Monday, August 14, 2017

What I Wore: ZSL x Oasis

You know when you idly browse a marketing email that lands in your inbox and you're not really sure why, but ti turns out to yield something amazing? Just me? Oh well.

This is exactly what happened when I opened the ZSL newsletter a couple of weeks back. I love London Zoo, we had a great time at Zoo Lates back in June and there's always something I'm desperate to see. What I wasn't expecting was to head straight to a fashion retailer and drop £80 immediately. ZSL have collaborated with Oasis to produce a collection of ZSL clothes, shoes and accessories and to say I'm excited is an understatement. You see, it all started with some pyjamas I bought my cousin's daughter for her birthday a couple of years ago, and my lament that they didn't make adult sizes. They still don't sell the adult sized pyjamas (to my knowledge) but Oasis DO sell the most amazing tiger print trainers and shirts with the rainforest on it (amongst other things....)

I have no idea what is going on with my face in these pictures- I seem incapable of maintaining anything resembling a sensible expression when I take these images. But my point remains, the shirt is something else. I probably could have done with a slightly larger size to fit my boobs in but this works for me.

Tiger print trainers to follow- because TIGER print trainers!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

FOFO: Fear Of Being Found Out

In a generation of acronyms we talk a lot about YOLO and FOMO but one thing that has plagued me over the last couple of years is FOFO - Fear of Being Found Out.

Before anyone's imagination gets carried away, I'm not a serial killer with a new identity or a member of a secretive cult. But like most people do, I have a life, a history and a past. For me that includes an estranged family which I've talk a bit about before - click if you missed my post on dealing with the death of an estranged family member.

I've never really been confronted with my past in the sense of the people that know 'who I really am' because until a couple of years ago, I lived in completely different parts of the country to my estranged family and therefore there was an almost negligibly chance I'd ever come across someone I'm technically related to or who might realise the connection between the family and me. All that changed when I started the job I'm just about to leave because it put me back to being based in the area I originally come from and where my estranged family live.

Whilst I've slowly settled into the idea that one day I am probably going to walk into someone who remembers me as an 8 year old or who makes the connection between me and a family I've had no contact with for the better part of a decade, I realised only now I'll be moving on and returning to living at home in London that as an active member of the local community- I run with a club, cycle with members of a club, use local business and services, eat out and socialise locally, that what has always bothered me is not being confronted by my choices, I have long since reconciled those, but that I have been thinking of the person who allowed herself to be manipulated by emotional blackmail and had different surname as 'who I really am'

Do I want people to know that person? Do I want to be connected to that person?

Actually the bigger question is: is that who I really am?

We all have a life, a history and past. I am a summation of all of those things but I'm choosing to drop my FOFO because where I come from and the details of my past do not exclusively make me who I am now.

I love and am loved by someone I plan to spend the rest of my life with
I scrunch my eyes up when I laugh
I am a runner- finisher of marathons, half marathons, charity challenges, 10k and more
I am part of a community- I try to give as much to the community around me as it gives me through volunteering
I am successful in my career choices- I am where I want to be right now
I own too many pairs of cheap sunglasses because I can never find them when I need them
I ride my bike for several hours at a time on a weekend. For fun. And I'm qualified to lead other women in such joy
I love pick n mix sweets and am especially weak willed around them
World class DJ sets on sweaty dancefloors fuelled by diet coke make me feel alive
I am a blogger
I make choices every day, not all of them are good

I am all of these things and more, and these supercede so many of the things I have been or that came before.

This is 'who I really am'. I am not scared of that. I do not fear you finding out.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thoughts On My First DNF

DNF. I DNF'ed. A couple of years ago this would have meant nothing to me. I would have thought you were perhaps speaking a language with which I'm not familiar with, to a certain extent, the language around any hobby, not least sports is very much it's own. But I'm now very familiar with it's meaning in the literal and physical terms.


Did. Not. Finish.

