Day 36 – The Sober Eighty Challenge – minor meltdown

Just the Tonic.

When I started out on my Sober Eighty Challenge, I had this idea that I would journal ALL my thoughts and feelings throughout the process, even down to how much/what I’m eating and hours spent sleeping. You know, real exciting stuff – a documentation of the ‘get sober’ process so to speak. Ammunition for the future perhaps? Inspiration for others maybe? I thought I would have loads to say, but I have so much going on in my head that I sort of do, but I also sort of don’t at the same time. It’s complicated. I’m not sure which of my feelings to put into words as I keep shuffling the deck of cards in my head.

I sailed through the first few weeks, feeling on top of the world. Check me out, all SHINY and SOBER…[do a happy dance] but I was far too busy to write much as I was filling my time with all the other things I didn’t normally do when I was drinking. Busier than a busy bee. Domestic goddess/fitness fanatic/reader of lots of books/daytripping with the other half. Happy as a pig in shit. Woo hoo! Living my best life, bitches.

…And then the newness wore off and the sober euphoria started to dwindle. And I had nothing of any real interest to say. It just started to feel like normal life. This is good, I guess, but not very exciting from a writing perspective. How inspiring. Went to work, came home. Went to the gym, ate tea. Slept a lot. Rock and roll.

Then this weekend, Friday, Day 33, I left work feeling just a little out of sorts. Perhaps I was a bit tired but I just had this general feeling of apathy…couldn’t be arsed to do anything. Didn’t want to work out, didn’t want to do people, didn’t want to be all jazzy sober happy. I just wanted to go home and curl up on the sofa…with a BIG FAT COLD GLASS OF WINE. And there it was. And I realised straight away, I didn’t even want one glass of wine, I wanted to nail the fucking bottle.

I walked past all the shops in town as fast as my legs would go, feeling miserable and deprived. Got home, locked the doors, made a cup of camomile tea, got in a big bubble bath. Shut the world out. Feeling marginally better, I tried to figure out what had happened. What was the trigger? I wasn’t upset. I hadn’t had a bad day. A friend is having a tough time at home, (but won’t talk about it) – am I that much of a worrying empath that it drives me to drink? I’m happy sober, life is good, why would I think I needed a bottle of wine?

The questions haunted me for a good 24hrs before I realised what was really bothering me. The triggers will become more apparent the more cravings I have, that much I’m sure of. This was my first major battle and there will be plenty more to come. I can deal with them every day for the rest of the 80 days if that’s the way it goes.

But, what happens when the challenge is over, when my 80 days are done and I have no self imposed restrictions? What’s going to stop me from buying, and guzzling, that bottle of wine? Straw? It made me quite sad. And also a little hopeless. Then the other half reminded me (after sensitively picking up on my mood and buying me 2 big bunches of flowers) that we need not be thinking about the end of the challenge just yet, as we are not even half way through. We can deal with the rest when we get there, one day at a time.

By Sunday, my head fart was over. Hello Sunday Morning!! I think I had been starting to forget…maybe what William Porter talks about as Fading Effect Bias; where good memories persist longer than the bad ones and we tend to view events in the past in a more positive light as time passes. The rose tinted glasses. (Or rosé tinted). 🍷Then Sunday morning after waking from my alcohol free proper night’s rest, at 7.30am, with a nice cup of tea and a clear head, I noticed a couple of “live” stories/vids on my Insta feed. One was from the legend Andy at One Year No Beer (which was one of the inspirations for doing my own challenge). He was talking about all the wonderful things you gain from being alcohol free. One of them being TIME. Alcohol is the thief of time. I now have lots of time. Thank you Andy. The other “live” was a bunch of people “living their best lives”, out on a sesh, drunk. The antithesis. It was like seeing both extremes of my life. Side by side. And then I realised the other thing I have gained from being alcohol free, which is FREEDOM. I survived the first major craving and had a great weekend. I am a Warrior. So, for now, the cravings can do one. I am feeling grateful for the small pleasures in life, the sober life. And whilst I realise at times I am swimming against the tides of an ethanol imbibing culture, this is most definitely the best life I have lived in a long time.

Arrested Development

Just the Tonic – Sober Eighty Challenge

In amongst all my alcohol reading and research (I forgot how much I love books), I have read on a few occasions this notion that alcohol stunts your emotional growth.

 “because there is a rule of thumb in psychotherapy, that whatever age you start “using” is the emotional age at which you’re stuck. So, if you first used alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex or whatever it is that you discovered made you instantly “feel better” at age 14, then you will be stuck with the capacity of a 14-year old to deal with difficult emotions.” Charlotte Stapf

Lit. Yaaasss. Psych. [Insert Sarcasm emoji]. FFS, does that mean I have to go through puberty again (late developer)???

So, now I am peeling back the layers of the sober Nicky onion, I have discovered that I’m a peri-menopausal woman with the emotional capacity of a 15-year old! Well, not quite, but there is some truth in it. I have pretty much been drunk since the age of 15. Not 24-7 of course, but I have travelled along that alcoholic roller coaster which involves getting drunk, recovering, drinking some more, recovering a little more and then back to the drinking again. Sometimes vowing never to drink again. Sometimes longer spells between drinking. Sometimes drinking nearly every day (student life gave me the best excuse to drink daily, at any time of day and for peanuts. I was constantly pissed for about a year and a half before I left Uni – another story). Week in, week out. Year by year.

For 26 years.

Not an alcoholic, of course, but I will say that moderation is not a word in my alcohol vocabulary. I have managed dry January several times now (mostly to give my body a break and convince myself I am absolutely not an alcoholic and I don’t have a drinking problem) and I once gave up alcohol for a short period of time after leaving Uni, as I recognised it as a catalyst to the deep depression I was in. I can manage without. I can go days through the week without having a drink (about 3 or 4 as a rule). Just the rest of the time I choose to use it to manage.

