the ice came in from the outside

in through the gaps in the window frames

squeezing through the lead and the glass

to create other worldly patterns

to cold to touch, breath froze on them

they drew you in with their sparkling patterns

of swirls. spirals and curls, meandering everywhere

the milky way, andromeda, sombrero, appear

an interstellar transformation of ice crystals

expanding right before your eyes

a billion sparkling stars living

on your bedroom window

mesmerising, enchanting

unique, beautiful

and then gone

as quickly as they came


 

After reading my friend Rachel Cullan’s excellent blog about running and injuries I thought I’d share my recent experience.

 

On the Trigger Race (I’m still finding new people to tell my story to!) I tore my right calf. Now 150ft up the side of a cliff isn’t the best place to do it especially when you’ve another 5 miles to run so you can withdraw alive and with honour intact.

 

My right calf ached after but nothing I was worried about. It would of course go away and my leg would feel pain free again and I could continue running. Except it didn’t work out like that.

 

I rested until the Thursday after and I went for a short run. Everything was fine until I got round the corner from my house and my right calf went big time. It not only hurt a lot but nearly caused me to stop and pull up completely.

 

I managed to get home and to my amazement I had knocked 4 minutes off my time running up Blake Hill / Howes Lane but I was in pain. Was it worth it? Of course it was!

 

But the next day my calf didn’t feel any better. Or the day after. So now I know it was serious and I would have to go back to my physio to find out what was wrong and how to fix it and get back running.

 

So off I trotted to Rippendon to see Joe the Physio. The verdict was a Grade 1.5 (quickly upgraded by me to a 2) tear in my right calf and between 4 to 6 weeks with no running.

 

But I could go to the gym and do stuff that people in a gym do without getting cold and wet and lost and sweaty and confused and wondering who they are miles from civilisation.

 

So I went on the spin bike. But how to make it interesting? Firstly see if I could last longer than half an hour before I lost all feeling between my legs. I found out I could and that I could go quite fast, 23.5 miles, avg rpm 101 or go for 1 ½ hours before I needed to stop.

 

Similar on the Cross-Trainer and rope pull thing. Instead of thinking this was something I had to endure I decided to make it a challenge even if some days that challenge was just to go to the gym and do it I did it.

 

And it worked. I was not only pushing myself harder each time as the copious amounts of sweat falling off me testified, but I kept the boredom at bay and found myself looking forward to going to the gym and seeing how hard I could push myself.

 

It kept my fitness up, my interest up and most important for me my flexibility. I have never been the most flexible of people but for some reason over the last 6 months I have become more flexible and bendy than I have ever been and I didn’t want to lose this.

 

But still something was missing and after a couple of weeks it twigged. The gym was keeping me physically at a good level but mentally I was going downhill fast.

 

Until this point I never realised what running does for me in controlling my anxiety and anger and stopping me slipping into depression and just being a dick to everyone I come into contact with.

 

Running it appears does a lot more for me mentally and psychologically than I ever realised. Running allowed me to deal with emotions and feelings at a day to day level without letting them simmer away under the surface until they boiled over into a near uncontrollable explosion which resulted in misunderstandings at the best…

 

Running allows me to gather my thoughts and deal with them in a rational and logical way, letting go of the stupid thoughts and focusing on what really matters.

 

But with that outlet taken away from me how would I cope? Not very for the first few weeks until I realised what was happening and what I felt I was becoming. Then I could deal with it however much it drained the life out of me I could deal with it.

 

And then salvation! Joe the Physio told me I could run again! Only for 5 minutes to start with but it was better than nothing.

 

And so today I drove up to Ogden Water and nervously took my first steps back to full running fitness.

 

I only went down to the reservoir from the car park and back but it was a start. And it felt good. In fact it felt bloody good! The fear has gone about what happens if I fall over. Tough shit that’s life. You either get up or you don’t.

 

But the uphill was even better. Only a slight uphill but it might as well not have been there. Power, power and more power resulted in a PR.

