Day 14 sober – Sunday stress

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a tough weekend as far as sobriety is concerned. I feel like I’ve hardly slept and my fuzzy head is reminiscent of a hangover. This is not how it’s supposed to be! Foggy, anxious and tired. Bleurgh. I’m supposed to feel fresh and clean and full of energy!

The other half has been away since yesterday morning. I have avoided all invites (and all intincts) to party in his absence. I know he has been partying hard, however, and somehow this has taken me very close to pressing on that ‘fuck it’ button. I could drink alone, no-one would know…although hardly anyone knows I’m sober, so who cares except me?

I decided to make a beef stew and was contemplating buying red wine to cook with, and wondering if I could resist the urge to drink the rest. The shopping list started with ‘red wine’ and then promptly got changed to ‘red wine stock pots’. Stay strong. Breathe deep. I purchased pretend alcoholic beverages on my shopping trip in case the urge got too great over the course of the evening but they are still sat in the fridge.

Alcohol would normally fill the gap when the other half isn’t here. I don’t sleep well when I’m alone, hence the reason I feel so crap today. But, if I had succumbed to the drinking I’d likely feel a hel of a lot worse today. In ‘normal’ circumstances, I probably would’ve started drinking Saturday afternoon to fill the void, probably by myself, and probably more than a few glasses of wine.

I went to see my sister in York yesterday. I contemplated getting a drink for on the outbound train (1.30pm). My sister is pregnant so not drinking. I contemplated getting a drink at the train station before returning home, contemplated going to the pub with friends when I got back, contemplated buying tonic or lemonade to mix with the half opened bottle of vodka that sits in the wine rack and looks lonely. I woke up this morning contemplating a drink, contemplating going to the pub later, buying Guiness as it’s St Paddys day. I contemplated popping to the off licence for some bottles of strong cider, starting the day wrong. It’s only just 10am.

I think about alcohol a lot and it feels like a lot of effort to stay sober when I’m so tired. Kind of an oxymoron I know.

So, I am taking myself back to bed instead. I will meditate but I shall let myself drift off  if it happens that way. Hopefully I will have some thing else to think about when I wake instead of alcohol!!!

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Time to fly without being high

Day 1 of sobriety – again.

I had a few drinks yesterday to clear the fridge, get rid of the booze and dull the hangover. I am therefore not waking on Day 1 with quite as clear a head as I would wish. I could’ve poured the drink away, or donated it to someone – but I opted to spend my Sunday afternoon slightly pissed watching films and hardly moving from the sofa.

I have recently been longing for that smug sober Sunday feeling, waking with a fresh head and a clear mind. I am looking forward to all those feelings that come with being sober. Will I find it hard to ditch the booze this time around? I don’t know. I’m kind of looking forward to being free of it at the moment.

I’ve started reading over all my blogs I wrote during the Sober Eighty challenge last year which is quite interesting. I am excited as to what the next 3 months have to bring.

Day 1 of 112.

 

Going out with a bang

We’ve decided to give up alcohol again (that’s me and the other half). Last year we challenged ourselves to give up alcohol for 80 days and I felt absolutely bloody amazing. The clarity and feeling of smug, cleanliness that comes with sobriety was eye opening. I lost a bit of weight, felt extremely productive, my skin was great – I felt (and looked) fresh and bright. I was rich (had spare money) for a while. I loved the 80 days so much that I almost committed myself to a life of sobriety… but, for whatever reason, I didn’t. I think I just wanted to be like everyone else for a while again. Fear of Missing Out. It took a while for alcohol to creep back into our lives but after some festive bingeing and seemingly lots of social events, it’s well and truly found it’s way back. Too many bad habits have returned and it’s slowly but surely impacting our lives, and not in a good way. There is a lethargy that comes with drinking, even just a small amount, and it’s not something we can afford or have room for in our lives. Also, we’re training really hard and alcohol totally affects the recovery process. It’s not wise to head to the pub after every run as a ‘reward’.

Needless to say, we don’t like to do things by halves and last night we had our last binge for a while, which included a very expensive bottle of champagne. What an oxymoron! Let’s celebrate our decision to be sober with a bottle of fizz!

I am writing this with a horrendous hangover. I feel sick, have a fuzzy head and have some vague recollection of talking complete shit to random strangers. I haven’t slept very well but the anxiety is too ferocious to be able to sleep the hangover away. It seems like a good point to be giving the booze up. I’m not sure if it’s for good this time or not but the other half has a 100 miler (run) in June – that’s 112 days away. So, for now, that’s my target. 112 days of sober. Doesn’t have quite the same ring as the Sober Eighty challenge but I’m viewing this as more of a lifestyle choice than a challenge.

Wish me luck.

The book isn’t going to write itself

I’m 42 years old this year and I haven’t got a bloody clue what I want to do with my life. I mean – I thought I might’ve found my life’s purpose by now. One thing I am sure of, is I hate my current job and I have no idea how to get out. I feel trapped. Sure it pays the bills, but if it were a competition between the job and watching snails race… or paint dry…or any other of those synonyms that explain how excruciatingly bored I am at work… How do you start a new career at 41 if you don’t even know what you want that career to be?

