Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 in numbers

Have posted this over on facebook but it deserves to be shared here too

It’s the 31st December, so that means only one thing.  The doors need to be got out for the scores to be written upon them and for 2016 to be summed up in numbers.
Swimming came in at 1192km, down from 1324.4km in 2015 (when I trained for Two Way Windermere).  There was 1093.8km running, up from 826.1km and astonishingly 735km on the bike, that was evidently before I totally gave up on cycling to work… (but down from 1795.5km in 2015)
I went to 11 yoga classes and had 17 hours of PT.  31 mince pies were consumed and two carol services attended.  352 decaff white Americanos were consumed; peppermint tea was consumed in excess of 600 cups.  I had 12 Little Chef Omlette breakfasts.  I spent 14 nights in a Premier Inn, 7 of which were paid for by work.  I also spent 7 nights in Tenerife, 4 in Slovenia, 7 in Austria and 3 in the Lake District which were not in Premier Inns.  I bought 3 new swimming costumes.  I visited the osteopath 11 times and had 30 sports massages.
I did 10 running events including 6 half marathons and 2 marathons.  I participated in 6 openwater swimming events.  Whilst getting a trophy for being first in my category at the Seahorse Swim was pretty cool, the standout swim was the lovely half an hour I had on my own in Rydal Water in May.  Even better than the beautiful lakes in Austria and Slovenia.
I held 3 cake stalls and a crafternoon and raised £1900 for Mind.
NHS wise, I was down quite a lot from 33 appointments/contacts in 2015.  I saw my GP 3 times, two other GPs once each (for hayfever and the chest infection of doom respectively), spoke to my GP on the phone twice, and had an ultrasound on my neck.  So that’s a mere 8.  9 if you include seeing my NHS dentist once.  I was however issued with twenty-four prescriptions, a lot of boxes of pills when you consider that most of those prescriptions were for a two month supply.  And one private prescription when a colleague took pity on me after running out of fexofenadine and wrote me a script on a piece of A4 (I think he couldn’t stand sitting next to my sneezing any longer!).

Friday, 30 December 2016

End of 2016

 It's time for the customary end of the year round up post.  You can see what I wrote last year here (and hopefully link your way back to ?2010??).  The questions are random, but it often pulls out a few highlights,

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Dyed my hair pink, ran a marathon (twice!), went to Slovenia, went to Italy (briefly), went to a medical conference, stayed in a Premier Inn for work (3 times), got a research project ethics application approved, started a Postgraduate Certificate in Systematic Reviews, started doing Personal Training, learned to crochet.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
goals/plans for 2016.
1. Complete a marathon (umm, might actually have entered more than one and the Atlantic Coast Challenge) I ran the Brighton Marathon and we staggered around the Windermere Marathon.  Knee issues prevented the Atlantic Coast Challenge.
2. Plank a day in January Nope.
3. Keep up with yoga Dropped out of yoga in March, only been once since...oops.
4. Try to do a sugar free day a week This worked some of the time but I didn't adhere to it religiously.
5. Read more books than I read in 2015 (I'm up to 222 as 2015 closes) Another fail.  What with Brexit and Trump, I felt agitated and unable to focus on reading, so turned to rereading which doesn't count in my statistics.  I'm hopefully going to close on 200 this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friend M had another little girl.

 4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.  But a lot of people close to me lost people.

5. What countries did you visit?
Spain (Tenerife), Slovenia, Austria, and briefly into Italy for a morning.  Oh and Germany, as we flew into Munich for Austria.  What a jetsetting year!  Also went to the Lake District twice, Devon once and Hampshire quite a lot.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
I'm still struggling to achieve a decent balance - it's hard to say no to things when you're feeling so much better but then it can sometimes end up leading to being overwhelmed.

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I'm not sure that any can in particular, but dates from previous years - 17th November, 15th August, 2nd August, 16th October, 9th July, do remain etched.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Running by first marathon in 3h47m42s - less than 3 minutes away from a good for age time.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Missing that good for age time?!  Seriously, if that's the biggest failure then it's been a pretty good year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had big knee problems after Windermere marathon.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My new down jacket to replace my old one.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
To be honest, I think mine did.  I've had a good year and it needs to be celebrated!

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

14. Where did most of your money go?
Sports related payments - osteopath, sports massage, PT, swimming memberships, entry fees.....

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Some of work was really exciting.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
I listened a lot to the Rend Collective this year.  Boldly I approach was a new one.  And also their arrangement of Be Thou My Vision was fitting when we were remembering 10 years since Emily died (we sang it at her funeral)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
fatter (possibly more muscly??)
c) richer or poorer?
richer - no more mortgage!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Just "being"

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my husband.  My parents on Christmas Eve, STAYED AT HOME ON CHRISTMAS DAY.  First time we've ever done that.  Best Christmas ever.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Carried on being in love.

22. How many one-night stands?
Absolutely none.

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Really didn't watch much TV but I did enjoy the Royal Institution Christmas lectures this year.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

25. What was the best book you read?
Things that got 5* on Goodreads were: Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan); It's All In Your Head (Suzanne O'Sullivan); The Mistake I Made (Paula Daly); One (Sarah Crossan); Am I Normal Yet? (Holly Bourne); The Weight Of Water (Sarah Crossan); Girl in Pieces (Katherine Glasgow); The Outrun (Amy Liptrot)

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Rend Collective

27. What did you want and not get?
Off one of my meds.

28. What did you want and get?

29. What was your favourite film of this year?
A United Kingdom which I saw a couple of weeks ago was very inspiring; I, Daniel Blake, was horrific and moving.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 31 and it was also Good Friday.  I had a nice swim in the morning at Ferry Pool with Helen, then Becci came around and brought me cake and a cushion shaped like a biscuit, then I lay in bed for a bit before we went out for a Starbucks and to see the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2 at the cinema.  It was a bit of a miss (the film), but it represented an achievement for me to get out on a day off rather than just lie in bed.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A parking space at work

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Jeans and trainers to work!  (The novelty after so many years of being presentable, although as the year has ended out, I've ended up in my smarter skirts as still like to wear them!)

