Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Do The Thing

I have been thinking a lot about running lately.

Any time I have run recently, my heart rate has been stupidly high.
I ran 7 miles with TC a few weeks ago n felt like I may explode.
She was very patient with me (thank you)

My fitness was through the floor, my breathing was akin to when I smoked 30 a day.
My HR was at 188.
No wonder it was bloody hard going.

Since then, I have continued with the base work. Zone 1 horridness.

I feel like I am running at a snails pace. I don't like it.
I seem to be getting slower instead of faster.

Running slower hurts my legs too.

And still I keep coming back to the thought of running a marathon....

Why on earth would I want to run 26.2 miles?

I ran 5 tonight with Ms Locks n they were hard, horrid with a high heart rate.
Equally, they were in the woods, tucked away from the hussle n bustle of Leeds, hidden away.
I had great company n gossip.
I earned my pudding.
What more did I need on an autumnal evening?

While running, I had an overbearing thought, playing on repeat in my head.

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do"

So when I thought I couldn't keep going, I continued to put one step in front of the other.
When I wanted to cool down n walk the last stretch, I found a sprint finish.

Months ago, I entered the ballot for London on the back of a horrible hurty run... A run in which I vowed never to run again.

Strangely, I was slightly gutted I didn't get a place at London. In fact I was more than slightly gutted.
I have since looked at charity places for Paris. I have checked the dates n profiles of other marathons. I will find one that fits. Manchester is appealing at the minute. It is flat, it is local. The date works.

It would be oh so easy to enter.
Less easy to train for n complete.

I have a post it note on my mirror in my lounge.
It has the word 'marathon' n a time on it.
I see it daily.

Why do I want to run 26.2 miles?
Because I must do the thing I think I cannot do.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Christmas Camping

Christmas camping has been happening for a few years now.

So far we (me n Signe) have been up Snowdon, Ben Nevis, Scarfell Bastard Pike (real name).
We have hunted fairies n witches cauldrons n swum with Dragons n in Rob Roys Bathtub. (Yes really)

Each Christmas, for many years, me n my dearest friend give each other the gift of time.
In real terms, what this means is, the following summer, we will set aside time to have an adventure. More often than not, we know long before Christmas comes what the next adventure will be.

(Next year we are swimming The Gulf of Corryvreckan - hopefully there and back... we are not swimming *TO* the Gulf - just across it - swimming to it would be just silly)

Gradually it's got dafter n dafter.... But I wouldn't have it any other way. It is unique to us... And I love that. And I love her.

The adventures invariably involve a lump of land to walk up n a lump of water to bobble in. We sleep under canvass for a long weekend. We cook one night n feast in a pub the following.
Last year we had a Christmas buffet of brown party food with crackers n carols.

This year we had Christmas dinner pie.

An actual Christmas dinner.


It was amazing.

Properly amazing.

It had layers of potatoes, carrot and swede mash, quorn fillet pieces, stuffing, sprouts and cranberry sauce. IN A PIE.

Then we had mince pie to finish.
ALL the pastry may have been a touch excessive.... But it's Christmas!! Who cares.
We may also have had all the cheese.

We had Christmas beer n juice shipped from Norway specially n stockings full of treaty sweety goodness.

There may have also been Lego.
And bubbles.
And tent decorations.

Some people simply don't get it n think we're absolutely barking (or on drugs).... And then occasionally, some people *do* get it.

In all it's gloriousness.....And they join in.

My friend Caroline asked if she could send a parcel for Christmas.

Erm? Let me think? Hmmm? Goodies?
Oh, go on then!

Of course I will greedily accept most parcels. Especially home made Christmas camping ones with wrapping paper n stockings in!

The box contained individual Christmas parcels which each had special destructions for when to be opened.


Now, I have previously blogged that I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas. And I stand by that. But generally the one I dislike is the winter one that's rammed down your throat from August Bank Holiday

Christmas this way is personal. It is not about expense. The whole idea is, it's as cheap as possible and we do stuff we both love. We build memories n have a nice time being in the outside. We share something unique.

And we eat lots of brown food.

We climbed a hill.
And sat a bit.
And looked a bit.
And chatted a bit.
And walked a bit more.
And had Christmas flavoured biscuits.

We repeated this for a while finding out bits of people's stories as we passed each other by.
We met a 3 year old who had too much bounce at the top of a hill. He had seen a frog. And a buffalo.

We speculated about sheep being cows in disguise, plotting to take over the world and named as may songs as we could which had French lyrics in them.

We happened upon the best kind of triathlon completely by accident.

We saw a chap steaming up Inglborough in his cycle kit.
This confused me.
Where was his bike?
He had trainers on.
Then a few minutes later he bolted back past us, this time in a downward direction n sped off into the distance.


Then another runner came.
And another.
Then one with a dog.

None had numbers on.
Most peculiar.

One of the lady runners decided she'd had enough, was too hot n turned round n headed back to the base of the hill.

