Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Day 4: Green

In my opinion, there is not enough green in the winter. In fact, there's often not enough colour at all. I'm a colour junkie. FACT. the brighter, the zingier, the better. So I took today's prompt - a photo of something green - as a chance to inject a little colour into the proceedings. Courtesy of the tulips on our dining room table:

- Posted from my iPhone

Climbing The Walls

Oh boy, did yesterday turn into a long day.  I managed to get to Body Balance at lunchtime, and it feels so good to be back doing that, but the plan sort of derailed after that.

It was one of those days where, at 5pm you think you'll be leaving fairly shortly, and then you're still somehow sat at your desk at 8pm.  Even when I did leave, I had a pile of work in my bag that needed checking before this morning, so I had another 2 hours to do when I got home.

Sadly, that meant the run got bumped, which I find really frustrating.  I suppose the thing I must bear in mind is that the end of January was always going to be tough because of how busy work gets, and so really I've done well to get in as many runs as I have, especially with the trainer re-fit happening as well.  I'm glad I managed to at least get my Body Balance class in though - even since last week, I can feel a little (teeny) bit of my strength and flexibility returning from before Christmas.  Now I've got into yoga and pilates, I'm intrigued to see how much I can improve my flexibility and strength, and I love how chilled out I feel afterwards.  If I had more time (and money!), I'd be really keen to fit more of this into my week - perhaps even try Bikram yoga, but it's probably a bit of a push at the moment.

Talking of busy and trying new things, what I do get to do tonight is climbing!  I booked myself onto a beginner's course before Christmas, at Undercover Rock in Bristol, and suddenly it's come whistling around in my diary.  I really enjoyed the taster session that I did at the end of November, but I still have a bit of a fear of heights and falling, so I'm currently viewing tonight with equal parts fear and excitement.  Although I went with friends last time, I'll be venturing out solo tonight, as my friends didn't want to do the course.  The centre was super-friendly last time, so I don't think it will be a problem (and as we all know, I love meeting new people), and I've deliberately booked on the course run by the instructor I had last time as she was lovely, so hopefully it will all be good fun.

I think the one thing that really appeals about climbing is that is such a good strength workout.  I loathe weight training, and will do a lot of things to avoid it, even though I know it's great for strength, posture, toning and metabolism.  Circuits makes it bearable, because it mixes it all up with cardio and combo moves, and flips between free weights and body weight exercises, but it is ultimately still hell on earth.  The couple of times I've tried any type of climbing activity, I've found that you're still getting that strength and toning work-out, and a touch of cardio, but all mixed up in the pursuit of something more fun (conquering the wall) and with lots of strategic elements to think about too.  I also like that you can make climbing as technical or easy as you like, and that for me, it will be a little bit about conquering a fear uneasiness of heights and falling, and pushing my (klutzy) self a little bit outside my comfort zone.

Due to a lack of run and excess of work yesterday, eating was a little bit hit and miss, but largely right.  I'd eaten a bit extra late afternoon, thinking I was fueling for a run (otherwise I tend to be running on empty if I run after work and before dinner), but then ended up staying so long I got hungry again and had to grab another little something.  I did manage to keep the damage to a minimum though, as dinner was already being cooked when I finally got home, so I occupied myself with shifting a bit more work while it was being done, rather than snacking.

So far this week, I think I'm doing ok on the eating front, and there'll be some exercise to show for it too, so I'm very hopeful that this will be the week I reverse the recent trend and start losing slowly instead of it creeping on.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Day 3: Clouds

Some days, life just does not cooperate with you. Like it turning out to be a day of solid white sky, when what you really want is clouds to take a picture of. And not leaving the office until after 8 by which time it's a moot point anyway because it's pitch black out!! But, and I guess this is somewhat open to interpretation, the challenge didn't say the photo had to be taken today. So, in a slightly different take on the rules, I revisited my photo archives in search of pretty clouds, and turned up a picture perfect sunset, courtesy of the West coast of Scotland circa 2006 or 07 (I forget which trip it was). So here, for your enjoyment is a summer sunset over Jura, taken by my own fair hands. Just not today :-)

- Posted from my iPhone

Random Quizziness

I was searching through my blog directory the other day, for a post I'd started and not yet finished, and I ended up flipping the view to drafts .... what I found were a number of posts that had never seen the light of day. 

Below was a quiz that was obviously doing the rounds at the time - it dates back to some time in 2009, and God knows why it never got posted, but I found it interesting looking to see how some of my answers have changed since then.  I was obviously in the phase of my weightloss when I was committed and going great guns, and relishing my decreasing clothes size.  I can see I had a lot of hopes and dreams, and that some have stayed the same, and others have moved right along since then.

It's trivial, but I thought it might be quite fun to post it, but with updates for the bits that have changed.

  • What is your current obsession? Losing weight and getting fitter - it's pretty much taken over my life!  2012 Sue:  Hmmmmm, but there's so much more to life than losing weight (well, now I've lost a fair chunk anyway), so right now I'd say it's surfing.  Or maybe running, since I seem to be doing a lot of that right now!
  • What are you wearing today? Smart black work trousers, a sandy-creamy coloured knitted top with short-sleeves and cut-out detail (actually really pretty - I appreciate that it sounds weird), flat tan sandles with a plaited thong down the front, miscellaneous jewellery as per usual, and my sunglasses are still perched on top of my head from sitting out at lunchtime.  2012 Sue:  The good old black work trousers never change do they!  Except I'm wearing a smaller pair now, so wide-leg black trousers, black suede pumps with tassels and metal detail, a long-sleeve purple jersey top with the sleeves pushed up, dark grey sleeveless jumper over it, cropped black jacket on top, purple and silver long multi-strand necklace, and as before random miscellaneous jewellery.
  • What’s for dinner? Errr - I've run out of points already - anybody know of anything for negative 2 points?? So possibly a walk then!  2012 Sue:  Haha, nothing changes!  Actually I've got a few points left today, so probably pasta and veg, after a run.
  • What’s the last thing you bought? White jeans, blue and white striped vest top and the black trousers I'm wearing.  2012 Sue:  Flamin' expensive running socks!
  • What are you listening to right now? The window blinds fluttering in breeze from the open window.  2012 Sue:  The low hum of conversation in the office.
  • If you could go anywhere in the world for the next YEAR, where would you go? The world. All over it. I pretty much want to see the whole thing - the South Pacific and Australia / NZ, South America, North America and Canada, Africa, Russia, Asia. Just leave out Europe as I've seen large chunks of it already.
  • Which language do you want to learn? I keep thinking about picking up German again.  2012 Sue:  Or possibly Spanish after going to Central America in 2010.
  • What do you love most about where you currently live? The view from my window and that I'm surrounded by family and friends.  2012 Sue:  My friends for taking me in, and that I'll have a new flat next Tuesday!
  • What is your favorite colour? Probably the colour of tropical seas.
  • What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe? Everything in a size 16 lol!  2012 Sue:  Tricky - my wardrobe's pretty well stocked with items I love and that make me feel good these days.  I'm not sure I have a favourite though, maybe my navy silk dress from Coast, or an awesome fitting pair of jeans?  Most worn is probably my denim mini-skirt from French Connection and my long brown leather boots.
  • Describe your personal style? Changeable - I dress myself up as different people depending on how I'm feeling! It's my armour against the world.  2012 Sue:  Still changeable, but less armour and more an expression of how I'm feeling now.  I've mellowed.
  • If you had £300 now, what would you spend it on? I'd love to say handbags, but realistically my credit card bill.  2012 Sue:  Nothing bloody changes!
  • What are you going to do after this? Jump on a controllership conference call at work.  2012 Sue:  Different job, more work.
  • Your favorite smell? How it smells in hot weather when it's just rained - kind of dusty but fresh. And old books.
  • Do you collect anything? Clothes, debts and lbs on my hips I think!
  • What makes you follow a blog? It varies - sometimes a sense of humour, sometimes they do something I admire and aspire too, sometimes just a sense of understanding and comradeship with that person.
  • What's your favorite drink? An icey cold vodka and tonic!
  • What’s one thing you dream of doing? Being financially sucessful and running my own business.
  • What is your biggest regret? So many - getting into debt, not getting a hold on my eating earlier, not grabbing opportunities or making them for myself, not telling my mum I loved her every day when I had the chance.
  • What is your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? Curl up and listen to it outside.
  • Do you have a tattoo? No.
  • What are your favorite books? Anything that offeres me a bit of escapism to a better place.
  • Are you left handed, right handed, ambidextrous, or a little of both? A little bit of both - my right hand's my dominant one, but then sometimes I'm convinced that my left is my right as that feels stronger.
  • What is your favorite fruit? Mango!
  • Blackberry or iPhone? I'm thinking of getting an iPhone shortly.  2012 Sue:  I thought, I got, I'm on a new model of the same now.
  • What/Who inspired you to start your blog? I can't remember - I think it was a tip on the WW's forums when I started and I thought it might be a good idea - Bryher's was probably the first one I read.
  • What are you most happy about today? That my weekend starts in just under 2 hours.  2011 Sue:  That the scales dropped back under 13 st this morning!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Day 2: What I Wore

I had an exceptionally lazy morning which was lovely - I got to relax and loaf while Chris whipped out on his road bike for an hour. We spent this afternoon out for a walk. Typically, we ended up leaving late, so it was a bit of a route-march along the coastal path from Portishead to Clevedon, but we made it just before it got dark. It's been a day of several outfits - comfy shorts and a hooded top for lounging in this morning, then layers for the walk. I had to change my jeans when I got in as they were covered in mud, so thins was what I finished the day in ..... well, until I changed into my pyjamas to watch Downton Abbey .... :-)

- Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, 28 January 2012

It Could Have Been Worse

Well, Friday's are always my Dooms Day, in more ways than one.  They're weigh-in day and the inescapable moment of truth for the week, and they're the start of a new week of tracking, which for some reason always leads me to be far more lenient with myself that I should be.

