Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rapha #Womens100 2015

Remember last year when I rode my single speed bike from London to Southend on a single speed bike..?

Never felt so deserving of an ice cream. Kudos to my friend for an awesome recommendation- Rossi's Westcliff

That ride was especially hard work as it was super hot and bikes without gears are tough to get up hills. But it was all in aid of the Women's 100- a worldwide call to pedals for women to get out there and enjoy riding their bikes, devised and publicised by cycling brand Rapha (who make some of the loveliest kit EVER for both girls and guys)

Running might be taking over my life but cycling will always be my first love. 100 very wet kilometres complete for the #raphawomonens100 #womens100
Braids for the 2015 Women's 100

The 2015 edition was all set to be a bit less dramatic. This year I'm riding a road bike that's well geared, light and designed for exactly this kind of event and beyond. I went along with T and his parents on a planned route circling Peterborough. The scheduled rain kicked in about half way through the ride, but didn't stop play.

I fail to understand how my jersey gets so dirty #womens100
I'm not sure I'll ever really understand how I get so damn dirty when riding my bike....

And a mere 20 minutes from a hot shower and eating all the things, I had a bit of an... *incident* with some wet rail lines. Rail lines that ran almost diagonally across the road. With nice big gaps either side of the tracks. Skinny road bike tyres and big slippery rail lines with gaps either side do not hand in hand go....

Rail lines 1:0 Chloe I have some killer bruises all down my left side from impact. Note to self, be careful on wet rail lines with skinny road bike tyres #womens100
To go with some spectacular bruising rainbows on my hip where I landed....

In short, the bike slipped on the rails, got caught in the gap and stopped moving.... I did not stop moving. It's the first time I've come of my bike and some very unpleasant shock like symptoms started up fair promptly. YAY. Luckily for me, T's mum is an ex-First Responder and made sure I got some sugar in me and no major damage done. 

Women only rides and runs and all kinds of things get a mixed response- I know plenty of people who feel they alienate women even further from mainstream participation in sports such as cycling. The great thing about the Women's 100 is that it's not about segregating cyclists, but about encouraging even more women to get out there and enjoy a great sport (despite some of the awful press this week). I rode my 100km with my (for want of a better description) Mother and Father-in-law and my male partner because both these men are happy to celebrate female achievement and would never dream of excluding me from a ride or a run because I'm female. Encouraging more women into sports doesn't mean excluding men or alienating sexes, it should be about empowering everyone to enjoy sports and for me riding my 100km as a mixed group whilst encouraging more women to enjoy a sport I love is as good an opportunity to empower as I can think of. 

Take me back.
Ok.... so maybe I do know how I get so dirty after all.... 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review: Blossoming Gifts Flowers

This post contains products sent to me for review. All views, pictures, words and opinions are my own. I have not been otherwise compensated for this post.

Flowers are a good gift when you have family spread about the place. I try and organise floral gifts for assorted family birthdays, celebration days etc and often I send flowers by post. These have been a little hit and miss over the years so it's always nice to trial new one. Blossoming Gifts recently got in touch to ask if I'd like to try out their service and since nobody else ever sends my awesome mum flowers, I thought it would be nice to celebrate a recent personal goal she set herself.

One of the biggies with flower delivery is how much control you have over the day and whether your flowers are going to arrive in one piece. These beauties were delivered next day by Royal Mail, which is a major plus in thatI have been known to need last minute gifts and the bouquet was really well packaged- well wrapped, with a proper provision for keeping them moist at the end of the stems and attached to the box so they didn't rattle around. Unfortunately the delightful Royal Mail man clearly couldn't read because he left the box upside down on the doorstep, but it's fair testament to the packaging that the whole bouquet remain completely in tact! 

Cheap flowers are something I'm often on the hunt for if I have multiples to do- this happens a lot when we visit relatives and we have 3 or 4 ladies to buy flowers for at once. With a number of very pretty sub £20 options on the website, I'm thinking about organising post-visit flowers next time- it would save my usual trick of managing to get pollen on whatever I happen to be wearing- always a great way to make an impression....

