A rambling post about a half marathon, back injuries and turning 40.
OK, so long story short. I haven’t posted on BitchMittens for a REALLY long time.
Partly it was because I hurt my back while weightlifting, and after that, I was so whacked out on nerve blockers and lurching from one cortisone injection to another to be inclined to talk about the uplifting and inspirational value of sport. I’d also set up my own business, and found myself working days, nights and weekends without pause. So that’s basically where I’ve been for the past 12 months. In case anyone wondered!
SPOILER – Working too hard, stressing too much and not sleeping enough, will compound a serious injury and prevent your body from healing.
So that only took me a year to figure it out!
What a dope.
By the time I had copped on to myself, I’d spent a year off the water, and quite a lot of time when not working bonkers hours, feeling sorry for myself. Rowing is an addiction. Being on the water is a type of therapy. I think it’s especially appropriate therapy for certain nervous energy types. Being off the water took away a type of medicine. I tried a bunch of other things, (clinical pilates, bikes, swimming) but they all felt like exercise, and holy god stationary bikes are just tush-torture. Plain and simple.
To make matters worse, I turned 39. Which meant (ominous music) that 40 loomed.
They’re funny things, milestone years. Marketing studies have shown that people in the run-up to these (30, 40, 50 birthdays) behave differently than the rest. Interestingly, this errant behaviour is in the lead up to the milestone, and not after the fact, as I might have assumed. (Richard Shotton covers this, and how advertisers target those people, in his fascinating book on behavioural bias The Choice Factory)
So, you see – it’s official. This year is supposed to feel strange.
I woke up one morning and realised that I was middle-aged. And boy, was that a shock! I have no fears about getting older, I relish the idea of being a wise old owl. I just don’t want to groan when I sit down, or forget what my toes look like! But also it kicked me into gear. You only get one life, right? And I only had one back. And I wanted to feel like I did when this header picture was taken, the night after the Irish rowing champs, where I was physically fit, feeling strong, and totally fabulous.
I needed to do everything I could to get better. So I went back to basics. I slept. I drank water. I stopped lugging a huge handbag stuffed full of technology and knickers and bought a thing on wheels. I swapped my office chair for an ergonomic kneeling thing. I invested in a standing desk. I kept going back for more MRIs, kept chipping away at the exercises, at the doctors’ appointments. I weaned myself off the nerve blockers and despite my doubts, went for a small operation that would help cope with the nerve pain signals, perhaps for long enough to let me get better.
And then, after all that… I slowly began to get better!
I emerged from the mist, older, wiser and very much soggier about the middle. So then I set myself a challenge. This year, I would get ‘FIT 4 FORTY’. I would set myself a series of small challenges, while I am able to move – to help me find my way back to full fitness, before I begin the wild downhill ride of my later years.
Randomly I decided I would aim for the following things:
- Complete a half marathon
- PB a 5K run (My PB was 3 years, at about 24 minutes)
- PB a 2K erg test (The absolute definition of hell on earth, and even thinking about trying this makes me want to puke)
- Be able to do five chin ups (even at my very fittest, I could only do 3!)
- Be able to do a backwards crab (I did it in my twenties, so could I get this back??)
So I have very slowly set to training, and I have about 6 months to get there. I started about three months ago by walking, then running on sand. I did that for about a month. Then I started running longer distances. Checking the whole time that I wasn’t doing damage. And then last week, I completed a half marathon. I put one foot in front of the other. My only goal was to run the whole thing, and I did! I was hoping to do it in under 2 and half hours. My finish time was a respectable 2.14. I texted my spinal surgeon to say thanks, and had a little cry at the finish line.
Now I don’t want to do anything stupid, as I was injured for such a long time, but I also think having goals is a good thing. And so, with help and support from suitably medically qualified poeple I’m going to work towards a few more of these challenges. I’ll try and blog about them too!
I want to be #Fit4Forty.
Wish me luck!!
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(Where the intrepid Ellen goes lake-fishing and compares it to the trials and tribulations of the online dating site, Plenty of Fish)
Every good story starts with an outfit. Starting from top to fishtail. For POFL you’ll need a warm hat, long hair down and ideally facial hair required for maximum heat benefits (please see iconic fisherman Captain Birdseye, errrr and yes he is real life), waterproof coat with hood, 16 layers of clothing, waterproof pants and boots, glare glasses optional. Match everything and give up looking like a lady.
