The Scribbler

28 March 2012

Summer calling?

I’ve trained through the winter, fighting the darkness, sneaking early morning time before work to hit the beach with my PT. Dragging tyres across the sand, running with a weighted bag, throwing kettlebells around with abandon, layered up in hoodies, hats and gloves.

Now I rise and it’s daylight, bright and fresh. The sea’s refreshed the sand, wiped the slate clean, ready for a new start. We still get the place to ourselves, although there are more and more curious dogs now who bound over to come and see what the strange lady is doing. This week it’s a circuit, using the kettlebell for dynamic exercises and as a weight for others. Legs, arms, cardio, core. It’s tough but not impossible. I finish aglow and jog home, ready for whatever else the day throws at me.

Friday, I feel the healthy ache of a job well done and I pace myself through the day. At lunchtime I sing with the choir and it’s like another physical workout. The breathing and concentration sets my blood flowing and adrenaline pumping. Once again there are a couple of moments when I feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. The community, togetherness and joy is palpable. And we’ve improved so much in these few weeks’ of rehearsals.

As the working day draws to a close, I head out for a walk, realising that I’ve been stuck inside this glass and steel cage all day. I’m calmed and cooled, revived and ready for a long night ahead.

For this was no ordinary Friday. This was Sports Relief night. And as many of you sat down to watch the telly, I was set up for my first ever stint in a call centre, taking donations. As promised, it was great fun. A team of buddies kept us supplied with sweets, cakes, drinks, food and quizzes for the times when the phones were quiet. And when the calls came in there was a real excitement, cheers at large donations and just an appreciation of those giving what they could.

It was really nice talking to the people on the phone. I think I deserved a prize for the most regional accents though. I started with a Brummie, then progressed through Glasgow, Essex, Sunderland, and Northern Ireland. I’d been worried that I’d find the midnight finish tiring, but I was having too much fun, or too high on sweeties, chocolate and pizza to mind.

So I stirred without too much trouble on Saturday, ready for a stint volunteering at parkrun. Despite the mild weather there was a thick fog that showed no signs of lifting and shortly after 9am the stream of brightly coloured running shirts disappeared into the drifting grey.

Catching up with parkrun regulars, the first runner soon appeared at the top of the final straight, powering through the line in a very speedy time. And one by one, then in clumps and groups they began to arrive with barcodes and finish tokens to be scanned. Around 260 in all.

There’s a good team of volunteers  at Newcastle parkrun and this week everything went very smoothly. We were cleared and packed away quickly and the moor left to the silence of the fog.

Once home, with a few chores out of the way, the fog was still present as a cool sea fret out along the coast, so I took my chance to get out for a long run. I’ve built back up slowly by increments, keeping my pace steady and my running relaxed. But I wanted one run of 40 minutes or more under my belt to give me confidence and reassurance that I can tackle 5 miles next Saturday when I’ll be exploring the Olympic park.

It was odd being out in the sea fret. Happy travellers from sunnier inland were heading out to the sea and wondering what was going on. The sun was out and the air was warm, but the water droplets rolled in like smoke and hid the beach and sea from view. The odd voice travelled up through the dim.

I warmed up with my usual drills and then set my watch and started to pace out a steady beat. Familiar signs and landmarks hidden, it was just me and my run. Breathing and effort felt easy, almost as though every step was softened by the fog.

A simple out and back route, I stuck to my plan and although there were times when I felt I wanted to pick the pace up, I opted for the long run and clocked up the minutes, allowing myself a minute or so of tempo pace as I approached the finish point after 45 minutes running. An active cool down and some stretches and I was done.

It felt so good to be out running, no pressure, not too many worries about my injury, just taking it easy. And I’ve reassessed what an easy run is now. Aerobically it’s relaxed, but it’s still working my legs and lungs. And I have to watch I don’t fall into heavy footed plodding, but keep my feet light.

I still hanker for the speed that greater effort will allow, but for now I’m just enjoying running.  The pace will increase as I get the confidence of having banished this injury.

My foot largely behaved after my long run. I just felt a couple of twinges later that evening and by the next morning, there was just a small tight spot in my heel that I could not shift. But I’d done what I set out to do at the weekend and anything else was a bonus.

On Sunday I got out on my road bike again, exploring some of the many off road cycle paths and lanes and linking up a route to the Hadrian’s cycle way. We really are incredibly lucky to have so many cycle paths around North Tyneside. They sometimes take a bit of finding, and often take me on a longer route, but I’m starting to find lots of ways I can get around on the bike. It’s amazing to find yourself on pleasant paths winding along by the river and spotting landmarks from the areas Roman and industrial history.

I was out for an hour and a half and congratulated myself on managing a nice controlled descent and getting my chain back on when it slipped following a sudden stop for a rabbit darting across my path. I felt like I could have done more, but I had a half formed plan to surprise Penny and Sue who were out for a long run at the coast.

So after a quick stop at home for supplies, I set off again on my mountain bike this time to track them back round a familiar route. Penny was out doing a 20 miler as part of her marathon training and Sue was joining her for the last 8. I met up with them rather sooner than expected, coming down the waggonways and cycled on slowly ahead.

They were in great form despite the morning heat, just keeping going at a steady pace, and we enjoyed a bit of chat as we rounded back towards the coast and a finish at the Rendezvous cafe. It’s a heck of an achievement to have managed so much training and to have got that long run done before many people would be thinking of going out on a Sunday morning, so I just know Penny’s going to have a great race.

As for me, it was just good to be out and about, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and catching up with two good friends who I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t started running.

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