Wednesday, 30 September 2015

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

There sometimes comes a time in a person's life when you have to admit that some things are just not for you. For me that would seem to be obstacle course races, or OCRs.

You see I was meant to do Spartan Beast at the weekend; 13 miles and around 25 obstacles. But I didn't. I spent some time during the week um-ing and ah-ing about it, and in some respects I'm grateful that a silly injury (sprained fingers) meant I couldn't do it, but ultimately I had to admit to myself that I didn't *want* to do it and I'd have gotten no enjoyment from it. I didn't train specifically for the event and although it would have been a great thing to have accomplished, I'm resigned to the fact that obstacle course racing is just not for me. I don't really enjoy anything more than Grim or Gung-Ho! style events, that are predominately muddy or just plain fun. And that's ok.
Gung-Ho! finisher's garb
I think the reason I kept on signing up to OCRs (and then dropping out) was because I felt like I needed to push myself further and I was searching for a different sense of accomplishment. I've had a lot of fun with my events this year, but am I proud of any of them? Maybe Ultra12 and the Brighton Marathon but it doesn't feel like enough.
Jam jar wisdom
I want to train for something and be proud of accomplishing it. I've got a few events in the diary for next year, as you'll see from the side bar, but none of them feel like my A-race, my big event for the year. I'll need to build up my mental strength for the polar half, work on my hill running for Leith Hill and build up the distance again for Cakeathon and Stour Valley Marathon but that doesn't feel like any great shakes. It probably is. I'm probably skewing this in my mind. It doesn't help that a few people I know have signed up to or just completed big events such as ironman. Which to some extent is why I'm trying not to book too many events. I've said before that I just love taking part in events, I like the atmosphere, but by entering lots, without thought for how they fit together, I rarely leave myself room to train specifically.

So following on from last week's update post, I'm still changing up my training focusing on strength and building my running towards the Polar Half but I now need to work out what's going to give me the satisfaction I crave in terms of events.

With that in mind, last week's training looked like this:
Monday: Boxercise
Tuesday: Rest day
Wednesday: Strength training
Thursday: metafit
Friday: Rest day
Saturday: parkrun & Gung-Ho!
Sunday: 5 mile run

What kinds of events give you most satisfaction and which do you avoid?

Monday, 28 September 2015

Vik's Picks : September 2015

Gosh it's the end of September already. All hail superb early sunsets, misty mornings and the return of base layers! Here are the things that have been getting me through my month of events.
  1. I have long been a fan of the smoothie breakfast and until now have always used my jug blender to make them, decanting them into shaker bottles for on-the-go. The down side to this was the extra washing up and the fact that my jug blender sometimes left bits. SO I decided to try out the Breville Blend Active, and wow, I wish I'd bought one sooner. Retailing at around £22 it's very affordable, takes up little space and has so far dealt admirably with frozen fruit, ice and even those pesky dates and prunes that my jug blender refused to blend. Winner!
  2. My parents bought me a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters for Christmas last year but it was only on Tiree that I actually got to use them. Attaching to any pair of trainers with a hook and velcro strip these kept all the sand and stones out of my trail shoes and looked funky to boot. I have a set in Shaggadelic Purple but there are many, many to choose from.
  3. I'm trying to keep educating myself so that I don't become stagnant in my teaching or training and my current read is Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? by Alex Hutchinson. It's a great book that you can easily dip in and out of which answers all those sorts of questions like whether running really is bad for you and does stretching make any difference at all. It's based on scientific studies, broken down into themed sections and admits when we're really not sure of the answer. Not just for PTs!
  4. Whenever I'm in France I pop into the supermarkets to see what treats there are that we don't find in the UK. Along with the kilo jar of nutella (because why not) and proper baguettes I picked up a box of this bulgar wheat, pea and lentil mix from Carrefour. It's a dry mix that you boil up and each sachet makes around 4 servings. I've not seen a mix quite like it the UK and it's been fab with heaps of roasted veg to up my protein intake.
  5. I've finally started foam rolling! I can't always afford or schedule in a sports massage after my longer events and it's a good habit to get into anyway so my Tela foam roller has been coming out of an evening while I watch Special Forces - Ultimate Hell Week on the iPlayer. I feel their pain ;)
Any idea where I might be able to get packet mixes like this in the UK? Any recommended reading or podcasts for me to top up my knowledge?

