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!