Men win

Something away from running and injuries… I struggled whether to post this or not. I really hope I don’t offend anyone, that’s not my intention. This is purely the way I see the world – my interpretation with my ignorance and limited knowledge.

I’m 26 years old, married and have a lovely little house. My husband, Ben, and I live quite a harmonious life with our mischievously little furball dog, Alfie. Ben and I have been married for over two years now, living together for over three years… People are starting to ask The Question and/or give me the suspicious looks.

Many of my friends got married and then had kids quite soon afterwards. It’s quite logical and very common. Marriage then kids. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. But I’m fully dragging my feet on this one.

I feel genuine fear when I think about looking after a baby. I don’t look at babies as bundles of adorable joy-filled darlings. I look at them in fear. I’m awkward around them. I avoid contact. I feel I need to do something and probably utter something ridiculously obvious (“what small hands!”) and maybe gently poke its cheek or pat its head. My flight response has been fully activated and I’m ready to get the hell outta there.

IMG_4743 Megan, my neice, and me…full of fear

Ben used to be the same but the traitor has slowly moved over to the Dark Side. He seems more natural and normal around babies. Hell, he even looks like he’s comfortable and happy! When did this happen?

I will fully admit I truly know nothing about having a baby – the pregnancy, the birth and the, er, ‘rearing’. I can only go by what people have told me and what I’ve read in blogs, social media and books. To be honest, it all sounds a bit crap. And if Facebook and Twitter are anything to go by, this doesn’t really stop until they’re 18. And not even then.

This post is probably very naive and very ignorant so I truly hope I don’t offend anyone. Remember: I really know nothing apart from what I’ve seen and heard. My experience is highly limited.

Basically it sucks to be a woman. Firstly, you have to get pregnant. OK you can say you’re growing life inside you and how beautiful the whole experience is. Sure, sure. But let’s be real. You get fat, you get uncomfortable and a lot of bodily functions are either disrupted, abused or you just fully lose control of them. And running? Of course loads of people do manage to run through their pregnancy (don’t even get me started on the #fitpregnancy), but the reality is not many can maintain it. And those who can are running less, running slower and it’s usually not particularly comfortable. And remember the loss of control on bodily functions? Yeah. Putting it in the words of one of my male running friend: you have an 18 month long injury.

As a man you are UNAFFECTED. Men 1 Women 0

Then the whole birthing experience. I’ve heard the gory details. Don’t try and convince me it’s a beautiful and magical experience. Sweaty, bloody, fluid-y, painful, lonnnnnnnnng, poopy, muscus pluggy…

And the man? Maybe a bit sleep-deprived and maybe his hand hurts a bit from all the squeezing. Perhaps he now sees his loved one in a whole new maternal and Amazonian light. But still, he’s pretty unscathed I’d say. Men 2 Women 0

Then breastfeeding your new micro-human. Engorged boobs, huge painful nipples and random leakages. Latching difficulties, despair and distress at not being able to feed your baby. God forbid you even consider formula! The worry about how people will react if you breastfeed in public, or what people will say if you don’t breastfeed at all.

You hand your partner the baby and a bottle (either full of *gasp* formula or painfully pumped out of you). What’s the worst that can happen? The baby spits up? Men 3 Women 0

Sleepless nights. They say for the first six weeks you’re literally on autopilot. You’re lucky if you get two hour stretches. You’re not at work so you get a lie-in right? Right?? Apparently not. And apparently when people say “grab sleep when you’re baby sleep” they don’t realise you also need to shower and eat. Of course men go through this too – you’re a tag teaming duo of baby feeding/changing super heroes! Until he goes back to work TWO WEEKS later. Then you’re on your own. I can understand this. I’m not saying men are selfish rascals but if you’re breastfeeding then I imagine it’s pretty tricky for the woman to not be involved at some point. Men 4 Women 0

Body image and general fitness. I would like to meet the woman who is not daunted by the idea of gaining weight and the losing of a fitness that she has meticulously built up. Weight gain, wider hips, stretch marks, saggy tummies…all natural of course, but changing your body completely from what it was before. Running is slower and harder, and biomechanically you’re different and more injury-prone (is that even possible for me??). Things are not the same as they were before.