On the flip side to periods of sobriety, I have had drinking binges that have thrown me into the other side of oblivion. Catatonic. Nights where I could barely walk and talk. I have fallen over, blacked out, ended up in places I shouldn’t have, put my life at risk with strangers. I have woken with UDI’s, lost my memory (and my purse), made a fool of myself, and felt huge ‘hang your head’ shame. I have been in such an emotional drunk state, I have sat hugging my knees sobbing, deep, gut-wrenching sobs, rocking, feeling helpless, dismayed at the shadow of a person I had become and searching desperately for the person I had left behind.

I have been so hungover that I have been unable to move, or to eat. So hungover that I felt like my face had shrunk and my lips went all weird and tight when I talked. I have lost feeling in my little finger (on several occasions), not been able to hear properly (I have no idea why or how that happened) and suffered the worst anxiety of my entire life.

I think to a certain degree I have been a lot steadier with my consumption as I have got older, but this is in comparison to the above. This might also be a little bit more to do with the fact that we go #outout a lot less. But, on reflection, at an average of 50 units a week on a ‘steady’ week (easier done than you think), I was still drinking too much.

I recognise now that I have used alcohol to self-medicate for many years. Originally, I “used” alcohol to try and be fun and fit in. At 15 I was gawky, gangly tall, flat chested, ginger and shy – all the best qualities for a teenage girl. Alcohol gave me a little confidence boost, made me feel a little wild. It helped me party with the cool kids. I soon learnt that it was also a good way to forget; to numb the pain of a childhood trauma; to erase the emotional scars, to anesthetise the worry and the anxiety, and I’ve been that way ever since. When times are tough, stressful or I have experienced any kind of emotions that I have struggled to get to grips with (and not just the negative ones, there are others I wrestle with too) – alcohol has been my “friend”.

Tough day at work? Hit the bottle.

Feeling a little anxious/insecure/nervous/tired/upset/confused/worried/lonely/depressed? Hit the bottle.

Fight with the boyfriend? Hit several bottles…. You get the picture.

The coping mechanism only works for a while. You can numb the feelings temporarily, living in a little alcohol induced bubble for a while, but the problems don’t disappear, and the emotions are still there when you wake up, only with a foggy mind and a fuzzy head you are even less able to deal with them and they seem ten times worse. It may be a cliché but it’s also a fact.

Some may call my sobriety a bit of a mid-life crisis, as I reassess and try to work it all out. I have been very contemplative since I decided to go sober and I feel that I need to revisit some of the things I used to love doing as a child, to see if they still make me tick and to find out what truly makes my soul happy.  Alcohol replaced time (drinking takes away a lot of time) and time that used to be spent doing the things I loved.

It feels a little strange to be facing the world in its true and raw form daily. When you have anesthetised yourself for so long, you forget you were numbing the good parts at the same time too. Sobriety is bringing with it a strange wide-eyed euphoria, a natural high that no drug can provide. I am finding joy and beauty in the smallest of things and my inner childish hippy is thriving. And we’re only on Day 12.

I am a little nervous but excited about this new Chapter in life, as I learn how to live sober.

Day 10 Sober – Just the Tonic

So I am now on Day 10 of the Sober Eighty challenge and I thought I’d keep you up to speed with progress. I was hoping I’d have some amusing anecdotes or stories to share. Nope. Sorry. Life has been pretty normal. Nothing of interest to really report. I had a couple of pangs for alcohol over the weekend, but they soon disappeared.

I have drunk a non-alcoholic beer

I saved a bit of money.. but spent it on new shoes and clothes

I am sleeping better (sort of as it’s too hot to sleep properly)

I lost just over 1lb in weight

My eyes and skin look brighter

I feel alive and have heaps of energy. I’m getting shit done. With a clear head.

10 days sober

We haven’t encountered our first proper social experience sober yet though and I have heard stories about peer pressure from other people in the challenge group. I mean why on earth would you want to be sober? This view that somehow you’re depriving yourself and “missing out” because you’re not drinking. “It’s a bad time of year to give up, what with the football and the nice weather with everyone sat in beer gardens”..erm why do I need to drink to watch football? Is it really going to enhance the game?? And if I want to enjoy the sunshine, I may go walking, running or get my bike out. And if we really fancy some pub culture, we are more than capable of sitting in a beer garden with an alcohol free product to imbibe! But thank you for your support.

I’m currently reading a lot about alcohol and therefore understanding more completely what it does to our bodies and brains. Now I’m worried if people ask why I’m sober it’s going to be a rather preachy answer.. “because …

alcohol is an addictive toxin packaged into attractive bottles, marketed with billions of dollars/(pounds) of advertising and so deeply ingrained in
popular culture that we can no longer see it for what it really is.” Craig Beck
Yeah that. And that’s just the opening statement.
I don’t want to get preachy. But in the same breath, if someone were telling you they were giving up smoking, you wouldn’t try and force them to have a fag.
But drinking isn’t as bad for you as smoking…
Isn’t it?
Remember the days when smoking adverts were full of cool, trendy, hyp people. Then the adverts eventually got banned, then the warnings appeared on the packets, then it got banned in public places…
Not saying alcohol will be banned in public places (god forbid) but I think there’s a reason we are not regularly given all the facts and that it doesnt come with a warning label. Do you know how many people die of alcohol related disease each year?
But it’s so cool to drink…the gin culture, the prosecco ladies, the cool beer/cider ads. The ingrained belief that we need alcohol to have a good time… we’ve all been brainwashed.
And I was too. For 26 years in my own head believing I needed alcohol to be fun, to have a good time, to make me more interesting, to burst the shy bubble.
Except now I am rebelling against the norm and I think [newsflash] that I am possibly more interesting without a drink than with. And the more I read, the less I feel I want to drink again, like ever.
Now I’m starting to feel like I want to be a part of the Sober Evolution. Do you know there are people organising really cool sober events. Parties. Here, in the UK. People reportedly even have fun at them.
So how’s my challenge going? Not how I expected. I realise now my biggest hurdle has nothing to do with dependancy or addiction, it has to do with society. How other people react to my sobriety.
#sorrynotsorry
If you have issue with my abstinence it says a lot more about you than it does me.
So yes, 10 days in and I’m feeling quite preachy, a little defensive but also rock solid and very, very positive.