33. What kept you sane? 
Swimming and running and PT and my lovely line manager and husband, and doing crochet, and some of my lovely friends (F, H, B especially)

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Leaving the EU

35. Whom did you miss?
As ever, missed my beautiful friend Emily.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Met Amanda in person for the first time! 

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:
"Not to take good mental health for granted, nor to expect everyone to understand mental health issues.  You'd think I might have learnt these lessons previously, but it turns out that I hadn't.  Hopefully they will stay with me a bit longer this time."

- wrote the above in 2012 and I still think they are a valuable lesson.

^^ and still in 2016

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"This is the art of celebration" - Rend Collective, Boldly I Approach.

 39. So in as few words as possible, how would you sum up your year?
Joyful, for the most part (with the exception of the blip of unwellness in August)

Thursday, 8 December 2016


Mojo always makes me think of this - a Tenerife training camp staple.  I think somewhere this Autumn I've not had as much of this as I would have liked.  This is in part illustrated by the fact that I never got around to blogging the three half marathons I did this Autumn.  And it's also illustrated by the fact that besides one event, I haven't really made any plans for next year in terms of sporting events.

I got a little bit of that back this week.  I was in London for a conference with work (what a privilege to go; what an interesting three days) and I purposefully chose a hotel that was near a pool - and not just any pool by the London Aquatics Centre - aka the 2012 Olympic Pool.  I have had the pleasure of swimming there twice before but never for my early morning lane swimming session.  And what a treat it was.  It's the sort of pool that makes you feel like you're swimming fabulously well (even if you are not) and you can't help but feel inspired by all of the amazing swimmers that have been in the chlorine before you.  I was quite excited to spot Aimee Wilmott (London 2012, Rio 2016...) over on the far side doing her morning training set.

On Monday, halfway through my usual 4k, I looked up and saw a familiar face on poolside, coaching.  "Dan!" I exclaimed, and waved wildly.  It was Dan from Swim for Tri; the chap who is responsible for making my front crawl look respectable* on 5 consecutive trips to Tenerife (and other occasions).  It was lovely to catch up with him briefly on poolside when my swim was finished.  He invited me to all of the Swim for Tri sessions happening while I was in London, but it was only practical to attend one, the Mile End Wednesday session.

So on Wednesday morning, I checked out of the hotel at 6am, dragged my suitcase 3/4 mile to the tube and took the tube one stop along the line and then dragged the suitcase for a further 3/4 mile to the pool.  The squad was a little thin on the ground that day owing to injuries/holidays/time of year but everyone was very welcoming.  I enjoyed doing a proper swim set with some paddle work, interspersed with some fast swimming, and I was pleased to clock 1:23 for a 100m swim right at the end of the session (I think it could have been a second or so faster if the chap in front hadn't held me up on the first length!).  What a treat it was and quite a bolster for the mojo.

So time now to focus a little better on swimming.  A 1:1 with Dan is booked for January.  I need to work out what I want to achieve in Tenerife this year.  A 10k to enter perhaps.  More time on drills, more time making use of the fact that one of the pools I use is fine with fins/paddles etc.

* although on Monday morning, judging by the couple of snaps he took, it wasn't very respectable.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

What is the point of all this exercise?

"What is the point of all this exercise?" the GP asked when I saw him on Friday.

I shrugged.  He said "You tell me!".

I said "it keeps my eating disorder symptoms manageable.  If I exercise, then I don't really worry about the calories, whereas when I don't, I start counting them".

But thinking about it, it is far more than that.

* It gives me a routine
* Sometimes it gives me endorphins or a sense of achievement
* It's sometimes a sociable occasion
* It counteracts the hours spent sitting on my bum at work or on the sofa at home
* I set goals for the summer months and during the winter aim to achieve them
* It gives me a sense of purpose

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Mass Start Swim Box End

So...this happened today...

A 3.8k swim at Box End lake where I have swum many times before.  This was a fairly last minute decision to enter after enjoying myself last weekend at Rutland.  It's a good venue if not spectacular and 3.8k is 3 laps.  Conditions were very bumpy on the return half of each loop so the overall time was pretty slow (1:04:32) but it's good to have a bit of a challenge.  During the first lap I had several other girls pretty close to me, but as the race carried on, I was able to put more and more space between myself and them.  My arms were still a little sore after PT on Wednesday (I don't know what the muscles are in one's elbow creases but they hurt!) and started to feel very heavy on the third lap but I felt that I finished strongly.  I feel like my technique is a little bit off though.  My Mum came to watch and hold my towel which was nice as Mr JKS is away cycling today.

So, next week is my big race of the season, the Fuschlsee Crossing in Austria.  I'm not expecting to come out very high up as the race is part of the Austrian cup so there will be lots of very fast swimmers there (the fastest times were about 52 minutes for women last year - for 4.2k!) but I'm hoping for beautiful scenery and a nice day :)

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Personal Training

This isn't a post that I could have imagined writing!  I now have a personal trainer and am paid up for 20 sessions until Christmas!