I think you can see this could go on a bit. And I don’t want to appear like a man-hating child-hating demon of a woman, but so far from what I’m aware of, being the female in the child-having scenario is no joke.

It honestly doesn’t appeal to me right now. I used to wonder if it ever would. But slowly I am coming round to the idea. I’m sure there are moments of joy and many priceless experiences but because I’m not an innately child-loving person I struggle to see the good bits beyond the truly horrific things I read. I’m sure I’ll be overcome with evolutionary triggered hormones love for our child and never regret it for a moment…(my fingers are firmly crossed!). But at the moment, I’m quite happy with just Alfie, thank you very much.

Parents, convince me otherwise! What are the good bits?

Have a moan: what are the tough bits? What have I missed?

Snap out of it

It’s OK. You can come near again. I’m past my initial I HATE THE WORLD bad mood. Personally, it’s only for so long I can maintain that level of enthusiastic annoyance and self-loathing.

I had lot of lovely Tweets, comments and reassurances from people about my injury which I really appreciated. Thank you. This is why I love the running (and blogging) community so much. Because even when you’re down and out for a bit, they’ll always try to lift you up. This is always clear as well when Ben comes to parkrun to volunteer, despite not being able to run. You’re a runner even when injured.

I saw Kyle (my coach and sports massage therapist) and he speculated that it’s the IT band. But it’s strange that it just happened out of nowhere so maybe I twisted awkwardly without realising or something.IMG_8537Lots of massage and some tape to help blood flow and it’s improving each day…fingers crossed it’s a blip then.

I know my situation isn’t the worst in the world. I’m grateful for any run I get that goes mildly well. Since so many injuries this year (*sighs*) and Ben’s horrible injury woe I fully appreciate any running. I also know I’m healthy and fit in comparison to many ‘normal’ people. I have no illness, life-threatening disease or terminal illness. And when I say I’m injured, really I mean “I can’t run for a bit because my knee hurts”. I can walk just fine.

And speaking of Ben, I know I really shouldn’t complain, moan or whinge. In some respects it’s a good job he’s in China: he can’t hear my pathetic complaints. I haven’t actually told him about all this. Internet and all things social media are pretty closed down over there so what I tell him is what he hears from me basically. Before you think I’m a terrible wife, I haven’t lied. I just haven’t mentioned it. All sounds rather illicit doesn’t it? But in truth, I’d rather not worry him about something like this while he’s away – especially when his own injury issue is so much worse than mine.

My dad, bless him, has had to deal with a lot over the past few months. We sometimes drive together to work (yes we work at the same company, God help us both) and he’s become my psychological coach. He often remarks that he’s genuinely tense before I get in the car with him as to how my latest run went, indicating what frame of mind I’ll be in (imagine the weeks leading up to the Berlin marathon…poor man). Recently he’s been quite relaxed and happy as my running has been going well. Getting in the car on Monday morning though he had to pick up the pieces. I hadn’t had anyone really to physically talk to about my latest running injury properly and I sort of went into melt-down mode on the way to work. He did a great job in talking things through logically and rationally and helped bring me back up out of my wallowing pit of despair.

He doesn’t run. He’s not that fit but he does try to do lots of walking (another Vivofit convert). He also appreciates my love for running. And he loves football and supports Liverpool FC quite passionately. He therefore knows disappointment in sport quite strongly too.

He often tells me about different footballers and their injury woes. The latest guy he told me about was Daniel Sturridge who had been on the bench due to a calf issue, then when he was allowed to start training again strained his thigh…then recovered, then strained it again. These guys are playing football as their career. Their livelihood depends on their fitness and the state of their body. It is likely that the management will see this footballer as a risk and a weakness, and perhaps his contract won’t be signed again.

Suddenly things for me don’t look so dire. I love running with all my heart but my life isn’t over without it. And of course not for a few days or weeks! Our mortgage isn’t dependent on me running. Sure it’s depressing and sad, but it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve got to keep things in perspective. I’ve had a lot of injuries. This year for me, you must agree, has been epically pants. The only two good things (in terms of running) have been the marathons. BUT if I had to choose between a year of no issue-running but no marathons or the year I’ve had…I must admit I’d keep my marathons.

