Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Feeling Grotty

I had a lovely weekend down in London, but have been feeling a bit grotty since. Well, a bit during too.

Go Ape was fantastic, and I was surprised how unafraid I was of the zip wires and Tarzan swings. I had lots of chocolate in the afternoon, and then we went out for a nice but relatively civilised meal and couple of drinks. Far better than all out debauchery any day, I'm too old for all of that!*

The only fly in the ointment was that during Saturday night I started getting strange pains in my abdomen. They were bearable, but made me perhaps a bit less up for dancing and partying than I would have been otherwise. The pains seemed to die down overnight and at the rugby on Sunday, but came back with a vengeance on the way back to the train station and on the train back to Leeds. By the time I got to Leeds they were so bad that I almost got a taxi home (but then I ended up on the bus anyway, because I hate wasting money on taxis when the bus is free).

Monday got off to a bad start because I'd forgotten to change any of my clocks at home. I'd done my watch and my mobile down in London on the Sunday morning, but completely forgot when I got back in, so I ended up waking up, thinking "it should be lighter than this now that the clocks have changed" and then realising it was actually 5am. Doh. From then on the day got worse. The pains came back while I was at work, and I was too tired and grumpy to be in a particularly good state of mind to cope with them. I was meant to be going to running club after work and actually went so far as to eat the pre-run meal I'd brought in to work with me, but that set the pains right back off again, including nausea this time, so I ended up going home and straight to bed. I was feeling so rubbish that I didn't even read the new RW which arrived while I was at work.

Tuesday, so far, seems better. There have been a couple of twinges, but it's been far more bearable. It's not even fatty food that's setting it off, I had a bag of dried apricots and got a bad reaction. Yesterday I had a vegetable and wheat free pasta hotpot. Detox heaven, but it still didn't help.

The pains are odd. It seems to be further up than my stomach, somewhere around the lower end of my ribs. It almost feels like someone's kicked me really hard in the ribs. Sometimes, when it's bad, there's a continuous dull pain there, the rest of the time I can only feel it when I press on the area or move it, more like it's a bruise. It's very definitely more on the right hand side which got me worrying that it was a gall bladder problem, but I'm still crossing my fingers that it's just a stomach bug or something. It does seem to be affected by what I eat, so I don't think that I actually have been kicked in the ribs (I was wondering whether it was something from when I fell running last Wednesday, or from Go Ape). Also, I don't think it's something from the weekend because last week I had an attack of very similar pains for about an hour or so on Tuesday lunchtime. I just thought it was indigestion or something, because they went away fairly quickly, but now I'm not so sure. That would rule out it being something from the fall too.

Anyway, I'm strangely proud of myself for not exercising. Yes, exercise is good for you, but I must remember that it's not necessarily good for you when you're ill or injured. I was stupidly determined to run yesterday (partly because I wanted to hit 100 miles for the month, and am about 3 short), and it took a lot of persuading to remind me that it's OK to have a day off when I'm not feeling right, and that sleeping is far better for me in that situation than running. I am starting to get itchy feet and wanting to actually do something though!

*By the way, speaking of all out debauchery, if you live in Edinburgh (or are intending to be there in late May next year for some reason), please pop on over to my running blog for an invite to my birthday party.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Christmas Choices

It's October, so it's logical that the thing on my mind at the moment is what I'm going to wear for the work Christmas party.

At my firm they don't go in for posh frocks and fancy dinners, and it tends to be very much more on the basis of a theme. Fancy dress, if you like. Last year it was wild west, and I refused to play along, wearing a nice dress with the small concession of a matching sparkly cowboy hat. (In fact, you can see the evidence here). I have to say that I stood out like a sore thumb, and everyone seemed to be far more into the theme than I expected.

So this year, I wanted to make more of an effort. The theme is back to school. This was clearly devised by a group of men (possibly the same men who said the firm would sponsor netball kit as long as it involved short skirts). And I'm debating what to do.

