A running update

Running at the moment is hard. I’m sure I’m not the only person who is struggling to fit runs into their new weekly schedule. I’ve got friends who have lost their running mojo completely – without races to train for and with no idea of when the lockdown will be lifted they’re struggling to know what runs to add to their plan.

Some friends however are actually running more often and more consistently because they’ve either lost their jobs or have gained a lot of extra free time.

Somehow I’ve wound up with a lot less time. I’m back working four nights a week at the moment. Thursday-Sunday. But I still have Oscar to look after on Fridays and Mondays following my shift, and odd bits of freelance work to complete at the weekends too. So the amount of sleep I’m currently able to get is incredibly limited. Dan remains working full time hours. Although he is now working from home he often has to work past 5:30pm. He didn’t finish until 8pm last night! As soon as he finishes work I head up to bed for a quick nap to catch up on some sleep before I head off to work myself just after 9, returning back home a little after 6:30am. On the nights I’m not working, Oscar insists I put him to bed (and I want to). He also wakes at least once a night now to call out for me, I think because he’s worried I’m not at home so much at night time.

Lack of sleep

Not only am I exhausted but I also share my one outdoor exercise a day (Government guidelines) with Oscar as obviously at age three he can’t head out alone! He likes to head out for bike rides and nature walks and so I’m trying to fit in a couple still a week, as well as a couple of days of runs for me to help me stay sane. Before the lockdown, I would have taken Oscar out pretty much every day.

Oscar on a scavenger hunt

The races I had lined up for this year were the Shires and Spires 35m in May, Nene Valley 20 in June, Sandlings 55m in July, SVP50 in August, Norfolk Marathon in September and then my goal race, the Autumn 100 in October.

Shires is not going ahead, with no current plan to postpone, etc. Nene Valley and Sandlings – my entries have been transferred across to 2021, SVP is currently still going ahead, as are the Norfolk Marathon and Autumn 100. Although I’m doubtful that all three will continue to stay in the 2020 calendar, even if they do, I’m not sure I’ll be able to maintain enough fitness to rock up to the start line for my 100 in the Autumn if the lockdown continues.

I know in the grand scheme of things when so many people are dying or risking their lives my problems are so small and insignificant, but I’ve allowed myself to feel a little sad this week. 2019 was such a rubbish year for me and I had such high hopes for 2020. I don’t want to run those races next year. I had different life plans for 2021. Training for a 55 miler that’s still 14 months away is not how I roll. I’ve laid out a lot of money for these events this year, and worked hard to consistently train since the start of the year, building up my strength and adding distance to my long runs each week. I’m left feeling like I’ve not achieved anything.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. Nobody does at the moment I guess. The world is in such a funny way right now. I find it so scary. Despite being so tired for working nights I’m incredibly grateful for my boss letting me have my old job back and for the feeling of normality heading out to work several times a week gives me. It makes me feel like I still have a bit of purpose for the year.

Obviously Oscar remains my main focus. Ensuring he is happy and healthy and learning and continuing to develop. I come up with a new idea for us to try each day and he knows that when we head outside there are a lot of very poorly people so we need to stay on the other side of the path if we see anybody. But I know he misses his friends and our usual adventures.

Oscar throwing balls at his shark

Here’s hoping we start to see a decline in Coronavirus cases soon and the world can catch a bit of a break.

Balancing toddler, runner and wife life

Yesterday was my fourth wedding anniversary.

Fourth anniversary roses

Some beautiful roses turned up for me during the day.  In fact I was out when they arrived so I had to nip next door and collect them from my neighbour.
They’re beautiful.  Got myself a good one!

Four years in anniversaries is fruit and flowers.  Dan doesn’t like any fruits…at all.  And flowers aren’t really his thing either, but for a while now we’ve been on about getting a plant for our lounge to complete the look.  I managed to sneakily collect and hide a massive plant in our office on Wednesday.  Dan never goes into our office apart from the rare occasion when he works from home.  But when I returned from my run on Wednesday evening I spotted the light on in the office.  Apparently he had been returning wrapping paper and scissors to the desk.  (Neither of which belong in our office…does anyone else have a partner who still doesn’t know where half the stuff belongs in your house?!)  When questioned he earnestly told me that he hadn’t spotted anything out of the ordinary in the office at all to the point that I believed him.

