A blog about my life and travels...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wandering the Wandle

I cringe when people say that running in London is boring. I really cannot fathom why anyone would say it. Sure it doesn't have the stunning views of peaks, but honestly not many places in Southern England do. I love its varied terrain and surprise hills (well love on the latter is a string term). I also become indignant when people moan about the lack of green space in our fair city.

According to the Independent, "47% of London is green space" (source: http://goo.gl/cyV0GB). Sure this was in 2014... but it cannot of changes that much! I will admit while working in the City its very hard to believe that number, but you just need a map and a tiny sense of adventure. And Oyster card helps too :)

This weekend I did 'Wandle Trail' which is an 11.68 mile trail going from Croydon to Wandsworth Town. I took the train from London Bridge and in about 30 minutes (and one change) I was in Waddon trying to find the start of the run. I am not going to lie, I was stopping a lot and checking my GPX route I found a link to from this Guardian article. I felt like I was following the Wandle Trail signs, but then checking my GPS it was saying I went off track.

It was only after going in a loop (literally) that I stopped and had a think. I whipped out my paper map I printed out (yes folks, I had a backup because YOU NEVER KNOW) and noticed that my GPX was for bicycles, hence not exactly following the Wandle Trail footpath. Once I decided which one to follow (cycle path 20) all my issues suddenly disappeared and I was off.

There was so much green on this run it was great, and had I chosen the actual footpath there would have been very little road running. The few sections I did have on road all had pavements so it was safe. Plenty of other people out as well, so never got the 'creepy isolation vibe'. Morden Hall Park was amazing and would be great for a run in its own right. I also found out Mr. Moose's dad used to do cross country running there when he was secondary school-- which made the run even more awesome because it was a bit of family history that I didn't know about.

Things obviously got a bit back to reality again in Wandsworth Town, but I was lucky as there was a coffee shop and biltong stand (two separate stalls-- would be weird combo) right outside the station! So I got my protein and caffeine all in one easy go.

I am a huge fan of varying your running routes to keep things interesting. I encourage people to find a path near you and give it a go. If unsure, Google is your friend as are running stores near you. Heck they probably have their own group runs in case you are nervous venturing out on your own!

Here is my route in case interested... my loop added about another mile to my run, which was fine by me as it allowed me to see some pretty parks and lakes.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Running in a Herd

Mrs. Moose flips through her Running Guide to London Book...

"I think I am going to go do Petts Wood and Jubilee Park tomorrow. I think I can make it a 10 miler if I loop both"

Mr. Moose looks up from his computer screen, and tentatively asks...

"Can I join you?"

This was one of the best questions my husband ever asked me (besides the obvious one of 'will you marry me'). I have always felt pangs of guilt as I would jog away from him to take my place on the starting line of a half, and always wished he would give it a try himself. I would never race WITH him.. no no, I want to have a LONG and PEACEFUL marriage. Knowing he is running the same race as me however I would find very motivating and we could then celebrate together. He is slowly getting back into running after a long hiatus, so I am silently hopeful. Supportive but not pushy.

"Of course!" I say delighted.

There are certain things everyone in a group run (be it 2 or 20 people) must understand on the get go. These are more guidelines really, as some running clubs can be very competitive (causing most of these rules to fly out the window). Think of this as more 'running with mates'.
  1. ONE person leads. The last thing you want is a quarrel mid run. Just roll with it unless there is some major deviation. Believe me, the leader will feel silly and buy you a beer afterwards. 
  2. Be flexible. This seems a bit weird after Rule One, but sometimes NOT following a path can lead to wonderful views, tucked away pubs, animal sightings, etc. 
  3. Long runs are not meant to be race runs. Its good to settle on a pace range before setting off, but don't suddenly try and take lead. It's weird and causes aggro. 
  4. If you are running with mixed abilities, don't get angry if the final distance was way shorter than your desired goal. You can always get more miles in-- group runs are about camaraderie
  5. Let people know if you will be stopping and taking pictures. People can then get a free 'slow' pace whilst waiting and then you simply catch up. Back in the game!
I am not use to running with others on non-race days (moose are quite isolated creatures), but I really enjoyed running with my other half. We both had headphones on but its was reassuring to have him there, especially when we did get a tad lost (yes yes I was leading...). He likes a bit more structure to his runs (a set, known path that can be easily followed) but we made it work, and I felt I could help him pace himself.. leading to his longest run in a while. He helped me by being there in the peripheral vision-- willing me forward on the inclines (I can't let him see I am tired!!)