I've found a perfect skirt, and I can really go for the schoolgirl look. I look OK in it, it suits the theme without being too over the top. Thanks to running my legs are good enough to get away with it. There's just one thing holding me back. It's very very short. Not quite indecently short, it's just on the right side of decent. So while I wouldn't be flashing anything I shouldn't, I know that if I wore that and unveiled my legs in their full glory, people would notice them and talk about them. And although it would be nice for my legs to be talked about for the right reasons (rather than "how did she think she'd get away with that skirt"), I don't want to be known for my legs rather than for my work.

Stories of christmas parties past still do the rounds in the office, and my boss still talks about what one of my former colleagues wore to a christmas meal once (backless top). It was a few years ago now, but everyone still remembers what she means. I'm guessing that if I were to wear this skirt, it wouldn't be forgotten in a hurry.

I have more dignified ideas. It can be anything school related, so there's the "Grease" type American 50s look, or something like that. But maybe I want to wear a skirt like that just once in my life, and if not now, then when? Part of me really wants to go for it. It's so far away from what anyone would expect of me that I kind of want to see the look on everyone's faces. I can possibly get away with it on the basis that it's fancy dress. I've done so much hard work, so why should I hide my legs away if I can get away with it? But on the other hand, would it undermine my professionalism for the rest of the year and beyond?

So, this is a call for advice. Do I really get into the theme (I can only justify a skirt that length if it's disguised as fancy dress) and go for it, or do I play it safe and be forgettable but dignified?...


The second bit of Christmas advice is food related. My two main food rules are (1) no meat or fish, and (2) no mushrooms. I think you can guess what the choices for the team Christmas meal are. When I first started the "Veggie Experiment", or at least when it got far enough progressed that a veggie christmas was a possibility, I said that I might have turkey. For tradition's sake, and because I knew that this situation would crop up. I just knew it.

But now I'm not so sure. I essentially have three options

(a) eat turkey
(b) eat mushrooms
(c) ask for something special - apparently the restaurant have said they will do special requests, but I don't want to look like too much of a prima donna about this, throwing a strop and demanding they bend over backwards for me.

I'm almost (key word - almost, but not quite) tempted to take a deep breath and try the mushrooms. There shouldn't be many of them - it's "pasta with mushrooms, mixed herbs, peppers, cheddar and ricotta, cooked in a lightly spiced tomato dressing", so there will be other flavours too to mask them a bit. But I don't want to be in the situation where I really hate my meal and don't enjoy it. I got over my salad phobia, so why can't I do the same with mushrooms? I know that's the logical thing to do, but I just can't quite bring myself to do

Monday, October 23, 2006


Yet another sign of my undomesticity today. A while back one of the two sets of lights in my kitchen stopped working. I'm no electrician, so I carried on with just one set of lights. I prefer not to touch things I don't understand. Particularly electricity.

Today, the other set went. Or rather, they didn't. As I was leaving the house to go for a pre-work swim, I tried to switch them off and nothing happened. Nothing apart from a popping sound, and the ominous looking sight and smell of smoke coming out of the switch, at least. But the lights were still on, and I couldn't turn them off. Or stop the smoke.

I may not be an electrician, but even I can work out that's not a good sign. It still took me a couple of minutes of standing there, hoping it would stop, before I realised that I couldn't just not use the lights, I had to find a way to stop the burning. And preferably before I left for work. In a flash of inspiration I found the fuse box thingy and turned all the electricity in the house off.

And then remembered that it was 6.30am and utterly dark. And that I hadn't thought to find a torch before switching it off. I also realised that leaving all the electricity in the house switched off wasn't exactly a viable solution long term. I'm only in when it's dark at the moment, and none of my creature comforts like tv, computer, alarm clock would work either. On the other hand it would slash my electricity bills...

So I decided to bite the bullet and wield my screwdriver. First I had to find the screwdriver, of course. You really think I had the foresight to find one first? It was dark, so armed with my trusty mobile phone I tried to light up the patch of darkness ahead of me and went rummaging in a cupboard I tend to leave for my dad to colonise with practical stuff. To my delight I managed to pull out a screwdriver without too much drama, and set to work on the light switch.

