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....


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...


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...


We headed to the start line via über 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...


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.


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


And then there were ten....


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.


Almost three quarters of the way...


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.


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

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?


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.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Up & Down: On Yoyo Dieting

I think pretty much everyone has heard the term ‘Yoyo dieting’ before. For me it conjures up images of weird diets and church halls dominated by pop-up banners and scales. Cabbage soup and Cayenne Pepper. Low Carb and Keto. Cambridge, Atkins or Herbalife and my personal favourite- the plethora of 'fitness' brands who peddle protein shakes as meal replacements.

And to a greater or lesser extent, I generally thought I’d done a decent job of not falling into too many fads- I gained a lot of weight when I started uni because I was moving less and partying hard, but a summer of working long days and nights behind bars and the shock factor of realising how much I didn’t like how I looked anymore seemed to get me back on track and I realised that exercise when at uni and generally sedentary as opposed to my mostly upstanding or moving summer jobs, was going to be much more important.

But here’s where I start to see a pattern and I realise that actually ‘yoyo dieting’ isn’t just about fad diets… when I started my first graduate job, my weight crept up until I took to cycling to work for exercise and I dropped back to a more comfortable size and shape, just like Fresher’s year.

I changed jobs a couple of years later and lost my active commute- in fact my commute disappeared altogether as I started working away on site. I took to running and subsequently other weight and gym training shortly after, but the time I went on holiday 12 months later, I was the fittest, strongest leanest and wearing the smallest dress size I’ve ever been.

Me at my lightest and leanest in 2016

Two and a half years after that holiday I’m about not far off my all-time heaviest weight, my 10k PB time is a distant memory, I'm lucky if I make a cycle commute 2 days per week, never mind 4 or 5. I have a gym membership that I'm barely using. For a while, I considered toast and a glass of wine to be dinner.


In essence I’ve spent the last 15 years doing exactly what I’ve always thought I could and would avoid. I’ve been yoyo-ing for my entire adult life.

I’m trying hard not to beat myself up about that, because it’s done now- I can’t roll back to 16, 22, 25 or 28 year old versions of me and change anything, and I think it’s unfair not to acknowledge that everyone’s life changes- jobs, relationships, locations and lifestyles are all variables and affect all the things that contribute to living ‘well’ most notable for me, it impacts on what exercise I do (or don’t do as the case may be) and my eating patterns. But whilst life does in fact happen, I can’t help thinking I’m probably leaning too heavily on the excuse ‘life happens’ because it’s a cycle I seem to keep repeating which tells me I haven’t created a ‘healthy lifestyle’ for myself at all, but in a manner no different to all those scary fads and 'diets'.

I am fine when I have the time and headspace to consistently make sure I am organised and make choices about what I eat and when/if I train, but as soon as someone tips my life on its head (change of career, location & living circumstances all in one hit anyone?), those choices clearly go out of the window, whether I notice or not. And that’s the other key problem right there….

Things I used to make for lunch...

Noticing. I like vegetables and fruit. A lot. I know how to and actually quite enjoy cooking food from scratch. But it becomes very easy to ‘just’ have a glass of wine after work. To eat the ‘sushi’ platter that has chicken katsu on it as well and not really realise that’s an additional 300 cals a time. The ‘fuck-it’ take out on Friday nights when it’s almost 9pm and we’re only just both of us returning from assorted parts of the country, by the way... Chinese food isn’t any better fried chicken. The occasional bag of nibbles with a 4pm glass of wine on a Saturday which has become a weekly bag of nibbles with the 3pm first bottle of the night. To have a weekly croissant because it’s provided for you. And I am one of those people for whom all those things add up. My body type is neither slender, nor athletic. I work a sedentary job. I'm training and exercising less than I've done ever in the last 5 years. Oh and I’m pushing 30 as well which isn’t helping matters much these days.

Can I end this story with an uplifting tale of body acceptance and being happy anyway? Or perhaps a natty little ad insert for a meal delivery service that takes all the effort out of eating food (and most of your bank balance too)?

