Losing the gremlins in the woods

I’m focusing on running at the moment, trying to make the most of four run sessions a week – usually a couple of 10ks, a 30 min interval set and a long, slow run. It’s hard. It’s been a long time since I’ve focused on just running, but in a way, it’s good to go back to where it all started. I’d just forgotten how much it takes to get out and do it, to tackle to tough sessions and push myself further and faster.

The plan was to run 10k , so I set out under grey skies and light drizzle with around an hour’s running in mind. It being a longer run, I was kind to my feet and chose my old trainers, ones I knew would get me through the distance without my toes feeling like they were being blitzed by fire and ice.

There’s a 5k route that I use quite often, away from traffic but over decent paths and light trails. I set along it feeling heavy legged and bodied. No bounce, more a shuffle. I made a conscious effort to think about my form, land light, pick up my feet, ease into the run, relax.

I grumbled round the loop, negative thoughts floating through my synapses. ‘Why am I doing this? It’s meant to be fun? This doesn’t feel like fun. I’m so much slower than I was. I expect too much. I’m not getting any younger. This will keep on getting harder.’

Sometimes they threatened to stick and form goals ‘I could just go and run my home race for fun… I should drop Alnwick tri… I should pull out of that standard tri, just do the sprint’. Of course, I could do all of those things, I just need a better reason than mental gremlins made me do it.

Rather than completing my usual 5k loop and running it twice, I extended it on through to a nature reserve.  The trees alongside the narrow path are woody and spindly, not showing their spring greens yet. But the shade and the renewed focus on finding my feet along the trail seemed to lift my thoughts and before I knew it, I’d outpaced the gremlins and left them stumbling through the woods, unable to follow me.

I started to breathe a little easier, feel the flow of movement a little more naturally. The path continued and I was enjoying myself, so I followed it, hoping that I’d remember a route from years ago as I came across the landmarks.

I didn’t. I thought there was a style. There was a gate and a main road. I thought I could run alongside on the verge for a little way and then turn in by a big tree. I didn’t find the tree, but I did find a sort of path at the edge of a field, heading in the right sort of direction, so I followed it.

I wasn’t lost. Just exploring. At any point I could have retraced my steps and found a familiar path. But I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to go forward. My route took me over some rather rough ground, and eventually back onto a tarmaced footpath pretty close to where I first entered the nature reserve.

Earlier thoughts of cutting the run short had been banished. I’d come so far and enjoyed my little off road adventure, I would see out at least an hour’s running or more. I found something like pace. Legs which had grumbled and begged me to slow down at the start seemed willing to push on after an 8k warm up and I completed my distance target.

As always, I felt so much better for doing it. And reflecting on my run, there were far more positives than the gremlins could throw negatives at me.

My first race of the season is a 10k road race. I can run the distance. I’ve done it a few times recently and will do a few more before race day. I can do it after a heavy week’s training on legs tired from weight training. And I can lose the gremlins along the way, and actually enjoy a run that didn’t start out that way.

Now to find a bit more pace and my racing head…

Triathlon training in sunny Scotland

Saturday, sunshine, blue skies and a trip north, over the border to Scotland for the first tri day of the year, hosted excellently as ever by my fab tri buddy Lesley.

These often happen midweek, so despite it being the weekend, I still felt like I was skiving off as I put my bike in the car and drove north on a practically traffic free road, casting admiring glances at the calm blue seas off the coast. I must have had about three complete changes of outfit packed in my huge tri bag, in anticipation of any kind of weather, but it was very kind to us.

Four runners in red tops
On the run with my tri buddies (Photo Bob Marshall)

With me, Lesley, Al, Lucy and Cat  all arrived safely, we headed off for a pool swim at Haddington. With the pool shortened, it was a good chance for me to try out some of my coaching and Swim Smooth tips and to suggest drills that would help improve the efficiency of swimming strokes. It’s amazing what you can learn from watching other people swim and see all the different styles and learning techniques.

I had them doing doggy paddle, sculling, torpedo push offs and swim backs, and I did some 6-1-6 and catch up drills using a High 5 tube, which I passed from hand to hand. It worked very well, but I’d forgotten how hard those drills are. I need to make sure I spend a bit of time doing them.

I did get a bit of a swim in, but no great distance. It was just lovely to be in such a bright, airy pool. And reminds me I do need to make time for my swimming as I do enjoy it.

After a bit of a refuel with flapjack from the cafe, it was back to base and change into cycling gear for the main part of the day. Much faffage and discussion about how many layers and pumping up of tyres, but we were soon on our way out onto the quiet and largely traffic free roads around North Berwick.

Cyclists ready to roll
No one gets dropped on a tri day (Photo Bob Marshall)

The best thing about these rides is that no one gets left behind. We all enjoy a nice cycle, stop and regroup at junctions, push on and fall back when we need too. This time everyone seemed to be at a similar level of cycling and it was very pleasant just moving along, spotting swathes of yellow daffodils, passing a couple of horses and chain-ganging down a lovely smooth stretch of road.

Last time I rode this route, we got hit by a horrendous head wind in the last 3 miles, which was so bad one of our party actually got off and walked. It wasn’t quite so bad this time, but still tricky enough to slow us down and send me rattling down to my lower ring. I can still feel a flush in my cheeks and on my forehead today from the wind burn!

But we all made it back in one piece and us girls did a quick change around for a bit of a run while Bob took some great photos and Al made sure we’d have soup ready for our return. It was great all running together in our Fetch tops and we stuck together for one lap of the trail loop and did our best Runner’s World pose at the end for another photo.

How could 4pm have come round so quickly? It felt like we’d only just got started, but we were all hungry and soon devouring soup, bread, spreads and cake and flapjacks. Yum!

They say time flies when you’re having fun. It certainly did for me. Even cycling, which I usually get bored with in less than an hour, felt relatively easy and carefree. The chat flowed, the sun shone and it was all over too soon. But, as always, it was just one of the best days.

How readable is your writing?

Your 20 page document outlining in detail the research, findings and recommendations of your latest project. That’s easy to read, right? I mean you know the subject in detail. You’ve been working on it for months. It’s obvious… isn’t it?

To you, it may be. But what about your audience? Someone who picks it up and reads it for the first time? What does it tell them?

Do they pick it up with a groan, put off by the thought of reading pages and pages of tight-packed text with long sentences and paragraphs that go on, and on and on? Will they be baffled by jargon? Stumped by acronyms? Wonder why on earth this is relevant to them?

Is it well organised, structured in a logical way? Does it have a beginning, middle and end? Do your conclusions actually conclude anything?

These are all questions and problems that came up for discussion on a business writing course recently. And there’s lots you can do to make your documents easy to read, starting with thinking about your audience and writing for them, not yourself.

Here’s one little tip to help you review how easy your writing is to read.

When you spell check and review a Word document, (because you all do a spelling and grammar check before you send it out, right?) did you know you can also see how easy it is to read?

Word can show you readbility statistics. To turn this option on:

  1. Click the File tab, and then click Options.
  2. Click Proofing.
  3. Under When correcting spelling and grammar in Wordmake sure the Check grammar with spelling check box is selected.
  4. Select Show readability statistics.

Next time you’ve finished checking the spelling and grammar of your document you’ll see information about its reading level.

Sadly, just having the statistics may not help you understand whether it’s easy to read or not. So for a quick guide to what the numbers actually mean and an online version of the scorecard, I like this readability checker from The Writer.