Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Walk in the Woods is now a dot com!

Hi Everyone, my blog has now moved to:

Still a bit of a work in progress, but please visit AND FOLLOW (you can just update the address in your reader if you prefer) the new site!  This blogspot will remain live, but will now not be updated.

I hope you all like the new site :-)

Mary x

Friday, 12 October 2012

Forced rest days

I've been a bad blogger this week and for that I apologise.  I'm currently curled up on the sofa in my PJ's and an oversized cardigan, nursing a cold that suddenly appeared on Wednesday afternoon.  I hate being sick (seriously - who likes being sick?!), but what I hate even more is when being sick interferes with my training!  I went for a three mile run on Tuesday evening (which rocked, by the way) and Wednesday afternoon the nose started running, my throat felt itchy and scratchy.

I was due to go to X Fit on Wednesday evening and had every intention of going - but by the time I got home and cooked dinner, it was apparent that I couldn't leave the house without a tissue shoved up my nose, so I texted my friend to say I wasn't coming.  Last night was a similar story - I was due to run 2 miles, but again, knew that running with a cold would be counter productive.  Tonight is my normal scheduled rest day, but I'm still effectively two days behind.

Also, last night (before my run) was supposed to be my induction session at my new gym.  Yes - I have finally caved and joined a gym.  I reckoned that I needed to do something to ensure I could continue to run in the winter - whatever the daylight situation or weather - and the gym (or the treadmill) is the best place for me to do that.  After doing a bit of research I managed to find that the church I used to go to has their own gym with a couple of treadmills, rowing machine, bikes, and various weights.  It's quite basic, but to be honest all I really need to use is the treadmill (but I love rowing, so will doubtlessly use that too), so I thought it was a good solution.  Little did I know that I have found, quite possibly, the cheapest gym in the entire world!  It costs (wait for it) a whopping £25 - FOR A LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP!

Seeing as I plan to continue to run outside as much as possible, I plan to use the gym really only as a last resort - so the cost is seriously a bonus!  But, as I said, I had to postpone my induction until I'm feeling better.  On a positive note, I have 8 weeks until my 5 mile race and so I am actually ahead of schedule with my training.  When I'm well enough to continue with the 8k training, I will finish the programme (which has about 4 weeks left) and then just go straight into 10k training.


I opened a BIG can of pumpkin the other day.  I found this recipe on Pinterest for Pumpkin Spice waffles and wanted to try this for the kids breakfast - but literally the only can of pumpkin I had in the cupboard was the big 29oz one!  Unfortunately, pumpkin is not something that you can just nip out to the shops to buy here in England - I have to buy it from a special American food stockist on the internet, it's expensive, the shipping is expensive, so normally I just ask my mom to bring a supply over when she visits (about once every two years...).  This was my last can from my mom's last visit.  The waffle recipe called for 1/2 cup, so now, I have all this pumpkin that I'm desperately trying to use up!

I've got a pumpkin cupcake recipe that I'm going to try out tomorrow (with cream cheese frosting - yum!), and I was also toying with the idea of making pumpkin pancakes and freezing them in batches for the kids to just pop in the toaster for an easy breakfast.  The waffles I made were a bit disappointing - I only had a bite but they didn't taste very pumpkiny.  And the funny thing about my kids - neither of them like pumpkin, but neither of them realised that I've been secretly feeding them pumpkin all week (first the waffles, then pancakes - and tomorrow cupcakes!).  English people (well, the ones I know) aren't crazy about pumpkin, but my kids are half American so they will like pumpkin - even if they don't know it! :-)

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Organising my life...

Hi all, I'm blogging over at Run with Kate today - check out my post on how you CAN have it all!  In other words - how to be organised, by the un-organised!  Ha!  Hopefully I've given some good tips and I've certainly learned loads recently whilst trying to be a better mother and become a better runner!

I want to say a huge thank you to Kate for giving me the opportunity to share on her blog :-).

Hope you're all having a good week!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The one where I ran 4 miles

I'm on cloud nine tonight - absolutely shattered, but on cloud nine.  Today was my scheduled long run of the week and it called for 4 miles.  I've been working myself into a frenzy all week over this.  Nerves have been getting to me, which is just utterly ridiculous because the only person I'm answerable to for running is me!

As regular readers of my blog will know, I've never run 4 miles before.  My furthest distance to date has been 3.5 miles and that was not a great run.  I decided to try out a new route today.  I wanted to give myself the best advantage to cover the distance, so I settled on an out and back route from near my kids' school.  It's practically flat and on road (sidewalk), and I regularly see runners going up and down it, so I thought I'd have a go.

A happy (sweaty) girl after a 4 mile run!
The weather today has been lovely - a typical crisp, cool, autumn day - perfect for running.  The family and I went to a restaurant for lunch (Toby Carvery), and I tried to restrain myself as much as possible because I didn't want a lump of food digesting while I ran later.  I had a modest portion of roast turkey, potatoes, leeks, carrots, cauliflower and stuffing and had an ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert.  I opted NOT to have an alcoholic drink with it and went for the sparkling mineral water instead.  We finished eating just before 2pm and I decided that around 4pm - provided I felt alright - I would tackle the run.

Just after 4pm, I drove to my starting point, parked the car and got my Walkmeter sorted.  Today would be the first run where I took my water bottle on a belt - I bought this from Amazon ages ago and have been using the water bottle, but have never taken the belt on a run.  Today, I had no other option because I was on the open road, so didn't have the option to leave it somewhere if I needed it.  I planned to stop briefly when I reached two miles, have a drink, stretch and then run the next two miles.

I started running and even though the belt was tightened it still took a while to get used to the motion of it bouncing up and down. I had secured it tightly with the elastic strap, so I knew it wouldn't fall out, but I suppose it was just a weird sensation that I've never had before on a run.  It also added weight - 16 ounces to be precise!  I suppose about half a mile into it, I adjusted and it no longer bothered me.  I felt good during the first mile and my speed was quite good - about 5.37mph.  I tried to slow it down a bit during mile two (to avoid the stitch!) and thankfully it helped.  I was definitely surprised how much further I had to run to get to two miles - I kept thinking to myself "Come on, Walkmeter, beep! Surely it has been two miles!".  Finally, after 22 minutes, I reached halfway.

I stopped my Walkmeter and took a minute's break.  I took a few drinks of the Nuun from my water bottle and stretched my legs and then started running again.  I was so grateful that I had decided on this flat route - it really helped me keep my speed consistent and also I did not suffer with the dreaded side stitch at all!  I headed back to the car with a slightly slower speed, but when my Walkmeter beeped at three miles, I had the adrenaline rush - "I'm going to run 4 miles!  I'm going to run 4 miles!"!  When I got to the point where I could see my car, I picked up the pace.  I kept thinking of what Jillian Michaels often says on her DVD's about "finishing strong".

When my Walkmeter finally beeped at 4 miles, I was elated!  I suppose the thing that I was happiest about was the fact that I still had some fuel left in the tank - I could have happily probably gone on to run 5 miles!  I'm so pleased that I'm making consistent progress and especially after my disappointing 3.5 mile run last week.  I'm also loving my new running gear - having this Dry Fit stuff seriously makes all the difference to your run, especially when there's a chill in the air and you don't want wet cotton sticking to your skin.  All in all, I am thrilled with my overall performance today - I can't wait to blog about the time I run 14 miles (in the not too distant future!)!


