Monday, April 24, 2017

Because Life Happens

It does. Sometimes it's great when life happens- spontaneous trips to the seaside, cycling in the sun, barbecues with with friends, your favourite movie being on TV when there's not a lot else on. Sometimes, it's a bit shit. Eye infections that blow half of your face up, allergies making running impossible, showers leaking through the ceiling and your favourite t-shirt getting a hole in it. Life happens, which is why I don't feel the need to apologise for not posting- this is my hobby, not my job and I haven't promised to do anything specific for anyone, but I have missed my blog lately and I've missed feeling inspired especially at the point in the year where business is crazy and I need something to inspire me instead of banging my head against my keyboard in the hope of salvation.

But on the plus side, there were new shoes...

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Aldi sneakers, £6.99 have barely left my feet since picking them up along side a couple of £2.99 pairs of sunglasses for the car.

On the hottest day of the year so far, I managed a 55k ride out into Essex. We took a wrong turn which took us up an unnecessary hill, but it's all good training right?! Any excuse for a sneaky half en route...

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Very sunny Essex

The ride was the start of some allergy problems for me and running and riding took a bit of a back seat- not ideal when a 4 day weekend came along shortly after. I spent most of Easter indoors after a failed run some eye problems after a failed ride.

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Fast forward to this weekend just gone, not only did I manage to bounce back with a bang- humour me, it's the first time I've EVER managed true negative splits and I am proud- but I also spent the afternoon at the finish line of the London Marathon. I signed up to volunteer for Cancer Research months ago and it was a joy- cheering people (not just CRUK runners) across the line has reawoken an almighty marathon shaped itch.

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London Marathon 2017

And it's on to another action packed week, of which I have a few coming up. My next big running event is just under 2 weeks away- I'm being chased through Cambridge by David Coulthard on May 7th (check out details of the Wings Race right here if you're interested, I think there's still time to enter) and I'll be volunteering as a marshall at the Hackney Half this Sunday- smile and wave if you'll be there, I'll be somewhere at Hackney Marshes. I'm also off to Be:Fit, a women's fitness festival, I got lucky and won tickets thanks to MyProtein and I'm excited to have nose and maybe treat myself to some new kit.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Do You Need Gait Analysis?

When I first donned a pair of trainers and went for my first painful, cold, wheezy run in January 2015, faithfully plugged in to a C25K app on my phone and wondering if it was worth it, I had no idea that there were specific running trainers. I had never heard of pronation and despite having had hip & ankle problems over the years, the thought of getting advice on running or specific shoes had never occurred to me, and the concept of different types of trainer for different gaits was totally non-existent in Chloe Land.

Alternative Transformation Tuesday 2015 Running before photo 16324722761_7be9c044b8_o_zpsrf4rkyee.jpg
No gear and absolutely no idea. Me in Jan 2015

By June, I was still completing runs in a pair of trainers I'd had for cycling to work in. I'd bought them because they were pretty and nothing else. I was only just able to run 5km without stopping and I was yet to fall into the black hole of kit buying that can be so addictive with sports. So. Many. Shiny. Toys.

It wasn't until a branded gait analysis was available after an event- my first ever 'race' that I ever realised trainers were one thing, running shoes were quite another. The shoes I ended up purchasing (for half the price of the RRP online after the event) made a huge difference. They saw me through my marathon and marathon training and so I didn't give it another thought, because they worked for me.

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My 2 pairs of Mizuno Wave Inspire running shoes that saw me through 2015 & into 2016

Until they didn't Until I had huge blisters appearing on the arch of my foot at which point I decided it might be an idea to try and independent running shop and reassess. Which at the time was great. £120 worth of trainers and 3 months later, the problems began and 6 months on, I have learned a lot about running shoes and gait analysis as an amateur to moderately experienced runner and it's left me asking some interesting questions and I thought my conclusions were worth a share for anyone else wondering how necessary this whole process is...

First up.... what even is a gait analysis? 

IF you go for a gait analysis at a branded or independent running shop, you can expect for a member of staff to ask you some questions about your running- how far you like to run, on which surfaces, if you have any problems currently such as blisters, soreness, aches and pains (not just your feet) and if you play other sports. You can then expect to jump on a treadmill in some 'neutral' running shoes whilst they video your feet & lower legs. This is to get an idea of how your feet hit the ground, and whether your legs, feet & ankles need any additional support or cushioning. Pronation refers to how your foot and ankles roll (in towards each other- over pronation, out away from each other, under pronation). It's likely that you'll then try a handful of pairs and end up with a couple of choices to best suit your running style and goals.

