No New Year Resolutions Here

New year, new me, right? I was pretty happy with the old me, or the current me actually.  All our screens are filled with everyone announcing the New Years resolutions and companies advertising how this is the year you change, but change can be made at anytime of the year, if you should want to of course.  Sure I could be more patient, listen more and give more but I’m keen to get back to me.

Crossing the UTMB finish line

Since completing UTMB (Ultra Trail Mont Blanc 107 mile/10,000m ascent/descent) at the end of August my life has been a whirlwind which whilst exciting and adventurous also means that routine & healthy habits fall away.  September saw me join Dion in travelling to the USA for his final race of the year, Wasatch 100, which was the final event to see him be the first man to complete the Leadman Series and the Grand Slam of 100’s and it was to be such a great experience to support him and cross the final finish line.  I was still recovering from UTMB so this was a holiday and I treated it as such.

Seeing Dion complete the Grand Slam of 100’s at Wasatch 100

In my excitement earlier in the year, I’d signed up to run the 52km Trail Aiguille Rouges race with 4,500m ascent/descent at the end of September, just on 4 weeks after UTMB.  I would never recommend anyone to do this after such a massive race but here I was lined up to run it.  I felt good for the first few miles of the race but as soon as we hit the first climb I knew I hadn’t recovered.  Whilst climbing this 1500m climb in what felt like slow motion I decided that I should pull out at the first checkpoint as I knew the route and this spot would drop me straight back into Chamonix but as luck would have it just before reaching the checkpoint I ran into a friend, Jo Cowper, who was also struggling and talking of dropping at the same spot.  Instantly my runners maternal instinct came out and I was encouraging Jo to carry on, that ‘we’ would get through this together. Needless to say it was a long but beautiful day out in the mountains and we crossed that finish line together after many words of encouragement between us.

Running TAR with Jo Cowper

The next adventure was upon me quickly, accompanying Dion & Gobi to Slovenia and Croatia for the language book releases of ‘Finding Gobi’ over there.  It’s a full on 3 week tour, working remotely whilst being on a publicity tour requires 100% energy and focus leaving me with little drive to get any sort of training done.  I manage to squeeze in a few 5km runs here and there, normally accompanied by Gobi, so the runs are certainly not considered training.  It’s enjoyable though to discover new places and see new things but there is an unsettled feeling in my body.  I never quite realised how much I need a bit of routine in my life, particularly exercise routine, to allow me to feel truly happy.  They do say exercise is addictive and I think I’m truly hooked.

Running the Ljubijana 10k with Dion and Gobi

After 3 weeks away from home, we make it back to Chamonix for an overnight stop, just enough time to swap out some luggage for our next trip to the U.K.  After a whirlwind 12 hours, the car is packed and we hit the road to London.  It’s a long drive to the U.K. and with all the best intentions I can’t resist a pastry and coffee at all our stops.  I have a history of bad eating and although now as an athlete I train well and eat clean most of the time, my inner self always reverts to these bad habits under times of stress.  Although the travel itself is not consciously stressful, sub consciously is a different story and although I try to combat these bad habits by continuing to run while I’m away it’s not enough for my body to go against my own self sabotage and 2 weeks away in the U.K. takes it’s toll on my fitness, weight and self image.

Fitting in the odd run whilst in the UK

Having struggled with my weight for the first 30 years of my life (link to my story) I find myself panicking about any weight gain and loss of fitness as I’m petrified of being the fat, unfit woman that I was.  I know it’s not logical and it’s good for my body to have a break and a few kilos aren’t going to revert me back but try telling my hard wired brain that!  Anyone that’s struggled with weight and body image knows that it’s just not that simple, and these feelings always take their toll on m6 mental well-being.  I try to battle through it as I’m a positive person after all and I know negativity and lack of self worth will not help me.  

I get back to Chamonix after the trip and know that we have a few weeks of November at home before we are off on the next trip so I use this time to get back some semblance of normality and start making a regular morning 4-5 mile loop along the river.  The first few runs are demoralising with me taking regular walk breaks on such a short easy run when only a few weeks before I’d run UTMB and TAR, 2 extremely tough mountain races, but the body does not listen to what was, only what is.  But I persevered and it wasn’t long before I found my rhythm and started to feel fitter and stronger again.  Immediately I felt happier and more self confident and I always remind myself of this when I am feeling low, that you only have to start and you will feel better, almost instantaneously for me which is a great comfort.  This is 100% mental of course but what an effect this has.

Back in Chamonix with the Wild TR group for some running in the snow

Our next trip away sets me back again though with Dion and I off to Bulgaria in December for a few days for the ‘Finding Gobi’ release over there.  Although it’s only a few days, the weather is bitterly cold and staying in the heart of the city of Sofia I miss out on my runs and I feel frustrated with myself.

There’s no time to dwell on it though as whilst I’ve been away we were also working on moving to the USA and the wheels are now fully in motion.  With Dion’s O1 visa approved and subsequently mine, we are able to fly out on 12th December, giving us literally 10 days to finish DIY’ing our apartment, packing our lives into a suitcase, making sure the kids (Lara our cat and Gobi our dog) are health checked and sorting out the remaining to ensure we are ready to go.