So, this post is a bit backwards - I'm blogging about Sunday first and Saturday second!  Yesterday my son had a friend with us who had slept over on Friday night.  My husband took the boys swimming first thing, but after lunch (when hubby was playing football), I had the kids.  They had been playing various Nerf tournaments since Friday afternoon, and frankly it was doing my head in.  God bless the mothers who have the patience for little orange pellets whizzing past their heads at ridiculous speeds!  I located our hiking boots and loaded boots + kids into the car for an hour's walk at our local country park.

Me and my completely bonkers kid at the park
This walk would also count as my "cross-training" session for Saturday, so I was determined to keep a good pace.  I needn't have worried because my son's friend quite happily walked fast the whole way, which was really good because it helped my two speed up!  The leaves haven't quite started to change in the park yet, so it wasn't hugely picturesque, but it was still an excellent outing.  These poor boys had been given so much exercise - swimming in the morning, three mile walk in the afternoon, plus a very late night on Friday - they must have been knackered when we got home!

I was happy because I could tick off my exercise for the day, and was also happy that I had got my daughter out for some good exercise too.  I'm planning on reporting back on my Autumn Goals soon - I'm doing well so far, but have a couple of areas that I need to improve on!  Watch this space!

Well, I hope you all have a good week!  I've been roped into doing X-fit again on Wednesday night, Thursday's post should be interesting!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A great day at the seaside (and a celebrity chef)!

I took the day off work today - my kids are on half term break at the moment (which doesn't coincide with most other schools in the area - this is a good thing and a bad thing), so I wanted to have a day to take them out somewhere.  My daughter pretty much decided that we would go to Southend-on-sea, though I think her only motivation for this was the little gift shop at the end of the pier!  I do like Southend though, because it's a seaside town, a little bit past its sell by date, but charming in a tacky sort of way.  The best part, for me, however is you do LOTS of walking!

The Southend pier, once the longest pleasure pier in the world (no idea if this is still the case) is just over one mile long.  There is a small train that goes very nearly to the end, or you can walk - we always do the latter.  We arrived just after 11:30am, so I decided to go straight to the pier and we would have lunch afterwards.  We park about half a mile from the pier and enjoy the short walk along the seafront before getting onto the pier itself.  When we paid our admission fee, the lady told us that there was a film crew at the end of the pier and we might be asked to wait, or we might not be able to get to the very end (where the gift shop was!), but we decided to go for it anyway - it's a good walk and it was a lovely (but windy) day.

The kids making faces at me on the seafront!

The start of the pier walk
As soon as we got onto the pier itself the wind started battering us!  But thankfully, it wasn't a cold wind - just the annoying type that blows your hair in your face so you can't see where you're going!  I must remember to bring a hat next time - it must occur to me every time we go to Southend - but I never actually bring one!  We enjoyed our leisurely walk - and passed about 50 pensioners (the only other folk out on a Thursday morning, evidently!).  When we got to the train station, there were two people from the film crew who asked us to stop and wait.  There was also an elderly man who was arguing with one of them profusely about how his tax money paid for the pier and he shouldn't be made to wait while the filming takes place.  It was so awkward I was tempted to leave - I asked my daughter if she was really bothered about going to the Lifeboats gift shop and she said she really wanted to go.  So I asked one of the film crew how long they thought it would be before we could get through, and as soon as she replied "it wouldn't be long" they were given the all clear to let us through.

We saw a gathering of people near a little cafe and when we walked by I noticed the sign said "Jamie and Jimmy's" - instantly I knew it was Jamie Oliver!  Low and behold - who was cooking in the restaurant - only Jamie Oliver himself!!  I so wanted to go up to him and chat, but he looked quite busy so I didn't want to disturb.  We went down to the Lifeboat shop and Verity got a few bits and pieces so she was a happy girl.  When we were walking back, who came walking towards us, but Jamie!  So, I ran up to him and asked if he'd shake my hand!  He chatted to us for a few seconds (asked if we were fishing), before we went on our way.  He was a thoroughly nice person and meeting him really made my day (I'm still smiling!).  I wish now that a) I would have asked if I could take a photo with him and b) ask him a bazillion questions about cooking - but hey, you never know when I might run into him again!

Me at the end of the pier (with wind battered hair!)
All total, our Southend walk came to 3.68 miles, which was good both for me and the kids (they both fell asleep in the car on the way home - something about that sea air that makes you sleepy!).  We did have a burger for lunch, but our pier walk earned me 303 calories, which was nearly the amount needed for my burger!


Last night I was due to do cross training for 40 minutes and was toying with the idea of going to our local leisure centre and doing a class called "Body Attack".  I texted an old friend of mine who I knew used to go to the class and asked if she still went.  She said she didn't, but was going to another gym to do something called "X-fit" - a HIIT workout and I was welcome to come along.  I said I would, but I was quite frankly terrified about what I'd got myself into!

A lot of the training is with weights, but we did a mixture last night.  We did 3 sets of 5 front squats (done with this bar bell machine that rests on your chest to add weight), followed by a high intensity rowing and push-up section.  We started with rowing 600m, followed by 30 push ups, then rowing 500 meters, 25 push ups, then rowing 400m, 20 pushups, 300m, 15 push ups and finally rowing 200m and 10 push ups.  All total that lasted about 15 minutes and by the end of it, I was exhausted and my legs felts like jello!  The last exercise we did was killer - we lay on the mat holding a bar bell (with I'm not sure how much weight on it) above our heads - then we proceeded to raise our straight legs and touch each weight at the side with our knees.  You touch right and touch left for one - we did 3 sets of 10 of these! Today my arms and shoulders (and abs) are seriously screaming - tomorrow no doubt they will be worse!  It was a great workout though and I'll definitely add this to my routine on Wednesdays.


Tonight my run was an "easy" 2 miles.  I was excited when I got home from Southend because I saw that my new winter Nike running gear had arrived and I was eager to try it out (even though it's not technically winter yet!).  I've got a jacket coming too, but it's arriving in a couple of weeks, so I just wore the leggings and the top - both fit perfectly, though I'm a bit self conscious about wearing the leggings!  I just need to remember that my ass is much smaller now than it once was!

Taken right after my 2 miler (which is why my face is beetroot red!)
The two miles went well (I managed to slow my pace down to 5.06mph this time!) and I'm loving the new running gear - it was very comfortable, warm enough for me to wear without a jacket and kept me nice and dry.  I may not get on very well with Nike shoes, but their running clothes are good!

Tomorrow is a well earned rest day!  My son is having a friend come round for a sleepover, so though I'm resting from running, I doubt I'll be resting in any other way!  Oh well - should be fun nonetheless!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A better run

Be sure to check out my guest post on how to start running over at Live. Travel. Eat. Run and thanks very much to Amalia for the opportunity to share on her blog ;-)

The weather here today has been patchy - it started off relatively nice (but overcast) and at about 4pm the heavens opened.  I stared out of my office window in despair.  I don't mind running in the rain, but to date those runs have been in the summer.  Now the weather is cooler and I'm conscious that I don't want to get too wet and cold - I desperately need some colder weather outdoor running gear!

Work today was very frustrating.  Our printer had a malfunction that required an engineer visit and thankfully he came today.  Unfortunately, he was a complete knob and didn't know how to set up the scanner part of the printer properly - in the end I had to ring our IT support people to come out to help him.  He was there for three hours, during which time I could do little or no work (because he was using my desk).  Needless to say I am not at all impressed with OKI printers or their engineers!

