Thursday, August 15, 2019

Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway


I’ve rewritten this post in a dozen different guises over the last 2 weeks, trying to work out what it is that I’m trying to say and why I think it matters. In all of those drafts, this bit came at the end, but I think actually this is where the story starts:

I have signed up for the UK Athletics Leader in Running Fitness Course. Think, foundation to coaching.

I don’t need it for anything, and I sure as hell have other things I should be doing of a weekend or spending £170 on. I’m not an especially talented runner, I don’t work in fitness or coaching, my help or assistance is not required nor requested by anyone. So you might (rightly) be asking: WTF?

Here’s the thing, you can’t be what you can’t see and you cannot allow fear to steal passion and opportunity from you.

I am inspired on at least a weekly basis by the people I talk to who rock up to run with the Adidas Runners London crew. These are people who are searching for their identity outside of being a parent or a spouse. They are people who don’t think they deserve to be there because they don’t run certain speeds or distances or worse still they're not 'runners', and need reminding that they form the fabric of a community. People who are embarking on a journey of doing something for themselves. People looking for friendship and support in a country they don’t know and people who new or returning to sport and don’t know where to start. Showing up takes guts, and I should know, because this is me, having a blast, running strong, feeling at home: 

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And this is also me, the picture of anxiety 101:

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Back in January I committed to myself that I would give AR London a go, having failed miserably (actually miserably, the last time I ran with a crew or club in 2018, I cried on the bus home….) to find a new running home that gave me the same sense of direction and community that I’d had before relocating back to London in 2017. I was introduced to the concept by someone I met at an event and who promised me I'd be welcome (she was right, and happened to be one of the coaches), and with the London Marathon looming large in April this year, I knew if I could make it work, my training alone would benefit from regular running commitments.

And so it is that every week I’m surrounded by all these people doing all these amazing things, not least, showing up. And for me, that left me wondering: what else can I do? What can I put back out into the world that shows gratitude for the amazing support and inspiration I am surrounded by so often? Because for me, doing something positive with that is the best way I know how to, which is to DO something.

One of the many lessons from training with such diverse groups of people, is that it takes all kinds. Whatever it is we’re aspiring to, there are a hundred ways to get there and we cannot be what we cannot see. We need to see people of all levels achieving their goals to understand that we too can achieve our goals at all levels. It isn’t always about the fastest, the furthest or the heaviest, it’s about showing up, being present and putting that satisfying tick in a box on your own plan, working towards your own goals, whether that’s showing up, busting a 5 minute mile or finding the joy.

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I’m still terrified I’m going to be out of my depth on the day, that I’ll be surrounded by semi-pro runners or that the course leader will quietly ask me to leave because I’m not pre-qualified for this. But this is me owning the fear, it’s ok for me to be a bit nervous, but I will not allow fear or the unknown take away from me something which is driven by desire to do something positive for the world around me.

So LiRF, let’s do this, this time next month, just call me coach!

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Monday, August 5, 2019

It has my NAME on it!


It feels like a lifetime ago, but once upon a time, I brought home a bike. A brand new bike that I had coveted. Back in October 2013 I picked up my much loved Grazia- a very stialised single speed bike from an East End archway where they were made. I’d been cycling to work for about 9 months, a lot of my riding at that time was bombing about East London between home, work, and errands, so single speed suited me really well. In my limited experience, I had no idea that Road Bikes were a thing. Remember this absolute babe of a bike?

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I rode my beloved single speed EVERYWHERE- at one point I was averaging around 500km per month on my bike including long stretches out London-Cambridge and London-Southend. I honestly didn’t really know any different to that single speed life.

Fast forward a year, the lure of a road bike got me! I don’t regret my road bike for a second, the world of gears suddenly made those big rides a whole lot more enjoyable- for anyone who has not experienced it, riding uphill single speed behind someone who inexplicably stops or slows down too much is a disaster! But I ALWAYS regretted selling my beloved Grazia because at the time, having 2 bikes in a household of 4 adults, all with their own bikes, was deemed impractical. One in, one out. Off my little city bike went to it’s new home and away the design went. I don’t even know if the company who make it exist anymore, but I do know the bike itself was discontinued in favour of a sit up and beg style frame, and so I’ve been hunting eBay and Gumtree for one ever since.