The scales said "up" yesterday.  Not terribly surprising really, but ok when I consider that I didn't take control of my eating until mid-week.  Actually though, Thursday was a good day for eats, meaning I've probably took back at least half of the week as mine, and the scales weren't as high as they'd been earlier in the week.

As always, the first few days of trying to get back on track are hard, and then it starts to feel a little more familiar.  Yesterday could have been a total and utter disaster, as I had lunch with colleagues at a local Chinese restaurant (buffet-style if you please) and dinner with Hannah and her family, which meant very late takeaway by the time they arrived, we ordered and it finally got delivered.  That has the makings of a dieter's horror story, but actually it wasn't

Firstly, I curbed my usual Friday breakfast (bacon and mushroom roll and maybe some hash browns), and stuck to porridge with banana, a little bit of cinnamon sugar and a swirl of maple syrup.  Less calories and fat and lasts a heck of a lot longer.  Also much less salt since there'd be plenty of that coming later on.

That kept me completely full til lunchtime, so there was no need to snack and at lunch I kept my head.  Whilst the others seemed to be ramming down food and running back to the buffet as fast as they could (well, the boys were anyway), I consciously took my time and enjoyed what I had.  I also tried to make sure that I either had only my favourites, or things I wouldn't normally get.  A few starters on a plate (but only one of each thing), a medium plate of mains, a small bowl of chicken and sweetcorn soup (my favourite!) and two teeny shot-glass sized desserts of mousse (chocolate and strawberry).

I did the same at dinner time, try a few little bits of starters, but with definite white space left on my plate and just one bit of each, and a few spoonfuls of the mains I was interested in, a small portion of mushroom rice and half a naan.  The evening was finished off with a couple of glasses of wine, although I switched to squash when dinner arrived, because I knew the spicier food would make me drink quicker.

Although there was a lot of rich food floating around yesterday, I'm happy with how I treated it.  I trimmed down my other meals and banished the snacks, and just concentrated on samplings things I was interested in.  I was never over-full or uncomfortable. 

From a Weightwatchers perspective, it's obviously a difficult day to point up, so I've guessed to a certain extent, but I think that while I've used most of my weekly flex it wasn't all of it.  Win.

On Thursday night I went back to the running shop and sorted my trainers out.  God bless 'em but they were lovely.  The miunte I walked in with one of their carrier bags, they told me to have a seat and they'd be right with me.  The guy I spoke to was interested, attentive and informative.  They've refitted me with a different pair of Asics Gels, more neutral this time than supportive, as they said the shoe's shape suits my foot, but the last pair were obviously too aggressively supportive when coupled with my orthotics.  Considering I was trying all the new pairs of shoes with unhealed blisters, these definitely came up as more comfortable.

The shop staff were lovely:  not only did they not even blink at exchanging the shoes after I'd run outside in them, but they spent quite a while chatting to me about general running, offering advice on training for my first HM (including finding a magazine article for me that might be relevant while I waited for shoes to be bought up from the stock room), asked for feedback on my original shoe-fitting experience on Sunday, encouraged me to join their intermediate running club (errrr, scary, since when was I not a beginner anymore?) and told me to pop in and grab back issues of any of their running magazines to take away and read whenever.  How nice?  So glad this will very soon be my (extremely) local new running shop!

I've actually been itching to get back out and run, but they advised me against it for a few days to let the blisters heal a bit.  Then they said to just take a short 20 min run to bed the new shoes in / try them out.  So this morning, I headed out for a short run in the lovely chilly sunny Winter's morning.  These shoes definitely feel much better than either of the previous pairs, although I'm glad I didn't push it too far - I went a bit over 20 mins and at about 25 mins I could feel the blister just starting to sensitise again, so I ran a few mins longer then walked the rest of the way home.  It's in no worse a state than it was before though, so I think it just needs to heal and these shoes should be good to go.  Even better, I didn't realise until I was nearly home again that my nagging ache in my right foot, which prompted me to get new trainers in the first place, was absent - hooray!!!

So that's today.  I've been in the office since then hammering out a few hours work, and then I'm off to see Chris for the rest of the weekend - I'm hoping for a nice walk tomorrow to shake off the cobwebs and make up for my lack of a 75 min run.  I've eaten well today, and I'm planning on making this week, one day at a time, a good one.  Easy enough hopefully for tomorrow, as Chris eats pretty healthily, so I just have to follow along.

I was also having a look back through my post archives earlier, and out of interest I flipped to drafts to see what posts I'd started but never published.  There were a few interesting ones in there, so expect to see some of them dusted off and popping up on here over the next couple of days :o)

30 Day Photo Challenge

I saw this over at Pink Chilli Vintage and like the idea. Now don't get carried away - we all know how bad I am at actually sticking with these things, but I nearly always have a camera of some sort with me so we'll see how I do!

Day 1:

Looking pensive at work (all on my own in the office on a Saturday).

Thursday, 26 January 2012


That's how I feel today.  Partly with myself, and partly with the universe.

I'd forgotten that my professional subs for the year were due, so had to fork out £200 yesterday to pay them, which has demolished most of my over-payment for my credit card this month.  I will try hard and claw some of that back from my monthly spending money, but it seems unlikely that I'll get anything close to as much as I wanted paid to them this month.

My headphones also chose this week to break, so that's another thing I'll have to spend on (I use them every day on my walk to and from work, and then at work when I need to concentrate and block everyone else out). 

What really irked me yesterday though (irked - isn't that a great word?  Seriously?) was I went for a run in my brand new trainers, which cost me £100 on Sunday and took around 40 mins to fit, and had to cut my run short at 30 mins because I could already feel that my left instep was forming a blister.  Really not good. 

Not only did I get the blister (luckily, I realised and walked the last bit home, but it's still a good centimetre long by nearly as much wide), but my right foot still ached.  These trainers were meant to help with that, but it started aching 10 mins into the run and stayed there on and off.  Not being an expert on feet, I don't know whether that should have stopped straight away with the new trainers or is like a bruise that will take a while to clear up, but I have to admit I was disappointed.

This all lead to me getting home and doing something a bit silly.  We had tons of leftovers from the Chinese we had on Monday, so I had a plateful for tea, which was fine as I had points for it.  What I didn't have points for was the entire bag of prawn crackers I slowly munched my way through.  There is absolutely no point in me being saintly during the day if I do that in the evening.

I suppose really, if I'm going to be fair, yesterday did have some poisitve points.  I was good during the rest of the day, despite there being cakes and sweets galore in the office.  I did get a run, and I ran for 30 mins at a reasonable pace (a tiny bit slower than usual, but that was probably due to me stopping to try and figure out what was going on with my blister) and I felt pretty comfortable with the run itself.  I am upset about the money, but at least I'm in a position where I can pay that in cash and still make some small overpayment to my card this month - that's certainly better than where I was last year.

So yesterday was a bit of a fail on my eating challenge, but that's the beauty of new days - there's always time to start over and begin again.

I am a bit worried about the trainer / feet situation, as I feel like I can't be missing runs at this point in my training.  It's going to be a hard enough job getting fit enough to run the half marathon in time, without breaks to sort my feet out, so I have an alternative plan for the moment.  Luckily, I didn't throw my old trainers out, so I think the plan is to give Moti a call and ask for advice on my new trainers, and hopefully they'll say come back for a re-fit (which is part of their service), and in the mean-time I'll continue to run my long runs in my old trainers, which at least don't blister my feet.  Then I can try the new trainers again on next week's short run, by which time my blister will have healed hopefully.