I have cried my way around courses, I have grunted through sprint finishes. I have unlaced my trainers walking through a finish funnel because for some ridiculous reason, the blister that is now in shreds on my heel didn't hurt at all whilst I was running and is now preventing me from walking properly. But I have never walked off a course. I have never not completed a race I set out to do. Until last week.

We're currently two thirds of the way through our internal club championship summer races- three 5k races, three 10k races. I've volunteered at some and ran my 5k PB at one in May (read more about that and feeling a sense of pride in it in THIS post I wrote about regaining body confidence). I rocked up on a sunny Tuesday night ready to rock through a 10k knowing full well I've been on terribly form with what used to be my absolute favourite distance but vaguely hopeful I might be able to cling to someone's tail to get through in around 60mins - not a PB but getting back towards it.

You know, I didn't even think about it too much when I felt my ankles ping in the first mile which covers part of a nature reserve. Not trail running by any stretch of the imagination, but not road either, and it takes me legs a few minutes to settle into a run, my ankles do ping like that a lot when I run on uneven surface. And when that ankle started to pull a bit a few minutes later I didn't really think about that too much either, because it was still inside the 3k mark and it can take me that long to get into a 10k. But then I did start to think about it, and then my foot started to go numb. And then I decided that 1 5k lap of this race was enough. Did. Not. Finish.

I have done a lot of stupid things through injury. There was the time I worked through a chest infection- at the time I worked behind a bar, it was grim. The time I worked through 'it's probably just a water infection' until I needed to go to A&E with a gallbladder infection and a 3 night stay in hospital. There was the time I tried to run on torn ligaments. There was the half marathon I ran 3 miles of with no feeling in one foot. On every single one of these occasions, trying to 'power through' has left me far worse off than if I'd quite whilst ahead when I started to realise something was wrong.I KNOW this is the sensible, grown-up decision to make- I'm not in serious contention for any championship prize, these are free races I enter for the joy of running with my club- in essence they matter only in so far as I allow them to.

So why am I so disappointed? Why am I questioning the validity of preserving my wellbeing and ability to run & exercise over finishing what is essentially 'just' a run where I happened to be wearing a number? Why is there the nagging whisper that  says to me 'it's because you're just not good enough'?

This is a common theme for me, I wrote about running being the best and the worst thing that ever happened to me last year. Running and sports have given me strength and courage. It's allowed me to prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to, even if it's not always the straightforward journey or the exact outcome I expected, but the inevitable stumbles an proverbial falls also leave me lost or doubtful. The key, and part of the strength I have gained from running and sport is dealing with it in a healthy way- yes, DNF-ing was disappointing, but it was also the right choice for me. I'm in the fortunate position that I don't have to justify that to anyone except myself either- I'm not an athlete, I'm not in serious contention for any kind of competition and if there's ever time to learn what a DNF feels like, it's a race or a run that doesn't mean too much.

So there we have it, another one to add to my growing list of running experiences over the last 3 years... disastrous marathon... check. Sub 60m 10k... check. 5k thigh chaffing... check. DNF... check. Anyone else care to share a DNF story?

In a shameless plug, I'm also going to remind you that there's a little over 12 weeks left to try out a #RunningDownDementia challenge- 100km means you need to run less than 10km over the course of each week and you could raise some vital funds to help tackle dementia which can be a devastating disease. I'll be dedicating my 250km to my late Great-Grandmother who died last Friday after a 15 year struggle with dementia, aged 95. Read more about the campaign and the work Alzheimer's Research UK are doing in my post Don't You Remember


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Chloe Likes To Eat: Aldi Favourites

So I do 80% of my grocery shopping in Aldi and Lidl. Last year I posted about 5 of my favourite products from Lidl, not necessarily the cheapest or a dupe of something specific, just 5 products that I love from Lidl. This time around, it's Aldi's turn, mostly because although I used Aldi occasionally, it's only now one has opened at the end of the road near the office that I've been using them more extensively.

So let's start with the important stuff.... WINE!

Gavi is not exclusive to Aldi, it's an Italian white wine which I love, it's £5.49 from Aldi, which is about £2 per bottle cheaper than anywhere else. Look for the distinctively tall and skinny bottle, you will not regret it.