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Early Bird Gets Better Snacks Than Worms

It's said that the early bird gets the worm... which is all well and good if you like worms but there is an alternative. Early Bird are a new snack box provider, delivering a selection of nutritious snacks to your door every Monday on a subscription basis. So far, nothing new. But there's a little more to this one.
Early Bird aim to bring together food, music and art into their boxes with the aim of it being a little festival in a box. Just add your own wellies, mud and wet wipes. Each box contains five snacks, tea and/or a dip, artwork inside the lid and a ticket with details of tour dates, links or a free download.
This week the box featured a cool gorilla sketch by Jessamy K, a really cool hour-long music mix, two teas (Bollywood Chai and Darjeeling Early Grey) and five snacks:
- Bakewell Tart (nuts and dried fruit mix)
- Berry Berry Nice (dried fruit mix)
- Corn Shot (chilli salted sweetcorn)
- Cheese on Toast (cheese cashews and bruschettas)
- White Maltese Me (white chocolate, peanuts, pumpkin seeds)
The box itself is really funky; no rectangular or square box here, hexagonal and funky is the way these guys roll. The snacks were all really tasty, although similar to those I've had in other snack boxes, and I especially enjoyed getting to listen to some new music. It was a really fun thing to arrive on my doormat on Monday morning and I'm going to continue with them for a little while as a treat. The art is the weak link for me at the moment but I'm basing that on one box only.

The boxes cost £4.50 each on a weekly or fortnightly basis which isn't bad value compared to other snack boxes I know of. You can rate your snacks and choose not to receive those that contain things you don't like and pause your subscription without question.

If you're an artist and want to get involved, email or if you're a musician and want in on the action get in touch at

Want to try a box for free? Head on over to and use the code chili-3986 to claim a free box!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Changing Focus for Autumn

Much as I have loved travelling, running and being sociable it's been nice to get home and back into the rhythm of life as I now know it.
The nights are drawing in now but I'm treated to lovely night skies as I leave the gym.
Turns out it takes quite a while to travel to and from Bordeaux by car so we'd split it over two days, meaning that I didn't get home until late on Monday night. Spending the two days after a marathon mainly sitting in a car isn't the best way to recover really and I was feeling a bit fidgety come Tuesday so it was nice to make up numbers at RunFit and take part in the intervals set, all be it at a slightly more sedate pace than my gang.

It wasn't until Thursday that I got out for a proper run of any sort and my legs rebelled. I set out to run as far as I wanted to, at whatever pace was necessary which turned out to be fairly slow. Knees and hips were fine but shins started to complain and the 2.5 miles took a lot of effort to complete.  After this weekend I've got no more races of note booked until the New Year so I'm taking the opportunity to do a little less running and do more strength and conditioning work. The running I do will be more focused and I'll be taking part in more classes at the gym as well as doing my own sessions to build strength. I started as I mean to go on with metafit, yoga and a Strength and conditioning class last week, all of which I enjoyed even if they weren't easy. The yoga was especially good for my poor runner's body.

My "free" time last week was spent planning sessions, classes and my own training and getting stuck into some books that I bought with the money my old company gave me as a leaving gift.
Always learning! The answer... it depends on your goal.
My diet has been atrocious recently. Of course there was a lot of cheese and wine in France and although I have eschewed cake since Tiree I seem to have replaced this with biscuits and chocolate. This simply will not do. My meals are getting under control, with a return to smoothies )made even better with my new smoothie blender) and fruity porridge for breakfasts, salad-heavy lunches and veg-laden dinners, but it's the snacking/desserts that are letting me down so this week I'm focusing more on resisting those and watching out for the triggers that set off my cravings. It's so easy to eat well really, given how much fruit and veg I'm getting from the allotment, hedgerows and in my veg box.

Last week's activity looked like this:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: Rest day
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: 25 minute run, metafit
Friday: Rest day
Saturday: Parkrun, yoga class
Sunday: Strength & Conditioning class

What is your fitness focus for Autumn? Have you been struggling with an aspect of your diet recently?

Monday, 21 September 2015

Buddy Box : A Lovely Pick-Me-Up

Our mental health and well-being is just as important as our physical health. When it comes to talking about mental health, it's a topic that still has a lot of stigma around it and there are a lot of false beliefs and misconceptions about depression, anxiety, stress and so on. 

