Posted by: fitartist | August 26, 2016

South Coast Path Run

I like listening to the Marathon Talk podcast. I think the idea is that you listen to it on your long run, but I go ‘pah!’ to that and listen to it on the turbo trainer, get me! I was very inspired by Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home and did a little dance when I realised that it would coincide with our trip to Cornwall. Martin’s goal was epic: to raise money for three charities by running 630 miles over 21 days. This in itself is an incredible challenge, but the path is rough, narrow in places and very, very hilly. I followed Martin’s progress before we set off towards Fowey and looked on as he battled the heat, the rain, the terrain and the subsequent pain.

We were due to arrive in Cornwall the day he ran the section nearest where we were staying, so I planned to head over to the next stage on the Sunday morning. Sadly, Martin succumbed to injury and took an enforced ‘rest’ day that day. I had really looked forward to this run, so decided to cover the ten miles I had planned near our house, so Fowey out towards the west and back. It was stunning, but I soon appreciated what Martin must have been going through in the days before. First up, I found myself in a field of maize (it’s easy right? You just go along the edge of the sea and you can’t get lost?!).

Maize maze

Maize maze

Picking my way through, I was soon on a romantically named road and back in the right direction…

Love

Love

At this point it was raining and I went thump on my bum, with a loud ‘oof!’, yes, this path is really, really challenging! The thing about this kind of running is that you are so focused on the path ahead and keeping your footing, that you almost forget to look up and enjoy the view (perfect excuse to pause and get your breath back).

The view

The view

There were steep hills to conquer, with interesting structures to aim towards…

Look-out

Look-out

There were steps to scramble (imagine doing this in a 20 mile+ day, never mind on a leisurely 10-miler!).

Steep!

Steep!

I didn’t see many people, but those I did see gave me a jolly ‘Good morning!’ and one chap, who was CYCLING along the path (!), stopped to have a chat. This was not London. Every so often, I would find myself in a cove, just me and the water lapping around me. This one was the inspiration for Daphne de Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, giving it an eerie and romantic air.

Menabilly

Menabilly

As I went on, the weather changed and I was getting gradually wetter and wetter, but this felt lovely. The air smelt delicious, the cows lapped up the grass and the structures I had seen on my outward journey slowly disappeared…

Nearly.

Nearly.

I returned to the house, where people had eventually emerged from their bedrooms, feeling refreshed, invigorated and recharged. Martin went on to complete a few more legs of his run, helped along the way by runners who, like me, had wanted to share the experience. His injury put his own running on hold and others took charge of the tracker, to complete the Long Run Home, reaching his fundraising goal along the way. After a few more runs along this path, my ankles ached, my glutes ached and my cheeks ached from all the smiling. Holiday running is just wonderful!

Posted by: fitartist | August 25, 2016

Ion8 Sports Water Bottle – No Leaks!

At last, a drinks bottle that doesn’t leak!! I had been complaining about constantly ending up with wet stuff in my bag (and even getting a wet back one day), after going through a series of water bottles that promised to be leak-free, only to find they clearly weren’t. Thankfully Cathy at JogBlog saw my plea for recommendations and forwarded me details of a bottle that looked like it would do the trick.

I was a bit cynical when I was sent the Ion8 Sports Water Bottle to test and carefully propped it upright in my kit bag, worrying that my books and notes might end up soggy by the end of my journey. The number of bottles I’ve been through is getting into double figures, as they work brilliantly for a few days, then start to leak everywhere without fail. I’ve tried pop-up tops, twisty tops, screw tops and flip tops and now have a cupboard full of them. This bottle is different though and uses a combination of a removable lid, with a button and a clasp, double locking!

Watertight

No leaks!

I’ve tested the bottle thoroughly, with a family holiday in Cornwall, so it’s been on trains, to the beach and upside down in my rucksack…and it really hasn’t leaked! After almost giving up on ever being fully hydrated on journeys, this is a revelation! It comes in three colours (I have the pink and feel like some sort of water-drinking professional when I get it out on the tube) and has a nice rubber grip. This is what the manufacturers have to say about the bottle:

‘When closed, hypoallergenic silicon seals the spout and vent completely, and keeping it sealed, clean and hygienic. The bottle can be opened with one hand by using its spring loaded flip top. To prevent accidental opening when carrying in a bag, ion8 has a lid lock. While many rigid bottles are painfully slow to drink from, the ion8 has a vented, smooth liquid flow, providing effortless hydration. There is no annoying screw top and no tough nozzle.

