Sunday, 19 November 2017

Mrs Roberts-Caiger Misses Training

I flopped on to the sofa on Friday night at around 7:45pm. I'd just finished packing for our honeymoon, made up the kids room, welcomed said children into the house and still had dinner to cook. Swimming would have to wait until another week. It's been a bit of a theme in the past two weeks, since our wedding and spa trip, that exercise has taken a bit of a back seat. I've read the post-training session Facebook posts with some sadness; all these awesome sessions with my club mates that I've missed out on.
Mr & Mrs mugs and simple dinners have reigned
We had a wonderfully relaxing few days at the spa but since then we've both been under pressure to get work to a state where going away has minimal impact. For him that's hitting sales targets, for me that's planning and promotion of classes and packages for next year, getting training plans written and handing over classes. I've run three or four times with clients and splashed around in the pool with the kids on the weekend but had to abandon the club track session due to a coughing fit. The cough has lingered for two weeks now, disturbing sleep and rendering me speechless at times. I was beginning to worry that it might be an infection and have an impact on my ability to do the hiking and so on that we've got planned for honeymoon, but the verdict from the Practice Nurse was that it was viral and it'll get better on it's own.
Gorgeous trainer tags from Forever Treasure, a wedding gift for our Costa Rica Marathon!
Lack of sleep and exercise has been frustrating but I'm so looking forward to our honeymoon in Costa Rica. It's now been almost a month since I donated white blood cells for Anthony Nolan and I've definitely managed my recovery better this time around. I'm not sure it took quite such a toll in the first place but by taking time off of training and listening to my body, I'm feeling strong and ready for all the adventures in store. In fact although the cough may well have been linked to a slightly weakened immune system, I've been more concerned about that than any lack of energy or endurance. As well as hiking in Costa Rica we'll be horse riding, biking, caving, kayaking and running a marathon on our last day - so excited! We pooled most of the John Lewis vouchers we got as wedding gifts and bought a Go Pro camera (which we've still got to master) to try and capture our adventures. If we figure it out we may even post some updates while we're away. I also had a catch up with Ellie in the past week to discuss my training plan which I took a month off from but will be returning to in December. We've earmarked a few events to keep me on track for my main events and I'm feeling ready to attack it again.

The training is of course for the events I'm undertaking as part of my fundraising efforts for Anthony Nolan. the first of which is Brighton Marathon in April 2018. I've already raised £260 towards my target of £1,500 but there's still a long way to go! Please do visit my Just Giving page to donate and read more about why I'm doing this. Thank you.

I've not scheduled any posts while we're away so I'll be back in December - stay tuned!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Champneys Forest Mere : A Bloke's Perspective on Spa life

The following post has been written by my new husband, Dean. I love saying that :D Anyway, here's some words from him.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…. A bloke walks into a SPA….

Okay it was a "we", it wasn’t just me, it was Vikki and I (or should I say my wife and I having been married a mere 24 hours before hand), eagerly making our way through the automatic doors of the hotel spa wide-eyed; and in my case looking rather confused about the number of people wandering about in bath robes looking all very relaxed (good sign) with a subtle aroma of something from the aromatherapy (something about nice smells) counter. 
Obligatory wedding photo
This was our ‘mini moon’ or escape from all of the previous weeks preparation for and focus on our big day. The opportunity for endless relaxation and healthy living, complimented with an abundance of healthy activities to while away the hours until reality came back around to bring us back to ‘normality’ when work beckoned on Tuesday for me or Monday night Boxercise class for Vikki. 

The chap on the reception was quick to offer some ‘complimentary’ juice concoction which was nice and we had a whistle-stop tour of the venue before leaving us to our own devices until our room became ready. We quickly made ourselves familiar with the activities on offer and took to opportunity to book a spin session for the following morning and eyed up a yoga class and HIIT class and perused the spa treatments before heading to our room. 

The venue itself is set back in several acres of woodland with a lake, which made for very nice views of the numerous geese. The building(s) are essentially a coming together of old manor house with large open fires, orangery and classical board games room with modern hotel which included pools, spa pools, hot/cold rooms, sauna, gym and several studios for the other classes and two restaurants. A fusion of new and old creating an odd mix of ‘old retreat’ and ‘modern health’.

