30 January 2015

The cure for floppy boots

Tell the truth, how many of you read that as floppy boobs rather than boots? Although there was an issue last week when I discovered one of my jogbras needed to be relegated to non-bounce activities this is actually about how to store your boots* rather than the boobies.

I also think I'm probably late to this little tidbit of information but after struggling with inflatable boot shapers that were far too large and looking at a wine bottle that was about to be relegated to the recycle bag I finally realised that I could use it to keep my boots upright and protected! You can also use rolled up magazines but since I rarely splurge on those any more that wasn't as handy an option.

The boots just flopping around (vintage Clarks from All Dressed Up in Chipping Norton)

The wine bottles--if you haven't tried the Chocolate Ruby chocolate infused wine from M&S you are missing out on on some deliciousness 

et voilĂ ! 

My main problem is that I don't drink enough wine to have enough bottles for all my boots...surely that can't mean I own too many pairs!!!!  I suppose I could go raid the neighbours' bins on the next recycle day but I catch enough eye-rolling with my Americanisms as it is. 

*Obviously I mean footwear rather than the trunk (boot) of a car--related, I managed to say boot rather than trunk in a conversation today.


Sometimes you go for a run and come back looking like this...Well I do on most runs but that's not the point!

And on some of those runs you come back to discover that your garmin recorded the time but no distance!  Too bad that happened because I was really looking forward to seeing the map trace on last night's crazy mystery run--we had it all, snow, ice, mud, hills, more mud, tree roots, ankle deep water crossings and yes, even more mud.  My main regret is that I chose to wear my road shoes (didn't know there was an off-road option last night) because my trail shoes were still sopping wet and muddy from the impromptu midday run.

On a sad note, my Sock it to Me "Bad Ass" socks developed a hole on the big toe area during last night's run. Not impressed because I haven't worn these socks that much and they were fairly expensive.

29 January 2015

Junk Miles

Junk miles is an odd term, everyone seems to have their own interpretation of it but I always have thought of them as miles that aren't serving a specific purpose in your training.  Of course with that it means most of mine are junk miles but I'm ok with that.  Today was a good example of it, when it started snowing with great big giant fluffy snowflakes I was just itching to get out and go for a run in it despite having a track session* planned for tonight.  Sod's law though, by the time I got changed and ready to go the snow stopped falling! Did that stop me? Silly question! I did decide to stop and take a few pics since I wasn't supposed to be running.

Yes, the fields are that green and the sky was that blue

Hello swans, sorry no bread for you

Making tracks

*Just as well I went for a run, while writing this I got the message the track was closed tonight due to being snow covered, health and safety and all that.  

Catching up

The blog has been silent for the latter half of January other than yesterday's attempt at putting up an earworm video (for some reason youtube and blogger are still not playing nice with the embed codes).  It's not that I've not had things to say but I've been so busy having to stare at the computer screen for other purposes that updating here fell by the wayside.  So what has been happening in my world?

We had a trip down to London--not for pleasure though, it was for a project that my partner is working on. I did finally get to walk across the Tower Bridge once we finished up with what we could do work-wise, can't believe all the times I have been there and not done that until now! It's finally sinking in that I live here and so was feeling much less like a tourist--having my very own oyster card contributed to that in a somewhat weird way.  We did get the opportunity to help a lady out with pictures on the bridge after her phone's battery died--I know I would have been devastated if I was visiting a place and wasn't able to get a picture of it for posterity.

Training is going well, my 3rd 20 miler for the Belvoir Challenge was last Sunday and thanks to trying to keep up with a speedy running club mate I ended up doing it 6 minutes faster than my previous two! Yes, I know, much too quick for a long slow run but I'm a believer in running by feel (within reason) because you never know how you will fare on the next one. This weekend I will do a shorter distance of 10-13 miles then do another 20 miler the week after before beginning the taper process.  

The training has been slightly unconventional in that I'm doing so many 20 mile runs but it seems to be working.  Other than a pesky ingrown toenail and the big toe that randomly decides it's going to start hurting if I run on flat sections for too long I'm relatively niggle free (knock on wood). We're just not going to discuss the emergency stop I had to make at the local sports centre on Sunday! 

28 January 2015


Those that have read my blog for a few years know that I kinda like Awolnation (December 2010 post) so it should be no surprise that the latest single is now an earworm!

