Category Archives: Running and weather

Enter, Sun.

Day One: There is blue sky and everyone, at first, is squinting. We look east, we look west. There is not a cloud in sight. And we smile and enjoy it.

Day Two: It’s here again. Pure sunshine without a cloud in the sky. It’s too good to be true. After work, I don my trainers and, for the first time this year, my running sunglasses. I feel like I run faster, powered by that glowing yellow ball in the sky. A great start to the weekend.

Day Three: Martin goes running and sweats too much in long jogging bottoms and a fleece top. Why? It’s still sunny. photo 5 (1)It’s warm. We fling open the windows at the front of the house and let in spring. I sit in the window and wait for him to run past, clapping when I see him. Afterwards, we make a picnic and visit Bernkastel, sitting at the top of the hill by the ruins lazing in the first real warmth of the year. We are surrounded by vineyards and the river glimmers below us.

Day Four: We do still live in Luxembourg, right? We haven’t suddenly moved to a Caribbean island? Another warm day and another sunny river run. I head west, following the river to the next village and do a loop around. Martin heads east. The paths are full of Nordic walkers with their poles, runners smiling, families on bikes, families with strollers, couples with heads tilted upwards. I run in shorts and t-shirt for the first time in 2014 and when I get back there is that joyous line across of the top of my thighs. A running tan line.

Day Five: Commuters look different. It’s the sunglasses and the lack of gloves and hats. I cross the street and walk on the sunny side to my classes. I enjoy wearing pumps with no tights; in class with bare feet.

Day Six: It’s time for the pool. After swimming a mile, I head to the relax terrace to read a bit. It’s inside, but the wall of windows lets in the late afternoon sun. I’m soon dry; my skin is warm.

Day Seven: We are getting too used to this. I open the blinds each morning and expect the rays to hit me and, again, they do. I take a walk along the river and then head to Trier for some shopping. It hits 21 degrees in the afternoon and I sit in the main square with a bratwurst and mustard. My toes cold on the cobbles are warmed in the afternoon sunshine.

Day Eight: A long teaching day, but we still have blue sky. I ignore the bus and walk to the station, again on the sunny side of the street. All the restaurants and cafes have dug out their outside eating furniture and the plazas are humming with early diners, keen to take advantage of the al fresco temperatures. I’m tired when I get home, but change into my running gear straight away and head out for a quick 5km. Again in shorts and t-shirt; again the blue sky brings me home.

Day Nine: Teaching in an office with no windows sucks, but at least I’m only there for a couple of hours. My students have to stay all day. I tell them to get outside for lunch after class. Spring still shows no signs of leaving us. I walk back from the station, the sun behind me highlighting the pink blossom trees lining the path. As I go to meet friends for dinner that night, I drive into the burnt orange sunset, the sky aglow with streaks of pink and red. I turn on the radio. U2 is playing. It’s A Beautiful Day.

Spring Blossom

Heading to the heat

In 40 hours, it will be upon me. It will cover me, press into me so I don’t know where it finishes and I begin. I will be lightheaded with relief and joy. It will keep me awake; I will dream of it. It will tear me apart and keep me together.

I will return to Buenos Aires.

It’s been over a year since my last run there (with Maria, the morning of my wedding) and as I pack too many clothes for what will be a shorts and bikinis trip, I think back to that run and what it means to run in Buenos Aires.

Part of the Nike 10km Red River, 2009

Part of the Nike 10km Red River, 2009

Firstly, it’s where M&MRC started. Its streets gave us the confidence to dare to dream of 26.2 miles. Its crazy weather: heat, humidity, storms, rains that turns streets into rivers, wind born in Patagonia made us almost crazy ourselves. The sheer number of fun runs and charity runs offered M&MRC the chance to be part of many coloured, bobbing masses.

There will be sweat and I am most looking forward to it. The tingling sting of skin warmed by the sun and its own sweat; the salt patterning down my shins; the dive into the cool pool post-run and the extra beat your heart gives you: you are alive.

Of course, all my in-laws and friends will think I am mad. They will look at me as if going for a run in the humidity that sits around them is confirmation of what a nutter I am. They will offer me iced-water on my return, my limbs glistening with perspiration, my eye-lashes holding back the salty-drips running into my eyes. They will say well done and not really know why.

But I will. Buenos Aires, here I come.P1060156

The first 5 miles

Happy New Year Runners, Readers, Adventurers! May 2014 be the best running year ever!