Our Room

We'd booked a superior through Vitality but had been upgraded to a suite and could not have asked for more, looking out of the window. The view was fantastic overlooking the green and lake. Decent lounge, with a proper coffee machine! Double bed – although would have been nice if wasn’t just two singles bolted together and nice bathroom. Some fizz on arrival (thank you Ivonne) and we were set!!
So now sporting the ‘regulation’ white bathrobe and flip flops we made our way (with the slap, slap sound of our flip flops following us along the corridor) to the pool area. 

The Pool

Okay so not an Olympic sized pool, but at least there was no weed, you could see the bottom, no angry swans or water you could almost chew your way through (why do we do open water swimming?) and warm! The last time I had swum was at Bolton IM and that was in a wetsuit. This was BLISS!! We didn’t have to do drills or sets and both looked a little awkward at each other. what do we do?? Muck about like kids!! Chasing each other up and down the pool, and just splashing about enjoying our new found freedom… yep there may have been some cuddling, but in the absence of any lifeguards to blow their whilst at us we took full advantage.. J  

Spa Pools

The Spa Pools were just magical, again, I’ve only ever been in a spa pool post race or seeking some magical H2O induced recovery, so to just relax ‘at will’ was a great pleasure. The outdoor spa pool was quite surreal watching the clouds, but also as the jets filled my ‘non-swimming’ shorts with air leading to some rather odd looks from the other inhabitants.

Tranquillity, Steam & Cold Rooms, Sauna

Okay a bunch of water beds with some faux fur cover – not that tranquil as currently being used as the main thoroughfare as the gents changing room were being re-fitted.

The steam and cold rooms are what they are and very nice too if not a little cosy. The sauna was a little bigger with enough space to lie out on benches if no one else was in there.


The classes we attended were all good fun and the instructors were all good. I even did yoga – badly, and can still not touch my toes. Surprisingly I was not the only male in the Yoga Class, but I was for every other class “Hello token bloke!”, but that wasn’t an issue as I’m kind of used to it – and I got less stick than I would from the Fit2Run girls.


The spa has two restaurants  the regular one where the breakfast and lunch all-you-can-eat buffets are hosted, and the "posh" one. All the food was fab, we had a glass of free fizz each to celebrate our occasion and the attentive waitresses (Aniko) made sure we were well looked after.

The weekend break away from normality was a complete success and I can say we both left feeling allot more relaxed and chilled out if not a little traumatised by the water aerobics class (another story). What I would say is that it was very much aimed towards women, the ‘free’ magazines consisted of ‘Women’s’ Health’, ‘Women’s Running’ and other titles to ensure if you didn’t have a body image issue before, you certainly would soon. 

All of the facilities were spot on, but I guess I did feel a little left out the list of spa treatments. The range of treatments for ladies was expansive compared to the half dozen offerings for those not of the fairer sex – cue manicure, which was actually a nice experience, but not going to become a regular thing.

I think there are really two ‘modes’ that I would adopt on our next visit:
- Simply relax – do a few classes but (like this experience) really just go to chill out (and take some more appropriate reading material)
- Go for the burn – lots of classes and use the time as an intensive training camp

We’re planning to have a few days at a ‘sister’ spa after Lakesman 140.6 which I guess is testament to the experience.
Thought for the evening left on our pillows