In contrast, POF outfit is usually just slackers clothing but pretending you are wearing something/nothing else, wink, wink.
Launching and navigating of boat on lake is a #manjob so find someone who knows what they are doing. This might require cash. It also helps if they are attractive too. Navigating your way around POF through the age-inappropriate ONS (one night stands), marrieds and perverts however, is unavoidable!
POFL Guide will have the expert knowledge to take you to various spots on the lake which will hopefully have fish, Brown Trout, Northern Pike, Perch, Roach, Salmon, Common Bream etc…
POF has loads of old trouts, trout pouts, slimy fish, slippery fish, common fish, wet fish and threesome fish.
The technique required to actually cast lures/artificial bait (which look like fish) to catch the fish can be learned. First you have to select your lure. There are some super camp glitter ones which I highly recommend or ones that look like small fish and even rat ones (the rat ones can also be found on POF!). You attach the lure on the end of the line then you must learn to cast, which requires new brain patterning. This is done in three steps which involve taking the lure to the mid point(ish) f the rod on the line, winding the reel till it is level with the rod, taking the two fingers around the line above the metal bar, opening the reel and then bringing the rod behind or more to the side of oneself and chucking the rod (whilst holding on to it) and releasing the lure on the line.
How many stages was that again? OK, so then trying to remember and execute the stages in a functioning manner takes about half an hour. Once you have done this correctly and the lure has (hopefully) flown through the sky and landed a bit of a distance away in the water, you shut the reel off and start to reel the lure in. Those are the basics. Then you have to make the lure look like it is swimming or even better make it swim like a sick fish as ‘Pike are opportunistic and love a sick fish’… also please see POF for opportunists. This is a skill in itself and is done by keeping the rod down in the water and making the rod go left, right, left to make to lure appear to be swimming. My lure looked like it wasn’t able to swim! A none swimming fish!
If there appears to be no fish on one part of the lake the guide will take you to other spots with the speedboat. This requires more layers of clothes then you think and waterproof boots, the guide will advise you what to wear before you leave for your trip but you can choose to ignore what he/says and remain ‘bang on trend’, freezing and wet and believe me you will get wetter than you think, unlike POF.
It can be truly blissful and almost like a meditative state casting, reeling in, ‘unleash the reel, cast, the lure, reel in, repeat’. My mantra whilst doing this was ‘please don’t catch a fish, please don’t catch a fish’. Watching swans fly overhead, a single bee low buzzing just on top of the water, being in nature and listening to the silence and stillness of it all, one feels like one is in a Planet Earth episode without any animals humping or eating each other.
The quietness of the lake is broken by being on a ‘drift’, this is where you let the boat drift (nothing to do with speeding cars, flying rubber and stick shifts, please see next blog) with the wind and current, by the excitement of a fish taking the lure and being reeled in as the rod bends with an almighty force into the lake. I was totally not expecting this or mentally prepared, so it involved a lot of screaming and running up and down the boat, holding the back of my hand to my forehead and trying not to faint. I am so not a drama queen. The fish that came out of the water was massive a seven-year-old Jerkster Perch which was totally the same size of Jaws…I was then instructed to do various things by the guide which I was barely able to do for all the dramatics…Anyways we managed to measure the fish (same, same POF always good to take a tape measure on a ONS FYI). It measured 1 meter 10 centimetres (you don’t get that on POF so I am told). I had never seen a fish as big as that in my whole life, let alone seen a real-life jerkoff perch. He weighed 22 something or others and then the guide put him back in the water.
We had been on the lake for about 3/4 hours and on the ride back to the harbour I was able to reflect on the experience as a whole. It was exhilarating, fun, and great to learn new skills but it was also calming, relaxing and quiet. I don’t know how I would have felt if I had actually caught a fish, probably cried! But I totally enjoyed the experience as a whole. The main thing was that when I got home I had a tan from the wind! How cool was that? I would also choose to have different life experiences such as POFL rather than be on POF FYI, ONS, STI, DHL.
Notes from the Ed
Ellen would like to thank her lovely guide for the day. She went out with Fishing Holidays – Pecheirelandepassion.com. You can find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/peche-irlande-passion-107397099307685/.
I am bad at getting out of bed.
