Monday, 28 August 2017

You can't win 'em all

Four years ago when I first started doing parkrun I got a PB every week.
Sometimes I scraped a few seconds, sometimes minutes.
Every week I got better and better.

And then, of course, it stopped.

It took 14 weeks for me to get another.
And, of course, it sucked. After weeks of progressively working hard and getting better and better, it's a bitter pill to swallow when you finally plateau.

It was the same with my 10K times. Once I hit under an hour, my goal for the first two years I was running, the PBs came and then went.

And now it's happening with the half marathon too.

I have a race in 7 weeks, my fifth half marathon.
A year ago I ran my first sub-2 hour half marathon at the same race, and it was hands down one of the greatest achievements of my life, up there with my first marathon.

When I ran my fourth half marathon back in May, I didn't care about a PB, but I wanted another sub-2 hour. A much more challenging race, I scraped it, just, with seconds to spare before the 2 hour mark.

So I decided in order to hit my goal of a half marathon PB this year, I'd set my sights to my October race.

Training didn't get off to a great start.
I found myself with a knee injury back in June, hobbling to the finish of a free 5K fun run, and, eager not to lose time in my training, probably launched back into running again too quickly.
The injury plagues me again now as soon as I get past 6 or 7 miles.
Last week I struggled through 10 miles, at an agonisingly slow pace, and gave myself a few days off to recover the strength.

And now I find myself with a chest infection.
The training I was looking forward to throwing myself back into is off the cards for another few days, and although I've only done a fitness class and a parkrun this weekend, the knee pain is back.

The dream of a PB is out of the window, and following close behind is my sub-2 hour goal.

I've never run a 5K over 30 minutes since I hit the goal two years ago, and I've never run a 10K over 60 minutes since I hit that goal either. Even when I've been far from a PB, I've stayed comfortably under that time.

Running a half marathon over 2 hours feels like backsliding. Even though I know I've been injured, I know I've been ill, it feels devastating to not hit that goal again after achieving it, admittedly not comfortably, twice.

I'm starting to dread the race. Worrying about my knee, worrying about my knee during training, worrying about how upset I'll be with whatever over 2 hour time I get.

And I know that's ridiculous. I know I'm being way too hard on myself, but I can't help it.

I feel like I'm letting myself down, with "half marathon PB" firmly on my goals for 2017.

But I know this just isn't my race. This isn't my time. And I know I need to learn that lesson and be okay with it. I need to run over 2 hours and accept it, and know that there will be hundreds of other races in my future where I'll achieve that goal.

I've been so so lucky with injuries. In four years of running I've only ever had minor setbacks, and even those haven't affected me on the day of a big race. Honestly, I'm overdue.

I know it's not going to happen this time. To get sub 2 hours I have to be full fitness, and I know with a chest infection I am not going to be smashing tempo runs and racing intervals like I need to. My body needs a break and it's done some amazing work for me over the years, I need to give it that rest.

In 2015, when I ran the Birmingham Half Marathon, my second half marathon, I smiled the whole time. I'd run my previous half in 3 hours 2, and after months of training I knew I'd be taking at least half an hour off my time. It was my favourite race I've ever run.

My last two half marathons have been run with obsessive Garmin-watching, focused splits and the pressure of a 2 hour pacer right behind me. I know I'm not fit enough for sub 2 hours, so should I even try? Or should I focus on getting rid of this infection, not pushing my knee too much and finishing slower but with a smile on my face?

One of the reasons I decided to run more than one half marathon this year was so the pressure didn't get to me so much, so I didn't have a whole year riding on one race, but it's obviously not worked. So maybe next year the answer is multiple half marathons, four, maybe even five. So each one is a lesson. So the ones that are under sub 2 hours mean something, so that I can appreciate that achievement again.

I have worked hard but some things just aren't meant to be, and I think in this case I need to just accept it. I worked so hard for not one but two sub-2 hour halves, and maybe this is the race where I remember why I love to run. Not for the time, but to finish with a smile on my face.

Charlotte x

Saturday, 5 August 2017

July Life Lately

July 2017. The month WE FINALLY MOVED INTO OUR HOUSE! Finally. It happened. After 9 months of trying to buy a house, two houses, 5 months of living with my parents, we did it. We moved in.

I could just end this blog post there. There have been other things going on, of course, but really, it's been 90% house. Talking about the house, buying things for the house, walking around the house, saying "bye house, I love you" when I go to work, sorting out council tax and water bills and gas and electric and TV licenses.

It's been busy. Getting back into the routine of adult life is hard. The food shopping, the cleaning, the meal planning, the organising, the bills. I feel like I've not done an awful lot this month, but I also feel exhausted!

Blogging has taken a huge back seat lately. I'm not super inspired to write blog-style content, I'm super-busy, and when I am writing, it's for my newsletter. It's been really refreshing to experiment with a new content form, and I've been really enjoying trying something new. I'll always come back to this blog, and there will always be at least one of these posts every month, but for now I'm really enjoying writing email content instead. So if you're missing my mindless rambles, make sure you sign up to my email!

Anyway, here's what's been going on this month...

What I've been doing
So obviously, we bought a house! And we've been buying things for the house and moving things around in the house and living in the house and still not quite believing this is our house. We've spent nearly 5 hours in IKEA. We bought a vacuum and a lawn mower and new plates and tea towels and cushions and photo frames and clothes rails. It's all kinds of weird and stressful and exciting.
I might write about this in more detail in another post (or more likely, in my newsletter) but the weirdest thing has been the realisation that 1) this is our house and 2) we could live here for an infinite amount of time. Before I've only really lived in temporary accommodation - university halls, living abroad, renting our flat in Manchester. It's weird thinking that we could knock walls down or build new rooms or completely rip things out. Obviously we aren't going to right now, but it's weird to have that option.

