Sunday, February 23, 2014


That's how Dave described it when I said I was going out for my training while the rest of the UK was being battered by high winds. He said I'd been bitten by the Running Bug. I think he was exaggerating. It wasn't that windy in Norwich. And besides, I had one more workout to go before my Rest Day. Silly man.

You will continue to note that I say training, rather than running. There's still rather more walking than running going on; though I am gradually beginning to run more and more. I work hard for each and every slight improvement. The sessions leave me knackered, sweating and aching. My legs are a constant dull throb and I'm learning to live with the discomfort. At the end of March I'll be running that Sports Relief mile and in November I'll be running the half-marathon. From zero to hero in 40 weeks. Oh yeah.

I can't say I like it much. It's not at all comfortable. I have to do my training in the morning before I go to work. If I don't do it then, it doesn't get done at all. I can't train at the end of the day, I am just too tired. Work is very demanding and when I get home, I take my shoes off, dig something out of the fridge and disengage my brain in front of a screen. I don't particularly like getting out of breath and sweaty. My shins and calves ache all the time. There's no let up. 

Why do it?

Ten years ago, my mother died. It was my wake up call to the inevitability of death. I bought an exercise DVD, some cheap workout gear from Primark and some cross-trainers. Every now and then, between then and now I'd break out the DVD, write a blog about how much I wanted to get fit and take the shoes off, put the DVD back on the shelf and have another handful of chocolate.

Two years ago, I started having a lot of trouble with my lower back. I couldn't sit down for any length of time. I started popping ibuprofen like tic-tacs. A few sessions of yoga and a few visits to my osteopath got it to a more manageable level. It was becoming clear to me, I needed to move more.

Last year, Dave finally convinced me to get on a bike. I did and it damned near killed me. I dusted off my exercise DVDs and looked and my knackered shoes. The little bit of exercising I did made a whole heap of difference to the experience of going out on the bike. And then Dave bought me the Shiny Bike. We've not been out much over the winter, but as the nights draw out, the road is beginning to call. 

Over the winter, I've upped my exercise activity. I wanted to move more, to be able to do a little bit more. And then, in a vulnerable moment, I said I would do the Norwich half-marathon. More fool me.

At this point, I say this and I have no idea if I will actually be able to do it. I tell you what it's done - I am now one focused woman. I am in training, not just exercising. There is a point to my increased physical activity level. The Viking recommended Zombies, Run! as a fun way to  run and I downloaded their 5k training app. I'm so glad I did. It combines a proper running program with Zombie Apocalypse storyline and is way more fun than just running around and around my local park. 

For Christmas, Dave gave me a heart-rate monitor. I can now keep track of how hard I'm working and it's been a very useful tool. I now visit fitness websites and have loads of apps to track my progress - fitness and weight goals. Yes, I am perfectly aware that they are fun to have and are not really necessary. Just as I don't really need to have three pairs of running leggings, long-sleeved running shirts or those shiny, expensive running shoes. I do feel a total fraud still. I'm not actually running...I am working up to it. I squeeze my body into the running lycra, put on my florescent gear and head out feeling like a total fool. I look like too much mince, shoved into a tight sausage skin. I suppose that's part of the other reason I run in the mornings - no one else is awake to point and laugh.

I'm also having to work on my running technique. I'm a heavy heel striker which is part of the reason I'm having such issues with my shins. By concentrating on adopting good form now, it will hopefully mean less joint and back issues in the future as I begin to pile on the miles. 

Speaking of my back and previous skeletal back is remarkably happy with me at the moment. To the point where I did some strength training yesterday and then went for a long walk around town. I was able to keep standing and move without any grinding in my hips or lower back. I didn't even think about it until I got home. No, I couldn't have done that in October. Walking around the city became quite uncomfortable very quickly and I adopted many strategies to avoid it as much as possible.

My knee is surprisingly quiet. No undue bitching or complaining about the extra work-load at all. It makes me wish I started working out far sooner.

Exercise is not a magic bullet. I am not going to suddenly become happier and healthier and go skipping through fields of daisies with bunnies, unicorns and rainbows. Training has given me an outlet for my emotions, it's a distraction from some of the stuff I'm really struggling with right now. In my weaker moments, it's stopping me from reaching for the bottle of gin and the packet of rolling tobacco.

The biggest physical challenge I've ever faced up until now was Boy's birth. I know I've got a whole heap of emotional resources to call on, I can face down most crises with confidence. Physical stuff...not so much. I've always been a bit of a wimp. Not now though. I've got my running shoes on.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Is there no end to the Madness?

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you're long-time readers of this blog, you'll know that I am one lazy-assed woman. I hate mornings, I don't like sweating or anything energetic and as for running...well, running is an evolutionary response to charging mammoths and we don't see many mammoths round Norwich, do we?


Well, things started to change when Dave took me out on the bike. You may remember what a shambles that was? I turned to my exercise DVDs to get me moving, with some success. At least, I was able to get to the pub and back without dying...or feeling like I was about to keel over. And then I got a bike of my very own and the winter hit. I don't do wet and I don't do cold. Simple as that. No, I don't care if it's really bright...well, alright then...just a small ride.

In a vulnerable moment, my manager caught me and said "you are going to do the Norwich Half-Marathon in November, aren't you?"

People I don't know what the hell happened.

Dave hasn't stopped laughing.

I believe he's figured out my personality failing: if someone says I can't do something...I have to do it. Even if it's not in my best interests. Hell, especially if it's not in my best interests. 