We carried on with our bimble n Signe announced that since we were on our holidays (thus calories were free) we should, by law, have ice cream.
Hey - we don't make the rules....
Who am I to object?
So we went in search.

Instead of finding an ice cream man, we found a bunch of people laid on the grass by the outside pool.
Bikes abandoned, people picnicking n generally a good time being had by all.

A runner approached, the people cheered and shouted said runners name with a whoop n a hooray. The runner stopped.
That was it.
No time. No rank. No medal.
How bloody glorious on a Saturday afternoon.
They had done an honesty based triathlon round n up Inglborough.
I liked this very much.

Anyhoo... We pottered down to the river n eventually back to the campsite to turn ourselves into human beings n on to the pub (more free calories)

Life couldn't get much better.

Actually it could.... And did.

After a night of rain pattering on the tent (but not leaking) Sunday brought exploring of my favourite kind.
The kind when we end up exploring and bobbing in lump of water that is ours alone for the afternoon and is filled with magic... The kind of water n magic that re-balances the soul n makes everything right with the world.

Everything looks different when you're surrounded by water.
The sky is bluer, the trees greener, the bird song sweeter n the soul is shinier.

We picnicked in the sunshine before getting back in the water n making our skin fizzy one last time.

I had the perfect weekend, in perfect company.... Made even more perfect by other people contributing in perfect ways.

It's been aces.

Ta x

Saturday, 7 June 2014


On the 1st June 2014 I had the perfect day.
It was properly perfect in every way.
Even waking up at 4am didn't bother me.
I wasn't too giddy, I wasn't too nervous.
I was just ready. Like in the fairytale.

It was time.

In the weeks up to the race, I had been apprehensive - certain I hadn't done enough training to get me round. I doubted my own ability, I doubted my reasons for entering.
I made a fatal mistake of looking at how many miles I had done in training in how many hours. It did nothing for my confidence.

Taper was nothing short of hell - I was an anxious, weepy, murderous mess.
And I didn't even have coffee to make it better.
I was already a little bit pissed off with the fact that all the women were in the 7am wave....at the back. The older men had been put with us, as had the relays.
It almost felt like we were a lesser species n not very 2014. More Middle Ages. Nice. Thanks for that.
When they announced in the brief, wave 4 transition was to the side, I was PROPERLY pissed off.... Then when I saw the other transition I was a little bit pleased.... Lots of bike n bits of kit in a small space. Maybe being on the side wasn't too bad after all.... 
I was still annoyed at the segregation. Mainly for the women who would kick lots off ass. There would be more slower men to wade through.

All through my training I had goal times n a rough plan to race to.
Swim 30 min.
Bike 3hrs 30 max, 3 hour aim.
Run 3 hour max, 2hrs 30 aim.
This meant I wanted sub 7 but was aiming for 6.30.
I would have been ecstatic with 6.30.... And if I could go below that... well....
1.2 mile swim

Getting in the water was stinky smelly. The pond weed was horrific n thick. It wasn't gonna be a pleasant swim if it was all like this. There were a gazillion swans and geese on the horizon.  Deep joy. Did I mention I hate swimming with ducks?

As we were about to start, the first men were on their bikes n well on their way round the lake. After giving a cheer n a whoop, we were off. This was real.

I knew I could easily go sub 30 for the swim but didn't want to go all out knowing I had 68.1 miles still to travel afterwards. I was surprisingly calm, even when I took a couple a smacks n kicks to the head, quick goggle readjustment n carry on.

I got out of the water covered in pond weed, beaming that my dislike of plant life was cured, but a little bit sad that the swim was over.

The over-taking of the men folk had started before the first buoy, When I exited the water I was 29th female, 8th in my age category.
I could only drop positions as the day progressed!

Transition was crap to say the least. I hadn't thought it through enough, I was slow n clumsy. But that was ok. I was having a nice time. With a few cheers, waves and words of encouragement, I was on my way.

56 mile bike

When I reached the far end of the rowing lake, I was beaming.
I had a little giggle at the fact I was *TOTALLY* loving the experience already. I checked my watch. 40 minutes into the day. Here's hoping I still felt like this in 5 hours time.
@Saxelbyhorses passed me and I shouted encouragement, knowing Lucy would be finished long before I would.
I hadn't even hit the main road n I was already singing Imelda May 'Oh My God Its Good To Be Alive'

No matter what happened, I was having a nice time.
I was relaxed n loving life. 
In fact I was loving life A LOT.

Somewhere on the first section, I realised I had water in my ear still. I think finally trickled out at 20km ish.
The bike was overwhelmingly silent - it didn’t get any louder when the water was removed. Apart from the sewing machine whirring of bikes approaching n flying past, there was nothing.

No voices, no chatter, just silence.
I quite liked it.
Even my own inner voice was silent.
I REALLY like this. There was no negativity, no doubt, no bodily complaints.
It confirmed I was having a nice time n life was just about perfect. 