It’s not that I am not a morning person (my husband is not a morning person, his whole family are not morning people. Makes me fell like I am super duper good at getting up!) Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, it’s not that I am not a morning person, it’s just so hard. Hard to move and greet the day when my bed is so lovely and warm and so very very safe. But it means every morning I hit the snooze button one too many times and then I am rushing around to get into work, which is only a 3 minute cycle so that will tell you how close I cut it!
I don’t like this. I want to use my mornings more. I want a morning routine that has a purpose other than get into to work without being noticeably tardy. I want to do some light yoga, read my book, do a crossword in bed, have a relaxing cup of tea maybe get some laundry sorted before the bustling begins.
And since the new year I have tried to make this happen by downloading apps for activities in the morning, by setting a bajillion alarms, by actually going to bed a little bit earlier. But nooooooooooooooooooooooo. I’m still motherfuppin’ sleeping till I need to get gone! I mean, I’m sort of awake but there is this little voice that says ‘sssssh, no, stay here,” or better yet comes up with really good reasons for staying in bed longer. Like, “I don’t neeeeeeed to wash my hair, it’s better for my hair if I don’t,” or another classic “I don’t want to disturb Cormac too much with my moving around, best stay in bed.” This morning I convinced myself (very easily) that 20 minutes of light yoga was simply too much in the morning if one isn’t used to it. That I best snooze for another 15 before getting up to do an nice introductory 5 minutes of stretching and yoga. Did I get up for the 5 minutes of stretching and yoga? Of course not! And I would love to say this is because it’s all dark and wintery but I am just as useless in the summer time!
This has got to stop.
How am I meant to conquer the world and succeed in my goals if I can’t even get out of bed?
This isn’t a “how to” blog post. I haven’t figured this out yet. This is a “help me” blog post. I’m reaching out to you, Bitchmitten readers. HELP ME! Any tips would be appreciated. Any sage advice will be taken. Any words of wisdom will be welcomed. Or are ye all the same as me? Struggling to get out of bed, wishing to hold on to those precious warm sheets, those perfect fluffy pillows. Or are you on the flip side and think I’m a crazy wagon for wanting to get out of bed sooner. Maybe I should be grateful with how my mornings go. I’m sure there are people who wish they had no other reason to get up than to just make it in to work on time, but they have a dog to walk, kids to get to school, a 7am train to catch.
And maybe I am mad, but I’d like to get up. I feel if I could get up and control my morning that I can do anything else that day throws at me.
I was thinking about resolutions and how the end of the old year always brings about doubts and thoughts about the new year.
I read this post recently and it got me thinking and reflecting on past years, and past resolutions.
1) Why limit it to January to become a better person? And what does ‘better’ mean? Why should you only limit yourself to ‘better’? Why not healthier? Or more self-aware? Or simply just happier?
2) Big bangs never work and imposing lots of change at the same time is a sure-fire way of disheartneing yourself and probably not keeping up that change.
Based on that, this post really appealed to me as every month it introduces a new ‘self care’ element rather than self-improvements – making myself better for myself rather than to be perceived as better (oh come on we don’t say we’re going to run a marathon to be healthier, we say it to show off).
Of course there’s things this blog fails to mention, like;
– What do you do when one month is up?
– Do you add the new monthly goal on top or do you drop Month one for Month two?
I’ll let you know, shall I? I plan on trying this and keeping you posted, because after all if I don’t write it down – did it really happen?!
From a personal persepective, this year was a really tough one; losing loved ones, moving country, planning a wedding etc. and what really got me through was frankly becoming a bit more selfish. Taking a bit more time for myself. Going for that run even if it meant the house wouldn’t be tidy for visitors. Having that drink with colleagues, even if it meant sacrificing gym time. Sometimes being selfish really saved me. I was getting burned out and I was getting sadder and more tired and the loop was just going round and round.
So what appeals to me for this year and this ‘resolution’ is to just take a bit more time and try and put myself first from time to time. I spoke to my firends about this over a few pints, and to my sister-in-law and it seemed a common theme on the ‘resolution’ front – doing something for oneself but to self-care rather than to self-improve.
So here’s my proposal to you, by all means run the marathon (I’ve also signed up for a Half because I’m silly and a hypocrite) but try and focus on YOU for the sake of you. Take that time to be a little selfish, accept that the house may not look perfct but at least you get to spend time meditating or running or doing whatever it is you want to do for you.
So, month 1 is ‘feed your soul’ – see you in a month.