2015

Happy New Year everyone! We are about 40 hours in – how’s it treating you so far? I have spent it catching up with excellent friends, curling up on the sofa at my mum and dad’s, and making time to really think about the things I wanted to achieve this year.

I decided a couple of years ago not to do new year’s resolutions any more, and instead set myself goals, things to work for. Sometimes they’re small and seemingly silly (one of last year’s was “make a pie”…) but they’re all little achievements, things that make me smile, stand back and say, “I did that!”. And more often than not, post a picture of it on instagram.

My most recent stand back and smile moment? Having my family up for Christmas. And it being exactly the day I wanted – relaxed, fun and full of food.

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Drastic behavioural U-turns just don’t work; you just feel restricted, making you less likely to keep your good intentions up, and beat yourself up if you crack. Not a healthy way to be. And if there’s something the last couple of months have taught me, it’s not to take your health for granted.

And a big part of your health? Being happy. A few things happened in short succession at the end of 2014 that showed me just how important that is. Why waste your life on things that make you miserable? It’s way, way too short.

With that in mind, my aim for this year is to be the person I want to be. To do more of the things that make me happy, and that make me, me.

Firstly, writing. I am a writer at heart, but any actual writing seems to have gone out the window over the last few months. And I’ve barely picked up a book this past year. I haven’t finished one since August. What happened there? That isn’t me.

Secondly, nourishing myself, body and spirit. I started to get quite into nutrition while I was training for the Great South Run, and I’m hoping my new Christmas pressie (which I’ve finally had time to read!) will give me some more inspiration. And hopefully allow me to continue to capitalise on my 2014 avocado obsession.

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I’ve also got a copy of I Quit Sugar in the post, and have developed something of a Deliciously Ella obsession in the past few months. Don’t get me wrong, I still did a shedload of Christmas baking – and very much enjoyed eating it! But it’s about balance. The things we put into our bodies matter, and I want to fill up on things that make me feel good. Most days that will be a ginormous veg-packed salad, but hey, when did a gingerbread man ever make anyone sad? And when you mostly eat the former, there’s plenty of room for the latter. I’m already a pretty healthy eater, but could do with some new advice and ideas, so I’m going to try and make one new recipe each week… and see how different I feel.

It’s also partly running fuel. This is going to be the year that I finally do the half marathon that my back injury stopped me from doing in the summer. I’ve been back at spinning and have started circuit training – which I thought would be like a horrendous year 9 PE flashback but am in fact absolutely loving! – to make my back stronger. The Great North Run Ballot opens tomorrow morning. Eek.

Spending more time with friends is another important part of my new nourish-me plans. Time spent with the people we love is a powerful, restorative thing. It makes me happy. And stops me worrying that I haven’t seen someone, that something may have happened to them, that they may be going through something horrible and I Didn’t Know. Which will in turn make me happier. I’m going to plan more visits and make more time.

Time for myself is on there too. I feel like I am always on the go, always writing lists, making a plan, always on my phone. While Christmas was brilliant, it’s been so good to just r-e-l-a-x for a couple of days, take stock and clear my head a bit. How do you know what you want to do if you’re too busy doing things all the time? I like the idea of mindfulness. “Life gets so busy” and “life gets in the way” are two refrains I’ve heard a lot, and said a lot, this year. Sometimes I need to just… pause for a bit.

And just… be more me again. Sometimes we can get carried away with what we think we should be doing, now or next, and I feel like if I don’t make some changes, I could wake up in 20 years time and realise, that wasn’t what I wanted. I have a good feeling about 2015, though. This is going to be my year. I hope it’s yours too.

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POW!

People, I have some exciting news!

I did my second-ever 10K on Saturday, the Cardiff Race For Life – and I did it in 57mins 48secs!

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Considering I did my first one in 1hour 9mins… I am really rather proud of myself :-).

Running up that bloody hill every time I did some training obviously paid off! Maybe it’s rose-tinted glasses, but it honestly didn’t feel too bad. My legs were in genuine pain during the first one, but this time I felt a lot stronger. And I was bloody quick, too! I think of the distance markers were a bit off but I flew round the first 5K, reaching half way in about 25 minutes. I know! 5k to 7k felt reaalllyyyy long… I was convinced I was coming up to 8k, so I was quite disheartened when I saw that marker! And the last slog was tough – but I still managed to sprint it over the line :-).