Friday, 27 October 2017

Hen Do's and Hospitals

The week following the Eden Project half, was my last week of proper training for a little while. My quads were rather sore on the Monday so I was glad to only have a swim to do in the morning. Even better, breakfast was a free latte from Waitrose and a cinnamon bun brought back from Eden! That said, swimming felt hard and I couldn't find my speed no matter how hard I tried. At least I had a lane to myself for floundering around in.
Tuesday was meant to be a ramp run but despite a Body Balance class in the morning my legs were still sore in the afternoon so I did a spin class instead. By Wednesday evening, although I was pretty tired, I rocked up to track session for 30 minutes of 400m relays and my legs decided to play the game. Thursday started with PT and a 1-2-1 run session which I'd planned to follow with the missed ramp run from Tuesday but although I started it, I only managed the first slow 15 minutes. Friday swimming was far more successful. Ellie had set me a kick set, which left my legs feeling sore later that morning, but in a really satisfying way.
Don't mind if I do!
Friday marked the start of my hen weekend! I was collected by mum and my cousin Amy late afternoon and ferried off to Alresford where we met my Chief Bridesmaid, Alex, and sister-in-law-to-be at a cottage they'd rented for the weekend. There were bubbles and attempts at pizza making on Friday night, trampolining with a few more hens on Saturday afternoon and a murder mystery dinner with men more hens on Saturday night. It was absolutely fantastic, I had an absolute blast and got a bit emotional at seeing some friends and family I'd not seen in far too long. Despite having so much fun I really did miss Dean and only got to see him for an hour or so on Sunday as I swapped hen do clothes for fresh overnight kit ready for a hospital visit on Monday.
Cakes by mum
Murder Mystery outfits
The previous week I'd gone through a medical examination in advance of a second donation of cells for my Anthony Nolan match. As it's only a few months since the first donation I didn't need another ECG or chest x-ray but there were still blood tests and so on to go through. I only donated lymphocytes this time around, so no pre-donation injections to stimulate extra cell production as we already have these in abundance in the system, but in essence everything else was the same. I managed to avoid another calcium crash as I was more aware of the signs of it coming on, and I'm hoping that along with the lack of pre-injections it will be speedier recovery as the body isn't under as much stress. I still felt pretty tired afterwards for a clear 48 hours.
Because I didn't truly know the effect this was going to have on me, I agreed with Ellie only to do what I feel up to in the next few weeks in terms of training. It's been a busy week of work though so having the excuse to step back from training is rather nice. I only had three classes on Tuesday but it was enough to leave me falling asleep on the sofa at 9:30pm. I'd agreed some weeks back to teach Boxercise for the half term kids camp again so Wednesday included two hours of kids classes followed by four hours of other classes. I didn't feel as drained as Tuesday but I wasn't going to risk the intensity of a track session. I did adhere to one element of my training plan this week though... rest day Thursday! Morning PT and kids classes all went without a hitch and I was all set to put the B-FITS class through their paces for the last class before I get hitched only to be surprised with a takeover! They'd put together a wedding-inspired playlist, decked my out in veil, sash, garter and rosette, and devised their own session plan to include all sorts of fun vaguely fitness-related games. There was even a little bit of fizz and a lot of cake afterwards. It was immense fun and I was truly touched by the effort they'd gone to. Thank you ladies!
Today is my last Friday class before the big day and I'm intending to try a swim session with Tri Club tonight and parkrun tomorrow... but we'll see. I don't want to suddenly find myself exhausted with effort but I think I'm ready to try a bit of exercise. Each day will be taken as it comes.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Event Review : Eden Project Half Marathon

Who on earth would drive down to deepest darkest Cornwall on a Friday night? Two people who really wanted a get away, have no annual leave left and had planned to run a half marathon, that's who. Namely me and Dean! It was our last get away and event before our wedding, and the break in particular was much needed.

Traffic was on our side and we had a good drive down but we still arrive at our B&B, Ragstones, until about 9:30pm. Regardless of the time, we were given a warm welcome by Jacqui and shown to our room where we were served tea and cake. Comfortable as the room was, I don't think either of us slept that well and so a day of pottering on Saturday, after a hearty home cooked breakfast, was just the job.
We'd spent New Year 2016 in Cornwall and visited the Eden Project in early January. Our tickets were valid for a year so it was the perfect excuse to go back and use them again. Even though it was busier than our last visit, it was quiet for a Saturday, and we spent about 5 hours exploring at a leisurely pace. We spotted members of the St Austell Running Club sorting t-shirts and medals for the races on Sunday so had a chat and got a heads up on where the post-race pasty collection point would be. Of course we also did a bit of shopping and had a late afternoon meal at their restaurant. I'd go back for the food alone... the scones are amazing! We still had some daylight hours to kill so we drove a couple of miles to Par Sands for a stroll on the beach and a pint in the pub before heading back to the B&B to rest up.
Trying to take a selfie with the biomes
The Eden Project hosted two events on Sunday 15th October, the Marathon and Half Marathon. The marathoners set off at 9:30am and the half marathoners at a very civilised 10am. We had a 5 minute drive from the B&B (after another hearty breakfast) to the designated car parks, from where it was a short Park-and-Ride bus journey to the visitors centre to drop off our bags in the Core building. There were male and female changing rooms-come-bag drop, tea and coffee available and no queues for the loos! Hot footing it back on to the bus we made it to the start line with about 5 minutes to spare. There weren't as many people there as I think I expected but it was a good crowd. We started bang on time, with a bang from a proper starting gun!