I am in no way an authority on the subject but I do understand how difficult it can be to talk about depression or know how to show your support. Which is why I think that the Buddy Box from the Blurt Foundation is such a lovely idea. Each month they put together a box of treats designed to help, inspire and comfort; they call it a "hug in a box". They can be bought as a one-off or as a monthly subscription for someone you know or yourself. The contents aren't revealed in advance so even it you buy for yourself it will be a surprise. It's a thoughtful way to show support of a little self-care. Blurt kindly sent me this month's box to review, which arrived last week.
First impressions were good. The box is sturdy and was visibly jam-packed with items, as the lid wouldn't quite fit on. Inside, surrounded by jaunty orange tissue paper were six items, all of which made me smile.
The box contained:
- A book of smile-inducing, inspiring and uplifting messages
- A tub of indulgent looking hot chocolate
- A set of postcards, to send or keep
- Some energising pulse point oil
- A set of dog-themed colouring in sheets
- Some beans printed with messages to grow

Of course these might not tick the boxes for everyone but I was thrilled with it all. I've already got a couple of colouring in books that I use (as well as the Colourfy app on my phone) so I may pass on the colouring sheets to my godson. My favourite items (apart from the hot chocolate) are the aromatherapy roller ball and the beans. Much as I love the beans though, I may pass on them on to a friend who I think would love them too as my windowsills are full of salad at the moment.
My favourite items
A look inside the book of kinds words and wisdom
I have never been diagnosed with depression, although I know many who have, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But we can all have our darker days when things feel that bit harder and you don't know where to turn. Exercise, good food and a little self-care is usually my go-to when I'm feeling down but I know that receiving a box like this would really help too. The Blurt Foundation do a lot of great work in helping to raise awareness of depression, to educate and support those who suffer from it as well as the friends and families of sufferers. 
Buddy Boxes start from £18.50 as part of a years' subscription. I received mine for free thanks to The Blurt Foundation, in return for a review. All opinions are honest and my own.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Event Review : Marathon du Medoc

It's rare to find a race that to actually race it would seem like a real waste of the experience. The Marathon du Medoc is the only one of these that I have found to date. I'm not including events like the Colour Run or Glow in the Park because they don't pretend to be races. I could have imagined running Tiree in a quicker time and still enjoying the scenery, but I truly question why the winners of the Medoc race, in around 2h34, bothered to enter.

It's billed as "the longest marathon in the world" with 22 refreshment stations (read wine tasting stops) and 21 food stands including a "breakfast stop", oysters and ice cream. The route takes in the vineyards and chateaus of the area and being limited to 8,500 entrants, it retains a sense of charm and inclusion.

This has been on my race wish-list for a while and so I was thrilled to actually manage to get a place this year. As my godparents live in France we made a bit of a family occasion of it. Being able to book my place and the hotel for both my parents and godparents took the stress out of things, as was the ability to book the shuttle bus to and from the event and to pick up my race number the day before. Paulliac is a fairly small town, without the infrastructure necessary to accommodate 8,500 runners and their supporters in hotel or B&Bs so most participants seem to be bussed in from Bordeaux. The only real bit of stress I encountered was when the coach to the expo was delayed by 45 minutes with no explanation. Not exactly ideal. 

However everything else ran fairly smoothly and so at 9am on Saturday morning I found myself surrounded by hundreds or other runners in an astounding array of fancy dress, most of which was a nod to this year's theme of "dressed up to the nines". Top hats and tails were abundant (some with only a thong underneath - the French like a bare buttock) as were men dressed as ladies (usually the Brits) plus a few more elaborate outfits. 
There was a wonderful aerial acrobatic display in the lead up to the start time and then finally we were lead in a countdown, confetti cannons exploded and we were off! Sort of... there's a false start, about half a kilometre or so until you reach the real start with the timing mat. 