As I've written recently, I have had problems with a wonky knee which probably stem back to a weak glute on the right hand side.  Rest and massage haven't fixed it so it is time for some more drastic measures - building up the glute and other asssociated muscles (adductors etc) - in the hope that I'll be able to get back to running longer distances again.  (It's a bit soul destroying after all the running earlier in the year - I am desperate to do a half marathon again).   I've also finally recieved a payout for my broken wrist of February 2014 and the "treat" portion of it is being used on the PT (ha!).  I asked around and got a recommendation for a girl at a local university gym which happens to be 5 minutes drive from work.  I went along for an initial session and we got on pretty well and I felt like she could help me to get the results that I need.  She has an endurance running background so although she doesn't know a thing about swimming, she is able to support me in my running goals.  So, to take advantage of a bulk discount I ended up booking 20 sessions for the incredibly reasonable price of £450.

Sessions have involved squats and lunges and using a bar and hand weights and all sorts of things I've never really done before.  The pilates style core moves are at least familiar, but most of it is new and fresh which so far makes it very interesting and enjoyable.  It's certainly hard work and my legs are wobbling by the end of it and the DOMS afterwards is really quite spectacular.  Ouch.

[I should note that my side goal is to get me some defined biceps and I am super excited about that #vain].

Swim Rutland 4K

Today saw me swimming in England's largest reservoir in the country's smallest county for a swim.  Rutland water!  It's about two hours away from JKS HQ so we went most of the way up last night via dinner with Mum JKS and then stayed in the Corby Premier Inn (such comfy bed, so hard to leave it at 5.30am!).

It's a shame that it wasn't more sunny as it all looked a bit grey but it was a lovely venue with lots of water! There was a 2k race and a 4k.  The 4k was an out and back and the 2k was just the back, which involved swimmers getting a boat to the other side.  Registration was quick and easy and instead of a t-shirt we were given a kit bag to put kit in during the swim.  There was a small delay in setting off as it had taken a long time for everyone to get on site but soon we were all in the water.  And there were a lot of people!  There must have been about 250-300 people.

Everyone set out very hard as is always the way and this is the bit of a race that I always hate, busting a gut to try to keep up.  After a bit it always settles down into a rhythym and for me I can start to try to pick people off a bit (as I don't have the top end speed).  It wasn't a straight across swim, we swam out to a headland and then across to the church following some buoys.  I was a little concerned as the 2K from the other side was due to set off 30 minutes after the 4k which was just before I was expecting to reach the other side.  As we approached, I could see all of the 2k swimmers in the water waiting.  But luckily, it must have been slightly delayed as we got around the corner before they set off.  Slight technical hitch for me as I tried to do a corkscrew turn around the buoy, getting tangled up in the compulsory towfloat.  As we approached the last quarter of the swim, it got very choppy indeed which was both fun and annoying at the same time.

Out of the water and I had no idea what time I had done as I hadn't bothered to look at my watch or start the timer.  I was hoping to be under 1h10 (I could probably comfortably swim 1h6 or 7 in the pool but OW conditions can often slow down) and Mr JKS says that  it was ~63 minutes on the watch.  The woman at the finish said that I was 5th lady back which is good given the size of the field (I checked the start list and 156 women had entered).  So all in all very pleasing.  I've decided to swim next weekend at Box End (3.8k) to practice the pace again ahead of the Fuschlsee Crossing the following weekend.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Swim Trek Slovenia

I didn't blog about my annual trip to Tenerife this year but I did have a lot of fun with my two friends H and F whilst I was there.  So much so, that by the Monday after we had got back, H and I had booked a swimming trip to Slovenia.  We went last weekend and had a great time.

The trip was with SwimTrek and you can see the itinerary here which I'm not going to rehash in this blog post, just share a few thoughts.

Slovenia was an incredibly beautiful and unspoilt country.  Fabulous mountains and astounding lakes.   I got to see a good amount of the country and I definitely want to go back there with Mr JKS for a more relaxing break.  I found that the trip itself was quite full on - not so much in terms of the swimming, which was around 4k a day - there was a lot packed in, and as an introvert I struggled with the large amount of time spent in a group.  I don't think that totally puts me off going on another SwimTrek as the advantage is that you are able to do things which would be difficult to organise on your own.  The Slovenian Guides in particular were fantastic, both in the kayaks and driving the vans and telling us about the things that we were passing.  It was fab spending time with Super H and we had a good laugh!

Here are some photos of the places that we went to.

On a very hot day, spent mostly travelling around in a mini bus, we did a 20 minute walk to this amazing waterfall.  The water was so cold but it was really refreshing!  That's me to the bottom left of the picture, to give you an idea of scale.

Malcolm the bear by Lake Bohinj

Lake Bohinj.  We stayed adjacent to this lake and swam the length of it on the last day - 4k.

This is Lago Del Predil, a lake just over the border in Italy.  It was incredible swimming in such a beautiful place.

This is Lake Bled where we swam on the first day.  Lovely and warm.

Anda view over Lake Bled.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Lock to Lock Swims

The other swim events that I have done this year have been the Swim Oxford Lock to Lock Swims.  They are a new company who launched with a 4k swim last year which Super H did and really enjoyed.  This year they are running a 4k, 6k and 10k event.  As the events start less than 10 minutes drive from JKS HQ, it seems silly not to enter!