We got off at Chiselhurst and the Wood literally started across the road. It was bit confusing at first (where does this trail start??) but we eventually found the Petts Wood Circular Trail and set off on it. We passed horses, cows, sheep, and an amazing house that looked like it belonged in an alpine forest (*jealous*). There were some inclines, but the views were wonderful. It was hard to imagine central London being only 25 minutes away. This map may have been helpful but hindsight is 20/20...

::Waiting at the train station post run ::

Mr. Moose looks at me and smiles, "Thank you for letting me come with you. It was an amazing run!"

Did I do my desired mileage? No. But with praise like that from my best friend-- I was not too fussed ;)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Rock N Roll Dublin: My Race Day

I had high hopes for this my Rock n' Roll Dublin Half. Sure, I didn't train very well and my eating habits were lackadaisical at best. But come on, I have done a few half marathons before so I should be fine right? I could still try for my sub goal of 1 hour 55 minute or even bust my PB of 1 hour 50 minutes? 

Sunday August 2
0630: Wake up, run to bathroom-- this can't be a good sign.
0720: After having a sensible breakfast of cereal and some fruit with my parents (who were over visiting and would be their first ever race they have watched) had to run upstairs to the bathroom AGAIN...
0729: ONE more trip... then I will be fine. Off to the race!
0732: Ok, seriously last one before go time. This is not good.

No it was not good, although the Irish powers that be held off on the rain for the duration of the race (it wasn't looking that way walking to the start), I could not shake this upset tummy. I am not entirely sure what caused the uncomfortableness, but I have a feeling it had to do with the drinks consumed the day before. I thought I would be fine as I stopped well before 2100 and was not drinking in fast succession, just slow and steady throughout the day. Guinness at lunch, Guinness at the Guinness Factory... more beers pre dinner and one drink at dinner. I wanted to blame the food, but in my heart of hearts I feel that it was probably the black stuff resulting in my current state.

Oh well-- nothing to be done about it, the gun has gone off and I had to start the lovely 13 mile run through Dublin.

I was doing pretty well pace wise for the beginning 10k-- I had my Garmin letting me know when I went above a 8:45min/mile pace as that was the slowest I wanted to go. However around the 5 mile mark I started to feel the rumble in my bowels...

I immediately thought of those photos of runners who went to the bathroom but skipped the bathroom part and just kept running. Paula Radcliffe has some doozy's if you want to Google Image search.

However, unlike Paula, I am not a World Class Athlete with records to break, and with my parents watching I decided it may be best to not defecate myself. Luckily the Rock n Roll logistics crew (AMAZING maps by the way-- anytime I have a scale chart I am pleased) had port-a-loos strategically placed so I was able to duck into one fairly quickly. However, this of course effected my official time...

After that I never really fully recovered. It didn't help that miles 6 and 7 were kinda boring and narrow. Phoenix Park was a welcome change of scenery, especially with the Irish Countryside looming in the distance. That feeling of joy soon turned to terror as there were some doozy hills right at the end.

I had all but blocked out my helpful Garmin vibrating to let me know that I was still going slower than my desired pace. Mile 7 was my last vestige of staying around my goal-- it was all going to shit (pun intended). I saw a woman being treated by medics and thought "I could just lie down right next to her and say 'when you have a moment' to them".

Below is the elevation chart with my mood...

That last hill, I sincerely thought of giving up. It took (what I felt) as every fiber in my being to keep going. I suppose this is the wall people always talk about. It was horrible. It was even more disheartening to see the 2 hour pacer pass me. He heard my audible swearing and encouraged me to keep up-- which I kind of did but not as closely as I should have.

That feeling seeing the timer on the last hundred meters or so is the 'do or die moment' for every runner. I decided I was going to try and up my speed and at least cross the line with the 2 hour pacer. Like a bulky freight train I gave it the beans, and I could feel my chest constricting-- I had so little left in the tank. I was urged on by the sight of my parents, my mom screaming wildly at me whilst my father looking the wrong way.

Bowels grumbling, chest heaving, I gave it the final push across the line.

My official time was two hours and 50 seconds. A far cry from my goal and actually it is my worst half marathon race to date. I feel it was a defeat in some ways, but in trying to find the silver lining I feel that this was the first race I did that I really wanted to give up but did not. One more race to chalk up to experience!

You can see the race info for me below. I hope everyone who raced enjoyed it-- it was a lovely day in a lovely city. I cannot thank the Rock n Roll team and all the volunteers. Maybe next time I will lay off the black stuff next time :D

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hitting the Plateau

It's true-- I cannot seem to bust my 8:30/pace. In face, I am doing worse!