Right now it's a bit overwhelming, there's a lot of house and there's a lot to clean, but it's so amazing to finally be in!
Another awesome thing that happened this month - I ran my 100th parkrun! It was such an amazing day. We went to Heaton parkrun because they have milestone vests so I got to wear this fetching 100 bib and I got a shout out at the start and loads of people were saying congratulations! It was amazing. There's a huge backlog on tshirts so I won't be getting mine for a while, but who would have thought 4 years ago I'd have done 100 parkruns?
Similarly fitness-related, I mentioned this last month, but Phil and I have started to do British Military Fitness and it's awesome! I go once a week as I'm in the middle of half marathon training at the moment, and Phil goes twice, and we love it. It's challenging, of course, but it's so much fun. You get your first session free so you can try it out and we were hooked right away. Every session is different, it's a great group of people and you can really push yourself while having a great time. If you're into fitness at all I really recommend it.
And one more milestone this month, I had my 10th blood donation! About 3 years ago I went to give blood and was told I was anaemic and wasn't about to donate for a year, so I'm so glad I can give again. I feel so strongly about giving blood and I'm always trying to drag people along with me. My Dad recently found out he isn't able to donate any more and he was devastated he can't keep helping, so if you want to sign up, do it for my Dad!

What I've bought
Did I mention I bought a house? Haha! Not much this month which could probably be expected. I did get two brilliant new recipe books though - Love Real Food and Fresh India. I absolutely love Kate's blog so I was so excited for her book. I'm currently working through that for a review on the blog, and Fresh India is one of those books I keep picking up and browsing through. Everything just looks so delicious!
And finally, something I bought, although not for myself was a recipe book for my Mum from This is Your Cookbook. As I was moving out and I did most of the cooking at home, I decided to make her a cookbook for her Birthday full of recipes I'd made for her while I'd lived at home. It was hard work and time consuming to type up 36 recipes, but it looks so professional and was such a great gift!

What I've been eating
I've been kind of obsessed with the air fryer tofu that Gemma kept posting on Instagram and Twitter and decided I really wanted an air fryer of my own. Luckily I remembered my Nan had one, and after my Mum had a chat with her, it turns out she's never used it and was happy to give it to me as a moving in present! I've only used it a few times so far (it's huge!) but so far it had made excellent chips and wonderful crispy tofu, so it's definitely a keeper!
I mentioned before the book, Fresh India, and a few weeks ago my Mum came over for dinner so I decided to make a selection of dishes from the book. We had baked onion bhajis, paneer skewers, a dal, some dips and chutneys, rice and naan and it was excellent! I'm really excited to cook more from that book!
Last week, my friend Riven and I were wondering where to have dinner when we decided it was time I lost my pho virginity. We went to Pho in the Corn Exchange for my first ever bowl. I especially enjoyed adding all the toppings!
It was my colleague's Birthday last week so I trawled through my Pinterest to find a recipe she'd sent me about a year ago - salted caramel cookie bars. They were super easy to make and oh god so good. Definitely making them again!

What I've been watching
We've had a few cinema trips this month. We've been to see It Comes at Night, which was a nice surprise and I'm glad we'd read a few reviews because I don't think it was what a lot of people expected. We also watched War for the Planet of the Apes after working our way through the previous films - this one was definitely my favourite. And finally, Dunkirk in IMAX, which was absolutely incredible.
We've also been watching a lot of TV - we finally, after over two years, finished the US Office this weekend. I felt the last couple of seasons were a bit disappointing, but now going back and rewatching old episodes we've remembered how brilliant it is. We've also obviously been watching Game of Thrones and this week finished The Handmaid's Tale. The book absolutely changed my life as a teenager and I believe it was one of the reasons I went to university to study literature, and as a woman and a feminist, I don't think there's been a more poignant time for this adaptation. I thought everything about it was brilliant.
Oh and we finally watched The Room for the first time. OH HAI MARK.


What I've been reading
I've read 3 books this month. I really loved Skippy Dies which took me most of the month at 600+ pages, but was a really enjoyable read that I find myself still thinking about.
I also absolutely adored Anything is Possible, the latest Elizabeth Strout. I've read three of her books and she is just the most amazing writer. Her books are just about... life, but they are so beautiful. I nearly had a cry multiple times reading this.

Finally, I read The Girls over the course of a weekend. I found the writing way too over the top,  however it was a nice, fast-paced read and I did find myself getting through it quickly.

What I've been reading online
The Pool - Should we be better at bragging?
The Pool - Overcoming envy is one of the most useful things you can do in your 30s
Ask Polly - It seems like my friends don't like me
The Pool - Sick days should be used for mental health too
The Pool - Worrying about wellness is bad for you - on lots of levels
Rosie - How to slow time
Vix Meldrew - The Worst thing about mental illness
The Pool - Can you be a feminist and not have every little decision, hobby and opinion questioned at length by asshats?
Vix - Life on Anti Depressants

What I'm excited for
We've got lots going on in August - I think we're busy every weekend! The thing I'm most excited about though is going to Whitby! We didn't go last year after going two years ago and three years ago, so I'm looking forward to getting away for a break.

Hope you've had a great July!

Charlotte x