The first event was the 4k in mid June.  This involved swimming from Eynsham Lock down to Kings Lock. I felt a bit frustrated as I couldn't keep up with the front pack and was quite some way from the second pack so it was quite a lonely swim.  I was also still suffering from a chest infection and had to stop to cough my lungs up a couple of times.  On the plus side, armed with my prescription swimming goggles, I was able to sight around the bends of the river very easily.  There had been an enormous amount of rain in the week prior to the event and the river was flowing incredibly fast.  So much so that I was actually surprised to be being ushered out at the finish!  I doubt very much I'll ever swim 4k in under 52 minutes again...  I was pleased to discover later that I was the 3rd woman to finish (although there was only a prize for first).

In mid July it was back for the 6k event.  This time we started in the same place at Eynsham Lock and began with the same 4k stretch of the river.  I felt incredibly lethargic on this swim and found it hard to feel like I was going at the pace I wanted to.  There were more faster swimmers than on the previous 4k and it was hard not to feel disheartened.  As the river wasn't flowing quite so fast, it took a little longer to reach Kings Lock, but only a couple of minutes.  Then it was out of the river for about 200m walk past the lock to get back in and finish off.  On the walk, I was able to catch up with the group of swimmers that I'd been trying to catch up with all swim, and then had some company for the last leg, which really helped.  The final leg was *very* short, there was absolutely no way that that was another 2k.  The swimmer who got out ahead of me had 5.25k on her watch which sounded more realistic.  (Super H did manage to achieve 6k on her watch, but she's not always the best at sighting!).  This time I was 6th back.

All in all very well organised and friendly.  The organiser recognised me (presumably from facebook) before the 6k and said hello and then remembered my name when I got out at the 4k mark.  I don't really eat cake (Mr JKS ate mine) but there is a huge array of amazing looking cake at the finish and very cheerful ladies serving it who give everyone a cheer as they finish.  There was also peppermint tea and bananas and I got a jelly baby at the get out point of the 6k.

I really need to get some longer swims in ahead of the 10k.  Obviously I'm totally capable of 10k but I have not really been swimming further than 4k recently and I'd like to have the stamina so that I can properly enjoy it!

Seahorse Swim Dorset

You wait for ages for a blog post and then three come along at once.  At least, that's the plan as I have three that need to be written!  I have a shiny new laptop on loan so there is no excuse.

First up is a swim that I did at the start of July, the 3.8k Seahorse Swim from Studland beach in Dorset.  Mr JKS and I decided to make a mini break out of it and had a lovely afternoon in Dorchester (where we visited the Teddy Bear Museum, the Dinosaur Museum and bought some Dorset Knobs), and a night in Weymouth before getting to Studland on the Sunday morning.

I'd had a slightly mixed run up to the event.  I was swimming incredibly well on the Wednesday before.  Then on Wednesday afternoon I went KneeBoarding for the first time.  This was great fun but after only 3 goes, my arms felt like they were about to fall out of their sockets, so I sat and watched for the rest of the session.  Unfortunately, the day after, my arms were totally shot to pieces.  I'd been looking forward to a tuning up massage but instead, Jo had to try to make my arms move even a little bit.  I got grumpier and grumpier as Sunday approached and even the morning of the race saw Mr JKS trying to ease my triceps.

I got into the water not having particularly high hopes for success.  I'm never especially fast in the sea and with arms that didn't quite pull properly I felt especially underwhelmed.  However, I wanted to give it my best shot and I did.  There were 2 diamond shaped laps, with pretty equal legs for each side of the diamond, although there was obviously a bit of current/wind in one direction.  I swam as hard as I could and really put my head down for the final leg in.  I exited the water in around 1h5 feeling pretty pleased with myself as I had given it my best shot.

There were lots of very fast and experienced sea swimmers there, mostly swimming without wetsuits, so it was difficult to know where I had finished.  We were in a hurry to get off as Mr JKS needed to do a long run in the afternoon.

The next day I was looking online to see if the finish times were available to confirm the time that I thought that I had done.  As I scanned through the race report here to get to the bit with the results on, I suddenly to my surprise spotted my name!  Although I had been slow by some standards, it turned out that I was actually the fastest westsuit female!  (I would like to note that my time was TWELVE minutes slower than the fastest non wetsuit female).  I emailed and apologised profusely to the organisers and it turned out that I had won a crystal trophy.  Luckily I have an amazing friend who is a courier and he happened to be in Dorset the following week and very kindly picked it up for me.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A catch up on swimming

Well, this is supposed to be a swimming as promised a post to catch up a bit on my swimming.  Swimming was rather neglected earlier in the year - there were weeks when I wasn't even hitting 20km in the water - and I definitely felt a bit off my game.  Not surprising when my body was so tired from the marathon training!

Masters swimming
After the marathon, I joined the local masters club.  I'd wanted to join them before but they only had one session a week, which was 8-9pm on a weeknight, which just didn't work for me.  There is no way I would sleep after swimming that late at night!  However, this year they introduced a second session on a Sunday 6-7pm.  It happens 3-4 times a month (the other session in the month, the pool is used for lifeguard training) and in general I'm making it along 2-3 times a month.  It is a very quiet session, so plenty of coach attention.  We generally do a mixed strokes warm up of about 1k which is fun and different for me, and then we either do some stroke development (I totally loved the 2 weeks that we spent practising backstroke) or some front crawl fitness work.  I love having a bit of sociable swimming and even though I never feel like going out at 6pm on a Sunday night, I always come back having enjoyed it.  I think just a little bit of fitness work reminds me to swim faster and I feel like I'm noticing some improvements.

Start of the openwater swimming season
I haven't really done so much openwater swimming this season because there hasn't been a huge imperative for me to get in and get on with it.  I've been very busy and tired and so lie ins on Sunday mornings have been more important! I started my season by attempting a 3.8k swim at Box End at the end of April.  It was very cold and I decided to get out after 1.2k as it was just not sensible to continue and this year I have no need to absolutely push myself.  I was a bit grumpy because I am pretty sure that I could have completed a 1500m and I was overly cocky choosing the 3.8k!

