Cross training. VERY Cross training.
I know this blog is supposed be about running, but at the time of writing this I haven’t run for almost a month. At the time of publishing it, I bloody well hope I will be running again*, because there’s a time lag of a couple of weeks (the timeline can get confusing because sometimes I write loads and have a big backlog of posts, as I’m forever in fear of running out of things to write about. It’s like X-men Days of Future Past, which no one understands, and if they say they do they are lying).
However, as things stand I could either write another great big moany post about being injured, or I could tell you about what I HAVE been doing (or OOH BOTH!). The other aspect of this blog is about being a parent, so that shit is still ongoing, obviously. I do try to hide from them at barbecues and stuff, but they always find me. Mind you, the girl one is getting pretty good at getting me snacks. I’m just wondering how soon I can get her to make a cup of tea, because that’s when kids really start to come into their own…
I went through a week or so of feeling pretty flipping sorry for myself – see ‘I’M INJURED’ and am still struggling when I see all my friends posting about all their runs, that INCREDIBLY still go ahead without me ( I KNOW, disloyal bastards), and races that I’ve had to cancel and transfer my place to other people. But MOSTLY I’m feeling in a slightly better place about it. Although, I mean, SERIOUSLY, my entire Facebook feed today is people talking about a race I couldn’t do yesterday, and one I had a place on but had to cancel today, and the race I’ve had to cancel for next week because I can’t do that either, OH AND the one mid-week that ooh wow, here’s a shocker: I WON’T BE RUNNING. And how fucking brilliant everyone else’s running is going and to be honest with you it’s fucking tedious and I actually hate all my friends right now. (I don’t really. Not completely, anyway.) One of my best friends (you know who you are, and you know I love you) recently told me I was handling it (being injured) badly and compared it to a time she was pissed off at missing a race because she was on holiday. Now this was just a bad example, because she has been badly injured before whilst running and actually does understand, but she is a brave BRAVE woman to say that to me in my current mood. Although I do have to say, I didn’t go to a gym session with her that evening because I was deeply afraid I wouldn’t be able to refrain from “accidentally” twatting her with a kettlebell. BUT I’M FINE, HONEST. I DO NOT HAVE ANGER ISSUES, RIGHT?
At least, if I didn’t have massive PMT, and be mood-swinging like a mofo, and could stay off Facebook, I THINK I would be feeling slightly better about the whole thing this week. This is partly because as discussed in the last blog post, I am trying to re-frame how I think about it. Being injured is FORCING me to have almost total rest. I am going to be soooooooo well rested. But actually, I didn’t really take much time out after the marathon, and immediately went into a series of shorter faster runs and races, club races of 5K and 4 miles, time trials etc., which my body was not used to. And as my old alcoholic room- mate said she wanted on her gravestone: Something Had to Give. The other positives are that the kids have enjoyed having me home more during the weekends and evenings, and being less knackered out from long runs to be able to do stuff all together, rather than Saturday afternoons spent lying around in compression leggings, demanding tea and crisps. I have had more time and energy to do other things too, like focus on a possible new business venture, which I will no doubt write about at a later stage.
Also I am out (fingers crossed) of the phase where I was on a complete exercise ban – after I managed to ping my calf and have it roll up like a roller blind more than once (when you’d think doing that to yourself once would be enough), and have my patient physio buddy manually roll it back down again and strap it into place twice, which was not like being tickled by kittens’ whiskers in ANY WAY (i.e. it fucking hurt – worse the second time because it still felt bruised from the first time), Tristan, the aforementioned very patient physio, banned me from doing ANY exercise for a week. I SUPPOSE this might be because when he said I could do cross-training after the first time I immediately went and did a really hefty kettlebell/gym session, which included quite a lot of planks and stretches, because I AM A TWAT. And in a weird coincidence it pinged again the next day. I know, isn’t that strange? Turns out Tristan (who’s website can be found HERE he’s really rather good) knows what he’s talking about, so I did as I was told this time.
So a week of NO exercise. I was not amused. I was reallllyyyyy quite grumpy, which I’m sure is hard to believe. And I felt silly doing the school run with a bandaged lower leg and having to explain to people that yes I did do this to myself (sort of). Weird thing with exercise-based injuries, people seem to give you less sympathy as they see it as self- inflicted, like a hangover.
But today, I’ve been SWIMMING. Which may not seem like a big deal to most people, but I’ve never really liked swimming, and I’m not very good at it. Pre laser eye surgery I was blind as a bat and mostly completely skeeved out by the idea of touching my eyeball with my own finger to put in contact lenses. So my take home experience of swimming was largely being able to see precisely fuck all whilst in the water. This put me off a bit. But today was super super fun. It wasn’t in a stinky chlorinated pool, although I’m thinking I might start doing that too – with my extremely unnatural hair colours, this may be an error, but hey, in for a penny, in for my hair going really weird colours that everyone will probably assume I did on purpose anyway.
