Friday, 29 July 2011

Shameless Request for Sympathy

Let's get this straight from the start. I am writing this post purely for sympathy reasons; i.e. for me (the writer) to gain sympathy from you (the reader). Therefore, following the reading of this blog, I expect lots of sympathetic comments posted at the bottom. If you can't manage sympathy, i.e. because you just don't care, then at least do the decent thing and offer a small amount of empathy. Why? Because I deserve it of course!!

So, why am I shamelessly asking for sympathy? Because I've hurt my  back :-(

I know... awwww... poor me (honest, I did say this would be shameless... if you're still reading, it's your own fault because you were clearly warned from the beginning!). To be precise my back seems to have completely given up on me; no longer wanting to function like a normal back,  it has decided instead to forthwith restrict all movement up, down, sideways or forwards with accompanying pain; The only way to move around the house is to waddle, very carefully, in a fashion akin to that of a pregnant woman.

Something tells me that it might be punishing me for working it too hard recently (sorry back). I am not sure whether it is upset from the 10k race on Sunday, the hideous fun-filled BMF-style boot camp at club on Monday, the packing and moving of 7 years worth of rubbish on Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday (seriously... 7 years of crap stored in a cupboard... I gave myself a serious talking to, it will not happen again... maybe...) or whether it gave up because I suggested to it that we might join the local gym for the summer; or maybe it was a combination of all of that. Whatever reason it has (it's not telling me, I presume the silent treatment is also a part of my punishment), it caused me to come home early from running club last night - imagine how upset I was to discover that I missed out on a run that combined 5.1 miles with 22 hill sprints(!) - and has imprisoned me in my own home today as I grunt and groan with discomfort every time I attempt any form of movement!

Of course, it might be sympathy pain itself, as Mik is also poorly... awww, poor Mik... suffering from terrible stomach pains. I suggested that his stomach pains may be sympathy pains for my back but he disagrees with that theory saying he has no sympathy for  my back whatsoever! Nice... that's enough sympathy for Mik then! Although I might go and buy him a bottle of Lucozade later as suggested by his balder elder brother.... Lucozade does, after all, solve every illness!

Anyway, I'm off to tempt my back out of hibernation with a long, hot soak in the bath, whilst you get started on those words of sympathy...


Monday, 25 July 2011

A letter to Orbana Healthy Energy Drink

Thank you and sorry!
Let me begin with the sorry; back in June (which feels so long ago now!) you sent me a sachet of Orbana Healthy Energy Drink to try out. I opened the envelope, smiled and then put it in the box of doom (the box which all of the post goes into and generally never comes out of). This could have been the end of your powder, rarely does anything emerge from the box of doom as rooting around in it scares me too much, I have no idea what to expect from it!

However, on  Sunday, I ran my first 10k race in the past 2 months and about 1/2 hour before I was due to head out the door, your I was reminded of your delightful gift, very carefully I placed my hand into the box of doom and was lucky enough to discover that the sachet was still there. Making it up into my sports bottle, I tentatively took a sip...
Thank you, for sending me your DELICIOUS energy drink! I have to say, I was quite impressed. I also have to be honest and admit that I wasn't looking forward to tasting it, it is quite rare that I like the taste of sports drinks, either finding them too sweet, chemically, or bitter. However, yours is really quite tasty. I would even have to agree with your own marketing that it tastes natural.
Of course, taste isn't the most important element with a sports drink, which is why I have suffered many I can't stand the taste of, performance has to come at the top of the list. I can't lie, I have no idea whether it improved my performace in the race - I ran very well, but I can't say that wasn't down to me rather than your drink! - however, what I can confirm is that it settled very well on my stomach and did not have any of the usual - ummmmm, should we say - side effects that other sports drinks have had on my digestive system.
I will certainly be buying some more of your product. However, I won't be using it for all of my runs, and that is simply because it is very high in calories... I understand the point behind this of course - calories equal energy - however they also equal fat if I'm not burning them off. Of course, if you were to introduce a lower calorie version that was equally as tasty and effective, I would be more than willing to try it out on my shorter training runs... more than willing!! :-)
And so Orbana, I would like to say once again, sorry - for not trying it earlier! - but thankyou, for sending me a sample of your yummy drink. I like to think it played some part in my best race performace of this year, so far!

