Running and wine. I must be in France.

We are currently in France.  When I say we I mean me and A, and some other friends.  Not the Neon Toddler.  She is at home on a mummy-free vacation with Daddy.

So, A and our friend Chris are riding their bikes up Mont Ventoux tomorrow.  I am going up in the car.  The mountain looks a little bit like this:

MontVentoux-Malaucene-profile

That is, steep.  I make a joke about running up the top.  Only half a joke, but it’s going to be hot.  VERY HOT.  And I do not like running hills, and so I am not going to run.

Last night, Chris and I went for a 5km run after several glasses of wine.  Running after several glasses of wine is interesting.  Particularly in the heat.

But for now, I am going to take my very full stomach and settle down with Killian Jornet’s ‘Run or Die’ and watch A foam roll.  I wish I could be on holidays FOREVER (but I do miss the Toddler!)

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First things first: after a (very hot) run and brunch with my friend Caz on the weekend I have bowed to pressure to join Strava.  I don’t have anything against Garmin Connect (now it’s been updated anyway!) so I was pretty content, but there you go.  I’m now on Strava.  Feel free to add me or whatever it is you do on Strava.

I’ve been running, which is amazing.  It’s now been four weeks (and one race) since I started running again and I feel so much better than I was feeling.  I’m not really a very positive person, when all is said and done.  I tend to be a worst-case-scenario type, and I obsess about things, and make myself sad and upset.  I assume this is just a part of who I am and the way that I am made up (and I suspect goes hand-in-hand with being bipolar).  But, running makes me feel better.  I wrote quite recently about how running changes my attitude towards my body and each run is a small victory in the large war that I wage on myself daily (that is, my eating disorder).  I think that can extend into something bigger.  Running doesn’t just make me happier it makes me a better person.  There is a number of physiological reasons for that (just Google ‘Exercise makes you happy‘ or, better yet, plug something like ‘exercise happiness‘ or ‘exercise mental health‘ into Google Scholar).  I am not trying to claim that running does something special and amazing, just to me.  It does this for everyone.  That’s why it’s so wonderful!

After I lost my training plan, I haven’t written another one.  That is my big task for today (as well as using up my entire photocopy card, but that’s another story!).  I’m going on holidays tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to running somewhere new and exciting.  And hot.

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It’s just training with bling (Gunnersbury Park 10km Race Report).

So today was the Gunnersbury Park 10km, which I was going to treat both as a training run and as kind of a test.  I had told A during the week that I would ultimately be happy to finish in under 70 minutes.  After all, I really only started running three weeks ago, and the last time I ran ten kilometres was on October 20th last year.  I chose to run this particular race because I used to run in Gunnersbury Park all the time, and I thought it would be good to be somewhere familiar.  I’d forgotten how uneven and broken up the path is, but that’s another story.*

Neon Toddler and I woke early – before the alarm early – and proceeded to spend an age getting ready.  Mainly because every three minutes I had to stop and draw a house, or a picture of NT and her doll in bed, or a picture of ‘Nanpa!’ (the collective name for my parents, made up of ‘Nanna’ and ‘Pa’).  We finally got out the door and onto the train, easily enough through registration, and down to drop NT off with her dad.  So after this, I wandered back to the start and lazed around, looking at Twitter, and checking out the other runners (or, more accurately, checking out their shoes).  It was nice to be in the throng of racing again, and I really like small races.

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The race was meant to start at 10:30, and about 35 past (just after I had dropped my bag in the tent), we were ushered from registration to the start line.  The race was a 2.6km arch, then two laps of the park.  I had assumed that it would be two laps of the figure-of-eight 5km (which is what I used to run and what I think they use for Parkrun there, although I’ve never been).

The field was pretty small and everyone seemed to self-select into a timing group, with the only instruction that sub-40s should go in the front.  Needless to say, I stayed well away from that action!  The start was nothing amazing, and as there was no official timing I made paid more attention to where the start line was spray-painted on the ground in order to start my Garmin.  The first few kilometres was pretty stuffed – this is fairly normal for races of any size – and because the path was so narrow it took a while for the field to spread out (at my end anyway).  Around the 1.5-2km mark I started to get a bit more space and settled into pace.

The course was actually fine – the first 2 and a bit kms were fine, but I kept thinking I was running too fast (this would continue through the entire race) and that I wouldn’t be able to keep this up.  So on went the conversation in my head:

‘You’re running too fast – you’ll crash out in the last half!’