Although I’m rather concerned about how unobservant he is…

Hidden plant for our anniversary

He was rather pleased with it when he came down and found it in the lounge yesterday morning and it seems to suit our room.

Indoor plant for the loungeThe picture we have on our wall is from our Babymoon back in 2016.  The rain absolutely hammered down across that bridge on one of the days we were in Prague and we got caught out crossing without an umbrella, although there were hundreds of others dashing by with brightly coloured umbrellas up.  The print is very similar to a black, white and red print we purchased on our honeymoon in 2014 which we have displayed on the other long wall in our lounge to match.

We went out for a family meal last night to celebrate.  Oscar really enjoyed his hummus dipping pot!

This time four years ago I had only run four marathons and a couple of ultras.  Now my marathon total sits at thirteen with almost as many ultras.

Lots has happened over the course of the last four years, but our biggest change has obviously been having Oscar.  Thinking back I really wish Dan and I had taken full advantage of the time we had to ourselves before having Oscar, but at the same time I’m so glad we had him when we did.  (Although I absolutely wouldn’t have been ready for the responsibility any sooner!)

If you’ve read my blog for a while now you’ll know that I often struggle with taking too much on, and it’s usually me that ends up losing out.  Be it through sleep or stress.

I'll sleep when I'm dead

Despite getting very limited sleep each week I’m actually doing OK at the moment, but I can feel the pressure bubbling up again.  I dream of having lazy weekends or evenings sitting in front of the TV as a family but in all honesty, if I spot a free day I instantly fill it with an activity or housework and I’m not even sure how to turn our TV on!

Because of the age Oscar is at, it seems that just as we settle into a routine, it changes again and since the start of the Summer I haven’t been able to count on him being asleep in bed by a certain time.  Luckily, Dan has taken over the bedtime routine and it’s given me a chance to crack on with housework, or get out for a quick 10k if my body was feeling too tired for an early morning run that morning.

Late night runningI much prefer running in the morning just lately.  Even though the 5am alarms are a killer on a couple of hours sleep it’s so nice to have gotten my run in and be showered by the time Dan leaves for work at 7:50am.  It doesn’t always go to plan though…I’d scheduled a long run in for Tuesday morning of this week, but Oscar woke minutes after I did and called out for me to go to him.  He didn’t settle and ended up getting up for the day, meaning not only had I only had four hours sleep that night, but I wouldn’t be able to get to bed early that evening as I would still need to slot in a run of some description when it got dark.  I switched out my long run for a 10k instead though.

Although I might perhaps come across as shy to some people who don’t know me very well I actually really like to have people around most of the time.  Something which isn’t really talked about is just how isolating staying home with a child can feel at times.  I absolutely love being home with Oscar and getting to spend these days with him, but being so far away from family and close friends, Dan working late five days a week and having a season ticket for Wolverhampton Wanderers again this year, with the new season starting this weekend (meaning he will spend the day away most Saturdays too), my week can sometimes feel very samey and lonely.

I am really enjoying running at the moment and my base fitness is probably near to the best it’s ever been – with lots of regular running, walking carrying a toddler and strength work.  But I’m really struggling mentally with getting out to run my long runs.  I’ve always completed the majority of my long training runs with friends in the build up to events, but that’s become a lot harder to do this year as I am so specific about when I can get out to run.  I haven’t been able to run at the weekends as I’ve been working throughout the night so would be running long on no sleep, when I really need to be catching up on a little sleep ready for the following night-shift.  I’ve been able to get a couple of early morning slightly longer runs in with another runner from my club who was attempting the Centurion Grand Slam of 4x 100 milers this year (although unfortunately DNFd at the third event – the North Downs Way 100 – last weekend) but other than that the majority of my runs have been between 5-10 miles in length, with a few closer to 15 miles.  I really need to book a marathon or longer distance in for the end of the Summer, but once again it’s hard to organise around work/life events now that we have Oscar and I work weekends.

