Caffeine and me

I recently bought a coffee machine. I never thought I would. I mean, I’m not really one of those OMG I NEED COFFEE TO FUNCTION type of people.

If I don’t have caffeine in a day then I’m generally OK. It’s just habit and the enjoyment factor as to why I regularly drink it. I don’t start shaking or fading through the day or get headaches.

At work it’s a way to get away from the desk and keep me from endlessly snacking on #allthefood in the office. I’ll have a black instant coffee, and thoroughly enjoy it. At the weekend I’d treat myself to something a bit more elaborate at Starbucks, but more because it’s a fun drink to enjoy. I’m that person who has an obnoxious order… half decaf half caf medium Americano with sugar free hazelnut syrup and hot skimmed milk. Why half and half? Because I do like to limit caffeine where I can (and sugar…). I don’t want to become dependent on it and I like to use caffeine in big races to inject some speed into my legs. I don’t want my tolerance level to become skewed.

So why did I get a coffee machine then? Well, I was finding that my Starbucks weekend habit was fairly costly over the year (my drink is around £2.40, so around a fiver a week). In the back of my cupboard I found a milk frother that I’d never used and found I could heat up almond milk and froth it nicely to add to my coffee. I also bought my own sugar-free hazelnut syrup from Amazon, because I’m fancy like that 😉 And literally it’s like Starbucks in my kitchen!I’ve also been drinking a pre-workout before the gym which contains quite a high dose of caffeine (~240mg) and I didn’t want to keep buying it – though I enjoy using it from time to time because it has other added benefits. I do enjoy feeling a bit more awake before the gym so didn’t want to give up entirely on caffeine.So with a coffee machine I could dictate how much coffee I had (and whether it was caffeinated or not) and reduce my coffee/pre-workout expenditure. Killing two birds with one stone.

After a lengthy time wondering what type to buy (most people advising on the very cool looking Nespresso machines) I eventually just settled for a simple coffee maker.

The problem with the Nespresso machines (and the pod coffee makers in general) is that the size of the drink you get is quite small. And I didn’t really want anything too fancy first thing in the morning. Also the pods themselves were expensive, so defeating the point of trying to save money. I wanted a proper MUG of coffee that was cheap and easy to use.So I bought this very cheap Russell Hobs Brew and Go machine from Amazon (around £27.99 – this isn’t a sponsored post by the way!). It comes with a travel cup and basically you can dictate how much coffee you put in and how much water you use. Perfect!

Some people give caffeine a bad rep or just avoid it for their own reasons and that’s fine. Everyone to themselves. But I know that a little bit of caffeine before the gym or before a race can really help my performance. It’s a legal supplement to take and it’s cheap. But if I didn’t have my cup of coffee before a race it wouldn’t panic me. I do parkrun and long runs every week without coffee and perform just fine. Perhaps it’s psychological then that I see these performance gains… who knows. What I do know is, I enjoy coffee and enjoy feeling more awake at 5.30am before I hit the gym.

What are your thoughts on coffee and caffeine in general?

If you drink coffee, how do you take it?

Do you have a coffee machine?

London here I come

So the London Marathon. It’s funny because whenever I tell people I’ve never run London they’re always quite surprised.

I mean I guess it is a bit odd. I’ve run eight marathons.I’ve run Paris, Berlin, Boston, Tokyo… I’ve run Bournemouth, Chester, Liverpool and Cheddar Gorge. But not London. And it’s not just non-runners (“yes there are other marathons out there than London”) but runners who know me. Apparently it seems like I’ve run London. But I assure you, I have not.

have had a place for the last few years though. I’m lucky that I’ve got Good For Age so can avoid the ballot. Yes, the male and female times are unfair when you compare them. My sub 3:45 time goal is nothing in comparison to a sub 3:05. It just doesn’t seem right. But those are the rules and I’ve been able to get a place.