Do I have to pay for a gait analysis? 

Most running shops or brands will do your analysis for free, but may charge you if you decide not to buy anything afterwards. For example, the shop I used charges £25 if you don't make a purchase on the day but they also issue you with a £25 voucher to redeem against a purchase later on in case you just need time to think on it. Make sure you check before you get started to make sure you don't get any nasty surprises at the end.

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Your feet will thank you for realising there is a difference between running shoes & trainers. Trust me.

Do I need gait analysis? 

And so we get to the million dollar question...

If you've never run before.... then a gait analysis is a great place to start. My first pair of running shoes felt phenomenally different to the trainers I'd been using and knowing a bit more about what I needed from a running shoe was a useful exercise.

But....  here's some things I wish I'd known... 

Trust your own instincts
If a sales assistant seems keen for you to buy something and it really doesn't feel right, trust your instincts. Even if you can't put your finger on what the problem is, a specialist running shop should have staff who can help you work out what the niggle is. Don't let them bully you into buying something that isn't right.

Sometimes there are compromises to be made
I have found that staff providing analysis focus on correction first and foremost- they want to find a pair of shoes which prevent over/under pronation and they want to find the pair that gives you the most 'correct' running gait. Which is great- optimum position means you're less likely to find yourself injured and should make you more efficient (and who doesn't love a PB..) BUT and this is the big one. If a shoe corrects you're gait it might cause more problems than it solves. It's all fine and good having your ankles in perfect alignment for every step, but naff all use if you can't feel your right foot and have a blister the size of a golf ball on your left foot (true story of how I ran the Cambridge Half...). If you can find a balance of a shoe that is comfortable AND that assists with your gait, this is worth considering. Running with numb feet is really miserable. Considering dropping out of your race less than a quarter of the way through is really miserable. Blisters the size of £2 coins on the arches of your feet are REALLY miserable.

Beware of branding
There are thousands of running shoe brands and models out there. Some of the major market leaders have a shoe aimed at pretty much every need, but it doesn't mean that one brand's version of a stability shoe is the same as another and for that reason it's worth thinking hard before committing to a branded store and losing out on some variety. You might get lucky, but your perfect shoe might also be somewhere else

Independent vs Chain
Independent businesses are well worth supporting and if there's a great shop near you, go in and talk to them. Ask them about the service the offer and their experience. You're more likely to find staff who love running as much as you do in an independent store too. Chains are easier to find and often feel more familiar. Some offer extended return & replacement policies which is good if your trial run on a treadmill hasn't left you 100% sold on how comfortable your new shoes will be but. But I can't emphasise enough- do ask an independent store what they can offer you and what their service entails- don't just assume.

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My treat after a long run... reading about more running & fitness stuff...

The Next BIG Thing
I like to read. I am currently subscribed to 4 print magazines (yeah, I know...) 2 of which are running specific (yes, I get it already) as well as the substantial number of blogs and online media I follow and it's very easy to convince yourself that you absolutely, definitely, no questions asked need something. And that's ok- it means that writers are doing their jobs. But until you've tried something, remember that as with many things in this life, what works for one person, or even a panel of testers, might not work for you. I really, really, really thought Saucony Guide shoes would work for me after reading loads about the new Guide 9s. I duly ordered a pair, convinced I'd found a perfect match. It was a bit heartbreaking to try them on a treadmill and have them feel ALL wrong and videoing the roll on my ankles was the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

Information Overload
And on the note of all the media and all the opinions and all the THINGS, if you have no idea where to start, then visiting a running shop is a really good idea and gait analysis might, if nothing else give you the opportunity to try before you buy since most analysis sessions will have you trial different pairs of shoes on a treadmill.

And finally, for anyone interested, I'm currently running in these Brooks Ravenna 8s. I was lucky enough to win this pair which means a very cost effective (ie... free) trial of a shoe completely new to me.

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So fair they're very cushioned, especially in the heels- I've had to try heel-lock lacing to prevent some minor heel blisters, they're springy, there's plenty of room in the toes and the structure of the lacing over the midfoot has put a stop to the numbness problems I'd been having. So far... so good.