Nope. Sorry folks. I’m carry more body weight, inches and body fat percentage than I’d like. I’m running slower than I’d like, I haven’t been to a Barre class in weeks and currently my fridge has half a bag of spinach, some Babybel cheese and a lot of condiments in it. But what I do know now that I haven’t noticed or realised previously is this:

When we spout on about making a healthy lifestyle change rather than ‘crash dieting’ then you have to consider if it’s sustainable through the tough times as well as the weeks where you get home from work at the same time every day and nobody books your client meetings for 9am and 2 train journeys away and you have seen your partner for a week even though you supposedly live in the same 1 bedroom flat.

Is one way of eating or training sustainable for the rest of your life? Probably not, but rather than holding yourself to a routine or a plan that only works when everything is going swimmingly, maybe it’s time we all thought a bit harder about how we manage our wellness when nothing is quite going to plan and work backwards from there.

So now I’m off to pencil into my diary every offsite meeting I currently know about for the next couple of months, every time I’m unlikely to make it to a gym class because hello major deadline and to see whether there’s anything of any substance in my freezer for dinner this evening because I’m doubtful that a boozy icepop as dinner is going to improve my current situation. And if you have thoughts on my dawning realisation, I’d love to hear if anyone else has been in the same boat.

Game on!


Monday, November 5, 2018

Unfinished Business: London Marathon 2019

Back in 2015 I got geared up and ran a marathon amongst many other 10k events to raise money for Cancer Research. I had a rough time running that marathon, I struggled with back pain from the 10 mile mark, I wasn't mentally prepared for the 2 lap format, especially when the half marathon runners peeled off to get their medals at the end of the first lap. I had a suspected stress fracture that I ignored a few weeks before. I all but said: Never. Again.

Cancer Research Race for Life Marathon 2015

And yet. And yet... I always felt like I had unfinished business with the marathon distance because the experience was so grim the first time around, I have to believe it can be be better than that. And like most runners I've ever met, I'd love to run the London Marathon, even just once. For the atmosphere. For the majors. For the classics medal. Because it's home. So each year, I throw my name into the ballot and sometimes I pay out my fee and end up for the commiserations kit. This year, my jacket arrived whilst I was away on holiday. A last minute trip that we decided to take because Tom and I have had 3 family deaths this year. We had 2 last year. And 2 in 2016. And we needed some down time.

All of this set me thinking. I have a RideLondon place for 2019 (deferred because this year it was the day after my cousin's wedding), I'll be turning 30 in 2019, and because a year like this one has been left me feeling the need to DO something.

So that's how I ended up receiving a a vest this weekend for Dementia Revolution, the iron on letters which spell my name. Collection boxes and posters and I have a 20 week training plan to pencilled into my diary.


Dementia Revolution is a special team set  up for the London Marathon 2019, a collaboration between Alzheimer's Research UK and Alzheimer's Society. Dementia is level pegging with Cancer in the number of our family members taken in mine and Tom's families so this is a cause that well and truly ticks the box as personal for me. I have put off seeking a charity place for VLM in a world where we can be a bit overwhelmed with charity events, but this feels like a good fit for me, and with my additional challenges this year (would be great not to be diverted and lose any miles on RideLondon this year) I hope that you'll support my incessant running whines and fundraising please. For I do declare the begging bowl to be OPEN!


Over the coming weeks and months, you'll likely hear me talking about fundraising, I've got loads of ideas for all kinds of things, especially with Christmas coming. In the meantime though... if you'd like to donate to the cause, my online fundraising page is right HERE: 

Monday, August 13, 2018

One, Two, Miss A Few More: 2018 So Far

Yeah, it's been a while. I somehow completely underestimated how long it would take me to get my life into some sort of order form the chaos of moving back to living in London full-time and working a new job, in a new industry. But at the end of this month, it'll be a whole year since I took my new seat at my new desk and tried to take in as much as I possibly could as the new girl.

It's not the first time I've fallen away from blogging for a while during a huge period of transition and in my 9th year since starting the original iteration of this blog, it feels a bit like coming home- I suddenly feel enthused and filled with ideas to share again and so after the better part of a year off, here we go again.... To kick off, here's a rapid fire run through of what's been going on since January... (anyone else rely mostly on Instagram/photos on their phone to work out what they've actually done with their life for 6 months at a time? No? Just me?)