The bigger picture is that I’ve got years of running ahead of me and great friends and family around me. Time to snap out of it. Sorry for being a wet blanket and thank you for bearing with me.

Best to keep your distance

Oh joyous Monday I can hardly contain my excitement.

I won’t lie. I’m in a pretty horrendous mood at the moment. I’m teetering close to edge of despair and full-on RAGE. Literally I am either about to cry or about to punch something. Guess what? I think I’m injured again. Oh it’s no surprise to anyone I’m sure. Let’s take it from the top shall we?

I ran on Saturday at parkrun. Absolutely fine, no issues. My shin has been OK – maybe slightly grumpy but not getting worse. I’ve been plodding all week (I ran Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday all easy just over 3.5 miles – no issues). I decided to put a bit of effort into parkrun. I wouldn’t say it was 100% effort but it was tough and I quite enjoyed the burst of adrenaline and speed, albeit slower than my faster times (just slightly over 22 minutes). No issues afterwards – nothing all day, so I felt very happy and looked forward to my 11 miler on Sunday.

Eleven miles is hardly jumping the distance as I’ve now run 10 miles twice before with no issues. Ten miles is also one of my favourite long run distances as it just always works for me. I felt extremely good straight away, finding my natural ‘good feeling’ pace between 8-8.15min/miles, consciously having to slow myself down if I got ahead of myself. In a sentence: I felt bloody brilliant!

At around 5-6 miles suddenly I felt a bit of pain in my knee area. I stopped for a second and stretched and poked a bit. How odd. I carried on running now aware of a discomfort that was broaching on pain. I was at that awkward point where running home would be the same distance as continuing on. I had no one to call to pick me up (OK that’s a lie, I do have family and friends who would have come – but other than Ben, I felt no one whom I was comfortable enough to ring without dissolving into tears or my ego taking a huge battering. Yes I know, I am an idiot).

From 8 miles onward the pain was every so often and sharp, and when it came it altered my gait. It was tipping it down and cold so walking home was out of the question. I just gritted my teeth and got home. Interestingly, my pace didn’t decline. Probably not the best thing though to run through it but at the moment I’m taking ANY silver lining available from this black thunder cloud. Funnily enough, it’s one of the best long runs I’ve done in ages in terms of speed and endurance – I didn’t feel out of breath or tired at all. Just in pain.

Just typical of me. Everything feels good when I run…apart from my body crumbling around me. I would have cried when I got home but I had no one to cry with except Alfie. I decided to mentally ignore the issue – all the while icing and trying not to aggravate my knee. Basically, I just didn’t think about it.

In the evening, after a day of hobbling around, I forced myself to text Kyle, my coach. I do feel sorry for him. What a runner to have on your books! Can barely stand the base building let alone proper marathon training. Falls at the first hurdle. Her body can’t even handle gentle plodding.

I’m guessing it’s my IT band as it’s that area of the knee that’s hurting and the IT band itself feels tender. But why it suddenly perked up I have no idea. I haven’t felt it at all for a while now. No tightness or discomfort. Who knows.

I’m not sure why I bother anymore with running. Perhaps Zumba or spinning is where my future lies in terms of keeping fit. I’m sorry to be so pathetic right now but can you really blame me?

Rants and Raves #3

I’m feeling grumpy. It can’t be helped really. It’s Thursday, when really it should be Friday.

I don’t want to moan…but I will. Sorry. I’ll try not to just rant the entire post.

Rant: With Ben being away it is quite lonely at the moment at home. I get very set in routines when I’m on my own as well. Walk Alfie, cook dinner, watch TV, go to bed. Nothing exciting really happens. I’m used to having him there to joke and laugh with, or moan and groan at…depends on the day and mood really ;-)

And with the 8 hour time difference it’s a struggle to keep in contact with him. Especially as with him being in China they don’t allow Facebook or Twitter, and I need to wait for him to get access to the limited Wifi in order to either WhatsApp or Skype. Humph.