Please let me know if you found this post helpful or if you have any interesting experiences- good or bad of gait analysis and picking shoes because it's good to get some ideas.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Month In Review: March 2017

That's a quarter of 2017 done and dusted right there! I always used to wonder how it's possible to forget how old you are- oh the naivety of the 10 year old, this week I had to think hard and pause for a second whilst I worked out that I am currently 27 (not 26 and not yet 28) years of age. I'd say it's a sobering thought but actually it made my reach for the wine glass all the quicker.

This month is running heavy. Call this fair warning... It sometimes seems like all I talk about is running, sports and food. This is such a huge change from the interest and lifestyle I had even 2 years ago and unrecognisable from 5. I won't apologise for that because running and becoming active has given me far more than I take from it. I wouldn't say I'm a natural sports woman and staying healthy is not something that has come easy to my either but friends I've met, the confidence I have gained and finding some joy in activity are things I wouldn't change. Having a good relationship with food is something that is prized by so many, especially I feel of my own generation, and not talking openly about food- especially about food which is healthy without otherwise branding it as 'good' or 'clean' or automatically assuming it's dull can only help with this issue in my humble opinion.

So, my March started on a high. I completed my first ever half marathon and achieved my goal of finishing happy. I wasn't fixated on my time, I wasn't miserable or in pain, I was just pleased I'd done what I set out to and that I had enjoyed it. Well... as much as one can do in arctic winds and rain at the start line... I created a bit of a photodiary for the Cambridge Half Marathon, so click if you missed it.

Cambridge Half 2017 medal photo 4d7ef059-9ce9-42ad-a134-0f081c2d4e6d_zpssygepmpo.png
It was really bloody cold...

The other half marathon event I've had my eye on for 2 years running is a local to me event- the North London Half which starts (and finished) at Wembley and takes in the Saracens stadium- Allianz Park at the halfway point. It was too close to the Cambridge Half this year and last year I didn't find out about it in enough time to train, so when a call for volunteers to marshal the event was coupled with the offer a of a free place next year in return, I pushed the button and found myself trying to get into the Allianz Park stadium at 0630 on a Sunday morning... We had a proper party on the sidelines and you can read more about our experience as volunteers for a big running event via my photodiary - click if you missed it. 

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Early doors does not even begin to cover it!

And then there was the virtual race. In aid of International Women's Day I signed up for the Women's Running Magazine race - the idea is that you can run your distance anywhere within a time frame (usually a week or two) in this case, you were free to set your own distance, so I went for 5k, which is a bit out of my comfort zone.

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And in the theme of IWD I posted about continuing to inspire the younger women in our lives after big events like IWD

I also ventured north this month, and I don't just mean north of London. We headed up to Leeds to visit Tom's parents who moved there at the beginning of the year. I'd heard loads of good things but never had a need to go, but we loved it. The food culture in the city is booming and vibrant with none of the scary southern prices and a much more chilled out atmosphere. We met at vegetarian Indian street-food restaurant Bundobust for lunch as Tom's parents are both vegetarian and it's always my mission to find us somewhere that caters really well for them, Bundobust certainly delivered. In the evening, after watching the 6 Nations final, we wandered back out to Candlebar which was near to the apartment we had booked for the super large wine glasses and woodfired pizza (although I gather this is about to move on to a new home and sushi is coming in place of it...)

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Lift selfie... Tom didn't seem impressed with the idea...

So, more food, more running, more sports and more joy. Unfortunately, by contrast, the nasty snotty cold I went down with on return from our trip was conducive to precisely none of these things- fizzing with ideas and things to do but being under the weather and unable to do it all was grim. And an eye-opener given the growing need for awareness around disability & chronic illness. But that's another post currently sitting in my drafts as it slowly, slowly comes together into something coherent. Well, vaguely.

When I finally pulled myself together a bit better I was able to enjoy the fruits of a current lucky streak I'm on. My Brooks Ravenna 8 running shoes finally arrived and they got their first proper outing for club speedwork. So far- a springy shoe with loads of hell cushioning and plenty of mid-foot space as well as being a moderate-heavy support shoe.

Brooks Ravenna 8 Running Shoes photo 33305002322_a4b97b8647_o 1_zpspfyssbdf.jpg
So far, so good

And what better first event to christen them with than what was essentially a giant obstacle course? A giant inflatable obstacle course. 10 obstacles over 5km. It was insane, I ended up doing two laps and burned over 1200 calories over the 2 rounds. Madness!

