Not all runs are created equal

Running is a tricky beast. And our bodies are fickle funny things.

You can have an amazing run where you want to go on forever, and then you can have a run where every mile is like dragging your tired bored through porridge. My runs lately have been a mix of this. But such is the nature of running eh!

I won’t lie, speed training has fully taken a back seat. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy going to track when I went but it’s a hassle. I mean I knew it would be but I was happy to make the effort. Now the initial excitement (if that’s the right word for it…) has worn off I’m a bit “meh” to it.

I think this mainly comes down to the fact that I’ve achieved quite a bit this year that I didn’t expect I would (5k, half and marathon PB’s). I’m not one of those people who OMG MUST GET A NEW PB EVERY RACE. Sure it’d be nice but realistically it’s not my driving force. I don’t feel I’ve failed if I don’t get near my PB in a marathon. I mean, I’d be a pretty big failure if that were the case. I just love running and love running marathons. Time is secondary to the enjoyment.

My self-worth and how I feel about running is not hinged on the time on my Garmin. I’m not saying that people are wrong for loving the thrill of PB-seeking each time or for striving to get faster and faster. I just don’t have that drive. I must get boring when people ask what time I’m aiming for in a marathon. My usual response is “3:45ish injury-free”. If I feel good on the day I might go faster. But if I get 3:44 or 3:29 it really doesn’t change how happy I feel at the end.

My gripe with track is that it means leaving work later and then losing an hour where I drive to Southampton, sit in my car for about 10-15 minutes (if I leave work any later I’ll hit traffic, so I have to have this contingency time) and then run the 1.5 miles to track (you have to be warmed up beforehand), do track and run back, drive back and oh hey it’s now 8.30pm and I haven’t had dinner or any evening. I guess there are some people out there that would see this as an obstacle to overcome, a worthwhile sacrifice for the greater good of training, progression and success. I just see it as a way to make me grumpy and hangry so early in the week.

I will still go occasionally but right now I’m doing that thing of choosing stuff that makes me happy rather than makes me dread one day in the week 😉 Life is too short to do shit you don’t enjoy for reasons that aren’t important to you. As well as this, my mate Joe would normally go to track and catching up with him was one of the bonuses for going but he’s currently injured so my motivation is at a real low.

But anywho, I get random bursts of motivation to run faster so I’m sure I’ll get back to it eventually. But right now, I’m just happy that I’m running consistently and injury-free (TOUCH WOOD).

But anyway, my recent runs have been a bit hit and miss. I had a fantastic social run Wednesday evening with my lovely friend Kim where we natter about everything and anything and saw a beautiful sunset on the beach.We ran 5 miles and it was lovely. We bumped into the Stubbington Green Runners doing their evening run which nice – everyone smiling and saying hi.Most of the runs I really enjoy won’t increase my speed and won’t help me beat my PB’s but I always finish smiling and remembering why I love running.

On Friday I ran with the Wiggle guys for the Wiggle Run Out (last Friday of the month we go running, cycling, walking or swimming in the afternoon). I actually lead it for the first time which from the outset yes, did seem a bit dubious. BUT no one died. No one got lost. I see that as a huge success 😉We ran round Farlington Marshes. The weather was great and it was nice to get out of the office for some fresh air and some chat with people I don’t get to see much in the office.But then on Saturday my run was less than stellar. I squeezed my long run in as I had plans on Sunday. I ran 8 miles to Lee-On-Solent parkrun, then parkrun, then four miles home again. And it felt like such a slog.
I mean I guess running 8.5 miles the day before hadn’t helped but jeeeeze it was tough.parkrun did make me laugh though as while we were running I got so confused. I kept looking at my watch and wondering how I’d suddenly gotten a lot slower. My watch said 9:08 but I didn’t feel like I was running at that effort. It felt far too tough for what should ordinarily feel a bit easier for me. And I was getting slower! 9:09 now… what was happening?

And then I realised… I was looking at the time. I have only recently configured my Garmin watch face to show the time as one of the fields as it annoyed me I couldn’t see it when running. Ahh what an idiot. I was actually running 7:45ish.I was happy to negative split and do a sprint finish at the end (such a decent stretch for it at Lee). I didn’t hang around too long as I had places to be so plodded my way home at what felt like such an awful slog. I realise my paces aren’t really a “plod” but it definitely felt that way!And when I finished I felt overwhelming tired. Like I could literally lie down and sleep straight away. I had to have a 45 minute nap later in the day! I imagine it’s because I haven’t really dropped my mileage down since the marathon and I’m still going full steam ahead. I’m on dodgy territory I know and should be cautious.Happily though I felt a lot better the next day after a solid night sleep and phenomenal Sunday lunch. Rest, nutrition and good company definitely help!So good. Roast beef and roast pork (with crackling)… Sunday lunch goals right there.