It was actually surprisingly easy to unscrew it and get the wires out. I could see the black, distorted bit where it had been burning, but it seemed to have stopped smoking by the time I got to it, which was good. Disaster averted. I turned the electricity back on, and nothing seemed to have died while it was off. I was quite proud of myself for sorting it out without too much of a panic.

Except that now I have a hole in the wall with some wires hanging out of it, and no working lights in the kitchen. I know that the actual screwing part of putting another switch in is within my capability, but what I have absolutely no idea about is which wire goes in which hole. I've moved a freestanding uplighter from the lounge into the kitchen as a temporary stop gap, but really I'd prefer proper lighting.

I'd actually quite like to replace it myself, as the first step on the road to domestic competence. It's the sort of thing that I feel like I should be able to do, and which might trigger off a new round of minor DIY jobs if I can force myself to believe that I won't burn the whole house down in the process. On the other hand, I can't get over the fear that I actually might burn the whole house down in the process...

(The really impressive bit though is that I still managed a 20 minute swim before work...)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ripping up the L-Plates

I remember the first time, after I passed my driving test, when I went out on the road alone. I'd driven with mum to where she worked, dropped her off there and had to drive no more than a mile to school, where I would park the car, go to lessons and then pick her up on the way home.

I was very very scared, and I seem to remember I clipped a curb somewhere (still do that now though...). Even though I'd been driving the car without assistance before (my car obviously didn't have dual controls, and the driving instructor didn't have to use them often by that stage), it was still daunting, because there was no-one else there to tell me what to do and look after me.

Tomorrow might be fairly similar. The big day has come, and my boss is officially on maternity leave. For around 6 months. And I'm in charge, every day and not just on Fridays.

Most of the time I do run my own files now anyway, and the clients I've discussed the situation with have faith in me. I've led conference calls with my boss sitting in without making any howling mistakes. I now have people in the team below me to delegate stuff to, and who actually ask my opinion on stuff as though they think I know what I'm talking about. But there isn't that protection given by having someone else in charge to ask the tricky questions to, or just run something past when you want someone to say that you're on the right lines. There's also no protection from the dangerous beasts that are partners in other teams who want to try to boost their egos by meddling in things that don't concern them.

Typically, this has all happened when I'm manically busy, and I'm starting to wonder when I'll next see my life again. It's a good position to be in, in a way. I've got a level of responsibility that I could only dream of at this stage of my career in another firm, or another situation. If I do well it will do my hopes of making associate no harm at all. And if I do mess up (not that I think I will) I can blame it on a lack of supervision.

Fingers crossed it will all work out OK, I'm sure it will be an interesting experience at least!


My back to basics regime is going well. First off, I'm really impressed with myself for starting it when I did. I realised from how my clothes felt that I'd put on a couple of pounds, and I did something about it. I didn't wait for confirmation from the scale, and I didn't wait for a few to become 10 or 20. That's a good sign, to start with.

I finally weighed myself on Wednesday, and it turned out that the damage was about 5lb. I like the fact that I'm sensitive enough to my weight to notice a 5lb gain. But by that stage, operation clean my diet up was already in action, and when I weighed this morning I'd shed about half of that. Clearly water, but still gone.

I seem to have defeated the snack machine monster for the time being, and I'm eating a lot better at home, actually cooking properly and taking my time about my food. Tomorrow I need to write a shopping list for my Friday night shop, and have a major cooking spree over the course of the weekend. I'm looking forward to it, I haven't cooked for ages with mum being here.

With work being busier it's far more important for me to have stocks of food to take into work (not least if I'm going straight from work to running club twice a week), for lunches if I can't get out, and sufficient healthy snacks to sustain me through a late finish if necessary.

I'll have to get more organised than I have been recently, but I've done it before and it's feeling good to get back into the habit, so it should all be good.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

And finally...

A photo!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This is me right at the end of Amsterdam half on Sunday, because there were no decent photos of me from Berlin (and I knew that the photos in Amsterdam were going to be free) I actually tried to hang back a bit to make sure there wasn't anyone between me and the camera for a change! And I made sure that my arms were clear of my number so they could identify me. How sad is that?