When in doubt, go shopping. It's a rule of mine that works pretty well. Shopping for proper fitness clothes on a budget is a bit of a challenge, let me tell you. I've done pretty well so far, but even so it's stretched me somewhat. I'm not dressing to impress. People who run/cycle will spot me and go "all gear, no frigging idea." I'm dressing to be safe, comfortable and warm/cool* (*delete as appropriate). Tonight, I ventured into another sports store to find a light florescent running jacket that's going to be wind and rain proof.

You see I've signed up to do the Sports Relief Mile. Dave rightly pointed out that the Half-Marathon is only 40 weeks away. Oh, you think that's ages away? Hah. You forget I've given birth. I know the fallacy of that thinking. I'll start with the Sports Relief Mile and then aim for the Park Run 5k and then when I've cracked that I'll start training for 10k. 

First things first. 

The mile. 

Yesterday, I took my shoes for their second outing ever. I discovered that jogging/running slow is knackering and tedious. I liked the sprinting for short distances. I also get cold. Even when running.

I've got the App. It's called Zombies, Run! and it's awesome fun. It integrates proper training with a zombie apocalypse storyline. It tells me I will be running 5k in 8 weeks. I think it's dreaming, but there you go.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the proper shoes, the gear, the technology and now I can't put it off any longer...I have to run. 

Tomorrow morning, I will be watching this video. How about this for sheer, cast-iron determination?

Oh you can also sponsor me, if you like? 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

In Which I find a new Friend

Being self-employed means once a year, I have to work myself up to file my taxes or I have to brace myself for the wrath of Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs. January 31st is the deadline to dread as I search out receipts, invoices and wade through my nightmare admin system. Last year, I had two weeks to spare. This year, I procrastinated and procrastinated and then did them Thursday evening.

Part of the procrastination was looking at cat rehoming sites in Norfolk. There are several cat rehoming charities/sanctuaries, all with varying rules and regulations. Some won't rehome kittens unless they go in pairs, some won't rehome kittens with children under 5/4 or at all. Some won't rehome grown cats unless they've got a garden. Some require an application form, a pre-adoption visit, a hefty fee and a post-adoption visit.

I ignored all of that and looked at cats. 

Dave and I agreed that yesterday, we were going to finish off the tiling. When I told him I was looking at cats, he made mumbly noises, so I showed him the cats I was looking at. We agreed to go and look. He warned me several times and I quote:

"We are going to look. Do not expect to come home with a cat in a carrier bag."

We go to the back and beyond. The elderly lady who set up this trust, surrounded by cats of varying ages, shapes and sizes, asks me a few pointed questions and then I am shown into the cattery. 

In the past few weeks since Solitaire died, I've found it very difficult coming home to a cold, empty, dark flat. I miss her so very, very much. Her little face in the glass panel of the door, pleased to see me. I miss her little Solitaire ways.

When I started looking at pictures of cats - all I saw were small, black, nervy cats. It turns out black cats have the lowest adoption rate. I was determined not to get another small, nervy cat. Solitaire was her own person and I can never replace her. I was looking for a companion, a new friend and lodger.

The lady who showed me around said they adopt to people who the cats choose, rather than the other way round. She led me through the cattery where there were a mixture of permanent residents and cats waiting for their new slaves. Beji was described as a slim, slightly nervous cat. Suitable for indoors only...and preferably to go with his "best friend" Basil.

Benji is not slim, by any means. He's a massive bruiser. Though that really didn't register too much until he came home with us. Every time Basil came anywhere near him, there was much growling and fuss. He was however, the only cat who was interested in me and continued to be interested in me once we greeted each other. The lady went and got Dave and the two said hello to each other. At that the lady said, "Have you got a pet carrier? It's decided, he'll have you."

Dave and I blinked at each other.

Yes, Dave still had my carrier in his car, but when he brought it in, it was obvious there no way Benji was going to fit. He was too big. Happily, they had a spare carrier that they let me have and I left mine with them. Benji was cornered and coaxed into the carrier and within 15 minutes, Dave, my new owner and I were heading back to Norwich. He was as good as gold in the car. I held the carrier on my lap and he settled down. Half-way home, he stuck his paw out to hold my hand.

We had to go home via the pet store to get him all the things that should have been waiting here for him. I really wasn't expecting to be bringing a cat home on the same day. He was uncomplaining for the whole trip, the wait in the car park with Dave, and arrival at the flat. His new domain.

He disappeared for a couple of hours, which is standard behaviour. Cats like to find some place safe to act as a base, they come out and explore in quadrants and in very small doses. 

There was a knock on the door and there was my Boy! He decided to surprise me. Had I known he was about, I'd have dragged him off to choose my new owner. But as Dave said, I have to live with the beast; it was important we chose each other. 

First thing that had to happen was a rename. Boy's middle name is Benjamin and Zoe's dog's name is Ben. Another Benjamin would just be too weird. Boy came up with the idea over dinner of keeping with the card game theme, so Benji is now Rummy. 

He's a big fellow. I mean really big. He's also quite confident and strong. Now he's settling in, I'm beginning to really see who he is; I think we'll get on just fine. He's draped on one of our sofas, taking up quite a bit of space. As I was writing this he decided he wanted to be on my lap. My lap and chair are not big enough for him unless I hold onto him. I'm going to learn how to become a one-handed typist. Stop sniggering in the back.

I certainly got my wish in the fact he is his own person. He is different in size, shape and temperament to Solitaire. I think we'll get on just fine. He'll soon have me trained up.

My spot. You may worship me

Would you like to play a game?