A wide opening also allows refilling without spillage, and is big enough for ice cubes or even chunks of fruit for a healthy, subtle hint of flavour.’

It’s also free from nasties:

‘Ion8 is made from BPA Free, phthalate free, non-toxic TRITAN by Eastman. Tritan® is highly resistant to odours, can be easily cleaned and is dishwasher safe.’

Ooh, I didn’t know that about the dishwasher, great (I was avoiding putting plastic bottles in the dishwasher, having melted one previously).

If you fancy having something reliable and nice to use, then I’d recommend the Ion8, I’m now a non-leaky believer😉

Posted by: fitartist | August 10, 2016

The Primal Pantry Paleo Protein Bars

Yum!

I’ve tried bars from The Primal Pantry range before and really enjoyed them. I find them quite satisfying and filling, which is unusual because I often find myself reaching for the ‘snack box’ not long after eating the usual cereal bars. I was happy to be sent some of these to taste test and put them to very good use in the past few weeks, with my various epic events that needed both fuelling and refuelling (more on that in another post).

Paleo Bars

Paleo Bars

These two new protein bars in the range claim to be the ‘cleanest’ bars around (meaning they are made without any additives, preservatives, flavourings or colourants); they are also grain free, dairy free and gluten free. Even so, they are not short on flavour! I would say, having tried the other bars by The Primal Pantry, these are the tastiest yet, with the Cocoa Orange being a personal favourite, so orangey! I am hoping they might bring out a mint-choc flavour, now that would be delicious!

When should you use this bar in your training? I would say this is great post-activity, with both protein and carbohydrates to aid recovery. I have also used the bars (cut into neat little bite-size chunks) on a long bike ride though, finding they give a great energy-boost (and they gave me something to look forward to!). Try them for yourself, from health food shops and larger supermarkets, for £1.99.

Posted by: fitartist | July 11, 2016

I am a Half-Ironman!

(or rather woman)

Yes, I did it! Like last year, when I requested an Olympic Distance Triathlon for my birthday, I found myself in Norfolk last weekend, ‘enjoying’ my half-iron birthday treat. We picked up Hector from school on the Friday afternoon, filled a hire car with camping gear and my bike and headed off towards Holkham. It was very exciting as we drove through the area, spotting arrows and signs – we were on the bike course! Driving up into Holkham Estate, we were directed towards our patch of land and set to putting up our tent…we were very lucky at this point, getting the thing up just before there was a very sudden downpour…followed by beautiful double rainbows.

Our spot

Our spot

We had thought of staying in a cottage, but it seemed to make perfect sense to be right there on site, with just a stroll down to registration, transition and the briefing on the Saturday. Hector enjoyed the lovely playground with Edward while I picked up my number and stickers, racked my bike and listened very carefully to the quite entertaining pre-race briefing. It was interesting – and reassuring – to hear how much care is taken in testing the water before committing to holding an event. Apparently the lake we were to swim in was very clean and, due to be under-fished, we might see some very big fish on our swim. Eek! At this point, Edward had to nip off to take part in the 10k that had been organised (alongside a 2.5k race) in addition to the triathlon, so Hector joined me at the briefing, ‘Boring!’ Edward did really well in his first 10k in years, finishing just outside the top ten and getting himself a PB on a tough course.

Post-race (non-alcoholic) beer!

Post-race (non-alcoholic) beer!

The rest of our day was spent on the beach, enjoying the dunes, trekking to the water, dodging incredible thunder storms (by huddling under our picnic blanket) and burying a child. Of course.

Has to be done.

Has to be done.

We were also trying to keep in touch with our friends Siggy and Stephen, who had persuaded me to do this thing in the first place. Staying in a tent in a rural area leads to flat batteries and no signal, so slightly snatched conversations! We explored the tiny little shopping street at Wells-Next-the-Sea, picking up a new bucket and spade and marvelling at the superbly stocked sweetie shop.

If you have followed my blog regularly, you know that I try hard to find the right fuel in the run up to a race and also during the event itself, trying my best to avoid cramping and stomach issues. I hadn’t really thought ahead to my pre-race dinner and, as we were travelling light, we decided to go out to eat. Following the snaking line of thriathletes, we were led to the most wonderful fish and chip shop, where I shared this with Hector:

Top fuel.

Top fuel.

Ahem.