 

All my anxiety, anger and other stuff disappeared in 6 ½ minutes of running. That is what running does to me,

 

What happened most of all on the Trigger Race was I gained self-belief and confidence in myself and my abilities. I’m sure my friends will stop me from getting too cocky and maybe one day my new-found self-confidence will result in something I don’t come back from…

 

But in the meantime I’m going to enjoy life and push as much as hard as I can in my running and see where it takes me. Life is for living, live it.

 


Rachel blogs about her experience of rehab and the gym

rachelcullenwrites

Wednesday 8th Feb

 It’s an early start this morning. I’m up with the larks to go see Magician Dave (Physio) for some more spells and contortions as he tries his best to un-make this holy mess I’ve made of my Peg Leg.

I turn up at the Miracle Centre and his polite – if slightly officious – receptionist makes me a bowl of Flat White. I’m not sure whether I’m in a physio’s waiting room or Starbucks, but I’d be happy with either right now.

‘How is it?’ he asks in his unmistakably Irish twang, and I begin to wade through the ridiculous tale of my having undone precisely ALL of the patching together he’d achieved before my ill-conceived attempt at the Dewsbury Bidet 10k.

He is patient, understanding, and kind. He doesn’t stand before me with condescending tones of ‘Well, that was fucking clever wasn’t it, Rachel?’

View original post 924 more words

Gallery  —  Posted: February 10, 2017 in Uncategorized


Rachels latest blog on her Dewsbury 10k experience, injuries and meeting me!!

rachelcullenwrites

London Marathon Diary 2017

Sunday, 5th Feb 2017

Who am I when I can’t run?

Today is Sunday, 5th Feb, and it’s exactly 11 weeks – or 77 days – until the 2017 London Marathon.

How’s my training going? It’s going shit. I’ve already vented my frustration at having two weeks’ worth of KFC family-bucket sized, ‘Do you wanna go large with that?’ flu rampaging through our house, knocking me sideways, off my feet and away from any semblance of ‘real’ marathon training (ref. ‘Lemsips and Race Disasters’ Blog post.)

And then. AND THEN it got worse. I kicked my own arse so hard on the bastard treadmill playing some misconceived game of ‘catch up’ that I brought on an injury to my lower calf/Achilles area. This caused me to go all E.T and Phone Home on Thursday morning, as I stood by a wet…

View original post 986 more words

Gallery  —  Posted: February 6, 2017 in Uncategorized


The latest blog from Rachel Cullen

rachelcullenwrites

Last month I was busy crowing about ‘the realities of marathon training’ and my virtuous early morning speed session. YAY ME! (I would have used ‘sessions’ in the plural, but it only happened the once.)

January was a bastard of a month. We all had flu, passing it around various family members like a gravy boat at Sunday lunch.

“Here you go, Mum”

 “Thanks, Till. Gav, it’s all yours…”

 “Cheers, Rach. You want a bit more? There’s plenty left.”

 “Yeah, why not. Pour it over the Yorkshires.”

fee884e7686aedf815739ab7a40bced7 This was the best gravy boat I could find.

Once the gravy boat flu was well and truly exhausted, we tried to return to some kind of normality… and then mild panic set in.

 ALERT. BEGIN MARATHON TRAINING. ALERT. BEGIN MARATHON TRAINING.

After all, that’s what we DO in the New Year isn’t it? A spring marathon…

View original post 913 more words

Gallery  —  Posted: February 3, 2017 in Uncategorized


The dreaded anxiety once again came out of the shadows and attacked me again this weekend. I could feel it coming but I chose to ignore it and then fight it believing I was bigger and stronger that it was and I could beat it. But in the end it beat me again and I had to succumb to its relentless onslaught, admit defeat and move on.

But it hurts why it happened and it’s beaten me again and I couldn’t do more to beat it.

On reflection, the signs were all there. Posting endless messages to friends, pushing myself hard at the gym, overthinking everything and a head full of thoughts swimming around going nowhere.

But I did nothing about them until it was too late risking friendships and my health in the process.

Today with the anxiety gone I have had time to think about this particular anxiety attack and why it happened. And instead of asking friends to accept me and understand me I’ve decided to write down my thoughts about it in the hope I can begin the fight back against anxiety and beat it once and for all.