How’s your running going?

What motivates you?

What’s your favourite roast?

Blogging and me

My blog was offline for a couple of weeks which was beyond frustrating but also very strange.

I’ve written my blog since 2012 and unless I’m on holiday I’m writing at least one blog post a week, but usually two or three depending on what’s going on. I felt a bit lost without having my blog to update. I was also very concerned that the problems I was having with it (a nasty virus) that I would lose everything.

This realisation was actually very upsetting. I’ve documented a lot of what goes on in my life, to some degree, through my blog. Memories of events I’ve done, fun experiences, times with friends and of course the bad times too. There are nuances and tiny details I remember at the time and write about that would probably fade from my mind later. It’s nice to go back over and read old posts. It is very much like a diary.

And I can go back and find gems like this…my very first post-run photo? Mental. Running in leggings and a cotton t-shirt…Of course I don’t write about everything and I do try and keep it positive, but ultimately it is my life and the things that have happened. To lose that would devastate me. So lessons have certainly be learnt. And big ‘thank you’s to the support I had from different lovely people to get it back online and working again. I’m beyond grateful. I just need to go back through some posts to add photos that were lost during the fix but that shouldn’t be too hard.

It’s also highly annoying that my blog went down at a time when I had a lot going on and a lot I wanted to talk about. Doing well in my Alphabet Challenge, doing races, doing fun things with cool people. Maybe I will recap everything that I would have ordinarily done. At the time I generally take little notes of things going on to remind myself when it comes to writing later so I don’t forget things and I have written some posts already (I’m too used to writing to stop now and I knew my blog would eventually be back, in some shape or form). But we’ll see. I don’t want to get boring with “a few weeks ago I did…”.

I know blogging is probably a dying form. I know realistically we live in the world of fast, quick information in the shape of Instagram, Snap Chat and Twitter but there really is something so cathartic to me about writing more than a quirky one liner or paragraph about something. I love writing and I don’t get to do it enough in my life. As I’ve always said, I’d still write even if no one read it. So if I waffle and meander, apologies, it’s just nice to be back.

Did you ever write a diary?

Do you enjoy writing?

Do you love your body?

I was talking to my friend recently about how happy we felt with ourselves. Mainly how we felt with our own body. The question “if we could change on thing, what would it be?” was asked.

Now I’m not an arrogant person. I’m also not a massively confident person either. However, I genuinely didn’t want to change anything. I know for a fact had that question been asked to me ten years ago I’d have said “urghh I just hate my legs”. Now this is ridiculous. My legs, certainly 10 years ago, were tiny. I mean, if anything looking back at photos of me back then I’d say I needed them to be bigger – more muscles required.They look like sticks to me. Now I look at my legs, knowing full well I wouldn’t be able to get them into jeans I wore back then, and I’m super happy. Those legs have done me well. Fast running, strong running, marathon after marathon. I’m no Victoria’s Secret model but they’re alright. I like the way they look, I like they way they run.

Crucially I look at my body as a sum of its parts, not individual parts in isolation. My legs make sense for my body, my boobs make sense for my size (as much as I’d love to have a bit more going on…), my bum is shapely with just enough squish to it, my hair helps make my so-so face a bit more interesting… I’m being a bit tongue and cheek here, but I see myself as a package. I’m happy.

Of course I’m not 100% happy with my body on a daily basis. No one honestly is. I might wake up a bit bloated from a terribly delicious but terribly large dinner. I might have a few spots breaking out on my chin. Shit happens. I put it into perspective though. No I haven’t gained 5 pounds over night. Those spots will go away eventually. Your body is not a static thing. It changes. You have days you look tip top, and days you think you need to crawl back to bed and not “bless” the world with your appearance. I have days when I feel at the upper end of my normal weight and I might not eat as much cake during that week, but then some days I don’t give it a second thought.