A relaxed evening was spent lounging around in our pyjamas, the boys drawing and me frantically rereading Chrissie Wellington’s excellent autobiography for inspiration (it never fails to inspire). I was anxious to get to sleep early as I had an early start. Hmmm, I did get to sleep fairly early, but found myself awake at 1am, then pretty much every hour after until I decided to just get up at 5am and traipse to the loo. Amazingly, I managed to get dressed, faff about, make porridge and tea on the stove, faff some more and leave without disturbing the boys. I was very nervous.

I had had difficulty finding my transition spot the day before and still took some time working out where my stuff was (and it was obviously now full of gear and people!). I laid out my belongings, doing a little run-through in my head, making sure everything was in order. I then spotted Siggy and Stephen, so had a little nervous hug and excited chat about what they’d got us into. Time ticked away quite quickly, so I decided to put my wetsuit on and put my very stylish Orla Kiely Tesco shopping bag in the baggage area with all the posh tri-bags. Time to leave transition and wait by the water.

Big nerves.

This is the point where I really start to panic. The water looked calm and I knew it wasn’t terribly deep (in fact we were able to stand at first), so this reassured me, but I looked around nervously at the other women in my wave (about 250 of them) and listened carefully as we were given some last-minute instructions. More hugs and we were heading down the ramp. The water was pleasant, but I still had that seeping-in-through-the-zip moment and wasn’t sure if I liked the feeling of my toes – and then my legs – sinking into the deep, blancmange-like silt! I kept back and to the side, allowing other, more confident women to move forward. A countdown and some cheering and we were off! I had given myself a good talking to in the previous days, telling myself to stop being such an utter wuss and not doing breaststroke for the whole thing. I did breaststroke. I looked to the side, where people were walking along the river bank, calling encouragement to their athletes. I smiled at marshals, who asked if I was OK. I noticed another woman turning around and going back after just a few hundred meters and I watched as pretty much everyone else peeled away in a surge of strong, front-crawling arms and legs.

Gradually, I put my chin in the water, gently blowing bubbles to regulate my breathing. I looked ahead and wondered where the island was. I chatted to some more marshals (a sure sign that your swim isn’t going as planned) and I avoided the fallen tree that bent over the water (and apparently looks like a crocodile if you have your face in the water, which I didn’t). I approached the island and swum round it, head up. I turned and looked hard to see how many buoys were left. I kicked my legs a little harder as I saw the last wave (of men) coming though now and hoped they didn’t catch me up and push me under. This, for some reason, gave me enough incentive to try front crawl. Here, I glided easily, overtaking, reaching buoys quickly. I ticked swimmers off then had another brief panic, going back to breaststroke and getting overtaken again. Men caught up but didn’t duck me. I tried again, thinking I could see the finish, where we were due to climb out – surely not?! I saw Siggy, I had caught her up! Overtaking, I shouted ‘Go Siggy!’ and made my way towards the last buoy, where we would make a sharp turn left. Me and all the other swimmers now crowding the area. The water became unsteady, a wave hitting me in the face and going down my throat. I choked and tried hard to breathe, a kind woman ahead calling out to see if I was OK. I was, I was just freaking out.

What a relief to be pulled out and to make my way up the ramp, undoing my zip and peeling off my wetsuit. Transition. Time to put on my cycle kit. Off I went, happy now. In the briefing we were told to have our bikes in the right gear for a hill start, I pedalled on. We rode up a long, straight road, a beautiful start to a bike leg and out through the gates of the estate. These were open roads, so we had to ride carefully, looking out for other road users. Junctions were marshalled and some had cones to guide us away from busy traffic. I had put two drinks bottles on my bike and had also invested in a little bento bag for my cross bar. Once I had settled in to the ride, I took a few gulps and a salt tablet (I wasn’t going to be beaten by cramp this time). The organisation of this event was excellent, the attention to detail impressive. I really appreciated the bright orange spray that had marked any potholes and drains, making it so much easier to just ride! We soon encountered our first hill, where I overtook a fair few people. One man, who I went on to meet at every hill, commented that these hills were hard work – he should try the North Downs sometime! Here I realised that all the hours spent on the turbo trainer had made up for any lack of actual road riding and I felt comfortable, strong and happy. I nibbled on chunks of bars that I had carefully wrapped in foil, guzzling drinks to wash them down (I need to work on this skill).