As I have written about elsewhere on my blog I competed in a tough fell race, the Trigger Race on January 15th and despite having to retire after 15 miles I am still very proud of what I accomplished that day.

I had 3 potentially life threatening experiences in 4 ½ hours on the Trigger Race and they were the type of situations which put you off doing something like the Trigger Race ever again or make you want more.

I want more.

And that is part of the problem. How do you recreate situations where you’ve pushed yourself way beyond what you thought you were capable of, cheat death 3 times and learn that you are tougher and stronger, mentally and physically than you ever thought you was?

But it’s the buzz that gets you. The buzz of having been on the biggest adventure of your life and come through a far better person? The answer is you can’t even though you might try. The buzz lasted over a week for me, an amazing feeling I wish I had every day. However hard you try though you can’t recreate that situation with those feelings. They are unique to that day and that situation and will be forever. Time to move on, remember that day but create new situations that give me a different buzz.

On top of everything else I tore my right calf that day which has resulted in around 4 – 6 weeks with no running. It’s not a major injury nor is it a long time off, but when running gives you your buzz, makes you feel good and helps you control your stress and anxiety it’s a lifetime. I can still keep fit but lifting weights or going on the spin bike at the gym just doesn’t seem to give me the same buzz as running over open moorland, powering up hills and flying down the other side.   

So, my only option is to accept my situation and be grateful that it’s not as bad as some of my friends are going through and I can still go down the gym and keep fit.

And there’s the waiting for my masters course to start and other things to happen. All of a sudden I’ve caught up with pretty much everything and there’s only so much reading you can do in a day before your head starts to turn to mush and workouts at the gym become easier because you have more time to recover and time doesn’t matter. Friends have promised to meet up but they have their own busy lives to contend with so you have to wait until they are free. Boredom sets in as you begin to look for things to fill your day with and you try not to become an annoyance to friends and not bombard them with endless messages that they don’t have time to read. And you start thinking about anything and everything which quickly leads to overthinking which is not a good situation.

Try and relax and enjoy the downtime because it won’t last forever and quite soon you’ll be wondering how you can fit everything you want to do into the day, and respect your friends and the lives they lead because they are different to yours.

So all in all a series of events starting with the Trigger Race has snowballed and cumulated into sky high levels of anxiety and stress which have boiled over when they became insurmountable and lead to a mini breakdown.

There are lessons to be learnt in order to minimise the impact anxiety has on me the next time and maximise enjoying life and writing this blog is a big part of it.

Lemsips and Race Disasters…

Posted: January 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

Rachel Cullen writes about runners flu and other running disasters

rachelcullenwrites

I’m sitting here in bed with a pile of soggy, discarded tissues to my left, and an empty paracetamol packet balancing perilously next to the remnants of a cup of tea and half a slice of sad old toast.

It’s day #3 of my battle with ‘Runner’s Flu’ (a worse version of the common cold, but not quite as bad as Man Flu) and I feel as far removed from ‘a runner’ as it is possible to be. I’ve done my best to stem my feelings of frustration, irritation and inconvenience at having the brakes put on my running (and on anything) by the bastard virus that is getting off on multiplying in my nasal cavities. But it doesn’t give a shit, and so is happily breeding away whilst I sit here, waiting for it to fuck off.

And it’s hard to feel bouncy and positive and motivated and…

View original post 1,096 more words


On Sunday I took part in my first Trigger Race a tough and demanding 21 mile fell race from Marsden to Edale over the Dark Peaks of the Peak District. This is my Trigger Race.

The day didn’t start great. It felt like I had, had hardly any sleep despite going to bed early on Saturday. I was thinking about the Trigger Race and wondering if I was up to it. If I should pull out and what could go wrong. In the end despite my reservations I got up at 3:30am and began to get ready for the biggest race of my life.

At 5:00am my mate Matt Fielding and me where off, travelling down to Edale to leave one car there before driving up to Marsden where the race started. The journey down the M62 to Edale wasn’t nice. Fog and rain on the roads just added to my already nervous state about what I was getting myself into.