Yes, yes that does mean I’ve been looking for this bike for FIVE years. My excitement in finding one was only slightly curtailed by the blue. And the yellow. To say I’m not a fan of yellow would be an understatement. And I’m not mad keen on that shade of blue either. Not deterred enough, I became 3 bike Chloe with a view to making the blue bike of not quite my dreams a project once we’d managed to move house and generally sort our lives out. Respray, maybe teach myself a bit of basic bike mechanics to strip it down and rebuild. Sounds good, right?

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Armourtex: whre bike dreams are made!

I turned 30 in Vietnam, and when I woke up in my favourite place on the planet (complete with enormous bed, air conditioning and all the fruit I could ever eat for breakfast), Tom handed me a very heavy little package to open. A Railcard book and the result of my colour choice…

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Tell me this is not a thing of beauty. I chose green (obviously) and I’m a bit in love with the sparkle in the finish. And when they said I could have decals of pretty much anything I wanted, it seemed like there really was only one thing to do…

I put my name on it.

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Getting back on a single speed has been a joy too. I’d forgotten what a delight it is not to have to faff with gears at lights and just how light this one is, and how pretty. Did I mention how in love with my green bike with my name on it I am?

In a world of sport where achievement is a big deal and where shiny shiny gears or components are often equated with knowledge, power or sporting prowess, this little slice of green is exactly what we all need to remember to feel: JOY. It’s easy to forget the joy when the focus is always on performance, but you don’t always have to be the fastest, go the furthest or be doing the biggest or the best. Sometimes, you just need a sparkly green bike with your name on it and to feel a breeze on your neck as you fly down a hill on your bike whilst the sunset is giving you the prettiest canvas of a sky.  

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Chloe Likes To Eat: I'm a Kebab So Damn Hard

This is an actual sentence we say in our house. Well, the second half, because referring to myself in the third person would be ANNOYING.

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Kebabs are something that never really featured in my life. It wasn't a take-out option where I've lived until I was London based and even then, I've never been a huge fan of Doner. It's only when I saw Tom Kerridge making a 'diet' version of the dish that it struck me as something that sounded pretty good.

The idea behind the recipe as advertised was a reduced fat, salt & sugar version, but for me the biggest appeal is knowing the exact ingredients. And so it came to be that kebabs are now a regular Friday Night Food. And it goes a little something like this...

You can't have a kebab without something to wrap it in, enter a soft, buttery flatbread:
Melt 50g butter in 185ml milk (this works just as well with oil and plant milks FYI), add 300g plain flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and knead into a smooth dough- this should only take a couple of minutes.
Rest the dough for around 30 mins at room temperature- just put a damp tea towel over the top of the bowl.
Cut the dough into 4 equal portions, roll each one out into a round approx 0.5-1cm thick whilst a large, nonstick pan gets hot on the hob
Brush each side of the rolled out dough with a little oil or for an extra treat, garlic butter
Cook each side for 60-90 seconds- it should start to puff up a little with bubbles- they should be soft and pliable
Stack the bread with a piece of kitchen paper or grease proof paper inbetween once cooked so they don't stick together

Note: I often make a double sized batch of the dough and freeze the flat breads- to freeze, I put a damp piece of kitchen paper between each flatbread and put them into an airtight container or use clingfilm to wrap them up, it helps them stay soft when defrosting.

So what do you put in the flatbread? For me it starts with a generous spoon of hummus smeared all over the wrap- for a bought version my favourite is the Sabra version with pine nuts, if I have time I make my own.

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Does Friday night food get better than this? I'm not sure it does!

Next, halloumi. Because halloumi. lightly griddled to create a crispy edge and soft middle.

Can you even call it a kebab if there isn't chilli sauce? Answer: NOPE.

For a fresh injection, add you salad or for a change, try roasted slices of courgette and aurbegine.