Rave: Although saying that, with Ben not being here, this means dinner can be whatever I want it to be without having to worry if Ben will a) like it b) eat it.

Chickpea meal

Looks rather grim doesn’t it? But actually it was really tasty. I literally threw chickpeas, Brussels sprouts, courgette, onions, mushrooms and kale together with cream cheese and BBQ sauce. It’s just what I fancied. For me BBQ sauce and cream cheese are big winners.

Rant: perhaps ‘rant’ is too strong a word here…but Ben does make me laugh. He goes to Hong Kong and China and he eats… Italian. To be fair, he can’t go wherever he pleases as he’s with work colleagues but still. He ate Japanese one night which I suppose is at least that vague area of the world to some extent. Though he did tell me he had the strangest Hawaiian pizza which had a sweet dough with tomato sauce, tinned fruit salad, olives and cheese on it. I did say to him he’s probably better off actually eating the local food! *sighs*

Rave: Alfie is very loving at the moment as I’m the only one there. Despite Ben’s side of the bed being free, he still cuddles into me at night. My furry hot water bottle.

IMG_8446 But it also means I’m the one who has to clean up his sick when he wasn’t well the other day. This is usually very firmly a blue job…but currently no blue is here to help.

Rave: getting cool things in the post. I received a Fuelify goodie box which contained a lot of exciting products.

IMG_8459 A full review will be coming soon!

Rant/Rave: a mix of the two if you like. It’s no secret that I hate my commute. It’s a fair way from Southampton to Basingstoke and can take on average an hour (sometimes more) to work and then from work every single day. It grinds on me. Even when it’s plain sailing it still takes 40 minutes. To me this is absolute dead time. The radio is OK but I despair of BBC Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw in a morning (I was a huge Chris Moyles fan – sorry non-Brits, basically Radio 1 sucks as the best DJ left a few years ago and now it’s run by a moron) and I’m not quite ready to switch to BBC Radio 2 (which is aimed at a slightly older audience).

Aaaaanyway, long story short, I’ve signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (30 free days) as I saw they had audio books available too. I do read a lot as well on my Kindle, but thought while I drive I could listen to another book. Normally audio books are fairly hefty in price so I was pleased this was part of the deal. I decided to go for Life of Pi.

I’ve got the book on my Kindle but when I tried to read it I just couldn’t get into it. But listening to it is fantastic! In just over two days I’m 40% into it and it’s so good. I need to see the film as well now. Listening to it in the car just makes the journey zoom by as I get sucked into the narrative.

I’ve also downloaded Great Expectations to listen to next as I’ve never read it. I’m aiming for the more ‘dense’ books as I’ve found I can get into it easier than if I tried to read it. I’m still reading another book at the same time as well. Will see if I’m swayed by this Kindle Unlimited business by the end of the 30 days I think!

And that’s all I have in my current lonely, empty existence…well it’s not all bad. The house is extremely tidy and I’m only using one loo in the house (we have three) so that means only one bathroom needs cleaning this weekend! Wahay it’s the small things, right? ;-) I’m going to my parent’s house on Friday night for an Indian and staying over with Alfie so that should be good. Then really it’s just one week till Ben’s back! Hurrah!

What have been your rants and raves this week?

How do you cope when you’re alone in the house?

Do you listen to audio books?

Fire Up Your Run – Feetures! and Nathan review

Hello! I have another review for you guys. I’m quite excited about the products as most of them are all to do with being visible during your run or cycle – so it’s perfect timing for the current dark mornings and evenings. The lovely guys from 9Point9, the UK distributor of Feetures! and Nathan Sports, sent me a selection of products to test out. Let’s get to it.

Feetures! Socks (find HERE) SRP: £14.99

IMG_8371[1]

I’ll start first with Feetures!, which is a company specialising in performance running socks. What’s great is that they’re conscious of the environment. They use eco-friendly packaging and have an association with the National Forest Foundation, which I think is pretty cool. They also back all of their products with a Lifetime Guarantee. The products are designed to withstand repeated wearing and washing, and to maintain their fit and feel over the lifetime of the product. So if your socks fail to live up to this standard, then you can return them for an exchange or a full refund.