The nights are starting to draw in and it's dark at 7pm - so I knew that I needed to cook dinner, serve it to the kids and my father in law, save mine and my husband's and then get out for my run.  Today was a moderate 2.5 miles.  I set off just after 6pm and thankfully it had stopped raining.  Due to my performance on Sunday, I made a conscious effort to try to run slower during the first mile, but when my Walkmeter beeped at the end of mile one it said my average speed was 5.25mph.  During mile two I really pulled it back - right on cue my side stitch reared its ugly head, but I was determined to just slow my run pace right down, rather than take a walk break.  In the end I walked crossing two roads and then just started running again very slowly.  My average speed for mile two was 5.07mph.

The last half mile was hard - there is a steady uphill climb for a few minutes before a nice, easy, flat quarter of a mile home.  It had started raining by this stage - quite heavy and right in my face!  The stitch was painful, but I could still run.  I was determined to just get home as quickly as possible - I must have looked like a real sight, squinting and grimacing my way home!  My average speed for the last half mile, according to Walkmeter, was a bit skewed - it said 7mph, but then it said my fastest speed was 5.77mph!  At any rate, I was home in 27 minutes, and that is officially the fastest I've ever run 2.5 miles!

Thursday's run is an easy 2 miles which I will do after I drop my daughter off at Girl Guides.  I find it funny that I'm thinking of 2 miles as "easy" now!  Sunday's run will be a true challenge - 4 miles on the trail - I'm gonna need lots of encouragement for that one!


We've had a mouse in the house - discovered on Sunday afternoon as I was cooking the usual roast.  Well, I didn't discover the actual mouse - but rather his little brown presents!  Now,  I am not the cleanest person on earth, but I take exception with my kitchen and uninvited guests.  Normally, I love being in there, cooking, baking, etc - but the last few days I literally cannot wait to get out the door!  On Sunday night, we thought we had blocked up the hole where the mouse was coming in and I went to sleep thinking surely we'd outfoxed the little bugger - but 6am on Monday morning my son (who is the earliest riser!) came into our bedroom saying he saw a mouse in the kitchen!

The base cupboard where I found the brown presents was where I keep all my spices and so I removed all the spices from the cupboard - tossing anything that had been open and putting the remainder in a plastic tub.  Well, the little blighter was only climbing on top of the spices!  I happen to think he must be an Indian mouse, gathering up spices for a nice Korma!

Anyway, last night we put down the traps - and also blocked off yet another hole where we suspect he might have been coming in.  And tonight my husband checked and yep, we've caught one!  I'm not overly optimistic that he works alone - so we've put down another trap and will check that again tomorrow.  In the meantime, I'm still not enjoying cooking, or being in my lovely kitchen in general.  The plus side of this, however, is that I am less likely to snack!

I've just realised that I've not got a photo for this post - so I shall leave you with an image of my post-run treat tonight - a custard tart.... 232 calories of pure custard heaven!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

3.5 miles

I ran 3.5 miles today - which is the furthest I've ever run.  Whilst it was a good achievement, I can't help feeling slightly disappointed because my average speed was down from what it has been recently - and the nasty side stitch made an evil return today forcing me to walk briefly twice.  Looking back, I know I started too fast - my Walkmeter beeped at mile one telling me that my speed was 5.14mph.  Almost immediately after this I had to take a walk break because the stitch flared up.

On the one hand I think I'm being too hard on myself - I only started running in June and have come on leaps and bounds since that time.  However, looking back I could have easily slowed my pace during the first mile and thereafter to avoid both walk breaks and stitches.  It is a lesson learnt.  My expression in the photo below shows I'd just checked my stats and wasn't entirely pleased!

This was my first trail run in two weeks - last week I did my long run on the road because I was getting ready for Decorex.  I'm sorry for moaning, I am just a bit disappointed :(.  The bonus of this trail run was that there were no weird animal antics today (no feral cats stalking me!).  My next long run will be 4 miles!

I weighed myself on Saturday morning for the first time since coming back from Decorex and I was nearly exactly the same as I was before I left - 182.5 lbs - up 0.4 lbs.  I've been quite strict with myself these past few days, so now that the Marathon Weight Loss challenge has finished, I'm reverting to Wednesday as my weigh in day.  I'm hoping for a bit of a loss this week.  I have also reduced my calories to 1518 per day, because when I set my daily calorie allowance I weighed more than I do now and I think maybe those extra 100 or so calories may have been contributing to my plateau.


Last night my husband and I went to a ball!  I've never been to a ball before, but my boss bought a table (raising money for a local hospice) and invited us to go.  The theme was 1940's, but I wore my 1930's dress - and then dressed my husband up as best I could without spending a dime!  He looks a bit like Al Capone!

We had a great time, though we didn't do any dancing.  It might sound shocking, but I've never danced with my husband - not once.  Dancing is not Rob's greatest talent.  I've seen him dance once and, well, I'm still traumatised!  Actually I've seen him dance twice - he danced to "Take on me" on the Wii Just Dance at Christmas and I even took a video of it - but it mysteriously disappeared immediately!  Even without dancing, we really enjoyed the evening.  It's not often I we get a chance to dress up and go out for the evening!  Today was Rob's birthday - so I made his favourite roast dinner - Roast Lamb.  I also baked a Victoria Sponge cake for dessert (I think this is my best cake at the moment, and not too bad for the waistline as there's no icing!).

Friday, 28 September 2012


I feel like it's been ages since I posted.  It has been a long week!  I left for Decorex early on Sunday morning - too early (7:30am, but seriously, on a SUNDAY!) and we were on the stand for 10am.  I've probably mentioned before that the company I work for make mirrors and furniture - it's all quite high end stuff and we supply interior designers in London.  Decorex is a trade show in Chelsea where manufacturers, such as ourselves, and other interior design suppliers, exhibit their new products. Even though it's rough standing on your feet for 10 hours a day, I love it.  This year our new Belmont collection was inspired by the 1920's and 30's - so our designer had the idea that myself and my boss should dress as "flapper girls" - well we loved the idea!  We each had two dresses and headdresses made and in all of the stress of getting ready for the show, going for fittings were our only moments of light relief!

On Sunday night we were fortunate enough to be invited to the House & Garden party - this is THE party to go to at Decorex and it was our very first invitation!  I was incredibly excited because basically anyone who is anyone in interior design would be at this party!  I'm afraid that my goal of not drinking too much kind of flew out the window on Sunday night - so much for determination, huh?  I didn't have too much to drink, certainly, but I didn't have too little either!  The food was amazing - they served these delicious canapes, they had mushroom risotto served in little copper dishes and the best part - a sushi bar!  We had a fabulous time and near the end of the evening the editor of House & Garden actually complimented us on our outfits!

Monday night was another, less exclusive, party - which I was planning on skipping, but I decided to go just for a short while.  I ended up meeting a girl who works for one of our leather suppliers and is originally from Chicago - we chatted for ages about mid-West life.  Every night when I got back to the hotel, I soaked my feet in a nice hot bath.  I bought these cute little black heels (see picture above) - very 1930's, however after standing in them for 10-12 hours per day, my poor little tootsies were swollen and aching.

The whole exhibition was a great success and our new collections seemed to be very popular.  Our "neighbours" at the exhibition were Andrew Martin - who always, always, have an outrageous stand!  Last year they had ice sculptures, this year they had the actual set from the film Prometheus!  Included in that were various props, so in a moment of madness our designer Peter took one of the guns and did his best "Charlie's Angels" pose!

