A spot of parkrun multitasking, a belated lunch and Cochie fruit Shakies review

Good morning and Happy Monday. I can’t believe that my week of annual leave has finished and I’m back in the office. One minute it was Monday morning and I had the whole week ahead of me, the next it was Friday evening and the weekend was rapidly approaching.

So, what did I get up to during the weekend? Did I remember that I’m meant to be a runner and make the time to run? Did I spend far too much time in front of the TV watching The Ashes? Did I eat and drink far too much? Most importantly, did I remember to have fun?

After some slightly negative comments on social media – I think the expression ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say’ comes to mind – I’m adding a disclaimer here. If you want to read about an action-packed weekend then this isn’t the blog for you. If you want to read about active travel this isn’t the blog for you. If you want an insight into the life of a 40-year-old Brummie who is experiencing a bit of a midlife crisis, this may be the blog for you.

My weekend didn’t get off to the most positive of starts when I discovered that my broadband had suddenly stopped working. With a job application to complete and an academic manuscript to submit this wasn’t ideal timing.

If you are thinking of switching to Virgin Media then please don’t. Their customer service is nonexistent – it took 55 minutes to speak to someone on Friday evening. To add insult to injury they keep putting their prices up. If you think I’m exaggerating, check out the feedback on their social media accounts.

I’m not sure if I was worried about the job application or something else, but I didn’t get the best night’s sleep on Friday. I’ve so much respect for people with children as after three hours’ sleep I woke up on Saturday morning feeling like a zombie.Sutton ParkI dragged myself out of bed, had a cold shower and then made my way to the start of Sutton Park parkrun. My run was slightly marred by yet another out of control dog biting at my ankles. When I asked the dog owner politely to put his dog on a lead I was told to “piss off”. And to think people complain about the cyclists and runners in Sutton Park.

I’m not surprised my heart rate was a lot higher than it was during the equivalent run the previous week.StravaVolunteering was a little hectic as there was about half the usual number of people volunteering.

I provided finish token support to my running buddy Ellen and also had the task of ensuring people remained in the correct order. Luckily someone took over number checking for me as I was struggling to note down all the dodgy barcodes while keeping Ellen supplied with tokens.

I enjoyed myself as with 300+ finishers we were busy most of the time. I also love getting to congratulate people as they finish. The rota for next week looks a little empty at the moment, hopefully, a few more people will volunteer. Sutton Park parkrun 1Sutton Park parkrun volunteers

[Photos: Peter Heafield]

I’m still on target for a 25 volunteer t-shirt by the end of the year 🙂

Ellen kindly gave me a lift back from parkrun and I switched on my computer and discovered that my Internet was still kaput. This is going to sound a little dramatic, but without Internet access, I wasn’t able to complete the majority of my Saturday chores. I wasn’t able to print out the information I needed to start working on the job application and I wasn’t able to submit the final version of my academic manuscript. It’s amazing how reliant I have become on the Internet. To make matters worse, I wasn’t able to watch very much of The Ashes as the TV stopped working.

My Saturday continued to be a bit what I call ‘pants’ when my friend called to say he didn’t want to meet up for lunch. I could have gone into a real sulk but I decided to spend the afternoon and early evening completing some household chores.

Household chores completed, I walked the short distance to one of my favourite local pubs. I’m sure I must look like a bit of a loner drinking alone, but I do enjoy having the occasional peaceful pint(s) on a Saturday evening. I got soaked en route to the pub – one minute it was sunny, the next there was a torrential downpour. The rain was so heavy, I spent 15 minutes trying and failing to keep dry in a bus shelter.

The pub was busier than normal but I managed to grab myself a table in a dark corner. I *may* have spent a little longer than I’d originally planned to waiting for it to stop raining. It was dark when I finally left.Selfie failI felt far better than I probably deserved to when I woke up yesterday morning. Unfortunately, my right knee was incredibly painful, I hate the way it sometimes randomly hurts for no reason. I decided to be sensible and cancelled my planned run with Ellen. I hate messing people about, but I don’t think I’d have enjoyed hobbling around the top end of Sutton Park.

Despite my painful right knee I still managed to have a productive morning. As you can imagine I wasn’t overly impressed when I went to watch the first few overs of The Ashes and discovered that the Virgin Media fault had reoccurred and my TV wasn’t working. It’s like it knew I wanted to watch something on TV.