I used to be able to whack in my earphones and listen to a few podcasts to get me round a long run if I was running it alone, but now that nearly all of my runs in the week are run alone and I also work one or two nine hour nightshifts each weekend in an aisle on my own listening to back-to-back episodes of a podcast, listening to a podcast and spending a few more hours on my own doesn’t have quite the same appeal anymore!  I now spend most of my runs feeling that I should be back with my family (if running during the daytime) or all the things I should be catching up on back at home!

I’m currently putting off this morning’s long run.  I just need to man up and get out there I guess.  Just wish I had someone to run out with me!

Do you prefer running on your own or with others?
Any podcast recommendations?  I’ve listened to a lot and am running out!
Are you a morning or evening runner?

A return to work and a cold parkrun

I mentioned in a few of my recent posts that I’ve been travelling back to Norfolk several times a week for the past few months.  Obviously I wouldn’t change that for anything, and I am glad that I was able to spend the time with my parents whilst that was still an option and whilst they needed me.  But it has meant that putting enough petrol into my car to drive 200 miles, four times a week for the past ten weeks has wiped out the emergency savings in our bank account rather.

Dan and I sat down and looked at our finances the other week and realised that I needed to start bringing a little more guaranteed money in if we were to continue living in the way which we do.  Although I’ve been picking up the odd bit of freelance work here and there, because everything has been so up in the air lately I haven’t really been able to push anything or commit to too much at one time.

The result of our chat was the agreement that I needed to look at getting a temporary position which would give us a guaranteed side income each week to try and build our savings back up again.

Our little family can survive on Dan’s salary, but it would be back to basics for us – no trips to Norfolk, no dinners out (not that we have been out or even seen each other in a very long while anyway!) and no chocolate biscuits in the weekly shop!

The following day I spotted an advert looking for night workers at a big supermarket in Northampton and so applied.  I can’t really afford to be too choosy in what I apply for really.  I have Oscar by my side six days a week, and Dan doesn’t return home from work until 6:30pm Monday – Friday so it really limits the jobs accessible to me.

I was successful in my application.  The night shift manager actually turned to me in the interview and said that there wasn’t much point in him asking me questions, as he had no doubt in my ability and skillset, but it was procedure and he needed to write something on the application in front of him!  So that was a nice boost, even if it is only for a shelf-stacking position essentially.

Last week I went in for a full day induction, thanks to Laura’s willingness to babysit Oscar(!) and then I had my first shift the night following Mum’s funeral.

I’m contracted to Saturday nights 10pm-7am, but in the run up to Christmas with all the extra deliveries I will also be working the majority of Friday and Sundays.

I expected to feel tired during the shift.  To struggle to stay awake and be lagging by the time morning rolled round and I was still there busy stacking shelves, but I actually felt much breezier than expected.  The store is within a shopping centre and so has no visible windows and therefore I had no real concept of outside life – I guess helping me to stay alert and work hard(!)

I’ve played the shelf stacking game before – as an eighteen year old desperate for overtime hours at the little supermarket I worked at before university.  Back then six staff worked three hours a night to empty ten cages of food out onto the shop floor.  At my new role, I will have ten cages to myself on the one aisle I am in charge of.  Big difference!

Because of the unsociable hours, the pay is actually on par with the teaching salary I began on in 2010, so I can’t grumble at that.  The main downside is being unable to catch up on sleep.  I’m viewing it as part of my training for running the South Downs Way 100 in June.  I think that’s the only real way I can look at it at the moment!

I packed my running clothes to take with me last Friday night and after emerging in the bright sunlight of Saturday morning following my first shift, I took the short drive across to Northampton Racecourse, where I changed into my running gear and headed out on a two mile warm up run before joining in with the parkrun.

My 97th parkrun.  I have just three parkruns left to reach my 100th, and with four opportunities to parkrun before the end of the year, it’s looking hopeful that I should make the milestone in 2017.

After my warm up (required – it was super cold and I kept my supermarket gloves firmly on my hands during the run!) I jogged round the course to finish in 28:46.