I got back late Wednesday evening and have been trying to catch up ever since!  My running schedule has been all screwed up for this week, so I did my first run of the week last night (Thursday).  It was 2.5 miles, in the rain, and I was sluggish and just generally poor.  My pace sucked and I just wasn't feeling it.  Not running for five days will do that to you!  I decided to go ahead and do my second run of the week tonight and do cross training (which will be my Jillian Michaels DVD) tomorrow.  Tonight was a short, sweet 2 miles and my speed was rockin :-D

Yep - that's the fastest yet!  My run on Sunday will be my longest yet - 3.5 miles - eeek!

To end my rather fabulous, but tiring, week, my husband and I are going to a ball tomorrow night!  My company has bought a table at a charity ball to raise money for St Francis Hospice and my boss kindly invited myself and husband to attend.  It's a 1940's theme, but we are going to wear our flapper girl outfits.  I've also been putting together my husband's outfit, including a fab Humphrey Bogart style hat!

I'm trying to catch up with all your posts in my reader, but it's going to take me sometime.  I've been missing Twitter too!  Can't wait for next week when life will be relatively back to normal.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Another plateau

My weight seems to be stuck again.  I'm still 182 pounds despite tracking all my calories (and staying under my calorie goal) and exercising practically every day.  I'm now very nervous about going away for four days because when I'm working at this exhibition, healthy food is not exactly readily available. In addition to food, there is also copious amounts of wine and I'm just hoping that I will have the willpower to resist!  I really don't want to gain weight while I'm away.

Quite what I'm going to do about this plateau will have to wait until I get back late on Wednesday night.  There are two things that I did this week which could have contributed to the plateau - I did have a few glasses of red wine, I had a pasta dish twice for lunch and a different pasta twice for dinner (probably too much in one week), and I missed two cross training sessions - so basically I've had two unscheduled rest days.  If I change these things next week I'm hoping it will make a difference.

Despite being stuck with my weight, my running progress continues to be good.  Today I did my long run in the 8k training - 3 miles.  I was toying with the idea of going to the park to run those three miles on the trail - but there was lots of things to do at home to make sure the husband and kids were organised for the week, so I just did a three mile loop at home.  I ran 3 miles in my fastest time ever - 36 minutes!

So, I'm getting together the last few bits and pieces for our design exhibition starting tomorrow.  My boss and I collected our special "flapper girl" dresses yesterday and I can't wait to wear my dress!  Yesterday I tried hot rollers for my hair along with one of my headdresses:

I'll put up some more photos next week of the complete outfit - this is just a preview!  The whole theme of our stand is 1930's - so hopefully we will look the part!  I hope you all have a fab rest of the weekend and a good week next week.  Please cross your fingers that I manage to keep to my plan of eating as healthy as possible and foregoing the wine!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Running Faster and Lizi's Granola Giveaway WINNER!

As I get closer and closer to this design exhibition, work just gets crazier and crazier.  Without giving away too much, we are basically working with a theme which includes my boss and I having two vintage style dresses made - this has been our only light relief in an otherwise chaotic environment.  Today, I went to try on one of my headdresses (I will post loads of photos - promise!) and was literally blown away, I cannot wait for Sunday!

In addition to working full time, I have also sold some of my "fat clothes" on Ebay and it was getting to the point where I'm sure I would get emails from people saying "hey where's my stuff?!", so when I got home from work tonight it was a case of throwing together the ingredients for braised meatballs - shoving it in the oven, packaging up the remainder of the clothes I had to send, literally ran over to the post office (thankfully just around the corner from my house), post those, come back home, check the final proof of our new pricelist for work - email it back, put the linguine on - and then serve the food (keeping mine aside for post-run) before getting changed into my running clothes.  My daughter has Girl Guides on Thursdays (that's the British version of Girl Scouts), so after I dropped her off I did my 2 mile run.

Frankly, I was happy to be running to try to melt some of the stress of the day away.  I honestly think I just switched off during tonight's run and that's exactly what my brain needed - some downtime!  Now the past two runs I have had an annoying side stitch just after the first mile - on Tuesday it was quite painful, so much so that I had to walk briefly twice (which I hate!).  Tonight, thankfully, I just kept the pace steady and slow (when needed) - but when I finished the two miles I was TOTALLY thrilled to see that for the first time since I started running on 17th June, I have busted the 5mph average speed barrier!  OK - this may sound slow to some of you more seasoned runners, but when I started running my average pace was 3.95mph - yep, that's barely faster than walkin!  So to see my speed improve like that is really encouraging!

My next run is actually scheduled for Sunday, but of course I will be at this design exhibition, so I'm going to do this week's long run on Saturday.  Next week will require a bit of juggling too and I'm toying with the idea of taking a Jillian Michael's DVD with me to the hotel in London - I may not have any energy but at least if I have it with me, I will have the option of doing it.  I have a feeling that my running next week might have to be three days on the trot, which isn't ideal, but needs must.


So - thank you to everyone who entered my very first GIVEAWAY!  Thanks again to Lizi for giving me the opportunity to share her wonderful granola with one lucky reader!  Without further ado, the Random Number Generator picked comment number 14:

Which was:

Congratulations!  Please can you email your name and address to me: within 24 hours and I will make sure that lovely granola is on it's way to you by Saturday!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Lizi's Granola GIVEAWAY!

I am THRILLED to be hosting my first ever GIVEAWAY and even more excited that it is the FABULOUS Lizi's Granola!  I have blogged previously about my love for this granola (you can read about that here) and Lizi has generously agreed to give one lucky reader 3 boxes of her yummy granola (that's 36 individual servings!)!  Thank you, Lizi!  If it is possible - I love your granola even more now!

So - what is so fabulous about Lizi's granola?  Where do I start?!  Not only is it literally the most delicious granola I've ever tasted, but it is low-GL (that's Glycaemic Load), which means that it releases its energy slowly making sure you stay filled up until lunch.  In addition to that, the ingredients are all natural - there's no rubbish (or anything unpronounceable!) in this granola!   And my favourite part?  It's packed neatly in individual serving sachets of 40 grams each - which means that you can confidently open a fresh pack every morning knowing that all that weighing and measuring of portion sizes has been done for you!  I am utterly convinced that a large part of my weight loss success is due to Lizi's granola and this ingenious packaging solution (for greedy little piggies like me!).

Lizi's Granola is available in five utterly delectable flavours: Treacle and Pecan, Pink Apple & Cinnamon, Belgian Chocolate, Original and Organic.  I have tried every single flavour (apart from the Organic) and love each one!  My personal favourite is the Treacle and Pecan.  I have this every morning with a big dollop of natural organic yogurt (or organic strawberry yogurt, whatever I've got in the fridge) and it honestly fills me up until 1pm when I have my lunch.

One lucky reader will receive one box each (that's 12 individual sachets per box) of Treacle & Pecan, Pink Apple & Cinnamon and Belgian Chocolate.  You're basically going to be set up for breakfast for over a month - you lucky duck!  All you have to do for your chance to win is:-

  1. Be a follower of my blog.  If you're not already a follower, it's easy to join, just click on the 'Join this site' button up in the right hand corner.
  2. "Like" Lizi's Granola page on Facebook.  That way you'll be kept up to date with granola news!
  3. Finally, leave a comment below telling me how you enjoy eating granola (with milk, with yogurt, standing on your head, etc!).
I will choose a winner from the comments below using a random number generator on Thursday, 20th September 2012 at 20:00hours (British Standard Time) and the winner will be announced that evening.  The winner will then have 24 hours to email me with their postal address.  Good Luck!