My day improved when my friend came round, apologised for yesterday and said that he wanted to go out for lunch. I’m not the type of person who turns down eating opportunities, so I got changed into something suitable to be worn in public, and headed into Mere Green.

I was feeling quite hungry so I decided to treat myself to the three-course lunch option. The menu was slightly different to last time I visited, so I opted for Calamari to start, followed by Steak-Frites. I wasn’t going to have a dessert until I spotted someone on the table next to us eating Crème brûlée, I’m sure you can predict what happened next.

The rest of the day was not quite as productive as I would have liked. I ‘phoned Virgin Media who confirmed there was an issue with a junction box, and was given an estimated time the issue being fixed of 20:45. Once I knew I wouldn’t have Internet access for most of the day, I cracked on with some more gardening, and got myself ready for work.

And finally, I’ve got a really short product review for you. I hope that people find it interesting and informative.

Cochie fruit Shakies review

I’m aware that I’m repeating myself, but as a blogger, I love trying out products and writing what I hope are meaningful reviews. I also love learning about new brands and discovering new products. Last month, I received an email with a rather eye-catching subject line – Introducing Cochie the new name in dairy-free goodness made from coconuts, not cows. Manufactured by Triano Brands, Cochie is an anagram of the word choice, and is pronounced Co–chi.Cochie Shakie Group_LRI rather cheekily asked if I could review some Cochie products on my blog, and a couple of days later received a selection of ‘Softys’ and ‘Shakies’ from the launch range. As I’m still working my way though the Softys, this review focuses on the Shakies.

A quick introduction to Cochie

 As a brand, Cochie has two priorities:

  • Taste – Dairy-free does not have to taste bad; in fact it can taste really, really great.
  • Choice – Dietary requirements, healthy eating, family-oriented shopping they all cause restrictions. With Cochie anyone and everyone can try and enjoy it.

Cochie fruit Shakies

I thought I’d include a bit of information about Cochie Shakies before I share my thoughts.

Cochie Shakies are described as a super refreshing drink that can be enjoyed from the bottle, poured over ice, mixed with cereal or frozen. The launch range includes fruit Shakies in two flavours – strawberry and mango – with more product variants coming soon.

The review process

The review process was in theory incredibly straightforward. As I prefer chilled drinks, I put the Cochie Shakies in the fridge, and waited for the ideal opportunity to try one. I had visions of enjoying a chilled strawberry flavoured Shakie after my Pilates class, and a mango flavoured Shakie after a run. Well that was the theory. The reality was a little different as my friend Hannah drank both bottles of the mango Shakie while I was out running.

The Verdict

As, I didn’t get to try the mango fruit Shakie myself and I wasn’t able to source replacements, I’ve decided to share the feedback that my friend Hannah rather reluctantly provided.

Strawberry Shakie

According to the Triano Brands website, the strawberry flavoured Shakie is free from all major allergens including gluten, soya, dairy and lactose and is suitable for vegans and vegetarians. In an attempt to be helpful, I’ve included a list of the ingredients and nutritional information.Shakie-Strawberry-300x300I drank the first bottle of Strawberry flavoured Shakie I’d been sent after a run in what felt like 100 degree heat. I was feeling so thirsty, I finished the Shakie in less than five seconds, and didn’t give a lot of thought to what it actually tasted like. Definitely a bit of a failure on the product review front. I saved the second bottle for after my first and quite possibly last attempt at Pilates. This time I remembered to shake the bottle before I opened it – I guess the clue is in the name – and took a few seconds to actually think about what I was drinking.

I thought that the strawberry Shakie tasted a little unusual, I suspect that I was expecting it to taste a little more like strawberry milk than it did. One of the main ingredients is coconut milk, so I was a little surprised the drink didn’t really taste of coconuts. I actually found the taste a little too artificial for my liking. Although I found the strawberry Shakie refreshing, I don’t think it will be replacing my usual selection of post-run drinks.