The first part of the ride was gorgeous, through quiet villages, on more or less empty roads and with little to challenge us. Later though, we were directed towards an A-road, where I put my head down and pedalled hard; I didn’t like this bit. The road was busy and fast and I had a little scream as two motorbikes sped past at top speed. Feeling a bit shaken by this and the bit of a traffic jam that we met at a junction, I pulled over at the next aid station to compose myself and have a chat with the lovely marshals. On your race number is your name so, as I pulled away, the team of people shouted ‘Go Adele!’, giving me a little boost to pick up the pace and catch up with anyone who had overtaken me on my break. This last bit went quickly and we were very soon turning the incredibly sharp bend that would take us back towards the hall. I was pedalling fast, feeling that I might make good time on the bike, but suddenly felt something hit my leg, ‘What’s that?!’ My bottle cage had come loose (I had been wondering what that rattling noise was!) and was falling off. Quickly, I jumped off and decided to just tighten it enough with my finger to get back to transition, fiddly! Back on I jumped and tried to catch up again. Along the long, long road and down the hill to transition where I attempted to find my space again. Off with the helmet, on with the running shoes and off in the wrong direction towards bike out. Doh. Eventually I found the way out and was greeted by a great big cheer of ‘Go Adele/Mum!’ and got myself a lovely big hug from the boys.

By now it was getting hotter. The hill that I had ridden with ease and enthusiasm was steep and long on the run, with tired legs and numb toes. The half-marathon was a three-lap run, taking on this hill three times. I ran the first lap, slow and steady, determined not to walk. I took some liquids at the feed station, feeling boosted for the lovely section under the shade of the trees, towards our campsite. At the lap marker, we were given wristbands to wear, signifying how many laps we had done (what a great idea!). I ignored the finish funnel to my right and kept going towards the feed station, where I sucked on a gel, urgh! The long road stretched ahead and I found myself slowing down to a walk. I wish I hadn’t, I wish I had kept a steady but slower pace, but I had done it now and felt like I had given myself permission to stroll and chat! I ran chunks of it ‘To the drinks’, ‘To the gate’, ‘To that marshal’, but walked great chunks too. Lap three and I saw numerous athletes pushing their bikes out of transition, medals around their necks. Keep going! Another gloopy gel, yuck and a loo stop!

Only one more lap to go and I would be a half-ironman! The long road stretched out in front and I walked again, but heard a familiar foot-fall behind me, it was Siggy! ‘Come on Adele’, she said, ‘We’re going to do this!’ ‘I’ve had enough Siggy’, ‘Come on!’ On we went, jogging steadily to the next drinks station, the last. Siggy chatted constantly, keeping me going, distracting me. My knee hurt, but I didn’t want to moan because she was so upbeat! We made it through the trees and out to where the tents were, people sitting in deckchairs, cheering, encouraging. Only a few hundred meters to go! We saw Stephen, who had finished a while before us and turned to run up the red carpet! The tape was out, like we were the winners and we held hands to cross the line, hands in the air! We had talked about doing this, but didn’t really imagine we would finish at the same time. Medals were put around our necks and Stephen was there to meet us. I had a little cry, then pulled myself together to hug Siggy and thank her for getting me round the run. It turned out Edward and Hector were at the beach (!) so we went into the food tent and tried to force down some of the delicious food on offer, along with a couple of pints of alcohol-free Erdinger (I love that stuff!). We debriefed, sharing our highs and lows and were soon joined by the boys, who gave us lots of cheers and high-fives🙂

Half-Ironman

Half-Ironman

I’m not sure if I will do this race again next year, but only because I like to try different events. It was brilliantly organised, one of the best I’ve been to, with great attention to detail, incredibly friendly marshals, who seemed to appear just as you needed them to point you in the right direction. The venue and course were beautiful, the on-site camping was spot-on and I would heartily recommend this race the anyone thinking of giving it a go. What next? I’m not sure yet, but not an Ironman, stop asking me that question, people!

Posted by: fitartist | June 15, 2016

CapitalTri Splash and Dash 2016

I have a *little* race coming round very, very quickly and I am starting to panic slightly. I have only been on one big bike ride (though I have done lots of turbo training in the stuffy confines comfort of my own room), lots of swimming, but not the open-water variety and plenty of running, but nowhere near half-marathon distance. Eek! Regular readers will know that I am a strong swimmer, not especially fast, but strong but, when I venture into the open-water environment, all that work on technique flies out of the window and I become a jibbering (ship) wreck. I definitely need to get more cold water practice in before my half-ironman in just under three weeks’ time, so I decided to enter my first aquathlon at the weekend.