Here's the facts: I am a loyal Lizi's Granola customer, so much so that I contacted Lizi and asked if she would agree to donate some of her wonderful granola for a giveaway on my blog.  Lizi kindly sent me the three boxes of granola to post to one lucky reader.  I have not received any payment or free granola for hosting this giveaway, all opinions expressed are purely my own.  I simply want to share the granola love!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A run in the woods (and crazy animal escapades!)

I just want to start this by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has commented on my last post, both here and on Facebook.  I truly appreciate your encouragement.  I know helping my daughter to be the healthiest person she can be will be a very challenging journey.  But I also know, having nearly reached goal myself, that it can be done!  I will keep the blog updated regularly with our progress, so watch this space!

Today my 8k training programme called for a 2.5 mile run and this was also going to be my trail run for the week.  The temperatures have dropped here over the past week, so I was really looking forward to a crisp, cool run this afternoon.  We had our usual roast lunch today (today was roast chicken, with potatoes, carrots, broccoli and stuffing, followed by raspberry trifle - yum!), so I had to wait until later in the afternoon to do the run.

I got my iPhone, armband, headphones and water bottle together at just after 5pm and drove to the start of the school trail.  As soon as I arrived, I had to go to the toilet (again!) - so walked up to the sports hall.  This was my own fault - I'm so paranoid about getting a dehydration headache after my run, that I drink like a fish before my run - but need to remember to leave a wee bit of time (pun intended) before I actually head out the door to make sure it's all out of my system!  Having given birth to two kids, my bladder is not what it used to be (apologies - TMI) - so I'm not wanting to get caught short on a trail!

The start of the trail
The sun was shining just above the tree line when I started running and the wind seriously kicked up!  Why is it when I am running and there is wind it is most always a headwind?  Just once, I'd love a really strong tailwind!  I got about 1/3 of the way down the trail when I encountered the "Essex Lion" - ha!  No, seriously, it was a big ginger tomcat and he was creeping in the grass right by that hill I've nicknamed "The Bastard" - as if the Bastard wasn't bad enough, now I have cats stalking me there?!  I was worried he was going to jump and pounce on me because he was crouched down like he was stalking his prey!  He was there for the whole run - glaring at me every time I ran past!  Thankfully he never pounced!

When I got round the trail once I thought it seemed pretty quick, but when I had completed the 2.5 miles and checked my stopwatch I couldn't believe my speed!  On Friday, I ran 2.0 miles on the road with an average speed of 4.79 mph - today my average speed was 4.96 mph!!  Now to you seasoned runners, 4.96 mph probably sounds like a snail's pace - but I'm thrilled with it!  More to the point, I am thrilled that my speed is getting faster!  That means I'm getting fitter :-)

I never expected it, but I'm starting to think that trail running really suits me!  If I can make that big of an improvement in my pace simply by changing the running surface, I think that's pretty amazing!  Next week my long run will have to be on Saturday because Sunday I'm working at this design exhibition in London.  I'm thinking about doing the trail run at our local country park.  This will be a true test of my fitness as there are lots (and lots) of hills... We'll see - I haven't made up my mind yet!

Me after the run - you can't see how RED my face is in this pic!
On the drive home, there was a small squirrel trying to cross the road up to the school.  I stopped and waited for him - but he just kept running in front of my car!  When I started driving again slowly - he just kept running in front instead of going off to the side!  Eventually he discovered the grass at the side of the road and ran off (or at least I didn't feel a lump under my wheel as I drove past, sorry animal lovers!).  What a crazy animal day today!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

For my kids

Autumn is just around the corner - the days are still warm, but there's definitely a chill in the air.  The blackberries and elderberries have started ripening and some of the leaves have started to turn.  I love this time of year.  I'm looking forward to my autumnal weekend runs where I can take in the beautiful scenery.

Today, I took my daughter out for a walk.  We walked just over three miles and though I had to bribe her with a new magazine, she didn't complain and kept pace the whole time.  We even broke into a jog three times.  It didn't burn as many calories as my Jillian Michaels DVD, but it was totally worth it.  I've mentioned before that my kids are like chalk and cheese.  Josh is crazy about sports, always active and he loves it.  Verity generally doesn't like sports, she would happily sit and watch TV all day and not be active at all - plus she loves food.  All of this put together means that I have an overweight child.

Verity has always had a bit of a tummy since she was quite young, but in the last couple of years the "little tummy" has expanded.  In addition to not being very active, she does overeat and this is something that I really struggle with trying to control.  She's 10 years old now and much more independent.  She will regularly go into the kitchen and help herself to food.  It's got to the point now where I don't buy anything that she can snack on.  However, she will still find something - a piece of bread, a piece of fruit, yogurt, etc.

I guess because I feel like now I've got control over my own overeating and my own lack of doing any physical activity that my next priority should be to make sure my kids are as healthy as possible. I know how it feels to be overweight and to just have no energy.  Verity is 10 years old and should have bags of energy - yet today when we went on our walk she was struggling to keep pace.  She should be running circles around me, but instead I was holding her hand in order for her to keep up with me (and I wasn't going particularly fast).

Although I was never overweight, I was teased and bullied as a child (and a teenager!).  We moved to a small town when I was 9 years old and I just never fit in - I guess everyone's way of dealing with me was to tease me.  My nickname in high school was "the freak".  It hurts a lot being different and there were times when I was in high school when I thought about taking my own life.  I don't want my kids to go through anything even remotely similar.  We are blessed in that our kids go to a private Christian school with small class sizes and thankfully Verity hasn't yet been teased about her weight.  But I'm very aware that as the kids get older and start to go through puberty that things could change.  Not only that, but Verity will be more aware of how she looks and I want her to be a confident young lady!

So - this is my mission.  Having discovered for myself how to lose weight and get fit, I'm now focusing my attention on my daughter.  This explains one of my autumn goals - making breakfast for my kids everyday.  I want to teach her healthy habits - breakfast is not a time to have a big bowl of cereal, then a piece of bread, then a pot of yogurt - it's about having a wholesome, healthy start to the day in a right portion size.  In addition to a healthy breakfast, I'm stopping the needless snacking.  This one is going to take some discipline (and hearing like a bat! sometimes she will sneak into the kitchen and eat something while she's in there - I can hear rattling of packaging, so I know she's eating something!).  

I also want her to find an activity that she enjoys.  At her age, she needs to have fun - heck we all need to have fun with whatever exercise we do!  I don't want to force her to do an activity that she doesn't enjoy - but she must get some regular exercise.  And this is where some good family time can come into it - if we find an exercise that we can all do as a family.

This is going to be a learning curve.  It's one thing getting yourself motivated to lose weight - but it's a whole different story motivating a child.  I haven't shared this before because I've been working through in my own mind about how I can tackle it.  I would be really grateful if anyone reading this has any constructive suggestions on how to help.  I love my kids so much and want them to be happy, healthy people.  

Thursday, 13 September 2012

I'm sweating pink!

This morning I got a fantastic email.  I went through my usual morning routine - checking facebook (seriously - I read it like the morning paper), twitter, blog stats and then email... I had to do a double take because the subject said "Sweat Pink Ambassador - welcome to the team!"!  Yes, I am officially a Sweat Pink Ambassador and I just want to thank the lovely ladies over at Fit Approach for the opportunity!