Lake District swimming
In the lakes twice in the space of just over a fortnight and I was lucky enough to get in 3 amazing swims.  I had a lovely swim in Rydal Water in May. I'd never swum there before and it was simply incredible to be swimming in this lake all by myself surrounded by wonderful scenery (Mr JKS watched from the bank with the binoculars).  In June, Mr JKS and I did a nice swim in Coniston, crossing the lake and swimming to "Wild Cat Island" and back (probably about a mile in total).  The next day, I abandoned paddleboarding half way through the session to have a swim in Derwentwater which was also pretty good.  I'd like to swim the length of that at some point.

Lock to Lock 4k
Finally, I took part in this very local swim ten days ago.  It was pretty well organised and the fastest 4k I've ever swum, thanks to the gallons and gallons of water rushing down the river after all of the rain in the preceding week!  I came in at under 52 minutes and was very surprised to get to the end so fast, it didn't seem like nearly enough swimming.  I was 3rd woman back which was nice although a shame that there were only prizes for 1st!  I'm signed up to do the 6k in a couple of weeks and the 10k in September.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Windermere Marathon

This is a somewhat overdue post since Windermere Marathon happened at the end of May and it is now the end of June, but better late than never.  We had a mixed day out for a variety of reasons but it was lovely weather and a nice accomplishment to have under the belt.  I came down with what seemed to be a cold on the Wednesday before and then turned into a chest infection which I am still recovering from a month later and had a horrific cough. Fortunately, it seemed that exercise suppressed the cough to some extent and I only coughed at the points where we totally stopped and didn't need the cough mixture I was carrying in my bag.  You'll notice in the pictures that I look quite wrapped up - this was more to deal with the photosensitivity that I have as a result of my medication - I had arm protectors on as well.

We did well on the first half of the race, hitting halfway in just a little over 2h and only walking up one very big hill (where there were bagpipers playing!).  I took a few selfies while we were running and a picture of the amazing scenery.

The second half was a lot harder.  Mr JKS began to struggle and was having problems keeping his heartrate at the right level, so we ended up doing a lot of walking with a bit of running.  Unfortunately, by the time he was feeling ok again, with about 6 miles to go, my legs had seized up totally from the hard first half and then walking, so we were only able to continue this to the finish.  However, there was an ice cream van at about 21 miles which we'd heard about in advance, so had some cash ready, and had a "cider refresher" between us which was just lovely as it was very hot.  There was also an unofficial feedstation with a chap giving out flapjack and sweets from the boot of his car in a layby and that was also very much appreciated!

We were pleased to finish and get our medals!  We crept in just under 5 hours which is really quite respectable in my opinion for a hilly course.  Overall I enjoyed it although I didn't feel that I got a full experience of running around the lake that I have swum up and down several times now.  The first half was the most picturesque through lovely rolling countryside, but no views of the lakes.  The second half was mostly along pavements next to the road that goes along the lake, so there were glimpses of the lake, but not very close and more views of the traffic.  But it's pretty cool to have run/walked around the lake as well as swum it :-D  Oh and the goody bag was excellent - local beer, nice neckbuff, kendal mint cake, teabags, a pen...and we enjoyed doing a "smaller" more friendly race to our Brighton/Milton Keynes marathons earlier in the year.

Unfortunately my post marathon recovery didn't go quite to plan and I ended up with a knee injury by running before all of my niggles had been ironed out.  4 weeks later I'm still not running, and we were incredibly disappointed to miss out on doing Coniston marathon (although we still had a fab 24 hours in the lakes with swims in Coniston and Derwentwater and some paddleboarding and lunch at our favourite cafe in Glenridding). I'm really missing running though and not totally sure on the prognosis :( On the plus side, the extra time for my swimming has been good.  And I still owe the blog a post on swimming!  Maybe later this week...

Thursday, 5 May 2016

This is what my life is like

This was always supposed to be as much a blog with mental health aspects as well as a swimming (or sports) focus, with "Just Keep Swimming" referring the need to keep on going in life as well as in the pool, or the lake, or the river.  I do have a post to write about swimming but I have a post to write about my mental health first.  I was talking yesterday in the staff disability forum about "definitions" and at what point someone might no longer be considered disabled by mental health.  The conclusion was that for legal/employment purposes one remains "disabled" (assuming an episode that has lasted at least a year) because of the potential stigma/discrimination when seeking employment.  However, listing some of the ways in which my depression disabled me 2013-2015 as part of the discussion, I realised how different my life was now to how it was then.  This might be oversharing but I think it is important to be honest.