On top of the beautiful flowers my mum has been enjoying, they've also kindly sent through a discount code for you to use at your leisure- simply enter the following code: BGIFTS33 which will get you 33% off a bouquet (excluding a small range of Flowers By Post). I have given my partner a nudge to send a floral thank you to his parents for organising a great ride for the Womens 100 recently and flowers are a great way of reminding someone you're thinking of them, all the more so when there's such a great discount to be had.... 

Thanks to Blossoming Gifts for organising these beautiful flowers- I'm glad I was around to see my mum open them and enjoy them, and it would be great to see any pictures of anything you order using the discount code they kindly provided. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chloe Likes To Eat: Why I'm Not Going Gluten Free

Gluten intolerance affects lots of people, and I have no doubt it's bloody miserable. Coeliac disease is even more serious (and common to distressingly popular belief is not the same thing as being gluten intolerant). Over the last couple of years, I've started to notice some especially unpleasant side effects after eating bread products such as pizza, part-bake baguettes and simple bread rolls and I started to wonder if I might be developing a minor intolerance to gluten. Countless friends and family recommended trying such and such GF product or switching everything to GF in my diet, but I couldn't help feeling that although I was suffering, there was perhaps something else at play here, especially because it started out with particular products and got worse from there.

I'm glad I didn't cave into just assuming I was intolerant to something that occurs in so many foods I love, because it turns out my instincts were bang on the money. That's not to say this will work for you and definitely not to say you shouldn't speak with your GP about testing for intolerances or other problems if you're concerned, but here's a few things I learned whilst going about my own process of elimination....

Did you know that 'store-bought' prepared products- mass manufactured bread products aren't made in the same way as a loaf you might make in your own kitchen? You probably had an idea that there are additional ingredients or a different process, but here's why that's important...

Supermarket and pre-prepared bread products like a loaf of sliced bread, a take-away chain pizza, a part-bake garlic baguette or bagel from a packet needs to be produced as efficiently as possible- ie the most yield in the shortest amount of time. Since the 70's, manufacturers have also been trying to make the life span of their products longer, because customers want to their bread to stay fresher for longer. The way they made this happen was to cut down the time they allow the dough to prove (rise for) and to use more yeast to give it some lift. Doesn't sound too disastrous, does it. No chemicals or E numbers or whatever.

Here's the problem, the process of proving ferments the wheat in the dough. When you cut that process down, the wheat doesn't ferment and we humans find it much harder to digest.... (lightbulb moment). Add to that up to 3 times more yeast than a traditional loaf which can have an adverse effect and the bacterias in our bodies, and it might explain why you feel: bloated, sick, suffer with an upset stomach or stomach pain or constipation. In May of this year, I tried cutting out all pre-prepared bread products from my diet (fortunately for me, we make a lot of our own, so it wasn't too testing), and I've not had a single stomach upset since. I have still been eating the following homemade goodies: wholemeal bread and bread rolls, white bagels, pizza bases, pretzels, sourdough bread and ciabatta.

Pan Rustico bread
Pan Rustico, made by yours truly

An interesting secondary issue I read about whilst trying to work out why pre-prepared bread products might be causing me these problems, is the way we approach 'good' and 'bad' foods and how we view our own diets. I read an interesting article online (which SO annoyingly I cannot find for love nor money, despite being sure I had bookmarked) from the States explaining that if you eat a large bowl of pasta with a rich sauce, you are very likely to feel bloated and uncomfortable. If you mistake this for an intolerance, and cut the offending product from your diet, you will feel better- not necessarily because you are intolerant to something but because you aren't overindulging in the same way.

Many products that contain gluten are said to be 'bad' foods- the current war on carbs that seems so popular amongst those embarking on weight loss or fitness regimes is a little frightening- bread, pasta, cake, pastry, pizza... I'm not suggesting it's cool to eat pizza 4 times per week, but a homemade pizza with homemade tomato sauce, a few thin slices of chorizo, a third of a ball of buffalo mozzarella, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and sliced chilli comes in at approximately 600 calories. As an active adult female trying to shift a few spare kilos, I consume roughly 1600 calories a day and feel no guilt eating homemade pizza every week or two. Contrast this to a well known take-away pizza chain version (the closest equivalent: ham, peppers, mushrooms, onions, cheese & tomato sauce, thin crispy base, medium size) which comes in at 1160 calories per 8 slice pizza, It's also scary high in fat and sugar, so it's unsurprising that cutting down or cutting it out of your diet would have an effect, and I'd be surprised if it didn't have a positive one.