My legs are still surprisingly sore, so two whole days off exercise. I will do something tomorrow though, a swim before work and hopefully a run with Kirkstall Harriers afterwards if my legs feel OK.

But on the plus side, my eating is improving. I managed to resist the call of the vending machine this afternoon, and I cooked properly this evening rather than going for the "not too bad but quick" option I've been relying on far too much recently. It's not bad food as such, just not as good as it could be. For the first time in weeks I've got my food all packed and ready to go in the fridge for tomorrow. Finger crossed I'm getting things back under control.

Interestingly, today I didn't have coffee at work either, and I didn't feel anywhere near as tired as usual. Maybe it's time to come off coffee again. I managed it a while back and didn't miss it, but have got far too reliant on the espresso machine recently.

Right, off to pack my running stuff to take to work with me, and another early night I think.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Back to Basics

I feel fat at the moment. My trousers feel a bit tighter than they should. I feel like I'm eating when I'm not hungry because I got into the habit during marathon training of eating loads, often, and I feel like I'm risking a regain. It's time to get things back under control, and to go back to doing what I used to do well. It's time to start eating fruit, cutting down on my toast habit and generally cleaning up my diet. The freezer is running low on pre-prepared soups for lunches at work, and I want to get back into proper home cooked meals.

So this is my challenge. To get a bit stricter now I have lower mileage after Berlin and Amsterdam, and to have a good 2 weeks of home cooked clean eating. I'm not talking about anything too radical, but I want 2 weeks to kick start me back towards those good habits that have slipped away a bit.

I'm going to go to the supermarket and get lots of fresh fruit and veg and make an effort to have an apple rather than chocolate for my mid afternoon snack. No pre-bed slice or two of toast. Go back to getting those 5 portions a day of fruit and veg in without having to resort to dodgy accounting. No midweek alcohol*. Less weekend alcohol.

2 weeks should be manageable (although today I'm falling into full "I'll start tomorrow", if I can just have a piece of flapjack today mode). I need to get myself back into gear and quickly.

*Well, unless I feel like I ought to go to the pub to meet running club people after training on Wednesday. Although I suppose that pubs serve soft drinks...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


1000 miles is quite a long way. Just over 38 marathons, or 76 halves. 100 10 mile races.

It's also how far I've run this year. Well, not exactly. The actual number my running log is giving me is 1001.1 miles, but sadly I didn't quite run all of them. There's the second half of Berlin for a start, and various walk breaks on my other runs. And some of the distances (well, all the distances other than races) aren't accurately measured and could be a bit more or less. But I've laced my trainers up and headed out of the door for a run, and covered over 1000 miles in the process.

That's a long way.

It works out at over 100 miles per month, or around 25 miles per week. It also works out at me being pretty consistent, and other than holidays maintaining a pretty regular pattern of running.

It's a figure I never even imagined aiming for, let alone seeing, when I first tried to run a mile. Not that I kept any record at that stage of how far I was running, how fast, or how often. But 1000 miles in less than 10 months wouldn't have entered into my thinking. It's only a figure I really started considering once I got close to it, even though I had a vague idea that 100 miles per month was achievable.

And how fab some of those 100 miles have been, the 6.2 that made up my 10k PB, the last mile up Unter den Linden, through the Brandenburg Gate and to the finish in Berlin, the first time I ran round Eccup and realised how close the countryside was. The time I ran from Keighley to Leeds. The mornings when everything seems to feel effortless.

There have been rubbish ones too, like the time I hurt my hip 3 miles from home and had to walk back, or miles 18 - 25 in Berlin when I felt like I was about to throw up. 10k in June in searing heat. But they all add up, and I've learned from them all.

In total, I've spent 6 days, 14 hours, 32 minutes and 39 seconds running so far this year which gives an average speed of about 6.3 miles per hour (with a bit of rounding!). Which isn't bad at all. Can you imagine running for 6 and a half days? That's nearly a whole week! Not to mention the time I've spent thinking, reading and writing about running (and shopping for running stuff - damn you, Up and Running). So that's where my life went.

