So that was January!

I am pretty glad the month is gone. January always seems to drag, and this year I have had a few viruses/ illnesses which have disrupted running and gym plans.

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But things have been generally good (I like to look on the bright side). Following the Wholeheartedly Healthy bootcamp, I bought myself some pretty tulips the other week. We are trying to move house at the moment, and hosted an open house (seems to be the way things are done now) so they brightened it up a bit for that too.

Running has generally been going well. I have the Brighton half in my sights, and my plan is to hang on to the 2 hour pacer for as long as I possibly can. Last year I ran it as part of my marathon training, and I managed 2:04, and felt like it was hard but comfortable. I didn’t want to push it too hard as it was not my “A” race, and I didn’t want to spoil a week of training. But on the other hand, I would love to do one half under 2 hours, and I hope that wasn’t my only chance.

I have tried to keep the training similar to last year, and looking at my Strava I have not done too badly. I did the Fred Hudges 10 mile race in a fairly similar time to last year, but last weekend I did the London Winter Run 10K, whereas last year I did a longer run. I’m consistently going to the Tuesday night club run, trying to do a hill session on a Wednesday (run 1.5 miles to the hill, run up and down 5/6 times, then run home- not that hilly but where I live is very flat, plus Brighton isn’t hilly at all so I am not too worried about that aspect of it)- I’ve only managed that a couple of times so far, but I still have 3 weeks to go. I have not managed Body Pump every week, again due to being ill, and although I have been the last 2 weeks, I can’t go this week due to work. Then it’s been a parkrun on Saturday, and a longer run on Sunday. Last January I did 98 miles, and this January I did 83 miles, so a little less, but I did miss a couple of Wednesday runs, one parkrun, and did the 10K instead of a longer run, so I feel like I am fairly close still.

I think one thing that helped me was going over the half marathon distance in my training- it was a bit of a cut back week, so I am doing 12 miles tomorrow, and then the weekend after hopefully 14 miles. I will see how I feel for the final long run- I think last year it was 16 but that seems a bit far for half marathon training, so I shall decide nearer the time.

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My mum bought me these amazing socks (I think it”s the third pair she bought me as she knows I get such cold feet- I used to get chilblains a lot- one lot got infected and that is very painful indeed)-they are so thick that I can’t wear them under shoes, but for around the house after a long run they are just the best thing ever.

Speaking of running in the cold, I was kindly sent a kit to help me with winter running:

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It contained plenty of goodies including foot lotion and a foot roller, What Skin Needs super moisturising skin cream (I love this- I get such dry skin and my hands get so sore, so I have been putting it on my hands before I go out running in the cold, and it really helps), vegan multivitamins, effervescent vitamin C tablets, toe protectors and blister plasters. I had to use the blister plaster after Fred Hudges as my shoes gave me a weird blood blister thing on the side of my big toe- I think my sock had bunched up as the trainers have been fine since.

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I was also sent some Deep Heat in a roll on bottle, which is loads better than the cream as I hate getting it on my hands. I used some last weekend, but it seems stronger than the cream- I rolled it on, waited, and then the burning came! It was OK, but since then I have tried to use a little less at a time as I think it takes a while to warm up. It has a herbal scent too, which I prefer to the traditional one.

Tomorrow morning is a 12 mile run with some of the girls from the club- I am looking forward to it although I hope the wind and rain will have stopped, as parkrun was tough in the wind, and now the rain is pouring down, it’s not that inviting!

Do you have any essential running kit?

*Items sent to me, but all opinions are my own.

OH annual awards 2016

I’ve been in my running club for over a year now, and last Saturday was their annual awards evening. Last year I could not go, but I was looking forward to it this year, although on Saturday I missed parkrun as I didn’t feel well and kept feeling dizzy, so I nearly didn’t go. It was dinner and a disco, plus a raffle organised by some people running the London marathon, and the awards. Earlier in the week they had sent out the list of nominees for the different categories, although they didn’t announce the the fastest 5k, 10k and half marathon times (but I knew I would not win any of those, although I might have been close for the 10k). One of my work friends told me I might win something, and I told her that no, I was not nominated, and anyway if I was I would be so nervous- I was glad I could just turn up and enjoy.