It was really great having Rob there to watch me, too. So many times, I’ve been the one watching someone, thinking, “I could never do that”. And now it’s me doing it – it’s a huge sense of achievement.

Quite a lot of it was over grass which I wasn’t really used to. And it rained, and my ipod broke – all things I don’t usually have to contend with! So I was even more pleased with my time. I didn’t stop, even when part of me was saying “go on, have a break, you’re still going to finish in under an hour…” – nope. Mind over matter, people. You may really, really want a break – but you know how really, really good it’s going to feel when you can say you did it without stopping!

Also: people gave me Haribo half way round. A sport where you’re actively encouraged to eat sweets!? Amazing!

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I’d love to finish this off by saying I’m now signing up for the Cardiff Half Marathon… I do really want to do a half, and it’s something I now feel I’m could do – something I never thought I’d be saying, even a few months ago! But I’d need to consider investing in some better trainers before doing it, which I just can’t afford at the moment.

 

Oh, and I’d need a new ipod. And some new leggings… and maybe a GPS watch…. Running geek!

 

Half measures

The boyf ran the Chester Half Marathon yesterday!

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Not that you’d know it. He’s fresh as a daisy – not a sore leg muscle in sight! Me on the other hand – I was ready for bed at half 8 last night. Nearly nodded off on the M4. I don’t usually do the driving, but thought I probs should in this case… Cramping up on the motorway’s not ideal.

It’s like I’d run it for him – I did eat most of his goodie bag Haribo on the drive home. I’m calling it a sympathy half!

The atmosphere was fantastic – so many people turned out to watch it! Some great costumes, and everyone had their name printed on their running number so you could cheer them on. The lead runners were pretty intense though – they didn’t appreciate my grins and woops as much as some of the later lot did!

It’s definitely got me thinking though… For the atmosphere alone, I’d love to do it. The first thing I said to Rob when he finished was, “I want to do one”! Got another 10K lined up for June, so I’ll see how that one goes. The Cardiff Half is early October… hmmm!

Looking for a challenge

There has been much talk of marathons in our office of late. The week after my 10K my manager ran the Hague Half Marathon (consider myself trumped) – her second one in a year, after the Cardiff one last October! My boss is also a bit of a fitness afficionado, having done the New York marathon 5 times ‘back in the day’. We may eat a lot of cupcakes in this office, but we’re good influences on each other too!

It’s got me wondering, though… Since the run I’ve found myself hankering after a new challenge. I’m going to do the 10K Race for Life in June (hola bikini-bod for Spain in July) but I’ve also been thinking… what about something a little bigger?

I’m a firm believer that there are many things in life you can’t really be “ready” for until you just go and do it. You grow into it – you may be chucked in the deep end, but you learn to swim. Uni was one, starting my job was another – hey, I’ve got to have two fillings in a couple of weeks, and have no idea what that’s going to be like. The best way to do it is not to over think. Just do.

If you’re drinking a cup of tea (I am) I’d recommend you put it down for this next part, as it may make you laugh. Which we all know, while drinking tea, can result in snorting tea out of your nose. Consider yourself warned. Discussing challenges in our lovely, jolly, and particularly fitness-friendly office… it was suddenly suggested that we enter this as a team. Yep. A fancy dress mini triathlon.

The weirdest part is… I’m kind of considering it!!

I’m also considering a half marathon myself. When I asked Twitter what my next challenge should be, a half was my instantaneous response from a uni friend of mine. She’s doing the Reading half this weekend, having never run a 5k or a 10k. Obviously she’s been training for this – and as long as you’ve prepared well, surely that’s all you need. The Race for Life is in June so… potential Cardiff half in October!? If for no other reason, it would give me free reign to eat SO MUCH birthday cake the week after…

I want to be one of those people, like my boss, who can look back and tell stories about the Things They Did. Like I said, the best way to do something is to just do it. And if you never do anything, well, you’ll never do anything! So I’m thinking… why not!?

