Guppies Inc.

Wow it’s quiet on here. Oh wait, that’s my fault.

Happy Arbitrary Moment in Time everybody! I hope you all had a happy Christmas/holiday/festive period/Bah-humbug day/ or whatever day you chose to celebrate recently. I had a great Christmas and took a WHOLE WEEK off running. I know, shocking isn’t it? After a lovely 8 week build that saw some really very encouraging improvements in pace against heart rate, I had a sore throat within four hours of finishing work on the 23rd, and mentally wrote the following week off in terms of training. I find it pretty impossible to keep the mileage up when not run-commuting, and to be honest I was feeling pretty tired too, so I was pretty happy to take the pressure off and just enjoy time with my family.


Extremely satisfying build; shame it fell off a cliff.

So on rolled the 3rd of January and I was feeling a bit better and ready to pick up where I left off. Or not, as the case may be. Four runs this week and they have universally been A Struggle. The rational part of my mind (there is one!) is calmly reminding me that: a) it’ll take a few days to get back into the training groove again, and b) going on my heart rate data, I’m probably not as recovered from the lurgy as I thought I was. Of course the greater part of me is mainly staring in dismay at Strava and thinking ‘I can’t possibly have wiped 8 weeks of training out in one week of rest’. I mean – right back to square one. No, no, no; if them’s the rules then I don’t want to play this game any more. It’s. Not. Fair.

My first race of 2017 is around the corner; the annual smackdown with my brother-in-law at the Brass Monkey half marathon in York in ten days time. The feat of actually getting a place for this race is far more stressful than the race itself, so as long as I’m firing on all cylinders it should be fun. This, of course, is just an appetiser before the Gloucester 50k on the 5th Feb.

I’m also thinking of entering the British Ultra Champs this year. 100k of the flattest, most featureless tarmac in the country. I mean it’s east of Hull! There is figuratively nothing there. I haven’t entered yet, but I’m trying to persuade myself to do so. Those of you who know me may be surprised by the fact that there’s a part of me that believes I’m not good enough to race against the fastest ultra runners in the country; that I don’t deserve to be there (which is ridiculous, given that it’s an open race too). But this is also exactly WHY I want to do it. I am both excited and terrified at the prospect of finding out just how badly my arse will be handed to me by these guys… it’s like a morbid fascination. So I think I’ll be feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Maybe.

But anyway. Guppies. Yesterday I was reading an article (and another one) on the benefits of nasal breathing whilst running (busy work day). Something to do with Nitrous Oxide and vasodilation – sorry, the articles are not particularly scientific. This is something that I’m very bad at – I breathe through my mouth pretty much all the time, even when not running – but thought I would give a try. One of my favourite yoga practises incorporates alternate nostril breathing (or Nadi Shodhana) which I find really REALLY useful for calming and focusing the mind, so I thought the closest thing I’ll have to a resolution this year would be to work on this in my running (just normal nasal breathing, not alternate nostril – that would be weird), and also practise the alternate nostril breathing for a short time every day. Yesterday on my run home I thought I’d make a start. Ideally both inhalation and exhalation should be through the nose… but I cannot recommend this in the winter, or when you have a cold, and especially not in the winter when you have a cold. Not unless you have an unlimited supply of handkerchiefs about your person. Exhaling through your nose is actually surprisingly difficult compared to inhalation through the nose/exhalation through the mouth, but I really wanted to master this in order to not look like a guppy whilst out on a ten mile run. Alas it was not to be. I did manage to inhale through the nose for most of my run, but to anyone who saw my fish impressions yesterday afternoon – my apologies. I’ll continue to work on it. Two immediate benefits appear to be the natural limitation of pace (it’s REALLY hard to nasal breathe if you’re running faster than easy pace), and that consuming food on the run becomes a whole lot easier! Result! Soon I will be the queen of multitasking and able to run, chew, and breathe all at the same time!

I think that’s quite enough of my rambling for now. Here’s a cartoon to keep you going:


So long (for now), and thanks for all the fish!

On censure and intimidation

I had intended this week’s posts to be all about my prep for Saturday’s NDW50, but something occurred on my run into work this morning that got me wanting to write about something entirely different.

The thing that happened? I got beeped at. Again. This in itself is not so unusual – I got beeped at yesterday too, unfortunately. During the winter I get this, on average, maybe three times a week. But it’s summer, and if I choose to run down the path along the road into town wearing shorts and a t-shirt, then once or twice per day becomes a distressing norm.

This morning the beep happened fairly early on in the run. In such cases I usually let flow an internal stream of expletives directed at the driver, but show no outward sign of having noticed. Today was no different – I didn’t give the lorry driver the satisfaction of a reaction, but just carried on my way with not much of a second thought. Until, that is, I caught up with the inevitable backlog of traffic that builds up along that route. With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I realised that I would soon catch up with the lorry in question, and have to pass it again. For a couple of minutes I fantasised about calling the lorry driver out on his behaviour; goading him into descending from his cab, kicking him hard in the nuts and then running away, leaving him crying in the road in the middle of the morning rush hour. But did I do that? No. I did what millions of women do every single day in situations where they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable by the behaviour of men; I practised de-escalation. I felt fairly sick as I closed the distance on the lorry; what would I encounter? Another beep? Something shouted from the window? The traffic started to move, and for a while I was able to run in his blind-spot hoping that I wouldn’t catch up after all. Then he slowed and I was level with the cab. He kept pace with me down the hill – I felt tense and uncomfortable, but refused to acknowledge that I’d clocked his earlier attention with either a look or a change of pace. Finally the traffic forced him to come to a standstill and I was able to pull away and round the corner at the bottom of the hill, turning away from the main road and any unwelcome gaze that may have followed me.

The rest of the run was a bit quicker than I’d intended; I was wound up by the encounter, and wound up with myself for letting it get to me. And yet this behaviour isn’t acceptable. Nobody should be made to feel intimidated by unwanted attention. By some idiot sitting in the safety of his cab who, if I’m charitable, presumably thought I’d see it as some sort of compliment. It’s not. It’s not a compliment if it makes someone feel intimidated, uncomfortable, self-conscious, and awful. Women so often can’t win in situations like this. If we happen to carry a bit more weight, or are struggling with fitness for whatever reason, then we’re censured for it. If we work hard, show dedication, and our physiology reflects that, or if we’re simply lucky with our physiology, then our ‘reward’ is putting up with the kind of shit detailed above.

I hate that I have to deal with it. I hate that women everywhere have to deal with this and much, much worse, every single day. I work really hard at my running; I’m in great shape, and I’m really proud of the fact. I don’t wear shorts in the summer for the edification of passing drivers – I wear them, surprisingly, to help regulate my temperature. What irks me most is that the driver(s) in question probably don’t give a monkeys about how strong I am, or the crazy distances I can cover under my own steam, they make a snap judgement based on my appearance and don’t give a second thought about how their actions, however small, might make me feel.

Unless the lorry driver was a fellow ultrarunner, and he was simply being supportive of my training. In which case, I apologise.