It was all set out beautifully, and the meal was good (as well as accommodating the vegetarians, they also gave me a separate dessert as I didn’t want the Baileys that was in the profiteroles!). It was so funny seeing everyone dressed up- sometimes it was hard to recognise people as usually we have our hair scraped back and we are all in leggings and high viz! After dinner they started announcing the winners. Last year they let everyone vote, but now the club is bigger they said not everyone knows everyone else, so the committee had chosen. Different run leaders were coming up to announce each winner, and it was very exciting to see who had won. One of the ladies I run with a lot won Most Improved- she had only began running earlier in the year and has been steadily increasing her distance (she did the 10 mile race last weekend) so that was great to see.

There was a bit of friendly competition (banter) over the fastest 10k and 5k times, as there are a couple of very speedy ladies. Each award was given out by a different run leader. They then went to the final award- Runner of the Year. The girl next to me was announced as the runner up, as she had joined less than a year ago and had run 100 miles in the summer (impressive especially as she has 3 children)- she was over the moon and it was so lovely.

Then our club leader started talking about the winner- she started talking about someone who represented the club at different races, and encouraged others, and then the run leader I run with came up to hand it out, and I was looking across the room to see who it would be, and they called out my name! I was so shocked, and proud. As I went to collect it my legs were shaking! I really get so overwhelmed. All the others had collected theirs, had a photo, and gone to sit down again, but someone called out “speech”- I think I looked terrified as someone said to me “you don’t have to”, but then I felt like I should say a few words because I didn’t want to seem ungrateful. I said something about how I loved running before I joined the club, but since joining it I have loved the support and encouragement of the club, and seeing how everyone else does too.

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As well as the lovely trophy thing (which had my name already engraved!) I was given a lovely shoe tag, which I am wearing as a bracelet as it’s too nice to get muddy. I love it.

Here are all the winners! (We had to pose in the hall as it had better lighting!). I still can’t quite believe it. I have never had a trophy before, having ever being in a sports team at school or anything.

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Blurry photo I know!

Now I need to find a place to display it. I actually found it hard to get to sleep when I got home because I was just so surprised by it all. It’s weird in a way being given an award for basically doing a lot of something that I enjoy, but it’ lovely too.

London Winter Run 10K

A few of my club mates signed up to the London Winter run this year- last year a big group did it and the medals were so pretty that it was on my list!

Whatever virus I had last week came back towards the end of this week, so I didn’t go to parkrun on Saturday as I wanted to be OK for Sunday, and not make myself worse. I was still feeling dizzy on Saturday but thankfully when I woke up this morning I felt fine.

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Last year the club made vests for the event, so someone passed theirs to me to wear, which I loved.

I had some toast, as it was going to be about 3 hours before we started running, and then we headed to the tube. It was a good journey- just 40 minutes and we were in Leicester Square, but when we came out it was drizzling.

We had about 45 minutes to spare before out (very specific) start time of 9.54am, so we popped into Pret as some of the girls wanted to use a toilet, and it was lovely to wait in the warm! We then headed to the bag drop, which was so well organised- the first one we reached was busy but the marshals told us that the next one along was quieter, so we went there, reasoning that it would be quieter at the end too. You had to use the official bag drop, which was a bit of pain because my big coat would not fit inside, so I had worn a long sleeved top, the snow (sn-oh) vest top, my parkrun hoodie (to go in the bag drop) and my running rain jacket, as I could tie it around my waist when I got too hot. So in Pret I had taken off my hoodie and braved the cold. It was still drizzly but we headed to the start and joined the long procession of people making their way to the start. They didn’t seem to be strict about start times, and even though we were in the pen in plenty of time, it took ages to get to the start line. They were letting people go in waves, and I think around 10.05 we set off, so not too bad.