The route heads out of the Eden Project with about a mile of down hill road running to start. This sounds great but in reality it's crowded and I had to really hold back and pick my way carefully through the pack whilst avoiding wet leaves and mud on the road. After the road section you're diverted onto footpaths and trail. It was wet and muddy with quite a lot of puddles, not unexpected but you needed to keep your wits about you, and it got quite narrow in places, all of which meant bottlenecks. Being a mid-pack runner means being a bit more picky about running through puddles so there was a lot of dancing around the edges slowing up people behind. The three mile marker came and went with no sign of the promised drinks station. This eventually appeared just before miles four, after we'd spilled out of the foot path onto a road that was almost blocked with cars. Four miles in and I'd not been able to find any sort of pace or rhythm.

The rest of the route was much less eventful. We continued on a mix of trail and road, past farms guarded by barking dogs, fields of horses, cows and sheep, views across the villages and of course plenty of hills. Hills through villages, hills through countryside, gradual hills, steep hills, rolling hills. The downhills felt treacherous and the uphills draining and the pockets of support were gratefully received. We kept moving but started adopting our ultra tactic of walking anything uphill. It seemed to do the trick and soon we started to see signs back to Eden. The last mile was almost all downhill through the car parking area and finally down into Eden itself. We flew down the last quarter mile into the quarry, almost crashing into people just past the finish line! I'd hoped for 2h20 before we started but stopped looking at the time after the second mile, so I was delighted to see we'd completed 13.1 miles and 288m of elevation in 2h23.
The finish area was a bit congested. It took a while to collect our t-shirts (mens and women cuts in varying sizes), medals (different sizes for half and full distance), beer and pasty tokens and travel size toiletries from Weleda. A short walk back to the changing rooms to collect our belongings and change into dry clothes wasn't enough time for the pasty queue to die down but the line moved quickly enough and soon we were inhaling our snacks. As well as the runners there were lots of spectators, each runner having been given two entry tickets for friends and family for the day, so it was much busier than on Saturday but not overwhelmingly so. We left just as the prize giving started (winner judged on gun, not chip time... fair?) forgoing the free foot soak and massages on offer in favour of a proper clean up back at the B&B.
The organisation of the event was excellent but I think there are improvements that could be made to the route and finishing area. I thought the route was good, varied and challenging (fair play to any running clubs in that area) but neither of us would go back to repeat it, or take on the marathon challenge.
One woman, two half marathons, 10 years apart.
But the race did mark 10 years of half marathon running for me. I did my first half back in 2007. It was the year that the Windsor half got moved to Henley following an outbreak of foot and mouth. I can't find the results online but I know it took me over three hours and a good deal of crying to complete it. I ran in thick jogging bottoms and a cotton t-shirt! The Eden Project half is my 23rd half marathon (though I can only prove 20 of them) and I can't believe how much has changed over the years. I've gone from working in IT to becoming a self employed Personal Trainer and Run Coach. I now own more lycra and sports clothing than regular clothes but I still use my running to fundraise. I used Eden to try out my Anthony Nolan vest, which I'm glad to report was very comfortable. I'll be wearing it for all of my key events next year and using them to raise money for the Anthony Nolan Charity.

You'll know from previous posts that I donated stem cells back in June and I will be donating for my match again on October 23rd, but this time white blood cells. I'm invested in the charity and their work and want to raise at least £1,500 for them through my sporting endeavours. Donating stem cells affected me physically, making it harder to run for about a month, so I'm grateful that I can run at all. So I dedicate the following events to Anthony Nolan on 2018:
- Swimathon 5k
- Brighton Marathon
- Outlaw Half Triathlon
- and finally Lakesman, my first full Iron Distance triathlon!
These will all test me as I've set  targets for each that are beyond what I've achieved before! If you would like to sponsor me you can do so here and I thank you so much for any support you can give. As ever, you can follow my training and fundraising efforts on this blog :)

Friday, 13 October 2017

The Swan May Look Serene...

The last week FLEW by. I've felt as though I've been chasing my tail for most of the week and I expect it's going to feel like this for the next three weeks in the lead up to the wedding! If you've seen me looking like I've got it all together, rest assured I'm actually like the swan, frantically paddling under the surface!