It's always all about the plans, isn't it?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Not Bad For A Start

Yesterday I made a promise on here that I would make the effort to eat right, and I'm pleased to say that I did.  I had an unexpected dinner out to cope with and then the cinema, but I think I did a pretty good job, although I do have to own up to there being a small pic'n'mix at the cinema that probably wasn't entirely warranted.  What can I say - it had been a long and tiresome day, and I'll emphasise the small part of that sentence.

What I always forget when I eat well after a period of, well, not, is that I actually enjoy the feeling of making a decision to balance my eating and occasionally denying myself the silly things.  I know that sounds a bit weird, but there is a small amount of smugness present in making a good choice over a bad one.

Yesterday, in place of all the bad behaviours of Monday and the mistakes I made, were the things I know work.  More fruit and less snacks for one.  The tuck drawer stayed firmly closed at work yesterday, and instead there were bananas and a small pot of fresh fruit salad to eat.  I wasn't hungry until dinner time, when I arrived at the restaurant direct from work as I finished late - and if you're not hungry at dinnertime, then there's not really much point in eating!

Dinner in itself was a small victory as well - we went to Zizzi's and I went in with an idea of what I would have - pasta, with some sort of tomato / vegetable-based sauce, and there it was - one of my staples on the menu - rigatoni with chicken and mushroom in a tomato and rosemary sauce.  Perfect.  I decided against wine when asked (although honestly that would have gone down a treat after the long day), stuck to Diet Coke, and actually stopped when I was full.  I know, it's a shocker. 

I did, as mentioned, have a small pic'n'mix at the cinema, but it was literally about 2 of each thing I wanted, and smaller than my usual.  I'd even remembered a bottle of water to dodge having another fizzy drink.  I went to bed last night feeling like I'd made good choices, and it's been a while since I think I could say that.

The proof of course, is in the morning.  Not the fact that the scales had dropped almost a lb since yesterday's eye-opener, but that I didn't feel as bloated for a change.  The clothes are still tight, but I feel a bit better in myself. 

I want to use yesterday as a spring-board, a platform to build from.  I work best with small challenges and goals - breaking down the big stuff into something achievable and non-threatening - especially whilst I'm trying to find my feet again.  So, today is another day of challenging myself to stick to the plan.  Easier than yesterday, or at least less strewn with obstacles, because it's a non-social night, my flatmates will be out this evening, and all I have on the agenda tonight is a nice, easy 40 min run (in my new trainers!).  I want to be able to come and report another sucess to you tomorrow - just without the pick'n'mix!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

I Swear

Today I shall mostly be swearing on two counts:

  1. That I will make today a good day on food. 
  2. There will be loud, cursing every time I move today because yesterday's Body Balance has broken me!
My eating has not been good recently, which I don't think I've hidden from you.  I'm struggling with the scales and it's frustrating me.  I've been here before, but rather than learning from it, it's like it's the same old struggle, and yet also new and impossible.  Every time.  The only way to deal with this is commit. 

I know that that's exactly what I've done before.  I reach my tipping point, and then for no obvious reason I can suddenly commit.  Yesterday, I think I committed every cardinal sin of eating in the goddamn book.  I ate when I wasn't hungry when I got to work and gave into the craving for a toast teacake, just an hour and  a bit after I'd eaten cereal for breakfast.  I ate when I wasn't hungry when I worried that I needed to eat before Body Balance at lunchtime and had soup and a sandwich.  I was very late home from work (ha! No run either then!) and we massively over-order takeaway because we were starving (and were having Chinese to celebrate the Chinese New Year) - a rookie mistake if I ever made one.  Then we had a piece of toast to tide us over til it arrived, but of course by the time it arrived we weren't really that hungry any more.  But.  We.  Still.  Overate.  Stuffed ourselves uncomfortably full.

I feel it today - that horrible salted, MSG-laden bloat.  I also faced the scales and saw the horrible truth of a new highest weight as a result.

Yep - today is definitely a good day to be good.  And then tomorrow.  And the day after.  But one day at a time until I can re-find the habit.  I want to be able to come on here tomorrow and say "I ate well yesterday and stuck to my points"!

On the second point - I can't believe how much I ache today.  My butt is sore as.  And my shoulders / upper arms are tight.  My abs?  Coughing is a carefully martialled military exercise today which leaves me groaning.

It's not just me either - I work with a lovely lady named Lili, who happens to be world champion in her Tai Kwondo discipline (I know!  How cool is that??).  We sometimes go to class together, and she confirmed that her butt is done in today too.  I'm glad that I'm not alone!

Still - it's a reminder of what's weak and what's strong, and that I did something yesterday to try and change that. 

Right - I'm off to work hard, and eat well today.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Rethinking The Running

Life is busy at the moment, with lots going on at work, and at home, and a big chunk of my time at the moment revolves around my half-marathon training.

Considering how scared I was about this, it seems to be going fairly smoothly at the moment (which is a relief since I'm only in Week 5 of 12!), but it has high-lighted a number of things I've never really had to think about before.

Rethinking the Route

My past running hasn't required that many longer routes of me, so I've either been able to get away with running shorter routes in the evenings during the week- runs round the harbour, or back in the Malvern days, my local and well-lit neighbourhood - or get my longer runs in on the weekend during daylight hours.  I've never really had to consider therefore whether a route is safe to run.  After all, Malvern so sleepy it doesn't exactly have dodgy areas - the biggest problem on non-streetlit sections of road is probably tripping over a sheep in the dark!

Here in Bristol, on the current training plan, my runs are pretty much all 40 mins or more, and mostly in the dark, and suddenly I have to more careful.  There's areas I don't know, areas I don't know and know I don't want to know, and areas that just plain creep me out.  But I need routes that are 4 miles or more to run, and preferably not up the giant hill that runs across one side of the city from where I am currently.

Up until 2 weeks ago, my usual run was an extension of my standard harbour circuit, and I just followed a lot of what I would have run last year in the spring daylight.  That involved running alongside the river for a short way, past a derelict warehouse and over a disused railway bridge which is completely unlit, and finally through an underpass section to get back on the road.  I'd never realised before how creepy it is not being able to see who else is around in the shadows, but I'm a big girl and not scared of a few shadows (well, not enough to admit it and find another route). 

Something happened then though that really made me think: we received a notification email at work to alert us that a young woman had been sexually assaulted by 4 youths on that railway bridge at 3.30pm on Friday afternoon.  Yeah - awful isn't it?  It wouldn't even have been dark at the time, but it is isolated.  That poor, poor girl. 

The railway bridge actually forms part of the local Sustrans bike path network, and is actually quite heavily used by local cyclists as well as walkers and runners, but if you hit it when no-one's there it feels like the arse-end of the world.  I ran it one more time after I saw that notification, and it freaked me out - I suddenly became aware of just how alone solo runners are at night.  After all, I've already been running for 20 mins or so by then, and while I can keep plodding on through the rest of my run, I think I'd struggle to sprint away from an attacker. 

I am not a victim.  It's not really in my vocabulary.  I understand that there are a few times in life, where there are circumstances we can't avoid, that might make a victim of us, but I can damn well do my best to not make it easy.  Since then, I've taken to running a bit further along the river, so I can stay on the well-lit streets and use the road bridge instead.  Much safer, much less creepy.  I'm definitely taking into consideration where my routes take me now.

Rethinking the Rest and Relaxation

One thing that I've always found I struggle with a little bit with training for anything is the aching muscles and residual tightness.  I don't know if this is something particular to me and my old back injuries, but I'm prone to tight hamstrings and a sore lower back if I'm not careful.  I always stretch after a run, but I've started finding that my usual static stretches aren't hitting the spot and aren't going deep enough.

The solution has turned out to be courtesy of yoga.  I was doing a forward bend after one run at the beginning of last week, and thinking how nice it felt in multiple tight spots, and that led me to thinking Downward Dog would probably be good too.  It was only a short leap from there to try out an experimental Sun Salutation sequence to see if it would help.  One pass to each side, and it felt good - the poses get right into multiple tight areas and stretch them in different ways to any static stretch, so I've started incorporating it as a regular thing after my normal stretches, and it really seems to help.

I've also been meaning to get back into my weekly Body Balance classes, which I've somehow not been back to since Christmas.  I was organised enough last night to pack my bag, so I made it to the class this lunchtime, and good God I've got some tight niggly spots!!!  Not having been for over month I've also definitely lost some range of motion on some joints, so it will be interesting to see if I regain that over the next couple of weeks.

Rethinking the Routine

So far, I've stuck to the training schedule pretty damn well - in 5 weeks I've only dropped 3 short runs.  The first two were dropped deliberately because they were very short interval runs in the first 2 weeks of training, and I honestly didn't see the point in getting changed and running for just 15-20 mins.  Other than that, I've been really good about doing all of them .... until last week.Work and social committments somehow conspired to get in the way and I allowed them to. 