I’ve done triathlon (sprint and olympic) and duathlon, but never an aquathlon. I had a little ponder beforehand about what I should wear: the reservoir swim would need a wetsuit, but then I would be running and, as I didn’t really need the padded trisuit, what would be the best outfit for this event? I then looked at Sunday morning transport and realised that the only way I could get there for the 7:55 start was to cycle, so padded trisuit it was. I looked at my Citymapper app, I looked at GoogleMaps and they both had me cycling in to town from South East London, over Tower Bridge and up Kingsland Road. So I totally ignored this and went towards the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and up through the Isle of Dogs. I know a bit of this area (mostly from running/supporting at the London Marathon), but I get a little lost beyond the, erm, top bit of the river. Mr GoogleMaps was shouting from my pocket every so often: ‘Take a right turn towards the Blackwall Tunnel Approach!’ ‘Bugger off!’ I shouted back as I pedalled really fast along a horribly busy road.

After a while, I decided to step away from the main road and wend my way towards Mile End Park and work it out from there. Time was ticking away. The sky was turning grey. I was getting a bit stressed. When you are someone who experiences panic in a water-based race, a calm journey is vital, so this was not the best preparation for jumping into a dark pool. Through Hackney I whizzed, down Dalston I dashed and up towards Stoke Newington I rushed. I knew I wasn’t going to make it on time though, so wasn’t entirely sure I’d be taking part! At 7:53 I skidded up to the entrance to West Reservoir and asked a man in hi-viz if I was too late, he very kindly said: ‘Don’t worry, we can probably put you in the next wave’. What a lovely man! I calmed down, took a deep breath and locked my bike up, before heading in to register.

West Reservoir

West Reservoir

After I had picked up my number, swimming cap and timing chip I went outside to have a look at what I’d got myself into. My (original) wave was about to start and I looked on as people jumped in, yes, jumped in. I’m not a jumper inner. I hate jumping in. First pang of nerves. I decided to find the loo and get myself ready. The facilities here are great, there’s a cafe (though I didn’t make use of this, so can’t vouch for its niceness), plenty of loos and there are even hot showers (none of this ‘You’re swimming in cold water, toughen up!’ nonsense here). In the changing room, I got chatting to another swim/runner, who was also a bit nervous and it turned out she had been here before and had lots of good things to say about the experience. Now to find somewhere to store my stuff. Most lockers were locked, but some were open, but with stuff in them, so I ended up just leaving my bag in the changing room, reasoning that these were nice people who wouldn’t be interested in nicking my purse, my phone, my warm clothing and my bike lock key. Gulp. More lockers or a bag store please!

Time to go! There was a very relaxed pre-race briefing by the nice man I had met when I arrived, then it was down to the jump-in jetty. At the end of the jetty was a very jolly woman with a big camera, saying ‘Now, do your most dramatic jump in for me, go on!’ Nope. I’ll just sit here and dangle my feet in thanks, then slowly schlumph in in my own time. Thank you very much. The water was lovely, really pleasant and I didn’t gasp once – this didn’t mean I had any plans to put my face in just yet though. The sky was getting greyer and the water stretching out in front of me seemed even darker. Aaaaahnd, off we went! As always, I let the big men get over themselves and splash off into the distance, before I did a little timid breaststroke towards the first buoy. The lap at West Reservoir is 750m, so I would be swimming two laps, for now though, I would just get to the first buoy.

Not long ago I did the 5km Swimathon at the London Aquatics Centre, I trained hard, working on my technique and really powered along with a strong front crawl. Here I was doing a feeble breaststroke as others peeled away confidently. I really do need to sort my head out about this😦 ‘OK’, I thought ‘I’ll try a little front crawl now’. ‘Oooh, no! It’s dark and cold!’, back to breaststroke. Jeez, I make it into a big old ordeal for myself, I even got a bit bored at one point. Lap one done and another to go. ‘Right, I’ll definitely do front crawl now!’ and yes, I did for a bit, overtaking people, sighting really well, reaching the buoy quickly and efficiently, then back to breaststroke and slowly pootling along again.