I've been hearing more and more recently about Fit Approach and the Ambassador programme, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what this new chapter brings.  Fit Approach promotes all round healthy living and that's certainly what I'm all about.  Losing weight is not just about seeing the number on the scales go down, and it's not about deprivation - it's about getting healthy and most importantly staying healthy!

Fit Approach Sweat Pink Ambassador Badge

So - I've made a little progress with my Autumn goals today.  I was planning on making the kids wholewheat pancakes this morning for breakfast - but when I got up my son had already made the pancake batter (albeit NOT wholewheat!) and was asking me to turn on the stove so he could cook them!  He's 12 and is doing food and nutrition at school and of course what did they make this week - pancakes!  He can even flip them in the frying pan (none on the ceiling - woohoo!) - so my kids had a kind of healthy home cooked breakfast courtesy of my son!

Verity started Girl Guides again tonight and the scout hut where they meet is precisely a 7 minute walk from our house - so she and I walked there and walked home.  Walking home wasn't so much fun because we live in a village without street lights and it was very nearly pitch black on the way back!  Verity said something to the effect of "this is what you see in horror movies just before somebody gets killed" - uh yeah, thanks kid - walk quicker!!!  And, how does my kid know about horror movies?!  Thankfully, we made it home without incident!

And - no bugs were eaten or harmed during my walk this evening!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Autumn Goals

I'm pretty sure I ate a bug during my run tonight.  I wonder how many calories "small fly" clocks up on My Fitness Pal?  Ha - thankfully I'm not easily grossed out!  I suppose eating the occasional bug comes with the territory of running outside (other such luxuries are "stepping in dog poo", "running through patch of stinging nettles", etc).

The past few days have been increasingly stressful at work (we are getting close to a big design exhibition in London where we are launching two new furniture collections).  Yesterday we had scheduled a photoshoot and had "borrowed" the house of a former client of ours in Thorpe Bay to stage the shoot.  Well, the client was meticulously clean and hadn't even moved into the house (it was a HUGE beachfront house) - they said they lived in another house 10 minutes away and this one was their "Beach hut"!!!  Long story short - they were there ALL day, watching all of us like a hawk.  It was SO stressful that I felt as if I couldn't even go to the toilet without them wondering what I was up to!  So - I got home late last night, didn't have a chance to do my scheduled run and even had trouble getting to sleep because my brain was still whirring with everything that had happened.  I'll be a much better blogger in October once this exhibition is finished, our new catalogue is launched and things at work have generally calmed down :-).

My kids have been back at school for nearly two weeks and I have mentioned in earlier posts about desperately wanting to be a more organised mother this year.  So, it occurred to me that I should put in writing some goals for this autumn.  I was going to confine this to September - but given the fact that September is nearly half over and my hectic schedule at work, I thought actually it would be wiser to make them the whole of autumn goals!

  1. Make a healthy breakfast for the kids every school morning (I've pinned some great recipes on my Pinterest board "Yummy yummy in my tummy" if anyone wants to have a look!)
  2. Make a conscious effort to do more creative packed lunches for the kids on Friday's (they only have to take a packed lunch on a Friday).  To date, it has been ham/cheese sandwiches or variations thereon!  Get's pretty boring, I imagine!
  3. To eat as healthily as possible whilst away at this design exhibition - log all my calories and not get carried away with the wine!  In fact to just eat as healthily as possible before and after the exhibition!
  4. Try Yoga.  My Hal Higdon 8k training calls for "Stretch/Strength" training on a Monday evening and I've always wanted to try yoga - but worried because I'm not the most flexible person in the world!  I can only try and if it doesn't suit me - see if I can find a stretching activity that does!
  5. Try Badminton.  I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to try playing this - I've not been able to find a club yet - but my hubby has offered to teach me to play properly.
  6. Do more active things with my daughter.  My kids are like chalk and cheese - Josh is running around playing tennis, football, etc all the time; Verity struggles with being active - there aren't many sports or activities that she enjoys.  Unfortunately this has contributed to her weight.  I desperately want to get this under control now and to help her enjoy being active.
I hope to give regular updates on how I'm getting on with these goals.  Obviously, I will continue with my 8k training and losing pounds.  I think my scales need a new battery because they are giving quite different readings within 30 seconds of each other - so I'm keen to get this asap so I can see if there's a big loss hiding there!

What are your goals for the autumn?

Sunday, 9 September 2012

First Trail Run

My first week of 8k training is complete!  I must admit to being slightly apprehensive regarding today's run - it wasn't the distance (2 miles), but the surface that had me worried.  When I signed up for the Poppy Run a couple of weeks ago I knew I would have to up my training because this was a 5k race on a trail, not road (which, to date, has been my only running surface!).  So, I decided I would utilise my kids school's cycle trail on a Sunday afternoon and do my week's long run there.

I had run on this cycle track previously, but got as far (probably) as 1/4 mile before having to stop and walk.  My distance never increased because my training at that time (about 4-5 years ago) was very sporadic and had literally no planning involved!  Now - I'm organising my life around running!  My apprehension today came from this memory - would I be able to make it all the way around the trail without stopping?  The trail is approx 3/4 mile long circuit consisting of two loops - a small upper loop and a large lower loop.  There is one decent incline ('the bastard'!) and a couple nice, swift downhill sections.  The nice thing is that none of it is particularly secluded (where you would worry that safety is an issue) and of course it's all on the school's private estate, so the likelihood of me encountering another runner is virtually nil.

I took my water bottle of strawberry lemonade Nuun with me and parked it at the beginning of the trail waiting for me when I finished and started running.  I felt like I got off at a decent pace, but knew 'the bastard' would soon be around the corner (this is the point where I would always stop and walk!).  Running on the trail was different to what I remembered - I'm sure the trainers I had previously were just completely the wrong shoes for me - my feet were squished (I have quite wide feet) and there just didn't seem to be any bounce in them at all.  My current pink Asics make all the difference - these bad boys were made for my feet!  I'm convinced the geniuses at Asics had me in mind when creating them! Perfect bounce, even on the relatively absorbing surface of the trail.  I was a happy girl.

My badass Asics on the trail
I conquered 'the bastard' with confidence!  I was just about to type 'with ease' - but, hey, who am I kidding?!  I just kept going (slowly).  I thought that one complete loop was nearly a mile, but resisted temptation to check my Walkmeter until after my second lap when it read 1.88 miles.  I kept going until it beeped that I had reached 2 miles and then I walked back to my starting point.

The end of the trail
Some initial thoughts on trail running:-

  1. It's hard - yes I did have good support with my Asics, but I definitely felt my legs were working harder running on trail than running on the road.
  2. It requires more concentration on where you put your feet (sounds obvious, but it's true!).  Various obstacles such as loose gravel, twigs, deer droppings (!) could easily trip you up!
  3. Time went quicker - I had done two loops before I realised it.  That's great!
  4. It seems trail running suits me - my average pace was faster than road running!

All in all I'm quite happy that I managed just over two loops of the trail without stopping - the old me couldn't have managed half of one!  I know it will get more difficult because each week my mileage increases - but I'm hoping the more I do it, the easier it will get.

So, now a question to all of you - 
Have you tried trail running and what was your experience?

