Ahhhh November, and this month I am determined not to finish the month wishing I had tried a bit harder, eaten a bit better, trained a bit more, drank a bit less. So far I’m a couple of weeks in and doing a pretty good job, I can’t claim to have been a saint, but I’ve drunk less often, eaten well more often and started building the training back up after my most recent bout of injury.

I decided to book a race to keep the motivational train rolling, and landed on the Ashford Tri Club 666 trail run. It was advertised as 6.66 miles of muddy trails through Kings Wood near Ashford, which is only about an hour away from home, a run that would incorporate a lot of hills, including some steep enough to require ropes to help you up. Sounded like fun so I signed both myself and my husband up.

Ashford Tri Club 666 Trail Run

I didn’t wake up feeling too enthusiastic about this, I hadn’t run that distance in some time (Judgement Day last month not withstanding – I failed to run much of that after twisting my ankle) and was suddenly apprehensive of the idea of such crazy hills, still I’m not one to back out of a race unless I’m completely physically incapable so there I was on a very cold, but thankfully dry, November morning picking up my race number with Phil, and laughing with the ladies on registration as they asked if I wanted them to hold Phil back for me so I could beat him.

With Phil before the race, and very glad of my dryrobe
With Phil before the race, and very glad of my dryrobe

Before starting the race we had a minute silence for Remembrance Sunday, then the klaxon sounded and we were off into the trees. The ground was covered in slippery leaves and muddy patches, and it was a while before my feet stopped feeling like blocks of ice, but the woodland was pretty and despite the advertised hills, to start with it wasn’t feeling too bad. I was holding back a little on the downhills that I would usually try and fly down, being a lover of downhill running normally, in fear of my ankle, but the uphills in the first half of the race didn’t seem too crazy to me. The areas that required ropes turned out to be more like short steep ditches rather than the long hills I had envisioned, and I didn’t even need to use the first one, the marshal made me on the second climb, they didn’t want me to slip.  Between mile’s 5 and 6 came two pretty evil hills, proper leg burners, and I was seriously starting to run out of energy by the end of the race, starting to glance at my watch more and more often, willing the last few miles to tick off.

Somewhere mid run
Somewhere mid run

Still struggling with a lack of running and general fitness lately, this race was a real tonic. It was beautiful, it was a nice day to run despite being cold, it had enough challenging elements to keep me interested, tough up hills, muddy paths and slippery leaves, and it was a very friendly atmosphere. I also managed a pretty decent placing considering I felt far from my best. The final little bit felt like hard work, my legs just didn’t have much left in them, but I managed an attempt at a sprint to the line, and finished in good spirits. I would definitely do this race again!

UK OCR Championship

Now there was no earthly way I was ever going to compete in this race, actually I didn’t even bother to try and qualify, being that my technical obstacle ability is non-existent, but I did decide to get up early anyway and travel with Vince to Pippingford to watch some of it.

With Vince before his race
With Vince before his race

It’s always a privileged to get to watch people much better and braver than you are tackle a tough course and I had a a great, albeit cold, day hanging around, watching parts of the race and catching up with friends, some of whom I’d not seen in far too long.

RPCC's Dean Constable flying over the obstacles
RPCC’s Dean Constable flying over the obstacles

It seemed to be universally acknowledged that this race was TOUGH! Once you skimmed past this opinion though it also sounds as though it was, at least mostly, a good race, utilising the terrain of Pippingford well, and incorporating some good obstacles. Being a race only in it’s second year there were still teething problems, which lead to some difficult and not always popular decisions needing to be made, but there has been enough of every Tom, Dick and Harriett’s opinions on all of these things all over social media since the race without me joining in, especially as all I did was watch the race, not run it or even marshal, therefore not really entitling me to an opinion. For me, I had a great day and was so proud of everyone who took part, and was glad I dragged my tired butt out of bed to go and watch.

One of the many wonderful faces I got to catch up with :)
One of the many wonderful faces I got to catch up with 🙂

Size and Happiness and Body Image.

I’ve been thinking lately about happiness in relation to body image, size, fitness, being healthy and that kind of thing, which has lead to yet another of my off-piste and probably rambling blogs…

Anyone who knows me will know, at least to some extent, how little body confidence I have, and that I have a pretty low opinion of myself in regards to how I look, and most people also know that I used to be much larger than I am now. It can be hard it seems for some people to understand why I still have a problem with myself, “but look how far you’ve come” they say. It seems support for trying to feel better in your own skin is reserved only for when you conform to the stereotypical unhealthy person, it can be hard for some people to understand that to keep that fat girl I used to be at bay it will be, for me, a life-long struggle.

When I was larger
When I was larger

So I found myself today, after a run, berating myself for my slow pace, conveniently forgetting as I’m feeling rubbish that I am recovering from injury and can’t expect to run as quickly as I was before my months out, I stripped out of my sweaty gear, about to head for the shower, but I stopped long enough to look in the mirror and find yet more things to shout at myself for. “Look how chubby your face is getting, you shouldn’t have fallen off the wagon for so long” “jeez, look at the size of your stomach” “Legs aren’t looking as toned anymore, and just look at those thighs!” It goes on and on… even though I’ve actually made a pretty positive start to the month, and kicked off the healthy eating and reduced alcohol drinking anew and started to try and turn things around for the umpteenth time. I found myself thinking almost wistfully about the girl I once was.