We had a rare Saturday almost completely free of plans. My scheduled training was park run, with run commute to and from, but I was out on Saturday night, in heels and despite being able to run for miles without getting a blister, a few hours in high heels and I had a rather sizeable hole in my big toe so we forwent the alarm and instead spent the day failing to find anywhere to have brunch, shopping in the new Bracknell town centre, having our final meeting with the wedding venue and having an early dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.
On Sunday we were both up at a fairly civilised time to help out at the RARE run with Barnes Fitness. I always enjoy being on the "other side" at Ellie's events and this was no exception despite being swamped on the registration desk with families wanting to take part in the fun run. Sunday afternoon is the last time I remember relaxing...
My Monday morning post-swim breakfast
Monday passed me by in a blur of swim training and teaching, interspersed with lunch out with my folks at the restaurant I'm planning to go with my mum and bridesmaids the day before the wedding. They've just revamped their decor and menu and it didn't disappoint!
It was an early start on Tuesday for a running consultation with a new client who has a place in the London Marathon next year, immediately followed by my own training run and the usual teaching hours. A quick dash home for my wedding haircut and up to London to see Lady Antebellum at the O2 with mum. It was gone midnight before I got to bed but again it was up early on Wednesday for a 5k virtual Prosecco Run around the local park with mum (no alcohol was involved). She got a new PB and we're now awaiting our medals through the post with baited breath.
Alcohol the night before at the O2
After the run, it was a race around the M25 to get back for classes and track session with Bracknell Forest Runners. With 5k already under my belt and the drizzle setting in I really didn't feel like going, especially as Dean wasn't feeling up to it but I showed up and got through the Fox and Hounds session with Cathy nattering by my side. The heavens opened just as we started our stretches - groans and whinging all round.
The only fizz was printed on our t-shirts
Although it wasn't quite such an early start on Thursday I spent a couple of hours in the morning trying to catch up on emails and admin before my final dress fitting. Im not used to wearing structured clothing so it felt a little firmer than I was expecting but thankfully the more time I spent in it, the more comfortable it felt. That said I'm now feeling extremely conscious of what I'm eating and drinking as I am terrified of putting on any weight! I managed a quick trip into town after the fitting to get an outfit for the murder mystery part of my hen do which is next weekend. I still don't know everything that's in store for me but I've been told to bring gym kit so it bodes well. Despite it being a rest day I had a run with a client scheduled for the afternoon plus other PT sessions and classes but a relatively early finish and finally a chance to spend some quality time with Dean.

As you read this we're on the road to Cornwall for the weekend, to run the Eden Project Half Marathon on Sunday. It's been on my wish list for ages and I'll be trying out my Anthony Nolan running vest. I'll be raising money for the charity via my events next year and I'll be writing more about that in my event review next week. I should have been going to Tri Club swim session tonight but instead I swam before teaching this morning and am relaxing in the passenger seat as Dean navigates the traffic.

So although it's been a busy week, it's been fun, varied and exciting. I'm not feeling drained as I have done in previous weeks and although next week looks to be similarly busy, I'm looking forward to it. I think I'm running a little on adrenalin but that's ok... for now.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Commiserations, Cake and Critical Swim Speed

Last week I got my commiserations magazine and running top through the post for the London Marathon 2018. I'm not disappointed. I've run it before and I didn't really have any great desire to run it again but Dean hasn't run it and so because he entered, I entered. And then we realised we'd be deferring it anyway if we got in because Brighton Marathon falls the week before London Marathon and I'm going for a PB of 4h30 so while I'm not adverse to doing two marathons in two weeks, it just doesn't fit with life, so actually it's worked out ok.

My training plan is ultimately preparing me for my 2018 events (Brighton Marathon, Swimathon, Outlaw Half and To Be Revealed) but is also putting me in a good place for the events I've still got in the calendar this year; Eden Project Half Marathon, Costa Rica Marathon (yes, a marathon on our honeymoon) and Frozen Phoenix 1 & 2.