So back to today – today was in an actual LAKE. With weeds and fish and very serious-looking triathletes and other PROPER swimmers! People doing ‘transitions’ from swimming to running – people running round the lake in wetsuits and trainers and then going in and swimming really fucking fast. Me being in this company was quite a big deal. I’m a little bit scared of the water – the proper, OUTSIDE water, not the aforementioned stinky pool. Well, not exactly the water, but what might be in it. And actually, yes, the water itself too – just the agoraphobia-inducing HUGENESS of large bodies of water. I’m of that generation that watched Jaws at precisely the wrong age and have always felt a bit funny about my legs being that far off the bottom of the water, and what the hell might be down there. There might ACTUALLY be something down there that wants to eat me... And at the very least weeds that are going to wrap around my legs and drown me. Or like, pike or something else that will take a chunk out of me. OR OR OR what else? LEECHES! Eep! When in reality the only thing that took a bite out of me was a mosquito or something who fancied a nibble on my tasty, tasty left elbow. Fair enough, it’s one of my best bits. The boy one is very fond of my elbows at the moment, the little weirdo, which he calls ‘elbones’. Cute. But also my armpits, which is really weird. Between the swimming and the boy checking my armpits for ‘pickles’ they are very smooth shaven at the moment. I thought ‘pickles’ were freckles which I thought was flipping adorable, but it turns out he means ‘prickles’… like stubble. Nice. (Ooh, I shoehorned in a parenting bit! Yay! On topic!)
Anyway, whilst being off running, I was eventually persuaded by one of my loveliest friends, K, that swimmers really ARE as nice as runners, and that it doesn’t matter if I don’t have all the gear, and can barely swim a metre of crappy breast stroke, they will be welcoming. AND if that’s not enough, there will be bacon sandwiches afterwards. Bacon, you say? I’m in.
So I got up at 6:30 on a flipping Sunday, which is frankly a BIT rude, but you know, I’ll give it a go. I am desperately missing my weekend long runs and my friends and I’m sure I’ve been murder to live with, so something has got to take the place of the running for at least the time being… I am woefully unprepared for this, but I dug out my swimming costume, which is probably about the most frivolous and non-sporty garment you could imagine – turquoise with pink, black, yellow and white day of the dead skulls and flowers all over it. And a kind of ruffled half skirt. The sort of swimsuit that you buy for lounging by a pool drinking something fancy out of a coconut (or possibly in my case dipping a toe in the seas of exotic Southwold and sneaking a bottle of wine on the pier on your wedding anniversary, but at least let me pretend my life is glamorous..). But this is definitely NOT an appropriate garment for your first open-water swimming experience. Upon telling Coach Tony about this venture, he asked me if I had a wetsuit, which got a derisory laugh and the muttered response, “Yeah, mate…as IF I own a wetsuit.” I don’t even own a swimming hat or goggles**, both of which I had to borrow from K.
But she was RIGHT. About all of it. She was right about how nice everyone was – there were homemade cookies to buy, and everyone was really pleased and welcoming when K told them that this was my first open-water swim, because like runners, they really do want people to get as much enrichment and joy out of this thing they love doing as they do.
We stripped down to our swimming costumes, and I put on the borrowed hat and goggles, which made me feel a bit more ‘proper’ and we carefully made our barefooted way over to the edge of the lake, where a wobbly pontoon was waiting. There was a group of kids in the water all having a great time; I nearly joked about maybe joining them, but realised that would be massively insulting to the kids because they were OBVIOUSLY not first timers, they were a youth triathlon team. And I was a wobbly ‘old lady’ in borrowed goggles who had never put her face in the water... Well, not on purpose.
We made our way into the water, which was actually pleasantly warmer than the outside temperature. And at first I have to admit, I DID feel panicky. It took me a while to get used to the sensation of not being able to touch the bottom, and when K suggested I try putting my face in the water, I very nearly leaped back out again. It felt so weird and I felt very anxious; I didn’t like seeing my ghostly green arms and legs beneath me and then blackness. Just vast nothingness. I also did NOT like swimming through the odd patch of weeds, which got tangled around my ankles and wrists, albeit very briefly. But once I relaxed a bit, I started to enjoy it. K patiently stayed with me at my (water) snail’s pace as we made our way around the lake, and very kindly didn’t tell me what it meant to ‘swim over’ someone until after we were out – which frankly sounds like assault to me, but luckily is utterly frowned upon. And in the end I swam nearly a kilometre, in my terrible breast stroke. And then there were the home-made cookies and the offer of a bacon sandwich, which in a shockingly out of character moment I genuinely didn’t feel like having. So all in all the best way to take my mind of the 10K race I ‘should’ have been doing, and next week we’re going again to take my mind off the 5-mile race that I can’t do either. I just need to stay off Facebook if I want to stay friends with my running buddies until I can re-join them. In the meantime I’m going to get someone to show me how to do the front crawl and work on being able to stick my face in the water and not freak the fuck out.
*INJURY UPDATE: I’m sure everyone is on tenterhooks about the current state of my calf and whether or not I am running again yet. Aaaand the answer is no, I’m not. The old leg is healing but definitely not there yet. I am religiously doing my strengthening exercises, and once I can hop on my bad leg without it feeling weird, I can start running again. Very very very slowly for 5 minutes at a time. So it’s going to be a long haul and may have to re-think my plan to do another marathon in October. We’ll see. Watch this space for more sweary annoying updates.
**I made a trip to Decathlon, and I now own marginally more sensible swimwear, goggles, a swimming hat and a calf sleeve. Because I ALWAYS get carried away in Decathlon. It’s practically the law.