but of course you can’t tell. Damn you, overcast skies!

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This is one of the lake in Swanpool. Interesting fact: the place is called Swanpool after this pool, which has actual real life swans living on it. This photo looked OK in colour so I have included both. Two for the price of one.

Swanpool boating lake black and white

Swanpool boating lake

See what I mean? Both OK (ish).

Finally we have a couple from my trail run after the half marathon:

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wooden walkway

Well, I’ll bet you’re glad that’s over. I know what you’re thinking : ‘Well thanks, Beck. There’s 2 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.’

The pleasure was all mine. Don’t worry though, I’ll get back to drawing appallingly bad cartoons soon!

Cheerio!

Becky :)