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

 

 

Who left the taps running?

So, I guess it’s that’s age-old story of opening the flood gates.

I’m such a cliché –  Once you start you can’t stop? Just like a tube of Pringle’s.

I have so much buzzing around in my head – now I have an outlet – I just don’t know where to start! I’m now the epitome of the creative type; sat with lap top and glass of wine until the early hours of the morning (because that’s what all creative types do). The desire to let out what’s in is greater than the desire to sleep, which is a little unfortunate seeing as I have a full day at work tomorrow and a 32km race (very hilly off-road) on Saturday for which I should be getting plenty of rest. But fuck it.

It’s really hard to know where to begin; with the tale. I have a story. I’m just not yet sure how much I am prepared to, or can literally, share. I struggle to talk about my issues with mental health. Not because I am embarrassed or ashamed, but quite simply because I sometimes struggle to find the words. You will only ever understand the fog, the black dog, the panic, the worry, the struggle, if you’ve ever experienced it. And I’m sure not everyone’s experiences are the same – so how can I describe mine? I don’t know how to explain how I was feeling, or how I still sometimes feel. Write it. How?

I am OK.

I am – on some days – bloody brilliant. But I can be Wonder Woman and a little ball of tired, scared fluff – all at the same time. I am low, stressed and anxious, then the strongest person on the planet. Fierce. Then back to the broken girl of old……

Bent not broken. I’m not broken.

I am bold. I am brave. I am brilliant.

I am weak. I am wobbly. I am wandering.

But I am better. 

I have to be careful how I approach this exercise. I truly want to share my journey with my depression, and then, in the later years, the anxiety. I want to share the battle that has been fought, but never won. I want to help other people understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But, in doing all of this, I have to be careful I don’t just leave the taps on.

I went for some counselling – about 6 sessions I think – a good few years ago now. She was bloody amazing and I won’t be lying if I say she saved my life. In lots of ways. It was life changing. In amongst all of the tears and the talking, there were 2 very important messages (the other one I’ll get to at a later date).

When you shut out the darkness, you also shut out the light.

The self-preservation numbness has to be gently erased in order for the light to shine back into your life. Bit corny? True though. And if you turn the taps on full blast – what happens? You get soaked with emotion, overwhelmed and unable to cope. I am comfortable with being vulnerable, but it’s not time to leave the taps on just yet.

Eek it out, a little at a time. Gently open the tap, and then close it for a wee while. Then perhaps, the next time, open it a little more. It’s a gradual process.

And so it shall be.

 

 

Keep on keeping on

So, in lieu of my reticent efforts to write a BRAND NEW blog (why is this so hard all of a sudden – blank page and I just don’t know where to start??), here is a little tale I wrote a couple of years ago about our one day journey in Scotland down the beautiful Great Glen. Posted on our JDW Fitness website (www.jdw-fitness.co.uk) so I am regurgitating old material – but it seems a good place to start. I think the challenges I present myself are my therapy. Simple as that. In fact, I know they are what keep me [marginally] sane. Started with a little running race, a sprint triathlon, and before you know it…..

“Last weekend I took on the most difficult and demanding race I’ve ever done. The Rat Race Coast to Coast is a gruelling event; 100 miles down The Great Glen in one day (#Expert) – running, cycling and kayaking. But I am a firm believer that you get out of these events whatever you put in; a bit like life really.

I went as prepared as I possibly could be, but never having done an event of this magnitude, it is impossible to imagine what you are about to put your body (and mind) through. I had messed about with nutrition quite a bit in training sessions, especially after having issues with hydration on some of the longer runs (I sweat a lot and therefore lose a lot of salt).  When doing these kinds of events it’s important to understand what your body needs – and that’s YOUR body. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another.  Prior to the event I had received some sound advice from a couple of old experienced mountain goats I know. Eat real food and eat food that you like. If you rely solely on gels and sugar over that length of time (we were 12.5 hours on the go in total) your stomach can end up in bits. So in the back pack went Salt & Vinegar Pringles, party sausages, Babybels, mini pork pies, sausage rolls and peanut butter and jam bread rolls (bread rolls are easier to consume than sliced bread as they take less chewing – another awesome suggestion). Not quite the healthy stuff we would normally have – but importantly full of salt and easy to eat! It’s a 10,000 calorie day (as in what you burn – not what we ate) and the energy from the carbs is well needed. We also took flapjack, Haribo, Torq gels (these are amazing, the best we’ve found yet), Shot Bloks and Chia Charge bars for the moments when we needed a sugar hit (and believe me you do). Most important rule of thumb – don’t try anything new on race day.

I was also as mentally prepped as I could be – aware of the enormity of the task ahead – but nervous too that I wasn’t capable of completing it.

I won’t go into too much detail about the route – but it’s stunning, breath taking and incredibly tough. The terrain lends itself so well to such an enormous challenge – I’ve never been up and down so many hills in all my life – got to love the Scottish Highlands!!