It’s a very cheap marathon, all things considered. There are UK-based non-marathon races that are more expensive! It’s around £35? Which I guess is why I’ve deferred a couple of times and ultimately never done it. The GFA is fairly achievable for me (without meaning to sound arrogant, it’s the truth) and the cost of it means I can be a bit blase about it (for now anyway). Tokyo cost an arm and a leg with minimal money recuperation if I was to bail on it, so come hell or high water I was doing it. When you add in a holiday to the scenario, the pressure somewhat mounts exponentially I can tell you.

London has always been a marathon I want to do. It’s one of the Marathon Majors, which I’m trying to tick off. But even before I knew about the Majors it’s one I wanted to do. I think every British runner who runs marathons wants to do London (or at least has considered it) at some point. It’s iconic. It’s our capital. It attracts huge crowds – crowds of people who may never have run, have no idea how far a marathon is and are just out to have a fun day cheering. It’s a tradition on the television… Brendan Foster, Paula Radcliffe and all the fancy dressed fundraising heroes. It’s part of our culture.

I applied last year and got my place (there is no ballot for GFA) and quietly wondered if I would do it 2017 or 2018. As my training for Tokyo didn’t go as well as I wanted I put to bed the idea of doing another marathon in 2017. Long runs were a drag. I was dreading the actual marathon and not looking forward to the trip (yay let’s go eat noodles on my own!).But then I went to Tokyo, thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a whale of a time at the marathon, exceeding my expectations in so many ways. And the marathon bug was ignited again. Before Tokyo I told people I wasn’t going to do any more marathons for the year and they laughed and said “yeah right”. Well I’m a joke of myself I guess.

Like always, I say I’m going to do London but it’s never a guarantee because I’m such a pathetically frail runner. An injury or niggle could creep out of the woodwork and knock me down. But providing things go smoothly and I try to be just a little bit sensible, then hopefully I can turn up to London on April 23rd uninjured. OK not in the best shape of my life, but ready to see what all the fuss is about and finish with a smile on my face.

That’s the plan anyway.

Have you ever run the London Marathon before?

What races are on your bucket list? 

Do you agree with the GFA timings?

Superheroes everywhere

I do love a bit of fancy dress, you might have noticed. I don’t know why, maybe because it’s good fun and a laugh. So when it was announced (though not too widely it seems) that for Netley Abbey parkrun’s 5th birthday they’d be a superhero fancy dress I was all game.

My friend Mike decided to go as Robin and my friend Geoff decided to go as Batman. Well, I’d been Batgirl before so I hunted online and found that superhero females were somewhat limited. I could be Supergirl or Catwoman it seemed. Catwoman’s outfit looked far easier to run in (streamline if you like) so I went with that.My friend, Tom, was also joining me for parkrun on Saturday so I skipped setting the course up and picked him up at 8.15am. So I had a bit of a longer lie-in which was nice. Tom is a fairly new runner and had been doing Lee-On-Solent parkrun so I was chuffed to be able to show him Netley. Though Netley is a harder course than the lovely flat LoS!We got there to find not many people had embraced the superhero theme, which was a shame but kind of understandable as a few people had asked where the notice of fancy dress had been posted as they weren’t aware. *Sighs*

Photo credit: Sheryl James

But I didn’t mind. I love fancy dress regardless. I was going to run with Mike as we’re kind of around the same speed at the moment, though I’m perhaps a little faster. I didn’t want to go to speedy so it would work out well. All week I’ve been being very careful with my ankle and though it was feeling pretty much back to normal I didn’t want to risk it. I say this, but really I didn’t fancy running fast and the ankle was a good excuse 😉

Catwoman, Robin and Batman

Anyway as we lined up I lost Mike in the crowds. Tom stayed with me and was planning on “hanging on” for as long as he could. His PB is around 25 minutes.

As we started I just decided to run as I fancied, which turned out to be a fair clip in comparison to what I’d intended. My other friend, Mark, caught me up with his buggy and ran with me which was nice. He’s a lot faster so running my speed with his buggy was probably a walk in the park for him.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

It was nice running with Mark as we could chat and I could take my mind off the fact that I was running faster than I’d planned.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

The final lap I stepped it up a gear… I was thinking of all the cake at the end. As it was Netley’s birthday a cake sale had been organised (that info had been far more widely circulated…) and I was keen to get a few pieces.