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Now, the triathlon. The real question is – what are we going to dress up as?!…

DONE.

1 hour, 10 mins and 56 seconds… 10K – done!!

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And you know what? It was actually really good fun! I didn’t stop smiling the whole way round. Especially just after 2K, when a woman in front of me lost one of her trainers… Very funny!

I really thought I’d find it a lot harder than I did. But once I got to 7K, the distance I knew I could do, I was just pleased that whatever else I did was further than I’d ever run before. Then by the time I got to 8K, I just thought, well you’re pretty much there now!

Really pleased I did it without stopping, and didn’t let people whooshing past me (boo) put me off. Genuinely thought I was quite near the back at one point, but I don’t think I actually was…

I was very chuffed with the time, too! And it’s good because it’s not too far off an hour… so that’s what to aim for for the next one 😉 Race for Life’s on 22nd June this year… Just in time for pre-Spain bikini body blitzing!? There is also talk in the office of – I kid you not – a fancy dress mini triathlon in September. Yeah. I know. We’ll see!…

Mum took for me a deeeeelicious slap up Sunday roast at The Old Cottage afterwards, including chocolate-dipping-mini-donuts for pudding… Mmmm. I do not intend to move from the sofa for the rest of the evening!!

Race day nerves!

This time tomorrow… it’ll all be over!!

Well I hope so anyway. It starts at 12!

Swinging between nervous and really, really up for it. I did the 5K in 35 minutes, but I think that was a bit of a fluke. Plus I was running with Rob and imagine keeping up with his ridiculously long legs had a bit to do with it. So I’m aiming for an hour and a half… and hoping to surprise myself. I just hope I’ve done enough! I did 7K in an hour last weekend and felt pretty awesome afterwards, but haven’t done too much else this week. Work’s been a bit mad recently and I was worried about getting over-excited and tiring myself out! Talking to my manager at work (who’s done a few half marathons), apparently it’s good to save up a bit of anticipation…

Currently waiting for Mrs T (my mum), a.k.a my Head Cheerleader to get here, then the plan for the rest of the day is Coffee #1 and pasta for dinner. Wish me luck!!

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Take care of yourself

I had an absolutely horrendous run yesterday.

And I mean awful – I don’t know what happened. It wasn’t a particularly difficult run, apart from the standard swan-dodging – I run round Roath Lake all the time. It wasn’t particularly far; I’ve definitely run further. I’d had dinner the night before, and breakfast, I wasn’t especially tired… It just wasn’t happening.

What made it worse was it wasn’t just my legs not having it – it was the most mentally demoralising run I’ve done yet. Again, I don’t know what happened! I’ve hit a bit of a wall before and turned to the ipod, put the best banging tune I can find on, and told myself come on, you’ll feel awesome when you get there.

But this time I just couldn’t do it – couldn’t get to that place where you almost forget you’re running, where you become really aware of and appreciative of your body working, but as a kind of observer. Yesterday my legs were alternately lead and jelly, I felt light-headed, and no matter how much I tried to psyche myself up again and tell myself how far round I’d already got, I just couldn’t shake myself out of it. I just kept thinking, if I can’t do this, how am I going to do the real thing?

I just wanted to cry! I felt really flat and rubbish and wobbly all day. Maybe that’s what ‘hitting a wall’ is really like, and I only thought I had before. I know it’s meant to be hard, but this was scary. It left me honestly questioning whether I can do this. And then panicking – people have sponsored me, I have to do this.

Maybe it was because I’d been doing so well up to now. I was loving it! I did a longer run last weekend, my favourite run, along the beach at home. And I absolutely smashed that, and felt on top of the world all weekend.

Rob had some good advice yesterday. While this was the first time it had really not gone to plan for me, I guess it does happen. Everyone has crap training days. You can’t smash it every time. It’s how you react to it that matters. I can’t let this put me off. I have to just take a deep breath, take a step back, and – calmly – try again next time.

He also made another good point (he’s good at that). While I was always exercising, this is a lot of exercise, a lot more regularly. For me, anyway. Maybe it’s because I know other people do a lot more I don’t tend to think of what I’m doing as that big a deal. But I have run a lot in the past 4 weeks, with only 1 or 2 days off in between. My body isn’t used to that. That was a bit of a wake up call.