As I neared the end of my second lap, I saw something dark splashing about in the water, a leg or arm reaching upwards. I wondered why the marshal wasn’t acting on this and going to this person’s aid. As I got nearer I could see clearly that this was not a wetsuit-clad limb, but a bloody great big black fish leaping in and out of the water! You should have seen me move! Woo-hoo! Sharks! I watched with interest as those ahead of me negotiated the water exit and wondered what the score was, would there be a shallow bit to stand up in, would there be a grippy mat thing? No, there was a wooden ramp with green slime on it, so I oh so elegantly schlumphed back out and attempted to stand up as cramp set in. There’s probably a photo.

Into transition, which was soggy and grey, it had been raining while I was in the water and I hadn’t noticed. I peeled off my wetsuit and wrestled with my damp socks and running shoes, not really managing to adjust my elasticated laces properly, which made for some really uncomfortable numb-toe running as time went on. Finger on my Garmin, I looked around for the run-start timing mat, but there wasn’t one, the mat was in the entrance to transition, so all that faffing about had counted towards my run! Damn it! The 10k run was an eight lap course around the reservoir. This was on grass, with a narrow groove carved out by earlier runners. It skirted a river to one side and was overlooked by new developments and a path frequented by dog walkers and runners, what a lovely place to live! The field was small in this race and, as I had started in one of the last waves (and made such a pig’s ear of the swim), I often felt like I was on my own. Now, I like this, I enjoy being able to concentrate and just focus on my form, so this suited me. Even though there were eight laps to keep track of, I managed to do so – though I was doubtful after a friendly chap spoke to me on the fourth lap and I briefly lost concentration! A few more laps – each one with a little smile and nod to the photographer – and it was time to head to the finish and a banana, a bottle of water and a Topic, yes a Topic, nice!

I gathered my wet things from transition, chatted to a man who was training for an Ironman in Bolton, thanked the marshal who gave me encouragement every time I passed him and went to grab my stuff to go home. I’d quite like to do one of these events again, now I know how to get there😉 I might enter a shorter distance though and see if I can speed up a bit. Now to look forward and build myself up for Holkham Half-Ironman, it’s not going to be easy, but it will be so much nicer if I can get on with the swim and do front crawl!

Aquathlete!

Aquathlete!

Posted by: fitartist | June 10, 2016

Foodie Round-Up

I’ve been trying out a couple of new fuel and hydration products and though it might be good to pair them up and see how they can work together for a post-run/activity refuel/rehydrate option. First is DRINKMaple, which is a drink tapped from maple trees in Vermont. The website tells us that DRINKMaple is packed with nutrients and gives a refreshing low-calorie, gluten-free, dairy-free drink. You can read about the nutritional value here.

DRINKMaple

DRINKMaple

So what does it taste like? Well, erm, sugary water really. If you like sugary water, then great, but I prefer my water unsweet(ened) so, to gain the nutritional benefits, I added mine to a smoothie, with frozen berries, banana and a bit of almond milk.

Sweeeeet!

Sweeeeet!

That looks a bit more exciting doesn’t it?

To accompany my Super Maple-Berry Smoothie, I toasted a Dr Zak’s high protein cinnamon and raisin bagel. I’ve tested a few Dr Zak’s products before and found them tasty and filling, so these bagels are a nice addition. I buttered mine and added a little honey, which is just fine if you’ve run ten miles and pounded out an hour on the turbo trainer (more on my current training later in the week).

Refuel

Refuel

The bagels are tasty and they do fill you up for longer, but the most valuable feature is the high protein count, which is exactly what you need after a tough session.

Posted by: fitartist | May 9, 2016

Running, Swimming, Cycling.

Not long ago, someone referred to FitArtist as a ‘swimming blog’. I thought this was interesting, since it started out ten years ago (yes, it’s our tenth birthday this year!!) as a way of logging my training for the Edinburgh Marathon, my first. It certainly helped keep me motivated, knowing I would be posting my training and also because I quickly built up so much support from fellow runners and bloggers. I shouldn’t be surprised that people might think it’s a swimming blog, having swum very many miles over those ten years (including throughout my pregnancy, right into ‘extra time’). Since I started logging my runs, I have run two more marathons, numerous half-marathons, 10ks, 5ks, parkruns (and I’m also Run Director at my local, Hilly Fields parkrun and junior parkrun) and now triathlons and duathlons. That’s a lot of running, swimming and cycling!