RRC2C-WHW-300x200

The day was amazing, totally unreal. It was full of comical moments – such as when John pointed out that I was using my paddles the wrong way round on the kayak (hence why we started a little slow and I ended up covered in water – who knew they had two sides?) and also me falling off my bike into a bush (in slow motion fashion – feet still clipped onto the pedals) whilst coming down some of the more technical off-road descent. Thankfully no-one else witnessed this event. #novice

KAYAK-RRC2C-300x200

There were also some rather painful moments – issues with my piriformis on the bike – which led to horrible muscle spasms right down into my glutes and hamstrings and made the up-hills much more uncomfortable than they should’ve been.  Thankfully John has the all the right knowledge and a good 10min stretch was giving me about 2 hours relief at a time. The downside of this was that we had to have a few lengthy stops on the way, and the more we stopped, the more we were eating into time. There was a cut off time at Fort William that we had to reach – get there late and they won’t let you over the West Highland Way for the final 14 mile run. Neither of us was sure we’d make it but we just “kept on keeping on” (more sound advice and our motto for the day). We rocked up with 10 minutes to spare so it was a very dramatic and speedy change over. Cycle shoes to fell shoes, shoved a sausage roll in the mouth, dumped the bikes, filled up the drinks bottles, and we were off!

BIKE-RRC2C-300x200

Well sort of… If you’ve ever seen anyone who’s cycled a distance (80 miles in this case) and then tried to run, you will understand the amusement. It’s not so much a run but an awkward shuffle and you feel like you’re running through treacle for some time until your legs get moving properly again.

But at this point in time, it didn’t matter, because I knew that whatever happened, we had done it. There was no way we were not making it to the other side – in whatever fashion – we were going to get to the finish line – and finally I could relax a little and start to fully enjoy it.

We were only running/shuffling/shambling for a short while as we soon met our first large ascent. Our rules for the West Highland Way – walk the up-hills and run the down-hills and the flat bits. So as we started to march up the very big hill, my legs began to loosen off and we started passing people who were walking a lot slower than us. Some looked like they were prepared for a weeks’ camping expedition! The weather had come in with crazy wind and rain, but there’s something about Mother Nature at its worst like that – can really make you feel wild and truly alive, if you appreciate it for what it is. After a steep climb and passing a lonely looking marshal, we hit a lovely sweeping downhill trail section where we got some real pace going and then something odd happened. I don’t know if it was the sugar from the Haribo I consumed on the way up or the Torq gel, but I was absolutely buzzing. I guess this is where doing the event as a pair really has its bonuses. John had managed to keep me upbeat all the way round when I was in pain and struggling, and now it was my turn.

Anyone who knows John thinks he is a running/endurance machine (personal trainer with a difference), just to clarify; he is human.  He works really hard to be in the shape he’s in, wasn’t born that way and he deserves an enormous amount of credit for completing such an event in the style that he did. In fact there is decidedly more pressure the more accomplished you get at these things. Also worth noting, which may offer some comfort and reassurance, is that even the best are the same as the rest of us. Meaning? – It is impossible not to have some kind of mind fart at some point during an event of this enormity. We all have our own little mental wobbles; it’s just how you deal with them that makes the difference.

As we got a bit further along the West Highland Way (still passing plenty of people as we were running and they were walking) we started to hit some really rocky, slippy and rather tricky terrain. A couple of wrong footings created some issues in John’s knee, and I could see he was struggling. However, at this point I think my upbeat demeanour was slightly infectious and with a little wincing but sheer determination on John’s part, we ploughed on in good form, finally finishing, but finishing strong and with HUGE, big grins on our faces. That elation of crossing that finish line is second to none.

FINISH-RRC2C-300x200

You learn a lot about yourself from taking part in an event like this. I love the buzz you get after doing an obstacle race, but this is different. It’s much longer lasting and potentially life changing, psychologically that is. John promised me pre-race that I would surprise myself but I was mostly worried that I would disappoint. There were definitely times throughout where I felt that I had taken on far too big a challenge and I also wondered what the hell I was doing there. Expert? I’m no Expert! But in reality, I had no idea I could be so tough and strong or that I could put my body through all of that (with no aches and pains the next day surprisingly enough). I learned that I’m determined, stubborn and strong willed and also capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for (and usually with a smile on my face too). I also learned that I’m shit at the off road cycling (especially the technical stuff), Scottish midges bite really well and kayak paddles have a right way and a wrong way round. Every day’s a school day.

For those mad few of you who have an interest in taking part in this event, I would highly recommend it. The route is well sign posted and marked, the marshals were all absolutely fantastic and Rat Race had great contingency plans in place for the inclement weather.  You can even do it over 2 days if you like (though where is the challenge in that?).

Out of 170 competitors on the one day challenge (#Experts) there were a mere 25 females, only 17 of those women finished, of which I was number 10. Plenty of room for improvement still – and we will be back again some time, raring to go – armed with the knowledge, a little more practice at the off-road bike stuff and lots of party snacks in our back packs again, down the 100 miles of the beautiful Great Glen, we’ll be there, just keeping on keeping on.”