Did I mention I was having a nice time?

There were points on the bike where I felt I was travelling at hyper-speed with stars zooming towards me - the reality was, I was going forwards and the wind was blowing dandelion seeds in my general direction.
I sang in my head, I sang out loud.

At 30km my left hip flexor nudged me and started to grumble, by 60km my quads had stabby pain.
I was quickly gaining on a chap who I thought was @TheIronOrange, as I cycled passed, I muttered that I really didn't want to run a half marathon after this.  The second I heard the accent, it was confirmed. James sat with me a while and we had a chat - turns out, he sat on my wheel for a while and got a telling off.

By 80km I wanted to get off the bike.  I was bored of cycling and I was bored of eating.  
I wanted to run.  Yes, I said it, I actually wanted to run. 

Somewhere in the southern loop, I saw @TheLozzatron and shouted words of encouragement before heading towards the stupid bumpy lumpy road around the Hall. @lornahannahmac went past as we were approaching the rowing lake for the run stage.

I had made a conscious effort to say thank you to all the volunteers and marshals and people who had come out to cheer and support. If I missed saying it to anyone on the course, I apologise.  

Second transition was just as crap as the first - After a brief exchange with @theIron_Bear and @mia79gbr who were hanging over the wall in transition, roaring at me and a quick wave at @bigdaveakers, I set off with a wobble.

13.1 mile run

I knew the first bit of the run would be grim.
I just had to keep moving and stick to the plan.
Run to the feed stations - walk while taking fluid/fuel, run to the next. 
If this wasn't possible, I would run for 9 minutes, walk for 1, gradually reducing 8:1 then 7:1 and so on as needed. 
I knew it was hot, I knew I was getting hotter. I didnt like hot much.
I knew my legs were like lumps of lead and refused to move - I figured if I could just keep moving forward, they would come back to life soon enough.

I was doing some messed up shuffle for 250m, shuffle at a different pace for 250m.  
My watch had gone wonky and I couldn't work out if I was timing myself or not - and if I was, how long had I been going overall. 
Actually, I didn't care. I was still having a nice time.
I just had to keep going and I would complete this. 
Some form of time keeping would be helpful.  I bashed buttons till the timer started moving again.

A number of men around me had been doing the same 250m shuffle dance - we had been offering words of encouragement as we took turns in leading the strange conga.  
As we passed a woman stood on the grass verge who was openly peeing, myself and the man who would become my running buddy struck up a proper conversation. We agreed we were both having a run/walk strategy and that it would be probably easier to run together rather than keep over-taking.

For the next 2 hours, I ran and walked with @Martin3Steve.
I learned that he is completing 14 triathlons in the summer of 2014 to raise money for Derby Hospitals. More details and donations can be made  at http://www.justgiving.com/Tri2014/eurl.axd/9ba3425d4099b144a599bbeae781642a 

He told me of how he has juggled 2 small children - not literally (2.5 years and 9 months) a busy work life and training. Of how he is raising money for his friend and colleague who may not see the end of his challenge.

We giggled and grumbled.
And struggled.  
And somehow, we kept each other going.

I managed to shout words of support at @Lu_Telford. There were words of friendly, supportive abuse towards @Neily_Wilko - who skipped passed me looking as fresh as a daisy. I was screamed at by @pilla_uk and all the pirates.  

On the first lap, I received the most amazing hugs from @TheIron_bear and glorious words of encouragement from @mia79gbr.  

I was still concerned that hugs constituted as outside help. 
Surely everyone should have them for it to be an equal playing field?

 Running past the finish gantry as others were finishing was torture - but equally it spurred me on, knowing that I would be there soon enough.  
If it wanted it to stop hurting, I had to keep moving. 

One more lap.

The day got hotter, we got slower, the walking sections got longer, the run sections shorter. 

Steve learned that my measure of 'big tree' is open to interpretation and we both learned that using people as markers to run to is an excellent or poor idea depending on which direction they move and how quickly.  
The dragonflies were astoundingly beautiful. 

Then there was the realisation Steve would be coming in close to 7 hours.  
He wanted under 7 – so we pushed as best we could.

 The wake-boarder passed us elegantly, mocking us for the second time as he skipped down the neighbouring lake at speed.
I need to try wake-boarding one day, but that's another adventure for another day.  
I was still having (and loving) this adventure.

4 minutes to go till 7 hours.  The negotiations of how far we would run were getting longer again. 
I had no idea how far we had left - but I could see the gantry and hear the commentary.
The crowds of people were getting thicker.
3 minutes.
The red carpet was there.  I saw @mia79gbr and @bigdaveakers as suddenly I found a sprint.
An actual real sprint. 
Like an actual runner.
I almost missed Bear as I ran towards the finish.

70.3 miles.
6 hours 48 minutes and 53 seconds. 
Steve had 2 minutes to spare. 

I am phenomenally grateful to Steve for getting me round the run, just as I know he is as grateful for my persistence when the urge to walk became too big. 
His presence contributed to my perfect day and won’t be forgotten. 