Amongst all that I need a bit of sour. Cue pickles. My absolute favourite is pickled red cabbage. Crunch, vinegar and colour all in one hit.

And then there's the kebab meat. This stuff is not attractive, but that's ok. Whatever it looks like it's packing all kinds of flavour punch and meaty joy. The below recipe is my adapted version but if you want to try the original, you can find it HERE

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I used a Thermomix for this, but a food processor or very vigorous mix in a bowl will work just as well:

Add the following:
500g mince lamb
3 cloves grated or minced garlic
1 tspn smoked paprika or pimenton
1.5 tspn dried oregano
0.5 tspn salt
1 tspn black pepper (a few good grinds)
1 tspn garlic powder

Pulse or mix well so the meat resembles more of a paste texture and the herbs and spices are thoroughly mixed in
Press the mix onto a greased, flat baking tray so it's an even thickness, ideally no more than 0.5cm thick- the thinner, the better. You can also place the mix between two pieces of greasproof paper and roll it out if you find this easier.
Place into the oven with both the oven and grill for 3-4 mins until the top looks browned, possibly blackened in some areas.
Leave to rest whilst you assemble the rest of your kebab and then turn the meat onto a board and slice into thin lengths.

Roll your kebab and try to eat it without spilling chilli sauce down your top...

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Confession of Marathon Training: Volume 1

As this process is starting to kick in, I'm realising more and more that I'm approaching this marathon like I've never done it before. And I can't help thinking that's probably the healthiest way to do it.

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It's no secret that my 2015 marathon was a nightmare. I completed but it left me mentally a bit broken and physically it was painful. I all but said never again, but also felt for a long time like I had unfinished business with the distance, which is how I find myself with a training plan stuck to my wall and pencilled into my diary.


London Marathon Volunteering 2017

So here we go, brushing away the memories of training past, the least fit I've been in a few years, and so beginneth the Marathon Training Confessional right here...

The Good
Would you take a look at the view? In a bid to stop training feeling to chore-like, I've abandoned my tried and tested route down the canal path near the house (I usually do out and back by turning back at the half way mark) and tried a completely new running route. I wanted to feel inspired and it helps with a view likes this. 8 steady miles in the bag, a bit of vitamin D and the City skyline.

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The Less Good
Did I mention, for those of you not familiar, that Alexandra Palace is at the top of a hill? I'm a native of Fenland. Where I come from is partly below sea level, it redefines whatever you think 'flat' terrain is. I used to train hills regularly, turns out just like I used to speak French, use it or lose it applies to running up hills too.... I think I've just stopped gasping!

The Ugly
Here's something you might not know... Runners (and cyclists)... we're a bit gross. Actually, there's quite a lot of gross. And today I'll leave you with this little gem...

You know when you're so thirsty your mouth starts to dry out? The next stage on from that is when the skin starts to peel off the inside of your mouth. Yum. So no... please don't ask what the white marks are on the sleeve of top. Not unless you really want to know...

And Finally...

To help with my fundraising, I have Christmas cards for sale. Made by my own fair hand with 100% of the proceeds to my fundraising.
£6 per pack of 4 (designs as pictured, envelopes included) inc P&P. Drop me a message via chloelikestotalk@gmail.com if you would like to purchase!

Pack 1

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Pack 2

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Run Disney Half Marathon 2018 Paris

Last year, my mate Jo & I lamented our schedules because it was the second year they'd started putting on running events at Disneyland Paris (something that already has a huge following at the US parks) and it was the 25th Anniversary year so bound to be a good weekend. Alas, between her shifts and my new job/relocation, it just wasn't viable. We vowed to make it happen for 2018 and when entries opened up in the spring, we started plotting our adventure.

We booked ourselves onto the Half Marathon event (there are 5k, 10k and combined challenge options on offer too, but they'd mostly sold out) and I started scouting AirBnB and Eurostar options. Hurrah. The theme was announced as Disney Villains which is right up my street and as spring turned to summer, we got excited.