I ran the JPMorgan Corporate Challenge with a very respectable 8:03 min/mile but that was for 3.5 miles. My last runs have been averaging 8:45 minute miles :( Looking back at these three runs:

Run One
Distance: 4 miles
Average Pace: 8:42/mile
   Mile 1: 8:23
   Mile 2: 8:57
   Mile 3: 9:01
   Mile 4: 8:27

Run Two
Distance: 6 miles
Average Pace: 8:42/mile
   Mile 1: 8:25
   Mile 2: 8:52
   Mile 3: 9:04
   Mile 4: 8:51
   Mile 5: 8:35
   Mile 6: 8:25

Run Three
Distance: 3.35 miles
Average Pace: 8:43/miles
   Mile 1: 8:50
   Mile 2: 8:31
   Mile 3: 8:35

What I see from here -> My pace is everywhere!

I need to pay more attention to my pace on my runs... and really do the whole tempo/pace/long run. Not sure I can pick it up in time for the Rock n Roll Dublin-- but plenty more I suppose to look forward to! How do you, lovely internet people-- deal with setbacks?

One thing though I will say-- regardless of my distance, I am consistent overall: silver lining and all that :D

Lunch for the Week: Moroccan Carrot Red Lentil Soup
   ^ Deliciously spicy and makes quite a lot for continuous lunches. Served with crusty bread this is a sure fire winner
Yummy Dish: Purple Potato Salad
   ^ Seriously, go find purple potatoes. This salad is amazing. If you are in London, Turnips in Borough Market has them

Friday, July 3, 2015

Project Fit: A Review

So today was my last class from my 10-day Project Fit try-out. Wanted to provide some thoughts on the place in case others were looking into it!

Classes: I did three of the normal classes (tried to get into the running one but there was a wait list). And was an intense 50-60 minute workout. We swapped between the floor (where we used mats, free weights, and steps) and the treadmill (hills and speed workouts). Bit of time (~1-2 minutes) between sets. Definite workout.. definite sweat box. For the treadmills they would shout out three different speed settings so you could push yourself to any of those.

The big thing here was EVERY class was different. I was not doing the same routine for any of my 3 classes within the 10 day period. This is good, because it shocks your body into new workouts and routines, thus burning more calories and not really giving you a chance to 'go easy' or plateau. (9/10)

Instructors: I only had Joel as an instructor but he was very good. Not crazy pushy, but there in case you had any issues and offered corrective movements on posture. Always moving around, between the floor and the treadmills, making sure everyone was doing OK. When changing moves on the floor, he would demonstrate the workout as well, very useful for someone who does not know the difference between a tricep extension and a curl (well now I do). (10/10)

Facilities: Free lockable lockers, plus sweat towel and shower towel. The ladies changing/shower room was a bit small and there was a queue for the showers for both my 0720 classes. The 0620 one there was none. I am lucky my office is nearby so I just went back there and showered. But I had a peek back there, and everything looked nice and clean, which for a ladies shower is saying something... what it looks like at the end of day I cannot comment on  (7/10)

Cost: Like any boutique gym (not sure if that is the official name), its a bit pricey unless you start buy in bulk. Classes start out at around 20 GBP a class. There are quite a few package available, but the break down is still quite pricey. Let's assume you go 4 times a month, once a week. (5/10)

  • PAYG: 20 quid (1 credit = 1 GBP, 20 credit for one normal class)
  • Bundle of 240 credits (total 204 GBP): 12 classes over 3 months, averaging to be 17 GBP/class
  • One Month Unlimited (220 GGP): Includes express classes as well as standard one hour classes. Still assuming you stick to 4 classes a month this equates to a whopping 55 GBP/class! You would never choose this option unless you are doing at least 12 classes in a month, or 3 classes a week
Right now I think cost is the most prohibitive thing about this gym. However, that being said, I have never sweated as much in my normal gym classes than I did in these. Maybe its because you start out at intense and have the option to go into beast mode, whereas normal gym classes its such a wide range of people and skills you feel you can coast along, and the desire to push harder is not as 'there'. Its like in University when your class size was over 100... you felt like you blended in and could get by without getting noticed by the professor. If you have a smaller class (10 people), that anonymity suddenly diminishes and you feel like you must perform or be noticed by the teacher. 