Post #womens100 homemade recovery pizza.
The pizza dreams are made of...

So I'm not going gluten free. I very much enjoyed a sandwich lunch yesterday with seeded bread, homecooked ham, mustard and salad. When I decided I fancied a hotdog this weekend, I made bagel dough and wrapped it around Quorn frankfurters (do it- it's amazing) and I will be enjoying a homemade pizza next weekend, and in my freezer is homemade ciabatta baguette, pre-sliced with garlic butter in it ready for when I next fancy garlic bread.

I choose to avoid part bake rolls, pre-pared bread, frozen or otherwise prepared pizzas, pitta breads, bagels, etc tec and when eating out, I choose to avoid dishes with bread products unless they're labelled up as made in house. And so far- no more upset stomach, no more feeling drained for 3 days because of said upset, no more stomach aches. I'm still enjoying some of those 'bad' foods (food is neither good nor bad, it is merely better for you in higher or lower quantities in my humble opinion), I'm just choosing to enjoy them in a way my body finds easier to digest. Intolerances are very real, I'm not a medical professional and therefore you should always seek advice if you're concerned about intolerances, allergies or other health problems, but before you worry yourself about something super serious, take a look at the content of what you are currently eating, write a food diary for a while and see if you can spot any commonly occurring foods with your issues- you might just be surprised at what you discover.

TL;DR The way they make factory or mass manufactured bread products might be the problem, not the gluten or wheat in said products!

Cheddar, spinach, tomato and German mustard toastie. Happy Saturday.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

An Open Letter To The People Yelling/Beeping at Me: There's Something You Should Know

Dear person beeping your horn or yelling at me,

Yes, I know, running down down the street. Wearing... shorts! Oh, and yes, last time I checked I noticed I'm female too. There's something, well several things I want you to know.

I guarantee you my bare, stretch marked legs offend me far more than they could ever offend you. I spend more minutes, possibly hours of my week wondering when I became so blind to letting myself go, because opening my eyes to it has left me more ashamed of my love of red wine and lazy Sunday mornings than you will ever know.

I know that I am slow, but I am trying. The speed and distance of my runs is on a steady upward trajectory. Your input doesn't change that. And yes, yes even though it took me 2.5 hours to run 12 miles last week, I am in fact running a marathon in 8 weeks time.

Oddly, I also noticed I'm wearing shorts. Like the guy on the opposite pavement, that kid walking their dog, maybe you're wearing shorts beneath your steering wheel. It's too damn fucking hot for full length tights and I happen to like the pattern on these particular ones.

Today's furthest ever run training for the @cr_uk marathon in October. Brought to you with funky shorts, @mizunorunning Trainers, @hellyhansen X-Cool & fenland drove dust/mud

And despite the shorts, the fact it drips into my eyes also reminds me that I am sweating. That's because I'm working hard. No, I don't find it especially attractive either, especially when it dries on my skin and I realise I'm covered in salt crystals.

Mostly though, I want you to know you're a dick. I hope that if you have a wife, girlfriend, daughter, mother or sister you treat them with more respect than you're treating me right now. I certainly hope you support their goals and ambitions instead of needlessly contributing to the doubts, concerns and self criticism that comes with any challenges, as you have done to me, a complete stranger today.

Yours with the promise that your behaviour is not acceptable, mostly because you don't seem to have the same problem with any man doing the same,


Yesterday's long run was a test in keeping myself entertained. I really need to find some more engaging audio books for these 2hr+ jobs.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rain, Rain Go Away: Mountain Warehouse Rapture Review

The products in this post were provided for review. All views and opinions are my own and I have not been further compensated to feature these products.

I have nightmares about waterproof jackets, I grew up in the Lake District and I had some seriously ugly coats forced on me over the years. Fast forward a decade or so, I realised after being contacted by Mountain Warehouse about this review, that the only waterproof jacket I now own is my hi-viz cycling jacket (Endura Luminite for anyone interested), and I don't always want to be that visible if I'm honest...