My Outlaw journey was made even more awesome because I had the best Sherpa EVER.  Bear made the whole experience as perfect as it was.  He helped me remain stress free by taking care of the bike checks, doing the driving, making sure I ate properly in the days up to and immediately afterwards.

He was, and is, nothing short of exceptional support crew and I cannot thank him enough.
He is my number one fan and cheerleader extraordinaire.
And for that, I am grateful. 
I know how lucky I am.  

I just hope I do as well for him when it’s my turn.

In typical fashion, my parents were shitty in their comments.  I expected nothing less. In fact, I would have been a bit disappointed if they had strayed from expectation. 

 I think that 70.3 is my ideal distance – I will go shorter and I will go longer…. Just to check…. Just in case.
But I think this is my ideal.
I’m not fast, but I can hold my own.
And actually, I don’t care, cos I had the BEST time…. Well, not the best time, cos that would’ve made me the winner.

But I won the race with me.

If I sort the run thing and the transition thing out, I could even be ok at this triathlon lark.
I will be back at Outlaw Half next year to go sub 6.

Triathlon is stupid and fun and ridiculous and painful and time consuming and expensive.
I know that it is blessed with lots of types of people…. Swimmers, cyclists and runners who are branching out, bucket-listers and elite athletes who are stupidly talented and blessed.

And then there are those who have bright and shiny souls.
You know who you are.


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Should I?

On Sunday I successfully ran my first half marathon.
13.1 miles.
It was a hilly course and I have been assured by various people that it is known to be a toughy due to the nature of the first 7 miles being mainly uphill.

I had trained for it. Well, not *that* half marathon specifically.
What I have trained for is a half marathon after a 56 mile bike ride, which I will do after a 1.2 mile swim.

Or at least..... I thought I had.
Currently I don't think I've trained anywhere near enough.

My performance on the day led me to be flooded with all sort of feelings.
Disappointment, anger and failure were the main culprits.
There was certainly no pride or sense of achievement. All the happy good stuff was drowned out by gloom.

I was annoyed with myself that I had gone out too hard.
Yeah, yeah, everyone does it, lessons learned n all that jazz.

I know, I know.

I knew I was going out too hard.  I was behind the 2 hour 10 pacer and went past her.
Even though I'd decided this was the pace I was going for, I went sailing past.
I had the conversation with myself that I was going out too fast and *should* drop back.

But I felt good.  I felt happy.  I wasn't going *too* much faster.... just a bit.
That was ok.

Turns out, it wasn't ok.
It wasn't ok at all.

The wheels fell off in spectacular fashion and I started to get a very bubbly churny feeling in my stomach.
I had a gel at the 1hr 30 mark n felt a little bit queasy.

Then for the laugh, I drank, what turns out was probably too much water.
And carried on running. Cos I'm clever like that. And that's what you do in a half marathon.  You carry on running.

Needless to say, after going to hard, too fast, up hill, the contents of my stomach and I parted ways after as much hanging on as we could muster.

Once I'd been sick, my body gave in.
Moving hurt, let alone running. But I kept moving. Verrrrrrrrrry slowly. But moving none the less.  I didn't want it to take me more than 2 hours 30.
Somehow I was now over the 2 hours and had what seemed like forever left.
The sooner I got to the line, the sooner it would be over.

Why are the last 2 miles twice as long as all the other miles? How does that work?

Anyway, I finished. I finished in 2.29.
Under 2.30.

But I wasn't satisfied.
Not cos I think a half marathon is easy. I know its not.
I had trained. Hard enough? Probably not.

The real issue, and the reason I am blogging, is because I allowed other people to give me their *should*
And like a muppet I absorbed them.

I *should* be able to run it in 2 hours.
Yeah.  I probably should.  A lot of people did.
I only started running in December.

I *should* have stuck with the pacer.
Yeah.  I probably should.
I didn't. I went with how I felt on the day and learned a lot more this way.

I *should* have worked harder at my fueling and liquid intake.
Yeah. I probably should.  It was warmer than I like and I know for next time I probably don't need as much liquid as I think I do.

I *should* have trained harder.
Yeah. I probably should have. But I've been busy ya know, training for other stuff like the bike bit (which won't be good enough on race day I'm guessing), doing other important stuff like working.
And I hate running.

And I would've probably still got it wrong.

In 15 days time, I will complete my next half marathon.
Before I complete it.... no, before I even *START* it, I will have traveled 57.2 miles under my own steam.
And no matter how well I do (just finishing will do me thanks), it will not be good enough for some people.

For a while, its likely I will include myself in the *should* category.... but actually, I don't need anyone's approval.
I don't need anyone to tell me what I *should* and shouldn't be able to achieve.

Sadly, sport can be measured.
There are times and comparisons that can be made.

Whether you do well or not is not measured on where we begin. It is measured on where we finish.