And training is going well! Since I last posted about training, on the 18th September, I've completed another three weeks of training with only minor alterations to what Ellie planned for me. I say minor... the week I ran The Tolkien Run I switched my long run (2 hours) for the event (6 hours) and then ended up skipping track session entirely as I felt too damned tired. There have been a couple of Tuesdays when I've run my planned session and then run again in the evening to lead run club and one Long run that was split into park run and another run to make up the time later in the day, just because life got in the way. But overall I'm chuffed with what I've achieved so far and I've shaken off the slightly-tired-all-the-time feeling that I had in the first few weeks.
Happy with my 10k time trial session.
I'm getting into a nice rhythm with my swim sessions. On a Monday morning I go straight to the pool, get my set done and then grab a frothy coffee to go with my overnight oats or banana & nut butter sandwich before heading off to teach class. If I can't get to a Friday evening swim session with the Tri Club then I do a second set in the pool, either from Ellie or 220 magazine; another excuse for a frothy coffee before class! My favourite session so far was one where I used arms only for almost the whole set. I was sharing the fast lane with a chap with an M-dot tattoo who gave me some really useful feedback on my technique without being patronising - something I valued immensely.
I've done a Critical Swim Speed session and a 10k time trial which were immensely satisfying. The track sessions have been fun in their own special way and I even got to go mountain biking as part of my plan! I haven't ridden a bike on trails for years, and I wasn't very good even when I did! I hired a mountain bike and took my friend's 17-year old lad over to Swinley Forest for some moral support and encouragement. We only did the green and blue trails, the easiest of the tracks over there, and there were still moments when I almost bottled it. I'm such a wuss. The bike felt so different to my road bike, slippy and skinny and I've no technique at all. But 17YO was very patient and didn't bat an eyelid at my shrieks. I got around without falling off, albeit at a slow pace and with plenty of stops, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe I'll get to go again... Ellie?
Earning my mountain biking stripe :)
All this training has managed to slot in around work, music festivals, dinners out with friends, Dean's birthday celebrations, entertaining children at the weekends and wedding preparations. I had my  wedding dress fitting at the end of September and was absolutely delighted that it has to be taken in! It's sort of what I hoped would happen by getting back into training. And means I don't feel so bad about having some of the Oreo cake I made Dean for his birthday :)

Monday, 2 October 2017

Mindful Chef Food Box

Life has been busy recently. We're getting ever closer to our wedding day, work seems more hectic for both of us, our social calendar has been a little busier and training is ongoing. Both of us have been getting home later in the evening and so our Mindful Chef boxes have been a godsend, eliminating the need to think about what we're going to have for dinner and going shopping. We've had two boxes recently, with two meals in each, and they've been an absolute success!

Our first box arrived on Monday 4th September. We had chosen two vegetarian recipes for two people; Chipotle veggie kebabs with black beans and Lentil falafels with crispy polenta. By chance my mum had also ordered a box that happened to contain the same recipes, the idea being that Dad could cook the recipes while she was out at her gym classes two evenings a week.
What's in the box?
Each recipe came packaged separately, with all the ingredients in a paper bag within the box, and a sticker that corresponded to the colour on the appropriate recipe card. Handy! Dean was designated chef this week, nicknaming himself the "Hapless Chef", and pitted his skills against my dad, aka "Gormless Gourmet". Who would have greater success with the recipes? Whose would look most like the picture on the card? Ready, set, COOK!

First up, the veggie kebabs. They were pretty quick to make in our kitchen, and I didn't hear tales of anguish from Gormless Gourmet, so the "simple to make" box gets a big tick. I think Hapless Chef's efforts looked most like the picture, the kitchen wasn't a disaster zone afterwards and they tasted great. Big thumbs up from both parties on these ones.
Hapless Chef
Gormless Gourmet
The second recipe attempted was the lentil falafels... these were a little trickier and we had quite different results from Gormless Gourmet and Hapless Chef. These were messier to make (some fell apart), still relatively quick, but not as fast, and I think both parties went a little off-piste with the recipe. However still a really tasty dish and both said that they would make this again. In fact, Gormless Gourmet has already started to think of ways to make other "meatball" type things in the future... the creativity has been sparked!
Hapless Chef
Gormless Gourmet
Our second box contained recipes for Giant Celeriac and Herb Rosti, and Roasted Squash and Buckwheat Risotto. Hapless Chef made the risotto and I made the roost. Both, again, were excellent in the taste department and easy to make. Although we've paused the boxes for the moment, we will definitely be using them again soon. Having meals ready to cook waiting for us when we come home from our wedding and honeymoon will be so useful! At £28 for two meals for two, it may not seem cheap but you pay for the convenience, avoid impulse buys at the supermarket, and claim back some time - we think it's worth it.

