Life in Lockdown

The Daily Grind

If I’m honest, at times I’m starting to get a bit fed up of the ‘lockdown’. Being back at work after the ‘holidays’ where I enjoyed having lots of free time, I’m now working 3 days from home / 2 days in school. While some semblance of normality is good, it’s frustrating not being able to see family and friends and having no concept of when this may be feasible. The daily routine is now all too familiar and there are limited possibilities to do something different.

On the other hand, I do consider myself fortunate to have a beautiful garden to enjoy and the good health required to escape the confines of home to enjoy the outdoor spaces close by. I appreciate that not everyone is as fortunate.

Biking Adventures

Yesterday we took our old singlespeed bikes out for a change. We followed the usual route around Hazlehead and Countesswells, not certain at the outset whether Kingshill would feature. In the event we were pleasantly surprised by our burgeoning bike fitness and decided to give the aforementioned hill a bash. Riding clipless pedals, once you’ve committed you keep going – or fall off. My heart was thundering by the time I reached the top with every ounce of weight required for the final couple of pedal turns. Bruce advised that next time I should try zig-zagging towards the top as it makes the effort easier; either that or falling off less hazardous!

Anti-Social Sunday

Sunday is usually Social Sunday – a large group of friends meeting up to run the trails. Sadly, for now this can’t happen, so today was anti-social Sunday instead. I love the Countesswells trails and have enjoyed riding them, so today decided to change my route, find a couple of shortcuts to Hazlehead and hopefully make it over to Countesswells.

I was well prepared with my running pack – gloves, leggings and a base layer plus water and a snack – very conscious that I need to be self sufficient at all times. The lack of people on the trails today surprised me; certainly at the start of the Hazlehead parkrun course there appeared to be far more people walking on the golf course than anywhere else! It was a pleasant surprise to bump into a familiar face along the way and good to enjoy a socially distanced chat.

Continuing on, I reached Countesswells, my favourite local forest. Knowing that we’re all missing our Sunday runs I enjoyed a leisurely pace and frequent stops to take photos to share.

We have a few points along the route where we’d normally regroup. The selfie spot is where we always have a shared photo! Nobody else in sight today!

I decided against Kingshill as the loop adds a couple of miles and my legs aren’t quite up to that distance at the moment. I clocked up 12 miles overall and that was quite sufficient being my longest run since lockdown.

Running back along the usual route, I enjoyed the swooping trails, reminiscing fondly of previous runs in company. Heading back to the car park I took in a couple of new paths to avoid the main trail, somewhat lumpy and rutted, the result of forestry works prior to lockdown.

The final climb of the day led back up towards Hazlehead. Here I met a familiar Metro man, flying down the track; the opposite of me as I plodded my way back up on increasingly weary legs!

Although there were a couple of rain showers, I was fortunate in being sheltered. The lack of rain saw the trails as dry as I’ve seen.

Round the corner towards the golf course the sun broke through again. Definitely a couple of seasons in one day.

From here, it was pretty much all downhill to home. Mixing things up, I headed along to the halfway point of the Hazlehead parkrun course before turning down towards the park. Staying off road for as long as I could, only in the final mile or so was I back on pavements.

Looking to the Future

A beautiful run and a reminder that friends are never far away! Roll on the day that we can be social on Sunday once again.

Be Grateful of the Small Things

Biking

Today was a stunning day. We’ve been truly blessed with the weather thus far during our ‘confinement’, and it was a joy to be out on the trails again today.

Riding out from home, it’s not long before we reach Hazlehead. I love being able to ride across to Countesswells, a favourite running route ordinarily. I’ve managed to the old ‘stables’ but the full route is a step or two (several miles) too far.

On our social Sunday runs we have regular stops to allow everyone the opportunity to regroup. One such stop is our ‘selfie spot’, so in keeping with tradition Bruce and I have taken pictures there on the couple of occasions we’ve been out.

The solitude of the trails is remarkable with so few people out. The car park closed, people are welcome only if they can get there under their own steam.

Reflections

Home and showered I reflected upon the day thus far and decided to look back on previous years to see what I’d been doing then. Way back in December 2014 I decided to start keeping a journal of things I’m grateful for, noting three positives each day. These are often small, relatively insignificant things but the reflection provides some clear light at the end of each day, all the more so during life’s tough times.

Here they are with some annotations along the way:

15th April 2015

1. Relaxed morning in Keswick (Easter holidays – I wonder if it was raining; ‘relaxed mornings’ don’t usually figure in our hols!)

2. Lovely walk with Bruce & Rob (Rob is one of Bruce’s friends and I recall he’d driven some way to join us for a walk)

3. Post walk beers and chat

15th April 2016

1. Last 3 Wainwrights: Ling Fell, Sale Fell, then on to Binsey! (I should clarify that these were the last 3 Wainwrights of OUR holiday; still a long way to go overall!)