I think the reason I've found the schedule easy to stick to so far is because I've been disciplined about when I run - if the timetable said Tuesday and Thursday, I went Tuesday and Thursday.  Last week, my regular Tuesday night cinema "club" with friends kicked back in though, and Thursday was the AGM for the Surf Club so I needed to be there at 7.30pm instead of the usual 9ish.  Combined with working longer hours at the office, I let myself drift a bit, and ended up dropping the shortest run for the week (which might just have been the interval run again ... ahem).  On the other hand, I really enjoy getting runs ticked off and done - so much so that I got home (late) from work on Friday at 7.30pm and decided to go straight out and get my weekend long run done and dusted, so I could enjoy my weekend.

There's an easy solution to this I realise - I just move my two scheduled week day runs forward a day each to my quiet evenings in the week.  Simple!  I can then have a regular night to run that doesn't clash with my regular social engagements.  It also means that I have a rest day on Thursday, meaning if I want to get my long weekend run done early on a Friday again I can, and I can run it on fresh legs too.

Friday's run was both good and bad.  Good because I wanted to do it, even though it had been a long day.  Good because I managed 65 mins steady without stopping, which was 5.5 miles.  Bad because my right foot was still aching a bit, and right at the end my left one got in on the act too.  Bad because I felt a bit low on energy the whole way.  Good because when I logged my run afterwards, I'd actually increased my pace on all my previous "long" runs.

I'm still slow at the moment - Friday's run was at 12.02 min / mile.  My times are very slowly improving, and my shorter runs are quicker, but even allowing for a little more improvement in my pace over the remainder of training, I think I'm looking at 2hr 30min half-marathon.  Respectable but slow.  However, I was never in this for the speed, and I'm sure I will by no means be last.  This was only ever about completing it.

What worries me more is the foot pain.  I have many more miles of training to get through, and I really don't want to develop either an injury, or something that creates an aversion to running for me.  Even a little niggling pain is off-putting if you know it's coming.  With that in mind, I finally managed to get up to the running shop yesterday afternoon and get new trainers fitted.  They were lovely, spending a good 30 mins with me and discussing my custom insoles and my options.  The good news is that the lady I saw thought that my foot pain might be due to the lack of cushioning in my very knackered trainers, rather than anything more serious.

I went to Moti in Bristol, and they have all sorts of tecnological goodies on offer, including video gait analysis on the treadmill, with side-by-side comparison of how you run in different shoes.  Despite my custom insoles, they've put me in supportive trainers, rather than neutral, as the two seem to work well together, but I did get complimented on the fact I run with my mid-foot not my heel, especially since I've re-trained myself from being a heel-striker!  I have some very white Asics Gels to try.  I like'd Moti as they tell you to come back if they're not right after a couple of runs and they'll re-analyse! 

I'm hoping to try the new shoes out tonight for a nice easy 40 min run.  Fingers crossed they'll be comfortable, and there'll be less achy foot.

And just to stop ourselves getting too serious about our training / fitness (me - half-marathon, her - triathlon training), Hannah's talked me into entering this:  The Banzai Charge.    It's in September, and it's 8 miles of ludicrous hills, mud, bog, tarzan swings, more mud, more hills, river crossings, rope-assisted hill climbs, more hills, cargo netting, more mud, a 10m hill slide into hay bales assisted by washing-up liquid for added speed, more hills and a giant wall to climb over at the end.  Oh yes - and you wear your race number on a Japanese bandana on your forehead.

How can you take yourself too seriously after that???

Thursday, 19 January 2012


This week has mostly been about trying to keep my head above water, and even that seems to be a lot of effort right now.

Work is pure chaos, which makes this:

seem like a really, bloody long time ago.  Yet it was only Saturday.

I ended up having to go into the office for a couple of hours on Saturday, so the run got bumped out of daylight hours into I've-just-about-got-time-to-spare hours instead.  I could have done with a lie-in on Saturday morning, but woke up at 7.30am, and decided that I might as well get up and moving and into the office.

I managed to bundle myself in there by 9.30am, and took the car even though it's only 10 mins walk away from the flat, because I was going to meet my friends Bec and Graeme for lunch.  It was really good to see them, even if it was very brief, although I think Bec was a bit disappointed that I hadn't dragged Chris along for her to meet!  He was already off mountain-biking though, so that (trauma) will just have to wait for another day.

I managed to escape work at about 4ish, but the light was already fading by then, so any hopes of a daylight run were scuppered.  More annoyingly, my iPod Shuffle's battery gave up 15 mins into the run, so I had to run the remaining 40 mins without it, although that actually wasn't nearly as bad as I'd anticipated it would be.  The run felt quite loose and easy again, and I had just enough time when I got back to slam some food down my throat and have a mini-panic about what the hell to wear to the house party in the evening.

Top marks to our friends Cat and Ollie at the party, who know both Chris and myself, and hadn't been explicitly told that we were now seeing each other, and managed to diplomatically avoid any "oh-my-GOD" moments.  It was a fairly chilled out party, rather than a crazy one, so I managed to get home at the relatively sensible time of 1am.  Annoyingly, we'd thought that there would potentially be an entire flat full of people staying at ours, so Chris had decided to drive home rather than crash the flat, since I'm sleeping in the lounge at the moment.  I couldn't head back with him, because I needed to get my surfboard out of my storage first thing on Sunday morning, so it was a very chaste night .... except that I got home to find that everybody else had ended up staying elsewhere so I had the entire flat to myself.  Damnit!  It's hard enough finding time alone at the moment, with work and me not having my own permanent place, so just  ......... grrrrrr.

Impressively, I was up early on Sunday, and at the storage place at 10am to grab my board.  Just by chance, I thought I see whether the board would fit inside the car - I suspected it would be a couple of inches too long to fit but thought it was worth a try.  Unbelievably, my 8ft surfboard and it's board bag just fits in the car!  In my little, tiny C1.  It's literally a case of the nose being on the dashboard, pressed up against the windscreen and the tail end sitting against the boot lid, but it fits!  That's going to be awesome for when I want to do a solo trip!!!

Saunton was beautiful when we got there.  It was a little blustery - just on the edge of usable, but a glorious day.  It's such a long walk down to the water though when you're carrying a board!  It wasn't too bad on the way down as I was fresh and excited, but coming back up I was tired and the wind was against me, and it seemed like an insurmountable task!  Chris was sweet enough to go and get me a hot chocolate whilst I was fighting my way out of my wetsuit and getting changed (he'd got in and out earlier than me) ..... he even bought back a choice of with-cream or with-marshmallows.  Good stuff!

The view of the beach as we drove away was breath-taking - one of the things I love most about surfing is the huge sense of space you get when you're out there.  It's so majestic and peaceful.

Since then it's been bloody chaos at work.  Late nights, frantic phone-calls and emailing, and a lot of swearing.   Eating has not been great, but it's better than last week, and I'm still tracking it all as best I can remember it.  I managed to get out for my run tonight, and churned out 40 mins at (for me) a fairly decent pace.  My mile times are slow at the moment - around the 12 min mark depending on what length of run I'm doing, but that's improved since the first week, when they were around the 12:30 mark, so hopefully they'll keep slowly improving.

Hetty asked last post when I started enjoying my runs.  The honest answer is that there wasn't a lightbulb moment, but I think it was the combination of a few factors.  I knew from the outset that this half-marathon and it's training would be hard for me, as I'm not a natural runner.  I have one speed:  plod.  Accordingly, my one ambition as just been to complete it.  I have no aspirations for speed or a particular predicted time.  I don't even aim to finish it all without walking at all.  I just aim to finish it.  Period. 

With that aim in mind, and only that, I dropped any worries about pace or distance during my training at the door.  No point.  The training is a long way, over a long period of weeks, and the only way to get through that and stay sane is make it as easy as possible for myself, and if that means deliberately setting out slow and steady, and checking my pace every so often to conserve energy, then that's just fine.  I don't even care if I have to walk during a training run - there's no pressure on myself other than to work for the required period of time for each session.  What that meant is that I've been very gentle on myself.  I did need to walk during the first three runs, and I didn't beat myself up about it.  I skipped (the only two runs of the training program I've skipped so far) the two short interval runs in the first two weeks as I wasn't interested in them.

Somewhere along the way, I've discovered that I have a gear that enables me to just keep going.  In that gear, my breathing is deep, but even and controlled, and my muscles don't particularly ache.  Since my 4th run, I haven't needed to stop and walk on any of my runs.  I've just eased my pace and kept steadily plodding.  I fully expect that at some point my runs will get to a distance where I will need to walk for a bit, and I'll cross that road when I get to it, but it's not yet.

The other factor in my increased enjoyment, is being able to tick off every run on my schedule and see it done.  It's satisfying.  And when a run stops being something you dread for how much it will hurt, it becomes a time when you feel strong, and also a time to mull stuff over. 