I was huge yes, and I hated my body, but where I didn’t care enough to make a change, in a funny was I actually cared a lot less about how I looked. I didn’t worry back then about what I was eating and when or how much, I would go out for lunch, have a take away, drink what I wanted, when I wanted without a second thought,and without beating myself up all the time. Now I’m equally sure that I’m just forgetting, with the passing of the years, just how miserable I was at that size and only remembering the care free parts, after all, it was the fear of wedding photos that first kick-started the change in me, I didn’t want to be a big fat bride!

I achieved my goal of losing weight for the wedding, found a new will power and love of exercise I’d never had before and was pretty happy with how things were going, until I discovered the double edged sword of weight loss – the backslide.  I had my first backslide in the month before our wedding, stress had me stuffing my face with the foods I like, to cheer myself up. Work was giving me hell, on top of planning the wedding, and I gained weight in the final school term before the big day. In the end I do look back at my wedding pictures and dislike what I see, I’m angry with myself for my lack of will power and only see how chubby I think I look in the dress that had looked great when I first tried it on slightly smaller!

All I see in this picture is fat face and chubby arms
All I see in this picture is fat face and chubby arms

For the last 4 years since my wedding I have been in a cycle of doing well, then sliding back sometimes not a lot, and sometimes (like now) far to far. This year I was doing pretty well up until August, but then birthdays, bad news, injuries and a general bad head space lead to a 3 month binge of unhealthy food, a lot of drinking and a drastic reduction of the amount of exercise I was doing leading to inevitable weight gain and loss of fitness.

Just before things really took a downslide
This year before the latest backslide

So back to what prompted me to start writing in the first place, happiness in regards to body image… What I’ve learned over the past 5 years or so, is that happiness absolutely cannot be found on a scale, but unhappiness certainly can! Now I’m not a slave to my bathroom scales, however I may sometimes come across, I use them to confirm what I am seeing in the mirror. I’m hyper critical and I always know when I’ve gained a few pounds and just use the scale to confirm this, for me it’s a useful tool to help me keep track of whats going on, but I never used to be so hyper aware. When I was fat, I didn’t notice the times I got a little fatter, or lost a little weight, it wasn’t until I started  consciously making changes that I became almost obsessed with my own size. When I see I’ve got a bit bigger I’m sure other people must be noticing it too, that they must be thinking about how I’m getting bigger again, when in reality I doubt anyone much cares.

When I look at other people I never judge or think about their size, I never think “oh they looked thinner last time I saw them” what I notice is peoples beautiful smiles, expressive eyes, how hard they are trying, how passionate they are when they talk about something they are interested in. Someone doesn’t suddenly become less attractive or a worse person in my eyes if they gain or drop a few pounds (if I even notice!). If I think back to the dim and distant past when I was single (well and now, I’m not blind) the guys I found attractive weren’t (aren’t) necessarily the ones with the best bodies or the fittest (actually back in my late teens and very early 20’s when I was single I didn’t care about fitness at all!) it was the ones who were kind, a great smile, made me laugh (not that I don’t appreciate a hot bod, I am human after all) basically I’m a sucker for people who are actually nice to me, how someone looks is never the most important thing.

I really believe that people can be happy and beautiful at any size, and if they are happy with themselves then that’s amazing. I’m often jealous not of how someone looks but of their apparent confidence, something I sorely lack. I also believe that if someone is unhappy in their own skin, maybe they want to lose 1lb or 20lb or maybe they actually want to gain some weight, or build muscle, whatever it is, they should be able to try and make a change without judgement and hopefully with support.

Now like I said at the start, if someone is perceived to be very overweight they will invariably get  that support, but If I dare say I wan’t to lose some weight, that I don’t like how I look in a photo, or something else negative (and I know most of what I say about myself is negative so I do myself no favours) I rarely get supported, often get ignored and at worst get berated by some of my friends who can’t understand that I do, sometimes, have to be hard on myself to halt a slide back into the bad habits that lead me to be very overweight in the first place.

If someone expresses a desire to change something about themselves, even if you don’t agree, or can’t see why (I myself have gotten very good at hiding the things I don’t like in pictures for example by getting a good angle and good lighting), then perhaps the best way to proceed is to say something sincere but supportive like “well I think you look great, but how can I help?” Build people up don’t tear them down!

Me recently, carrying more than just a sandbag!
Me recently, carrying more than just a sandbag!

Happiness obviously isn’t all about shape and size, but I managed to get so hung up on it for so long that for me it plays a bigger role than it should do. What I really need to work on is confidence, but that’s not so easy to fix as my diet. So here I am trying to turn around my latest backslide, and what I need is kindness, support, motivation and a little understanding, and to any of my friends who read this, whether you are happy in your skin or not, I think you are beautiful and if you ever need my support, know that you have it.