I had hoped we would run as a group, as I thought it was that sort of event, plus I didn’t want to push hard as I had been unwell earlier in the week.

In the end, I ran the whole way with another girl from the club, and it was lovely, as we chatted the whole way around. She did tell me to go ahead a few times, but I was perfectly happy to run together rather than go a bit faster on my own. It was a good route around central parts of London, although it seemed to twist back on itself a lot (several times I thought we were running past people behind us on the other side of the barriers, only for us to turn and go that way!)- it messed with my sense of direction. Along the route were a few snow cannons, penguins (well, some people dressed up, and some big models of king penguins), snowmen (although they were way too skinny for snowmen), and an impressive drumming group which we passed twice.

There were loads of lovely marshals, and the St John’s Ambulance people were doing Mexican waves and cheering people on too- it had a great atmosphere. Despite the rain there were lots of people watching too, which always helps (but not too many for it to feel claustrophobic). The km markers whizzed by for me, as I was enjoying our chatting. It seemed that quickly we got to the “500m to the finish and polar bear hugs” sign- although I was not a fan of that idea, especially if it was a man in the suit and not a woman!

The two of us crossed the line together, and my club-mate Sarah was thrilled to see she had managed a 10k pb- awesome stuff! Despite it being busy, we met up with the other 3 within minutes of being given our medals, water and coconut water, so we walked back past Horse Guards’ Parade to the (nice and empty) bag drop.

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Photo from Louise- me and Sarah have matching trainers although hers are less muddy! I love this photo, because it was just brilliant to all go there together, and to run together- that’s what our running club is about- encouraging people to do their best, and to join in, and to have fun. 

We had a photo with the London Eye in the background (most people had the same idea). I had packed tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt as well as my hoodie, so I put the bottoms on over my tights, but my vest and long sleeved top were soaked so I took them off in the bag drop tent hoping no-one I knew would be looking!

There was a stage in Trafalgar Square set up for medal photos (with a sign that said “10K pb”) and I did suggest it to Sarah, but as the queue didn’t seem to be moving we left it, and headed to Pret for a hot chocolate- my hands were freezing and I had wished I had worn gloves. Anyway, after warming up, we headed straight to the tube (where at least it is warm) and then drove home.

I really enjoyed it- it was a very flat route, although a bit twisty in places, but you could get a fast time as it was wide and never felt congested. The medal is so pretty, it was very well organised with signs and marshals everywhere. But it was expensive, so I am not sure I would sign up again (unless a group of us did it again). I do think they could have done with foil blankets at the finish, as although it wasn’t a long walk, it was a cold wet day, so I got quite chilly before getting back to the bag drop.

It was also for a great cause (Cancer Research UK)- they even had a mention of this at the start, so if you would like to sponsor me, you can click here.

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Such a pretty medal! (And blue nails to match of course)

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Official time- 1:11:20

ComFit foods

I was recently asked to take part in a campaign to encourage people to swap comfort foods for ComFit foods.

Apparently over 70% of us will resolve to be healthier in the new year, but research from Sainsbury’s reveals that in fact two thirds of us will spend almost a full day more (22 hours) watching TV in January and 1/3 of us end up eating more comfort foods in January than any other month. Sainsbury’s recognises how important a healthy, balanced lifestyle is for their customers, without having to compromise on some of the most enjoyable things in life. So, inspired by this latest research and love of good food, Sainsbury’s is launching a campaign called ‘ComFit Foods’ – classic comfort food dishes, but with healthier twists.  