After a few days stressing over the weather report that predicted heavy showers all day it was a joy to set off in the sunshine but within minutes I was certain I had sweated off all my sunscreen and was very aware of the lack of cover or shade around and about. The first couple of kilometres went by in a blink and we were suddenly at the breakfast stop; table laden with croissants and cakes.... well it would have been rude not to! 
No sooner had we left the breakfast stop then it seemed we found the first of the many wine tastings on offer. It was horribly crowded so I decided to skip this one only to find the beer and waffle stop a little further on. This was a theme... there were very few sections where you could do any sustained running, if you wanted to take advantage of the food and wine on offer, which I very much did want to! 
Oh go on then, just the one.
I'd packed my waist pack with some gels but I really needn't have bothered, and any worries I'd had about whether the decision not to carry water was the right one were quickly put to rest. It seemed that every half a mile or so there was either a water station, wine station or a snack stop and oh my, each snack stop could have fed a small village! There were cakes and biscuits, bananas, apples, oranges, crisps; I've never been so well fed. I took the strategy of little and often when it came to food, being sure to eat some crisps for the salt as well as bananas and biscuits.
A food station after having been ravaged by some 8,000 runners
The event draws quite a crowd. People lined the residential areas we passed through, clapping and cheering, many in fancy dress themselves. As a display of how much this race is supported, one street had a banner made from all the previous race t-shirts, strung outside someone's house! With the exception of one part of the route, it's all stunning. Vines as far as the eye can see and gorgeous chateaus. Some had tied balloons to their vines, others were just beautiful in their own quiet way. But even on the most desolate part, the tedious 2-3 miles heading back into town along the water front in a straight line, there were plenty of supporters. I, however, was counting down the kilometres to the half way mark and the point at which I'd see my parents for smiles and support. 

Shortly after this point the heavens opened! It was welcome relief from the sun and once you're as wet as you can be and all the sweat has been washed into your eyes it ceases to be much of a bother. The second half of the race was punctuated with showers but also with new friends. This is probably one of the friendliest races I've done. A guy called Louis, dressed in a get up that made him resemble Hulk Hogan, started chatting to me. I found out that he'd run 213 marathons! I also chatted to a guy called Steven, finisher of 33 marathons in 4 years. As I started to tire and my legs ached I found myself running near one or other of them for the rest of the race which meant I had a constant source of encouragement. Steven's method of running to the next wine stop proved to be a good one and I found a bit more speed over the final few miles.
Me and Steven
As we got closer to town I was waiting for the ice cream stop. I was hoping to be restrained enough to actually run over the line with my ice cream but alas it started melting and it was a little too tasty. The finish line seemed to take forever to appear but as I saw my parents again and rounded a corner there it was; several balloon arches and the finish line. I felt as though I sprinted to the line, determined to get in under 5h30 on my Garmin (missed it by one second), face still wearing a big grin from ear to ear and feeling none the worse for all my tasters of wine. 

Our medal was a bow tie, in keeping with the theme, and we were also presented with a messenger bag, cup and bottle of wine in a keepsake box. The ladies were also presented with a rose, which I thought was a lovely touch.
Celebrations were in full swing already as finishers made their way up and down the street in various degrees of comfort, mostly in straight lines. There were more wine stalls and the cafes were busy with competitors and supporters alike. A brief repose for wine (as if I'd not had enough) and cheese then it was back to the coach and back to Bordeaux.

This was easily the most fun I've ever had at a marathon. It's laid back, friendly, a beautiful course and well supported. A whole weekend of activities are planned around the race and the area surrounding Paulliac, a town scarcely able to cope with the number of runners and supporters that descend for the weekend. On the Friday there's the options of either a pasta party or a more formal meal. After the race there's another fancy meal, fireworks and a ball and on the Sunday you can opt to join in a relaxing walk through the vineyards and have a lunch. However all of these activities are extras, not included in your race fee. What is included in the race fee, however, is an event t-shirt (technical, in men's and women's fit), a goody bag when you pick up your race number including some edible treats and the aforementioned goodies at the finish line.

I would recommend this race to anyone wanting a fun marathon and/or a race abroad. Get into the spirit of things and enjoy!

Monday, 14 September 2015

Confessions of a Fitness Blogger & Personal Trainer

There's been a trend for these sorts of posts on the blogs I read of late, so I thought I'd jump on the band wagon. It's a nice way of showing that those of us in the fitness world are just as human as anyone else.

I don't always eat well

This is a biggie. I adore my food. I love cakes, baking and cooking in general and as such I am easily swayed by a sweet treat and struggle with recognising when I'm full. If I find something tasty I want to keep on eating. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and eat very little processed food, track my diet occasionally and of course workout a lot but I could be much better, more disciplined. It's a constant battle.