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14 January 2015

On the 'hop

I love Timehop, it is always such fun to see what you've posted about on social media in the past--the good, bad, and the mediocre.  Today the Nordic Walking tweet was the first thing on my timehop! Yes, it is the first anniversary of when I started learning how to walk with the poles.  Honestly based on the first few sessions I didn't think I was EVER going to get the knack of it! Everyone else in our group seemed to grasp the concept of opposite arm/leg quite quickly but I kept trying to move the pole forward in conjunction with the leg on the same side (called "spotty dogging", NOT to be confused with another sort of outdoor activity!).  After much patience and trying many different methods, Catherine finally got me sorted out! I ended up loving the sport so much that I first became a Nordic Walk leader and took the British Nordic Walking instructor course this past autumn.

Cheeky grin because I'm having fun

Depending on what you want out of it Nordic Walking can be as easy or intense as you want to make it.  There are some days when it's more of a social outing and then there are others when I'm putting the effort in with intervals, strength, or tempo workouts, either way if you are making sure to keep good form it is a full body workout (targets the core, shoulders, triceps, back, and of course the legs).  I'm a little sore from yesterday's session because I added in some intervals trying to chase down the fastest person in our Tuesday class.

Strength and endurance training 

Participating in that first Nordic Walking session one year ago today also helped in other ways, it introduced me to more people which helped whenever the expat loneliness blues hit and I was able to get to know the area where I live much better than I otherwise would have had the opportunity to do so.  I have learned more about the history of several nearby villages than many people know that have lived there all their lives. It certainly impressed my partner when I introduced him to a few rat runs I learned from people I met in the class. 

We even get cheerleaders occasionally!

A slight change of subject but if you haven't already seen the #thisgirlcan ad campaign from Sport England then prepare to be motivated and inspired! Makes me want to get up and move every time I watch it and that's been a fair few times!  Love seeing un-photoshopped and non-surgically enhanced women and girls getting out there and MOVING!  Yes ALL the exclamation marks are necessary!!

Normally I would do the handy little embed thing so you can watch directly on the blog but blogger and youtube are not playing nice for me today. Click the link, you won't be disappointed.

13 January 2015

The favoured pair

While watching Craig Ferguson Late Late Show clips on youtube today and admiring Margaret Cho's boots I remembered that I own the same pair that she wore on an episode a few years ago: The Frye Julia lace-ups!

I have travelled across Wales, England, and Scotland in these boots, road-tripped across the US in them, had a woman in Los Angeles, California pull into a gas station for the sole purpose of asking me what they were and where I bought them, slept in them and ran through airports in them.  They have been re-soled three times and I still get compliments on them every time I wear them. I LOVE those boots and if I wasn't planning on being cremated I would want to be buried in them.  

On the shore of Loch Lomond


Doing my rock star impression in Austin, TX

Supposed to be working


Going by these photos it would also appear I have a uniform besides running gear...Jeans, boots, oversize tee and leather jacket

12 January 2015

No Pants!

Today of course is the annual "No Pants Subway" ride. No, I did not participate...although I wouldn't rule out ever doing so if I caught myself on a subway or train when it was happening! I would choose to remain standing though, the thought of bare buttocks on icky train seats is very disturbing.

The name however undergoes a slight tweak when it comes to the UK to "No Trousers on the Tube" and it's not just because of the Underground reference. Nope, when you say pants here, people think you are referring to underwear.  This has been the single hardest word for me to transition over to saying!!!!  Actually I still haven't gotten to where trousers comes out of my mouth first instead of pants which leads to some moments of blushing both on my part and the occasional man when it happens in mixed company especially if it's something like "I forgot my pants to change into" or "I am not wearing pants."

Yep, you would think after the first few times of confused looks or coughs to cover up chuckles and the myriad of times I've been pulled aside to be told "You do know pants doesn't mean the same thing here, right?" that I would remember it, but no as of yet I haven't.  The last time just after Christmas I even went through 3 different variations of what I wanted to say before I finally got out the proper word for the context--very reminiscent of an angry parent yelling out different kids' names before getting to the correct one.

To make things even more interesting, pants is also British slang for something that is inferior quality, rubbish, horrible, etc.  The funny thing is that I do know (and knew years before moving here thanks to my habit of reading everything I can get my hands on) the differences...it's just the actual speaking part that gets me in trouble!

11 January 2015

Trent Meadows once more

Trent Meadows December 2013 XC

Last winter the Trent Meadows BDL race was held on the first of December 2013 but I don't think having it in January changed the conditions much. It was bright and sunny, a little chilly but not near as cold as it should have been and just as bloody muddy.  Today also marked a sort of anniversary because this was the first race I did wearing the IRC vest (FYI there are closer running clubs to me but this one was the nicest and bestest* in replying to my emails when I was looking for a club to join).