Today I went for my first 5 miles of 2014. No biggie, except I’ve only really been running 4, 4-and-a-bit miles over the last few months as I persuaded my legs and feet to not be injured or hurt (if you run, you know that that ‘bit’ is very important). So, actually, it was quite big for me.

You can tell it was on my mind because I planned it in a way I haven’t been planning my runs. For a start, I mapped it out last night. Secondly, I took a timer with me. Since last summer I haven’t timed any of my runs. I have ideas on how runs have gone based on my own very scientific methods. These include:

  • Number of songs which have played on my iPod during the run
  • How many other runners/dog walkers/people sitting on benches I have overtaken
  • If I am beating a boat on the river or not
  • Whether I am really knackered at the end of it
  • If I feel like I am running backwards with concrete legs or not
  • The thought, once inside of course, of if I could possibly have continued for another 22 miles

The sun was shining, the swans were swimming. I know there’s supposed to be ice all over northern America and people in Florida are wearing jumpers, but over here it’s been delightful. I ran in a gorgeous 13 degrees today. I had to remind myself it was January.

My route was a there-and-back affair along the Sauer river. This is the smaller river with no boats on it, so good job, really, I took a timing device with me. I overtook an old man running as we went up the ramp to the bridge section. He ran with straight arms by his sides, and this distracted me enough (I tried it for a few strides to crap effect) to get me to mile one. I checked the timer. 8 minutes 20 seconds. I frowned. I couldn’t be going that fast.

The next three miles were all about the bends. The river snakes and curves and the path follows, meandering through vineyards. A strong breeze blew from the east in this section. There was a burning smell in the air. The sun beat down and I opened my jacket half way. Another woman runner passed me going the other way. I passed another up ahead. So many runners out and about! I reminded myself it was January. There are always lots of runners on the streets in January.

At the turn I checked the timer again. 21 minutes 40 seconds. I had had 45 minutes in my mind (scientific mind) and this looked good. I felt good. Maybe the timer was working after all. Maybe my legs were working after all. I forgot how many songs I was on.

Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana came on. I love running to this song. There’s something about it. I love the ultimate verse when Diana shouts to his girlfriend, “Because he’s sleeping with me!” It just makes me forget running and imagine the situation. Mile four was mainly taken up by Michael Jackson. Which is fine with me and my legs.

At the last mile marker, I checked it again. 34 minutes 40 seconds. The number 43 started to become a possibility. But only in my head. My legs were thinking 50. They were tired from all the squats I’d done the previous day. They were saying to me, “Hey, we usually stop about now.” I understood, I did, but I willed them on. I passed two more runners in that final mile. Luckily, they got me through it as they seemed to be January-Runners-Who-Suffer-Because-They-Don’t-Run-For-The-Other-Eleven-Months-Of-The-Year (scientific term). And I passed them scoffing and hoping they didn’t notice it was bravado.

I rounded the corner onto my street. People were standing in the sun watching the ferry. Ducks were hovering, hoping for food. I dug in. It hurt. My legs hurt. My lungs could have gone all day, but my legs were tired. I dived for my finishing lamp-post and clicked off the timer. 43 minutes 3 seconds. Hoorah.

I like surprises. I like good tunes that play on shuffle when you’re running and give you a boost. I like warm weather when you’re expecting frostiness. I like remembering I have lucky orange running socks to wear.

And I love surprising myself by running faster than I thought I was. Scientifically speaking, of course.

Autumn running

The wetter the better?

Maria likes to run in the rain. I think it comes from the fact she’s from Texas and any showery respite from that summer heat is a joy. I remember we once got caught in a mental Buenos Aires rainstorm and she still quite enjoyed it. It’s not that I’m a fair weather runner, but there becomes a point when rain is not fun. And therefore a good excuse.

Today it has been raining all day. When it hasn’t been raining, the air has been wet, so you look out the window and it seems to be raining. Dark clouds pass and bring their 45-degree-angle gushes, leaving a sodden view and feeling.

I needed to run today. It was on my “to-do” list. Every look out of the window brought more winces. Do I have to? It looks horrible out there. I fought it until a lull in the day’s rain proceedings presented itself. I got running dressed and went out. Quickly. Before the oncoming downpour and being a wimp changed my mind.