What is my life like now?
* I work 4 days a week
* I trained for and and ran my first marathon and am looking forward to doing more.
* I swim, but not obsessively, and am a member of a swimming club and am learning to swim backstroke with backstroke turns.
* I fundraise for Mind and am looking forward to my annual series of cake stalls, another Christmas crafternoon, and some interesting plans for 2017.
* I am a tutor with the Recovery College and developed and teach a course on Understanding Depression
* I mentor CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) Chartership candidates
* I take my turn on the rota for holding the Free Cakes for Kids phone, speaking to families who are requesting cakes and arranging for bakers to bake them.
* I am undertaking a research project into the experiences of qualified librarians no longer working in the sector.
* My husband and I go on weekends away; these involve meals out.  We have been to Plymouth and Brighton this year and will be going to the Lake District twice, Torquay and Cornwall before the year is out as well as on our first proper summer holiday for several years.
* My husband is a member of a running club and goes running with them one evening a week and to a social once a month.  On these evenings, I prepare myself dinner, eat it, and watch tv.  He also helps out a brass band which involves rehearsals several times a month.  He continues to do his audax rides and I rarely even ask what time he will back.
* I do on average one social-meet up activity a week and sometimes two.
* I am going on my first holiday with a friend to a country that I have never been to before in July.
* Tears are few and far between.
* I eat breakfast, lunch and one or two snacks every day as well as dinner.
* I nearly do my fair share of household jobs, but I do rely on my husband to serve up dinner quite a lot
* Sometimes I cycle to work, sometimes I drive and pay to park my car at work, sometimes I run in and take the bus home, sometimes I get a lift.
* I sometimes chat to my husband at lunchtime and sometimes I don't.
* I am looking forward to returning to studying in the Autumn and have a place for a distance learning PG Cert in Systematic Reviews.  I have secret ambitions to do another masters.

I cannot believe what my life is like now.

But, I suppose there are limitations on me still
* I work 4 days a week because 5 days is too much/exhausting even in a fairly flexible job
* I take 2 regular medications and a third "as needed".
* I have to prioritise sleep.  Sleep itself is not something that comes easily to me.
* I cannot be out after 8.15 on a work night because I have to take my sedating medication, and this can start to have effects between 30 mins and 2 hours after taking.
* In fact, going out later than 9 is quite difficult on a normal night as I would probably have to skip this medication and compensate with some of the "as needed" medication
* Doing something sociable after work one day (e.g. going for an early pizza) wipes me out for the rest of the week; I find that I can't always see my friends as much as they want me to as I have to pace myself and it takes a while to get around the loop of friends before I can start again.
* Although I am in a running club, I cannot go to any of the running sessions as exercising until 7.30pm at night would impact on my sleep.
* Because of the medication/sleep issue I can't join my husband in brass banding. 
* there are wibbly wobbly bits 
* I'm on a 3 month follow up with the GP.

BUT, compared with much of 2015 (and 2014, and some of 2013....), where life was like the below., honestly, it is just unimaginable.  Three cheers for my amazing former GP and the rest of my surgery, plus G the care-coordinator, who got me through some very dark times.

*Trigger warning for content below: mentions of suicidal thoughts, self harm, eating disorders*
* I maintained a "face" which the majority of people would have seen if they met me..but...
* I trailed between appointments (averaging one-two a week, but sometimes there were more and very occasionally I would get a week off) with GP, G the care-coordinator, a string of psychiatrists, a psychologist, a series of mindfulness classes, occupational health, and trailed back and forth to the pharmacy collecting a procession of prescriptions.  And waiting rooms! I spent so much time sitting in waiting rooms.
* I would constantly insist that I was a terrible person. Almost anything that happened tracked back to this belief. No amount of psychology was able to defeat this.
* I was too unwell to work my full-time job, so had a temporary arrangement to reduce my hours, but spent the whole time worrying about a) not being there full-time b) not being well enough to go back full time at the end of the arrangement
* My husband was frequently called on to give up an hour of his day to come and collect me from work because I didn't have any mental energy to get myself home
* My husband would cook himself and myself dinner on a daily basis.  This meant that it was impossible for him to go out as on the days when he was out, I would just eat a box of mince pies or something that didn't involve cooking.  Sometimes on the rare occasions he was due to go out, it would have to be cancelled at the last minute as I was too unwell to be left home alone.  This would make him miserable and me feel guilty and miserable.
* My husband did manage to keep doing his long bike rides, but he would have to deal with a stream of miserable text messages and then come home to me having struggled through a day on my own.
* My husband would get me on the phone in tears almost every day that I was out of the house at work
* My husband would do most of the washing, cleaning and sort out any domestic crises.
* My husband was basically my carer at times and received support from a local charity that help carers of people with MH problems. Thank goodness for them, this made a big difference.
* I would go for periods of up to 3 months without any face to face social outings
* There were days when I couldn't even face making myself a cup of coffee
* I would feel too stresssed to eat during the day, never ate breakfast, rarely ate lunch, ate dinner, binge ate junk food, and then would get up in the middle of the night to eat again.  I was too embarassed to talk about this and get any help.
* I repeatedly burnt my left arm with my hair straighteners at the point when things began to deteriorate into intense awfulness in August 2015.
* I hit a suicidal crisis point on 3 separate occasions between January 2014 and August 2015.

I appreciate that there is a high statistical probability of another episode.

But I give endless thanks to the compassion and direction of my former GP that I was diverted from these plans.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Brighton Marathon

Pink Marathon Hair ^^

So when I last wrote, I had 10 days to go until the start of my taper for the marathon.  This saw me complete a second 20 mile run and then a 23 mile run.  My pace was a fair bit slower than at Milton Keynes but I was carrying a rucksack and running on pavements around pedestrians.  It did however look like if I had a good day that I would be able to complete the marathon in under 4 hours.

I have to say that having this target time in my head started to make me feel quite pressured and I found the taper period really stressful.  It didn't help that it felt like my body was breaking down with all sorts of aches and pains seeing me trailing back and forth to the osteopath.  I could barely think about running, let alone doing the visualisations I normally do, without crying.  I amassed a stack of running magazines from my subscriptions that I simply felt too sick to read.  I was so anxious that I couldn't even talk about it as I didn't really want people making "helpful" comments.  I did manage to talk to a couple of people and I had some kind reassurance from a former colleague, Simon, who has done two marathons, and managed to find the right things to say.