Mango Shakie

According to the Triano Brands website, the mango flavoured Shakie is free from all major allergens including dairy, lactose, gluten and soya and is suitable for vegans, vegetarians, kosher and halal. Once again, I’ve included a list of the ingredients and nutritional information.Shakie-Mango-300x300My friend Hannah drank both of the bottles of mango Shakie while I was out running. I wasn’t overly annoyed as I’m not a huge fan of mango. It would have been a different story if Hannah had drunk the strawberry Shakies. Although Hannah said that she found the mango Shakie a little on the sickly side, I suspect this was because she managed to drink two bottles in one go. Apparently the mango flavoured Shakie makes a great hangover cure.

So thanks again to Cochie for sending me some bottles of strawberry and mango Shakie to review. For more information, please visit the Triano Brands website. Each 250ml bottle has a RRP of £1.99.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a selection of products from the Cochie range for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As I complete forgot to take any photographs, the photographs in the review are from the Triano Brands website** 

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Race Report: Shenstone Fun Run

Good morning and Happy Tuesday, I’m so pleased it’s not Monday. Yesterday, when I spotted a single magpie during my walk to the train station, I should have gone back to bed. Hopefully, my new job will start to improve ASAP. Anyway, enough moaning and groaning and back to the point of this blog; my first race review since the Royal Parks Half back in October.LogoBefore I launch into a review of the Shenstone Fun Run, I need to rewind back to Saturday evening. Let’s just say a two-hour shopping session – sorry feet – and three pints of beer – sorry head – weren’t the best pre-race preparation. I doubt this pre-race routine will ever feature in Runner’s World et al.Shenstone Fun RunWhen my alarm woke me on Sunday, my head felt a little fuzzy and I was thirsty. A couple of cups of tea and pint of water didn’t do much to alleviate the thirst, not a good sign before a 10k. My pre-race routine went something like; drink tea, nervous wee, make myself eat some Weetabix, shower, get dressed, productive loo visit, drink more tea, another nervous wee, struggle to pin race number to t-shirt, pack bag, have bonus nervous wee and then leave the house. By the time I left the house, I was feeling a lot better and was looking forward to the prospect of taking part in an organised event for the first time this year. The weather was pretty much perfect and my right knee felt completely niggle-free.

I met my running buddy Ellen at the train station, we got on a train and four minutes later reached Shenstone. Quite possibly the most straight-forward I’ve ever had to an event. We walked the short distance to the Race HQ, Ellen collected her number, dropped our bags and then realised we had a lot of time to kill before the start of the run. After spending a bit time chatting and avoiding the drizzle, we decided to track down some loos. Although there was a ladies loo inside Race HQ, there was an impressive queue of female runners waiting, so we decided to have a look around the centre of Shenstone.Waiting to startI spent a lot of time in Shenstone up to the age of 16 because my grandparents lived there. I suspect I bored Ellen to tears with my “that used to be an HSBC”, “that used to be a greengrocers”, “that used to be a chemists” type observations. Even the library had changed; what used to be the children’s books section was now a cafe area with an amazing selection of homemade cakes. We both decided that a cake would make the perfect post-run reward and told the library volunteers we would definitely be back later. As an added bonus, the library had loos with no queues so we both made the most of the facilities.SelfieThe 10k was scheduled to start at 11:00 so at 10:50 we both joined the back of the pack so to speak. After a quick warm-up, we were sent on our way. The 10k route had changed as was advertised as flat and fast so I was a little surprised to find myself running up several short but quite steep hills in the first mile. We headed out of Shenstone past my grandparents’ old house and into the countryside. It took me less than 15 minutes to be reminded of my complete loss of fitness and my fragile right knee. I was struggling to run at Ellen’s pace so slowed down to what was almost a walk. Sorry Ellen!

By the third mile, I felt shattered. I’m not sure if it was the humidity, my lack of food the previous evening, my lack of training or a combination of the three but I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. I was also struggling a little mentally and started to just want the 10k fun(?) run to end. I’m pretty sure that had the course allowed me to, I would have called it a day there and then.

The second three miles were what I’d describe as undulating. It suddenly seemed to get warm and I was grateful the organisers had provided several water stations. After a quick consultation with Ellen we switched to a strategy of running for four minutes and then walking for a minute. Walking after 5k didn’t make me feel very good about myself but I had to do something to make sure that I actually finished and made it back to Shenstone.

