Wednesday, 31 July 2013

I do Run Run Run, I do Run Run

Although I have re-kindled my love of open water swimming this Summer (read here) running remains this strange obsession, like something I can't live without and something I often go to sleep thinking about or looking forward to it. 

I have been running for about 10 months now and I am truly reaping the benefits of regular running.  I have never felt so fit, so energetic, so well and so toned.  I don't run in order to feel better the rest of the time, I run because I enjoy *doing* running and enjoy the way I feel afterwards.  I run because it makes life good, it gives me thinking space and time out from thinking.  It helps me function properly.  I have a fairly poor attention span and soon give up on things which don't give me enjoyment; I am not driven by results if I am not enjoying what I am doing to get results.

I have watched quite a few friends take up running this year and it seems clear to me that a few of them haven't enjoyed running, but keep at it for the fitness/weight loss benefits.  I really couldn't do this, I have learnt from my own experiences with trying other activities on my journey to fitness, that I need to feel the endorphins flowing and the activity needs to make me happy, or I will simply quit.

I conclude from this, quite simply, that I am a runner!  I am not the fastest, nor the fittest, nor am I competitive and I have yet to enter any running events/races.  But running is part of me, it makes me happy, it makes me feel good and I couldn't contemplate (ever!) not running.  I have tried to compare it to open water swimming, but I can't.  Swimming is something which makes me feel like an adrenalin junkie after a big adrenalin hit.  I would feel exhausted if I did it all the time, the the times I do it are fabulous and I spend a lot of time afterwards revisiting my swim, re-living it and loving every moment again.  I don't swim over the winter (with the exception of pool swimming which doesn't count!), and I can see for some people who swim in open water year round, they *need* to swim, just as I *need* to run.  I LOVE swimming, I really do.  But running is what I do.

So as the Spring has changed to Summer, I have run through many more weather extremes as the temperature has risen.  I have taken to the hot Summer runs rather well.  I struggled with my hydration at first, and suffered from headaches as a result of dehydration, which lasted all day, and sometimes left me feeling like I had a hangover if I had run in the evening.  But I have learnt more about my body's needs now and I have acclimatised over the last few months and I love running in the heat, it makes me feel well oiled and strong.  Since the end of June, the temperature has been very high, so I have limited my running distances to 5 miles, to ensure I don't dehydrate.  I carry water with me, but I am not great at drinking it and I have no desire to carry a large bottle (I use a 250ml bottle), so a 5 mile run means I can stay on top of dehydration.  I am running three times per week on a regular basis and I am close to running 50 miles this month, which I have been trying to reach since March.  (It's the last day of July today, and my mileage is at 46.4miles.  So if I do a 4.6 mile run tonight, I will have reached my 50 mile per month target at long last!)  So my shorter distances haven't affected the amount of miles I have been covering.  If anything, I feel stronger for doing shorter, more regular runs. 

I did manage to cover a 9 mile distance though before the weather for really warm.  I still have 10 miles in my sights, and I am hoping I will be able to up my distance again quite easily once things cool down and I am not sweating quite as much!

I bought a pair of Xero shoes last month too, which are very much minimalist/barefoot/barely there shoes and hugely encourage natural foot placement.  I have yet to run in them - in fact not sure I will as I am still working on getting them secure enough on my feet.  But I practically live in them the rest of the time and I may attempt a beach run in them while we are away.  So, I am still waxing lyrical about barefoot running to anyone who might care to listen although I tend to think less about my technique these days (good? Bad?  Not sure!)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Swimming, The Great Manchester Swim and SUMMER

Somehow, while I was busy enjoying myself, three months slipped by without a blog post!  It's a very good sign actually, that I have been busy with real events; busy running, swimming, cycling, gardening, reading.... busy enjoying myself, too busy to blog about being busy!

So here's an update from me on what has so far, been a glorious Summer of pretty hardcore fitness enjoyment!

I DID join the triathlon club, which means I have been swimming every weekend pretty much for the last two months, in a lake and I am now feeling much more relaxed swimming in my wetsuit and swimming in open water.  It is a fabulous place, a flooded quarry with beautiful aquamarine water, which is so clean and clear.  The owner has a lot of fish in there, including some koi carp, who are very nosey when we go swim with them - and I have finally got over my fear of seeing fish in the water with me as I swim (which was silly- of course I should have known I would see fish if I swam in lakes!)  There is a marked-out course and safety cover, and we have spent quite a few lovely Sunday mornings at the lake as a family - the children have been having picnic breakfasts by the lake as Dylan and I took it in turns to swim. 
The beautiful lake at Blue Lagoon

Me, free-styling home!

We share the lake with some big friendly fish!
As the temperature continued to rise throughout July, so did the water temperature and several times we have swam in water which is over 22 °C.  This is very warm, not far off some pool temperatures and warm enough for many triathlons to insist its swimmers don't use a wetsuit.   Unfortunately we are unable to swim without one at the lake (club rules), but it hasn't prevented me enjoying experiencing open water swimming in lovely warm water which makes matters so much less complicated, no acclimatising, no screeching as the water enters your suit, and no numb fingers!

Last weekend I took part in the Great Manchester Swim in Salford Quays, which is the third year I have done this event.  It was very different this time; in previous years the water has been either 12° or 16° and it has been grey and drizzly.  This year, it was beautiful and sunny, the temperature had been close to 30° for several weeks beforehand and the water temperature reached 22°!   I had also done far less distance training, compared to previous years, where I had been swimming one mile distances at least once per week in a pool, although I had been swimming around  one kilometre, nearly every week in the open water instead. 

The organiser took the unusual and unexpected decision to make wetsuit wearing optional and I JUMPED at the chance to experience an open water swim without my neoprene!  I knew I would be less buoyant, less streamlined and therefore slower, but I very much have a love/hate relationship with my wetsuit and I am a confident swimmer, so I decided it had to be done! 

It was the best decision I could have made - it was amazing swimming in open water, completely free of my wetsuit and I felt as though I was in the pool, but with the sun shining down on me and the brilliant atmosphere of the Quays all around me.  Front crawling WAS harder, and I was slower, but it was a fabulous swim and I had a huge grin on my face all the way round!  My time was one minute slower than the previous year, which wasn't too bad at all, especially as I am not as swimming-fit this year.  I am now looking to swim wetsuit-free again before the heat of the Summer leaves the water, it truly is addictive, invigorating and extremely freeing.  I have a weekend in the mountains in Wales up and coming; watch this space!

So much to say, so little time, I shall update again later this week with a cycling and running update - thanks for reading!