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And I followed the bouncy castles on steroids with a 40s night which a friend organised for charity as she's running VLM for Meningitis Now. Considering it was a bit of 'throw it together, that's kind of 40's' dressing up we did, I thought we looked pretty good, except I completely failed to get any proper pictures of us. Selfie it is.

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I think I was mostly just impressed that a decade after I first wore this dress for my 18th Birthday, it still fits!

A busy month. It's not really surprising that I didn't read a lot- or at least on the internet. I've been making a conscious effort to reduce my screen time after work lately and been reading more in print. I currently have a very decadent 4 magazine subscriptions and it's been enjoyable to dip in and out of them more this month. That said....

I posted this Aubergine Shakshouka recipe- baked eggs served in whole baked aubergines. It was a joy served with homemade (cheat's) sourdough, let me know if you give it a try.

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Dreams of doing a pull up? This Womens' Health UK article about developing the strength and correct mobility by using a TRX set up is genius.

Phoebe wrote about creating the perfect blog post- great considerations if you're looking to properly engineer your posts

Given the rise of the Social Influencer, reading Vogue attempt to define the label was interesting.

And now it's April. I have a pleasantly less busy month planned. I don't have any races booked, I'm not heading off on any trips, just a bit of weekend cycling, plenty of running training for a May feast of races, volunteering at the London Marathon for Cancer Research and I'm volunteering as a Marshal at the Hackney Half on 30th April- wave if you spot me-0 I'll be at the finish line of VLM and Hackney Marshes for the Hackney Half.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chloe Likes To Eat: Aubergine Shakshouka Recipe

And I'm back in the room! I was out with a nasty cold type bug last week and it really knocked the wind from my sails. I'm not very good at being sickly, I was definitely whiney and I was so frustrated to not have the energy to do all the things I wanted- it was a bit of an eye opener to how much I take for granted and that's a whole other post I'm starting to draft. Onto edible things, because food...

I recently had a go at making baked eggs/Shakshouka for the first time, and I was hacked off by the time I actually got to eating it because whatever the cook time said about it being quick and easy, I was well over half an hour later eating my dinner than I had intended. I'm not good when I'm hungry... what can I say.

So I won't profess this is a 'speedy' brunch recipe, it's one that requires some patience and a bit of prep, but it's worth it because aubergine is such a natural partner for North African flavours, even if my version is a bit of a re-jig thanks to a few test runs

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Aubergine Shakshouka 2 photo IMG_1747_zpsubimkuqu.jpg

It's essential all the punchy, tomato-y, spicy, comforting flavours, spooned into a pre-baked aubergine and made even happier & sunnier with the addition of eggs. Go on... You know you want to....

Aubergine Shakshouka

Recipe by Chloe Martin-Brown

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 20 mins

  • 2

  • 4

  • 1 tbsp
    tomato puree

  • 1 tbsp
    harissa paste

  • 1
    red onion

  • 3 crushed/minced
    cloves garlic

  • 1 tsp
    smoked paprika

  • 1/2 tsp

  • 1
    green pepper
Cooking Directions

  1. Prick & bake whole aubergines at 180C for approx 40 mins- until they feel soft to touch

  2. Leave to cool completely

  3. Slice an opening down the length of the aubergine & scoop out the flesh- try and leave a little around the edges of the skin as this will help it to hold it's shape without splitting when filled.

  4. In a pan, soften the onions and pepper, add the garlic & aubergines and stir well

  5. Add the harissa, cumin & paprika and mix well over a medium heat

  6. Add the tomato puree and stir, if the mixture looks dry, ad a splash (try a tablespoon to str) of water to loosen

  7. Spoon the mix into the aubergines so they are approx. two thirds full and make 2 indentations to crack your eggs into

  8. Carefully crack eggs into the aubergines- this is easiest done on a flat chopping board or plate so any spilt egg white doesn't bind the aubergine to your roasting tin during baking

  9. Transfer the aubergines to lightly greased baking tray or tin, cover loosely with tin foil and bake for 10-12 mins at 190C- check the eggs often, as soon as the whites have turned opaque, bring them out

  10. Serve with toasted sourdough & if desired a sprinkle of feta cheese


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Party At The Sideline: North London Half Photodiary

It seems like way more than a week ago that I was sitting here putting together my photos from from the Cambridge Half Marathon- click if you missed my photodiary for my first ever half marathon!