I finished in 22:43 which I was pleased with considering how windy it was. I scanned my barcode pronto and then headed to grab some cake.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

I love this photo because it shows me in my happy place 🙂 The cake sale was to raise money for the defibrillator that we’re trying to buy, so I was only doing my good deed of the day really.I had a slice of Victoria Sponge (exceptionally tasty I must say. I had spotted this cake on Twitter beforehand and was glad to be able to grab a slice!), a white chocolate fudge slice thing and a white chocolate cookie. Pretty good haul! Though nothing like the five slices of the week before. The cake sale raised just over £366!! This is fantastic. Well done to all the bakers! The real superheroes of the day.

Tom did really well, coming in around 27 minutes which he was pleased with given how much more hilly Netley is compared to LoS and how windy it was. He showed me the bottom of his trainer afterwards; the sole was coming off! I told him off for wearing such old trainers, tsk!

After parkrun, showering and all that jazz I met up with my dad later in the day for a spot of Nando’s and a cinema trip to see Logan. I decided to change my usual whole chicken order at Nando’s and be slightly more healthy and opt for half a chicken and a Mediterranean salad.The salad was delicious. It had huge juicy olives, lots of sundried tomatoes and good chunks of feta. But I was a bit disappointed with the size of the chicken (I KNOW, I told you I’m greedy). My dad had gotten half a chicken with a side salad and a cob so we both felt we could share five wings between us 😉

And then we headed to the cinema…where I met a few more superhero friends.Logan was fantastic. Very violent but really different to the normal superhero films. I mean, I love X-Men anyway but this was very different.

The next day I met up with Robin Mike and we headed out for a long run together. I’ve become such a fan of running with other people again. Normally I’m like a lone wolf but having people to run with is a nice change, especially my long run. Running a long run with Mike is also good because as he’s slightly slower than me it means he keeps my pace in check.

I ran about half a mile to meet him and then we did a 5 mile out and back route through some fairly quiet country roads. The route was quite hilly though so a nice challenge at times. It was a great run and the miles flew by, as they always do when you run with someone else. I must do this more! Then I added a little bit more on at the end as I ran home to get to 12 miles (8:38min/miles overall pace).

Happily my ankle felt absolutely fine (as it did the day before) and I enjoyed a normal run without issues. Ahh what a novelty eh!

As long as I remain running injury-free I’ve decided to do the London Marathon. I have a Good For Age place and was wondering whether to defer until next year as it was so close to Tokyo. But as Tokyo went well and, ankles aside, my recovery has been good I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. I’ll keep a watchful eye on any niggles that crop up or feelings of over-training but otherwise I’d love to do it. Again, no time goal but just to tick another Marathon Major off the list and FINALLY get London done.

How was your weekend?

What superhero would you choose to be?

Does your parkrun ever try and raise money?

Unpopular opinions #2 and more things I’m loving

I really enjoyed writing the unpopular opinions the other day so I thought I’d do another round, as well as some cool things I’m loving lately. First the unpopular opinions…

I love salad and all vegetables. If half my plate isn’t full of vegetables I feel a bit miffed. In the blogging and fitness world this is not such an unpopular opinion, but perhaps not in the general population. I think it could also be that I’m volume eater and adding vegetables and salad to a dish is a great way to trick my greediness into believing I’m eating more. And that vegetables are super tasty.

I don’t share food. I think this harps back to me being like a squirrel and worrying food will run out. I don’t know where this fear came from because I’ve always been well-fed through my life!

I just don’t share food unless I can guarantee there’s a proper divide and equal proportions of food. And that I still get a significant portion. So if I’ve ever shared food with you, count yourself lucky. To have escaped alive.

I haven’t watched the vast majority of the Marvel movies. I love Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men (not Marvel but superhero-y) and Thor but all the others have passed me by. It might be because I’m not a big Robert Downey Jr. fan but I feel like too much has happened now to catch up.

