Bruises and obsession

I am the clumsiest person I know. I am Clumsy McClumsy of the clan McClumsy from Clumsyville, Clumsyshire.

Today as I was getting changed in the gym, I managed to knock one of the hairdryers off its shelf. And straight onto my foot.

My left foot

I’d only been there 15 minutes and managed to injure myself with a piece of equipment I don’t actually use. Didn’t stop me from jumping in the pool for another front crawl session though. Fifteen minutes on the treadmill had warmed me up nicely, so I was determined to take advantage of a little weariness and swim slowly, focusing on technique.

I did a few sinking down and breathing out and push and glide drills to relax, then moved onto front crawl. And it is getting better. I’m generally more relaxed and trying to take it slowly, although I still seem to end up out of breath on the third or fourth lap and end up scrabbling with my arms and losing my breathing pattern.

It was going reasonably well until a woman wearing Calvin Klein Obsession got into the pool. How could I tell? I could smell it in the water. It absolutely filled my nostrils. I know it’s potent stuff, but blimey, you’d have thought it would have diluted in all that water.

So I thought like a shark scenting blood and tried to make myself long and smooth in the water. I’m trying to swim with bilateral breathing, taking air in every three strokes. I tried telling myself I had plenty of time to breathe in on the third stroke if I took it slowly and that worked quite well. But as soon as I slipped out of the right rhythm I struggled to get it back again. If I accidentally take in water as well as air, I struggle to get back on track with the breathing and inevitably have to take a bit of a break at the end of the next length. Less of a shark, more like a cat in the water.

But I feel better, more confident and I think it will come. I just need to keep trying and hopefully it will all click into place.

One voice

Belting out angry guitar to distract and diminish the frustration. Each stress a string pulled tight and strummed until my whole body vibrates on the edge of… I know not what.

Driving bass and drums kick in. Strength and determination. A sly smile at the inevitability of moving forward, moving on, leaving this behind.

Headphones too loud for comfort. Block out. Exclude. Escape. Until that voice fills my head. Right here at my heart and centre. Passion and love, anger, desire, pain and truth, and today, when I need it…joy.

A voice of hope. A voice of experience. A teller of stories, a lover of words. One not afraid of looking foolish. One not afraid to risk exposing his heart. To crack open the breastbone and reach inside. Coarse, visceral, challenging, real.

I take strength from his strength, softness from his softness and find peace in this exquisite noise.

In which I ramble on about swimming

I haven’t blogged much about swimming. I think it’s because I haven’t got it yet. I’m still struggling to get the pattern of breathing and moving right in front crawl.

I’ve taken some lessons and they’ve really helped. First of all to get me over the totally irrational and instinctive panic I had when trying to breathe with my head in the water and then demonstrating the right way to swim front crawl.

So now I’m at the stage where I know what I need to do, but my body just hasn’t caught up with the theory yet. And it’s been incredibly frustrating at times. There was one session where I really thought quite loud and clear in the front of my brain, ‘I’m not going to get this.’ But then I thought even louder and angrier that I wasn’t going to let it beat me either.

Part of that confidence comes from my experience of running. I thought the same thing about running too at the start. It was so hard. So many things to think about – breathing, rolling through your feet, not overdoing the arms, breathing, trying to stay relaxed, not bringing your shoulders up, trying not to favour one side more than another, breathing, keeping it smooth, hips pointing forward, breathing.

When I started running, it was for fitness. My first goal was to run for 20 minutes and that was hard. I didn’t really blog much about that either. Which kind of makes it hard to remember now.

So that’s why I wanted to try and start making sense of the swimming. So that I can look back and track my progress.

Last weekend I got in the pool after a session in the gym, so I was already a bit tired. Which was good, because it meant I swam more slowly. I also tried out a swimming cap for the first time and that helped too, keeping my hair out of my face and stopping me having to wrestle with bobbles, clips and goggles all wanting to be in the same space. Breathing out into the water felt better most of the time too. Although I still tend to hold my breath when my face is in the water.

The problem is stringing it all together. I seem to be able to relax for one or two lengths (and we’re only talking about a 20 metre pool here), but then lose the rhythm on the third one. I only managed to string together 4 lengths in any one attempt, and the last one was a bit scrappy.