The taper apart from all that went off alright; I did the White Horse Half Marathon on 3rd April, my birthday, and the plan was to run that at 1h55 as that would be just right for getting me in under 4 hours a fortnight later.  Of course, I ended up going a bit faster than expected, met a nice chap called Ben who was training for his first in London, and because I was chatting to him, I carried on at this pace until he left me for dust at 18k.  I thought I was on track for a new PB, but I'd forgotten how fast I got around in Bournemouth last year and so was 15 seconds off it!  I came in at 1:47:58.  I also managed a fairly fast 13.5k run the weekend before.

Did my best to rest etc and ate so much that I put on weight in the run up and soon it was time to go down to Brighton the day before.  Mr Just Keep Swimming went to the expo whilst I was able to rest in the Premier Inn, and then we went out to Zizzis for some pasta.  It's definitely a good idea to book a table well in advance (I booked this in January).  Bella Italia weren't taking bookings on the night and Zizzis were totally booked out - the last thing you want to do is to trail around and queue for food.  Zizzis were pretty slow with their food which was a bit of a pain.  We got a reasonable sleep (although I did deploy half a lorazepam to assist) and woke up at 7am. 

We were in walking distance from the start which was really handy as no need to stress about taxis.  Although we arrived in plenty of time and I did not need to use the bag drop as Mr JKS was carrying my few items, the queue for the loos was awful and poorly directed so I was in the queue until 8 minutes before the start which was not ideal.  I'd put myself in the 3h30-4h corral in the hope that I would get swept along and achieve my sub 4h goal; I was hoping to find the pacer but it was totally impossible to.  I did see some other Mind runners and was able to wish them all the best.  The corral was very muddy so most of us started the race with mud stuck to our trainers - not ideal, but at least it wasn't wet!

Start of the race was fairly unremarkable.  The first mile is uphill, but that's pretty much the only hill.  I felt really thirsty and felt a bit frustrated that the water was only being handed out in cups (which is pretty much only 1 mouthful) but I took a couple of cups at the early aid stations which seemed to help.  After 5 miles I got to the Mind cheering point which was the first time that I would see Mr JKS.  I was super happy to see my lovely contact from the Mind events team and stopped to give her a quick hug.

After that we had a fairly long run out to Roedean, and we saw the elite runners come the other way.  As we came back from Roedean, there was a chap handing out orange slices. Goodness me that was unexpected and incredibly delicious. Exclaiming over the deliciousness I got talking to the only person I had a real conversation with - John. He was running for the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust because his wife had an ectopic pregnancy last year. Happily she is now 4 months pregnant now even though they had been told they wouldn't have another pregnancy. We also talked about mental health.  I emailed the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust when I got back home and they were able to point me towards his fundraising page and I received a lovely email from him afterwards.

Back from Roedean and into town again.  The atmosphere at this point was absolutely amazing.  I felt absolutely fantastic and was totally enjoying the experience - bands, crowds - just brilliant. At 12.5 miles I ran past the second Mind cheerpoint, and then at 13 miles I saw Mr JKS again.  From there it was on into a residential area until about mile 18, and there were huge numbers of people handing out sweets which was fantastic, I hadn't really expected that.  There was also a steel band, a brass quintet and more orange slices.  I met a few more Mind runners but didn't really chat to anyone.  At this point I would have been finding it hard to speak as I was maintaining an amazing pace that was far faster than I had anticipated.  Secretly, I was starting to wonder if, far from sneaking in under 4h, I might sneak in under 3h45 and achieve a good for age time of 3h45.

At about 18 miles, I saw the lovely Fiona!  This was a total surprise as although I knew that she would be there, I assumed that she would be following her much faster husband around.  However, there was an excellent app that provided updates as to where people were and I assume that this helped!  As you can see, I was very happy to see her.

Soon after this as I got towards 20 miles I was starting to find it all quite hard going.  I saw Mr JKS at 20 miles and rejected the coca cola that I'd been planning to have, I just didn't fancy it.  There was then a couple of fairly soul destroying miles through an industrial estate and I was starting to hurt and my pace was starting to drop.  Saw Mr JKS again at 23 miles and he ran a little way with me but I was worried that that was cheating so told him not to!  At this point, my watch died...  I don't particularly rely on it for pace, but what I *do* find helpful to know is how many metres are left to go.  I found that very helpful on my 20 and 23 mile training runs...  Looking at the statistics just now, I had maintained a pace of 5:16 minute kms until that point, and with 4.2k to go, I had nearly 25 minutes to cover it to come in at under good for age time.  I was hurting very very much, but I think that had I been able to see how far was left to go, I would have managed to motivate myself a bit better.  I ended up walking a bit, and then walking again at 25 miles as I started retching which is always a sure sign that my body is at its total limit.  I started feeling really disappointed with myself, which was a bit silly as I had totally smashed the time I was hoping for.  The crowds were shouting out my name, and whilst that had been super early on in the race when I could wave/thumbs up in acknowledgement, I just found it really frustrating.

Somehow I managed to keep it together a little more and I was surprised to see the finish as I had missed the 26 mile sign. I could not even muster a sprint finish and lay down on the floor as soon as I got over the line and started crying. The St Johns Ambulance people got a bit overexcited and wanted to put me in their ambulance but I managed to get up at the sight of the wheelchair. I cried all over the lady giving out space blankets and all the way out of the finish section (500m) and then lay down in the middle of the Mind tent and cried some more. Then I had a cup of tea and sat up and had a banana and a lovely lady who had volunteered her afternoon gave me a calf massage.