We went to Spain for a week away after the single most stressful month I've ever had, mostly work related, there was a point where I seriously considered if it was for me or not. To add to the joy, it rained every day we were away, except one. Naturally we took to the terrace bar for wine and excellent cat action for that one evening....



Like everyone else, we got hit by the Beast from the East, and it so happened that I was run directing at parkrun (Walthamstow is my home run for anyone who wants to visit and say Hi) for the Beast rounds 1 and 2. It was so cold that we had to call an ambulance for one of our volunteers due to suspected hypothermia (she was released from hospital the same morning but better safe than sorry).


We bought my grandmother a package of family photography for Christmas as it's something we hadn't done for many years. My mum & dad, Grandmother & her partner and Tom & I all had a whole variety of group and couple shots with a brilliant photographer who seemed to enjoy our sense of fun. he even made Faceache & I look romantic!


May & June:
... are always utter mayhem. Tom & I have our birthdays within a couple of weeks of each other across May and early June and this year we also had a lot of events and other things on our calendars...

We went to Ascot and it poured with rain which became less problematic when I hit a big win and we all retired to the bar.

We ran the London 10 Mile at Richmond Park the following day (booze fuelled...) and I managed a sneaky 10 Mile PB


We spent the bank holiday weekend on a major sport fest between benefits from both mine & Tom's jobs- Twickenham for the Aviva Premiership Rugby finals, Wembley for the EFL League 1 playoffs (in a box no less), and then we actually moved our own behinds on Monday to run the my favourite 10k of the year- the London 10000.


I spent my birthday weekend enjoying Zoolates and lifting heavy things with some of the most incredible women I've ever met- Strongher even got cake in and sang to me for the occasion, before we all continued to drink really quite a lot considering that we were all back in the gym for day 2 the morning after!

June & July: When it all went a bit wrong...

If we partied our way through May, I'm not sure how to describe our journey through the June and July.

Sadly, my Uncle Les passed away on Sunday 10th June having suffered greatly for surgical complications for the better part of 15 years and being seriously ill for 2 weeks. Sad though it was, we also lost an extended elderly family member to cancer less than a week later on Saturday 16th June. With my Uncle's funeral organised and the difficult task of writing a the Eulogy and trying to feel something and hold myself together at the same time, we were taken by surprise when we received a call on the morning of my Uncle's funeral to tell us that Tom's grandmother had died in her sleep, albeit that she'd been suffering from dementia, it was a shock and a huge blow on an already tough day.

In the 30 days from 9th June to 9th July we lost 3 relatives and I attended 3 funerals. All of which fell on blisteringly hot days whilst I was wearing assorted levels of formal black attire. By mid July, we were exhausted, we'd travelled hundreds of miles up and down the country and so we did what we do best- we celebrated. We asked some friends over, lit the barbecue and filled our bath with ice and beer and celebrated life for the living, followed a couple of weeks later by a wedding, 12 months to the day since my great-grandmother passed away.

Yes, that's right- this summer so far I've done 3 funerals and a wedding, but the wedding was so much fun it sort of makes up for everything. My cousin Mike married his partner Charlie and well.... if 2 bar/club managers couldn't have thrown a decent party, then we would all have been screwed right?


My mother & I opened the first bottle of fizz at our own pre-wedding, hotel room meet up at 1300 and Tom and I finally rolled out of an Uber at 0300 on Sunday morning. Needless to say, not a great deal was achieved in our household on Sunday.

And now it's August. I'm in equal measures amazed at how much we've packed into the last 7 months and incredulous that it is in fact already August and the Disney Half I'm running in late September is 6 weeks away and we're already talking about booking holidays to celebrate turning 30 in 2019. Yeah... that.

So.... as well as that little calendar updates, a few other things that you'll hopefully be hearing more about (if anyone still reads what I post here that is, not holding my breath to be fair....)

- I'm still running but club running and me have hit a bit of a road block and I've felt a bit lost with it this spring/summer


- Cycling has become a massive part of my life once more as I'm commuting about 22km each way daily as opposed to 150 miles on the motorway weekly, and I hadn't realised how much I had missed it.

- Like a lot of people, I've been working hard to try and reduce my plastic usage and my environmental impact by switching to reusable products, buying food and household products that have less packaging and investigating how I can do more to ensure my recyclable waste is in fact recycled.

(How cute are these reusable face pads?)