A chilled glass of white wine of a summer evening requires a nibble to go with it (just me?) and these salt and vinegar crisps are salty, sharp and a tiny bit sweet all at the same time. Crunchy, not as lethal as a kettle crisp but still substantial. I LOVE them and at 79p per bag, they're considerably better priced than a lot of branded snacks.

If popcorn is more your thing, sweet and salt is the only way to go and the individual bags often stocked on the checkout hit just the spot. Move swiftly though, because the sweet ones never seem to sell but the sweet & salt ones walk off the shelf like nobody's business. 39p per bag, a nice desk drawer snack stash addition.

And whilst we're talking about snacks these quinoa bars appear to be quite new and come in the cacao & cashew flavour or a berry flavour (which I personally find a bit too sweet). At 141 calories (C16.4 F5.5 P4.1) they make a very handy pre-workout snack, especially on evenings where I go out to classes and end up pushing my evening meal right back into the late evening, or this week as a post-parkrun nibble. Slightly chewy, slightly crunchy, what's not like about a chocolate nut combo that doesn't send your macros off the charts?!

Not pictured, but Aldi's unsweetened almond milk is about half the price of some of the big name brands, and it still blends into my breakfast smoothies just fine. They also do a sweetened version if that's your thing as well as soya milk in both varieties.

And brownie bars. It's a bit of a con that these are with the 'healthy' products, they're still chocolate brownies, but they come in boxes of 3 individually wrapped bars, perfect for on the go and for curbing one's enthusiasm for eating the entire batch of brownie in one go (just me?). These are £1.49 per box and if anyone in your household happens to have intolerances or allergies, these might be handy as they're free from several common allergens as you can see from the box.

A few other notable aisles to pay attention to in Aldi...

If nuts and seeds are your thing, check out the baking aisle. Did you know that you pay VAT on nuts/seeds that are snacks but not as baking ingredients? Raw almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts all work out cheaper from baking ingredients!

Chocolate Milkshake is a great recovery drink after sports because it's a brilliant balance of carbs and protein, Aldi's chocolate fudge milkshake is a treat in a glass.

What have I missed? Do you have a special favourite you detour to pick up on your grocery run?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Month in Review: July 2017

July has been insane. It's usually a busy month in the office, but there's been so. many. other. things.

After spending pretty much the entire month of June drinking more than I should and eating anything I fancied, I got back to a more balanced routine this month, and training kicked in for the upcoming series of half marathons I'm running this Autumn. Given the first one is now only about 10 weeks off, I felt the need to get focused and get back out there.

What better way to focus on training plans than to treat yourself to new trainers thanks to #PrimeDay

As well as training I have raced this month, but just the once. I went off to the British 10k on Sunday 9th July. It's a beautiful closed road route through central London that takes in Westminster (including crossing the bridge) Embankment, Regents Street and more. This was  free place because I volunteered at the Hackney Half earlier in the year and although the event was well organised, I still felt that £50 entry was far too much given there are comparable races for almost half that. The day was hella hot, so I treated it as a long-ish run and took in the sights.

Not a bad place to pose for a (very sweaty) finisher's photo

As if that wasn't enough for one weekend, probably one of the biggest achievements this month was qualifying as a Ride Leader with British Cycling. That means I'll be able to take groups of women out to experience the JOY of life on two wheels via the Breeze program. Free bike rides for women of any and every ability, what's not to love?

I got really lucky that a friend of mine happened to be on the same course which made a long day a bit easier, and we're already hatching plans for more rides! We're also both fond of a glass of wine and traded pics of our post-training treats. I felt like I'd earned this glass of wine after a full 9-5 training day with a 100 mile round trip drive plus cycle commute into Cambridge!

Those who know me or have been following my blog for a while know that I work with my parents from their home office. I essentially live in shorts or jeans and t-shirt or jumper all year round, when I'm not wearing running or workout kit. I did used to have a 'proper' job and wear 'proper' grown up clothes every day, but that was almost 3 years ago. So it's nothing short of a miracle that I wore my proper grown up clothes and posted about it not once, but twice in July...