They say moving house in one of the most stressful events in your life, but moving countries on top of it!  Now that multiplies it exponentially, trust me having experienced that already 3 times over (NZ, U.K., France) I knew what we were in for again.  But not ones to stay in the comfort zone we were up for it again, this time with our 2 fur babies along with for the ride.  A whirlwind of craziness and we find ourselves in New York City ready for the next chapter of our lives.

Running in Central Park NYC

Having planned to be in NYC for 3 weeks over the Christmas and New Year period it was the perfect opportunity to try and adjust to a new way of life and try to get back to some level of normality.  Helped by the weather being kind to us during a period renowned for abysmal weather but it’s hard to run in a city.  Kudos to those that live in a city permanently but I’ve certainly become accustomed to, if not a little spoilt, by living in Chamonix surrounded by the most amazing mountains and trails.  I was pretty proud of getting out and getting some runs done, even managed one 50 mile week, alongside starting to dabble in a change of lifestyle of shifting to a more plant based diet.

Back on the trails in Louisiana, flat but trails!

Moving forward it’s going to be about balancing change & disruption with balance, consistency and adventure.  Quite a challenge I’m sure you’d agree.  The start of the new year sees us growing some temporary Cajun routes in Louisiana and spending 6 weeks exploring the south.  This could also be the toughest state to be embarking on Veganuary, in a state where meat products are the staple this could certainly add to the challenge.  Time to rediscover my ultra legs running from the alligators in the bayou, exploring the pristine lakes and get cracking with a very different approach to get back to me.

As an Australian I am devastated by what is happening in Australia with the bushfires and I’m donating via https://reliefrun.com.au which is a $50 donation to run a virtual 21.1k/5k to support those affected by the bushfires.  If you haven’t yet already donated I hope you’ll consider joining me

 

Body Image

Most of you know me as Running Dutchie the ultra runner, but this wasn’t always the case.  I sometimes have a difficult time convincing people that I’m not a natural born runner and that I too have had body image issues which still occasionally surface.  At my heaviest, which was about 11 years ago now (2004) I weighed in at 98kg (15 ½ stone) and was a size 18 coming from living too much of the good life consisting of cooked breakfast most days, big lunches, snacks galore, 3 course dinners and wine every night.  My only exercise consisted of walking the dog, during which I would buy an ice cream!  I’d always been bigger, even at school I was never the sportiest, I used to forge notes from my parents to get me out of sports class!  I never really realised I was fat until I was finding it difficult to buy clothes in regular shops and starting to look towards the big girls shops, it was then I took a good look at myself and realised things had to change as I wasn’t happy with myself like that.  Don’t get me wrong I was happy in my life and had amazing love and support from Dion, my husband, who has never once said I was fat, well not then, he does admit now that we were both fat!  I know that he loves me for who I am as he loved me then and he loves me now.

Today I weigh in at 69kg (10 ¾ stone) and I am a fit, healthy & strong extroverted person that has a healthy respect for my body and I am happier than I ever thought possible.  I know I’m not perfect but my big thighs power me up mountains, my broad shoulders allow me to carry a self sufficient backpack of 8kg across the Sahara desert and my reserves of fat keep me going through many a long distance ultra running race.  It’s taken me a long time to develop this love of my body and I’ve spent many a night crying at myself in the mirror whilst clenching fistfuls of fat on my body desperate to be rid of it and then stress eating my way through chocolate afterwards to make myself feel better.  What a contradiction right?  I have managed to change that negative habit into going for a run to make myself feel better but occasionally old habits do come back and I am partial to making myself feel better with food, but at least now I know I have a way to wear that back off again through exercise.

Before and after (2004-2015)

Before and after (2004-2015) – still the same big smile!

I still sometimes think of myself as the ‘fat’ girl, the one with ‘big’ bones and an excessively curvaceous figure and can be very critical of myself when getting into a bikini or a tight number but my confidence has increased so much that these times are becoming less and less frequent and now more becoming a bold statement to happily show my bumps and curves as that is what makes me ‘Me’.

My pet hate is people saying that I’m so lucky I can eat what I want and stay skinny.  Firstly I am not skinny, I’m fit and healthy and secondly I can’t eat everything I want; I make conscious decisions daily to try and eat healthily and fuel my body correctly but I also consciously choose to eat cake when I want to or that pizza and beer, but know that I will have to work that off at some point too or no further gains will come in terms of fitness and strength if I eat all the wrong foods.  But everything in moderation is my motto, I am here to live my life and I do find enjoyment in food, drink and the good times with friends that come with that and I am not prepared to give that part of my life up just so I can have a six pack (that has always alluded me!).

I wanted to share this with you to let you know that anything truly is possible; if I can turn to running and change my innermost feelings about myself then it is possible for anyone.  We all have good days and bad days but always love your body for what it is and what it allows you to do and treat it with the respect it deserves and be happy.

(Feature on Ian Corless Talk Ultra can be found and listened to here.)