ComFit foods include one little twist to transform mid-week meals at a time where customers are striving to be more health conscious. The dishes all have elements of excitement and experimentation, but still utilise every day store cupboard ingredients in a healthy way. There’s a feeling among consumers that warming winter foods are automatically unhealthy, but these recipes show we can all still make feel-good-food without the guilt. Sainsbury’s hopes to inspire little changes which help make a big difference to overall nutritional value.

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I was sent a few recipes, and decided to cook the Pear and Coconut Crumble (see below for the recipe), as it sounded delicious. I like crumble toppings, but I like them to be super crunchy and the addition of the seeds sounded so good.

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It was simple to make- cook the pears, melt the coconut oil, mix the crumble mixture, top and bake. Just a bit of chopping and stirring. I left the skins on the pears as I like that.

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It smelled so good as it was baking- I think it was the coconut oil as well as the cardamom.

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We had some along with some custard (as I didn’t have any crème fraiche), and it was so good. The topping was much tastier than a traditional crumble mix, and the lime and coconut gave it a bit of a tropical feel.

We saved some in the fridge for another day- perfect post run food.

Here is the recipe if you fancy trying it (and I will make it again because it really was simple and really delicious):

Pear, Cardamom & Coconut Crumble

Serves 4

6 conference pears, peeled, cored and chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 tsp ground cardamom (lightly crack pods, and grind the seeds)

1 tbsp agave nectar (I used maple syrup)

Topping

3 tbsp walnuts, 1 tbsp roughly chopped (I used flaked almonds)

5 tbsp rolled oats

1 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 tbsp agave nectar (maple syrup)

Pinch of salt

2 tbsp coconut flakes, toasted

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.
  2. Make the pear mix. Place pears, zest and juice of lime, cardamom and agave nectar in a saucepan and bring to medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to soften pears for about 6-8 minutes. They should still retain some bite.
  3. Make the topping. Whizz 2 tbsp of walnuts in a food processor (or alternatively, use a pestle and mortar) to grind. Mix together with the chopped walnuts oats, oats, sunflower seeds, coconut oil, agave and salt.
  4. Place pear mix in a ceramic ovenproof dish, followed by the topping. Place on baking tray for 20-25 minutes, until warmed through and light golden brown on top. Finish off with toasted coconut flakes. Serve with low-fat crème fraiche.

They have also produced this recipe for avocado mousse which I might try at the weekend:

Avocado, banana and cacao mousse with coconut

Serves 4

2 ripe avocados, de-stoned

1 ripe banana

2 tbsp raw cacao

4 tsp agave syrup

2 tsp desiccated coconut, to serve

Place the avocados, banana, cacao and agave in a blender and blitz until smooth and creamy. Spoon into 4 small tumblers and sprinkle over a little coconut before serving.

What is your favourite comfort food? 

*I was sent a voucher to purchase the ingredients with. All opinions are my own.

Fred Hughes 10 miles (round 2)

So I did this race last year, as it fitted into my marathon training plan. I wasn’t going to do it again as it is fairly hilly, and a bit stressful with the car par filling up quickly and things. But then quite a few girls in the club signed up, and so in the end I decided to as well.

I had a clif bar first thing- it seems like ages since I have needed to eat before a race, and I could not decide what to do. I had to leave home just after 8am to walk to where I was being picked up (I ran, because I left a bit late!)- but the race didn’t start until 10am, so it was hard to know what would keep me going until the end. We arrived with loads of time, got our numbers and milled abot chatting to other runners. It’s a big one for clubs, and there were huge groups of clubs nearly taking over the hall. We managed a couple of little photos (although a few of ours were in various queues when we took them I think), before walking to the start, 5/10 mins down the road.

I look very excited here!

At the start! I love the guy photo-bombing us in the background!

I had no idea what to aim for- last year I did it in 1.37 something, but after being a bit unwell this week I knew I should not push it or anything.

We started off in a fairly big group, running and chatting when we could. The first mile sped by, (then it’s single figures to go) but then the hills started coming. It is fairly up and down.