I've had a 3+ years of love / hate relationship with running before getting to this point, but for the moment, something has clicked for me, and I enjoy most of my runs, and even quite look forward to them in the evening, as they're a good way to let go of the tension of the day.  I have a lot of tension to let go of right now!!!

Friday, 13 January 2012

A Little Bit of Gossip pt 2

I suppose I'd better tell you how this ends, hadn't I?  How did we get from there to here?  And although, we've already covered point 3 from yesterday, what the hell were points 1 and 2?

Still interested?


Ok ...

Fast-forward a couple of years, and I was feeling a lot better about myself. Good enough to smile at cute guys and strike up conversations at the bar.

There's a charity event each November that all the Canoe Club guys go to (actually, I realised yesterday that I didn't even explain that bit - they all went to uni together and met at the Canoe Club - they've remained friends ever since). As three of my close friends are ex-members of it, I know a lot of the crowd, and the annual event is a scream. November 2010, I went for the first time, and ran into a rather tasty guy at said bar. As we bantered, he told me he'd rowed across the Atlantic, and I laughingly said "yeah right". We flirted a lot, I teased him about his giant fib, and it turned into a great night. A great boost to the ego too, even though it wasn't anything serious that was going to go anywhere. He did have great biceps though - it turned out he really HAD rowed across the Atlantic earlier that year! ;o)

Last Spring, I ran into another cute Canoe Club guy at another event. We hit it off straight away, and again, it wasn't serious (he was moving to Australia just a month later), but we had a lot of fun killing some holiday we both had at the time. Unfortunately, there were a few toes trodden on (completely accidentally), so it was probably a good job he was leaving. It was fun while it lasted though.

There was also another cute Canoe Club guy in history, who shall Never Be Mentioned. All in all, I'd had my quota of Canoe Club boys in the last couple of years, and as much fun as they all are, I'd figured by last June that it was all too close-knit a group, too many potential toes to accidentally squash, and I should stay well away.

I held good to that and dated elsewhere, when I wasn't having fun learning to surf. In the Summer, there was James (he of the super-romantic dates). By the end of the Autumn, I'd been seeing Andy for a couple of months. He was fun, clever and a triathlete. Problem is, the spark just wasn't there. I'd given it a chance, I was about to move house, there was a lot going on, and I was coming to the conclusion that being single for a while would be good. I just had to do the deed and end it.  Maybe in a few days time because, you know, I hate breaking up with people.

In need of a good night out, to take my mind off everything, I went to the annual charity bash again as a last minute decision. I let my hair down, had fun chatting and catching up, and over the shoulder of my friend who I was buying a drink for, I caught the eye of the guy from the coach. Yes, HIM.  We smiled, and I went to get the drinks. A little while later, I caught his eye again - another smile. And it kept bloody happening.

I don't honestly remember who arrived at the bar first, or who spoke first, but we were soon chatting away animatedly. He was an accountant, like me. He liked being outdoors and extreme sports and travelling, like me. He didn't live in Bristol (booooooo), but did live quite nearby (yay!). I don't know how long we talked, with the carnage of the night going on around us, but at some point I reluctantly dragged myself away to go to the ladies. When I got back he wasn't there anymore, and I probably slumped a bit, but then returned to my friends. I think I'd been there about 2 mins, when a girl I know a little appeared and straight out said "you know, he really likes you but for all his confidence he won't make a move. He's on the dancefloor - pleeeeeease go find him".

Crap - I'm going to have to make a move? I think I muttered about not being drunk enough for that, and her response was a sly smile and this: "I'll get the drinks, you get to the dancefloor".

Deep breath, and a decision made. What was the worst that could happen? Nothing. Oh hell, did I feel self-conscious, but I moseyed on over to where they had congregated on the dancefloor. Ok, that's a lie, I allowed myself to be towed over to where they were. A long story short, we somehow got our shit together, and moves were made.

Before we parted, numbers were exchanged, and we said we'd like to see each other again. I then had a stressful weekend moving out of my flat and into Hannah's. Although we texted a few times in those days, by Wednesday I was starting to think it wouldn't go anywhere, as the text's were getting further apart.  I was sitting on my (Hannah's) sofa in the evening sadly examining my phone, and noting no texts since the previous evening, and acknowledging to myself that it going to die a quiet little death. And at that exact instant, my phone rang in my hand. And it was him.

You know that moment of panic, when you're looking at the phone thinking "how soon can I reasonably answer this, without looking like I leapt on it in an undignified frenzy"?  Yeah, that was me.  We started chatting and it was easy.  We chatted for nearly an hour, although the signal was crap and we had to call each other back 4 times (this should have been a sign of things to come - if things can go comically wrong for us, they usually do).  Eventually we gave up, and he called my friend's landline instead.  And eventually, he got round to asking me what he'd rung for.  He said that he was extremely busy with work at the moment, and was currently house-sitting a load of holiday rentals for his employer for the next 10 days, so couldn't really leave them, but really wanted to see me.  He said he knew it was a big step, and he'd understand if it was too much, but as soon as he stopped house-sitting he was off to Wales with friends for the weekend, and would I like to come too?  Yikes!

I thought about it, and as I thought I realised that I was pretty sure I did want to go.  In the interests of averting a possible disaster though, I took a deep breath and said I'd like to, but maybe we should meet up on the intervening weekend for a bit of a walk and a chat, and just see how we got on.  And so it began.  I went to see him, and we had a glorious stroll over late-Autumnal Exmoor.  The sun shone, and a herd of deer even graced up with their presence.  We were both a little shy, but the chat flowed easily, and I began to think that maybe the next weekend would be fun.

I just had one final thing to do before we went away the next weekend.  I hadn't seen Andy for 2 weeks, and I was sort of hoping it would all just die away quietly on it's own, so when he texted and asked if I wanted to meet up for a drink the next week, I gently let him down, sure that I was making the right choice. 

I think I did.

Back in the real world, I went for my run last night, gulped down beans-on-toast, and tore off up to the pub for the weekly surf club meet up.  No alcohol for me, just a diet Coke or two.

Weigh in this week - final verdict was 13st 0.4lb.  A little loss, on a week when I've eaten less than perfectly, is something I'm entirely happy with.

Same again this week - try and eat a little more moderately, and more running.

I'm looking forwards to a chilled out night in with Hannah tonight, and I think we're cooking something with roasted pumpkin in, maybe gnocchi.  Then I'm looking forward to doing my long run in the daylight tomorrow for a change (another 55mins, same as last weekend) followed by a couple of hours in the office most likely.  If I can, I'd really like to try and get to the running shop to sort my trainers out too.  In the evening, Chris is coming up to Bristol for a party, which I believe I'm going to with him, and then we're planning on some surf action on Sunday, as I need to try my new board out!

Busy but fun.

And is it weird, that I'm almost enjoying my runs now?  That is a little weird, right?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

New House and A Little Bit of Gossip

This morning, for the first time this year, the scales showed me back under 13st.  And you know what?  I'd like to keep them there.

I was thinking as I walked home last night, that I've got two pairs of new work trousers, that I bought towards the end of last year, and that I've never actually got round to wearing because they're rather too tight at the moment.  Ignoring what the scales have been telling me, my clothes definitely tell me that a little less food and a little more exercise wouldn't go amiss at the moment.  Things still fit, but they're snug, so it will definitely be interesting to see what another 8 weeks of HM training will do to my body shape, especially if I can keep my eating at least moderately on track.  My eating may not be perfect at the moment, but I am tracking all of it honestly, so I'm conscious of what I'm getting through.

(Just a little aside - I still freak out everytime I think about that fact that I'm training for a half-marathon.  Holy crap!!!  I used to think that running a 5km was the holy grail and well beyond my abilities - how things change!  Two months today, I will be recovering from yesterday's race, and I'll have a new bit of bling to show for it.  Less than two months to learn to run over twice as far as I've ever run before ..... panicpanicpanicpanic ....)

Last night, after a delayed finish from work, I walked up to my new flat-to-be to go and see the girls for a post-Christmas catch-up.  It was the first time I've walked there from my office, so it was interesting to see what my new daily commute will be.  Even though I was running later to meet them (stupid busy office), I deliberately walked at my normal pace so I could get a feel for it.  It was more hill than I thought, but also a bit quicker than I was expecting - or more accurately, I think I just crammed more gradient into a slightly shorter route!  I made it up the hill in 25mins last night, and I suspect the other route, which would also be via the supermarket if I needed it - hello Waitrose now being on my way home! - would be more like 30mins.  That's going to give me a nice bump of exercise everyday, more than doubling what I've been doing for the last year.

I've also made the decision to stop including my daily commute to work in my activity points when I track.  I haven't done so since I started back last week.  I just think that I probably over-rely on those few extra points, and since it's a walk I do 5 days a week, it's probably not as much of a challenge for my body as other exercise.  Proper walks, or days when I've been on my feet a lot, will still be included, I'm just ommitting my commuting miles.