From Marathon to 10k

A marathon is a significantly greater distance than a 10k race: Fact. What is also a fact is that since running a marathon, I have been almost incapable of running, let alone accomplishing 6.2 miles! Okay, so that's a slight over-exaggeration - for dramatic effect of course - yet, I have struggled. Everyone talks about the difficulties of training for, and actually running, the marathon distance but very few people discuss the difficulties that can occur afterwards. I wonder if this is maybe because the post-marathon - should we call it - trauma - too melodramatic?... Okay - difficulties don't affect everyone in the same way. In fact, in my observations, I've been able to categorise post-marathon runners into two distinct groups:
Mmmm... Chris Evans!
Group A - those that train for the marathon successfully, run it successfully, and recover quickly. They don't find it 'easy' - that would be impossible because it's very definitely not easy, I don't care who you are, even Superman would find it hard... although perhaps less so Captain America, he's very fit - in both senses of the word... anyway - no, they find it the same challenge as everyone else but there's something about it that means the whole process has perhaps felt more natural, perhaps they were lucky enough not to encounter any pitfalls along the way, or if they did perhaps they were just more capable of coping with it. Consequently, this group of runners also seem to benefit in their long term training from running the marathon; they become faster, stronger and better.

Group B - also complete the marathon. However, their training may not have been quite so successful; perhaps they picked up an injury, or they discovered that raising the distance was much harder than they thought.; for some reason, running at this distance didn't come 'naturally' and every step along the way presented yet another obstacle. yet, they persevered and conquered the distance. They are also within a select group of people who have taken on the tough challenge and succeeded. However, post marathon, they have continued to struggle; running feels difficult, sluggish and they haven't felt quite the same since.
I've been told by many people that full marathon recovery can take up to 3-6 months and certainly, I've seen that recovery affecting the people around me in many different ways. As a first time marathon runner, it's been hard not to compare myself to my running partner, someone I started out with, someone I ran my first official race with, and someone I used to cross the line practically holding hands with. She now lives in Group A: faster, stronger and a better runner as result of her first marathon. She's applied to London again next year, and if she doesn't get in, she'll run Edinburgh. Whereas, I am sitting very comfortably in Group B; In training I'm now a full minute per mile slower than my former training partner, struggling to control my breathing, to push my body and ultimately to regain my fitness and confidence.
However, I'm just as proud of myself; I don't always remember that - when I'm far behind the rest of the group at running club, or I finish a 10k race in over an hour, when my previous best time was under 50 minutes - but I am, I'm proud. I'm also frustrated. But I know what I need to do, I need to channel that frustration; pick up my running, enter more races and keep training until I'm back where I was... and maybe I need to pay a few more visits to Jo (the evil lovely physio). And as I persevere, I'm beginning to enjoy running again.
On Sunday, I ran the Moonraker 10k. Nothing at all to do with James Bond... although I have always quite fancied life as a spy... the Moonraker is a friendly, hilly and enjoyable local race organised by Middleton Harriers. It was great fun. I loved it. It was also the first race of my offical running 'Come Back'. Despite the hot day and the first 5k of the race being entirely up hill, I managed to beat my previous 10k time at the flat, Great Manchester Run; I also managed (with the help of Coach Pete) to out race another runner in the final 1k, leading to (if I might say myself) a rather magnificent finish! And all of this sans-Garmin as I managed to leave it on the side in the bathroom when I went for my pre-race wee before I left home!
During January I coined the phrase 'Positive Running Belief' when, during a hill session, I discovered that if I truly believed I could conquer the hills, then I could. Since then, I've struggled to take my own advice. During the Moonraker race, I found it again. Throughout the race, I set myself little goals and I achieved every one. I'm now going to apply the same strategy to my training as I still have some way to go before I'll be completely happy with my performance; I was a full 10 minutes slower this year, than last on the same course. However, it is with small, achieveable goals that I will achieve my next post marathon PB, and that ensures that this time next year, I have a whole new, shiny and magnificent Moonraker 10k PB.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

'Art and Emotion' ... and a really fast Mother!

