Thursday, April 27, 2017

Unfinished Business: A Marathon Sized Itch

So we're officially into spring marathon season. Brighton, Manchester & Paris finishers are revelling in the t-shirts and medals and the much loved Boston Marathon has been, celebrated Katherine Switzers last marathon driven a whole swathe of people crazy trying to qualify and gone once more. And then there's the home turf one. Last weekend the streets of London were commandeered by the great and good of elite marathon runners from around the world and about 40,000 runners of every level- one superhuman runner from my club achieved near identical 5km splits for the whole race finishing in 3:05, some raising thousands of pounds for charity, some running entirely to challenge themselves and their expectations of what they can and can't do.

And it's truly a sight to behold. I spent Sunday afternoon volunteering for Cancer Research- directing runners from the area after the finish line where they collect their baggage to an after party event, that meant I saw thousands of people walk, stagger, hobble and cry as they realised they had in fact conquered the London Marathon. An arguably iconic race and one of the World Marathon Majors series. Somewhat inevitably, it's started off an itch. A big, 26.2 mile long, marathon shaped itch.

Cancer Research London Marathon 2017 photo 34064478962_c4567b7fa0_o_zpsxcrzbznw.jpg
Getting my volunteer on

I know. I know. I said never again after the Race For Life Marathon in 2015. I very deliberately talk about 'completing' the marathon rather than running it- it took me over 6 hours as I had to walk 3 of the middle miles with major back pain and I finished feeling disappointed in myself, defeated by the distance and stupid for thinking up the idea in the first place. I didn't feel proud, the last thing on my mind was completing another one and I wrote quite honestly about how it feels when you don't get the endorphin hit that many are lead to expect after a marathon- click if you missed it. 

Chloe Likes To Talk Race For Life Marathon photo 21962202165_33693e40b4_z_zpshjy9t0pb.jpg
Race for Life Marathon 2015

So why? Why on earth would I be feeling the urge to sign myself up for the same gruelling experience?

Firstly, the finish line of the London Marathon is an infectiously inspiring place- I challenge anyone not to feel inspired to challenge themselves as they witness the relief, celebration, achievement, fainting, and sobbing. So much raw emotion. And then there's the unfinished business that I think it's fair to say I have with the marathon distance.

Yes, I completed one, but now I feel like I'm strong enough to run one. And to enjoy it. 2017 has been a year of 'training happy'. I posted a whole series of updates on my training and goals for the Cambridge Half Marathon in the early part of this year which were focused on getting around all 13.1 miles without beating myself up.

Cambridge Half 2017 medal photo 4d7ef059-9ce9-42ad-a134-0f081c2d4e6d_zpssygepmpo.png
Cambridge Half 2017

In doing so, I succeeded in reminding myself that I am stronger than I was in October 2015- physically, emotionally and mentally.

I'm supported by a running club with lots of people who've done this before and are a team who understand meaning of a cheer team, I understand and trust my training and these shifts have made the difference that leaves me thinking- I'm ready to take on another marathon and show 26.2- and the training that goes into it, just who is boss. Because my experience is that training for and running a full marathon takes far more out of you psychologically than it ever will physically.

So is 2018 the year? I'm a bit out of time to enter one of the big autumn marathons this year both for race entry and also my own calendar, but with the ballot for the London Marathon opening on Monday 1st May, new opportunities to enter via my running club, and/or time to plan for an autumn marathon, it's looking like a distinct possibility. What do you think? Am I crazy to put myself through this again and risk upsetting the sleeping dogs which current lay or do you agree that there are some things in the life that we all feel we have unfinished business with and that we owe it to ourselves to at least try and scratch that itch?

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...

Aldi Special Buy white sneakers photo 33146267123_7431c987b4_o 1_zps3xobzr0v.jpg

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...

Trek Lexa 2013 photo 33800490971_45c84eb112_o_zpsxpmnhuhd.jpg
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.

 photo 33356512064_7ea4c232a3_o_zpssitsubma.jpg

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.

 photo 34064478962_c4567b7fa0_o_zpsxcrzbznw.jpg
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.

Mizuno Wave Inspire Running Shoes photo MizunoWave Inspire_zps8hqrtk3q.jpg
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.

 photo 32386953080_9d8415bc07_o_zpsja1fu2j4.jpg
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.

Weekend Runners World Womens Health Magazine photo 32711084761_2fe046745d_o_zpsqduxl2ro.jpg
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.

Brooks Ravenna 8 Running Shoes photo 33305002322_a4b97b8647_o 1_zpspfyssbdf.jpg

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. 

North London Half Marathon 2017 photo 33400651365_d8ec1419c8_o_zpsyv5o5msl.jpg
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.

#InternationalWomensDay 2017 Women's Running Virtual Run Medal photo 32560601293_8da8eb69c2_o_zpsz4yiujbp.jpg

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...)

Leeds MAR 2017 photo 32701338773_983d81a747_o 1_zps5juo5kpw.jpg
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!

Inflatable 5k Peterborough UK Running Events 2017 photo 33788632015_b455023e02_o_zpso5ihjwlq.jpg

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.

40s Night Selfie photo 33757148246_3eb319bab8_o 1_zpsfs9v4paf.jpg

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.

 photo 33661747325_53f769b56c_o_zpsk5wxqtve.jpg

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.