In honour, I've been singing away to myself in my head all day, and shamelessly murdering the Proclaimers (even in my head my singing voice is appalling, and my version of the chorus is even worse). Join in...

But I would run 500 miles
And I would run 500 more
Just to be the girl who ran 1000 miles
To be obese no more

(These lyrics miss out the best bits! Not that I have a clue how to transcribe them phonetically... dah dah dah, sing along!)

When I wake up yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next to you
When I go out yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who goes along with you

If I get drunk yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who gets drunk next to you
And if I haver yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's havering to you

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

When I'm working yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's working hard for you
And when the money comes in for the work I'll do
I'll pass almost every penny on to you

When I come home yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who comes back home to you
And if I grow old well I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's growing old with you

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

When I'm lonely yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man whose lonely without you
When I'm dreaming yes I know I'm gonna dream
Dream about the time when I'm with you.

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

And I still don't know what havering is.

Monday, October 09, 2006


The nights are drawing in, and all I want to do is nest and sleep. I seriously feel like I should be gathering nuts and leaves and stuff, making a cosy little hidey hole and going to sleep until spring.

I was so tired all weekend, yesterday afternoon I managed to fall asleep at 3, 6 and 8.30 for short naps before finally going to sleep properly at about 10. Saturday was better, but still had me in bed by 10. I'm the life and soul of any party, clearly!

On Saturday when we went shopping I also found myself buying eminently sensible, nesting type things. Jumpers, cardigans, boots, kitchen stuff. Gone are the floaty, frivolous dresses of summer, from hereon in it seems to be all practical, warmth giving stuff. I've actually managed to summon up some enthusiasm for doing some tidying and throwing out of stuff from the house so it isn't all bad, but where's my va va voom gone?

I'm still looking forward to Amsterdam at the weekend, but I can't summon up much enthusiasm for booking any other trips, even my normal November trip to GC. Considering my mum has a new kitten and my sister has a new puppy I really should be more keen to get out there!

And as for running, it gets harder and harder as the mornings get darker. It's not that I don't want to run, it's more that I don't feel as comfortable doing it. Running after work isn't any better - although it might still be dark when I get in, it would still be dark by the time I get back from a run, so it's not worth switching my schedule round for it. I'm doing sensible things, I've got a fluorescent arm band, and I've ordered an attack alarm specifically designed for runners, but still I just feel less safe than in summer.

I don't like winter. How long til spring?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

There is life outside running?

Over the past week I've still been running a bit, but I seem to have got some more balance back. Mum's here, and we've been doing stuff, I've been doing some cross training, and I've been making plans for weekends away that aren't entirely running related. It makes a change!

Today should be the big autumn shopping trip to York, plus we've found a fantastic looking veggie restaurant on the internet which should be gorgeous looking at the menus. I seem to be fitting into a size 10(!) (US6) more and more often, and I'm a pretty comfortable 12 now. That's nice. One of my friends is pretty much the same size on the bottom but bigger on top, and for the first time ever I can swop tales of changing rooms and which 10s fit, and which don't. Before I'd have been in entirely different shops. In fact, the scary thing is that in some shops I'm now wearing the smallest size instead of the biggest!

I've weighed myself a couple of times this week with having gone back to the gym a bit more. (I did feel smug when someone asked me where I'd been, I said I'd been running. They said "so did you do the GNR then?", and I proudly replied that I'd done a full rather than a half!). My weight seems pretty stable around the 70kg/11 stone mark. I might feel motivated to get that down more at some point, but not just yet.

Bloody Ryanair got back to me about the free flight voucher I sent them last month and said they weren't going to let me use it because it was non-transferable. I half expected that, but didn't know how stringent their checks would be - after all the discount I would have got wouldn't have been much more than £15 as I still had to pay the taxes etc and the fare had gone down since I faxed the request over. But instead of paying the extra and still going to Riga I had a rethink. At the moment I don't feel the urge to go traipsing round the world on my own, I think I actually crave some company at the moment. So instead of meeting up with my friends in Manchester for a pre-Christmas drink and coming home on the train I'm staying over in a hotel with one of them who's travelling from further away and turning it into a 2 day shopping/drinking trip rather than a quick couple of hours meetup.