So what has changed between that first time and today?  The course according to my garmin is slightly longer, we got to run by sheep and llamas (nice having something to distract you from the agony of running fast), and they added this steep little incline which required using your hands to get up and over it which we had to go over TWICE.  We also fielded quite a large women's team--yay ladies!!!!! Another change was having appropriate footwear** for a cross country race, that made such a huge difference in my confidence about getting around and there was no almost falling over in front of another runner because I couldn't get a good foothold in the mud.  The course was also much better marshalled this year in my opinion, no wrong turns today!

Despite having finished up a long run week (20 miler on Thursday) I was feeling remarkably strong and confident albeit not especially speedy at the start line. I think that might have had something to do with running 2 miles from my house to the car share meetup point with a heavy rucksack--all the pre-race nerves were already burnt off.***

With not having any speed expectations once the initial mad dash slowed I just settled in slightly behind one of the guys who usually finishes ahead of me and used him as a pacer (Thanks Alan!) even though he didn't realise I was doing so until after the race, lol.  I also resisted the urge to glance at the garmin whenever it would beep at the mile points mostly because right now every time I look down too much on a run I end up with a nose full of liquid snot that is determined not to stay in my nose (yes, it's as gross as it sounds). It would probably be easier to just forgo the watch altogether but then you don't get the fun of comparing your Strava segments afterwards.

Pic courtesy of LERC

The aforementioned steep incline caused a huge bottleneck on the first lap so we all ended walking up it but on the second lap there were only 3 of us close together so I was able to scramble up it quite quickly, passing another woman in the process.  It wasn't any less hellacious trying to get back into a rhythm after it though, a definite pace killer but that's part of all the fun of XC, eh? The finish this year also featured a very short but steep climb right before the chute and I got pipped to the line by one of our guys! I just couldn't muster up that last kick, great fun though!

Somehow I managed to finish up a minute and a half faster than last year despite the longer course (per my garmin connect stats) and I came in at 139th instead of my usual 180(ish) placement.  Another bonus--I didn't end up near as muddy as I usually do after a xc event!

Trust me, that's clean compared to normal

*Yes, I know that is a made up word
**You can get around in a pair of trail shoes but something with more aggressive lugs on the bottom will keep you upright and get you past other runners when it's muddy
***Not the recommended warm-up

Bonus Ben picture with my clean again trainers

A running tip that I thought everyone was familiar with but after a recent facebook convo found out differently is to stuff your trainers with wadded up newspaper after a wet run. Not only does it dry them out quickly (you might have to change the newspaper a couple of times depending on how soaked the shoes are) but it also deodorises them! The trainers are usually dry enough to run in the next day with this method especially if you place them near a radiator or under the refrigerator kick plate.

09 January 2015

Running fasted

Fasted running, I never realised it was such a hot button topic but there seems to be more than the usual number of articles going around about whether you should do it or not.  There are studies that say you burn more fat if you do the occasional fasted run/cardio and there is one published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2010) saying that VO2 max may be increased with fasted running (there are also differences based on gender).  

Personally most of my runs are fasted runs but it's not because of any of the potential benefits, it's because I want to get out and get it done first thing in the morning before my brain wakes up enough to start giving me excuses about why I shouldn't lace up my Brooks that day! The usual plan is to be dressed and out the door within 30 minutes of getting out of bed but occasionally the time will be stretched out to 2 hours. Part of the marathon training is teaching my body to be able to handle eating a small amount before the long runs and what will work the best (still a work in progress for the latter).  

Not the recommended pre-run breakfast!

I'm always curious about other people's routines though, do you eat before you run or are you a fan of fasted running as well? 

08 January 2015

Some run stuff. Some expat stuff.

Bad tree!

I do love some of the imaginative signs that you see here in England--this one immediately had my mind racing making up stories about what the tree did to deserve it's outlaw status ;-) I'm also ignoring (or trying to) the fact that "of" was omitted. 

Another 20 mile marathon training run is in the books, this one while not exactly terrible, certainly wasn't the fun-fest of last week's despite having equally excellent company.  It was definitely an interesting one with the weather, I stepped outside and the skies opened up with a heavy enough downpour that I immediately went right back in to grab a water-repellent jacket. Not normally a huge deal but I was already running late so didn't take the time to shed the long-sleeve shirt. 3 layers up top meant that I should have just skipped going back for the jacket because I was soaked from sweat almost as much as I would have been from the rain!  A few miles in and we were treated to the most gorgeously blue skies for the rest of the run so I ended up faffing about with the jacket tied around my waist and it and my spibelt kept slipping around--extremely irritating to the nth degree (not the sunny sky, that was wonderful!).