It is often measured on other peoples expectations... and whether they want us to succeed or fail.
Their own motivation and drive plays a part, as does their own achievements. Their relationship with us is influential, along with their role in our journey.

I don't need to be carrying *shoulds* on race day.
Mine or anyone else's.
I have enough to be thinking about ta.

You are welcome to think whatever you wish about how I *should* perform, or how hard I *should* have trained, or what time I *should* be able to finish in based on previous facts and figures.

I'm certain, there will be some people (who are big enough to know better) who will pass judgement on whether *it* is 'good enough', on whether *I* am good enough.

There are people who know will know the lengths it has taken, and those who will never push themselves to find out.

Either way, nobody else can travel my journey.
So, you can *should* all you want.
I'm not interested.

Ta for the thoughts though x

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Blue Bell 10 Trail

I have always loved bluebells.  They are one of my favourite flowers.
For me they signify the end of the winter SADness and gloom and the hope of extended sunshine and happy.

David had tried to get me to enter the Blue Bell Trail last year, but there was no way on earth I could have run 10 meters last spring, let alone 10km and certainly not 10 miles.
10.3 miles actually.

This year, it was mentioned again and happened to fall the weekend before Leeds half marathon. I had been training, I knew I could do the distance.
I figured, if I could bimble my way round the woods and fields and up the ghastly hills I had heard about, it would make Leeds seem quite nice in comparison. It wouldn't be as pretty, but it would be a different kind of brutal.  An excellent training run if nothing else.

I didn't have a time in mind as I didn't know what to expect.
As this was my first race, so long as I finished I was guaranteed a PB too.

Normally, when I go for a run, I dawdle before I set off.
I dawdle A LOT.

I will delay as much as humanly possible. I don't like running. It hurts in a way I can't describe very well. Sometimes my glutes scream, other times my calves chunter and complain. Occasionally my knees and hips are grumbling.
Sometimes its whole body hurting.
Its not always a physical pain though - sometimes I just want to stop. I want the unpleasantness I am experiencing to stop. It isn't pain as such. Its just running.
Lets face it - its not normal and its not nice.

So.... getting up and having to be ready to run at a certain time proved interesting. I couldn't dawdle and delay.
I found myself somehow shovelling breakfast and coffee down my neck.

Gels. Check
Pre race poo. Check
Post code for venue. Check
Warm clothing for after. Check

Ok lets do this.

I thought I would be nervous when I lined up with a few hundred other runners. I had seen a few faces I recognised, said a few hellos, but surprisingly, I felt nothing.
No nerves, no giddy, no apprehension, no pressure.
No nothing. I liked this. This was a good thing.

I guess I had no expectations.
The plan was to stick to a pace I knew I could manage on the flat bits, push the uphills where I could n keep going as much as possible.

And finish.
Finishing was part of the plan.
I secretly didn't want to be last either.
Or poo myself (but figured the woods were a safe location should nature call)

It was an achievable set of goals.

The first 3 miles were without incident, few small chats with some other lovely runners, usual questions which were a bit like a Peter Kay sketch... do you run much? have you done this before? what other events are you doing?
I imagine its like Running Tourettes. You know you shouldn't but cant quite help yourself.
By this point, I didn't realise I would have a little episode of proper Tourettes going up Trooper Lane.
Maybe thats how it got its name.... cos you swear like one while climbing it?

We ran a bit through the woods, a bit along the canal, up a small quick hill, on the road a bit.... this is ok. My pace is ok,
I'm liking this.

I knew that Trooper Lane was at about 3.5 miles ish.
How bad could it be? Really?
Ok it could be steep, but it wouldn't be that long. Would it?

Maybe it could be that steep and that long.

My face must've said it all.  I was already a red sweaty stinky mess.
I think my face screamed dejection as a woman cheering at the bottom of the hill, thrust a bottle of water into my hand assuring me that there was a water station at the top.

I turned and started climbing and realised the road swept left round a corner, I figured it would keep going a bit but..... really?
I was already walking by this point.... as was everyone else. We had all hit the brakes at the bottom of the hill. We had been warned.

Some had obviously 'run' it before..... The race... not the hill.
Definitely not run the hill.
I'd like to meet someone who *HAS* run it.

Anyway..... we climbed and went round a corner..... and climbed and went round another corner..... by the time I looked up and saw the little dots above me, I realised it went on forEVER.

When I reached where the dots had been, I looked down

By this point I was more than a little bit sweary. And we were only about half way.
I was VERY sweary.


We turned again and carried on climbing and climbing and turned and climbed some more.... then we saw the top. Huzzah!!!!

Halifax sprawled in all its Yorkhire-ness and glory beneath us.

My legs didn't work very well by this point and my ass was more than a little bit screamy about how unhappy it was. Mutters of cracking nuts were made and we carried on.
Why did I change my shift to do this? I could be having a nice time elsewhere thank you very much.  I had gone to great lengths to 'run' this race.