I also have a jar of coconut oil in the cupboard that I'm not really sure what to do with. I'm not always on board with the latest "clean eating" trends...

I'm not always enthused about my workouts

There are days when I just can't be bothered. Sometimes it's because I missed my optimum training time, is something out of my comfort zone, or I've just become bored with it all. It happens. It's one of the reasons I had a coach this year, to be accountable to someone and to help get me through those times when I just wanted to sit on the sofa and eat cake (see above).

I enter too many events

I love entering events. The atmosphere, being part of something, just seeing if I can do something. There's always something being suggested to me by friends or a race report that makes something sound oh-so appealing. And suddenly my plan of only doing 8 events in a year turns into 16 and I'm struggling to juggle my life. It's lead me to over train in the past so I have to accept that I just can't do everything.

I can't do all the things I ask of the people I train

There's a misconception that Personal Trainers are super fit. Most of us are, in one way or another, I suppose long slow running is my forte (although there's still scope for improvement there too) but I have a long way to go to match many of the people I train in terms of strength. That doesn't make me less of a trainer, it just means I concentrate on different things. I'm planning on changing the balance of my training in October though so I'm looking forward to that.

I do not have a runner's build

Or a rower's build. Or a build suited to any kind of sport it would seem. I've certainly not found the thing I have a natural affinity for. Everything I do I have to work at. I cannot go faster just because I look a bit taller and ganglier than some and I sometimes get a bit annoyed of people declaring that I should be able to. I'm judged on my appearance, as we all are to some extent I suppose, and I do feel the pressure to maintain a certain look.

Sometimes I just want to wear nice clothes

I now spend most of my time in workout gear. It comes with the territory. It is for just this reason that I own a lovely range of lycra but sometimes I'd like to wear a dress, or something sparkly, or heels. Or even something that isn't a t-shirt and a hoodie will do. I paint my nails more now I'm a PT.

So those are a few confessions from me. Are there any there that ring true to you too? I don't think there's anything surprising there but I could be wrong.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Bordeaux Beckons

You'd think that maybe, having just done an ultra marathon, that I'd be having a bit of a rest. Hah! Yes that is what a sensible person would do but I neither keep the company of many sensible people nor am I especially sensible myself, at least not when it comes to events. So that's how it happened that I am now in France, travelling down to Bordeaux with my parents in preparation for the Marathon du Medoc.

The Medoc is on many people's marathon bucket list and rightly so, I think. It's the event that Bacchus is based on, the original wine marathon boasting 22 refreshment stands, 21 food stands, compulsory themed fancy dress, a route that takes in many vineyards in the region and limited to 8,500 participants.

My Godparents paid for my entry as a Christmas-and-birthday present and as they happen to live in the Loire valley they too will be joining us for the event. I'm really excited. My costume is a nod to the theme although I'm concerned that I may have to cover it with a rain jacket as the weather report has changed in the last week.

I have been a little bit sensible though, and had a massage during the week, which hurt like hell, and had a bath with magnesium salts. I've also made the decision to pull out of Equinox24. It was not a decision taken lightly as I was part of a team and going to be seeing friends there, and had I not had the issues with my hip and knee at Tiree I would have still gone, but I'd rather give people the chance to find someone else than turn up only to have to pull out after one lap, or worse, not be able to go at all should I get injured at Medoc and only be able to give them a couple of days notice. And of course I need to be fit and able for my job so there's that...

My training in the past week has looked something like this:
Friday: Rest day
Saturday: 9 miles cycling
Sunday: Tiree Ultra, 3 miles cycling
Monday: 6 miles cycling
Tuesday: Rest day
Wednesday: 20 minute recovery run, massage
Thursday: Rest day

I'll be back with another race report next week!

What races are on your bucket list? Have you ever done a boozy race?