And then I'm considering a post-christmas trip to York, again to stay in a hotel/B&B even though it's almost within running distance - just about 26 miles. I'm doing a big half marathon, and loads of people from the RW forum are doing it, with a post race social and a pre-race meetup on the Saturday. I'm actually considering going up on Friday night after work and staying til Monday morning rather than just staying on Saturday night. Rather than spending my money on airport taxes, car parking and petrol to get to the airport I might just have extra nights away and explore places that are a little closer to home, but no less nice for that.

Anyway, shopping is calling so I must go!

Monday, October 02, 2006


I'm nervous and excited. Tomorrow I'm going back to the gym, and I'm not going to run. I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet, but I want to do something different for a change.

This is a situation I haven't been in for ages. Not having a training plan all mapped out, just being able to do what I feel like when I feel like it. I do want to get back into more structured training at some point, but I'm not rushing it at this stage. For now I just want to let myself recover from the marathon with a bit more variety. I'm still trying for 4 runs or about 20 - 25 miles per week, but with extra cross training days. I did a 5 mile run today, so tomorrow is something different. I might do some weights and have a bit of a swim, or maybe a go on the bike. Or the rower. All those choices, how will I decide?

Yesterday's Great North Run put a couple of things into perspective for me. Firstly, the people who I would have been running with managed to get round. I actually felt OK on Sunday and felt like I could have done it (had I not been at completely the wrong end of the country at the time, visiting my godmother in Kent). I was pretty jealous of them in the end and wished that I'd agreed to back up from Berlin. I could certainly have kept up with them - after a decent start it seems like they started struggling at 7 or 8 miles, and eventually came home in 2:50. I managed the slow, painful second half of Berlin in 2:43. That's not to denigrate their efforts, they were running with a wheelchair which, although it was battery powered and therefore didn't need pushing, must have struggled through the debris at the water stations, and they ran as a team which means they had to go at the pace of the slowest member. But it reminds me that I'm actually a lot fitter and faster than I sometimes give myself credit for.

And then the death. I don't know what it is about the GNR, but after 4 deaths last year it seems to have happened again. Apparently, statistically if you get that many people in one place at the same time someone may well die, but this seems to hit the GNR more than other big races like FLM. I don't have any reasons as to why that is. But it does bring home the fragility of life, even when you're relatively young and fit.

My mother worries, particularly about people who die while exercising because of undiagnosed heart defects. Having her in the country watching all the news coverage has raised a whole new raft of worries in her head. She had heart problems when she was younger (well, she still does, but they're under control), and has never really been able to exercise. So of course, the fact that I do run, and the fact that she has heart problems, and the fact that some people who have heart problems and run die, well, let's just say that it's a combination of thoughts that's bound to get her a bit concerned.

But what choice do I have? Physically or mentally? Physically I could stop running, but while my risk of running-induced death might go down, my risk of obesity-induced death would start going back up again. I know that I can't control my weight by controlling food alone, and that running is a vital piece of the jigsaw. To give that up on the basis of a small risk would be to invite regain and medical problems. Mentally I'm not sure I'd want to stop running either, it's surprising how much I rely on it to keep me sane. I feel far more balanced and composed at work when I've had a good run in the morning.

It seems to me that the risk, while well publicised at the moment, is fairly small. Of course, if it happens to you or someone you know it's utterly devastating, but then so is being killed in a car crash or a diving accident, or one of the other many risks people take day in day out. And it's certainly better than the alternative future of obesity and being unfit. If I don't run (or do other cardio exercise - and don't forget that people with this sort of defect die doing other stuff too, not just running) I have, at a very rough guess, a 75% chance of regaining my lost weight. If I run, I have less than a 1% chance of something like this happening. I simply can't use this as an excuse to stop doing something I've come to enjoy, and I can't let parental concerns, however well intentioned, get in my way.

Still, at least she hasn't trotted out the other non-runners mantras about being born with a fixed number of heart beats and using them all up too quickly, needing hip and knee replacements etc etc, so it could be worse!