SOBER EIGHTY (SOBRIETY) CHALLENGE – “JUST THE TONIC”

Could you stay sober for 80 days?

Most people [I know] will answer this question with a “NO”. I mean, why would you want to? Alcohol is part of life, right?

I wonder if it’s to do with the circles I mix in, or that British social culture seems to revolve around alcohol – beer gardens, cocktail bars, clubs and pubs? We are a nation of Sober Shamers and Alcohol Pushers (myself known to be one of them) and I know very few people who don’t drink at all.

Unless you’re pregnant (“you can still have the odd one, surely…?”) or driving… or maybe allergic or something… then why on Earth would you decide to stay sober?

You’re going to have to have a really, really, good reason. 

So, why am I going Sober for 80 days?

I was going to try and hide behind the whole fitness thing – like, I’m in serious training for an off-road marathon and I want to lose weight, so I can run faster, especially up hills. Whilst this is true, and I think that drinking alcohol does not allow me to reach my full fitness potential, and I am training for a marathon (and curious to see if sobriety makes any difference to my performance), this is not the main reason I am doing this.

Then, I thought I could say I want to abstain for a while because of mental health issues – it exacerbates my anxiety and can make me feel a bit down for a few days after a big session. This is all also true, however not the main reason.

OR, maybe I could drop the truth bomb and say that I have started to feel uncomfortable with my dependency on alcohol.

Am I an alcoholic? No.

Do I feel the need to drink more nights of the week than I don’t? Yes.

Do I struggle with moderation? Yes. I am an “all or nothing” girl. I try to be moderate. Sometimes it works, sometimes I’m drunk.

Can I go long spells without alcohol? Only if it’s dry January, everyone else is doing it, no-one goes out anyway and there is no fear of missing out. Fake sober = no problem.

Have I had a recent, horrendous experience with alcohol creating a knee jerk, “I’m never drinking again” reaction? No….

But… over the years there is an accumulation of secret drinking, pre-drinking, binge drinking, drinking left over wine from the night before whilst cooking breakfast (OK, only on very rare occasions, but still..). There is the obsession with how much I’m drinking, or not drinking, if I’m drinking too fast, can I get to the wine first before someone else finishes the bottle. Quick, fill your glass up. Don’t get too drunk tonight.. OOPS *falls over *falls asleep *falls out of love with self ~ drinks more to get through the guilt. Shopping…when can we get to the pub? Sight-seeing.. when can we get to the pub?  Where is all the alcohol at this party? Then, there’s the blackouts, doing stupid things, saying stupid things, falling over, UDI’s, arguments, deep depression, a rocking sadness. Despair. Shame.

These have all made me question my relationship with alcohol.

OK, so most of these things don’t happen on a regular basis and many of them not for a long time now. I would even go so far to say my current alcohol consumption is pretty average, and with some of the people I know, it’s actually way below par.

Just, for some reason, I’m not comfortable with it being “the norm” anymore.

Maybe, I just got sober curious.

Maybe, I just want to fly without being “high”

Maybe, I want to view the world with a little clarity for a while.

Maybe, I feel the need to rebel against the societal norms.Blog pic

Maybe, (a little bit deep this one) I want to rediscover the person I was before I started to hide behind alcohol, but the grown-up version.

At the end of the day there is a bigger question here, which is why do I feel the need to explain myself? Can I not just be sober and that be an OK thing to do?

Will my sobriety offend you? And if so, why?

Food for thought.

So, the challenge starts on Monday 2nd July – DAY ONE, which takes us to 19th September as DAY EIGHTY.

My average weekly consumption when staying in = around 6 bottles cider and 2-3 bottles of wine over the course of Thurs – Sunday.

PER WEEK that’s going to be a saving of;

£30-£40

50 UNITS (that is the part that shocked me the most – strong cider!)

and about 3,500 calories. 

I will be documenting the highs and lows of being SOBERCHIC here on the Brightside blog and will be setting up a private Facebook group – if required – for a bit of moral support, so let me know if you care to join me on my mission to becoming SOBER AF.

#soberisthenewblack #sobriety #soberchic #justthetonic #eightydayathlete #sobereightychallenge

Do you even Yoga?