I like a selfie. Yes it might be narcissistic and vain, but I quite like them. I do a lot on Instagram and it’s more because I like to track progress and keep connected with other people than “omg look at me”. It’s nice when you do it in an interesting place as well. Like, here’s my face plus something more interesting too 😉

Films about animal cruelty get me far more upset than small children cruelty. Don’t get me wrong, the latter does upset me. I’m not entirely heartless! But if a dog dies I will be in pieces. I was really chuffed to find the Hachi statue in Tokyo (actually, the dog was called Hachikō in real life). He was the dog that waited for his owner outside the train station.No film has ever destroyed me as much as that film. I was sobbing. Not delicate little sobs, but full on “I can’t breathe” gasps and shudders. On a coach full of people I didn’t know.

And things I’m loving…

Leisure trainers. Hmm, what? Trainers you don’t run in? What are those?These Nike trainers though are SO comfortable. They’re quite thing and light, so definitely not for running (for me). I wear them to the gym, but I also wear them to the shops and seeing friends. If I’m entirely honest, I’d live in gymwear most of my life. It’s a struggle to wear jeans.

And, I promise they’re not the same shoes, I recently got these Vans:Yes they are very similar colour… but they’re Vans so completely different. Ahem. Anyway they too are super comfortable and handy for leisurewear (leeeeeeeeeeeeesurewear is how I say this in my head).

My new Starbucks mug. I bought this in Tokyo. I’ve never seen a black Starbucks mug. It’s got a very matte feel and says “Starbucks Reserve” on it.It’s a decent size as well. I can’t be dealing with mini-mugs.

Biotrue Eye Products Review

I was recently sent some eye health products from Bausch + Lomb. It’s a bit of a random one I guess but I was keen to do the review because, as some of you might know, last year I had laser eye surgery done. I no longer have to wear contact lenses or glasses – yay! This is still amazing every single day. Though in the morning I will still go to grab my glasses when my alarm goes off, it’s that ingrained.

So these eye products seemed ideal for me to test because, though my eyes have been pretty much 100% perfect since the surgery, they do get a little dry towards the end of the day. I’m sure this isn’t just due to my surgery but also to the fact that I’m staring at a computer screen all day long. 

Biotrue® Rewetting Drops

These drops are used to refresh tired or irritable eyes. And they’re not specific for contact lenses. They contain hyaluronic acid, which helps to maintain the natural structures of a healthy eye.The drops are administered using a the “Control Grip system”. It was easy to use – no squirting or great gush of liquid. It literally just drops one tiny drop at a time in a very controlled way. I’ve used quite a few different types of eye drops and these are by far the best at accuracy and not soaking my face or making me look like I’ve watched Hachi again.My eyes felt very refreshed after using these when I finished work. Driving home can be such a pain when you have dry and tired eyes so these helped give a bit of life back into them. My eyes felt more refreshed and, well, moist (apologies, I know that word is awful for people).

TheraPearl Eye-ssential Mask

The eye mask is to help with eye hygiene and can be used for the management of blepharitis, conjunctivitis or styes when used warm. I can see this fully helping as when I had a stye I used a hot compress (well, a flannel) on my eye for two evenings in a row and it really helped. Using the mask for cold helps relieve headaches.It’s re-usable and moulds to your face thanks (apparently due to the “pearl technology”).

You can put it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and then put it over your eyes for some instant relief. It’s very soothing I’ll tell you! And it’s very easy to clean if you’re worried about hygiene.You can also pop it into the freezer for around two hours and use it as a cold relief. It’s super handy and easy to use.

Biotrue Daily Eyelid Wipes

The next product are the cleansing wipes. These are a safe and hygienic way to gently clean your eyelids and eyelashes without damaging the delicate tear film. Again this can be used as part of the treatment for blepharitis and cleaning any “crustiness” caused by infections or allergies.To keep everything sterile and from avoiding contamination between the eyes, the wipes are individually wrapped. The wipes don’t contain detergents or preservatives.The wipes are quite refreshing, don’t sting or feel chemically in any way. They do make your eyes feel very slightly sticky, but only briefly. Otherwise they’re great! Find the products from Superdrug or online.

Have you ever had any eye issues?

Do you have a favourite mug? And optimal mug size?