- In the 12 months since I started living back in the flat Tom & I have been renting for 3.5 years again, Tom has been working away during the week. Yes, we did a direct switch on that, but this month he'll be returning to living and working in London full time again, so standby for some observations on what it's like to adjust to living with someone again after 4 years....

- I'm trying to get my kitchen mojo back because I've been cooking less than I've ever done since I started uni (over a decade ago) in 2018. Maybe there'll be a recipe or two appearing, or just general food chatter, because y'know, food.

- I am back to wearing more than jeans and a jumper or my gym kit all day, every day and it's kind of a pain to have to put some effort in, but mostly it's actually nice to feels moderately interested in clothes again, maybe an occasional outfit post to come. Maybe.

Here's to a few more posts coming, maybe.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Month in Review: (an optimistic) January 2018

The first page in a clean notebook.
When the 1st of the month is a Monday.
Clean sheets, clean PJs and a clean towel all at the same time (the Holy Trinity, made even better if it's an early night on a Sunday).
Week 1, Day 1 .

All the new starts that give us a little spark, the thrill of starting something new and the resolve to use our best handwriting, finally fill in a personal finance spreadsheet or remember to pre-cleanse, moisturise AND apply eye cream each night. So why does it seem, all of a sudden, that as soon as New Year rolls around, that it's a bit passé, a bit basic and all round looked down upon to set resolutions or try and up your game in the New Year. There's a level of smugness at which I check out, but on the whole if you're choosing to use the New Year as a chance to reset and achieve something, then I hear you, well done, me too.

I'm saying a massive fuck you to basic and doing it anyway. After all, what other people think about you probably says more about them than it does you anyway.

This month I've used the New Year momentum to set in place a regular training plan again- I'm currently using the Kayla Itsines app which is working for me as it's short resistance workouts I can do at home before I got work without needing to get up too much earlier than I would anyway.

Hashtag 6am Club *yawns*

I finally made it to training with a new running club. They're friendly, they train in a way I'm familiar with and they go to the pub after training. I think I've found a new running home.

I tried a running crew- Club running is so much fun but I wanted to try something that was a bit different. Backpackers are part of Chasing Lights Collective, they meet at the Lululemon store on Regents Street each Thursday and I can't think of anything more joyful than running about central London looking for Lumiere installations than doing it with people who took a genuine interest in encouragement and getting to know each other.

I dragged Tom around a 10k race (first race of the year, bring it) whist it was sleeting and snowing. There were a few points where I wondered exactly why I was running in the sleet when I could still have been in bed, but I'll take my 1:01:31 time as a nice start to the year on a hilly course off the back of a bit of a bit of a hiatus. Major kudos to the marshals and RunThrough team for bringing all the enthusiasm, because I was cold, but they were standing around in the very same weather conditions and must have been freezing their bits off.

I also signed Tom up to volunteer (are you sensing a theme here...?) on the same days I'm booked in at parkrun, he whinges like nothing else about getting up early the night before and always has a blast when we get there. I'm pushing on with being a Run Director at Walthamstow parkrun and challenging myself to get my really quite lazy behind out of bed to run a few more parkruns this year.

My mate, neighbour and work buddy who we'll call Bear has been making noises about exercising more this year so I've been signing us up to anything that looks fun nearby to our home or the office in a bid for us to find something fun as running and cycling aren't her thing. So far our clear winner and the class we've returned to is Bounce (trampette based) which I count as my full body work out for each week.

Because we work together, Bear & I have also been sharing lunch duty. In a bid to spend less and eat better one of us brings in lunch for us both. Not only do we get to eat decent homemade food, it also forces us to take an actual lunch break away from our desks as we work on different floors and generally need to divvy out the contents of our lunch before we can eat it. YAY for lunch breaks.

My very same mate also came with me to do look at swathes of white fabric for the first time ever.

And in the spirit of New Year joy, I also topped off this month with booking a holiday. In 4 weeks time I'll be back here and I already can't wait. So go forth, roll your eyes, mutter your 'Basic Bitch' grumbles, but I'm not waiting for spring to be full of the joys, and next time you find yourself feeling less than charitable about someone's renewed efforts in a fresh year, maybe give them some encouragement to keep up the changes they're trying to make in their life.