Official time: 28:46
Position: 193/336
Gender position: 43/129
Age category position: 7/16

Dan was heading over to the Wolves game at 11am, so I rushed off home after parkrun to catch 45 minutes sleep before he left me with Oscar for the day.  Luckily, Oscar took a two hour nap that afternoon so I was able to grab a little more sleep, and then Dan returned home from the football a little after 7pm, giving me a further 90 minutes.  It was far from ideal, but it’s just a temporary solution.

That night I felt like an old hand on the shop floor and raced through the cages.  At about 5am there came rumblings from the security team that it had been snowing quite heavily outside, and when we emerged onto the staff car park on the roof a couple of hours later we found our cars hidden under several inches of snow!

My car in the snowI swept the snow off my car as quickly as I could, starting with my windscreen, but by the time I jumped back into my car again the windscreen was completely covered once more!

The staff car park is rather scary at the best of times.  Placed up high on the roof above the shopping centre, it is accessed by a tight, one lane, winding corkscrew road that spirals steeply to the top.  I had been worried driving up the previous day in good conditions but was terrified driving down it on Sunday morning in the snow and ice.  What ended up happening was my car slipped from one side of the road to the other repeatedly until I reached the bottom.  I had never been so glad to see flat road!

The journey home was somehow even worse though, as it involved not just my unpredictable car, but several other unpredictable cars on the road around me.  I live 18 miles from the supermarket, but those 18 miles took me 90 minutes to drive on Sunday morning, never topping 15mph the whole way back.  I witnessed three crashes and so many cars spin off the road, despite the slow speeds that everybody was travelling at.  At one point, there was a car off the road on the dual carriageway and as I went past (at 10mph!) my car started sliding over towards it.  The car behind tried to overtake me (I’m guessing so that they didn’t need to use their brakes) and they started sliding in towards me!  And there was nothing anybody could do!

Luckily, we didn’t hit, and both my car and the one that had tried to overtake me were able to continue on our way.  The lorry travelling behind us stopped to help push out the car that had gone off-road and all was well.  It was rather nerve-wracking driving back though.
Snow Snow

When I got home, I slept until 2pm.  Partly due to working through the night and partly due to being so on edge for my drive home, but it felt like I lost my day.  Dan took Oscar out in the snow for the first time and I missed that.  :(
Oscar in the snow
(He apparently loved it and was desperate to go and play snowballs with the big kids!)

The Monday was the toughest, as Dan was back at work, but I got round it, using Oscar’s nap times to catch up on a couple of hours here and there.  I’m glad that the Sunday nights won’t continue into the New Year, as that would be very draining.

Whilst the snow looked very pretty, it stopped me from running for a few days.  Without access to a treadmill currently, and only able to run with Oscar in the buggy during the day, so unable to run on trail where the going would be less slippy it didn’t leave me with a lot of options.  The paths were too slippy first thing in the morning before Oscar woke and again after he had gone down for bed, and I’m too much of a wimp to head out on the trails on my own at night around here.  I was very glad that the majority of the ice had disappeared by last night, leaving me able to head out on a decent run after Oscar went down for bed.  Roll on the Spring!

How are you managing to run with the icy roads?
Have you worked in a supermarket before?

September – what a month

I always knew that September would be a tough month.  That basically I would have to just put my head down, keep fighting until the very end and then hopefully emerge from the other side still kicking.

Having given my notice to finish teaching at the end of the Summer, I was offered a further month of work with a bonus to help ease the transition for new members of staff within the department.  With a finish date of four weeks, after having just had the six weeks of Summer off, I decided to go ahead and accept the proposal.  The extra money I was being offered would be nice in the build up to Christmas if nothing else!

I knew it would be tougher than when I had originally returned to work back in May.  A May timetable with no year 11 or 13 and countless trips across other year groups is very different to a September timetable, when new courses are starting up and resources need creating or adapting to suit different classes.  My September timetable contained six year 11 classes and a year 10 class, amongst others, so I would also spend lunchtimes holding coursework catchup sessions for those GCSE students.