I like my lifestyle right now and I like the way my body performs (100% healthy, doing everything it should be as a female and a human). I’m running faster than I ever have. I’m running more miles per week than I ever have before. I’m consistent. I’m less injury-prone. And I enjoy eating a balanced diet of 70-80% healthy and 20-30% like a child at a birthday party buffet. My 70-80% healthy is all good food I enjoy, and lots of it. I don’t track, I don’t measure, I don’t stop myself eating anything. But I do try and eat lots of vegetables, not too many refined sugars and good protein, fats and carbs. I might hit 30 and suddenly my balance might be off, but right now it works for me.I’m not bragging. I don’t think I’m perfect – I’m obviously not. But I am happy. I feel very much at peace with myself and my lifestyle. Long gone are the days I’d hone in on my flaws and worry about them. Life is too short. There are far more important things in life. I don’t want to change any individual feature because I wouldn’t be me otherwise. Flaws and imperfections, they are just life. I won’t compromise my happiness worrying about them.

What do you think about your body?

Do you have anything you’d like to change?

Do you have a good balance with food and exercise?

Collecting things

When I grew up I loved collecting things.

I would be the girl with 10 Tamagotchis. I had more pogs than I knew what to do with. I loved those rubber wrist bands (especially the ones filled with sparkly liquid). I had the Pokemon cards. Spice Girl photos. Gel pens. You name it, I collected it.

As I grew up (have I grown up? I don’t think so…), I stopped collecting things as much in that kind of childhood sense, but I still did things that allowed me to get my kick as a teenager. I played on game consoles and the computer, leveling up and collecting special items. Oh man I was a cool kid.

But then since going to university and then starting a Big Person Job though you just don’t do that sort of thing anymore really. No time, no space, no money. Oh hey adult life.

Then I started running. And my passion for collecting began once again. Races…medals…experiences. I’m not a race fanatic but I do enjoy doing different races about the place – enjoying new areas, seeing different places, meeting new people, getting a nice medal. It’s all good fun. I tend to dislike doing the same races over and over (though some are clearly worth it, hello Romsey Beer and Cake Race) because I like doing different ones. Collecting new ones, if you like.And marathons. Ahh marathons. Doing the Marathon Majors is collecting game for me. It’s a long game, don’t get me wrong, but ticking each one of the list is just something that I love to do. I don’t necessarily care about the times I get or if I break my PB. Nope. I just want to collect each medal and earn my bigger Six Star Medal at the end.And alongside that I’ve been trying to complete different parkrun challenges… get to 50, get to 100, get to 150, now get 20 different ones, now get all the letters of the alphabet, get to 200…250… tick off all the local ones, the Brighton ones, the Bristol ones, the Birmingham ones. Ahh call me a loser, call me a weirdo, but I so enjoy this kind of thing.

Most importantly, it keeps me motivated to run – and with that to be healthy and uninjured, work hard at the gym, take rest seriously, eat a balanced diet. It keeps me mentally healthy as well to not focus on smashing myself at every parkrun or race. It’s been a long while since I’ve felt disappointed about a parkun time. I remember when I first started running and every race I had to beat my last time, every parkrun had to be faster  – and if not, why not? Could I justify why I’d run so slowly? It really ground me down.

But now I’m happy to plod along, get my barcode scanned and add another one to my list. I see progress in a different way. Yes of course I want PB’s and fast times (damnit I want that sub-20 parkrun!) but it’s not everything for me. It’s not why I put my trainers on. Yes maybe this has been somewhat to my detriment when I’m not making “omg amazing” gains in my speed and I’m still no faster than I was when I started but I’m 100% happier with where I am, both body and mind.

I’ll make my progress in the ways that I enjoy. Alongside that I’ll pepper it with the occasional “hard goal” of a certain time but it won’t break my spirit if it doesn’t happen right away (or at all!), because along the way I’ll have other fun goals to tick off as I go that really only mean something to me.

And I’ve found as an adult you can still collect things. Don’t even get me started on my new found love of geocaching… ;-PDo you collect anything?

Why do you run?

Have you ever done geocaching? I’ve just gotten into it and I quite enjoy hunting around and trying to find different ones – the app is great!

Things I’m loving lately – February/March

I’m sure I write the same thing every year but it’s so nice to be getting into spring. The lighter evenings and mornings… ahh bliss (well, when it isn’t snowing of course).