I have tried many ways to work this out. I have delved deep into my soul. What makes me happy? What am I good at? What can I do with my one wild and precious life? This soul searching resulted in a massive heart to heart with my partner last night, who cuddled me as the tears fell and the frustration came pouring out. He asked of me the same questions I have been asking myself. I do not know the answers. Yet.

As we followed my ideals and dreams, we ended up taking a journey to live in the Lakes (for the outdoors and running and hills) with a hippy shop selling crystals and beautiful jewellery and books. There was a room for holistic treatments and also a big space at the back (with a wooden floor) for Yoga, meditation, art classes, creative writing workshops, etc. He said dream big. I don’t think he was expecting that I have got to 41 and my big life’s dream is to be a hippy.

I think I have been waiting for some divine inspiration, something to fall out of the sky so I can say, “yes, that’s me, – I want to do THAT”. I am happiest when my brain is active – or the opposite – when I can lose myself in the creativity. I love writing, but have been suffering huge writers block from the moment I decided I wanted to write. I love painting and drawing – and yet I have not picked up a pencil or a paint brush in years. These are things I need to remedy, not least as they are the things that make me most happy.

I have realised that I cannot wait for the magic opportunity to land on my doorstep. Hoping and dreaming is not enough. I need to take the time to create the life I want to lead. I need to take steps to start. After all, the book ain’t going to write itself.

 

NAILED IT!! – SOBER EIGHTY (SOBRIETY) CHALLENGE – “JUST THE TONIC” – Complete

Could you stay sober for 80 days???

3 months ago on a holiday in Northumberland, after a few weeks of contemplation and some serious insight into what alcohol was doing to me, I came up with the idea of going sober for 80 days.

When I say “what alcohol was doing to me”, there was no major situation, no collapsing in a heap, no mad night out with an alcohol induced coma, no waking up with a million regrets.. it just hit me steady – like, my casual weekend drinking is making me feel like shit about myself and doing bad things to my body and I am relying on alcohol for far too many things.

Today marks the end of that challenge and I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned and also the changes that have occurred. It’s pretty weird to sit the other side of the fence after spending years and years with an alcoholic beverage in hand.

So here we go;

1. Alcohol is ethanol. Ethanol is poison. Alcohol is therefore a toxic, poisonous substance. Like really, not being dramatic with words, this is actual scientific truth. Actual poison. Worse than that, we drink poison to have a ‘good time’. This irony is totally mind blowing to me.

2. Alcohol is the only drug you have to justify not taking, and the only drug people will try to persuade you to continue to take. No-one would dispute it if you said you were giving up cigarettes, cocaine or heroin.

3. Alcohol is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Truth bomb.

4. If you go Sober people automatically suspect you may be an alcoholic. Grey area for me. I’ve never been physically dependent, but pyschologically?? – for sure. It’s just a sliding scale from tee total downwards and where you sit on that scale is most often not where you’d like to be. No-one wants to admit they have a problem though.

5. Most people who drink alcohol are dependent on it to some degree. And if you think you’re not, you are probably kidding yourself. See point no.4.

6. Alcohol is that cleverly packaged and marketed and such an intrinsic part of society that we have all been brainwashed to believe;
a. It is necessary to have a good time – life must be so boring sober.. right?
b. It is a reward, hard earned and deserved (who treats themselves with poison? – “mummy needs wine”)

7. We are therefore all sheeples – everyone else does it so it must be ok. I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by people who drink – a lot. I think there is an underlying reason for that.

8. In becoming sober I have found clarity of thought, I have managed to stick to a fitness program. I have more energy, more motivation and I have found my waistline again. My eyes are brighter, my skin is smoother and I genuinely feel a lot happier. I eat better and I could win competitions for sleeping.

9. There is a sober movement out there which I never knew existed. Sober parties and festivals. People enjoying themselves without drink. It is an evolution that is finding a voice, collecting supporters, and steadily growing.

10. I have missed so many things throughout life by being too pissed to be present, too wasted to appreciate the moments. I have spent lots of money, and hidden myself behind alcohol. Days wasted hungover. This makes me sad.

I have gained so much from being sober and lost nothing, apart from that which is better to lose.

So, challenge complete and I am super proud of what I’ve achieved (along with my partner in crime who’s had his own tests over the last 80 days and been awesome support).

What happens now there are no self imposed restrictions? Are we drinkers or are we non-drinkers?

For now, I’m not quite ready to give up on all I’ve attained, not willing to return to old habits. I have life goals, fitness targets, focus – and alcohol will not help me achieve any of these.

It has been a life changing experience.

Could you stay sober for 80 days???

Well done to all the others who joined in our challenge too!! 20180919_081450hangover-photo

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.

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.

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