Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The goals are back...

I know it wasn't long ago that I was writing about running without goals and not racing, but things change and after my crazy marathon running challenge at Easter I remembered that I like pushing my body to the point of complete exhaustion!

I am taking a different approach though and trying not to put enormous pressure on myself when it comes to racing, have to admit to rocking up to Halstead Marathon without a real plan, legs were still heavy and I decided to just go and have a good day out running. I went out way too fast but it felt ok and did a reasonably quick half (for me) the second half I paid for my speedy start and slowed a fair bit, but I did have a great day and a 4:36 finish was far quicker than I had anticipated.

Halstead Marathon 14 miles (photo by Mike Eldred)

The following week was Braintree 5 which I was running with an ever growing group of friends from school, many had only been running a few months and this was their first race. Again I rocked up without a plan after a five mile warm up run and some digging holes at Great Notley Country Park for parkrun! A migraine also hit and a plea for some paracetamol was answered and I felt ok to run. Some motivation from Claire before the start ignited my competitive spirit and for the second time in a week I went out stupidly quick, doing the first mile in 7:45! I slowed a bit but managed to finish in 41:58 a new five mile PB.
It was a great morning and I was extremely proud of Team Beckers, everybody finishing in under an hour.

Beckers Green Runners at Braintree 5 (photo by Mike Eldred)

Next Sunday I will be at Stour Valley Marathon, a self navigation, trail run which I have completed four times before and is a firm favourite. I will be treating this as a training run for Robin Hood 100 in September, so basically a 27 mile trail run, hopefully in the sunshine!

During June I am taking part and hopefully encouraging other to do 30 minutes of activity for 30 days as part of the 3030Essex campaign. For me I already do at least 30 minutes daily so I am gong to do three 30 mile runs during the month to challenge myself,

So Robin Hood 100 is the big one this year, A 100 mile finish has as yet eluded me, but I have a great support crew and I know what went wrong last time. I believe I am physically fit enough to complete it, for me the issue is being mentally strong enough, not letting the pressure build, keeping it fun, not worrying about a finish time.

I have always loved running but this year it is bringing much happiness to my life, I love seeing friends that have previously said they can't run taking it up and being brilliant at it. parkrun as always is one of the highlights of my week and I was truly honoured to be asked to take on the role of co-event director recently. Before I discovered parkrun, several years back now, I was pretty much a solitary runner. parkrun has made running a much more sociable activity, and as someone lacking somewhat in social skills, it is lovely to spend my Saturday morning with such amazing people who I am privileged to call friends.

RD at Great Notley parkrun

Happy running xxxx

Saturday, 28 April 2018

15 in 17...

What are your plans for the holidays? It was a question I kept getting asked. The thing was I didn’t have any plans. It would be my first longish school holiday on my own since the boys had moved out and to be perfectly honest I was dreading it. My mental health wasn’t at is best with some stress and anxiety persisting even though life was more settled. Work was where I was happiest, my safe place, with people who knew what the last couple of years had been like. The thought of two weeks without the routine of work was not something I was as excited about as everyone else!

Since 1st January I had been following a friend's attempt to run marathon distance every day for 105 days and he was doing brilliantly, and that's how this crazy plan came about. 17 days off, nothing to do, my running was going well...

So next time I was asked what my plans were for the holidays my response was 'I'm going to run 15 marathons!'

As it turned out I ended up running 10 marathons and 5 half marathons but it was still a great adventure, I learnt a lot about how my body reacts to multi-day distance running and apart from day 9 I loved every step!
I'm not going to bore you with telling you about every run in detail because basically I left my house each day and ran about until I completed the distance and got back home!
Finishing marathon 2 at parkrun

There were some memorable bits though like day 5 where I was running with a friend and as I looked across a field thought that bush looks like a wallaby, actually that looks like lots of wallabies, I wasn't seeing things there really was a field of wallabies in the Essex countryside.

Day 7 was the only day I went further afield and we ran an out and back from Walton-on -Naze to St Osyth, that was a tough day but one of the two days that it didn't rain and finishing with a paddle was fun!
Day 9 was horrific, I was so physically drained that every step took all my concentration and willpower to complete, I apologise again to those who gave me some company that day as I was either grumpy or unable to actually speak, I did appreciate you trying though!
Day 2 and 9 were parkrun days and I incorporated parkrun into my marathons, the photos tell the story, day 2 happy and smiling, day 9 looked like death!

Day 2 top and day 9 ha ha!! 