IMG_8372 

My socks were the Elite Merino+ which uses a blend of super fine Merino wool and soft rayon (kind of like a pulp?) from bamboo so feel incredibly soft. They insulate when wet so your feet are warm in cool and damp conditions (perfect for right now!) and also have anti-odour properties. There’s a nice bit of compression in the sock too so it “hugs” your foot comfortably and stays in place.

Feetures! SocksThoughts? I really liked them. They were SO comfortable. Almost spongy but not thick. It’s also really nice to find a pair of socks that are hidden in your trainers but don’t slip down. Trainer socks always fail me on this account so I was apprehensive to run in these at first. But they’ve never slipped down. They also have that handy left and right indicator on them so the cushioning is in the correct place. And they wash perfectly fine! No blister issues with these bad boys either (thank god). I will say though that for almost £15 they’re not the most cheap socks, but with a lifetime guarantee and how good they are, it does seem worth it.

Nathan Sports (website HERE)

As the market leader in creating the Running Essentials™ gear, Nathan’s performance-driven products aim to help improve an athlete’s running experience. They specialise in hydration vests, belts, handhelds, bottles, running paks, active visibility and reflective vests, and other gear, all designed to help you run stronger and longer.

I was kindly sent some really snazzy looking visibility gear. I won’t lie, I got quite excited. Especially considering how useful these products would be to me as I run so god damn early in the morning when it’s pretty dark!

LightSpur (find HERE) SRP: £19.99

IMG_8411This LED light attaches to the heel of one of your trainers. I was initially concerned that I’d feel it and it would either annoy me at best or cause me an issue running at worst. But neither of these happened. It fits very securely and you honestly cannot feel it. It has two settings: pure light and then a flashing light. It’s also waterproof (it has survived quite a few rainy morning’s run now!) and runs on replaceable watch batteries (40+ hours of illumination).IMG_8412

Thoughts? I loved it. Honestly, this is a brilliant idea. It’s now something I won’t run without on an early morning or evening run. Anything that can make you more visible to cars, cyclists and pedestrians is a big thumbs up in my book. It takes nothing away from your run so it’s a no-brainer really.

Zephyr Fire 100 Hand Torch (find HERE) STP: £44.99

IMG_8455 This is a torch which is rechargeable (via USB ) and is strapped onto your hand – so you don’t actually have to physically hold it. With 108 lumens and 3 lighting modes, there’s light at the top and a red light at the bottom and the torch has a 24 degree downward projection angle to focus on the path in front of you. There’s also a siren built it that activates when clicked (I’d advice that it’s best not to test this before 6am in the morning when you’re perfectly safe!!)

IMG_8458

Thoughts? I used to consistently wear a head torch on my dark runs but I found it quite annoying and bouncy on my head so I was really chuffed to try a hand-held torch instead. It’s also less expensive than a head torch as well.

IMG_8456 It gives a good beam of light and I love the fact is has a siren. Early morning or late evening running is dangerous, particularly for a lone female. Whether anyone would come and save me is questionable though! But it’s a good deterrent anyway. My only issue is that my arms are always moving when I run so the light flays about a bit and you have to remember it’s attached to your hand. It’s very easy to forget and then point the torch at someone’s house window or a car, which is never good! But I do think it’s brilliant – not only allowing you to be seen but also showing any puddles, tree roots, rubbish etc. that might be hidden on your path in the dark. As a side point, it’s great for when I take Alfie out on his walks because he tends to find the most dark and difficult corners to do his business which makes poop scooping tough work! #dogownerproblems

LightBender (find HERE) SRP: £19.99

IMG_8401

This is an LED band that straps round your arm. It has two settings: regular light and flashing. It’s water resistant and, like the heel spur, has a replaceable watch battery. It’s also very bright.IMG_8452

Thoughts? I have quite thin arms and struggled a little to get it to fit snugly but I got there in the end with fiddling about with the straps. Like the heel spur, this is excellent to make yourself seen. I wear the heel spur on one foot and the armband on the opposite arm which works perfectly. It’s very bright and isn’t uncomfortable at all. A very neat little gadget that makes me very visible to anyone driving or walking nearby.