I’ve always tended to put a lot of pressure on myself – when I start doing something, I want to be amazing at it from the word go. Repeat after me: you are a beginner. And that’s OK! I don’t have to be amazing straight away. I don’t have to run this 10K in under an hour, without stopping – it’s my first one! If I have to walk a bit, it’s not failing. I need to take care of myself – let myself rest properly, eat the right things, and above all stop beating myself up about it. I’ve still got three weeks to go. I’ll get there.

And when all else fails… 😉

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“I just inhaled some of my beard” – Cardiff Santa Jog 2012

I did it!

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Today, I achieved something. I can tick something off the list. I ran my first ever 5K – the British Heart Foundation’s Cardiff Santa Jog. And I did it in 35 minutes, 47 seconds!

It was so much fun. It was hard, and I was determined to do it without stopping, but when Rob told me our time at the end of the race I was genuinely chuffed with myself! In the gym I run at a pace of about 9 minutes a kilometre, so I was pretty pleased to have done it at about 7 minutes instead! I think running with someone definitely helps – particularly if that someone’s legs are nearly a foot longer than yours. It was hard to find a pace at first – I saw people rushing past me and was panicking that I was going too slowly – but it’s taught me the value of finding a comfortable level and staying with it. A lesson for the future!

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The last kilometre was tough. Coming back along the Taff with the Swalec stadium on one side, I remember thinking, “This is hard.” But once I was back on the path through the Park, then able to see the Castle (aka, the Finish Line!), I was determined to do it without stopping – we even sprinted the last part! Got to finish in style you see… And having people clapping you in really does make such a difference! It’s an instant energy boost – we made sure we hung around for a while at the end to pass on the favour.

Seeing the Castle chock full of Santas at 9 o’clock on a Sunday was surreal – as was getting changed in Cafe Nero across the road – but just brilliant. People were singing carols as we went round, and the route itself was brilliant – we’re so lucky to have Bute Park slap bang in the middle of the city. I’ve tried to spot myself in the photos the paper posted online but that’s the only problem with doing the Santa Run… it’s hard to stand out!

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I absolutely loved it. It may not seem very far compared to people who’ve done 10Ks, half marathons, marathons… but I hated running until about 6 months ago. I couldn’t run for 10 minutes, let alone 3 miles. So for me at least, it’s an achievement, and I’m proud 🙂 I particularly enjoyed the part afterwards, when I got to “reward” myself with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange…

So with this under my (Santa) belt, that 10K I was thinking of doing in March?… Count me in!

PS. It’s not too late to sponsor me either 😉 click here!

Good causes

Well, it’s December, and I’ll admit it – my NaNoWriMo attempt kind of failed. I don’t think I’ve notched up much more than a pretty pitiful 2000 words. But – it’s not a total failure. It’s been really good to write again, and get that creative side of me down from the loft and dusted off. It’s also shown me just how much time, effort, dedication and above all research goes in to writing a great story. I always thought that inventing my own world would be the easier option, as you don’t have to research it because you made it up. But this was where my initial story idea hit a wall, as there was so much to think through – when you set something in your own world, you have to create, understand and hold that whole world in your head. Serious effort. I’m not sure my brain’s even got enough space. (Also added another couple of points to my personal tally of respect for JK Rowling!).

I also realised that the more you write, the more writing comes to you. Using words encourages words to flow back into your brain, sharpens your skills of analysis and explanation. I’ve found myself much more eloquent a conversationist, now that I’m trying to be an author again.

And it’s one more silver lining in the cloud that is living alone from January to March, when the boy is in Holland. He’s got accommodation sorted now, by the way, and I think we’re both feeling a bit more positive about it – I’m planning little Projects to do while he’s gone, one of which is to really sit down with this story and wrestle it out of me. Others include putting the two bags of clothes I’ve been storing since this summer on to ebay, get about a million photos developed so our flat feels less of a blank canvas, and teach myself how to make bunting, sans sewing machine.

And while NaNoWriMo might have bitten the dust, I’m not going to be entirely devoid of good causes before the year is out! Check out what I got in the post this morning:

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Look at that beard. Incredible.