Finishing on the last day with a marathon after the five halfs was great and finishing in 4:54 made it the quickest of the ten marathons. I was also amazed to have raised over £500 for my local branch of Mind,  far more than I expected, thank you everyone who donated.

As always I was amazed and overwhelmed at the support I received as I took on this crazy challenge, it makes so much difference. Those who came and ran with me, sent messages, liked and commented on my endless Facebook posts (even several friends who were sunning themselves in exotic locations!), Brought food to my door, checked to make sure I was ok. It was phenomenal, so thank you all, I really do have the most amazing friends.

An unexpected result of this adventure was how it helped me mentally, I know running 333.8 miles may not be a scientifically proven way of dealing with your mental health but for me it gave me time to think, to process a lot of what I have dealt with over the last couple of years. Although physically exhausted at the end, mentally I was refreshed and able to see that life was in fact ok, living alone is ok and the future could be anything I wanted it to be.

Another thing that has happened is I want to race again, more importantly I want to race ultras so in September I am going back to Robin Hood 100 and I will finish it this time!

Happy running xxx

Friday, 16 February 2018

Running without goals...

My last blog was all about me not giving up on the triathlon dream before it began, hmmm well I have to confess to not going near the pool or bike since. I quite like swimming and would happily put in the effort to get better at it, my stumbling block is the cycling, I just don't enjoy it! Sorry cycling friends but I don't. I haven't made a final decision about the triathlon but I will over the next week or so. The thing is I want the exercise I do to be fun, to look forward to it as it's what I do when I'm not working!

This brings me onto the main point of this blog running without goals...

I have had the happiest week's running for a very long time, obviously it helps that I am a lot less stressed than I have been for a while and my mental health is improving so I feel more like me again, but it's not just that. I haven't raced since September last year when I did the Colne Engaine 5! This is mainly due to not having any money to enter races but it's great.

Running group friends at parkrun (photo by Mike Eldred)

It's half term this week so a week to do as I please and I have had some great runs, some with friends, some on my own, some with my dog,  loving running and supporting my friends at my running groups, today we ran far enough to warrant having coffee and cake at the end! I have started listening to music again on some of my runs. The best bit though has just been waking up and deciding as I put my trainers on where I'm going and how far, sometimes I don't even decide this till I get going.
Yesterday I had the whole day without much planned so I packed my race vest with some drink and a bag of jelly beans and just headed out the door, it was a beautiful morning and I ended up running 16 miles and loving every step.

Race vest and headphones ready for a long one!

I am still run streaking and am at day 412, with my streak now 2083 miles long, I have set myself a little goal of reaching 2500 miles at day 500! (So not running entirely without goals ha ha!)

I'm sure at some stage I will return to racing as there are lots out there I still want to do, and completing 100 miles is still firmly at the top of the worm food list. For now I am going to continue to run 'just for fun' and see what happens. Surprisingly I have found some speed recently (fast for me I hasten to add!) whether that's because I am feeling better or because I have no races to train for or a mixture of both who knows.

Enjoying a 'just for fun' long run

Hope you are all having as much fun with your running as I am, and if you have booked yourself into races enjoy the training and the events themselves.

Happy running xx

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Nearly giving up before really starting...

I had just about convinced myself that a triathlon wasn't for me, especially a crazy ironman distance one. I hadn't done any swimming or cycling in December and the first part of January hadn't been much better with just one trip to the pool. So last weekend I decided just to run. The result of the extra running mileage was that it actually made me feel so much better mentally and physically and a little spark of craziness was reignited!!

I hadn't really realised how poor my own mental health had become until this last week when I have really started to feel much more positive. I have also realised that I am not responsible for making my son better (it's taken a while!) It is his illness and he is responsible for his own recovery, of course I will always be there to support when he needs me to.

So now I am feeling more like me again with a renewed energy and excitement for getting out there and doing stuff I am going to give this triathlon my best shot. With long work hours some days and Bonkers Fitness sessions it's going to be a juggling act to fit the training in but lighter mornings and evenings are on the way.

This weekend I have run 18 miles, cycled 18 miles and managed my longest swim of 1250m. Still much work to do but I have a decent base to work on and I still have 24 weeks!

If anyone reading this wants to sponsor me or donate me a road bike I will be eternally grateful but for now I am still winging it on the second hand one I have, just need to actually get out on it!

So here's to 24 weeks of crazy training and enjoying it... Must remember I am doing this for fun and not let it become something stressful.
Photo by Mike Eldred

Have a happy week running, swimming and cycling xxx

Monday, 1 January 2018

Not about running...