‘Yes, yes, but I’m comfortable and I don’t want to slow down just for the sake of slowing down!’

On and on.  And on.  I struggled the most between 2 and 4km, and this is really reflected in my splits where 1-2 I’ve run 6:44 and 2-3 is 6:31.  These are my only two kilometres which were slower than 6:30.

By the time I settled in – really around 5.5km-ish and just got on with the job of finishing there’s not much to say.  I felt I ran well, I pushed myself a bit.  I realised that I probably don’t ever look as shitty as I feel (although I’m still unsure whether this is a good or bad thing…).  From there my split times really come down – with my fastest between 7 and 8km, at 6:09, and 9 and 10 at 5:53 (my only sub-6 minute kilometre).  I had messaged A after the race and mentioned that I felt the best in the last two kilometres, so that is pretty much reflected in the data.

I’m really happy with how strongly I finished this race – I passed a lot of people in the last two kilometres, and just kept picking up the pace.  I didn’t think I’d be able to sprint finish, but it came from somewhere and I flew over the last 200 metres!

All in all, I’m so unbelievably happy with how this race went!

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*Oh look, that’s it.  Not really another story at all!

I am experimenting with not being vegan any more.

I’ve been vegan for more than five years.  That’s five years of no meat*, dairy, eggs, or any animal products in anything that I ate, used, or wore.

It’s been affirming.  It’s been (occasionally) challenging.  It’s been the right thing for me to do and be.  It’s been a part of my identity.  And it’s a part of my identity that I have been struggling with over the last few weeks.  It’s not that I don’t care about animal welfare or environmental issues any more.  In fact, I care about those things the same amount as I did before.

I was in a very different place when I went vegan.  It wasn’t a very good place either.  I was taking a lot of drugs, working in a terrible environment, not looking after myself, and was probably in my worst episode of bulimia ever – including when I was a teenager just diagnosed.  Cutting out dairy and eggs (I already wasn’t eating meat, or using any animal products that required a kill) was a strange decision, and was informed by many of the things that were going on around me.  It was a way of trying to regain some control of my life.  And it worked.

But I don’t think that’s the person that I am right now.  I’m not going to go back to a lacto-ovo vegetarian overnight, but I am going to relax my diet a bit.  I want to be strong and fit and healthy and right now I feel that being a bit more relaxed, but simultaneously thoughtful, about my diet is the best place for me to be.

It’s taken me a long while to get to this point.  I feel a bit of shame – but not at the fact that I am ‘quitting’ being vegan, more because I don’t feel worse about it.  I don’t think I’m worried about a backlash, but I don’t really know what to expect.  I’m worried about ‘coming out’ to everyone (like, do I just start eating cheese or do I have a bit sit-down in which I tell everyone that I’m going to start eating cheese again?!?  I don’t know how to deal with this!)  Plus, now I will have to brave the minefield of figuring out which cheese actually is vegetarian and which contains rennet.  That was easy before because I just didn’t eat any cheese.

Anyway.  These are things which I assume will sort themselves out with relative ease and I’ll wonder why I was worried about them in the first place.

So, I guess this is it.  My big reveal.  I’m not a vegan any more.**

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*Actually, because I was vegetarian for a long while before going vegan, it’s more like 16-17 years of no meat.

**Actually, I do feel a bit sad about now saying this.  Being vegan has been a big part of my identity for a long time.  Now I have to renegotiate that part of my identity.

Somewhere between Hadrian’s Wall and London, I lost my training plan

I’ve lost my training plan.

It’s not the hugest deal in the world.  I can just write it again (although, being what it was it took me a considerable amount of time to fashion together I’m sure it won’t take as long to re-create).  At any rate, this week has been a bit of a weird one anyway, because I ran both yesterday (4kms on a treadmill in Chollorford) and today (8kms around my local park).  I’m racing on Sunday, so I won’t run again until then.