Lewis Hamilton had nothing on my mother yesterday as she threw a racing red Ferrari 360 around the Three Sister's track at Wigan.Of course, it's a strange comparison to open with as other than the close proximity to which they were born (Hamilton born in Stevenage, just down the road from Letchworth where Mother has spent most of her life) they clearly have nothing else in common - in fact, Lewis Hamilton wouldn't even be racing in a Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz might have quite a lot to say about it if he did! But we shall ignore all of those points, accept the comparison as the metaphorical hyperbole that it was intended as, and quickly move on...

Mother turned 60 in February and to celebrate her increasing years, yet youthful demeanour, we (her children and partners) bought her one of those driving experiences, where you fling yourself around a track for 6 miles attempting to get faster and faster in the process. If you like driving and you've never given it a go, you should! I was bought one for my 30th a few years back, and it is still one of the best experiences I have ever had! There is nothing quite like the thrill of sitting behind the wheel of a super car, that effortlessly reaches adrenaline inducing speeds; of course, if you're sitting here reading this thinking:
'I know. I own a Mercedes-Benz and drive it super, adrenaline-inducing, magnificent speeds every day of my life'
then 1) Hi Lewis, thanks for visiting! or
2) Stop! this can't go on... sooner or later you're going to get arrested!

Of course, I do completely believe that the whole point of these things is to drive as fast as possible. Yes, it's nice being a super-car, but I'm not a car geek - I own a Nissan Micra myself, says it all! - And as much as the car can be appreciated, it's the speed that counts! So, as Mum got in behind the wheel of the car (sporting a very pretty plastic blue cap beneath an even more fetching helmet), it was this point I pushed: 'You drive fast. That's the whole point! Don't let me down now!'
And she didn't! She went whizzing round that track. My 60 year old Mother embarrassed the young lads out on that track yesterday as she overtook them one by one, leaving them trailing in her dust! Lewis Hamilton watch out; Mother is coming to get you!

Of course, as exercise goes, I count watching Mother throw herself around a track in a racing red Ferrari as exercise in itself as there's a fair bit of adrenaline involved in that too, I tell you! However, I'm quite sure the number of calories burned is rather measly and I've a wedding to go to in August and therefore a dress to fit in to; so today's exercise will (hopefully) set the precedent for the rest of the week, whereby each day I will walk to work, and run home again. Only today is slightly different as I intend to walk to town to pick up the car I left there last night, and then go and eat a HUGE Sunday dinner... hmmm, maybe I'm going to have to expand my exercise plan next week to incorporate more exercise... ah well, I'll worry about that when the dress doesn't fit! Live in the moment I say... :-)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

I'm Mr(s) Brightside!

'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life...'  wrote Eric Idle in 1979, and do you know what, he was right; however, looking on the bright side of life can be really difficult sometimes, particularly when we're feeling tired and run down. On days like these it can be all too easy for the dark side to creep in. I realised today that this has been happening to me too much lately and so I have decided to bring a little bit of positive thinking back into my life. This, I have achieved through making simple 'swaps'; changing the 'dark side' thinking to the 'bright side'.

I am also taking practical steps to make simple 'swaps' in other areas. So far this week, I have swapped the following:

And on another positive note, I have been sent (as I know have others) some healthy Orbana Energy drink... If I had been feeling more positive (and less ill) earlier today, I would have run the Rochdale 10k race (well done to all those at club who did run it!) and tried it out; as it is, I shall ignore the fact I didn't and instead think more positively: Next week I will run the Royton Trail Race... because it will be fun!... and it'll give me the perfect opportunity to give the Orbana drink a whirl.

For now, I plan on relaxing in the lounge for an hour in front of the tv for a bit of 'Man Vs Food' where I shall feel very virtuous as I swap a late night chocolate bar for a cup of tea, whilst watching someone else gorge themselves on disgustingly bad food... Mmmmmm... deep fried mars bars with mac and cheese wrapped in a taco!...