Interestingly enough despite struggling to keep moving forward, today was only a couple of minutes slower than last week's 20 miler (9:28 versus 9:21 pace per mile).  I'm chalking that up to having people to run with because I'm pretty sure I would have thrown in the towel early on this one if I had been by myself. To keep things honest, I almost did text saying I wasn't going to be there and then thought about calling it good enough at 18.3 miles.  Stuck with it though and these sort of mental fights are as important to marathon training as the great runs are.  Oh yeah, do as I say and not as I do with this bit of advice:  Don't do a more intense than normal strength session the day before a long run!

Probably more excited about it than I should be but after being waylaid with horrible sinus pressure headaches the past few days finding Clarityn rapid melt tabs on markdown for less than half-price at the shop has made me very happy. This in turn made me think of another difference between the US and UK regarding OTC meds--you can't buy in bulk here. Most supermarkets limit you to purchasing 2 packages at a time and each packet usually only contain between 10-16 tablets (the Clarityn were in packs of 10).  However if you go to a pharmacy you can buy in packs of 32 and twice the dosage strength (up to the discretion of the pharmacist) but it is still nowhere near the packs of 50 or more (live large and go for the 500!) that can readily be purchased in the states.  More information about this is on the NHS site.

Thanks to Jennifer Z's post on facebook this is today's earworm! While perhaps Leon Russell's cover of "The Battle of New Orleans" isn't everyone's cup of tea I do quite enjoy the sped-up version.  Check out what History.com has to say about the historic battle if you're like me and all you remember about it is from the song (don't guess I should admit that I'm horrible about recalling history!).

05 January 2015

2014 Races and Events

2014 Races and Events

The usual yearly recap but I've forgotten a few because I wasn't keeping very good track of the events as I did them this year. Hmm, so there is this year's resolution, keep better records! Trending slow last year but there was a sprained ankle back in May and October was a wash due to stress and not feeling well. 
·        12 January BDL xc  5.9 miles 1:01:27
·         18 March Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon 2:00:15
·         6 April Derby 10K 53:01 gun time
·         19 April Beeston parkrun 23:48
·         26 April runNTU 5k Nordic Walk
·         3 May Beeston parkrun 23:41
·         4 May Wirksworth Wiggle 10k 59:06
·         11 May Awsworth 5k 23:53
·         13 May The Stute BDL 5.23 miles 40:03
·         8 June Ramathon Half Marathon 2:26:27 chip time (personal worst)
·         10 June Denby BDL 4.59 miles 37:37
·         20 June Hairy Helmet Relays 2 miles 16:33
·         22 June Carsington Pasture Orienteering Event 5 miles 1:28:12
·         24 June Riber Run 4.36 miles 51:15
·         28 June Derwent River Relays 3 miles 24:44
·         8 July Carsington BDL 4.4 miles 37:33
·         13 July British Nordic Walking Challenge 10k 1:28:10
·         5 August Shipley BDL 5.19 miles 40:50
·         16 August Beeston parkrun 23:26
·         7 September Wilne 10k 50:01 gun time
·         21 September Stanage Struggle Fell Race 6.09 miles 1:04:21
·         5 October Red Bull Steeplechase (1st stage) 8.97 miles 1:55:34
·         12 October Shipley Park BDL xc 4.25 miles 39:00
·         9 November Chaddesden BDL xc 4.49 miles 41:45
·         15 November Colwick parkrun 24:22
·         30 November Bakewell BDL xc 4.38 miles 39:01
·         27 December Christmas Relays xc 2.42 miles 18:12
Races I forgot (so far)
*2 March Rushcliffe 10k 51:01

Jam on it Janathon!

After much hemming and hawing* I finally signed up for Janathon again this year. There probably will not be any more blog posts than usual but it is a great way to interact with other runners to keep the motivation going through the cold, dreary days of January.  I've kind of let the cross training slide a bit so maybe seeing everyone post will get me back on track with that as well.

Apologies for the earworm but for some reason Janathon reminded me of this 80s classic from Newcleus

On the subject of running, yesterday I under-dressed for the temperature and never warmed up despite running 5 miles at an 8:23 pace per mile...Today I over-dressed thinking it was going to be close to the same conditions and was pulling off the buff and gloves plus pushing up the sleeves 2 miles in.  The flip side of today despite the wardrobe miscalculation was that I planned on 30 minutes but felt so good I ran for 70 minutes instead.  Hopefully it will be this mild for tomorrow's Nordic Walking class!