Good things about running in the rain:

  • Your sweat gets mixed with rain for an all round shiny and wet effect that makes it look as if you’ve been working really hard
  • You burn extra calories by jumping in/over puddles
  • You can distract yourself with the stunning lightning display
  • Your trainers get a wash from the previous muddy run
  • You feel noble being out while everyone else is on the couch watching TV
  • You feel an affinity with ducks/swans/geese who have to live out in all weathers
  • You get to wear that expensive all-weather running gear you bought
  • You don’t get sunburnt
  • You feel like a kid again. I mean, it’s just rain, Mum!

Crappy things about running in the rain:

  • All buses and cars that pass you want to give you a good soaking and generally do
  • Cobbles and grass are slippery
  • Mud is even more slippery
  • You come home looking like a drowned rat
  • You can get struck by lightning
  • Your glasses need wipers and your eyelashes get ladled with droplets
  • You feel like a maniac being out there while everyone else is on the couch watching TV
  • All you can think about is summer, which has just disappeared over your shoulder

My run went well. I did feel noble and I didn’t get struck by lightning. The fishermen standing in their big rain coats were my rainy friends, not put off their course by the sky’s dribbles. Some sports are for all-weather gamers. Fishing, it seems, is one of them.

Running too. I felt better for being wetter out there today, clean and refreshed. I am glad I ran.

And didn’t take a raincheck.

Venga! The Behobia to San Sebastián 20km

“VENGA! VENGA!”

This word more than others got me through the Behobia to San Sebastián 20km run last November. The terrible weather didn’t help. The hills certainly didn’t help. But all those people, lining the route and often in the middle of nowhere, shouting at us to “COME ON!” was one thing that put a smile on my face.

IMG_1974The day started early, up before dawn eating toast and peanut butter in my friend Jenny’s apartment and driving through the mountains as the sun rose to reveal a wet, grey day. We parked up and took the train and bus to Behobia, a small town on Spain’s border with France. We were early, though the crowds were already forming: a brightly coloured bunch as everyone was wearing plastic ponchos to protect them from the downpour. For some, bin liners were enough as we all huddled together in cafes, under shop fronts and petrol stations. Despite the weather, the atmosphere was buzzing. This is the Great North Run of Spain, popular and fun for both seasoned runners and newbies alike.

Despite the lack of training, I was confident of finishing smiling and without too many problems, though there was the worry of the 2km climbs dotted throughout the route. There were so many of us, we had to wait an hour after the ‘start’ for our section to kick off. Despite the puddles, we danced and cheered our way to the starting line and we were off. Jenny had other friends who had been training with her running as well, though everyone was running their own run.

The first couple of kms were all about skipping over puddles and finding your rhythm and place, like every busy race is. Then a sneaky hill came as we hit km 4 and my mind went backwards. Shit, I thought. Then I remembered that I’m always rubbish in the first few kms of a long run. By the sixth km I was checking the watch and calculating making it in under two hours, which I would have been happy about at the start. Then I started to focus. Hill training or no hill training, I could get in under 2 hours and I was bloody well going to.

The rain still battered us, although there was no wind – a complete saviour. The first real climb was km 8 to km 10. It was one of those -just-keep-putting-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other moments. Actually, that’s a lie: it wasn’t a moment, it was more like fifteen minutes. But the end was always in sight, and that helped me. That, and knowing that turning that corner on the lip of hill was a downhill. Usually, I don’t like downhills, but they helped me make up time after slowing for the climbs. At the top, the heavens well and truly opened. Ignore the leg burn and the rivers running down the roads and go for it. The crowds were and didn’t thin. They had big umbrellas and they stayed throughout. Venga! Venga!

Towards the end after the last climb and on last 4km to the finishing line along the sea front in San Sebastián, I was running side to side along the route clapping those supporters back and high-fiving all the kids. They really had been amazing. Some even provide chocolate, fruit, water, handing them out to runners as they pass. Others open their windows and blast music, or take a huge speaker to an isolated spot on the route and blast it out from their car.

On that last climb, the steepest of them all I had to dig in. Walking I wasn’t. Half way up a man of about fifty patted me on the back. “I’ve been following you the whole way,” he told me in Spanish. “You’re running really well. Keep going.” He passed me, but that was the boost I needed. The rest of the hill passed in a glow of determination and it was down and flat to the end. The sea and its big, crashing waves came into view.