Recently I have been hearing a lot about yoga and reading a lot about yoga. Yoga is presenting itself in so many new varieties – the combo classes; beer yoga, aqua yoga, acro yoga, wine yoga, dog yoga, power yoga, pizza yoga and of course the trendy classes; aerial yoga, hot yoga..
Do you even Yoga??
I mean – it’s a growing trend – but I’m not one of those to jump on the bandwagon, “just because”.
I wish I could be like the cool kids.. erm.. perhaps not…
I like to do my research and whichever way you look at it (I would say “or do it” but I’m not sure about some of the combos..) the benefits of yoga are second to none.
“Several studies have found that yoga can help improve cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, balance, and overall quality of life — and it can even reduce stress, anxiety, and pain.” Health.harvard.edu
“More and more people and athletes are participating in yoga based therapies to both recover from and prevent injuries.. Yoga opens up the mind, body and spirit. It literally can heal your body.” Cleveryoga.com
OK, as a runner recovering from injury and a long time sufferer of bouts of depression and anxiety (now mostly managed.. but still), dealing with the bereaved on a daily basis and having a sometimes slightly stressful job..
I need to get me some yoga..
But which class? Even in our sleepy, slightly slow to catch on market town there are several yoga classes and, more importantly to me, yoga teachers to choose from.
After a few months of procrastinating and making excuses, I realised for some reason I just didn’t feel comfortable joining any of the classes. So, I downloaded a few instructions and videos on sun salutations, which I practised at home for a few days before I got bored and gave up my dreams of achieving those oh so perfect bendy “insta” yoga poses (love-hate Instagram) and that was that. Then one day I was sports massaging a client from JDW Fitness, Ellie, who I knew was a keen yogi and a little spiritual being (small in stature, big of heart) and she was telling me how she was taking herself off to India for a month to become a bendy guru (yoga teacher). Wow. I mean, what an adventure!
Ellie returned, fully teacher qualified, and immediately set up some classes to share her newfound knowledge and passion for yoga.
Now, call me a bit of a traditionalist but while doing “research” I realised that while contemporary Western yoga tends to focus on yoga as physical exercise – power yoga, hot yoga, aerial yoga – the history of yoga is actually much broader than physical poses alone. I love that it has a rich philosophical and ethical ethos. I understand how beneficial breathing exercises and meditation can be, and without sitting cross legged and chanting (totally puts me off). This is what I want from a yoga class – am I asking a lot? I don’t want to go there comparing myself to flexibilty of others, or compete to see who can get that perfect pose. My research tells me that the fundamental philosophy of yoga encourages us to be non-judgmental and compassionate to others and ourselves. I want to become attuned to my own individual self, self-aware and accepting. I want to learn new stuff and I also want to be Zen.
I also read that some yoga teachers integrate lessons on important principles, such as kindness, truthfulness, and self-discipline into their classes.
So how did I know this is what Ellie would provide in her classes and this was a good one to choose?
I didn’t. Instinct maybe suggested she would be a good fit, but I just got my backside there and gave it a try.
I love Ellie’s Vinyasa flow classes. They are everything that I was hoping for and more. Challenging, inspiring and relaxing.
I’ve only been twice and weird things happen in Yoga that I totally wasn’t prepared for – which is a whole other blog.
Needless to say, I think it’s filled a hole, something that was missing in my life. My journey with yoga may have just begun, but I know without a shadow of a doubt it’s here to stay.
You can check out Ellie’s Vinyasa Flow classes at the Town Hall in Thirsk every Tuesday night at 8pm.

I am not f#$king Eeyore

It isn’t that I don’t like Eeyore.. I just hate the notion that everyone with mental health issues are branded with the same brush. Gloomy, depressed, morbid and a total party pooper to be around. It’s just not [indignantly] me! I am lively, very intelligent and fun. Just sometimes I struggle and feel a little numb.

Anyway, going back to poor old Eeyore, I never realised that Winnie the Pooh is just an expression of loads of different mental health issues. Winnie himself has OCD and ADHD. Piglet has general anxiety disorder. Owl has dyslexia. Tigger has ADHD. Kanga has social anxiety. Rabbit has OCDs and Eeyore is a big fat depressive. What a bunch of misfits!! Wonder how they all ended up hanging around together??

The moral of the Christopher Robin stories? For me…

We are not alone, life is not perfect, but together we are a great team. Life is full of adventures and made for great friendships.

I am quite vocal and have been a bit braver with my social media posts regarding mental health of late. I have had an overwhelming response, both publicly and privately. It seems I know a lot of beautiful people – and I’m not talking the kind who have perfect hair/make up and their eyebrows “on fleek” – although that may apply to some of them…I mean the beautiful on the inside kind of people… The best ones to know.

We are all aware that exercise can help mental health issues, however, when you’re having a tough time, things like getting to a fitness class can create massive anxiety (and become a huge monumental effort), and depression can leave us feeling a little less than motivated.
So – I thought perhaps something a little less extreme – a walk, a social gathering – get a bit of sunlight and some Vitamin D.
So I created an event.

The first weekend of January I hosted our first ever “Walk and Talk” (5k walk in the woods). This is not a counselling session but a social gathering. The aims;
1. Trying to reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues.
2. A chance to blow off some cobwebs, absorb a little Vit D, inhale some fresh country air in them lungs and get moving.

Approximately 40 people turned up despite a few issues getting up the bank due to the icy weather and we had a lovely walk.

Today was the second effort and we had about 25 of the “Suicide Squad” out in the woods – grown ups, children (and on top of that our very well behaved 4 legged friends). It’s not quite as awe inspiring as Mr Jake Tyler (Black Dog Walks) with his 3000 mile run/walk – but every little helps.. we are doing our bit, and for that I’m extremely proud.

Ever been in a car with a claustrophobic, a sufferer of adhd and a depressive? Makes for very interesting conversation 😂
#mentalhealth #itsoktosay #walkandtalk #mind

 

Feeling like a Fat Rocky

The comeback is nigh (as I write this from the comfort of my sofa, in my cozy dressing gown, with a glass of wine).

It’s just so hard!

Injury sucks!

I don’t like to moan or whine, but this is seriously depressing me. My body feels totally broken and it’s past the point of driving me insane. I am on the low ebb of a wave that’s likely to take me directly into the black fog and I am frantically trying to find the answers to turn my metaphorical depressing ship around.

After my random ankle injury, I have now ended up with a *random shoulder injury. Ankle is getting stronger, shoulder is just really, really painful. I can’t currently do any boxing, which I find fantastic therapy (and also teach) and I feel like a fraud for not being able to join in, even to hold the pads.

[*shoulder injury happened sometime through the process of watching my man run 50 miles and/or sleeping in a tent. For details of random ankle injury info please read earlier DNFF blog].

I have a love-hate relationship with running. I love tootling about the countryside. the wind in your face, the elements against you. Hills are tough, but I love that feeling of elation when you get to the top. I love to run for fun. I hate it when I have to compete and then feel like I’m not good enough. I hate it when people I know beat me. And, don’t get me started on Road Running, “How fast can you do a 10k?”, “What are your splits”, “What’s your best half marathon time”…

I don’t know and I don’t care.