But of course, what goes up.... must go down.....

The downhill was glorious.
Muddy, gentle, lined with fields and woods... but most importantly, it was DOWNHILL.

I need to take a moment to say a big fat thank you to all the marshals (especially the little people who were distributing Jelly Babies and generally being gorgeous)  They all did an amazing job - they all clapped and cheered and smiled and encouraged.*BUT* MOST OF THEM LIED!!!
It wasn't all 'down hill from here'. Not by any stretch of anybodies imagination.

Somehow, we ended up going BACK uphill. How was that even possible? How would we end up back at the start of we went up any more?

Walking and chatting had kicked in by this point. We were a crowd of 4 talking about the benefits of training in a club, what each local club offered and whether 'tarting' on different nights of the week was acceptable practice.
We were sore and had about 3 miles left to go.

But of course... we had to go back down again (wahoo!) and started the long descent into the woods.


Before I knew it, we were deep in the woods and immersed in Bluebells.
They were everywhere and the smell was overwhelming.
They were properly everywhere.
A few people had said that there were no Bluebells last year due to the winter and the weather.
I would've been devastated.  They were all I went for.

They were worth Trooper Lane.
Twice..... Maybe.

At this point euphoria kicked in.
Proper euphoria.
The best to describe it was as though my soul had spontaneously combusted and burst into flames.
I was full of unadulterated joy and grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

I had air in my lungs, the smell of perfection flooded my nostrils, my eyes were over loaded with natural beauty, I could hear an array of woodland wildlife going about its business, a group of runners had been taking pics all the way round, were running and giggling in a group and radiated the same joy as I was feeling.

There was nowhere in the world I would have rather been in that instant. It no longer hurt to run. In fact it was easy.

We passed the lion in the woods which made me giggle too much. Obviously I had to stop and have a picture taken with him.

The last mile seemed easy, my pace was even and was the same as I'd started the run.
I would even go so far as to say that I think I was a little bit sad when I saw the 10 mile marker.
It meant that soon I would be turning from the canal path, 'running' through the river, somehow clambering out the other side and then I would be finished.

My first race would be over.
I had done it.
I had LOVED every second of it.  There were 2 hours and 13 minutes worth of seconds....7980 of them to be exact.
Each one of them was perfect.

Thanks to everyone at Stainland Lions.
Special thanks to David.
I never thought I would be so pleased to see him standing in the middle of a river, but if he hadn't nudged (bullied) me, I wouldn't have done it.

So..... ta x

.....n I'll see you next year.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Feeling SAD

This morning, the only thing that got me round ParkRun was the fact that Sarah deserved cake. 
The only way she would legitimately let me buy it was if she got me a PB. 
I had to keep going despite the fact that I would rather be hiding under the duvet.  
I found it increasingly difficult to push myself – my body and me aren’t having the best relationship at the moment – they aren’t on the same page.

I say go on, my body says ‘Meh. Make me’
I say ‘ah, ok then, we won’t’  

Main thing is, I was up.
I was in the outside.
I had air in my lungs.  Just. (Gasping counts, right?)  
The sun was shining.
The crocuses were out.
The daffs are making an appearance soon.  

Spring is trying its bestest to arrive. 
It really is.  I can see the effort its making and I really do appreciate it.

I just wish I could feel it.
Its coming though.
The gloom is starting to lift.

Ever so slowly.

Well, sometimes.
Other times, not so much.  

For too long I have felt like I have been wearing a rucksack, filled with bricks, sadness and my soul.  The twinkle in my eye has been removed and stuffed at the bottom under all the junk. I have carried the rainclouds.
I have been forced to carry this heavy bag throughout the winter…. And frankly, it has made me too tired. 

I have trained as best I can while wearing it.
The bag contains a voice which tells me I am a failure, that I am a fraud, that I should stop, that I have no right to swim in the ‘extra fast lane’ as I have lost my speed, that I shouldn’t be training for an ironman as I will only give up when it gets too hard, that I won’t reach my goals and if I do, somebody will be faster anyway.
The voice is relentless.
It makes me want to sleep.
I want to sleep ALL. THE. TIME.

It has caused me to sleep.  Sleeping and lack of motivation has caused me to let people down.

I am not making excuses.
I could have been stronger and made more effort.
I just didn’t have the energy or the will to fight.
Sleeping was easier. 

Depression does funny things to your brain.
It makes the electrical activity stop.

It does stupid stuff to the brain and affects EVERYTHING.

I have eaten the world in an attempt to feel full and happy (I now feel fat and miserable)
I have plonked myself in front of my light box for hours on end (and been on the sunbed).
I have eaten green leafy veg, taken vitamin D, eaten oily fish and eggs. 
I have exercised.
I have been in the outside.
I have wept for no reason other than my eyes wanted to leak.

I have been with people.
Well, sometimes.
When I have felt it has been safe for me to be with people. When I have let myself and forced myself.