Bodum Coffee flask: I get up ridiculously early for the gym as you may be aware. It’s actually not that bad anymore. I genuinly enjoy my super early mornings and going to the gym. It’s part of my routine. I’m verrrry routine based and it just fits nicely. I’m an early bird and get decent sleep so it’s only the initial alarm going off that is tough and then I’m awake and raring to go.One of the things I look forward to is my coffee in the car on the way to the gym. While I take Alfie for a walk (in ALL the layers) I’ve put my coffee on and it’s ready by the time I get back. I take it with me on the drive (I use a straw so it’s easier/safer to drink whilst driving) and it’s just bliss. Especially when it’s super cold. The coffee flask I use is a Bodum Vacuum Travel Mug. It is perfect. It’s never leaked or spilt (even when I fill it to the top) and it doesn’t burn my hand to hold while keeping my coffee super hot.

R8 Roller: This isn’t mine. I’ve stolen borrowed it off a friend after Marathon Talk Run Camp.I would buy one myself but it’s from the States so there’s a high shipping cost added on to the actual cost of the product, making it well over £100. I’ve been wanting to try one of these for ages and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s fantastic for your quads and hamstring. Though it’s a bit more awkward on the calf because it also rolls the shin which is a little painful and the glutes are super awkward to do (I’ll stick to my tennis ball). But it’s SO good in terms of pressure and hitting trigger points. Love this.

Lava-Activ Hydration BeltI was sent this hydration belt to test out and review. It’s similar to a hydration belt I’ve used before and got on well. The only annoyance about my previous belt is that the bottles are TINY. During the summer I’d have to top them up mid-way through my long run at my “dodgy tap”. These (BPA-free!) bottles however are a bit bigger (2x 300ml), which is so much better.The belt sat nicely on my hips, didn’t chafe and didn’t bounce. The pocket  is big enough for a few gels, coins and keys or your phone (apparently iPhoner 8’s are fine). It’s not a massive pocket but it’s big enough for what you need!  There’s handily also a pocket divider to prevent items from rubbing against each other. There are also clips to attach a bib, but I’m not a huge fan of doing this.You can wear it either way I think, but I prefer the bottles at the back than the front. It’s predominately black, but the stripe on the pocket comes in three colours (orange, blue or green). You can buy the belt on Amazon.

Cake: OK two things about cake. Firstly, I had the most amazing cake a couple of weekends ago and it ROCKED my world.It was salted caramel flavour and it was divine. The icing was deliciously sticky. Ahhh to have that cake again…

And in other cake news… I’ve won one on Instagram!! I follow the very lovely Nicki Chan-Lam (@Nickichanlam on Instagram) who has a ridiculously huge appetite! And coming from me, that’s big. She posted a competition about a cake giveaway from the amazing bakery Whisk and Drizzle in London and my comment won! I mentioned that it was my mum’s 60th birthday in May. So I win a a Whisk and Drizzle cake which I can pick up when I’m in London (for my mum’s birthday). AMAZING AMAZING. Could I be any more excited?? (said in Chandler’s voice).

Cinema trips: I went to the cinema twice last week. I took my mum to see Finding Your Feet for a Mother’s Day (but not on Mother’s Day as I wasn’t there) treat and she loved it. I mean, it ticked all her boxes of what she loves in a film so I was super pleased she enjoyed it. I enjoyed the night, but the film wasn’t really my kind of thing. I feel for my dad really as that film will probably now be on repeat for the rest of his life. That along with Bridget Jones’ Diary and Mama Mia!

The second cinema trip was with my running friend Joe. Bless him, he cooked me a hearty sausage casserole and then we headed to the very fancy Showcase cinema in Southampton. WITH RECLINING LEATHER CHAIRS. It was epically comfortable. We saw Shape of Water which was so good. It was very dream-like and gentle…you had to let yourself get swept along with it. It was very romantic and I just loved it.

Alfie: And because Alfie hasn’t been featured on the blog in a while, here he is in all his cutness.My heart just melts.

Running: I completely forgot to mention this in my last post, but when I was at the Walsall Arboretum parkrun on Saturday I noticed a woman signing the run director’s instructions. How good is that! I’ve never seen that before but I thought it was such a fantastic idea. Typical parkrun eh being so inclusive and thoughtful 😉

And this weekend is the Reading Half Marathon! I’m quite excited (despite hearing horrible rumours about how cold it’s going to be…please no more snow).I won’t be going for a PB as I’m not in that shape but I will give it a good go I think. I’m in a good place with my running, no niggles (EVERYONE TOUCH WOOD PLEASE) and I feel strong. It’ll be nice to see where I’m at in terms of putting some faster paces on for a long run. We shall see…

What are you loving lately?

Have you been to the cinema recently?

Do you foam roll?

**Full Disclosure: I was sent the belt for free in exchange for a post on Instagram. All opinions are my own honest ones.**