If you've been inspired to give Mindful Chef a try but aren't sure about the cost, why not order your first box using this link to get £20 off your first delivery. Alternatively, if you'd like to get your hands on some Mindful Chef recipes without buying the book, enter my Mindful Chef apron and recipe card giveaway so you can try them out for yourself (you will have to buy the ingredients though). There's also a runners up prize of another apron (no recipe cards). All you have to do is enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Monday, 25 September 2017

Event Review: Tolkien Run 2017

"That's not Smaug, it's a Balrog!" came the gleeful cry from my friend Cathy as we ran along the sea wall. It wasn't yet 9am and my knowledge of Hobbits and other mythical beings was being put to the test. We were a couple of miles into The Tolkien Run, a vaguely Tolkien themed 6-hour time challenge put on by the ever-wonderful Saxons Vikings and Normans and admiring the fancy dress outfits of the few brave enough to don them. You may remember SVN from my attempt at Cakeathon earlier in the year. They specialise in time challenge events, ridiculously fantastic medals and excellent goody bags. Cathy had pointed this one out to me and Dean and we were rather taken with the idea and so that's how we ended up in Samphire Hoe at 8:30am on a Wednesday morning with a plan to run a marathon.
Representing Bracknell Forest Runners on location
We're not quite sure why this was on a Wednesday but certainly plenty of people had taken the day off work to take part in the event. Samphire Hoe boasts plenty of very cheap parking (£2 all day!) and some lovely views. SVN don't send out numbers in advance but it's always a pretty slick process to collect them, along with our punch cards for keeping track of our laps, on the day. The field is kept relatively small so there's very little crowding and everyone's friendly and jolly. I'm starting to recognise people at the events now, which is always lovely. Samphire Hoe also benefits from a cafe, proper loos (no queues this day) and a centre that we can duck into if it's wet with a covered outdoor area that serves as the food and drink station. None of this energy gel and sports drink malarky, it's cakes, biscuits, crisps and nuts galore, all washed down with squash or water, and while there wasn't as much cake as at Cakeathon, no one went hungry!
The goody bag!
The route was a 3.75m out and back course, which you repeat as many times as you wish or are able to in the 6 hours. This was to be Cathy's first marathon attempt so we had our sights set on 7 laps. I haven't been putting in the distance recently so I hoped to keep her company but was happy to see what the day brought and just do as much as I could. The course starts on track across the fields, drops down to a path by the railway track (bonus points for spotting Eurostar), down a hill and out along the sea wall, almost to the end, then around a cone to retrace your steps.
We three started out together at a nice steady pace. Dean soon started pulling away from us to go at his comfortable pace which is slightly quicker than ours, leaving Cathy and I to natter to each other and other runners whilst enjoying the first few laps. It was a warm day so arm warmers quickly came off and we crossed fingers that the sun wouldn't beat down too hard on us. At the end of each lap we took a few minutes to have something to eat and drink before setting off on the next. Travis, SVN organiser, would talk to Cathy at these moments about how she would have no trouble with the distance. After all, you can do a half marathon, lap I've won't be a problem, and no one stops at six laps so there! We started to take bets on when we'd meet Dean on the course and played some games of I Spy to relieve the tedium of the sea wall. Such was the tedium of the sea wall that it only took us one lap to exhaust I Spy so we started on some word association games instead, which started tapping into our deep seated desire for food.

The first three laps went by quite quickly, lap four marked a long half marathon and by lap five we'd settled into a run-walk strategy using corners, cones and hills as our markers. We were smiling at the same people, giving out encouragement, chatting about the Mega Marathon t-shirts and generally having quite a lot of fun. SVN write everyone's names on their numbers so it's really easy to make it personal. By the end of the event you feel as though you've made a whole bunch of new friends! At the end of lap five we met up with Dean who had waited for us to catch up so we could run the last two laps together. Even though we knew that some people had already called it a day, it didn't feel any less busy out on the course, which was nice. We stuck to the run walk strategy and carried on with the word association games. The wind started to pick up and gave us a very unfair headwind on the downhill. Our legs were sore but lap six was duly ticked off. This was it!

Lap seven commenced! There was no question that we were going to complete a marathon now. The wind was stronger but was at our back along the outward leg of the sea wall so we ran the whole length of it. We got chatting to a chap running with a backpack who we'd not noticed at the start of the day. Apparently he couldn't get the morning off to take part but had decided to come out and join us unofficially for a training run and to offer encouragement - superstar! The headwind back along the sea wall reduced us to a walk but finally we turned the corner, trudged up the hill one last time and jogged just about all the way back to the start. Done and with 10 minutes to spare! We were all delighted with our efforts. If we'd felt so inclined we could have gone for the ultra distance, the rule being that you have to start your final lap before 6 hours is up, but enough was enough. Cathy earned her "first marathon badge" for her medal ribbon and we all walked away with glow in the dark, Gates of Morir medals as big as our faces!
We hugged, changed, ate, hugged some more, took some photos, ate some more and eventually piled back into the car to go home, tired but happy and with a mid-week marathon under our belts. We certainly wouldn't have done it without the expert organisation and encouragement of the SVN tram and all the other competitors. At £39.95 I think the events are excellent value for money and I cannot wait to sign up for another.
Munching on hot buttery crumpets
Are you a Mega Marathoner? Have you ever done a mid-week marathon? Any votes on which SVN event I should try next?