DomeLight (find HERE) SRP: £39.99

Nathan DomeLight This is very clever. It’s a water-resistant hat with a front white LED light and a rear red LED light. It has 2400 feet of visibility and reflective trims. It’s USB rechargeable and the female version has a hole for your pony tail! There’s also a small pocket to put a house key or what have you. I was fairly excited when I saw this I won’t lie.Nathan Domelight hat

Please ignore how truly horrendous I look – it’s 5.40am

Thoughts? Though I was reluctant to wear a hat so soon into the cold weather season (you gotta save the good stuff for the really cold days to appreciate it more), I quite happily donned this to give it a spin on my runs. What a brilliant idea! It’s no head torch but that’s not what it’s for – it’s for people to see you. It fits snugly, my pony tail fits nicely (as you can see in the photo) and the lights are awesome. Very pleased with this. It’s very warm and snug as well.

Wrist Runner 2 (find HERE) SRP: £9.99

 IMG_8408

This is a lightweight fabric wrist pocket. It can fit a credit card, ID, cash, and other small essentials. It’s very stretchy and water-resistant. It comes in two colours – not just pink ;)

IMG_8475Thoughts? This is quite handy as putting things in jacket pockets or wearing a bag can be a bit annoying as they bounce around, but because this is quite form-fitting it doesn’t. On a long run I could keep a debit card (or my parkrun barcode card!) in there which is always handy in case you need to grab a water or something like that. Nothing has fallen out yet either from the pocket. My only quibble with it is that it doesn’t fit on my wrist as I have quite small wrists, but it did fit snugly higher up my arm. I put a key and a card in there and it only slightly slipped down my arm once before I readjusted which was good. It is a little expensive for what it is I think but I like that it’s reflective and it’s useful for carrying a few odd items without going overboard.

Lock Laces (find HERE)

IMG_8406As the pack says, they are elastic shoelaces with a lock-and-clip system. The laces are also reflective.

IMG_8463

Thoughts? I’m currently wearing three different trainers in rotation (Mizunos, Brooks and Boosts) and decided to put the laces on my Mizunos as they have ridiculously long laces and it drives me mad (I have to triple bow them!). The laces were very easy to thread into the trainers and they could be pulled nice and tight so my feet were very secure. You then just snip off the excess lace and then attach the locks and then the clips at the end. I was a little confused with the clip things and struggled a bit with the instructions given on the packet. I’m not entirely sure what they’re for either as the locks hold the laces down quite nicely. But anyway, they work very well. So much easier than faffing about with tying the laces as they’re very easy to tighten and un-tighten. Ideal for triathlons for definite!

Conclusion: these products have really made me think about how easy it is to be seen when running. It is STUPID to go out like a ninja runner without any sort of light or reflective gear on. Yes you’re on the pavement but you still need to be seen – you cross roads, you can be on badly lit roads or paths, and pedestrians are normally completely hidden in darkness so giving them a bit of notice of your arrival always helps (I’ve scared many a dog walker or walking commuter by flying past with no warning). You’re also less of an easy target for someone to stealthily grab you if you’re more visible to everyone.

There really is no excuse. Be visible. Be safe. The Nathan website has loads of great items from lights to reflective gear. Your only risk is looking a bit like a Christmas tree if you rock out all the lights at once ;-)

I would fully recommend the Feetures! socks as well. Expensive though they may be, I fully appreciate anything that makes my feet feel nice and comfortable on a run and don’t slip.

All in all I very good selection of products. Perfect gift ideas for runners or stocking fillers in my opinion!

How do you stay safe if you work out outside in the morning or evening?

Are you a sock snob – do you only wear running-specialised socks? I fully admit I am a sock snob. Compression socks or running-specific only!

What would you prefer: a hand-held torch or a head torch?

 

[Full disclosure: I was sent these products for free to review. All opinions are my own.]