In which I…
– Run for fun
– Swim with a new friend
– Complete my first open water mile
If you had said to me just a couple of months – even weeks – ago that I would be the kind of person who would go for an 8k run after work for fun, I would have laughed at you. But that is exactly what took place this week.
TRIBE, who make brightly coloured vegan protein bars, have a savvy marketing department who also run run meets on occasional evenings through the week. Pay £2 to their charitable foundation and you can join them – and munch on a free protein bar afterwards. Bonus. I ummed and ahhed and eventually signed up with about an hour to spare (although I had made sure I brought my kit into work…) I only ran 5 miles (8k – ish) for the very first time a couple of weeks ago, and I had been ill since. I really didn’t want to make myself look like an idiot in front of these ‘serious’ runners. TRAIL runners – so arguably even more hardcore.
I arrived late, so I was running up to Hampstead Heath before we even hit the trail. A sea of multicoloured people of all shapes and sizes greeted me. Mostly women, mostly friendly looking, but all discussing what they were training for – 10ks, half marathons, marathons, ULTRAS… was I out of my depth? Definitely. Was I going to give it a damn good go anyway? Certainly.
It was a gorgeous sunny evening which helped, as we ran between the clumps of trees chasing the next shady patch became a good motivator. It was a good feeling to be part of a pack. We stopped to climb a tree for a group picture at one point, and one of the girls handed round a pack of wine gums. I was struggling with the hills, which my training so far has absolutely NOT prepared me for, so chatting was difficult as to keep pace I was breathing pretty heavily. When we reached the top of Parliament Hill though, the view made it worth it! I ought to try and get to Richmond Hill and battle some steeper terrain in future weeks. Oh, and the beer with the group after helped make it worth it as well. I think if I can enjoy running as a pack of strangers, running with the Her Spirit wave of women will be EXTRA special!
Meanwhile, cycling with clipped in pedals is seeing me make progress at controlling Sylvia the bike. I went out with a friend who showed me how to get ‘up on the hoods’ as well as down on the… I’ve forgotten already what that position is called! Far from feeling like I am going to fall off, I’ve been enjoying feeling more connected. It’s a nice surprise after the number of stories I have heard! I am avoiding traffic for now, though. No commute this week – it would involved switching the pedals back! I am also not ready to dodge and weave traffic.
Saturday is the Her Spirit swim coaching session, but I didn’t make it and went back to Shepperton lake instead. Although meeting more Her Spiriters would have been a really lovely way to spend the afternoon, getting to Nottingham was many hours and £40 I just couldn’t really justify sparing with the lake just 25 minutes ride from my front door. I did however manage to meet up with another Her Spiriter at the lake, so I got an open water swim meet in after all!
Having never tried her wetsuit on before (she’s hiring) It was nice to be able to help as I also battled with mine. Once we had zipped each other in we completed the first 400 lap together, egging each other on! I went slow and steady and tried not to focus on the tight-chest sensation. Thinking about it only seems to make it worse. One lap completed, I heard myself saying how intimidated I was by the 750m lap and knew in that moment I would have to do feel the fear and do it anyway… so we split to continue at our own pace. I wound up completing my first open water mile swim (in stages!) Thaks, mostly, to the power of having someone else there… Roll on Swim Serpentine in September! I wonder if I can find any Her Spiriters who might be up for the challenge of doing it with me..?