Are you on board with leisurewear?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the eye products for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Not the weekend I wanted

This weekend didn’t fully go as I’d planned but it was still a good one. As is standard for running and me, after doing those ridiculous runs straight after the marathon (the seven miles, then the nine miles off-road in Swindon) my ankle had become slightly swollen and very stiff.

If I’m entirely honest, I felt it start to faintly niggle on the first run… then I continued to run the 3ish miles in Bristol, then the off-road run in Swindon. I mean I really only have myself to blame. Especially straight after the marathon. My body, so delicate and sensitive, was clearly still getting over the marathon and though I felt fine didn’t appreciate jumping back into the mileage so quickly. WHY DON’T I LEARN? WHY DON’T I EVER LEARN??

I tried running on Thursday evening but it just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t painful but just very uncomfortable and stiff. So I stopped – I had nothing to gain to keep going. Finally being sensible! But too little too late. This meant my weekend of running, of which I had parkrun planned and a long run with a friend, was cancelled. Humph.

I still went down to Netley though to volunteer and see everyone as I hadn’t been for ages. It was nice to chat about the marathon and to see the usual crew.It was annoying not to be able to run but I enjoyed cheering everyone on and then being the funnel manager. I’ve never done the funnel manager job before (basically you stand there ensuring that people don’t overtake each other within the funnel so everyone gets their right barcode. You check with the timekeepers and the people handing out the barcode every now and again to make sure the numbers are corresponding). To be honest it’s quite a boring job.

And as more and more people started finishing, cakes started appearing as quite a few people had their milestones that day. I watched with envy as the tins were passed around but I couldn’t leave my post… The run director who saw me looking longingly over took pity on me and said I could go and grab some quickly (he himself had a stack of three so he could hardly stop me if I’m honest ;-))

In the end I had FIVE different bits of cake: half a chocolate cookie, a chocolate brownie bite, a delicious chocolate traybake thing, a chocolate crispy thing and, for a change, a lemon shortbread. I felt quite sick as it started to settle! The run director declare me volunteer of the week for this feat, teehee.

Then I had a tiny bit of bread pudding in the cafe that was going spare. Look, I can’t be trusted around so many different cake options!! I have no self-control.

I’d planned on having breakfast after parkrun and heading to the gym but in the end I obvious didn’t need breakfast and just headed straight there (I was in my gym gear already).Trying to get as much wear out of the t-shirt as possible 😉 Not that anyone at the gym cares at all! I did about 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and then some upper body strength work, such as lateral pull-downs, cable face pulls, lateral raises and rows. I felt very well fuelled!

Later I went to my friends’ house for dinner and a movie night, which was great. They made slow-cooked pulled pork with potato wedges and I brought salad. They’re trying to lose weight (they’ve both done so well so far!) using SlimmingWorld so everything was really healthy and tasty.We attempted to watch a film but in the end we were chatting through it so just gave up and chilled. It was a nice easy evening catching up with good friends. They’re also going to help me host my Divorce Party. Yes, that’s actually going to happen 😀 I’m officially divorced and I think that deserves a bit of cake and a knees-up.

Sunday I was meant to go for a long run with a friend… but this obviously wasn’t the wisest idea. I saw my sports massage friend, Kyle, the day before and he’d loosened things up for me and had done a bit of acupuncture to it so it did feel better but I was advised to give it a day or two.

So after a lazy lie-in I headed to the gym again. I did an hour on the elliptical machine this time, and it felt good to get a sweat on. You might be wondering why I bothered now that I’ve done the marathon…but I have a potential goal coming up and as long as my niggle disappears and I remain uninjured I think I can manage it. But we’ll see. More on that another time.

After that I did some leg strength work, such as goblet squats with a pulse (these BURN), some high rep/low weight Romanian deadlifts (for muscle endurance), some cable glute kickbacks and randomly worked on my bench press. I’m feeling really good about my strength increases in this area. I remember a time when I could barely manage any weight.

Though I didn’t get to run it was a nice chilled weekend where I could catch up with life admin and housework, having spent the last few weekends all about the place. So not a complete loss!

What’s your favourite position to volunteer at parkrun?

What do you do to cross-train when you can’t run?

What did you get up to this weekend?