We arrived at Edale in time to see the competitors getting ready to go in the Montane Spine Race http://thespinerace.com/. These runners were going the whole length of the Pennine Way, 268 miles over 7 days and I felt in awe of these amazing athletes who were pushing themselves to the limit mentally and physically in one of the most brutal and challenging races in the world.

On to Marsden and arriving at the cricket club we quickly got our kit checked and registered for the race. To my surprise I had race number 1! I did feel proud to be representing my club, Queensbury and wearing number 1.

Soon we were all outside having a last minute talk from the race organiser and then we were off! I quickly settled into a steady pace and felt good as we passed Butterley Reservoir and began to steadily climb towards our first trig point at Black Hill.

At this point it was terrain I was used to. We were on the Pennine Way and this part of it was one of the easier sections to run on and navigate. Then we turned off, left from memory, and began the first of our big climbs up Black Hill. I was feeling good, felt strong on the climbs and was passing people.

And then suddenly we were in the mist. The temperature dropped and the green grass was replaced by white snow. Now was the time to take care as the paths were wet, icy and dangerous. Care was needed as one slip could spell the end of my race.

And then the mud and bogs appeared. I went from running upright to slipping everywhere and falling into bogs. I’ve been very lucky avoiding most of the bogs where I run and not falling over. Today more than made up for my previous good luck.

It seemed to be my fate to fall into every single bog on the day. I lost count of how many times I ended up to my waist in a bog full of freezing cold mud and water or falling on my hands and knees onto the cold, wet ground. Within minutes I was wet through, wet mud clinging to my hands and legs making it difficult to keep warm.

I was still feeling focused and determined so put any thoughts of feeling cold and wet to one side ploughed on, upping my pace and passing more people as I raced to the summit of Black Hill.

And then I felt something hit my side. To my surprise one of my water bottles had come out from its pocket on my racing rucksack and was banging against my side. I tried to put it in on the move but it just kept popping out so I ended up carrying it in my hand.

This was far from ideal as it upset my rhythm and meant I was maintaining my balance with one hand. Around the same time I felt an ache develop in my right hand side. I wanted to stop and check everything was ok but there was no time. This was a race and I had two timed checkpoints to meet. Any delays could cost me meeting those times so I ploughed on as best as I could.

We made the snow covered checkpoint at Black Hill, the mountain rescue team standing out in their bright red jackets in the mist and began the descent towards Crowden the first timed checkpoint. We had caught up with some other runners and was making good progress. Despite carrying a water bottle in one hand I felt confident on the descent towards Crowden and made good time on it.

We arrived at Crowden in plenty of time but in my haste to sort out my water bottle issue I tripped over the entrance to the checkpoint tent and demolished the table the marshals were using! This was one of the talking points of the day as people where asking who the lunatic was who destroyed the table!

We checked in and carried on but to our dismay we had lost the group of runners in front of us due to me sorting out my water bottle problem. The two ladies we had been running with retired at Crowden and now we were on our own with only a map and a compass to get us to our next checkpoint at the top of Bleaklow.

We arrived at the bottom of our next climb thanks to Nicky Spinks pointing us in the right direction. We looked for an obvious trail to follow to get to the top but couldn’t see one and then I spotted what looked like a reasonable trail to follow to the top. How wrong I was.

We began to climb and everything was fine. Then the climb steepened sharply and I realised I was out of my depth but had no choice but to carry on to the top. Staying focused, looking up and grabbing bits of heather I worked my way up steadily.

Then I put my right leg out and felt my calf muscle go. I was 100ft up the side of a short but steep climb with my right leg at 90 degrees, my right calf cramping up and me holding onto a clump of heather.

I looked down and realised that I had no choice but to go up. The line from the Killers song, ‘All These Things I’ve Done’, ‘when you can’t hold on, hold on’ played in my mind. Matt was now at the top, only 20ft above me but far enough away. I looked for footholds and clumps of heather to grasp onto and got myself to the top. I’m not a climber and I’m scared of heights but I did it. In situations like this before I’ve froze but this time I stayed focused and made the climb.