Racing.  This will be my first race in more months than I care to think, and I’m sure excited!  It’s a 10km around Gunnersbury Park, which I used to run quite often when I lived in Ealing.  It will be both a nice reminisce and a nice chance to push myself and let some adrenaline boost my pace.  I think it will be interesting to see how – in those conditions – my current pace actually stacks up against where I was before I stopped running.  I’m hoping that I’ll come out a little faster than I think (my 10km PB is 58:45, but my last 10km race was 1:08:47).  I’m hoping to run sub 1:10.  I’ll be happy with that, considering I’ve got another 10km race a month after, and that is the one I will use to really set pace goals for the Ealing Half Marathon in September.  And, as much as I would love to go for a PB there, I honestly don’t think it’s viable to push myself to that at this stage.  I want to enjoy running, and really train properly and well and cover the distance strongly.

So, that’s where I’m at.  Perhaps tonight I’ll pull down my copy of ‘Lore of Running’ and sort out my new lack of training plan.  But, for now the plan is to have a shower, do some foam rolling, rest and (hopefully!) race well on Sunday.

*For those interested, I mainly name my runs on Garmin connect after a song lyric that has boosted me through that particular run.  If there is something particular about a run that is not song-related then that will take naming precedence (so, for example, see ‘Golf courses do not make for good running tracks‘).

Being away from London

Neon Toddler and I are currently away from London, with my parents who are visiting from Australia.  It’s exhausting – Neon Toddler is unsettled sleeping in a different environment, always excitable (particularly regarding spending so much time with Nanna and Pa!) and is spending time in a car seat for the first time since she was a tiny baby.  I’m also unsettled, and I have no work to do on my thesis and haven’t for around a month now (for various reasons that I won’t go in to).

But, I have managed two runs – one better than expected and one worse.

The first was in Blackpool.  I was scheduled for 8kms, but got a bit lost and ran 9.  I was a bit worried about this run.  I haven’t run longer than 6kms since the end of October last year, and I had been really struggling from about 4 1/2kms in all my runs since I started running again.  In the end, I didn’t really have to worry.  I ran along the beach path, which was really nice (and, unrelated to that, filled with cyclists in lycra wizzing past me).  I felt pretty good most of the way and I’m pretty confident that I will at least finish the Gunnesbury Park 10km next Sunday (although I expect to be very slow!).

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Yesterday’s run wasn’t as good.  We’re at a golf course just outside Durham, and golf courses just aren’t made to be running tracks.  I managed 4km, but was down for 10.  We’re heading the short distance to Hexham today, so I might try and do that 10km along Hadrian’s Wall.

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All in all, some good and some bad.  But I’m running and that’s the main thing.

My name is Neon Anonymous and I have an eating disorder.

How does a person decide to become fit, lose weight, get healthy?  Easily, right?  What happens if that person has spent more than half of their life fighting their own self with food and exercise?  What happens when 16 out of 31 years has been spent in constant battle?

In my case, the answer to that question was, and is, running.  You run.  More accurately, I run.

I have spent a long time hating myself.  On most days I still hate the way that I look.  I hate my thighs, I hate my stomach, I hate my breasts, I hate the way I am put together.  I am not a picture that I want to look at.  I have spent more time hating myself than not hating myself.  But, now I have some… light, hope, and perspective.  Now, there is one thing that I can do that makes me feel great, and not just about how I feel and think and am, but also about how I look, and that thing is run.  When I run I feel amazing.  I feel like I am the perfect size, because I am the right size and shape to be doing the thing that I am doing – running.

It seems oxymoronic to fight a food-and-exercise related ‘problem’ with food and exercise, but it isn’t.

Nine months ago I ran my first ultramarathon.  I’d never even run a marathon before.  I ran a couple of half-marathons, I ran some 10ks, I ran for fun and to push myself.  I ran on my own in the blinding rain.  I ran with my infant daughter in a buggy with beautiful clear skies.  I ran in the snow, in the sleet, in the blistering sunshine.  I ran when I didn’t want to run.  I just ran because running made me feel good about myself.

And the more that I ran, the less that I binged and purged.  The more that I ran the more that I ate because I wanted to eat.  Because I wanted to fuel.  Not because I was so tired and broken from not eating, but because I wanted to get out on that next run, break the next PB, and the only way to do that was to fuel.  And fuelling gave way to eating.  Proper eating, for fun and health and enjoyment.

And then I stopped running.  And I stopped eating.  And I started bingeing and purging.  And things got too much, very, very quickly.  And I started running again, and it feel like things are falling into place.  It feels like I am falling into place.

My name is Neon Anonymous and I have an eating disorder.  I will always have an eating disorder.  I manage my eating disorder through running.

Not running for several months helped me realise that.