Just recently, my running has been plodding along slowly. A few months ago I signed up to the Hackney Half Marathon and have been training towards pacing 2 hours, in my role as trainer at GoodGym. A few weeks ago though, I developed a cough which wouldn’t go away, which resolutely ignored the two rounds of antibiotics I was given and sent me to my local hospital for a chest x-ray. I kept telling myself I would be fine, it would go away and I would be there, pacing hopeful runners to their 2-hour PB. Last week though, I saw sense and took my own advice for once and withdrew from the race. Did you see the weather yesterday?! I made the right decision.

Being a runner is hard work, being an asthmatic runner is sometimes even harder work. What starts as a cold develops into a cough, which lingers, putting pressure on you to slow down but, if like me you keep on at it, you end up feeling rougher for longer and regretting not taking a break in the first place! I learnt a lesson.

I’m so impressed with anyone who got out there yesterday in that heat, after a few very cold weeks of final training and taper, the temperatures soared and saw people postponing ideas of a PB and taking it easy, to just get around the best they could. It looks like the atmosphere was incredible, with a whole weekend of activity, including a 5k on Saturday, spectators lining the route, offering water/spray/orange segments to fading runners and an event village with plenty to keep family and friends entertained. Pacers paced beautifully, hitting targets, even under such challenging conditions and finishers went home smiling, sporting a rather cool ‘sheriff’ type medal – so do they have the freedom of the streets of Hackney now?😉

You can pre-register for next year (and hope it’s a little cooller on the day!) here.

Posted by: fitartist | April 22, 2016

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080

How bright are these?! I have an orange glow in my peripheral vision when I run in them!

Glowing

Glowing

I was recently sent these lovely new Women’s Fresh Foam 1080s to try out and instantly felt a bounce in my step. When I initially tried them on, I felt the back was quite low and that it might slip as I ran, but this wasn’t a problem at all – they just felt low compared to the shoes I’ve been wearing until now…this might have been helped by their ‘bootie-like fit’. The Fresh Foam 1080 has been developed ‘using data gathered from athletes who run at an average pace’, so is well cushioned and has excellent flexibility.

Unboxed

Unboxed

An improvement I have noticed from previous NB shoes I have worn, is the more roomy toe box, with the new style mesh upper giving my toes more room to spread out as I run. I went for a half-size up, as I always do with running shoes and these felt about right. One problem I did have on my first outing was a blister on the arch of my foot, with the foam insole feeling a little too high for me (this has since eased and I’ve had no problem with blisters since). I would say this is a great shoe for everyday running, longer runs and has the durability – with a blown rubber outsole – to cope with high mileage. You can check out the Fresh Foam 1080 here and have a look at the full NB range here.

In action

In action

Posted by: fitartist | April 14, 2016

Aldi Specialbuys Running – Out Now!

Yes, it’s that time again! Get yourself down to your nearest Aldi right now! The running kit is in again…

Photo: Aldi

Photo: Aldi

Click here to have a look at the range, in stores now.

Photo: Aldi

Photo: Aldi

Once again, the Aldi Specialbuys Running range doesn’t disappoint, with kit ranging in price from £1.99 for a pair of insoles to £49.99 for a pain relief massager. In between, you will find t-shirts for £5.99, shorts for £4.99, shoes for £19.99 and a nice-looking bottle for £6.99. This week I’ve been trying out some socks, headbands and a handy little wristband to stash keys and coins (sadly not big enough for a phone though). Right now I’m sporting a pair of compression socks (£3.49) that I wore for my cycle ride this morning, lovely and warm, with just the right amount of compression.

I’ve tried many of the items from the Aldi running (and cycling) range in the past few years and they’re all still going strong, so you can’t beat them for value and durability. Just make sure you get there fast though, because they do sell out!

Photo: Aldi

Photo: Aldi

Posted by: fitartist | March 22, 2016

Swimathon 2016

*tick*

It was a bit weird – but nice – having a leisurely breakfast then strolling over to the DLR in my civvies, to head to Stratford for my Swimathon at the Aquatics Centre. Usually a Sunday morning ‘race’ involves anxious breakfast timing, laid out kit and a stupidly early start – I even got there early enough to have a coffee and chat to a woman who was running three miles for Sport Relief around the Olympic Park🙂 The atmosphere in the park was fantastic, very reminiscent of London 2012, with people in umpire’s seats, waving big foam hands around.

2012-esque

2012-esque

As I approached the Aquatics Centre, I got a rush of butterflies, as we entered through the big front entrance (you normally go down some side steps and through a less impressive-looking door) and saw the sweeping vista, while our bags were checked for offensive snacks.