The finishing line was in sight, although there were lots of those inflatable line markers that it was a bit disappointing getting to one and realising it wasn’t the final one. I clocked in in 1 hour 50 minutes and was quietly pleased with myself. Not being a full half marathon, it wouldn’t have beaten my half marathon best, but all rain, hills and lazy training considered I happily took it. And more than the time I clocked, I enjoyed it. Running alone, without music and not having a clue where I was going or what was really coming next was a real pleasure. Sometimes I think we find out too much about new runs instead of taking it as it comes.

Afterwards we all celebrated together in a restaurant with fine wine and food, everyone pleased with their efforts whether they had finished or not. For some it was another day at the running office, speeding along the route with ease. For others it was too many kms that time. But for all of us who ran that day, there was a ringing in the ears…

IMG_1959VENGA! VENGA!

And a big thank you to Jenny, reader of our blog, and fellow runner Nando for their fabulousness!

Get back on the horse

There are always moments in a training programme where you think you’re going to die. You can’t go on. That happened to us a couple of weeks ago in week five of our half marathon training programme. It was the week of our long run of eight miles and it fell on the hottest weekend of the year.

Call it stupidity, call it having the force, call it plain stubbornness: I headed out around 10.30am, without breakfast and with the sun already high in the sky and the shadows already shortening. It was one of those runs where the first mile is so tough you can’t bear to think about the following miles you know are coming. You’ve just got to focus on that next step, getting to the end of the road, making it to the next tree.

It was painful. My lungs were fine for the first half, but my legs were made of plasticine for the whole time. Sweat was pouring off me, then drying in salt lakes around my face in the sun. I felt like I was shuffling through quick sand, trying to make it the other side of the park where there was shade. The last two miles I just had to laugh inside and the old mantra of You’ve done a lot worse stayed with me. It got me back and I was proud that I hadn’t given in to my tiredness, the weather, being slow. I hardly bothered to look at the time I had clocked.

Martín had never run eight miles before and it was also tough for him, though he went later in the day. Again, he completed it without surrendering to the aches, pains and sweat. And then proceeded to spew up. We’ve all been there after an exhausting run.

So, while you’re chuffed to have got through a tough run, it does make you nervous about the next one. It becomes not about the weather, not about the hills, not even about the miles; doubt about your running ability creeps in. Am I always going to suffer and be slow from now on? Has running become a torture?

The only thing to do is get back on the horse. Or, in our case, put your trainers on again. It’s not easy, it becomes a mental stumbling block. All you can think about is how your body crumbled and hurt during the last time you headed out: how you thought in the last miles that if you collapsed there and then by the road, which car drivers would stop to help you. But you’ve got to push those thoughts aside. You’ve done this before. You’re still alive.

So, on my first run of week six, I headed out cautiously. I was trotting. I hate to use the word, but probably I was jogging. Then I looked at my watch. What? An 8-minute mile up that hill? Really? Body, what are you doing to me? Stop confusing me! I finished that run in a flourish, pounding to the line in disbelief. But smiling.

That week we hit 9 miles in our weekend long run and we ran those 9 miles in the same time as we had run 8 the previous week. We were back on track. We had broken the shackles of our nightmare runs. We were back on the horse.

And this time it was galloping.

The mysteriousness of wind

After debating whether to sign up for the 30k I’d had my eyes on for weeks, I finally decided to cross it off my list.  I only had a few more weeks in Buenos Aires and I didn’t want to have to plan my weekend activities around my longer runs.  There was also the factor that my mom mentioned of going from winter to summer and getting acclimated before charging along.  While I don’t know if it would have really been that big of a deal it was another reason to cancel the run.

I then took a step back from running and even had about a 2 week break in there.  But now I’m back in Texas and I’m working on getting  back in the routine again.  I went out for what I thought would be 3 miles at 10:30 a.m. on the first try and couldn’t make it.  Lesson learned: I must wake up earlier to beat the heat.

The second go was more successful. Although, I had a love/hate relationship with the wind. I went up the hill to the corner and felt good.  I had to head down before doing the same route again to get in my planned 4 miles.  As I turned to go downhill I suddenly realized there was a cool wind blowing.  It’d been pushing me along the whole way, but I hadn’t even noticed. While I was thankful to have the air move around me to cool me off a bit, it was also annoying to feel the wind in only one direction. I headed back up the hill again and while knowing there was wind helping me along I still didn’t really notice it’s presence as I had while heading directly into it.