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Wardrobe Cleansing

I'm sorry I've been a bit absent this week - it wasn't intentional, but before I knew it, Friday had arrived and I hadn't posted anything since Sunday!  The kids went back to school on Monday, thank the Lord! The past couple of weeks they've really been fighting a lot - squabbling about the tiniest little things.  It's been driving me nuts and giving everyone headaches - so now they are back at school it's back to the same routine and hopefully the squabbling will subside!

On Monday I started my first official day of 8k training.  The programme assumed that I had run a long distance on Sunday (it was mid-length for me, I suppose - 2.5 miles), so I was to do strength and stretch.  I don't really have a strength routine at the moment, so I just did my Jillian Michaels Kettlebell workout.  Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday will now be my normal run days and this week has been a gentle introduction - 2 miles each.

Today I woke up insanely early for a Saturday - my one and only day to sleep in!  My body clock is cruel to me and woke me bright and early at 6:20am.  After checking my emails and reading some blog posts on my phone, I decided "sod it, I'm awake already" so I got up.  I knew I wanted to be uber-efficient this weekend because earlier in the week I had sorted through my wardrobe, weeding out all the larger sizes that I will never need again, and made a large pile to put up for sale on eBay.  Ever the sales woman - I was up ironing said clothes (so they would look better in photographs!) at 7:30am!

After I ironed the clothes I'm putting on eBay, I thought I may as well iron Josh's school shirts and Rob's work shirts too.  Three and a half hours later I finished!  My 8k training called for 30 minutes of cross training today - so I opted for another Jillian Michaels' DVD (Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism).  I hate this DVD for two reasons - it's 40 minutes long and it seriously makes me work my butt off.  Yes - both of those are GOOD things, and I think that's why I hate it, because it works!  I was pleased when it was finished because I was incredibly sweaty (my eyelids were sweating!!).  It's super-hot here this weekend, so I did the workout around 11am this morning just before the heat got too much.

Now onto my main subject of this post - wardrobe cleansing!  As mentioned above, I'm putting up for sale quite a lot of clothes that no longer fit me.

A small selection
Now, I'm a hoarder by nature - you only need look in our garage to see that I'm not the only one in the family.  However, when it comes to fat clothes, I'm more than happy to say "bye bye"!  There are two main reasons for this - a) there is no easy fallback for me weight back on ("I kept all the clothes from when I was bigger, so I can just pig out and dig those out"); and b) it's easy money for new slimmer clothes!  I'm pretty much a master at finding clothing bargains, in fact the lion's share of my current wardrobe has come from charity shops.

I stumbled across charity shopping about five years ago when, again, I didn't have a great deal of money for clothes.  I found fantastic brand names at ridiculous prices (£2 for a pair of trousers?!), soon I was hooked.  I sort of stopped shopping in charity shops when I gained the weight I originally lost back, because there wasn't a great deal of selection of larger sizes.  When I was bigger I hated shopping anyway because I always felt like people were staring at me.  Now - I can go in and browse with ease knowing that there will be any number of things that will fit me!

So - in a therapeutic way, cleaning out my wardrobe is another step to a healthy lifestyle!  Ensuring that  there is no excuse for me to revert to my old ways!  And just another note on charity shopping - obviously it's for a good cause which is great, but because the clothes are so cheap it means you can shop "interim" sizes relatively painlessly.  Every time you drop a size, there's no need to go an buy a whole new wardrobe in that size.  What I do, is just find some "key" pieces - a couple pairs of trousers, a pair of jeans, maybe a dress or skirt and lots of tops to mix and match.  In fact the outfit I'm wearing now consists of navy linen trousers (£2.50) and aubergine cotton top (£2).  So - you can look great (come on - don't I look great?!) and feel great because you've just donated money to a good cause :-)

Me in a Charity Shop outfit costing less than £10!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

And so it begins again...

I just want to start this post with a massive THANK YOU to all of you who read my blog and who have been so encouraging both before the Clacton 5k race and after.  I honestly don't think I would have raced if it weren't for your wonderful words of support!

It has been a very hectic weekend, starting with the race on Friday night.  We didn't get home until about 10pm and then had an early start on Saturday.  Saturday my husband was taking my son to a tennis tournament in Middlesex and I was taking my daughter to her school to help clean/set-up ready for the start of term on Monday.  We were there for about three hours and then came home and I proceeded to bake a cake for dessert on Sunday when I got a text from my husband to say my son had won the tournament!  I was over the moon - what with my runner's high from Friday night and now my son had won his first LTA tournament!

Saturday night we went up to London to see a play called "A Progress" - it was based on John Bunyan's book "A Pilgrim's Progress" and was in a tiny theatre in the east end of London.  A friend of ours who just graduated from drama school was one of the main actors - so we went to support him and, wow, he was absolutely amazing!  The play itself was fantastic - taking a very deep subject matter and making it light-hearted with just the right amount of humour.  It was very "fringe" theatre, the audience became part of the production - with our friend handing out "lines" for audience members to read out (including my husband and kids!).   We had a fantastic time, but didn't get home until nearly 11pm - so that was two very late nights for my kids.

Today is my and my husband's wedding anniversary - 17 years!  Man, I feel old!  I was 19 when I got married and my husband was 26 - here we are, much younger, much slimmer!

17 years ago today!
We normally don't both much with anniversaries and as we had been out to the theatre last night that was sort of our celebration.  Today, though our anniversary, was back to the usual Sunday routine: church, lunch, ironing, more laundry, organise school things, run.  The same people who organised the 5k race on Friday are organising a 5 mile race at the beginning of December called the Rudolph Run.  This one is much closer to home, but again on the sea-front.  I asked my husband if he would like to run with me and to my surprise he said yes!

This ties in nicely with my next training programme.  Having "graduated" from the C25k programme, I was on the look-out for what to do next.  I had a look on Hal Higdon's website and found a Novice 8k training programme:

This will get me nicely prepared for the 5 mile Rudolph Run and gives me a new programme to focus on for the next 8 weeks.  After this I think I will try the 10k programme.  In the interim, however, I have signed up for another 5k at the end of October - the Poppy Run.  This will be my first trail run - so I plan to start incorporating some trail running into my training.  I'm very fortunate that my kids' school has a mile circuit trail that parents can use for running - so I think certainly my Sunday afternoon long runs I will do on the trail.  I have no illusions that trail running is harder than road running, so this will definitely be a challenge!

Today I knew I wanted to run, but wanted to make sure I try to keep to the days on the 8k programme, so I decided to just run my usual 2.5 mile loop.  My pace is gradually improving - and I have confidence that so long as I keep running this will continue to get faster and faster.  I'm trying to watch my breathing as well, because sometimes I feel like I get into a muddle.  I lose my rhythm or take too many breaths or something and end up feeling like I'm gasping - or I get a stitch which means I have to slow way down to recover.  This happened today - I had literally got to what I call the "home stretch" this is a downhill section where I know I can usually pick up speed - but today I had to stop and walk for a minute because of a really painful stitch.

So - my training begins again!  I hope you all have a fabulous week!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Clacton Summer 5k race report

I did it!  After all the nervousness and trepidations, I ran the whole thing and most importantly - DID NOT COME LAST!  But, I'm getting ahead of myself... let's start at the beginning!

I had such a stressful day at work yesterday - I was off with the kids on Thursday and there's always a backlog of things for me to sort out when I come back after a day off.  Plus, I'm still dealing with a bit of a backlog from when I was away in the Lake District.  We are getting ready for a huge exhibition at the end of September and some days, well, I just feel like I'm sinking... Friday was one of those days!  But thankfully, I've got a lot of support in the office and my boss is seriously great.  She let me leave a little bit early (I normally leave at 3:30pm on Fridays anyway), so I could get home and get organised for the race.