Except I do (but that’s another story).

It’s only when I HAVE TO STOP running (enforced stoppage through injury) that I realise how much I love it…. and how much I miss it…. and how much it affects my mental health. I am sad when I can’t run, but I am also sinking, to somewhere I don’t want to be.

I am lucky that things are on the up (sort of). I can manage to run now at least – a little pain in the shoulder, but it’s manageable –

BUT MY GOD IT’S HARD WORK!!

Anyone would think I’ve been out for months not weeks. Where does your fitness go in such a short space of time? How did I ever think I was going to run 50 miles when now I can’t even manage 5!! Who’s that fat Nicky that’s just re-joined running club? – you know the tall, slow, ginger one – she used to be thinner than that, and she used to be a lot faster too.

Now, I’m sure that no-one says any of those things. Or maybe at least not all of them in one sentence.. but that is entirely how I feel. Anxious about what people are thinking of me. Overthinking. So then you tell everyone (including those who don’t want to listen) that you’ve been injured, then injured again – and this is why you might be slow, and why you might be a little less lean than you were before!!

Breathe. Rationalise…

OK, so I’m not fat, just a little out of shape, and who cares how fast I’m running – APART FROM ME?

I’ve done a little research (googling) on how to remain positive during injury. Difficult when you use exercise to boost your endorphins and thus maintaining some homeostasis of mental health. I just wish my movement in the shoulder wasn’t so limited so I could do more other stuff. It’s affecting my whole body and the constant uncomfortable pain is wearing me down. Research is good though, the help is out there…

  1. Google says; I should remember I’m not a one-trick pony.

Nicky says; I’m not currently an any trick pony.

2. Google says; Don’t get stuck in the denial phase.

Nicky says; I tried to run an off-road marathon during the denial phase. Lesson learnt.

3. Google says; Face the facts, you have a new normal. Comparison is the thief of joy.

Nicky says; I will never be normal. What the F is a “new normal”? If this is normal, I want to be abnormal. I want to thieve the joy.

4. Google says; Plot your comeback. Planning and anticipation can be a real happiness booster.

Nicky says; I am Rocky F*@ck£ng Balboa. ONE MORE ROUND.. Just let me finish my wine first, get rid of my shoulder injury, and then we’re good to go.

Larry Winget says; “Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy, or stupid. Those things are what happen when you don’t have a plan.”

Yes, Larry.

5. The PT (other half) and the Physio say; Do the Rehab, be patient, give it time.

Nicky says; It’s about time I was sensible and listened to the professionals.

“All legends start simple”.

6. Google says; Trust the process. It can be a long road to recovery.

Thank you Google.

So, seriously, I am now Fat Rocky on a come-back of epic proportions. I successfully managed a whole 4-miler tonight without too much grief from the injuries. It may be a long road but I have some goals, and it feels good to be getting steadily back in the game.

First up, DT40km route (incompleted, DNF, and bugging me). I may need some friends to drag me round but I am determined to complete it, race or no race!!

Second up, Deerstalker (RatRace, March 2018) – a performance (of sorts) is due in one of these events I do, so I’m making it this one – aiming for the top 25 women. About time I got a tiny bit competitive.

Some day, somewhere in 2018 – my first Ultra – yet to be attempted or completed and I have no idea when or which one. “All I wanna do is go the distance.”

I need focus, determination and strength of spirit, and not just for the events, but for the journey in between. There is a lot of hard work to come. It’s good to have goals (Google said). My bum may be huge but my mind is steely stubborn right now……

““Remember, the mind is your best muscle. Big arms can move rocks, but big words can move mountains.” – Rocky Balboa

Rocky

Thank you Rocky.

Nicky J

FAILED IN THE DALES

“I’m glad you stopped when you did,” the words of my Physio. That’s not “My” Physio (as that makes me sound like some kind of elite runner), but my Physio friend who comes to fix me when I’m sometimes broken.

“You did the right thing,” the words of my Personal Trainer/Strength and Conditioning Coach/better half/fellow competitor/running buddy.

Still, the words get stuck and the letters choke me.

D.

N.

F.

There should be another swearing F. in there too. D.N.F.F.

I know I did the right thing, but that doesn’t help the little empty feeling I get when I think about it, nor the jealousy of John’s medal hanging proudly in the hall. I’m not bitter, but I hate not finishing things. It makes me sad. I feel like a failure.

I set myself 3 major challenges this year; the first was a Half Iron distance triathlon (in France, no less). All complete, no issues. Woohoo! Not the quickest time but I was so chuffed with myself. Dirty, horrible, weedy swim, super bike and baking hot 30-degree run. Challenge No. 1 – ticked off the list.

Amongst the training schedule this year (which didn’t quite go to plan) one of my main aims has been to stay injury free. I figure I can cope with a little lack of training if everything is intact. So, all year I’ve been careful to listen to twinges, work on strength, do some “clever” training. Oh, so clever. Until you fall out the shower. Yes, I fell out the shower. Oh, so clever? I slipped, bashed the inner ankle and probably twisted it a bit at the same time. This was 6 days prior to the Dales Trail Series DT40, challenge No. 2 of the year – the off-road marathon. I swore a lot…

I honestly thought it was going to be OK. The bruising had gone down, no swelling and it felt fine to walk on. A little tender to touch on the bone but I’ve certainly had worse. Got up on race day full of energy and feeling fine – nervous, but fine.

3 amigos in the car

JDW Fitness crew.  The Three Amigos. Pre-race selfie

I was surprised how many familiar faces there were. One happy little set of slammers (those taking part in the Grand Slam series) with a few extras thrown in for good measure. It was a very relaxing start to the race. I took it really easy up the first hill. There seemed to be a lot of walking going on so I didn’t feel out of place joining in. In truth, that is the only part of the race I felt OK. My ankle was uncomfortable even as we got onto the first grassy downhill section towards the stream. It got progressively worse going up the next hill and I knew at that point it was going to be a long 42km. You say all sorts of things to yourself as a runner, “just keep on keeping on, it’s all in your head, stop being a baby, and you can do anything if you put your mind to it”. So I did for a while. Then the pain started. It began under the arch of the foot, then around the ankle, then on the top of the foot. It felt weak and unstable.