I’ve got pretty into running this year, and kind of regretted not getting my bum in gear for the 10K that Rob did in September. But having been bitten by the training bug, I really really wanted a run under my belt by the end of the year – so I’ve signed up to the British Heart Foundation’s 5K Santa Jog this Sunday!

I’m really looking forward to it, though need to make sure I do some training for it this week. I’m sure I’d make it round without dying, but I’d like to do it in a semi-respectable time!

Oh – and Rob’s doing it with me. Did I mention the suits are one-size-fits-all…!?

‘Sport Doesnt Care Who You Are’

So. I’m still (still!) on a Paralympics high. I keep looking at the photos. Seriously, what are we all going to do when it’s over?… Oh Clare Balding, how I am going to miss you.

There were some brilliant moments that I didn’t get to mention in my previous post, but that I really don’t want to forget.

1. Walking into the Olympic Stadium with ‘Paradise’ by Coldplay playing…. I know I mentioned this last time, but it really was spookily breathtaking. We’re both a bit obsessed with that song anyway, as it’s basically about a girl who wants to run away and go travelling (*ahem*). A total once-in-a-lifetime sight. As was…

2. … 80,000 people clapping along to Come On Eileen. Great British Britishness, at its very best!

3. Searching for a particularly jovial Gamesmaker to take our picture inside the stadium, and finding one by the name of Mr Keen. Brilliant!

4. Of course, touching a medal. An actual gold medal. I know, I know, you know about the medal… but come on, how many people can say they’ve done that? Can you? Seriously, my grandchildren are going to know about that bloody medal.

5. On a more serious note, my memory of the day? This guy:

See him at the back there? He  was from Venezuela, and as you can see, he didn’t do very well. In fact, the others finished a good 50 metres before him. But when they finished, the most amazing thing happened. Everyone started cheering for this guy. I felt it – that whole enormous crowd thinking, as one, oh, go on, come on, please don’t give up. You can do it! It felt quite emotional. I just did not want him to stop, to think ‘I can’t do this’. I swear, the moment he crossed the line was the biggest cheer of the day.

I saw a brilliant advert when I was in the gym today. At the risk of going all Corporate Partner, it was by Samsung, one of the official Paralympic sponsors. And it said, ‘Sport Doesn’t Care Who You Are’.

It sparked a kind of recognition in me, that line. Throughout these Games, I’ve had my perceptions turned on their heads. I kind of thought (and I sincerely apologise if this offends anybody, as I know disability can be a bit of a PC minefield, and I genuinely don’t mean it in an offensive way) that Paralympians were, you know, “good but…”. Good with some kind of caveat. Admittedly, I knew a grand total of zero about paralympic sport before the last couple of weeks, but I cannot believe how wrong I was. They aren’t good “but” anything. They’re just really bloody good.

The fantastic Channel 4 build-up advert had a similar effect on me. You know, the one with the epic wheelchair basketball montages and slow-mos, where they’re all like, “Broke my collarbone… Meh.” Then the woman at the end goes, “I’ve broken my back, what more can I do?”

That’s the thing. That’s what this whole summer has taught me. Turns out, even if you do break your back, your body can do one hell of a lot. Your body, my body, his body, her body – anybody.

This has all coincided with a newfound love of running. I hated running before this summer, couldn’t even do a mile, but now I can run a pretty comfortable 4K in 35 minutes, and I’m hoping to make that 5 by this time next week. That might not sound that impressive, I don’t know if it’s a good time or a good pace or not. But the fact is I couldn’t do it before, and now I can.

I’ve become much more aware of my body since I started running. I know it sounds obvious, but it’s such a physical thing. The idea of self propulsion… Flying along, knowing that it’s all your own steam, is an incredible feeling. I love feeling strong, in my arms and in my legs and in my body, and while my body shape has changed it’s that feeling of strength that I crave when I miss a couple of days – not feeling guilty, feeling I have to shift a few pounds. It’s not about what your body looks like. It’s about what you can do with it.

I watched the swimming the other day, and there was a guy lining up at the starting blocks who had no arms.

‘How on earth does someone swim with no arms?!’ I thought, transfixed.

The answer? Beautifully.