I am scared that this winter and my actions have caused me to lose a very dear friend – simply because I haven’t been available, emotionally or in person.
I have been more than a bit shit.
I was lovingly taken to one side and asked what was going on.

How the hell do you justify it?
It is ‘just’ depression.
It ‘just’ is.

I was told that I wasn’t myself. 
That when they looked at me, my eyes were vacant and had lost their sparkle (its in the bottom of my heavy rucksack). There was nothing left of who I was, the Rach they know and love had gone off somewhere.  There was just a void and a shell remaining.
That sounds a bit dramatic, but is the essence of the conversation.
It made my eyes leak and still does.

I don’t want to be sad.
I don’t want to miss my friends.
I certainly don’t want to find that they have grown away while I am sucked into a void each year.

This is my normality in winter and I think I have done an ok job of hanging on for dear life this time….. don’t get me wrong, it has been as hard and horrid, but it is possibly one of my best years for a LONG time.
I have had to deal with my mother being in intensive care and everything that threw up for me and my demons around this.
I left a job I loved, went backwards in one role and sidewards to another world in another role.
I didn’t belong anywhere.  

The nature of the beast that was hospital visiting and dysfunctional families combined with the way my working world was turned on its head meant that, as the winter gloom hit full force, I was bumbling through the chaos with no structure….. no structure meant limited access to my support network.
This then meant that I became isolated and the SAD took hold, as things ‘settled’ and those things which had been thrown into the air started to land, I found that my soul had gone off somewhere safe for the winter. 

I couldn’t come back.
I couldn’t feel.
I was too sad.
It was too big a feeling to cope with…. So in my usual way of coping with big feelings, I disconnected from myself.

My childhood taught me to do this to survive. My teenage years reinforced this.  My adult years have proven it as an excellent method.

When fight or flight isn’t an option.

It’s a fail safe plan.
One of which I seem to have no control over.
It does it all by itself.
Possibly when my serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine levels hit a certain point.

Disconnecting means I get through the winter relatively unscathed.
I am ready to feel again now though. 
I have known throughout the winter when I have had good days. 
I can ‘think’ when I am happy, rather than feel it.

So now as spring approaches, I know that there is a bounce.  The gloom isn’t as thick.
I am ready to put the backpack down and start living without the burden that is.

Too many people suffer from mental illness – not enough people talk about it.

It’s real.
It’s not a choice.
If I could get rid of it, it’s more than very likely I would in a nanosecond, if not quicker.

But, that said, it has taught me lots of things over the years and I have learned to understand it and accept it as part of who I am.
I know that I am strong, I am a survivor.

I have learned to love my black dog in a strange way. 

If you know someone who suffers from depression..... just love them.... in all the ways you know how.
and let them know.  Poke them, but not too hard. 
Just don't stop loving them.  
Faulty chemicals aren't a choice.... and they are more common than you think.  


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Work dilemma

I am in a quandary about work.
I don't know which way to go.
I *REALLY* don't know which way to go.
I have never been like this. 

I know where I want to be.... Well kinda. I had a little moment the other day where I decided I wanted my own home. I didn't expect that thought!! I actually thought I wanted to retrain to become an EMDR therapist. But there have been events unfolding lately... N they put a slightly different light on things.

Let me explain….

Once upon a time ago there was a girl called Rach. She had worked in a mainstream children's home for 12 years and loved it. She couldn't imagine not working in a hands on, caring capacity with kids n teenagers.

The kids she looked after had many issues n came into care for many, many reasons. Sadly, the majority of children had attachment issues and had suffered some form of abuse before coming into care. As a result, behaviour issues, sexual exploitation, criminal activity, low self-esteem, poor school attendance and attainment and substance misuse were common place.

She loved her work, advocated for the kids, battled hard, laughed lots n never forgot how blessed she was to care for and about the children others couldn’t parent effectively.

Around 3 years ago, she applied for a secondment as a Deputy Manager. She was successful in her application and moved to a new home. We shall call this home 'B'.

Rach had been happy enough at 'A', her original home. She was settled, adored her kids n felt as though she was a valued and experienced member of the staff team.

The time had come to grow professionally and she was ready for the challenge ahead.

Moving was hard. Adapting to a new home, a new team and new ethos was hard.
Leaving behind 'her kids' was hard. She had invested in them n had worked to form attachments.

Leaving them meant rejection. That is how they viewed it. Rach spent time chatting with each child, carefully explaining how she needed to be a role model, to show them that they can always reach higher, always grow. She assured them that she cared very much and just because she wasn't there didn't mean she didn't care.... That it would soon be time for them to grow and move on... That it was part of life and a natural progression for some relationships.

Rach's needs had changed, as had those of the residential service. The 2 needs could be met by 'each other'. Huzzah.

And so she moved to home ‘B’.

The move was hard; the new team were hesitant to ‘let her in’.  With focus, passion, determination, a bit of personal growth, facing challenges together, Rach settled and was accepted.  She began to grow as a manger, helped her colleagues grow, battled with Ofsted and grumpy neighbours, and somehow deputised for *ALL* the residential managers.  She fell in love with the kids and them her.