I really like the new district I'll be living in - it's a different part of town from my old flat and Hannah's place, and it has a much more bohemian feel.  Up til now, I've been living on and around the harbourside - Hannah and I both do - which is very close to the city centre.  It's quite a chic area, I suppose - lots of modern architecture and conversions like my old place, a few nice bars, but not really much in the way of shops, etc, until you get into the city centre itself.  I'm moving up the hill to a different side of the city centre, into a district of grand Victorian and Georgian houses.  The flat is over the top two floors of a big Victorian semi-detatched place, on a little side road full of similarly big houses and lots of trees.  Walking up last night, I realised that just round the corner there's a thriving local high-street full of independent businesses - within 3 mins of the flat there's a whole foods store, deli, independent coffee-shops, bars and restaurants, a bike shop, book shop, a film company - it's quite a cool area really.  The flat itself is more shabby-chic than the more sophisticated place I was living before, but it's comfy and I'm sure it will be homey once we're all in and have made it our own.

One lovely thing about moving to the new place will be my housemates.  I'm blessed with two supremely chatty and happy new housemates, one of whom (plus her best friend who lives just round the corner) is also very outdoorsy and active.  Yay!!  Sam's training for the London marathon (so can give me tips) and likes climbing mountains and wants to do more mountain-biking as does her friend Lynsey.  Sounds good to me.  Both housemates, Sam and Krissie, have said they'd be interested in trying a bit of surfing some time too.  I love the idea of having some active housemates to get out and do stuff with - awesome!  Plus it means we're dedicating the hallway shelves on the way up to the attic to "kit" so I don't have to try and hide it somewhere in my room - all the tents and sleeping bags and general stuff is going to be easily accessible in future - whooop!

Now - something completely different - when I first mentioned that I was seeing Chris, I had several people demand more details, especially how we met, and I've realised I never told that story.  It's quite sweet, so I thought I'd share.  I haven't always talked much about my dating, just snippets here and there, so I realise a little back-story is required here, and I'm not quite sure where to start.

I suppose there are 3 key facts to this story:

  1. I'd sworn off Canoe Club boys, and I broke my own rules.
  2. I was actaully seeing someone else when I met Chris.
  3. I've known of him for a couple of years, and thought he was rather yummy, but never had the opportunuity to talk to him before now.
Let us go back to the beginning .....

In 2009, just as I'd made a deal with my best friend Jo that we would do something about our respective waistlines and fitness levels, I went snowboarding with friends.  Some of those friends were ex-Canoe Clubbers, and there was another big group of their friends going to the same resort as us the same week.  We decided to share their coach up to the resort from the airport and, as we got on the coach, I saw a guy who I remember thinking was rather cute.  A big, tall guy with dark hair, very blue eyes and a near-constant smile.  He seemed like the kind of friendly, popular guy who's easy, fun company; the kind of person I instinctively like. 

Back then though, I was feeling (really) low about myself.  My weight had been creeping up uncontrollably for a while, hence the final snapping point that triggered Jo and myself to say we'd finally make the change.  Smiling at cute guys was not really on my radar.  Entertaining my friends as the "fat girl" and otherwise fading into the background was the norm, so as much as I thought he was cute, and probably kept a sideways eye on him during the 3 hour coach trip, that was it. 

That holiday was the second time I'd been snowboarding, and as I pushed myself I ended up falling hard several times.  I guess it's hard to fall lightly when you're 16 and a half st and snowboarding.  My back, already injured (and cleverly left untreated) after a horse-riding fall in 2002, finally gave up.  I had one rough fall too many, and 3 days after we arrived, I was confined to the chalet by intense pain, and I stayed there for the rest of the week.  So I wasn't with my friends when they hooked up with the other group on the piste mid-week, and although we went for dinner with them towards the end of the week, I was too lost in pain to enjoy myself.  I was still like that when we got the coach back to the airport - ripped ligaments and muscles in your back will do that to you.

I remained aware of the guy's existence over the next couple of years though, as I'd sometimes catch a glimpse of him at various events or hear of him through mutual friends, but that was it.  We were in the same social universe but on different orbits.  Nothing would ever happen.

You know - this is turning into a bit of a long post ..... I think I'd better leave it there .... :o)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Winter Running

One thing that I've found since I took up running was that summer running was easy - I could wear exactly what I normally wore to the gym and it was comfortable.  As the seasons slowly progressed though, and it started getting colder, darker and occasionally wetter, I suddenly found that I needed more gear to keep going.

Although I first started running in 2008 (I think), sometime before I actually really started the weightloss thing, it wasn't until last winter that I really ran in all weathers.  By the end of 2010, I'd just completed my first 10k and was in quite a running groove.  If you remember, the winter of 2010 was pretty harsh - lots of snow, ice and cooooooooooold.  I had a designated running fleece from my general "gear" stash by then, for running in the evening when it was cooler, but kit-wise that was advanced as I got.

Suddenly it was bloody freezing, and I was layering base-layers under my fleece and trying out running in gloves and fleece headbands.  I found that I often got too hot in my layers on my top half, but my legs were freezing in their 3/4 length tights from the gym.  I caved and bought long tights, and encountered the weirdness of their sizing for the first time - why do they cut the waist-bands so tight and non-stretchy?  But my top-half still over-heated, and if it rained I got wet, as I didn't have a water-proof suitable for running.  I made do and skated around on the ice for a couple of months running round the harbour, I ran in the snow, and tried to dodge the rain, and when it was toooooooo bad I retreated indoors to the gym.

This season things are a little different.  I'm 3 weeks into my half-marathon training now, and will be running consistently (touch wood - there'll be no injuries or other catastrophes) right through til March.  I'm not a treadmill girl, so that will all happen outdoors (apart from possibly some of the interval training?), and I wanted to be a bit more prepared.  I have new tights, a new jacket, a new baselayer and a new sports bra.  And I bloody love them.

Tights first - running gear can be flaming expensive, so I was happy to investigate JJB for cheaper options - Gore and North Face et all, are all very lovely, but I have finite resources.  JJB have their own running range, Run365, which provide well-priced, running specific gear.  I tried on two of their pairs of tights, and was highly gratified to finally find a pair that sit a bit higher and have a nice wide stretchy waistband that actually fits over my hips without the need to stop my circulation, and then stays put.  No riding down, no digging in.  They're simple - zips at the back of the lower leg with reflective strips on them, mesh vents behind the knee and a small key pouch - all the basics but no fancy bits.  But they fit well, are nice and long, don't rub or ride around and are a nice fabric that seems to stop the worst of the wind.  And they cost a whole £19.

My jacket was from the same range, and was another steal.  Most jackets I've seen cost at least £40, rising to well over £100.  I just can't justify that, so when I tried this jacket for £23, I was hooked.  It's plain black with a few touches of purple edging and some flashes of neon,and cut quite long to keep out the drafts, dipping down a bit lower at the back.  Simple small zipped pockets provide storage for small items like keys, and it's mesh-lined to keep the air flowing inside, with mesh vents under the arms to help prevent over-heating.  It's a lightweight silky feeling fabric, and I'll be honest - for £23 I pretty much expected it to just be a bit of a wind-breaker.  However, the first couple of times I've run in it have featured some pretty heavy wind and rain, and it's been pretty damn good.  The water beaded properly on the outside, and I remained surprisingly dry.  It cut the wind efficiently too, without making me so hot I was sweating wildly.  And the cut is surprisingly neat too, so I actually feel like a look good.  Excellent.

My newest base-layer is an Icebreaker - a brand I've wanted to try for ages, but always been put off by the prices.  Icebreaker make merino wool products - mostly mid- and base-layers I think - and are usually quite pricey but with an excellent reputation.  For a start, merino wool is meant to not get stinky pretty much ever.  It's also quick drying and soft next to the skin.  I was therefore very excited to stumble on a sample sale at a gear shop in Betws-y-Coed in Wales back in early December, where there were a few womens long-sleeve baselayers, and even one in my size, all for 50% of normal price!  I bloody love this top - a close-fitting long-sleeve tee in black, with thump-loops on the sleeves, and a lovely long cut.  Testing so far, whilst running, says that it really doesn't smell.  It's been worn for two runs in a row where I didn't have time to wash it in between, and then it took a couple of days to get it into the wash - nothing.  Not one niffy odour!  I thoroughly recommend!