I also tried swimming the way the way I used to with my head half way out of the water, really using my arms and legs to push myself along. And I could feel how inefficient and slow it was. How it would tire me out over some distance. It’s how most people swim in a pool.

So I’m hoping swimming properly will be like running. Given time and repetition it will fall into place and then I can start to build up the distance. I just keep telling myself that I never thought I’d be able to run 10k or 13.1 miles. But I did. I’m sure I can crack this swimming lark too.

Long, not so slow, run

Another merry band of Friday early risers met at work this morning for a nice 7/8 miler. Once again I kept to the back of the main group who soon separated off into the distance.

Surprisingly mild out, my legs were feeling the strain of yesterday’s race, but I sensed I’d warm into the run, just enjoying keeping it steady. I dropped back a couple of times where the path made it sensible to run in single file, but soon felt I wanted to be stretching out a little more.

Another runner I’d exchanged emails with joined us near the start and started chatting about running experience. I’ve got quite good at condensing my little running story into bite size breathable chunks now. And I still have to remember I haven’t always done this. A year ago, running 7 miles before work on a Friday morning would have been an impossibility. The question now is what can I achieve next year?

Maybe it was telling the story, thinking about the people who have been inspirational and helped me become fitter, stronger and happier than I have been for years, or maybe it was just my usual 20 minute warm up kicking in, but at the next opportunity I took the lead of our little group. I was off, running free, stretching out and rolling in the miles.

I expected my spurt to last for a short while, but I seemed to find my rhythm and held on. Keeping it steady and consistent through the muddy puddles. Keeping it going up the hill over the motorway. Mind clear and crisp as the morning, no worries, no stresses. Just the sound of my feet and my breathing.

We were now running in three groups. The speedy bunch, then me followed by the slower runners I’d kept pace with last week. A couple of times one of the leading group doubled back to check we were okay. And a couple of times I held back, jogging backwards or on the spot to keep sight of the following runners.

Having got directions for the 7 mile route rather than the 8, I lead the way again. Feeling chuffed that I could just run my own pace and stick with it. It felt good just to be running. Not overthinking. Just enjoying the fields and the trails and feeling myself pushing forwards, like I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. There was even a sprint finish at the end.

Lovely run.

7.2 miles 1 hour 7 mins

Splits (km)
1. 05.35
2. 05.26
3. 05.27
4. 05.41
5. 05.36
6. 05.55 (hill and regroup)
7. 05.36
8. 06.37 (regroup)
9. 05.49
10. 05.50
11. 06.15 (regroup and direction check)
12. 03.10

In which I'm a little forgetful

Packed myself a lovely lunch this morning. Home made chicken soup and lots of nice healthy snacks to keep me away from the chocolate tin for the day and fuel me ready for my first winter series race.

Then I left it on the kitchen table.

Oh well, at least I had my emergency banana. By lunchtime I was really geared up and ready for a run. Today was the first of my work running club’s winter handicap races. It’s a two mile course that we’d recced last week and, as I haven’t run with them before, I got to set off first.

I set off at a heck of a lick, the wind behind me, pushing quite hard, wanting to stay in front of the next runner 30 seconds behind. With the wind gusting, my breathing at times felt quite shallow and uncomfortable, but I tried to convince myself to stick at the pace.

At the half way point I turned, Donna shouting encouragement and saying I’d done a fast time. Passing the other runners on the return leg, I felt sure I could maintain my lead for a good while, even running into the wind. A couple of times it slowed me down, and I concentrated on slowing my breathing, trying desperately to keep my legs moving at the same pace.

And then I missed the turning for the home straight.

I realised as I trotted on up the road. ‘I need to be over there’. What do I do? Turn back and retrace my steps? I saw the runner behind me heading for the finish and leapt over the tussocky grass for a bit of a short cut back to the official route.

From front runner to last but one…cos I’m a numpty 😉

1. 04.36
2. 05.05
3. 05.05
4. 03.05

Official race distance = 2 miles. My distance= 2.2 miles

Ah well, I won’t do that again but I did enjoy a great run.