This week has been oh so tough. Bear with the lengthy essay, I hope it’s not too boring, or self-indulgent, I am a fan of self-reflection, though.
Following my stomach bug, I t started off great, with a flyer round the Saffron Lane athletics track, and went steadily downhill. I felt very leggy on Tuesday, running with Brian, and Gary. On Wednesday, a few of my friends from the running club who have also entered the Belvoir Half Marathon, decided to go for a long run. A few of us haven’t been able to get our long runs in, for various reasons. It seemed like a good idea to go together, and motivate each other.
The route was changed, so instead of road running from the city centre to Oadby, and back, we ran along the mostly off-road paths to Watermead. It’s a lovely route, with mostly decent paths (some of the canal towpath is a bit bumpy, due to tree roots, which I tend to take more slowly. Falling into the canal fills me with dread). I guess many people aren’t aware of these traffic-free routes, that are just as good for walking and cycling. It always amazes me how a city like Leicester can have these quiet, and even scenic, paths running through the heart of it. Not only that, there is some variety; you can choose to run along the towpath (which avoids having to cross Abbey Park Road), or cut through the park itself, and follow the Riverside Way. At the northern outskirts of the city, in my first home of Belgrave, there are a couple of options for getting to Watermead Park, depending on whether you want more road crossings.
Watermead Park, starting in my second home of Birstall, is also great for running. There are, again, several options, depending on how far you want to run. It also has the advantage of being flat. *winks*
Our tour involved a little history talk from Gary, and then some useful information about badgers. Sadly, I think that these were prompted by me not being able to keep up, and the others having to wait. On the way out, Kniggly Knee™ made its presence felt. Literally. I ignored it, and eventually it went. However, at the worst possible point, I.e. the furthest point from where we started, my stomach decide to give up the ghost. Great. With the light rapidly fading, the rest of the group opted to do just one lap of the first lake, and head back. I was relieved, but my fear of “Doing a Paula”, and tripping meant I turned into a cautious runner. Plus, I felt like I was really struggling to maintain any pace, and get drifting away. I could actually hear the sloshing noises from my tummy. I was paranoid everyone else could too! I felt guilty that Conrad, Jim, Abul, and Mark slowed down to stick with me, at various points, but I made it back with my stomach, knee, and dignity, intact. Instead of the original 12 miles, we completed 9½ miles.
I was gutted, though. I really struggled. I kept thinking, “how the hell am I going to run another 3 plus miles?” I felt awful. My paper thin confidence had been ripped to shreds. Yes, I’d been ill. Yes, I’d run on three consecutive days. Yes, I have the base fitness, yadda yadda yadda. My mind had no place for sensible talk. Even a cuppa, and some choccie Bourbons didn’t help. By the time I’d got home, I was doubled up in agony, and unable to eat or drink again. I should’ve taken comfort from my splits, which didn’t really show much slowing down at all, or the fact I wasn’t that far off of everyone else’s pace. When the panic and self-doubt sets in, it’s not easy to get rid.
I rested on Thursday, and Friday, to make sure I was okay for parkrun. Thursday was a bit achy, which was understandable. I felt fine on Friday. I resisted the temptation to go for a little run (more importantly, I sensibly turned down a 10k jaunt around Bradgate Park). I am building back up to five runs a week, six is too much, too soon.
My friend, Abul, had also asked me to pace him to a sub 24 minute PB. I wasn’t sure I could do this, at present. At my last outing, I’d struggled to register a time just short of that. Plus, I felt I needed to test myself, to see where I was. I suggested I do my own thing, and to give Abul some indication of I was slower, or quicker (ha!).
I also avoided alcohol, which I swear has had a negative effect at times. I hadn’t drunk in over a week, but when I woke up on Saturday, my tummy was in knots. It felt as though I’d had a bottle of red. Great; all the discomfort, but none of the enjoyment. I could easily have made my excuses not to turn up at Braunstone Park. I didn’t. I thought that once I got there. The fresh air might make me feel better. I warmed up alongside my old schoolmate, Phil, and workmate and top pacer, Joe. I felt “okay”. Just that. Okay. Towards the end, the stomach might’ve cramped a little, but after a pep talk from the guys, I decided to just run round. I broke the news to Abul, who I knew didn’t need my help, because he is coming on leaps and bounds, and is capable of getting a great PB.
Conditions were really good; no noticeable wind, cold, but not too cold for running. Most importantly, it had stopped raining. As the 339 parkrunners set off, I did question my sanity. I didn’t push it, but by heck, it was a struggle. You know those dreams where you’re being chased, and you can’t move your arms and legs? That’s how I felt. I wondered if it meant that I was getting a decent workout, forcing my muscles to do what they didn’t want to do!
One positive to come out of this fiasco, is that the hill training must be paying off. I’m not saying that The Hill was easy, far from it. I was feeling like poo, but it didn’t seem to look as steep, or as daunting as it has done in the past. According to Strava, I recorded my fastest time up it. I know! Imagine what it’ll be like, if, I ever get back to full fitness!
The second lap was tougher. I had to grit my teeth, and gird my loins, to push through the fatigue. This time, the mind needed to be strong, and positive. I didn’t have a sprint finish, and I could hear someone coming up behind me. I got done on the line by a kid. A kid! Okay, looking at his PB, it’s not surprising, but still! Cheeky little scoundrel! I finished in 24:52, and felt like vomming. Physically, and mentally, I was destroyed. I had a meltdown. Apologies to those who had to deal with it. I’m sick, ha, of feeling ill. I am desperate to run, and frustrated that I’m finding it so hard. When I read of people losing their mojos, I’m wondering why people who can run, don’t feel like it, whilst I’m the opposite. How is this fair? Surely it would be better for those runners to have a valid excuse? No?
I was chuffed for Abul, and another running friend, Paul, who SMASHED their PBs, though. Paul has been on flames just recently, and I knew Abul could do it! Well run, guys!
For me personally, I finished in 137th place, was the 21st woman to finish (out of 117 female parkrunners), and, most surprisingly, came first in my age group! That deserves a “woohoo”!
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Today has not been a good day. I’m tired, and achy, but I also walked home from the footy (WE ONLY WENT AND BLOODY WON A GAME!), as well as to it. Not sure if that had any bearing on my body today. My blood pressure has also gone through the floor. It’s not uncommon; I’m naturally hypotensive. Sometimes, it drops further, for no real reason. It means that every time I stand up, I go dizzy. Occasionally, everything kind of blacks out, just momentarily. It’s very disorientating. I’ve had some coffee, and some Hula Hoops, to try and bring it back up. The Bloke wanted to get his run over and done with, and went out on his own. I wasn’t ready to go, and rather than wait until later, I’ll try again tomorrow. Hopefully, a slow-cooked roast lamb dinner will sort me out.
I’m undecided as to what to do with my Belvoir Half place. I’m not confident of completing it, let alone thinking about my times for the race. There are plenty of people after a place, so I should be able to offload it. If I can run tomorrow, I’ll have a better idea of whether my fitness, and most importantly, my confidence, have returned.
Enjoy your Easter, however you choose to celebrate it.