We opted to jump on an early Eurostar train into Gare du Nord on Friday before our run on Sunday. The RunDisney events are based around an expo- nothing is posted out to you in advance, instead you visit the parks (there's an area with shops and restaurants which you don't need a ticket to access) and collect race numbers and the all important t-shirts, and there's also an opportunity to buy merchandise and other bits and pieces. Now, race expos can be a day out in themselves, for anyone who's done RideLondon or similar, you take yourself out to the ExCel centre on the docks, and the space is filled with brands doing deals, activities, giving things away and generally giving you lots to see and do (as well as collecting the important stuff.....). I had high expectations for the machine that is Disney....

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To say the Expo was disappointing doesn't do justice. Collecting numbers and t-shirts was super efficient, we headed to the relevant number range desks for race bibs and the race specific stations for our t-shirts, through a HUGE merchandise stand, and that was pretty much it. A stand selling customised hair bands (think Mickey/Minnie ears, tiaras on hair bands), a physio stand and a travel agent, and that was pretty much it. It was a big space, but there was little to do. We quickly made our exit and had a mooch through the shops outside instead. To say Disney could have made more of the expo is an understatement. We'd travelled to be at the event and we had money to spend, Garmin are a sponsor of the event, but even though Jo was really interested in potentially buying a new one, there wasn't an option. We thought there might have been activities or other brands around, we also thought we might be able to buy tickets to go into the parks proper too, which brings me to my next point...

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RunDisney entries are EXPENSIVE. There's no two ways about that. You have to want to do them and enjoy them for the fact that they are set in the parks (and surrounding) and they're very much part of the Disney franchise. But... I think it's pretty criminal that entry doesn't include a park ticket and worse still, there's no deal or discount on park entry either. It left us a little jaded because if you're going to go to Disney and run, you can be damn sure we wanted to do the parks on one of the days!

So... Race Day...

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We headed to the start line via ├╝ber because train strikes (YAY) before dawn and got into our pens. It was all pretty well organised and the stage was set with Disney Villains in keeping with the theme.

And after a steady, phased shuffle toward the line, off we went...

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The first 8 or so kilometres of this run are in the Disney Parks, you get to run through studio sets and past characters. those first few kms flew past as we stopped to grab pictures and enjoy the run- it is Disney after all.

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The first five done... every kilometre has a marker with a different villain

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And then there were ten....

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Once out of the parks, the route heads out towards suburban villages and a loop around a small lake. On the map this route looked kind of boring, but it was brought alive by live bands and dancers along the way, a buzzing atmosphere as runners traded on where they'd travelled from and other races, the 15 km marker came up on us really quickly.

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Almost three quarters of the way...

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The only point at which it's acceptable to shout 'you're nearly there'

The last few kilometres take you back into the Disney complexes, running through the back of the hotels was a bit odd- some residents had come out to have a party with us, but it was pretty quiet elsewise. The good bit came as we headed further in with streams of runners who'd already finished cheering us on and people starting to enter the parks as the open.

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So the Good:
It's a pretty unique opportunity
If medals are your thing, these are pretty damn cool
The t-shirt is awesome
Lots of water stations
Great entertainment

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My favourite villain...

The Less Good:
Value for money is questionable for s destination race- it's a pricey run for what you don't get
The theme was lost on the biggest race of the weekend (the half)- who puts Mickey on a villain themed t-shirt?
No goody bag at the end (I'm a big believer in the goody bag)
Expo had nothing much going on

Would we do it again? Well, Jo is eyeing up the full challenge weekend for 2019 and beyond. I think I can get her involved on the Castle-Chateau challenge at some point. BUT this is a big ticket event and it's one to save up for and next time I'd definitely go a bit more crazy on dressing up and throwing myself into the Disney Experience.

Did you even do Disney if you don't do a parade?

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We stayed in an AirBnB studio apartment 5 minutes walk from Chessy station. It's 2 stops and approx 10 mins from Marne la Vallee station for Disney, but there are loads of bars and restaurants as well as an enormous shopping centre with a supermarket in it too. Travel to Gare du Nord from Chessy took approx 45 mins by local train, cost around €7.





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