Doesn't matter the distance or time I always come back muddy

*Is that phrase used in the UK? I've not heard it here but then again it is not that widely used in the states much anymore

04 January 2015

Talking about okra

I was a very happy girl last night when I found these in the yellow sticker section of our local shop, I have been craving some roasted okra for the past few months and it's just not something that's stocked very often (at least where I live).

There are a couple of other interesting things about okra here in the UK.  First, quite a few people call it lady's fingers or ladies fingers which is not to be confused with ladyfingers the biscuits (aka cookies in the states)...yes, I was "corrected" on the name the first month I lived here!  Second, check out the original price on the package--£1.99!!!! With today's exchange rate that is equivalent to $3.05 for a tiny 5 ounce package, ouch.  Now you can see why I was so excited to get these at 20 pence.  I've mostly converted myself to not thinking in dollars but the price on these blew my mind because okra was always available fairly inexpensively in the southern United States.

A quick tip for those who have never liked this because of the "sliminess" associated with boiling it or don't want to eat it dredged in cornmeal and deep-fried, try it roasted.  Coat the okra lightly with olive oil and season with coarse sea salt and whatever spices you prefer and roast in the oven to your desired level of crispiness.  I don't bother with cutting off the ends because if the okra is young enough they are edible too. Even my notoriously picky partner who isn't crazy about okra went back for seconds when I prepared it this way for him.

03 January 2015

The 20 miler

From Etsy (not my shop)

Not gonna lie, thoughts of 20 mile training runs strike a wee bit of fear into my heart...something about that number is incredibly intimidating (let's not even talk about that additional 6.2 miles yet!) and I have always dreaded when they started looming ever closer in the training schedule.  That of course was for my first marathon in 2009, I didn't get up to 19 miles in 2011 when training for the Marine Corps Marathon (bad Gabby, very very bad).

Looking back over the 2009 posts it looks like I had one great 20 miler and one that was horrible (recap here)--I also had blogged about peanuts causing me tummy troubles which is something I'd totally forgotten about and mentioned this past summer like it was something new (memory like a sieve).  

End of the bad 20 mile run 2009

Enough down memory lane though, yesterday marked the first 20 mile training run for the Belvoir Challenge and true to form I had quite a bit of difficulty relaxing and falling asleep the night before. When the pesky alarm went off at 5:30 am I just laid there thinking about how insane I was to be getting up to prepare to go running before dawn. Eventually I did drag myself out from under the covers because a mate was going to be knocking on the door at 7:30 and I'm sure he wouldn't have appreciated me telling him I had changed my mind about this running lark.  I did dawdle long enough that my planned 5 miles before he got there had to be shortened to 3, oops.  

Long story short, ran 3 miles solo, then 2 up to the club with Ian to meet up with two other runners, 9.4 with them, then back to my house which brought my total up to 18 (15 for Ian), said the goodbyes and straight up the street to finish up the final 2 miles to get the 20 done.  That was so hard going past my front gate and not stopping! Having to run the last bit solo was good for mental toughness though and the last mile ended up being my fastest (8:39).  

What I did right:
*arranged to run most of it with friends so I wouldn't be tempted to back out or cut it short
*remembered to eat a couple of bites of a 9bar around mile 7
*was able to eat and drink without stopping to walk
*had fun!
*foam rolled afterwards

What I didn't get right:
*didn't eat or drink anything after mile 7 (every time I thought of it we were either running up or down a hill or we were chatting, lol)
*neglected to re-lace the new trainers in the way that takes pressure off my toes--my left big toe was in agony for a good part of the run
*didn't take the time to properly adjust my Amphipod fuel belt before running so was having to constantly move it back into place

Accessories and fuel for yesterday

Overall it was a very good training run and certainly the fastest 20 miler I have done with an average pace of 9:21 per mile and best yet I wasn't totally wasted for the rest of the day--although there might have been a nap later on. Let's just keep the fingers crossed I can keep the feet issues under control! As for today, I didn't wake up hobbling around and my 30 minute recovery run was much faster than it should have been.  

I do not get any sort of compensation from any of the links in this post but if you want to help fund my racing habit please click on the affiliate or Amazon links that are between the posts or in the sidebar, it's very much appreciated if you do. Thank you! 

01 January 2015

Hello 2015

Icy sunrise

Happy New Year to everyone! Hope all were able to celebrate the departure of 2014 and welcome 2015 in the manner they wanted, I couldn't manage to keep my eyes open until midnight so was sleeping away and missed all the fireworks.  It was nice to wake up and discover all the snow and ice had melted away overnight though!

I've not really formalised any resolutions or goals for this year other than to try and not get injured but considering my track record that might be a lost cause! After all I did get a "Little Miss Whoops" award last year (still amongst my favourites!)...