At the top we worked out which we to go and began the ascent to Bleaklow and it was here that the weather here took a turn for the worse. From a pleasant winters day at Crowden we were enveloped by cold mist, deep snow and the only visible trails had ice cold water running down them. We had no choice but to follow these water trails and soon I had lost all feeling in my feet as they went numb from the cold water running over them.

We made steady progress and found the waterfall that meant we were on the right route. But somewhere between starting the climb and getting to the head of the waterfall I started to feel the onset of hypothermia. My hands and feet were numb with cold and had no feeling in them. My shoulders and chest were starting to go the same way, the cold cutting right through my body. I was sweating but it was cold and clammy and my clothing felt heavy because it was saturated in sweat and water.
I had no choice but to carry on. I could feel the onset of fatigue and each footstep was getting harder to make, both my legs cramping up as I moved through deep mud and cold water. Making Snake Pass was going to be very tough.

Then we heard voices behind us and saw the mountain rescue guys who were acting as sweepers for the runners. I felt relived knowing that if I got worse I was with the right people to help me. I was carrying an emergency sleeping bag but in these conditions with poor visibility it would make finding someone difficult and time is of the essence if you’re in trouble on the moors.

We carried on with the mountain rescue guys guiding us to our next checkpoint at Shelf Moor at the top of Bleaklow. The conditions were so poor that they had problems navigating and finding the right route but they got us to the checkpoint. Everything looked the same. Mounds of snow covered earth with streams flowing through them. It really was as if we were in a whole different world.

At Shelf Moor my condition had worsened. I could feel my body and mind slowing down, moving was difficult, thinking even more so as fatigue set in. I was beginning to feel punch drunk but without the pleasure of having had a couple of beers. I knew I had reached my physical limit and all I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep but that would make things much worse. My only option was to carry on to Snake Pass.

The mountain rescue guys knew what was happening too. There was no point in asking what was happening. It was obvious to everyone.

I didn’t have the energy to unclip my racing rucksack and get some food so the guys gave me a cookie and some hot Ribena. It seemed to take forever for me to eat the cookie but I needed immediate energy and eventually I finished it.

I knew I had to carry on and get to warmth. There was around 3 miles to go to Snake Pass and I focused on getting there and put thoughts of coldness, fatigue and hypothermia out of my mind. My only focus was to keep moving, keep talking and keep making progress.

We had some more minor navigational issues but eventually we found ourselves on the Pennine Way footpath and the gate to Snake Pass appeared out of the mist. Matt and the mountain rescue guys let me lead and dictate the pace but I felt myself get a little bit faster towards the end and the feeling was returning to my hands.

At Snake Pass I retired. I had made this decision at Shelf Moor and I knew it was the right one. This was not the time or place for being a hero and I do not regret retiring at that point. It was the right decision.

Matt carried on and finished in around 8 hours 10 minutes. I got a lift back to Edale village hall and warmth. After a couple of hours I began to feel warm and I could reflect on my performance.

I felt very proud of what I had achieved. I had done things I never thought I would do when I began my running journey two years ago and I had pushed myself beyond my limits and achieved more than I thought I ever would. Talking to other runners they said this was the worse conditions the race had been run in and this made me feel better knowing I had run in such brutal conditions and given it everything I had on the day.

My experience has not put me off the Trigger Race either. On the contrary it has strengthened my resolve to come back better and stronger in 2018 and finish the race.

Big thanks to the guys at Woodhead Mountain Rescue. Without them the day could have been much worse.

http://www.marsdentoedale.co.uk/
http://woodheadmrt.org/


You’ve done all the hard work, put in the long miles and climbed the tough hills and you’re just sat at home waiting for the race, unable to think about anything else, everything going on is magnified a hundred times. You check the route on Strava, watch videos of the run and all you want to do is get on that start line and race but you know you need to rest, lay off the beer and eat healthy so you’re ready to run and run and run and it fucking kills you because all you want to do is go out and smash it.

Thinking… 

Posted: January 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

Ever felt like sometimes your life and it’s path has been chosen for you and you have no control over it…