Finally, and possibly the most important bit of kit I bought recently, another new sports bra.  I've had issues with these before - it's not always easy to find a good fit when you're a bit more generously endowed.  Some may remember my contempt last year for the Shock Absorber Run bra I tried, which was not only near impossible to put on, but then kept unclipping itself mid-run, and eventually failed quite quickly.  Then I went back to my beloved M & S sports bra, only to find they'd changed their cut and they were also similarly difficult to put on, and had an additional "3 nipple" effect that wasn't very attractive (the seams over the cups of the bra are solidly "welded" onto the fabric, which means if the fabrics not at full stretch the seam forms several little wrinkles right where your nipple would be, making it look like you have 2 or 3 on each side!  It's practically impossible to stretch the fabric enough to eliminate this, so you have to wear thicker tops to try and hide it or just brazen it out - a bit of a design flaw).

Whilst in JJB I stopped to examine Shock Absorber's latest offerings, and whilst I'm still not convinced by their Run bra, I was intrigued enough to try their recently redesigned Level 4 offering.  Shock Absorber, like many sports bra manufacturers, offer their different designs based on a scale of exercise intensity.  Level 4 is the most intense, intended for running, dance and anything else where you're jumping round like a lunatic.  This time, they seem to have got it right.  The cups are slightly moulded to offer support and shape.  The breast-band is nicely padded, the shoulder straps pleasingly shaped and padded too to avoid digging in.  The best bit is the fastening system though - instead of one closure, it has two.  The bottom closure at the back is the standard to pull the chest band closed, and seems well constructed.  There's then a secondary band above that running between the shoulder straps which acts as both a racer back to stop the straps sliding, and an extra tension point. 

It really works - it comfortable, stable and supportive, and because of the secondary opening, easy to get in and out of because you can choose to open or close that one depending on your flexibility.  I really love it!  It's my new favourite piece of kit, because I can completely forget about it while I'm running.

The last thing for me to get now are new trainers.  I'll book an appointment to be fitted as soon as I've been paid next week I think - my feet deserve some presents!

Anyone else have any (winter) running essentials they swear by?

Just Say No!

One of my over-riding bad habits is trying to cram too much into a finite space of time.  I do it all the time, and very often I don't realise I've done it, until I'm contemplating a looooong list of things to do, and not enough time to do them all in.

As a result of the above bad habit, I quite often spend large chunks of time stressed, tired, rushed and running perpetually late.  Oh, and things don't get done, because inevitably something has to give and balls get dropped.

Another side-effect of it is that I often end up spending too much money and eating / drinking too much because I'm out nearly every night.  I just find it really hard to say "no" to invitations.

Last year, I made a New Years resolution, that I would try and get better at this.  I'd realised it was a problem, and needed addressing, so I made a conscious decision to not over-book myself in 2011.  It started off fairly well, but soon enough, weekend after weekend, evening after evening was filled up with plans to see friends and go on adventures.  Call it the problem of moving to a new city and starting a new life.

I did improve on some fronts - I got better at saying I can't do something because I can't afford to and I'm tired, even though that sometimes caused friction.  I got better at making a plan and sticking to it, and owning up when I had managed to double-book myself.  A bit better, but not perfect.  Not by a long shot.

You will have noticed that it wasn't in my formal resolutions this year, but that doesn't mean I'm not still working on it.  For the sake of my sanity, my friendships, my health and my money, I need to keep working on this.  That's probably why it's no longer really a resolution, and more of a lifestyle choice I'm working towards.  But you could view it as my 4th unspoken resolution.  After all, it underpins all 3 of the resolutions I recorded on here.  In order to look after my money, I have to stop over-booking myself.  In order to look after my health, I need to stop over-booking myself.  And in order to nurture this thing with Chris, I need to make time and stop over-booking myself!

Sooooooo - this week is busy.  Like, really busy.  Work is at full-tilt, I have several things I need to sort out at home, like my mail redirection and moving my surf-board to storage - both of which are time-restricted activities because of opening hours of businesses, I have training runs to complete, and it's turned into a catch-up week with various friends I haven't seen for a while.  I went to bed last night trying to work out how everything fitted in, and woke up this morning still trying to figure out the same thing.  The problem is that every possible solution I came up with involved me having to miss my training runs and still being in an insane rush.  It just wasn't good enough.

Eventually, I reached a decision: my training runs are important to me, so they are non-negotiable.  The chores need doing as soon as possible.  Work .... well, work can't be moved.  So my catch-up with my friend Dave this evening will just have to be rescheduled.  I'm confident that he understands - he's not going to stop talking to me just because I can't make it to the pub this evening, as he's a busy grown man who's successful in his career and understands the demands on our time - so I texted him this morning to explain, and we've rescheduled for 2 weeks time when things are quieter.  I feel relieved that I've bought myself time.

In the same way, a friend emailed me yesterday asking what weekends I was free in Feb and March.  My calendar is already virtually full for March, with a friend visiting from Brussels (long awaited), my half-marathon (eeeeeeek!), a friend's birthday which will be a rare get-together for my school friends (too exciting!) and the hen party of the friend who was emailing me (non-negotiable), so I've made the decision that I'm not going to take any more bookings for March.  In fact, I'm going to try and keep at least one weekend a month completely free for resting and relaxing.

This behaviour of cramming my diary full dates from an old version of me; one who was unhappy and lacked self-esteem, and needed constant reassurance of her worth and likeability by surrounding herself with friends and exciting things to do all the time.  The 2011 me doesn't need that.  I have a heap of great friends, and possibly one lovely man, who I know like me for just me.  Hell, even I like me these days.  I can afford to take time out, and be selfish, and just do what I really want to.  It'll be good for me.

Eating yesterday - not perfect.  I had some cocktails after work and ate out (although the food wasn't terrible), but I laughed hard and relaxed, so I'm over it.

Tonight, I run.

Monday, 9 January 2012

A Minor Slip-Up

... or possible alternative title: "How A Long Day In The Car In Slightly Stressful Conditions Will Tempt You To Eat Badly".

After a largely well-behaved weekend, in which I ate nicely, but sensibly, and documented all of it, yesterday was a bit of a slip-up. 

For a start, I went to bed far later than I meant to on Saturday night.  I got totally absorbed in the book I was reading, and was still up at midnight when Hannah came back from a house-party.  We then ended up chatting for a bit, so it was past 1am when I finally got to bed.  This meant that I was most reluctant to get out of bed yesterday morning.  I took the time to finally recolour my hair (call me vain, but I like it when it's all glossy and shiny and there's no horrible little greys poking through - it just makes me feel good - and it's been long over-due for a couple of weeks now), but that made me late to leave for my epic road-trip across country. 

So at 11.45am, I finally shot out the house with arm-fulls of stuff to go and jump in the car.  First stop - trying to find a petrol station without a trail of cars waiting, and I end up getting a Double Decker to keep me going til lunchtime, since I'm peckish.  Hmmm, probably not the best start. 

Lunch about an hour or so later, grabbed at a flying break on the motorway, was a sandwich and crisps - not too bad, as eating whilst driving is difficult and I couldn't be bothered with anything more.  I finally got to Colchester at about half 3 - luckily finding the address easily (god bless sat nav!), and finding a very helpful lady at home who was happy for me to have a quick peer at the surfboard in her living room to check the condition, before I sorted out strapping it to the car.

I should have taken a picture of it, as it looked pretty funny - the board's 8ft, and my car's a little Citroen C1 - I think the board was nearly longer than the car!!!!  I was using new soft racks to transport the board, so I was literally taking them out of the pack for the first time and figuring it all out as I went along! Luckily, they were pretty straightforward to use, and it all went on quite quickly and easily - a relief since the seller's wife was still chatting away, and I'd have looked pretty silly if I'd looked like I didn't know what I was doing!! 

Just 30 mins after I arrived, I was on the road again with my new board. Unfortunately, now came the stressful bit - another 3 hours drive home, but with something large and totally non-aero-dynamic strapped to the top of my little car.  I've never driven with a loaded car before, apart from very occasionally with bikes on the back of a previous car (I hated them so much that I took to carrying them in the car very quickly indeed).  So it was a shock at a) how much power / petrol consumption I lost, and b) how noisy having the board on the roof was! 

Christ, that was a shock.  I seriously need to look at muffling the rack somehow - where there are taut lines stretching between the roof and the board, they set up an eerie and incredibly loud moaning as you drive above about 50mph.  And because they are directly attached to the roof rather than a rack, the noise translates straight into the car.  I'm thinking that something soft wrapped around the front lines might help this as it will stop them vibrating in the same way - any thoughts, anyone?

So, it turned into a very slow drive back, as I couldn't go above 70mph tops, but mostly drove at 60mph.  Frustrating and tiring and draining with the constant noise.  The only good thing is that I don't actually do that much motorway driving to and from the coast for surfing normally, as we only do a couple of junctions on the motorway and then hit the slower A roads, where I don't think it will make so much difference.  Not normally 3+ constant hours of motorway!

That frustration turned to bad eating - a quick break at services saw an entire pack of jelly sweets being hoovered up before I'd even got back on the motorway (thank god I didn't buy a travel sized pack of chocolate instead).  Then over-tiredness on the sofa last night saw the siren call of the biscuit tin answered, and about 10 caramel digestives disappeared too.  Not too clever. I've been brave and tracked it all - it doesn't put me in a great position for this week, but I did say that I would be honest this month.