It’ll be fine, just keep rolling along.

By about 11km, I knew I was in trouble. The pain had spread to further up the shin and my knee had started creaking and cracking with sharp pains right underneath the knee cap.

Deep breaths, it’ll be OK, relatively flat section (interspersed with stupid rocky bits) coming up.

I caught up with, and started running with, a lovely lady who I chatted to as we trundled along for a while, which took my mind off things for a bit. A rocky section downhill caused me to slip a little and seemed to jar something in my leg.

Never mind, just keep moving along, one foot in front of the other. It’ll be right.

We got onto flat ground again and out of nowhere, the pain in my thigh.  Like a dead leg. Jesus. The whole of my left side from the bottom to the top, stiff, painful and almost impossible to run on, but still I tried (and tried again). Passed the marshals and Mountain Rescue at around 16km and stupidly felt obliged to put in some effort – some of these people know who I am – so big smiles from me. I am perfectly fine. Going a little slow but perfectly fine….walk, run, walk, walk, walk.. more walking than running and a little limping now too.

Got to the water stop at 19km, Rocky Road solves everything. Bit of sugar and I’ll be fine. Then I start wondering if I’m going to make cut offs. Is there even anyone behind me now? I must be last, never mind, just keep going.

Onto the road and into the village and I was struggling to take any running steps at all. Sh*t.

And then it happened. Three lovely lady marshals I happened to have been chatting with at the start (sorry if you read this as I don’t know all your names) drove up behind me in the car – on their way back to base as they had finished their duties – they slowed down and wound the window down, “are you OK?”

Don’t cry, don’t cry. I shook my head, “it’s my ankle”. I managed to choke the words out.

“I’ll pull over. We can strap it up!”

Great idea… can you do my whole leg?

After some subsequent comical moments, the details of which I dare not divulge, involving the poor Good Samaritan’s car, a wall and the car having to be rescued by Mountain Rescue, I admitted defeat, threw in the towel and got a good humoured lift back to base camp.

Hardest part was trying to tell the organisers I was a DNF without crying. Everyone was lovely and the atmosphere at the finish with the marshals, spectators and competitors was great. I got warm, got refuelled (I had just run a Half Marathon nearly) and waited for John and Jase to return.

It was so hard to watch everyone getting their medals for completing all 3 races… as all the doubts started popping into my head. I don’t feel so bad now; maybe I could’ve carried on. Perhaps I should’ve limped round and earned my medal? I was sat with a big lump in my throat for a while. Then I gave myself a shake and stopped wallowing in my own self-pity. Massive achievement for all who completed and I am super proud of John, and our good friend Jase (his first ever marathon).

Three Amigos at the end

Fantastic work from John & Jase

It just means I’ll have to go back next year and do them all again. Entries for next year open soon!!

2nd Challenge of the year – Dales Trail Series Grand Slam – 20km & 30km complete,

40km – D.N.F.F!!!

 

3rd Challenge of the year is now unfortunately a DNS. I have sought medical advice, and am not in a fit state to take on a 50 mile Ultra just yet (as its next weekend). That one will have to wait until next year too. I have been relegated to Cheerleader instead!

If I look after myself and follow My Physios advice, I could be up and running in 3-4 weeks. This is not so much of a disaster as it could’ve been. All is not lost. Head up, shoulders back, deep breath, and begin again.

3 amigos in the pub

Post race recovery drink

 

 

COURAGE

FINALEMENT – PART 3 – THE RUN (LA COURSE), CASTLE SERIES, THE GAUNTLET, HALF IRON

I love the way the French say “Courage”. It holds so much passion and meaning. I heard it a few times on the bike, and then on the run, loads… more than enough to bring a tear to your eye (several times when you’re an emotional dimwit like me). So what does it mean? Courage in the English sense of the word, yes, but a little more than that too.

“Bon courage” is a fairly general well-wishing expression. It can be used in many contexts where the person being spoken to is about to perform a difficult action.

There is no exact English equivalent. Often, but not always, “good luck” can be used in similar situations. The expression “bonne chance” also exists in French, but far more than in English, it carries the connotation that the person will succeed or fail due to purely external factors. In contrast, “bon courage” implies that success will be due to the person’s strength. “Bon courage” also implies some ordeal, some difficulty (though it can be the difficulty of day-to-day life). If there is a genuine ordeal in the person’s path then “bon courage” applies. [I looked it up on Google – strange, but it has absolutely no mention of how such a simple word can lift your spirits so high].TRANSITION.jpg

So, as I get off the bike and Withinshaw is cheering me on and taking photos, I am trying to smile but I realise instantly that the warm sunshine on my little cycle ride has developed into a blazing, suffocating heat. I’m not being dramatic (honestly), but it’s chuffing roasting. Chantilly is having it’s own little heat wave just as I’m about to embark on my half marathon. Lovely. Thankfully I remembered my running sun hat, I would’ve been lost without it. I hate it when you’ve got a sweaty, salty face and it all gets in your eyes – I can’t run with sunglasses on, they get steamed up and annoy me too much. So, pretty well hydrated, hat on, I set out on the run course. It’s a lovely little route – 2 loops for the Gauntlet – which takes you through the forest on the grounds, then through the triathlon car park?? (not so pretty but full of support from people in the shorter distances who’d already completed), past the racecourse, around a field, through an avenue of trees, past the most beautiful stable buildings, across the cobbles and back round into the stunning (and, thankfully, mostly sheltered) wooded grounds of the Chateau. Repeat.