After an hour or so of ‘running’ my temperamental right knee decided to remind me that it didn’t appreciate me running downhill; it was pain-free on the numerous small uphill sections, but very painful on the downhill sections. Awesome, thanks knee! I was not a happy bunny at this stage. Running past a collapsed runner who was receiving treatment gave me the kick up the arse and reality check I so desperately needed. Although I didn’t suddenly turn into Little Miss Happy, I was reminded that I’m lucky to be able to run and that my knee issue was likely to be a temporary setback rather than a long-term injury.

Shenstone Fun Run[Photo: Shenstone Fun Run]

We eventually – sorry again Ellen – reached the bridge next to Shenstone train station, ran past ‘Rocket Ron’ who had his camera with him but wasn’t actually taking any photos. Slightly strange but I suspect he wasn’t one of the official race photographers and was only taking photos of members of his running club. We both ‘sprinted’ towards the finish line, posed for the official photographer, collected our medals and some water and then spotted some of Ellen’s club mates. While Ellen caught up with her club mates, I popped into the medical tent to ask for an icepack for my knee.

MedalI guess it should be a case of what goes on in the medical tent, stays in the medical tent. However, I wasn’t very impressed with the rudeness of a runner who hobbled in for treatment, I’m going to call this person Runner x. Runner x had injured her ankle before the 10k – I remember seeing her sprawled on the floor – but decided to run anyway. I know that I’m not one to judge, but why would you attempt to run a 10k on a damaged ankle? Anyway, Runner x was incredibly rude to the St John Ambulance person treating her. Apparently, the ice packs weren’t cold enough and the lady treating her was useless. I was quite relieved when another runner came in seeking treatment for a nosebleed and I was able to escape from the medical tent.

And then, once we had collected our bags, it was time for the highlight of the morning, tea and homemade cake. Luckily, the library was still open and there were plenty of cake options. I played it safe and asked for a slice of sponge cake and a cup of breakfast tea. As we didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s tea and cake enjoyment, we decided to sit outside. The homemade cake tasted amazing and I regretted not buying a second slice to take home with me. Tea and cake consumption completed, we hobbled the short distance to Shenstone station and a short train journey later were back in Four Oaks.

Tea and cake

This isn’t a food blog so I’ll stop talking about cake now.

Would I recommend the Shenstone Fun Run?

Yes, I would, but I think the organisers need to consider bringing the start time forward an hour to 10:00. The fun run would also benefit from a few more loo options at the start; the queues were some of the longest I’ve seen. I personally preferred the old, slightly longer than 10k route but that is just my personal opinion.

And finally, the positives which most definitely outweighed the negatives. The organisation was pretty much flawless; I entered well in advance so my number was posted to me. Ellen had to collect her number on the day; this took less than a minute. The organisers provided a secure baggage area, this was well organised and there was no chance of people’s bags getting mixed up. Although I personally didn’t like the new course, feedback from other runners was positive. Every single race volunteer I was out on the course was incredibly supportive, the cowbells and music were definitely impossible to ignore and gave me a much-needed boost. The run was chip timed so results were available the second we crossed the finish line.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 5/10 (£20 but a proportion of this went to local charities)
  • Course: 5/10
  • Medal: 9/10
  • Race t-shirt: n/a
  • Goody bag: 2/10

Running goals for 2019: Progress report

I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend and that Monday wasn’t too much of a chore. As it’s now July – seriously, how quickly is this year going? – I thought I’d write a quick (lack of) progress report on my 2019 running goals.

Run 1000km – I started the year with loads of good intentions; one was to run 1000km. Thanks to the combination of injuries, and a complete loss of running mojo, my running has been sporadic. I’ve just checked out my training log on Fetcheveryone. So far in 2019, I’ve run approximately 51km. Not recording all of my training runs was a mistake. I don’t think I’ll get near my 1000km target but that’s okay.Injured runner

[Source]

Complete 10 races – I haven’t completed a single organised race. Thanks to the reasons I gave above I’ve not made it to the start line of every single race I’ve entered this year. I don’t want to think about how much money I’ve wasted on race entry fees!

Complete 15 parkruns – Back in January, I was quietly confident I would be able to complete 15 parkruns. Sutton Park parkrun is just over three miles from my front door; I had visions of relaxing runs to and from parkrun. The reality is a little different as I’ve only completed one parkrun.