And I do have a shiny new surfboard to show for it!  I had a proper look when I got back last night, and I can't believe I seem to have got such a bargain!  The board is virtually pristine!  It was an 8ft custom mini-mal, which the guy ordered last year.  According to his wife, he used it on one holiday last summer in Cornwall, and then never got round to using it again, and now their second child is on the way, she gave him an ultimatum to sell one of his toys to pay for all the gear they need for him / her.  Even more luckily for me, this guy seriously loved his shiny toys, so as well as what looks to be an excellent board, I've also gained a rather nice board bag too - I reckon I've paid under half price for the cost of the kit new and it's got hardly any wear in it at all.

I love the cartoony style of the graphics on the board - certainly no one else will have one like this at the beach.  Chris says it's a boy-board - I told him to bog off ;o)  It's my pride and joy for the moment, and it's not like anything else I own (sports-wise at least) is particularly girly - I deliberately went out of my way to avoid buying a pink / baby-blue / white mountain-bike -I reckon you've got to be pretty flipping good to have "girly" gear and retain any kind of respect at the beach / on the hill!! 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Sound Choices

Sound choice no. 1 - went to the supermarket last night to forage for some food (I have a cold and didn't feel like cooking properly and there wasn't much in the flat). I bought Ben and Jerry's and ate a small portion from a proper (small) bowl and the rest went straight back in the freezer. Sound choice no. 2 - went for a run after work this evening. I knew I needed to get my long run in this weekend, and I suspected procrastinating would make it worse. So I got home from work, got changed and went straight out again. 55 mins steady running in the bag. 4.5ish miles slow but comfortable. Done. Sound choice no. 3 - I have a cold so I treated myself to a Thai curry this evening to see if I could taste anything. I could - it was nice. Nicer still was dishing myself up a sensible portion of rice and curry, having 2 of the 4 satay skewers to accompany it, and actually putting everything else in the fridge so I can't go back for seconds I don't need. Revolutionary behaviour from me. Sound choice no. 4 - turning down 3 separate invitations for fun things to do tonight (gig, house party and cinema) because I'm tired, a bit poorly and don't have much money left this month. And because it's ok to say no and selfishly spend the evening on the sofa instead. I think the good eating behaviours are rubbing off from the Mindless Eating book. One the over-riding themes is how we respond to portions and availability / convenience of food. Dishing up a proper portion and putting the rest out of sight is good behaviour to prevent over-eating, according to the book, as apparently we're intrinsically lazy creatures and if it's not totally at hand, we're far less likely to actually be bothered to eat it. Seems to have worked on those 2 occasions! Other than that's it been a day of work (depressing) punctuated by a phonecall from Chris to cheer me up and check I hadn't thrown myself out the office window in frustration (difficult since they don't open). Tomorrow I off to go and pick up my new baby - my first ever surfboard!!!! - Posted from my iPhone

Friday, 6 January 2012

Cracking On With 2012


Wow - it's all go round here!  I've been meaning to jump on here for days to chat, but somehow it's the 6th of January already. I have a feeling this year is going to pass in a flash!

First, since last time I checked this was a diet and health blog, let's talk about that.  By the time I managed to get near a scale again on my return to Bristol, my final check in after Christmas saw me back at 13st 1.2lb.  I wasn't entirely surprised as I didn't eat spectacularly well over New Year, so a few lbs on was expected.  So, in keeping with New Year's Resolution No.2 (keep healthy eating - maintain the weightloss or lose some more), I thought now would be a good time to start tracking my eating again - I started again on Wednesday, and the scales this morning show me at 13st 0.8lbs - not a big move, but in the right direction.

I'm just going to keep my weightloss goals to a lb at a time at the moment, and I plan to do this by eating moderately and consciously, and moving.  I know - revolutionary, isn't it?

The moving part is coming from my HM training, which is now into it's 3rd week.  At least that's got pretty much all my "moving" requirements covered for the next 9 weeks or so!  Which come to think of it, was probably at least half of the idea when I signed up to the damn thing.  This week has seen a 45 min run of epically windy and rainy proportions on Tuesday, and a faster 30 min blast round the harbour last night.  I've been enjoying testing out my new winter running kit, which is proving great so far (more on that in a different post I think), and the runs in themselves have felt pretty easy - my breathing's been good and my legs have felt pretty strong.  I had a bit of an ache in my foot last night, but I suspect my legs / muscles were just a bit tired from the longer run the night before.  My pace is slow at the moment, but seems to be slowly increasing.

One thing I find hard about the training plan is trying not to panic about the long runs to come.  I have to remind myself though that the runs so far have been ok, and they've been slowly increasing in length.  The last 3 in particular have felt strong, and this weekend's long run is only an extra 10 mins on the longest so far.  It's just taking it one run at a time.

Talking about healthy outdoor pursuits - I've finally bought a surfboard!  It took me quite a while to find what I was looking for, in the right condition and at a price I was willing to pay, but I found one, and hopefully (cross your fingers), I'll be going to pick it up this weekend.  Unfortunately, it's all the way over in Colchester in Essex, so I'll be using my precious day off this weekend to drive right across the country - yay.

I feel a little guilty that I'll be spending my whole day driving, as that eats into the only day this week that I could have seen Chris.  On the other hand, he surfs too so I'm sure he'll understand.  It's still going well (I think!) - I managed to catch 24 hours with him on New Years Day and over the Bank Holiday, although we were both so shattered (he'd just got back from snowboarding that day, and I'd just got back from London) that we pretty much spent most of that time sleeping or vegetating on the sofa.  We headed down the coast for a bit on Monday, planning to go for a walk on Exmoor, but the weather was so miserable, that we ended up having fish and chips in the car on the sea-front at Ilfracombe (cue lots of jokes about us being a proper old couple) and then went for a short walk at Lynmouth up towards Watersmeet only to have it go dark and then get soaked in a sudden downpour.  Better than nothing though!

As for my final New Year's Resolution - No. 1 (make some serious headway on my debt and learn to live within my budget) - I seem to be doing ok so far this month.  I'm keeping a close eye on my expenditure, and should be on budget this month, as long as I'm sensible the next 2 weeks.  I made an extra payment on to my debts in December, and will be able to do the same again this month.  Last year turned out to be a year of standing still money-wise.  My debts didn't get any worse really, but neither did they get any better - all that money on interest and I still hadn't done much with the balances.  These two extra payments should put me ahead of that neutral position and on the beginning of the road to paying them off. 

One of the hardest decisions I had to make last year, was to give up my lovely warehouse flat and move to a houseshare.  It was the easiest way for me to cut my living costs drastically and allow me to get on with my debts.  It was hard because I felt like I was taking a giant step backwards with my life, but it was the only thing that would allow me to move forwards.  It then led to all manner of stress and heartache as flatshares fell through and I found myself, technically speaking, homeless for a while.  Of course, I was never actually homeless, as my friends would never have let that happen, but it wasn't a great period.  Finally though, the new house is coming together.  After nearly losing the second house I arranged, twice, (problems with the tenants moving out because the chain on the house they were buying kept falling through), it's all finally going ahead, and I have a moving in date of 7 Feb.  In the meantime, I'm still staying with Hannah and Cassie. 

Moving house has allowed me to completely restructure my budget to something that I can actually afford to live on, and will allow me to make over-payments to my debts every month, and that is something that feels great.  It's very satisfying watching the balances descend, and being the geeky accountant that I am, I totally have a spreadsheet with all my budget and forecasts in :o)  The main thing though, is that money put to my debts is completely guilt free - I have to remember that when I pine for a holiday that I can't really afford.

So that's life around here - bowling along at a cracking pace, but hopefully all into shiny new territory.  I feel pretty positive at the moment, even if it is all a little hectic, especially with work being crazy!

I think Jo summed it up best - "well, look at you - it's the start of a New Year and you've got a new man, a new house and you're paying off your debts!".

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A Brand Spanking New Year

And I hereby have 3 resolutions to stick to in 2012:

• make some serious headway on my debt and learn to live within my budget.

• keep healthy eating - maintain the weightloss or lose some more.

• (at the insistence of my good friend Jo) give whatever this is with Chris a fighting chance (please note - I'm too scared to use the "relationship" word).

On that basis - the challenge for January has been issued - start tracking again if necessary, but no more than one "treat" a day this month - chocolate, crisps, cakes are all included - and must be in individual-sized portions. This is designed to make me consider what I really want on an average day.

January will also see me get properly into my half-marathon training. I've completed the first 2 weeks / 4 runs - now it starts in earnest.

So Happy New Year one and all - lets make this one a good one!

- Posted from my iPhone