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The elevation does not look too bad here, but you can see it’s not flat anywhere. You go out for a couple of miles, then do a loop twice, before heading back. It’s all fairly undulating, and most of it was fine. We stayed in our group for the first lap (getting lapped by the front runners of course- amazing to see how fast they run), and most hills were OK, but there is one, with the 8 mile marker (and the first time you do it, you are only coming up to 5, so not even half way) is really tough. I walked last year I think, and when that thought popped into my mind I promised myself I could walk up it the second time around.

In the middle of the second lap I lost the group I was with, as I had to catch my breath- it wasn’t even a hill, it was a flat bit of residential streets, but for some reason I could not get my breathing down. I made myself look at the nice scenery (apart from a little bit of residential, most of it is through country lanes, past cottages, farms, woods and fields), but then the hill came. I decided to run up half of it, but stop and walk at the 8 mile sign (at least the second time around, it’s correct!)- I decided that as I wasn’t aiming for a time, why stress myself out and struggle, when I could walk for a bit and enjoy the last two miles. I was overtaken by a lady who said to me “there must be a better way to enjoy yourself on a Sunday morning, but I haven’t found it yet!” Just after I had started running again, there was a water station (there is only 1, but you pass it 3 times) so I decided to have a drink as it was really mild. I had worn a long sleeved thin top with my vest over the top (and a jacket to tie around my waist for the walk back to race HQ, as I got so cold last year) but I was very warm at times and I think I overdressed.

Once this was done, I was finished with the two loops, and on the home stretch- still a couple of hills to go, and I had another walk break on one of those hills. But then after seeing the 9 mile marker I had a talking to and tried to pick up a bit.

On the final stretch (they have 400m and 200m to go signs, but I have no idea how long that takes me!) I was overtaken by a guy going so fast, so I shouted to him “good going” or something- when I finished he came up to me and said “well done” which was nice- I think looking in races can look competitive, but actually everyone is really cheering everyone on to do their best.

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As you went down the finish funnel, you were given a medal (also a bottle opener), and a buff with a fleecy section on it- fab! Then someone handed me a banana (I looked like I needed it!) and you could choose your crisp flavour from a box (which I like, because last year you got given a bag with leaflets and crisps inside, and I got cheese and onion, when everyone knows that only salt and vinegar will do). I went to get some water, and then met up with the club girls who had already finished. They also did print outs of the time, so I went to get mine- 1:40:50– so only a few minutes behind last year, and according to Strava, although I am trending slower on this route (having only run it twice!) I did my fastest loop- a positive split I think- whoops!

There were a few girls behind me, so we cheered them over the line before walking back to the HQ- that was when I was very glad of my layers. Race HQ were serving huge cups of tea or coffee, and lovely home-made cake (it rivals the spread I have seen at cross country races!) so I got a piece of fruit cake and a tea- started to feel human again!

I do like the 10 mile distance, but I don’t think I will be doing this race next year- partly because it covers a lot of the same roads from the St Albans half marathon, so I feel like I have run up some of those hills many times! I think if a lot of girls sign up next year, I might marshal instead. It was great to be at an event with a few more club members there- very different to racing on your own, and it meant the before and after bits were more enjoyable too. For some of them it was their first race, some of them their first 10 mile distance, so it was great to be there while people were achieving these things too.

On that note, the marshals were brilliant- in groups of 2-4, instead of just 1, and really frequently placed, and they were all so encouraging and enthusiastic. That really helped. Plus it is such good value- I think it wa £19 or something, and for that you get a race, tea and cake, banana, crisps, water, medal, buff… It wasn’t closed roads but as they are small roads mainly, and a few pavements, there were not many times when we had to move over for a car.

Because of the fairly late start time (10am) I didn’t get home for a shower until nearly 1pm, so it did take over the day a fair bit too. My phone did not stop beeping all day with girls from the club adding photos of letting everyone know their time, which made the fun last even longer.