So, that was that really.  Less than 3 minutes off good for age and I finished in the top 4% of women.  Not bad for a swimmer.  Not bad if you knew me at school.  Not bad considering that at most I ran 3-4 times a fortnight.

There was minor blisterage, very sore legs for a couple of days, and now I just need the osteopath to put my glutes and right hamstring back into the right places and I should be good to run again.  I've found the last week very fatigued and I guess I am just impatient about getting back to it.  I'm super envious of everyone who is running London tomorrow and hatching my own plans for the future.  Of course, it's not long before my next one as in 3 weeks time Mr JKS and I will be doing the Windermere marathon.  That's not going to be a flat out race, I am expecting us to average 10-11 minute miles, walking up the hills and just trying to have a nice day out seeing the lake from the land rather than face down in the water...

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Marathon training (and general update)

Oh dear, it's been nearly 3 months since I last blogged and I've actually had plenty of things to blog about.  I guess it's a question of life getting in the way which is a whole lot better than depression getting in the way.

The name of the game so far this year has been Less Is More Marathon Training along with Trying To Maintain A Semblance Of Swim Training.  In general that has gone ok, until today when I got out of the pool and burst into tears.  My body is quite tired!  I did my second 20 mile run on Friday and it has definitely taken it out of me (something I should have remembered from my previous 20 mile run a fortnight previously).  I've also been battling Frankenblister which I don't  think is really going to go away until the marathon (16th April), at least compeed seems to help, and a slightly wonky piriformis muscle which has required several trips to the osteopath.  Both of those things have meant even less training than the Less Is More Marathon plan.  However, I'm on the home straight now - there's the small matter of a 23 mile run next weekend which I'm not looking forward to but then taper is on the horizon.  I've a half marathon on my birthday and then it'll be a fortnight to go!

It's been a good year for getting in some races.  We did a lovely trail half marathon down in Plymouth at the end of January.  The route was fab with some great hills; too bad that it finished 3 miles short of the distance!  (I ran around the carpark several times to make it up...).  The following weekend I finally completed the Grim Challenge which I thought was not really worth the hype.  It didn't feel at all physically challenging when you had to keep stopping to wade through puddles and the hills were really pretty minimal.  The weekend after that we did a great half marathon down in Portsmouth for Valentines day.  It was a mix of trail and road and was actually quite wet and muddy.  It was lovely to see Portsmouth and be by the sea and we got around it in a decent time given the terrain.  I'd be happy to do that one again.  Excellent goody bag too and chunky medal.

I also had a week in Tenerife which was mainly about swimming but I did also get in some good runs.  The coastal promenade is undulating compared to say Bournemouth so that was fun and I was able to have a nice paddle at the end of my runs!  I also had a great time hanging out with Fiona the Fish and Super H.  It's always the mark of a good holiday when you come back and immediately book another one, and by midday on the Monday we were back at work, Super H and I were booked onto a Swim Trek trip to Slovenia in July.  Can't wait!  Too bad F didn't have any more holiday left :(

The weekend after saw me and Super H going over to Milton Keynes.  H did the 10k run (having no run for several weeks owing to shin splints) and I did the 20 mile run.  I felt woefully underprepared and got really anxious about it but I ended up sailing around the first 13 miles and feeling fine until 16.5 miles and then with the company of another lady managing to hold onto the end to come in at 2h52 which was way faster than my target marathon pace.  That said, my legs were shot to pieces (as they were after yesterday's run) so the end of the marathon is going to be really tough.

I didn't do swimathon this year - it would have been hard to top last year's 5 x 5km in 3 days - but mostly it was because life got in the way and it was more important to fit in that 20 miler.

I think that's about it for now.  A case now of Just Keep Running and keep my chin up through the next 10 days and then allow my body to recover and be tip top for marathon day.

Friday, 22 January 2016

2016 Plans UPDATED

A bit of an update as I've got myself entered into a couple of the events that I'm dithering about, entered a couple more (because I can!).  Exciting!

Maybe I've taken on a bit too much.  I do feel a little bit after being a bit bored for the first few weeks of the year that now things have hit Busy with a capital B, as along with marathon training (and associated sports massage/yoga classes for recovery), and a bit (a lot by anyone else's standards apart from mine) of swim training, I'm doing some research into careers of former librarians (myself included in that group now!), developing a course on depression for the new Oxford Recovery College and my usual voluntary work with Free Cakes for Kids.  It's a tricky balance to get right especially as having been so depressed for so long, the temptation is just to do everything.  We'll see.

31st January: Dartmoor Trail Half Marathon 

7th February: Grim Challenge (postponed from December)
14th February: Portsmouth Coastal Half marathon [new entry]
Annual Tenerife Swim camp

6th March: Milton Keynes Festival of Running - 20 mile run
18th March: Swimathon 5k.  Only doing one this year owing to several other things happening that weekend along with the need for marathon-long-run to be fitted in. [new entry]

3rd April: White Horse Half Marathon
17th April: Brighton Marathon
30th April: Box End Mass Start Swim (Not yet entered, will see how I feel nearer the time)

22nd May: Windermere Marathon 

5th June: Coniston Trail Marathon (this will be a walk/run affair - we've entered the challenge race as this will be more akin to the ACC (see below) and only 2 weeks after our last marathon)
19th June: Big Bay Swim Torquay [new entry]

3rd July: Seahorse Swim, Studland Bay, 3.8k 
17th July: Swim Oxford 6k [now entered]

27th August: Fuschlsee Crossing 4.2k 

11th September: Swim Oxford 10k [now entered]
7th - 9th October: Atlantic Coast Challenge