Clacton is a loooonng drive from where we live - about 1 and a half hours.  This may not seem like a lot in American terms, but here in England - that's a long way to drive just to run 3 miles!  Thankfully, I had laid out most of my race gear the night before so all I had to do was put it all in my backpack - load up my water bottle with my post-race Strawberry Lemonade Nuun (Nuun is seriously good stuff!), make sure I had my race number, safety pins, etc, etc.  I did some research online to see what the best pre-race snack would be and I decided on a peanut butter with banana and honey sandwich on wholemeal bread.  The website also recommended eating this about 2 hours before the race - so I waited as close to 5pm as I could and nervously ate it.

I haven't had peanut butter in ages because it's not usually something I can safely keep in the house.  But I opted for the organic version with no added sugar and bought the smallest jar available!  It was heavenly - and I'm sure I will find uses for it - if I can get any once the kids discover it!

We arrived in Clacton about half an hour before the race was due to start.  I did worry when we first arrived because I saw lots of very fit looking men, but not very many women - and the women I did see were also very professional looking!  I started to worry that I had bit off more than I could chew.  But as time drew near there were more people of all shapes and sizes with race numbers, so I calmed down slightly!  Before the main race, there was scheduled a children's one mile race.  I had entered both of my kids in the race, but decided to let only Josh run because we need to work on Verity's running (more on this in a later post).  There were just four kids - all around Josh's age (12) competing.  It was a super fast out and back mile and my little man came second!

Josh waiting for the Children's Race to start
He was so proud and got another medal to add to his growing collection!

As soon as the children finished, the adults started to line up and my heart started pumping with nerves. I made my way to the back of the pack and started chatting to the lady next to me (who was also running her first ever race).  We were joking about having a competition for who could come last (with me thinking the whole while that it was highly likely I would come last!) and then before we knew it, the race director blew the airhorn and we were off!

Everyone got away so quickly and I pretty much backed off straight away.  The race took place on the seafront promenade at Clacton - it was entirely flat (apart from a very tiny incline near the pier), so ideally suited for beginners.  I didn't want to push myself too much at the beginning, only to end up with a stitch midway through - so I just kept running, but kept my pace nice and slow.  It didn't take long before I was the caboose, but mentally I kept myself strong and kept telling myself that it was my race and to just run at my own pace.  It took about 2kms before my breathing settled into a comfortable rhythm.  I think this was because I probably started a bit too fast to keep up with the pack - but once I backed off, it settled down again.

Everyone along the race route was absolutely amazing - people clapped as we ran past, people were encouraging - telling us we were doing a great job - it was really a fantastic atmosphere.  There were just two unfortunate teenage boys who made some laughing comments about "being last" - but I just ignored them (In my mind, I was tempted to turn around and say "yeah, we'll I'm going faster than you d!ckheads" - but I held my tongue!).  For a good three-quarters of the race I was last.  I was behind an older woman who was definitely running her own race.  She had on headphones and was singing occasionally - she even did the occasional airplane motion with her arms (I thought she was a bit coo-coo for cocopops, if you know what I mean, but I thought - hey - she's running her own race and if she needs to fly like a plane to get to the finish line - so be it!).  She was doing a combination of walking and running - she would run at a faster pace and then walk a bit, and repeated this several times.  I overtook her a few times, but she would always come back around.

When I passed the 4km marker I could see the finish line.  The sea had washed up pebbles and sand onto the promenade, which made running slower and tricky - but I saw my opportunity to overtake for the final time.  Thankfully, I had saved up just enough steam to overtake and push myself to get a good distance ahead of her.  At about 4.5kms, I saw my son waiting for me - I kept thinking what he said to me before the race "please mum, don't come last" - I told him that I probably would come last and to not be disappointed if I did - I wasn't competing in the race to win, but just to prove that I could run 5km!

I was trying to see if I could hear the woman behind me - I thought I could hear footsteps!  My son ran down and told me I was doing a great job - I was nearly there!  He ran to the finish line with me and then I just gunned it - I was utterly determined to not come last!  OK - I came second to last, but it's not last!  And the best part?  I have a new PR!  My time was an utterly amazing 36.56!!!  When I ran 5k on Thursday afternoon, granted there were more inclines, my time was just over 41 minutes - so where 36.56 came from is beyond me - but I'll take it and I'm completely thrilled!  Afterwards, my boy told me he was proud of me - that is still choking me up thinking about it.  A year ago I couldn't run 30 seconds without feeling like I was going to die and now I'm a proud runnin momma!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Healthy Living Freed Me From My Life of Lethargy

I have not lost the plot (well…), whilst I know it’s not Tuesday, today I’m joining Healthy Living Blogs’ Healthy Living Tuesdays where the subject is “Healthy Living Freed Me From…”.  I wish there were one single word I could insert at the end of that sentence that could encompass how much healthy living has changed me, both physically and mentally.

Many of you know that when I started my weight loss journey in January this year, I weighed 240 pounds.  It was nearly my all time heaviest weight.  I was sluggish, exhausted and yawning constantly, had zero energy, my skin suffered greatly and I fought constant acne breakouts on my face (while other areas of my skin, such as my legs, were so dry and itchy).  I also had horrible bouts of low blood sugar, which caused me to binge uncontrollably.  I knew that I not only wanted to lose weight and improve my appearance, I also wanted to get healthy.

Me at nearly 240 pounds
Part of my problem came from an undiagnosed adrenal fatigue condition (you can read more about that here).  I went to see a naturopath in London who prescribed natural supplements that would correct this imbalance.  This helped greatly with improving my energy levels and I now also no longer suffer with low blood sugar. 

Regarding my diet - I had previously followed the principles of the GI & GL Diets and knew that the science behind them was just good common sense – eat healthy, whole, nutrient rich foods – feel fuller for longer.  Whilst I haven’t followed either the GI or the GL to the letter, I do employ a lot of the principles in choosing what foods I eat on a daily basis.

I also started looking at the ingredients of what I was eating in much more detail.  A lot of so called “low fat” or “low sugar” foods are actually stuffed with artificial sweeteners or E numbers – thankfully I’ve never been one to rely on artificial sweeteners, but the thought of eating foods (or serving these types of foods to my children) really made me feel sick. 

I switched from sugar to Xylitol – this is a natural alternative to sugar that is not only lower in calories than sugar, but it also doesn’t create the spike in blood sugar and is even suitable for diabetics (most importantly to me, it has no aftertaste)!  I also changed my normal breakfast cereal to a low GL granola (Lizi’s) with all natural ingredients.  My standard lunchtime sandwich has been replaced with lentils, couscous, pasta, salads and low fat fish.  I’ve also kicked my soda habit (having switched to sparkling water instead).

The results have not just been confined to weight loss!  I’ve enjoyed a massive improvement in my complexion (no more acne – woohoo!), an annoying hoarse voice that plagued me previously is now gone, my energy levels have come on leaps and bounds, I no longer struggle with sluggishness and feeling tired – all this combined means that I can enjoy life to the full now!  Even more importantly – by improving my energy levels, it also means that I can enjoy my new found passion of running!

So, to finish that sentence: Healthy Living Free Me From my life of lethargy.  My life has not only changed for the better because I feel better about how I look and have more energy, but I can also be a better mother to my children, and crucially, set a healthy example for them to follow.