I need to write this, it's nothing to do with running and all about being a Mum to a son with a mental health disorder. It's been in my head to write for a while but I wasn't sure, was it appropriate? Should I just write it in my journal as a private thing? Would it upset anyone? Like all of this I'm not sure but I am going to write it anyway.

Jim's struggles with his mental health began over two years ago, the first I knew was the discovery he was using cannabis and solvents. Help was sought and I thought that was a scary time over. I put it down to a teenager experimenting and was glad he had stopped or so I thought.

Over the next year it became clear that Jim wasn't well, and we began the fight to get referred for help for his mental health, it seemed he needed to be suicidal or psychotic to get help. I am not going to write about every episode in detail as this is more about my feelings, how I deal with it (or not!) but to sum up he has been admitted to psychiatric units three times, attempted suicide twice and had one episode where I had to take several weeks off work to care for him. He has tried countless medication combinations which work while he takes them but the side effects mean he often gives up on them or he begins to feel better so thinks he doesn't need them. Then there is the drug and alcohol abuse... Often people asked me whether the drugs triggered the mental health issues or did he self medicate due to how he felt. The answer to that is we will never know. 

He has just been discharged from hospital again and the drug and alcohol addictions were addressed along with the depression, psychotic and delusional thinking. His diagnosis has been changed from bipolar to schizoaffective disorder manic type but they are just labels the treatment is much the same. Will things be better this time I'm not convinced right now.

As a Mum this latest episode has been the hardest for me, I don't know why but I have come close to breaking point. The constant worry from the last couple of years became too much, I didn't know how to help anymore, I could see him deteriorating, the drug use increasing but he is an adult and assured me he didn't want or need help. 

Work became my escape, I was happier at work than at home and I could mostly switch off for the day and if I couldn't there were people I could talk to, who would give me a hug, listen and understand. There were days I dreaded going home because I didn't know what would be waiting for me, I live with a constant fear that he will die, either accidentally or because the suicidal thoughts become too much. 
It's hard watching someone you love struggle so much, knowing they are making choices and behaving in a way that will make things worse and being powerless to stop it. Long gone are the days where a cuddle and some calpol makes things better!
I don't know where we go from here, I hope that something or someone will have an impact on him, help him to see things could be better. That this illness doesn't have to stop him from leading a happy and fulfilling life, that if he just takes care of himself he can feel well and achieve all the things he dreamt of before he got ill.

As for me I am trying to take better care of myself, not put my life on hold, do the things I want to do. Looking for ways to ease the fear and worry that comes with this. 

So if I am distracted, unsociable or neglecting friends and friendships it's not because I don't care it's because I am struggling, I'm not good at asking for help, too many years of going it alone as a single Mum but I am going to try... I want 2018 to be better for us all, and the only way I think I can do that is by looking after me so I am strong enough to be there and deal with whatever the next months bring.

Love you all xxxx 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

From runner to triathlete...

Before I go any further I am just going to say this is all John Stoneman's fault!!

I have been feeling the need for a new challenge for a while, at parkrun a few weeks a go a triathlon was mentioned, John said if we were going to do one it should be an Ironman. Don't you hate it when an idea gets planted in your mind and you can't get rid of it. Anyway to cut a long story short I sort of signed up for one, not an official Ironman but ironman distance. It looks unlikely John will be joining me but I am committed.

So on July 8th 2018 I will be in Kent for The Bastion, for those that don't know ironman distance is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle ride and a marathon! I can run a marathon...

I can't (at the moment) swim 2.4 miles or cycle 112 miles...

I went for a swim last weekend and managed 1km, some was front crawl, lots was breast stroke, it was hard and I have a long way to go, I forgot to mention the swim is an open water swim! The plan is to work on my swimming in the pool over the winter and move to open water in the spring. 

I remembered a work colleague was selling a road bike and on investigation he still had it, it's an old style road bike but in immaculate condition and for now it means I can get some training in. I went for a little test ride this morning, a bit like my swimming it needs some work!!

I have about 9 months to get ready, I have some serious work to do on the swimming and cycling but am looking forward to the challenge. I will be seeking lots of help from all you swimmers and cyclists.

Just to add to my challenge I will be doing all of this on a very limited budget, I entered through Macmillan and have pledged to raise at least £500 for them
I don't currently have money for a flashy bike, swimming lessons or new kit so this will be triathlon on a budget unless anyone out there wishes to sponsor a Bonkers runner tri-ing (sorry!!) something new! 