Life was good.

Life stayed good for 2 ½ years… then it was time for her secondment to come to an end.
It was time to go back.

Going back was always going to be difficult.
Stepping down, leaving another team where she had made ‘home’, leaving the kids, all of it… it wasn’t the best. There were tears at bedtime. Again!

Still, Rach had grown; she had achieved what she set out to do.  Before leaving, she had managed to wangle a place at Uni funded by her employer. This would mean she could complete the qualification needed to be a Registered Manager. Huzzah and Eek!!

Positive. Positive. Positive.

Rach’s last shift at ‘B’ was on the Thursday night.
On the Sunday her mum was rushed to intensive care.
On the Monday she started Uni.
On the Wednesday she started back at ‘A’.

The following week, Rach was being interviewed for another secondment in another home.  This one, home ‘C’ was a home for children with a learning disability.


It was a long long time since Rach had worked in learning disabilities. 12 years in fact.
A lifetime ago.
3 lifetimes depending on how you measured them.

Anyway, she got the job and her role became split. On a part time basis (week on/week off) she moved to another new role, another new team, another new bunch of kids to learn about and love.
But this was very different.  Some of the kids are non-verbal, some have profound disabilities and complex health needs.  But they are as equally amazing and shiny as the mainstream kids.

Rach knew she was a very lucky lady.  She had the best job ever. Sometimes it was the worst job ever.  But she didn’t know if she liked the learning disability home.

She soldiered on and wondered if her dislike was the immense difference in types of work.  She needed to know the minute details of each child, follow precise routines, but somehow manage the chaos, all the while, feeling totally out of her depth.

Just as she finished one week at home ‘C’ and felt almost as though she knew what she was doing, it was time to return to ‘A’ and play catch up again.   After a while, it took her less time to catch up, although she felt as though she wasn’t achieving anything in any of the homes.  In fact she felt like she hadn’t ‘worked’ for months.

She floundered from one week to the next, not belonging anywhere.

After a while, when her mum was back home, when Christmas had passed, when her tri training was back on track (ish), when she was almost on top of the SAD and the Uni assignments, she almost started to feel like she was making progress.

She had a handle on the kids and their cases and knew what was expected of her in her new role.
Around this time, Rach was presented with the news that there would be a maternity secondment coming up in home ‘B’ – she could go back to the home she loved, the place where she grew, a place where she was happy.

However, Rach knew that you could never move backwards – only forwards.  The manager in post now in home ‘B’ wasn’t well known to Rach, some of the kids had moved on.  It wouldn’t be the place she left.

There was another maternity post in home ‘C’ going to be advertised, approx. 3 months after her secondment finished.
There was also a permanent Deputy post likely to be advertised in home ‘C’.

The dilemma was, did Rach apply for the secondment in home ‘B’ or did she take the risk and apply for something she still wasn’t sure of in home ‘C’?

As this is being written, certain answers are leaping out – and she is almost certain of the next steps…..

She doesn’t know if it will get her to the place she wants to be – but she has faith in the Universal plan.  If she is meant to get there, she will. And if she doesn’t – she will be where she is meant to be.

To be continued……

There has been a new model of parenting proposed… well, it was proposed years ago.  We have been in the will we, won’t we phase for what feels like ages.  Can we afford it? Will we benefit from it? Do we need it? Why aren’t we working like this anyway?
One of the very real concerns is that it will not be bought for the learning disability homes.  They run very differently. 

They are already Outstanding.

Sat in the briefing, I had internal fireworks.  This was a light bulb moment.  
The programme sounds amazing.  It sounds like everything I have ever wanted to work within, like the residential work I envisaged when I started. It sounds like it will produce real results for our kids. More than the containment service we currently provide as best we can.

It is backed by science and fuelled by human goodness.

I want to be a part of it.

I am worried if I leap the wrong way, if I selfishly go for stability and apply for the post of permanent deputy, that I will miss out.
I am worried that when a Registered Managers post becomes available it will be in mainstream and I will be in the wrong place. 
I spoke to someone I respect about this the other day, they suggested that due to the nature of the staff team and the strange beast that is residential, the team would sabotage me if I progressed within ‘A’.  I think they were right.  They would.

If I don’t do this (which is pretty much all I have done in my adult working life) what do I do instead?
What do I want to be when I grow up?

I always said that if I don’t do this, which I once referred to as zoo-keeping; that I wanted to join the circus.
I have said for a while that I am going to join/run away with the circus…. Join the circus or do science.    

I would like to make science for a living. Science makes me giddy. It always has.
Sadly, it also makes my brain explode.  So I wouldn’t be very good at it……

I have to have faith. 
I have to have faith in the Universal plan.

I have to have faith in my own abilities….. and keep my eye out for ‘jugglers wanted’ adverts…..