Verdict: Will probably make it part of my strength routine once a month, or when I need to change things up in my workouts. Will not be using it exclusively though, I still feel gyms provide more flexibility and value for money.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Colour Run Review- June 28- Kempton Park

Hope everyone has been soaking in the sun these past couple of days! I wanted to give a quick write up on the Color Obstacle Rush I did on Sunday at Kempton Park.

Registration: There seemed to be confusion with where to go (as some people got goody bags and some didn't) but once the correct queue was figured out the wait was not too bad.
Loos: Ugh. Being a girl sucks sometimes. Pretty long queue regardless of when I went. Guys didn't even have a line. Such sadness.
Course: Flat but interesting enough. There was a nice lake on the course and of lets not forget the obstacles and color stops.
Obstacles: Pretty fun but apparently quite dangerous. We had to wait a long(er) time to start as someone fell right after the first obstacle (an incline with a drop, I imagine she didn't realise this and twisted an ankle). I also know someone who injured themselves on the last obstacle as the mat was pushed away and she landed on the ground.
Spectators:  They probably felt a bit bored after watching their runners take off... had to wait another 25 minutes or so for them to turn up at the last obstacle. Although they were close to the music and can always people watch others. I thought it would be cool for them to set up wireless cameras at various obstacles and then feed them through monitors, just so they could get a feel for the other obstacles around the track and potentially spy a friend/coworker/loved one.
Music: Pretty kickin music, although once you got past the beginning it wasn't music at every location.
Transportation: We had some people take cars and others (like me) on mass transport. Parking seemed OK but reports state the traffic around the area was quite bad. Not sure if this was due to event or road works, but I suppose its always to be expected. Trains out from Waterloo was fine, however getting back required a 28 minute wait for the next train. Lesson Learned: ALWAYS check CityMapper when finishing a race so you know how much time you have until the next train!

Overall: Pretty fun run, would never hit a PB on it, but its not meant to be like that. The loo thing has become par for the course unfortunately. See below for a video I made of it.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Branching Out from the Gym

I am giving up my Virgin Active gym membership, and its a bittersweet decision. I decided I was not going enough to justify the cost. Plus with summer now (hopefully) in full swing, the only things I really go to the gym for are swimming (which is more stress than relaxing due to the size) and spinning (and there are gyms specifically for that).

That being said, I am looking for other gyms/options. Luckily being in the City for work, I am very spoilt for choice. However there are a few more 'unique' gyms I would be interested to try:

  • Project Fit:  So this place claims burning 1000 calories in an hour, a pretty bold claim. They have a variety of classes and each class costs X credits to do. One credit equals 1 GBP. Of course buying in bulk makes it cheaper.
    • 1 Hour Class: All seeing, all body workout 20 credits/15 credits off-peak
    • Express Class (35 minutes): Like the one-hour class, just shortened 12 credits
    • Core: Just the legs and core (35 minutes) 12 credits
    • Run Class: 55 minutes of varied running + 5 minute cool-down 20 credits
  • 1Rebel UK: This seems like the same concept as Project Fit, although I am sure someone will tell me its very different! One session starts at 20 GBP-- same cost as Project Fit. 
    • Ride: Spinning class. It somehow incorporates hand weights? (30 or 45 minutes)
    • Reshape: Running with all around body strengthening (45 minutes)
  • Cyclebeat: This does exactly what it says on the tin. Spin classes in 30, 45 and 60 minute chunks. One class is 16 GBP, and like all others offers discounts when buying in bulk.
All three have intro offers so I will be trying all three, starting with the Project Fit on Wednesday! We will see how it goes. After my 10 day trial offer (thanks TimeOut!) I will report back on the classes, locker rooms, craziness of instructors, etc. If people know of any other ones round The City do let me know!

30 day fitness challenge almost fell apart after my 13 mile run on Sunday-- however I persevered. I found it much more tolerable breaking it down into sets of ten each until I was finished. 

Speaking of my long run-- my last blog post I encouraged people to get out there and find somewhere else to run. With this run I did just that. I recently purchased "Runners Guide to London" and I am taking a lot of inspiration from it. One of the routes is the Regent's Canal route, and they also offer going west via the Grand Union Canal. Sure it seems a bit of a faff to go on the tube/train but trust me, its well worth it!

Remnants of the Canal's Past... 
Along the Canal near Maida Vale 

Dinner of the Week: Parmesan Pesto Potatoes + Speedy Spinach Pesto + Chicken
BONUS: If you double the pesto recipe (easy to do with spinach) you have enough pesto for  sandwiches or another pasta dish dinner
Dessert of the Week: Lemon Blueberry Bread
Lunches for the Week: Mushroom Pilaf with Brown Rice