I am going to blog weekly about my training and swimming and cycling progress (or lack of!) I must remember not to neglect my running. That's it for now, I sort of have a base to work on so time to #TrainHardNoExcuses...
Image result for funny triathlon quotes

Happy running, swimming and cycling!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Touch the Bird 300

November 2015 I thought Touch the Bird 24 was a brilliant idea, 24hours of running laps of the hill at Great Notley Country Park, it was great, had loads of support and raised lots of money for Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Fast forward to this year, I have joked since hat challenge that the hill is 'my hill' and one parkrun morning I found this at the top! (thanks Mark) it now hangs with my medals at home but it got me thinking, maybe it was time for another challenge...

So Touch the Bird 300 was born! I had completed 265 reps in 24 hours last time, surely an extra 35 wouldn't be much harder! I even planned a better time of year, July, the weather would be good, more hours of daylight etc etc...

On Saturday 29th July at 9am as parkrun started I began my first lap, the weather was as I had imagined, it was summer, the park would be full of people and it would all be lovely!

I was raising money for Bipolar UK this time as my son had been diagnosed the year before and it had turned our lives upside down. Someone said to me during the run that with the up, and the down and the level bit, the laps of the hill represented bipolar somewhat!

I had my friends Andreea and Dan as base camp support, and Mark, who also has bipolar and has been a great support to me, also was there much of the time and clocked up a lot of laps with me especially during the night. Thank you so much for being a great support crew, definitely wouldn't have got through it without you.

150 laps in...

As we got into the afternoon the rain started and my romantic ideas of watching the sunset over the hill disappeared. I had had about 40 people join me at different times to run some laps and I am so grateful for your support. We had some good discussions about mental health too which was great. A special mention to Netty, Joby, Jane, Michelle, Ian, Sandra, the Hawkins family who came back to the park more than once to support me, would be interesting to know how many laps we ran in total between us. Thank you to every single one of you that joined me, you had no reason to spend your weekend with the crazy lady on the hill but I am so glad you did.

Evening supporters!

During the night the rain continued and my feet were soaked, I changed into dry socks and trainers but the second pair were soon soaked too and my feet were beginning to feel a bit sore on the bottoms but it was bearable. I had a few bouts of feeling sick but know it's usually because I haven't eaten enough. Dan was brilliant at force feeding me!

I'm not sure what time it was but we were into Sunday, Dan suddenly said was that lightening, we dismissed it until the clap of thunder arrived. A thunder storm would possible halt the challenge for a while as being on a hill with a giant metal bird in a storm probably was a bit risky but for now we continued as it wasn't overhead. Fortunately the storm stayed far enough away that we could continue but the rain, oh the rain, it poured and poured!

 Touching the bird with it's pretty lights!

Finally the rain did stop and there was a hint of daylight, not the beautiful sunrise I had envisaged but always good to get rid of the head torch. I felt awful between about 4:30am and 7am I just wanted to sleep, I would do a couple of laps and then sit down and tell the guys to let me have two minutes, which they timed to the second and I had to wake up and do a another couple. I was so relieved when we finally go to 250 laps as I felt like I was never going to get there! I have to apologise to Mark, Andreea and Dan for being particularly stroppy during this stage! I think I retired from running at one point!
About seven my head gave up telling me I needed to sleep and with Ian and Joby arriving back at the park I knew I couldn't quit, I had to get through these last laps. As the morning went on more people arrived and my posse grew, I could finish this off!
The weather improved and I changed into my last pair of dry trainers and it helped a bit with the sore feet.

Finally at just before midday I was on lap 300, it was an amazing feeling to complete the challenge! I think I am done with the hill now! So you can all stop with the mutterings about 500 laps!

There were lots of funny moments during the challenge, Marks Klingon opera singing, and lots of other things, some of which need to stay on the hill! One that did make me laugh though was about 6am Sunday morning a dog ran towards us and Mark said oh look normal people are out now,I looked at him and said 'Mark that's a dog!'

One of the best messages was from Ronnie Staton, who said 'it's the same hill as the first lap and that was easy' That was a great one to keep me going up and down and up and down.

The final lap!
So just to finish with some thank yous to everyone who came out and supported me, all those that sent messages of support day and night, everyone that donated money I am almost at £900, the park rangers who let me use the park and have 24 hour access, the loos were great!! Everyone at Great Notley parkrun and junior parkrun.
Just a massive thank you to every one involved.

So what is next... well I have signed up to go back and get Robin Hood 100 finished!!

Happy running xxx