The legs start cramping as soon as I set off but I know John is watching so I better smile and plod along at least until I get out of sight amongst the trees. “Steady away wins the day Jenkins.” 2km in and all of a sudden I am desperate for a wee. Bugger. Well at least we are in a forest, sort of. Only it’s not a very thick forest – mmmm. Find a tree, find a tree. I dash off into the undergrowth, as covered and out of sight as I can possibly be. There’s no-one around.. It’s the tiniest wee in the world! Feel better though. There was no-one around….Sure as damn it a poor bloke gets a good eyeful of my naked white ass as he comes around the corner of the trail and I’m mid shorts pull-up. Never mind. He’s probably French.

I trundle along. Thankful of the water at 4km and shouts of “Allez, allez, allez” and “Bravo” and “Courage”. People are so god damn supportive, especially the women. It was like I was some kind of heroine on a mission. Electrolytes and water at 8km and back into the Chateau grounds where, at around 10km, I find my lovely boyfriend waiting for me again. He runs alongside, in his denim shorts and bare chest with his little backpack on. We chat a bit and I’m surprised I’m not even out of breath. It’s been a steady hour or so and I am starting to melt in the heat. It’s so energy sapping. John makes some comments about how well I’m doing and how warm it is but I really couldn’t tell you what actual words passed our lips. He leads me through, still shuffling along with me, and shows me where I am supposed to be going to start the second lap. I pass a lady spectator who is waiting near the finish – she gives me some massive claps and a nod of appreciation for my task ahead and says some really nice things to me in French which make me well up a little. So emotional. The spectators are plentiful and there is huge support. John, still by my side, whispers some more sweet nothings of encouragement to me before the heat gets too much for him and he has to stop running 😉  and once again I am alone. I head up the one and only hill on the route but my little legs won’t carry me and I have to walk. I get to the top and am a bit confused as to which way I’m supposed to go. A marshal shouts me over and I have to run around, through transition and around again. It seems like a real pain in the backside, but the support from people in the transition area is second to none. They see the white number bib (indicating I am hardcore) and I get a little bit of a cheer. “Courage”.

The second lap is quite simply a blur. This was the most difficult but also the easiest part of the race – all rolled into one. I have battled the demons and I know I am going to make it to the finish, but I am fading fast in the heat and my legs are severely cramping. I drink as much water as I can stomach at the feed stations, start necking the gels, stand in the “douche” (man with cold water hosepipe) for as long as I can take it, chat to fellow competitors (who are also still trundling along), make French jokes as we pass the ice-cream van (which are so much posher in Chantilly). I run, I walk. Run. Walk. A fellow French gauntlet competitor tells me to keep going as he stops for a drink. You keep going too Monsieur, we’re not done yet. The sweeping support crew catch me up in the van at around 16k (only 5 left to go!!) – they are doing the rounds to make sure no-one is dying/collapsing in the heat. Thankfully I am running at this stage. I hear a laugh behind me and a very English, Southern, “This is what you get for spending all day drinking in the boozer”, as one of them is hanging out of the window of the van. [Strange coincidence, but we had actually met them in a bar the afternoon before *not all day drinking before my Half Iron]. Funny man. “Give us a lift then?” I squeak back. Equally as funny. After all the hilarities and seriously witty repartee, they asked a few questions to check up on me properly, I think to make sure I was still coherent (I’m OK. Struggling along, but OK. Legs have gone, but I’ll be right) and then they move on to the tall French man shuffling along a way in front of me.

As I enter the Chateau grounds for the second time, and the marshal on the gates (recognising me from round one) starts telling me in French that all good things come to those who work their backsides off (I think), I start feeling powerfully moved. Tearful and emotional. The French language is so beautiful. I have about 2km to go and I am a wreck. It’s all bubbling over and I have to have a word with myself. Not now Jenkins, you got this, don’t ruin it all by becoming a blubbering mess. I walk, and take some deep breaths, I spy people and I can hear the noise from the Chateau, Run it in Jenkins, run it in. Keep on keeping on. A passerby tells me (in French – there’s so many of them foreigners out there) that I “just” have a really short way to go and it’s “just”around the corner. He claps. “Courage”.

I know where I have to go, I know it’s not far, but it feels like miles away, and then I hear a cheer in the distance as the crowd goes a little wild for the tall shuffling French man ahead. Hold it together Jenkins, deep breaths. I come round the corner, sun blazing, Chateau in full view. There he is again, my man, waiting for me still, my support crew “extraordinaire”. He is full of awe, super proud and buzzing!! He runs alongside me again, up towards the Chateau, telling me lots of nice things which I can’t now remember. The crowd are mostly competitors who have already completed and are sat in the shade amongst the trees. “Courage, Bravo, Courage”, lots of cheering and clapping. I am trying not to cry as I pass, “merci, merci, merci”. And then John leaves me to do the last little lap around the fountain on my own. I spy the same spectator lady from earlier – she is still there and has this really proud look on her face! “Felicitations”, “Bravo”, “Courage”…more clapping..(I’m sure my Mum sent her) and over the finish line.

And that’s it. I’m there. I have a medal. I AM DONE. Officially Half Iron Chick.

A ridiculous 2h and 29 mins to do a half marathon.. But I DON’T CARE.

7 hours and 14 seconds in total. And what a roller coaster ride to get there.

It’s a benchmark 😉

Officially Half Iron Lady

ALLEZ, ALLEZ, ALLEZ, BRAVO, THE CHANTILLY CYCLE

PART DEUX – THE CYCLE (LE CYCLE)

So there I am, feeling all proud of myself for accomplishing the awful swim, pretty relaxed, am owner of beautiful orange bike. I have remembered all my belongings required from transition to the cycle. I have eaten.

I am awesome endurance triathlete. Bravo.