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Event Review : Tiree Ultra Marathon

What do normal people do on a Sunday? I'm not sure I know, nor care to join their ranks. It's probably not lining up on a beach on a far flung Hebridean island with a couple of hundred other people at 8am ready to run around the entire thing. Crazy? Yes. Fun? Strangely, YES!
I booked my place in the 2nd Tiree Ultramarathon a year ago after the resounding success of the first one, and so it was that I found myself boarding a flight at Gatwick, being driven three hours from Edinburgh to Oban, spending four hours on a ferry and then cycling half an hour along the Tireean coastline to find our cottage for the weekend. It didn't seem real.
Feeling like something out of an Enid Blyton book
Tiree is well worth the trip. It's the only place I've ever felt truly safe cycling around, as it's so quiet and due to the flatness of the place you can see cars coming from a long way off. It's incredibly picturesque and as I cycled with my little group of running friends I felt as though I was in a Famous Five adventure, even more so as I had a canvas bag of supplies from the shop on my back, sorely lacking in lashings of ginger beer.
Our cottage
We got settled into the cottage and then negotiated the rush hour to visit a near by cafe before cycling the mile and a half to the race HQ for pack collection and the briefing. I started to get quite giddy about it all. Being around like-minded people can do that, especially when you realise what you're about to take on.
Rush hour on Tiree - sheep!
Race briefing time!
A dinner of buttery, tomato-y pasta and garlic bread was hoovered up before the ceremonial laying out of race kit and retiring early. With eight of us in the cottage the kitchen and dining table were fairly buzzing at 6:30am the following morning as porridge pots were made, weetabix consumed and energy drinks diluted. The cycle to race HQ and the start line was magical. It was such a beautiful morning. 

Off to the start line!
Bagpipes greeted us on the beach. A flurry of selfies, hugs, kit adjustments and we were off! The pack spread out fairly quickly and I felt quite lonely as I exited the beach onto one of the few road sections of the course. The majority of the route is along beaches or hillside, with the odd boggy bit thrown in for good measure. The largest section of this was in the first few miles, so those without gaters could get a nice helping of grit in their shoes early on for the best blisters. There was a scramble to deal with and then it all start dot even out a bit. I over took a few people, started having a few conversations and got into my stride a bit. That's not to say I was fast or consistent but I settled in to the idea of what I was doing.
About to start
The first check point seemed to come around fairly quickly; 8.4 miles an fly by when you've stunning coast line to look at. It was one of the things I kept reminding myself to do, look around, appreciate and enjoy the scenery. Ok we got some drizzle but really, that just meant rainbows! In any case, CP1 with it's bananas, oranges, drinks and jelly babies was welcome.
The next 9 miles to CP2 were really fun. I struck up conversation with a lady called Rachel and we stayed together for several miles, even cracking out some faster paced miles on another road section. After picking our way over rocks and soft sand it was quite welcome for a while. We stayed together until CP2, where we found our drop bags and a caravan for shelter. Cheese and onion pastries, crisps, cola... a fine lunch indeed. 
We'd encountered some heavy drizzle and I started to cool down so I popped on my long sleeve layer before setting off again. Rachel had left a few minutes before but I managed to catch her up, and a lady called Joey, who was doing her first ultra. The three of us ran and walked together for the entirety of leg three, helping each other across rocky parts, through bog, and through pain. I started to get discomfort in my hip and knee so walking breaks were welcome. If I hadn't been with Rachel and Joey I wouldn't have run as much for sure. We found the fort ruins that had been mentioned in the race briefing and got a picture with one of the Tiree flags for good measure.
CP3, the last check point, could not come soon enough. I was starting to go quiet, a sure sign I was struggling. I had eaten enough but the discomfort was starting to get to me. I inhaled a few pieces of cake from the amazing spread on offer and although I left with Rachel and Joey I soon made them go on ahead, knowing I wouldn't be able to keep up. It was hard to watch them slowly get further and further away and I felt lonely immediately, but it was for the best. I walked the next 5 miles, trying to run now and again, each time feeling my body saying "no... not yet".
During this time, my Garmin died. I had no idea how far I had left to go or how fast I was moving. It was raining again. I swore at the weather. I wondered how on earth I was going to manage the cycle home after the event. I sat on the verge at the next marshal point I came to, after two miles of beach, and sobbed a bit. It just felt good to let the emotion out. The lady there said all the right things and soon after leaving her I was able to run again, or at least master the ultra shuffle for the remainder of the course. 