Volunteer 10 times at parkrun – Now this is one running goal I’ll definitely achieve. It’s been very much a case of ‘can’t run, can volunteer’.

parkrun volunteering

I’ve checked out my parkrun volunteer stats and so far in 2019 I’ve marshalled 4 times, written the run report once, tail walked once and handed out finish tokens once. This Saturday I’m having a go at timekeeping.

A sub 8-minute mile – I didn’t head down to London for the Vitality Westminster Mile. My official mile PB remains a very beatable 9:09. Perhaps I should focus on short distances during the second half of 2019.

A sub 25-minute 5k – I think it’s safe to say my only official 5k time of 57:04 is a long way from a sub-25 minute time. The way I’m feeling at the moment, I can’t see me ever getting below 30 minutes again.

A sub 60-minute 10k – I’m yet to complete an official 10k race this year. I’m hoping to complete the Shenstone Fun Run later this month; it will be good to get some sort of benchmark.

A sub 2:15 half marathon – I had grand plans of running a decent time at the London Landmarks Half Marathon. However, the reality was a little different. I completed most of my training runs in the lead up to the London Landmarks and then picked up some sort of office lurgy which refused to go away.  The result? Another DNS!

Listen to my niggles – This is another running goal I’ll definitely achieve. I’ve had so many injuries this year, I’ve now reached the stage I’m almost scared of running. I’m also starting to suspect a lot of niggles are a figment of my imagination.

Improve my core strength – This is another running goal success story. I’m hoping that all the workouts I’ve been completing will start to benefit my running.Clean House Injured Runner

[Source]

Run with others more – Whenever I’ve pulled on my trainers and run, I’ve made more effort to run with others. Although I didn’t get to run with Run Wallingford before I moved back home, I’ve found myself some Birmingham-based running groups to join.

Train consistently – Does consistently training inconsistently count?

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – So far this final running-related goal is more possibly more failure than success. I’ve just worked out how much I’ve spent on running gear, and had a bit of a shock. Having said that, I’ve sold such a lot of unwanted running gear online, I’ve probably ‘made’ more money than I’ve spent.

I think it’s quite obvious that the first half of 2019 wasn’t great from a running perspective. At times I’ve felt like selling all of my running gear. Some people may be questioning the point of this rather negative running goal progress update. I decided to publish this update as I think it’s important to write about the not-so-positive aspects of running.

How are you progressing with your running goals? Hopefully better than I am with mine 🙂

Do you think I should readjust all of my goals or rule out this year and start again next year? I’ve reached the stage I’m about to ‘write-off’ 2019 and will start again next year.

Rants and raves #36

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post after treating a relative to breakfast at the local farm shop. Because I have a full-time job, nine times out of ten I end up treating people. I sometimes wonder how I’m ever going to save enough money to get on the property ladder. I’m going to have to learn how to say no. As always, all moans and groans and rants and raves represent my own views. Dozens of far less negative running blogs are available**

Happy Monday, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I’m working from home today as I need to prepare for a two-day training course in London.

Rave: My 40th birthday

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday. Thanks to the efforts of my colleagues and ‘Wallingford family’ – I knew they were plotting something but had no idea exactly what – I had an amazing day. I’ve included a few photos; I would have included more but don’t want to risk getting in trouble.

Highlights included a huge cooked breakfast at the Old Post Office in Wallingford, lunch at the Waterfront Cafe in Benson, an amazing chocolate cake made by my colleague Sally, and a few too many drinks in the evening. I’m going to miss everyone when my fixed term contract ends next month.

Rant: My 40th birthday

The rest of my birthday was a tad disappointing. I don’t want to complain, but most of my close family didn’t even send me a card. I know I haven’t always been the best daughter/sister/aunt and people have busy lives, but I still felt slightly offended.

Happy Birthday

[Source]

Having to explain to colleagues that I hadn’t seen most of my family was quite difficult. I guess there’s always next week. Once I’d stopped feeling sorry for myself I decided to buy myself some birthday presents. Thanks to TK Maxx, I’m now the proud owner of a new Radley watch and purse.