Push my little beauty under the last inflatable gateway on the way OUT, past the “Mount” marking, leg over, confident cyclist will soon be on her way… Once she has attached her shoe on the clip. Mmmmmm. Nope. Shoe does not want to attach to clip. Remain calm. There are only a “few” people watching and they’re mostly foreign. [Stupid English woman]. Pedal goes round, try again. Nope not happening. OK, I’ll just go, we’ll worry about attachment of the feet to the pedals at a later stage. About to set off, quick look behind and a guy comes careering behind me, tries to go in the narrow gap around me (I’m at the side of the path out of the way), wobbling all over the place, ends up riding straight towards the little chains at 6″ high between some miniscule wooden posts. Stay on, stay on.. He’s off, he’s back on, he looks seriously embarrassed. He’s on, he’s OK, he goes, cycling furiously along the bumpy, dirt track as fast as he can. A wry smile to myself (I am not the only unsteady imbecile) and the foot is clipped in. Hallelujah!! I set off, steady pedalling, hit a bump in the track, ouch – my arse!!, and then that awful noise as you start to turn the pedals and there is nothing happening… Bollocks… the bloody chain has come off. ‘Thankfully’, I still have free foot, so pull over, steadily plant the spare leg, and lean down to (calmly) put the chain back on. OK. The bike still works (malheureusement), so on we go.

I was really not sure what to expect from the French roads.  I had been a little reassured when I actually got round to reading the competitor information (2 days before travelling) and realised that contrary to my anxious beliefs, the bike route was actually in a clockwise direction – cycle on the right-hand side, always turning right – ah, that would make sense [Stupid English woman] – Click here for cycle route.

Still a little hesitant, we get onto the main roads off the dirt track and I a hit a nice gear to get the legs turning. Not long before we encounter the first junction and I start to slow down. “Allez, allez, allez“. [Come on! Lets go! Chop Chop! Nice Work!] The marshals have these little round reversible red/green hand-held signs (think table tennis bat) and they are stopping all the traffic. Cool. After the next couple of junctions and a roundabout I realise that this is a supremely well organised part of the event. The gendarmerie are out in force, there are marshals everywhere (even at the tiniest of side junctions), and we have right of passage – ALL THE TIME. This is awesome!! I settle into the bike, hydrate, the clouds are clearing and it won’t be long before the sun pops its head out and starts to dry everything out, including me. Gauntlet cycle

The roads are quite wet in places, “doucement, doucement” at the sharp corners and the only “downhill” (there are no real hills in this part of France), along with lots of sign language to indicate the dampening of speed – softly, slowly. There is vast open road, fields for miles, quaint little French houses in the distance. I try to concentrate and occupy myself by working out my speed. Averaging 10mins per 5km, just keep the legs rolling. It’s a flat route, and unlike my pre-race catastrophic visions, it’s hardly bustling with cyclists like the Tour De France. I switch off and daydream for a while (typical Jenkins). I am reliving some emotional moments that have been a big part of my long journey to Half Iron and I get a little lump in the throat, and a tear in my eye. I decide, that as we’re now friends, I need to give my bike a name. I call her “Maya”, after Maya Angelou, one of my favourite authors (love the poem, Still I Rise – click here for beautiful, inspirational written art). I feel a tad emotional. We are growing together, learning to love one another… And then the strangest thing happens. I spy another cyclist ahead. I am catching this cyclist, approaching fast. I am going to have to overtake!!! How exciting!!. I check behind, I pull over a little and I go past. Pretty speedy there Jenkins. Another lump forms in my throat and I have a little tear. A nod to the gods. The Universe is pretty awesome at times.

Whenever I have done triathlons in the past I’ve always been pretty quick out the water, especially at Sprint distance. However, I then normally get passed by every other triathlete on the cycle – because I’ve always been a little slow. This was like the other way round – and it was a man too!! OK – so it was just the one….

Feeling a little chuffed, it isn’t long before I find some more Gauntlet competitors to overtake and I’m loving it! Me? – loving the cycling, and overtaking people and stuff!? Awesome.

The Olympic distance triathletes start to come flying past, you can hear the beautiful whirring of the expensive bikes a while before they’re about to overtake. I’m OK with that (being overtaken by professional athletes) as they only have half the distance to go too, slackers 😉 . There are quite a few GB Tri suits come whizzing by and I’m unsure if it’s common practice to shout encouragement or not and/or if I will just scare them by doing so. I decide to remain quiet.

First 45km lap goes pretty quick – just one more of those then Jenkins. Negotiating the first stages of the loop a little better second time around, I am feeling pretty good about my bike. Then I hit a real straight long bit of road and I realise I still have a long way to go. I start talking to myself.. eat a little, drink a little, check my speed. I start to pass some of the slower Olympic distance triathletes who seemed to be struggling – a mountain bike or two out on the course. Sing a little. Drink a bit more. The sun is now kicking out some heat and I am squinting. I remember my sunglasses from my back pocket and as I shift in my seat to retrieve them, I realise my bottom has become a little numb. I can live with a little (big, wide) numb bottom though, as this is the longest/furthest I’ve cycled since I did Pedal for Parkinsons (when I was in excruciating pain from about 30miles on). Got myself a proper bike fit from Paul Smith at Cyclometrics a week before the event – and not a twinge the whole way round the 90km (the man is a legend, and what he doesn’t know about cycling Bio-mechanics is not worth knowing).

The mental game kicks in…. 30km sign again (means I’ve done 75km), Just 15km to go…. 10km… 5km… bring me home Maya. “Allez, allez, allez, Bravo.” We turn back onto the bumpy, dirt track and I have to slow right down as my arse is in agony bouncing around. It seems to go on forever but eventually I spy the dismount ahead. I casually drop my left foot out the clip ( I just did that without any fuss AT ALL) and stop a little way before the line. Withinshaw is waiting there with a big grin on his face, shouting lots of nice things at me. I try to run the bike into transition but it takes a while to straighten up and get the legs working. Shuffling.

90km = 3hrs 27 minutes on the bike. Must be a PB…

Phase 2, successfully complete. Feeling awesome.