2. Home – although I enjoy being away I’m always happy to be home again.

3. Chat with Mum & Dad

15th April 2017

1. parkrun fun as Run Director

2. Nuart walk around Aberdeen with Bruce followed by a visit to CASC

3. Dinner catch up at Dizzy’s with Elaine, Heidi & Jacq – we need to get together when this is all over, although with one in USA and Dizzy’s sadly no longer standing we’ll need a new venue.

15th April 2018

1. Social run (Quite possibly around the trails we did today)

2. Coffee at Cognito – a post run tradition and a place I’m missing very much right now!

3. Trip to Stonehaven for ice cream – probably Aunty Betty’s; I’ve since discovered E Giulianotti (up the hill from the Square) that does equally good ice cream and has less of a queue!)

15th April 2019

1. Happy boys after the holidays – Easter holidays are a moveable feast. One of the joys of working as a teacher is that the kids are generally happy to return; you can’t fail to be swept up in their enthusiasm.

2. More fudge sold – this was part of my fundraising efforts for the London Marathon last year.

3. Sarah – home to a clean house. I work full-time and am a part-time ‘athlete’. What more can I say?

Have you found any small pleasures during the ‘lockdown’? What are you grateful for?

Frustrating times: a niggling injury

Over the last few months I’ve developed a niggling injury: my heel hurts and has a ‘knot’ under the fleshy pad. In honesty, I probably first noticed it when I started tapering for the marathon back at the end of April. I hadn’t felt it previously despite regular running. It was nothing major so I ignored it and hoped it would go away.

Fast forward a couple of months and the bony bit on my big toe frequently began to join the party post running, although the heel remained no more than a tiny niggle in the mornings. A trip to physio and podiatry suggested it could be to do with alignment, so a silicone toe separator was fashioned and did seem to sort that out. The heel pain however continued to rumble on quietly in the background. Not enough to be bothersome as it eased on walking around in the morning, just there on occasion.

Sadly over the last month or two it’s gotten worse. I’ve had to cut back my mileage significantly and I’ve binned some racing plans due to my ever decreasing fitness. Extremely frustrating!

I’m trying to see positives where I can. I’m working on strength training more, something that’s gone by the wayside during more intense training periods, I’m going to Pilates regularly as I have for many years, and I’m running easy miles when I can.

Being on my feet for much of the day at work doesn’t help. I’m trying to do plenty of stretching, icing, spiky balling, and all of the other things recommended by the most recent physio visit. Pain relief doesn’t seem to help. Not sure that the sorbathane heel pads are doing much good either. The first steps in the morning are the worst, struggling to weight bear until I’ve been up a wee while. Running doesn’t make it worse which is good, but it does seem to niggle more post run.

I think I’m in this for the long term. Fingers crossed I’ll come out the other side in time for marathon training to start again at the turn of the year. Until then it’s continue stretching, rolling, icing and healing.

On positives, one thing that does keep my spirits up is the Sunday social run around the local trails. As long as I can keep doing this I know all is not lost. A steady 10 miles in the bank again today. Thanks to my Sunday chums for the company and chat.

What are your top tips for staying positive during ‘off’ periods?
Any tips on maintaining fitness if unable to run as much?

Social Sunday at Scolty

Sunday runs are great. For me they’re not so much about the pace, but more about the distance being the long run of the week and ultimately about the social. When you first start out running you often wonder how a run can be sociable and filled with chat – the simple answer is to SLOW DOWN!

Running slowly has great benefits in that your body learns to run more efficiently, allowing you to maximise the benefits in racing and harder training runs. There’s also the bonus of having longer to catch up on all the chat!

Too many runners do all their runs at the same pace and that does not help you to improve. I’m a great fan of Pfitzinger’s books if you’re interested in more in depth reading on the subject.

Today’s run was round a somewhat dreich and miserable forest at Scolty (Banchory). The mist was low and made no attempt to lift throughout the morning; if anything conditions worsened towards the end of the run with some rain starting to fall. Despite this, the benefit of forest running was evident in that it was only when we climbed higher and became exposed that we noticed the effects of the wind.

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This is where Clachnaben can be seen on a fine day!

There were three of us running, none of us professing to have a sense of direction, so we decided on a relatively simple out and back route sticking on, orclose to, the Deeside Way. The trails are good, hard packed surfaces, and there are options to come off the main paths for bits of single-track, always a good way to lose some time and really immerse yourself in the moment as you have to focus on your footing.

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A popular route for bikers and walkers, we met quite a few mountain bikes along the way. At our turning point we encouraged Marie to chase down and overtake the solo biker heading back up the long climb – bad planning on our part having to turn at the bottom of a downhill section! Ali and I decided not to pass, wishing to leave him with a little bit of faith in himself – that’s my excuse anyway and I stand by it. 🤔

The way back felt pretty tough at times, lack of fitness showing, but we finished up with 13 miles in the bank and a decent Strava ascent profile:

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What more can you ask for?