I encountered two more lovely people with a box of haribo just before entering the last stretch of beach. "You are amazing" they said, "I don't feel it" I replied, "That's why we're here to tell you that you are!" I almost wept again. The last beach, the last few miles. As I reached the end I saw messages that others had written in the sand, finishers who had scone back out onto the course to cheer others on, and finally, race HQ and the bunting marking the finish line. I ran. Proper full on running, right across the line to unexpected cheers of my name. My house mates and running friends had left their pizzas and coffees to give me that final push and I could not have been more grateful. It was wonderful.
I claimed my medal, found my bags and rewarded myself with pizza, cake and beer. I sought out Rachel and Joey; congratulations all round! I hugged my friends, sent messages home and even managed the cycle back to the cottage. Everyone was a bit emotional and it was wonderful to share in everyone's successes. I will confess to not making it to the dance that evening but instead drinking pints of nuun and eating peanuts in the cottage. It was exactly what I wanted to do.
Post race rewards
There's something about this event. I'm not sure if it's going on such a journey to get there, that it's shared with others who really understand why you do these things. Or perhaps it's the wonderful windswept, tree-less wildness of the place. The scenery, the locals or the peculiarities of the terrain perhaps. Who knows. This isn't the most difficult 35 miles one could tackle but it is a very special race. It's superbly organised, well worth the entry fee (which includes medal, race shirt, bag, after-party and some other knick-knacks) and the journey. The course presents it's own challenges without being out of anyone's abilities and despite a map being part of the essential kit, it's so well marked that I didn't need to refer to mine once.

Two days on and I'm still exchanging excited messages with people on the Facebook group. I'm only nursing four blisters (two on each foot and in exactly the same place each side) and mourning the loss of a pair of socks, too worn to save. The hip and knee are fairing ok and the DOMS haven't made much of an appearance. I'm yet to find out my official time but I know I was a good hour faster than Gatliff, which I'd hoped for.

People are already asking when entries open next year so if you fancy it, get in quick! I imagine the numbers will stay small, limited as they must be by the available accommodation on the island. I won't be back next year but I might go back some other time. And next time I'll stay longer and discover what else Tiree has to offer.

Huge thanks to Will the race organiser, Alexa our trip organiser and general all-star, Rachel and Joey for getting me around and chatting non-stop, all the marshals but especially those who fed and tended to me, Jen, Jilly, Frank, Vicky, Jo, Fi and Brenda for being such fun house mates and everyone who cheered me over the line.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Fitness in the Workplace : Keeping your Diet on Track

So you've landed a new job at a new company or in a new department. You've got new co-workers and cultures to adapt to. It's likely there are unwritten rules around cakes on birthdays, team lunches and so on, so how do you keep your diet habits on track?

The simplest way to do this is to take your own food to work. Have left overs for lunch or make your own sandwich while dinner's cooking the night before. Take some fruit, snack bars, nuts, yogurts... whatever you have the means to store, and that you enjoy, to snack on during the working day. Of course just because it's there doesn't mean you have to eat it but it should help you to avoid the vending machine a little longer, especially if it's kept in your desk drawer and you don't have to move to get a snack!

There are plenty of durable lunch boxes on the market these days.
Undressed salads travel well, just take the dressing to add later.

Rice pudding and strawberries make a change from snack bars.
Can't take your own food? Try and choose well in the canteen or corner shop. Include some fruit or veg in your lunch every day and make sure you match your teas and coffees one for one with water or a low-sugar squash. Set yourself a small snack budget for the week to keep you aware of how many snacks you're eating. And if you are feeling the need to snack a lot, look at what you're eating for breakfast and lunch... do you need to eat a little more then to tide you over. Or is your snacking linked to boredom? By identifying these things you can find a way to deal with them, over and above any suggestions here.
A great option for a filling, portable and healthy lunch
Be wary of overeating. Meals in canteens are often main meal sized so it's easy to end up eating two "dinners" a day, which could be too much for some people. If you eat a main meal at lunchtime, reflect this in your evening meal by having something lighter.

Of course there's the office cake and meeting catering to think about. You don't need to deny yourself completely but be sensible. "I'm not hungry" is a perfectly valid excuse for not indulging in the fourth birthday cake that week or just take a half a piece. You can still have a taste without feeling guilty. And i
f meeting snacks are a regular thing and tend to be biscuits or cake, why not suggest that fruit, nuts, nakd bars (for example) are provided as well. At least then you have a choice if you really can't resist.
Why not introduce your colleagues to some delicious snack alternatives?
How do you keep your healthy eating habits on track at work?