Monday, 18 September 2017

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me

It's been two weeks since I started my new training plan that Ellie has designed for me and I'm loving it! It still never ceases to amaze me, just how much difference it makes being accountable to someone. It's also great not to have to think too much about what to do in my sessions, just the occasionally bit of route planning, and trying to figure out where I'm going to find a hill that takes 2 minutes to run up!

I'm building a fitness base for my events next year, upping mileage for the honeymoon marathon and working on my swim and cycling techniques. Ellie is using Training Peaks to deliver my training plan, which I've used before and get on well with. I've linked it to my Garmin Connect account so whenever I sync my Garmin to my phone, it uploads them to Vitality, Strava and Training Peaks - no fuss. I get an email every day with the current day's session and the next day's, so I'm not constantly logging in to see what's next. I'm also getting in the habit of leaving post workout comments about how it felt, what was good/bad/different. 
My first session in the week is a swim session that Ellie sets out for me. This is new for me as whenever I go to the pool I usually just swim for distance so trying to alter my speeds and do drills alone has felt odd, not least because I didn't feel as though I *could* swim at different speeds! So I squeeze that in before work and do a second swim session on a Friday evening with the tri club. The Friday sessions are coached so I get more feedback and can chat with other swimmers about the session, whether that be whinging or joking. I could have gone to these before but I always made the excuse that it was too late in the evening or I was going out, or we had the kids... any number of things. So even though Ellie doesn't set the session I still have to prove I went, so I go. Guilt - it's a powerful thing.
New swim suit for new season
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are run days. It's an Ellie-set on Tuesday, working on hills or pace at the moment, and running club track session on Wednesdays, another session I would make excuses not to go to. It turns out I can get there in time after work, know plenty of people and Dean meets me there so again, no more excuses. Track is both wonderful and horrible. In my first week I was put into Group A (I was expecting Group B) which is the sub-24 minute 5k group... i.e. MUCH faster than my PB (at the moment - maybe this training will change that). This was supposedly so that coach could see how I ran on my own (Groups B & C were working in pairs) and in fairness the set was such that I wasn't able to compare myself to others very much although I did find my fast pace wasn't my quicker than some people's slow pace. I felt as though I'd disappointed coach but I know it's all for the greater good. I nailed the stretching though!

Tuesdays are a bit of a double run/triple training day at the moment as I lead my Fit2Run group on some trail runs in the evening which I can't weave my training into, leaving me more tired that I should be for track. I'm also doing a SUPfit class in the morning, which I LOVE and ticks the box for cross training/strength and conditioning, but it's only for a couple more weeks. If my Tuesday run training doesn't involve a hill I can do it before SUPfit, which gets it out of the way nice and early and I get to run around the lake which is so lovely.
Post run, pre SUPfit!
Thursday are rest days and I try very hard to take the advice. It's a quite work day too so I can properly chill out. The weekend is hosting my longer training sessions for cycling, running or brick (cycling followed by running). This was a bit of a disaster in my first week. I was due to cycling for an hour and run for 30 minutes on Saturday and between teaching in the morning, our pre-wedding photos and an evening out with friends I barely had enough time to fit it in. Then when I did get to it, I felt as though I was running on empty, getting slower and slower on the bike, with shaky legs and feeling sick so I abandoned after 40 minutes on the bike and went home to be fed tea and biscuits by Dean. The only reason for it I can think of is that I was full of nerves for the photo shoot and the adrenalin left me feeling washed out.
One of my faves from our photo shoot
The week ends with a long run on Sunday. If we don't have the children in tow then I'm trying to do this with Dean for some moral support and company, but I've no qualms about heading out on my own when I have to. This week I'm actually swapping my track session and long run around as I'm doing the Tolkien run on Wednesday so I'll replicate track on my own on Sunday. I've also got what looks to be a rather long/tiring swim set today which will certainly earn me my breakfast! Feels good to have structure again and I'm feeling better for it already!