Isn’t it amazing how different a tailwind is to a headwind?  They are both there yet one makes its presence much more obvious than the other. I’ve even had moments where  I had the sensation that the air would just swirl around me as I was headed into the wind no matter my direction, but at least this time I knew it had to be helping me when I needed it most…going up the hill.

A change of scenery (and changing weather!)

I’m in Norfolk for the weekend leading up to Sunday’s 5km Race for Life in Cambridge. I’m running it with my mum, Wo, who I signed up without telling her (she hadn’t run properly in about 20 years, read here: http://bit.ly/H8KVn0) After arriving from London yesterday, I headed straight out to run. I hadn’t run during the week, choosing instead to spend hours in my garden digging, cutting, mowing, sweeping, planting, tidying and weeding. I found muscles I never even knew existed (even during Cruce de los Andes!) so expect another post on the cross training benefits of gardening!

Anyway, I ran a route I often do when here, which takes me along country tracks and lanes followed by the Hunstanton cliffs and prom and then up the hill back to my parents’ house. Yesterday, it was incredible, in the sense that I was battling with a wind I hadn’t seen since camping in Patagonia. People were still braving a promenade stroll, although no one was walking in my direction. They all looked at me with puzzled expressions: Why are you going that way?!

This morning I decided to head out and do the same circuit, but the other way round. I enjoyed the first downhill, even with the wind in my face, and then the lovely tail-gust as I ran along the sea front. But I wasn’t prepared for the dark clouds to suddenly descend and explode in hail. Yes, hail. In June. People ran off the beach to shelter under the pier. I battled on to more strange looks, feeling strange again myself. What weather jinx did I have with my home town? The five-minute hail storm battered my back until it passed as quickly as it came and the sun poked out again. Phew.

So, the lesson I have learnt from my recent Norfolk running is that tomorrow we should be prepared for anything: rain, hail, rainbows, sun, wind, sleet. But we are looking forward to it, and even though she’s feeling “a bit nervous” Wo is also ready for the challenge and excitement that her first 5km has to offer. And we’re changing our running scenery again as we will pass through the colleges of Cambridge which are hopefully beautiful enough to distract Wo from the fact that she’s been running for the past three minutes and counting…

 

We are raising money for Cancer Research UK. To sponsor us visit us here www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/lauraandwo Every penny helps. Thank you.

 

 

The weather in the south

I have yet again disappeared and resurfaced.  For the past month I was home in Texas to visit family and friends and slowly wrap my head around the fact that I will be moving back in a couple months.  I dedicated myself to lots of organizing and visiting while running was pushed to the back burner.  Part of this was due to the lack of an event in the near future.  And the other reason was related to the weather.  Have you been in Texas during the summer?  The heat can be unbearable.

I managed to get in a run a week or so, but the routine was gone.  I didn’t have to get out there and there were roughly 8 hours of the day when it was hotter than 90° F.  I do some things that others would consider masochistic (i.e. run across the Andes), but I prefer to not run in a sauna unless necessary.

One of my first runs after being back was done after lying by the pool for a couple hours enjoying the fact that there was a cool escape just a few feet away from me.  This was not the case once I set out for my run.  I’d mapped out a route 2 miles out so I’d get in 4 miles doing an out-n-back.  I started around 5:30 p.m., but the sun was still in full force.  I was also in the hill country so I was missing the flat streets of Buenos Aires.  I made it almost to the turnaround point and saw the hill that stood in my way.  I decided to give myself a pat on the back for running in the heat and head back without that last bit of torture.  I finished looking like I’d just got out of the pool fully clothed because of sweat.

For the rest of my trip I was faced with the issue of when to get out and run.  It had to be early in the morning before the heat set in or later in the evening, which usually wasn’t an option due to the timing of dinner.  My sleep schedule was also a bit out of whack so all of that amounted to only a few running adventures.

I had hoped that my routine would reappear once back in Buenos Aires, but I was welcomed by a cold front the day of my arrival.  This past week the high was in the 50’s and I was still at work when the sun went down.  You might say that it doesn’t sound that cold, but it was in the 40’s by the time I made it home and without a really good reason there was no way I was going back outside.  So I stayed inside in front of the heater and just thought about what a run might feel like.

Thankfully the weather is bearable again and I made it out yesterday to get back in a rhythm.  I need to take advantage of the cooler weather here in the Southern hemisphere before heading back to the sweltering heat in the south of the US in a couple months.