Rave: Recognition for this blog

I know this has featured as a rave before so sorry if you suddenly experience a spot of déjà vu. When I started writing this blog I had no idea if anyone would actually read it. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve felt like calling it a day but haven’t because I really enjoy writing.

I was over the moon when I recently discovered I’d made it into Vuelio’s top 10 running blogs for a third consecutive year. I was given the opportunity to complete a Blogger spotlight interview and was able to share my favourite running blogs.Blogger Spotlight 2019If you haven’t already, please check out the five awesome running bloggers I highlighted in my interview.

Rant: The Weather

Since my last rants and raves blog, the weather has been a tad disappointing and somewhat unpredictable. I’ve lost count of the number of times it’s rained during my morning walk into the office and at lunchtime. I shouldn’t complain too much as the southeast of England desperately needs more rain. It would be good it if could rain during the night.

Last week, I completed my fifth and final Thames Water Situation Report. After three consecutive dry winters, I have a feeling I’m escaping from a stressful summer. If it doesn’t rain a lot more, my current team are going to be very busy this summer. My new role has the potential to be equally as stressful as I’ll be providing hydrological support to the whole of England. Nothing will go wrong!

Rave: Volunteering at parkrun

I’ve definitely caught the parkrun volunteering bug. My fragile right knee means that it’s unlikely I’ll ever attempt to complete another Sutton Park parkrun. The first half of the course is uneven and the numerous steep downhill sections make my knee twinge. I’ve really enjoyed my recent volunteering stints. Tail walking gave me a completely different perspective of parkrun. It also gave me a what I call a ‘kick up the arse’ photo.

Marshal briefingSutton Park parkrun tail walker

[Photos: Peter Heafield]

The healthier eating has now started.

This may sound slightly geeky but I’ve got a favourite marshalling location. I love ‘position 10’ as it’s in a busy part of Sutton Park at the top of a longish hill. When people reach me they have completed the most challenging sections of the course and it’s downhill to the finish.Sutton Park parkrun

IMG_3649When I’m feeling brave I may have a go at timekeeping. The Core Team keep telling me it’s easy and that there is always a backup timer.

Rant: Having to leave Wallingford

At the end of 2017 and the beginning of last year I was dreading having to move to Wallingford. I think it’s safe to say I was shitting myself and I shared some of my fears in what became one of my most highly viewed posts.

After a slightly rocky start, I’ve had the most amazing time in Wallingford. I’ve made some amazing friends that I’ll be in contact with for life, and I’m now feeling sad that the end of my fixed term contract is rapidly approaching. I’m incredibly fortunate because I’ve landed myself an amazing new job within the EA, however, leaving Wallingford is going to be difficult. There will be tears on my final day.

Rave: Alysia Montaño

I had heard horror stories about Nike and other top brands dropping sponsored athletes for petty reasons like getting pregnant before. After reading this opinion piece, I now have even more respect for Alysia Montaño.

Rant: Public transport

I’m aware that this is another repeat rant, but I’ve had far too many not very positive bus and train journeys recently. For the amount I pay to travel between Oxford and Birmingham I should as a minimum feel safe. I think all evening trains should introduce compulsory alcohol breath tests before people are allowed to board.

Getting to my new job is going to involve two trains and an hour plus journey from north to south Birmingham. I can’t wait…

And finally, a (sort of) bonus rave. I’ve decided to conclude all of my ‘rants and raves’ posts with a random music recommendation.

Rave: Exposé – Let Me Be The One

I’m a huge fan of 80s/early 90s music so to start with I’d like to introduce you to ‘Let me be the One’ by Exposé.

Expose
[Source]

I sometimes wish I could just go back in time to the late 80s, I could listen to cheesy music all day.

If you’ve reached the end of this selection of rants and raves, then a huge “thank-you”. I hope that you think my rants were reasonable. I do feel much better now that I’ve shared my moans and groans with you.

Have your family ever forgotten your birthday? I have a feeling that most other families are slightly more reliable than mine.   

Do you have a favourite parkrun volunteering role? I would love to have a go at barcode scanning but have heard a few too many horror stories.

Returning to running after a knee injury and aZengear compression review

I hope that everyone is having an amazing week; at least it’s almost the weekend. I think I’ve just about recovered from a slightly traumatic interview yesterday lunchtime. I think the expression ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ quite accurately described what happened.