Actually. It's not a miracle at all. Albeit very unexpectedly, I'm moving on from my ops manager job with my parents into something completely different at the end of August and didn't think it prudent to attend either of the meetings to secure the job and hash out the details wearing a race finisher t-shirt and my (now blood stained thanks to blisters from my new trainers) trainers.

I'm actually moving into a sports related field working with data insight, it's all very exciting but scary as hell. I'm going back to living in my flat in London 7 days per week for the first time in 3 years and I'm going to have to start completely over trying to make friends, find people to run with and make a life for myself which I had started to do in Cambridgeshire, where I have been based for work for the last few years. Yeah, so there's that. I'm sure I'll be wittering on about all these new things in good time, but for now I'm slowly extricating myself from the current business situation and concentrating on trying to look like a competent adult ready for August 29th!

We went to the World Championship Para Athletics on a total spur of the moment. We scored tickets for £25 each and had the best Saturday night watching sprint finals at varying distances and classifications. Hands down a recommendation if we do get to host the worlds again or you get the chance to go watch para sport- you get SO much for your money and more support can only help to gain more coverage and awareness for athletes.

Queuing in the rain at Stratford, so worth it. But £5.50 for a plastic bottle of Heineken in the stadium... not so much.

Food has been terribly dull this month. We ate at Inamo on an AYCE barbecue menu via Groupon in the early part of the month- the food was average, the service was appalling so we won't go into that too much, and otherwise it's all been tried and tested favourites where my schedule has been tight and I've been trying to get back to something resembling a routine again, that and of course paying off holiday spending on our credit card lead us to curb our enthusiasm for eating out too much, no bad thing.

I did treat myself to this much raved about book though. I'm going to be back in my own kitchen and able to cook for myself whenever I want, all the time soon and this kind of 'chuck it all in' kind of cooking is how I love to do it. The book itself is simple but beautiful and I can't wait to try a few roast-esque meals from it.

The Roasting Tin - available on Amazon and I've seen it in major bookshops & supermarkets too

I got gobby when it comes to opinions on my blog this month. I heard some horror stories, including someone who has started running and was laughed at by their friends which reminded me that other people's opinions say more about them than they do about you- click if you missed it

And the floral skirt from the my aforementioned fashion post- click if you missed it, has had a lot of attention so if you want one, you can buy the very same floral midi skirt from eBay for less than £10.

This month, Friday to be precise, my great-grandmother also passed away. She very literally fought dementia for 15 years and it was a blessing that she left this life behind, albeit less peacefully than we had hoped. I've talked about #RunningDownDementia before, but do take a look if you fancy doing a little something to help a disease that robs you of so much, not least your dignity- click here to read about it. 

What I've been reading:

I am standing with the #boycottBoots campaign after their completely outrageous moralising of their decision not to lower the price of the morning after pill in line with other UK retailers. The Pool have eloquently summarised the saga and included a handy link to the #JustSayNon bpas campaign where you can send a pre-written email straight to the inboxes of those in charge at Boots to express your displeasure with their attitude. . Boots have now apologised, but it's still worth a ready of the post because it really highlights the problem of moralising access to contraception.

This post from Women's Running Magazine on why women make better ultra-runners is a fascinating look into how different genders approach problem solving and endure hardship. 

Cancer Research UK discussed the impact of the ban on smoking in public  full 10 years after it came in. I was doing a lot of pub and bar work as the ban came in and I remember it well. 

How to wear denim shorts as an adult, this post on The Pool caught my eye as someone currently very attached to my DIY cut offs after being sick of bum flashing shorts available to purchase!

A brilliant read on body size, body image and making your own clothes.

Should there be cut off times for major running events such as big city marathons? An interesting view point and a great read.

ZSL are collaborating with Oasis and the items are BEAUTIFUL! I slipped and fell onto some tiger trainers and a stunning shirt. Check out the whole range on the Oasis website right HERE