So what's the deal? Well the Rapture jacket is part of the women's running clothes range, so it's designed perhaps less for heavy duty mountaineering but for running or maybe cycling on wetter days. Until quite recently, it's been my favoured jacket for walking Monty (I say until recently as his health has now taken a fair tumble) when at my parents place.

It's lightweight, which is also great for shoving in the top of a weekend bag or suitcase if you're taking trips into unpredictable climates, the roll up hood is great because having something flapping about in the wind when not in use is not ideal and all the zips (including the pockets) are reflective for some added visibility- walking the dog with a torch, January woes!



I'm yet to be caught in more than a shower- mostly because our friesian spaniel is not what you'd call a water baby, but the 3 year guarantee speaks volumes for it's ability to keep the water out. I also really like the fit- the shape is flattering, but it's not so tight I can't get an extra layer on underneath on cooler days and it's not flapping about in the wind. There's also the air vents under the arms which help keep temperatures sensible when I'm in powerwalk mode. Given the early arrival of autumn, I foresee this jacket becoming a part of my kit for marathon training. I foolishly decided not to bother with anything waterproof for my most recent long run, and regretted it- especially knowing this was at home.

The Rapture jacket is available to buy on the Mountain Warehouse website, it's on sale at the moment for £59.99. It's only available in blue which wouldn't necessarily be my usual colour choice, but I don't dislike it- I would love to see it in a shade of grey or green in future seasons.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fighting Fat

I ummed and aahed about writing this post, and in the end I decided there are 2 good reasons I should, firstly, I can't be the only person, or the only woman to feel this way, secondly on a personal level I wanted to get this out of my system and try and put some of these feelings to bed.

I am active- I'm training for a fucking marathon and I enjoy cycling 100km at a time. I am the person who has to be told to take extra rest days. I'm also overweight by about 10kg which has been the case for the last 2-3 years. It makes me uncomfortable because I don't like the way I look any more. I got fat and I didn't even realise. 

I don't exercise in order to lose weight, I run because I felt the need to challenge myself and I cycle because it brings me joy, I also believe being active is pretty crucial to cultivating a healthy body that is strong, resistant to illness and can support me in all my endeavours, If you exercise and you're happy with what you see in the mirror- whatever that looks like, I'm pleased for you, But I'm not very happy. 

Make up on for the first time in over a week. Necklace from @asos & lipstick is @baremineralsuk Revel In It

The reality for me is that just because I exercise 4-6 times per week, it doesn't mean I can eat and drink whatever I like and look as good as running 5km makes me feel. For the last month I've been working with a Personal Trainer for a number of reasons- primarily to help with rehab and injury prevention but said trainer also happens to be very knowledgeable regarding nutrition and I decided to take a long hard look at what I could do to improve my relationship with the mirror and my body. It's certainly a tough experience for someone who has been so blind to their own body for so long.

It's been such a conflict for me to resolve that I can run and cycle and train so regularly and that it isn't my get out of jail free card. I can't sink a few bottles of wine a week and be at a comfortable shape, size or weight. It feels somehow unjust because I LIKE wine. And cheese. And I spend hours every week sweating and raising my heart rate. And sweating and raising my heart rate makes me feel good. It's just I don't seem to see any of that in the scales, the body fat percentage of my reflection.

So it goes- if you don't like it, change it. A month of 'cleansing'- real food but no booze, no caffeine, no refined sugars, a knowledgeable outside view of the macros I should be consuming to sustain the level of exercise I do and also shift some weight. It's fine balance that we haven't quite yet gotten a handle on, but it's a step in the right direction.

Weight and body image is a very personal *thing*, and what it comes down to is whether or not you can look yourself in the eye and be happy with yourself. The current movements like #thisgirlcan and WomenInSport are designed to remind us that first and foremost being active should be fun, should be a choice and women's sport is about sport. I 100% support all these movements which is probably one of the reasons I've struggled to reconcile my feelings about my weight and how I look. But this is the beauty of it being 2015- so you know what, it's ok for me to enjoy being active and it's ok for me to not be happy with how I look and for me to decide to do something about it.