Here it is!

Here it is!

I stood for a while and watched the previous swimmers completing their last few lengths and chatted to a family, who had popped in before going off to run a mile/three miles/six miles. I realised now, that I had better get my kit on and go down to the water’s edge! I was nervous, daunted and a little concerned that I wouldn’t cope well with how busy it might be. The changing rooms were buzzing, all of the volunteers and staff I encountered were lovely, really reassuring and I decided to stop being so daft and get my cap on ready. My *tiny* cap. We had been put into coloured teams, to help lap-counters and to encourage a sense of camaraderie – I was swimming for Team Blue and had to squeeze my head into the teeniest swimming cap ever, I didn’t hold out much hope for it staying put!

Once I was poolside, I located my lap counter and she ticked me off her extensive list – there were to be fifteen swimmers in each lane! Fifteen! As we were in lane three, there was also talk of jumping/diving in to start, no way! So I managed to convince my lovely lap-counter that, as I was second to set off, it would be OK for me to edge over from the steps, promising not to get in anyone’s way. Wuss. At this point I was pleased to bump into fellow #blogsquad member, Lucy. I hadn’t realised she was also swimming at the Aquatics Centre, so it was great to see a friendly face before we all dipped into the diving pool for a warm-up.

I usually avoid warm-ups at ‘races’, finding them a bit pointless, all that weaving from side to side when you’re about to run, but this warm-up was just what I needed. Of course, the bottom of the pool had been raised (which meant there was a pleasant bounce to it) and I had the chance to do a few widths, put my face in, steady my breathing and really get ready to swim. And yes, I did join in some of the side-to-side weaving stuff😉

The first swimmer in our lane hadn’t turned up, so I was told to pause and go on the second horn, so I waited patiently while Duncan Goodhew gave us some words of encouragement and sounded the horn after a countdown. At this point, I realised that the warm-up had really done the trick and I pushed off easily and confidently, starting as I meant to go on. The good thing about a 50m pool is the space you can make for yourself, so it took a while for the faster swimmers in my lane to need to overtake and we all managed to find a space throughout the time we were swimming together. There were moments though, where I had a little inward moan, there was one swimmer who was clearly much faster than everyone else and should have been in another lane. I know people are sometimes a bit inaccurate or overambitious when they put down a predicted time, but he was super speedy. Another man was all over the place, doing backstroke, weaving across the lane, not letting people pass at the end of the lane, so I was constantly having to stop and start. By now I had accepted that my time wasn’t going to be much faster than last year, so settled in to enjoy (endure?) the experience. This kind of distance really is endurance. I was constantly correcting my posture, telling myself ‘relax’ and ‘long neck’ and easing into a meditative state as I counted laps.

The atmosphere at the Aquatics Centre was brilliant, but it’s kind of lost on swimmers, who only hear the swooshing and wooshing around their ears! I would pop up at each lane end and catch a little bit of music, with David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ really giving me a little lift. Gradually, the faster swimmers and those swimming a shorter distance had got out and I was sharing the lane with two other swimmers. A big smile as I realised I only had ten lengths to go (this would be twenty in my usual pool!) and picked up the pace a tiny bit. Now only four and now two. I looked up and my lap-counter was now a man, who was shouting encouragement (I think it was encouragement, he might have been shouting ‘Stop! You’ve already finished!’), but I kept going, just in case. What a wonderful feeling to reach the end, little victory fist-in-the-air and a moment to find out how much time I had taken. Apparently I’d been in there for 2 hours and 8 minutes, surely not?! I queried this, reminding him that I had had to wait at the beginning (he had me down as first swimmer), which he said he would check. Anyway, I had swum 5k and I was happy. I climbed out somewhat creakily and went to collect my medal from a very jolly lady, who seemed to genuinely enjoy celebrating with people. I then had my photo taken and enjoyed a hot shower immensely.

Official photo

Official photo

While I was doing all this, Edward and Hector had been at junior parkrun, volunteering and running, then had leapt into the training pool, after checking how I was doing of course. I got a big wave and thumbs up, then they got dressed and joined me for a family hug.

Did it!

Did it!

We were now in the danger zone…food must be eaten! I was well and truly swammished and quickly ushered everyone out of the building so we could eat ASAP. All around us were people with various medals, all looking very hungry, but mostly very happy. We ate lots and, while we did, Hector made me a little napkin certificate…perfect🙂

Awsome

Awsome

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