I don’t want to put some sort of random ‘injury curse’ on myself, but after almost two months of no running and a lot of knee strengthening exercises, I think that I’m ‘up and running’ again.

With apologies for the randomness, this quote sums up why I’ve missed running so much:

“Our running shoes have magic in them. The power to transform a bad day into a good day; frustration into speed; self-doubt into confidence; chocolate cake into muscle.”
– Mina Samuels, author of Run Like a Girl 

Although I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cake, since the day I DNS the London Landmarks Half, I’ve eaten far, far too much unhealthy food. I’ve also developed an unhealthy post-work drinking habit. I was definitely using my injury as an excuse to overindulge. Let’s just say the scales don’t lie. The healthier regime starts once I’ve celebrated(!?) my 40th birthday at the beginning of May. I’m pretty sure that most 40-year-old women don’t pop into McDonald’s every Sunday evening.Unhealthy choicesWhen I was unable to run, I spent a bit of far too much time thinking about all of the running injuries I’ve had. In my first ever post way back in March 2013 I described myself as an incredibly injury-prone runner. I seem to spend most of the time trapped in a running injury cycle. I wasn’t able to find out what happened to Small Town Runner – hopefully, they haven’t retired from running due to injury – but this running injury cycle diagram is pretty accurate.Running Injury Cycle

[Source]

If I remember and if people are interested, I’m going to blog about how I went back to basics to hopefully break my own personal running injury cycle. Let’s just say, I was a little embarrassed when I realised that I’d been working a short walk from a sports injury rehabilitation centre since last January. Not one of my finest moments.

Since the beginning of the month, I’ve been running for 15-20 minutes two or three times a week. I’ve left my Garmin behind as I didn’t want to compare my running to this time 12 months ago. Although *touch wood* my knee seems to be coping, I’m not sure I’ll be able to take part in the three 10k events I’ve entered in May.

Now that I’ve finished complaining about my knee and self-inflicted weight gain, I’m going to quickly review a couple of products I’ve been testing. I hope you all enjoy reading the review and find it useful.

aZengear Compression review

At the start of March, Emily one of the co-founders of aZengear, contacted me after reading this blog. Emily wanted to send me some free samples for review. I agreed as I enjoy working with and hopefully increasing the awareness of slightly lesser known brands. As I already own far too many pairs of compression calf sleeves, I opted for a pair of compression socks and a compression knee sleeve. My right knee was incredibly niggly at the time, so I thought it would be really interesting to see if the knee sleeve helped my knee.

Before I start my review, I’m aware that people may not have come across aZengear Compression (I hadn’t) so here’s a very quick introduction to the brand.

A quick introduction to aZengear Compression

aZengear is a UK startup for compression gear for sports, travel and daily wear. The co-founders mission is to design and manufacture compression gear products that contribute to healthy living and make a difference in people’s lives.

The aZengear product range currently includes:

  • Graduated compression socks for sports and travel
  • Compression calf sleeves for running
  • Plantar fasciitis socks
  • Compression knee sleeves for running, squats, weightlifting and arthritis

The compression socks and knee sleeve were well packaged and arrived promptly. Both items came with a Read Me First card which provides information about a 30 day warranty and bonus, wash and care instructions and contact details in case there are any issues with the product. I wish more brands provided the same information.

Compression Knee Sleeve

According to aZengear’s website, if you suffer from intermittent or constant knee pain, their compression knee sleeve will provide immediate joint pain relief, improved blood circulation and muscular recovery. The knee sleeve is described as being perfect for a range of sports and activities, the infographic below provides more information. knee-sleeve-infographic-900x900

[Source]

I think it’s safe to say that my recent knee injury meant that I thoroughly tested the compression knee sleeve. So, first things first, did the knee sleeve fit? I’m pleased to report that for once I managed to send the correct measurements to a compression gear brand. The last knee brace I wore was a far too tight behind my knee and felt uncomfortable after I’d been wearing it for a while. I didn’t have any issues with the aZengear knee sleeve, it felt reasonably comfortable and the material didn’t cause any unwanted skin reactions.