Not only would my workload be higher, but my personal life at the weekends was also looking rather full during September.  For each of the weekends my calendar was pretty jam-packed full of activities.

Week 1: Marshaling at Go Beyond Northampton Half Marathon
Week 2: At a friend’s wedding
Week 3: Round Norfolk Relay
Week 4: Ealing half marathon
Week 5: Oscar’s birthday party/christening

There wouldn’t be a lot of time for sleep, running or baby cuddles.  With my Mum very poorly I also wanted to try and fit in as many visits back to Norfolk as was practical.
As a new ambassador for Decathlon I was also really looking forward to the Decathlon blogger meet up at the end of the month, although was concerned that I would be burnt out by that point and unable to fully enjoy the activities that had been planned for us all.

As it turned out though, things didn’t really go quite to plan for September.  I had severe back pain from the second week of the month, managing to run the Round Norfolk Relay only having dosed myself up with double-strength Ibuprofen first, and then unable to run any further miles in September.  The day after the Round Norfolk Relay, my Mum was once again admitted into hospital with a serious infection and so many trips were made over to Norwich hospital for visits during the week, as well as twice-daily phone calls to help support my Dad.  Following one weekend visit and eating in the questionable hospital canteen I ended up throwing up over and over.  My Dad was also left feeling poorly that evening.  I made the difficult decision to pull from Ealing Half Marathon – I hadn’t been able to walk with a straight back for ten days by that point and also I felt it was more important to be with my family in Norfolk.

By the time I began the final week of my contract, I was really struggling.  By Wednesday lunch time my face was hot to touch – burning up, whilst my coat-clad body shivered uncontrollably from the cold.  At 3pm that day I made the decision to head for home, leaving my half-finished marking laid out on the shared office desk with a post-it note stuck to the top reading “Really sorry, – feeling totally pants this afternoon.  Will clear in the morning.”

Oscar's first birthday

That Wednesday was Oscar’s birthday, only I never saw him that day as I rang to cancel my physio appointment on the way home, before curling up into a little ball in my bed, texting Dan to ask if he would be able to pick Oscar up from nursery on his way home from work later that night instead.

The following day I couldn’t even get out of bed, and napped on and off all day, feeling very sorry for myself.  I left emailing Decathlon until the very last minute to say that I wouldn’t be able to make it that evening, just in case I perked up a little and was able to still attend.  I so wanted to attend.  I knew deep down that I would be too poorly to go though, and even if I did manage to sit through the train journey down, I would not be well enough to enjoy the activities they had planned for us once down there.

Friday, my last day at school and I was still too poorly to attend.  What a funny end to my time at the school.  I’ve been in this week to clear my desk and tidy up a few loose ends, but the end of my time there wasn’t how I imagined it to be at all.Oscar's first birthdayThe Saturday was spent opening up Oscar’s birthday presents and last minute cleaning and tidying ready for Oscar’s guests the following day.  I managed to get through the weekend somehow, although I still don’t feel 100%.

…But we did make it through the other side.

Our life will be better now.  That hard work was worthwhile, as it has put a nice pot of money into our bank which we can fall back on if necessary and I’ve been told any future reference requests will be glowing following the work I put into my role.  I’m very glad that my time in school is over now though.  Despite working full pelt, I never felt like I was totally doing my best job of being a Mum or my best job of being a teacher or a daughter or wife.  I always just felt like I was getting by – existing and doing my best to not sink in the madness that was going on around me.  The last fortnight of the month contained several days where I managed only to grab something from the petrol station for lunch, and skipped tea altogether as I knew Oscar was being looked after at nursery for food and I really needed to get on with work.

This is the start of our new chapter now.  One hopefully filled with healthy living, three meals a day, a tidy house, family fun, lots of running, a return to blogging, and a better work-life balance for us all.  I struggle with that work-life balance, as I know many do.  But at the end of the day, life is short.  {How is Oscar one year old already?!}  I don’t want to look back and feel like I missed out because I was too busy working or wishing Oscar would go to sleep so that I could get some marking done.

Now to see how the next chapter of our life turns out…