Whilst I'm bringing you another half marathon photodiary, this one comes from an entirely different perspective. Since it was only one week after the Cambridge Half and I'd long since been signed up for that, I decided to get involved with my local half marathon event by signing up as a volunteer when I saw a plea for extra help about a month ago. I've volunteered a couple of times at parkrun, but never at a large event, so here's what a major race looks like from the other side...

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If you're volunteering at a large scale event, you may be asked to apply for a specific role on a specific part of a course or a specific venue. This was certainly the case for me- so before the big day, I already new I'd a marshal and that I'd be based at Allianz Park stadium, which includes the half way marker on the course.

The night before...

Much like race day when you're running, alarms are an essential...

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The North London Half is an early 030 start for the runners, we needed to be in place before roadblocks came into force at 0630 and there was plenty of setting up to do on site- barriers to assemble, water to unpackage, getting tooled up with radios & understanding where we all needed to be... Because I'm a bit twitchy about being on time, we were super early at 0615 and got stuck in as soon as we were issued our radios and briefed by the management team on site


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Yeah... we were still a touch sleepy at this stage.


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The forecast for Sunday was grim- pouring rain all day, all over North London. But aside a few drops, it stayed miraculously dry despite those dark skies at the stadium...


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With barriers up, water stations ready, it's time to get into place and go through a final briefing on the course. It's really exciting to prepare a part of the course whilst you can here the entire race network preparing for the start in your ear as the whole team across a handful of different locations is on the same radio channel.

Although I was originally manning a stretch of the track around the stadium, the wet surface of some boarding was quickly identified as a slip hazard and I was move around to make sure runners received plenty of warning. So if you remember someone asking you to be careful on the slippery corners coming out of Allianz Park, you high fived me or joined my cheers, yes, that was me!


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Hearing a 10s countdown is pretty cool, and sent me right back to waiting to start my own race last week!

Meanwhile we were making sure we were properly kitted out...

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Did someone say free t-shirt?!


We started to get excited for the first runner to arrive. With the radio network, we had regular updates, and when he reached mile 5, it really did become thrilling. Unfortunately, it's also around the time someone handed me a megaphone to start using, meaning both hands were occupied and I didn't get a single picture of he 6000 amazing runners who passed me in the next 2 hours.


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I remember this lady coming past, Team Bex is a local club to my own in Cambridgeshire and Bex, the force of nature police officer who faced cancer head on sadly died last year. They're an incredible club with an incredible cause.

I have run my fair share of races in the last 2 years, and there are several things that really make or break a race experience- the number of toilets at the start line and the finisher's goodies are part of it, but how well (or not as the case may be) organised a race event is and how excited and encouraging volunteers & marshals are is another factor. A good course marshal who is encouraging, someone who tells you 'You've GOT this' when you're flagging, when they're having a party as well, it can keep you going when you want to give up, make you run faster and put a massive smile on your tired little face. I tried to be everything I love about the volunteers who make my races and to every runner who cheered with me, high-fived me, tried a cheeky chat up line- yes you in the Macmillan vest... Thank you!


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Can you tell we got up early?!

The final runners had been through our section, and for the record, we stayed properly put to cheer on Every. Last. One. Then it was time for a clear down- hunting down discarded gel packets, cups from the Lucozade station and any other debris along the way. As the saying goes, many hands make light work, and it only took around 45 minutes to litter pick the area as the road blocks began to come down and we were on our way home to a slow cooker pork joint and all the Sunday roast trimmings.

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Would we do it again? Hands down, hell yes. We had so much fun. I went in trying to bring everything I love about race-day volunteers and I hope for the runners I succeeded because we were basically having a party on the sidelines. This particular event aso rewards volunteers with free entries to the following year's race, which is a major incentive for me as many runners will know, race entries and events can soon add up and lead to tough choices and compromises.

If you're a runner and you've never volunteered before, consider giving it a go- it's a great way to get involved in an event that maybe you fancied running but is too close to another race or perhaps if you're injured and still want to be involved. If you go with the attitude of having a good time, I think it would be hard not to enjoy it. Even with the hella early start...

And a quick plug (not a paid link, just something I think is worthwhile)- I'm not sure if I'll be there too, but the Hackney Half are currently looking for a variety of volunteer roles for events running across the day.... Check it out HERE