As my right knee wasn’t coping very well with the two mile walk to and from the office – walking down the steps on Wallingford Bridge to the Riverside Park was a painful experience – I wore the knee sleeve five days a week. I found the knee sleeve the perfect length and just the right level of compression. It didn’t slide down my leg and remained in place all day. Finally, I think I need to point out that with the exception of short sprints across main roads, I haven’t run in the compression knee sleeve.

Graduated Compression Socks

aZengear describe their graduated compression socks as being perfect for those who are on the move. The socks are described as being a great fit for a range of people including runners, nurses, hikers, cyclists and those suffering from varicose veins, DVT or recovering after surgery. The socks are described as being reliable, stylish, affordable and most importantly, effective. Once again, I’ve included an infographic in order to provide more information. pink-sock-on-white-900x900

[Source]

Once I’d realised that there wasn’t a dedicated left and right sock, the graduated compression socks were fairly easy to put on the first time I wore them. I was little surprised to discover they were so long they almost covered my knees. I have longer than average legs so this made a refreshing change, however, shorter runners may find that the socks are too long.aZengear compression socksI’ve worn the compression socks during and for an hour after the majority of my post-knee injury training runs. I genuinely believe that wearing the socks has helped my gradual return to running. The socks provide a good level of compression, my calf muscles have been completely niggle free and my legs have felt amazing. The only minor complaint I have with the compression socks relates to the thickness of the material they are made from. I guess I’m just used to running in thin socks as these compression socks make my trainers feel slightly too tight.

The washing machine test

I’m repeating myself, again, but one of the reasons it takes me a while to publish my product reviews is that I like to wear and to wash items I’m reviewing several times. Unfortunately, in the past some of my running gear hasn’t coped very well with being washed. I’m still a little traumatised about my first ever Lululemon purchase. Having an injury which has prevented me from running also slowed down the review process! I’m pleased to report that the knee sleeve and the compression socks passed the washing machine test.

The Verdict

So, would I recommend aZengear compression to other runners? Yes, I would. The knee sleeve and graduated compression socks all felt comfortable when I wore them. I think that the knee sleeve helped to support my dodgy knee during my walks to and from work; I genuinely believe that it aided the recovery of my knee. The graduated compression socks appear to have helped my calves as I’ve made a return to running, I’ll definitely be wearing them as I increase my weekly mileage.

**Full disclosure: aZengear compression sent me a knee sleeve and a pair of graduated compression socks for free in return for an honest review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As I wore the knee sleeve underneath my work trousers, I forgot to take any ‘action’ photos. The infographics in this review were taken from aZengear’s website. As always all opinions are my own**

Rants and raves #35

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post after having a stressful day at work. I lost count of the number of times my computer crashed and I ‘lost’ what I was working on at the time. I’m also feeling a little tired after spending a little too much time out in the sun. As a result, I have a feeling that although I’ll do my best to be positive, this blog may be more grumbly than normal. As always, all rants and raves and moans and groans represent my own views. Dozens of far less negative running blogs are available**

Happy Tuesday, I hope that everyone who reads this enjoyed the long Easter weekend. How amazing was the weather, I just hope it’s a little cooler this Sunday; two boiling hot London Marathons in a row would be a tad unfortunate.

Rave: ReRun Clothing

Apologies if you’re already aware that this company exists, but I thought I’d start with a quick rave about ReRun Clothing.

ReRun is described as a Community Interest Company aimed at prolonging the life of running clothes and equipment and saving them from landfill.ReRun ClothingAccording to the ReRun Clothing website, extending the life of clothes by just nine months of active use would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30% each. When my self-imposed buying running gear ban comes to and end, I’ll see if I can find anything I like on ReRun.

Rant: Wasting money

In February, I worked out how much I spent on running related purchases last year, the final total was a bit of an eye-opener.  I’m now monitoring how much I’m spending. Thanks to a persistently niggly right knee, I’ve had a frustrating start to the year. I’ve already missed three races:

  • Big Half £35
  • London Landmarks Half £55
  • Cathedral to Castle Run £25

So that’s over £100 worth of entry fees, and no memories or medals. I’m sure that at some point, the race t-shirt, kit bags and safety pins will come in useful… I wish more events allowed the official transfer of entries. I was offered £60 for my London Landmarks number but I didn’t want to risk it.

Fortunately, being injured means I’ve had a lot more spare time, so I’ve sold a lot of my unwanted running gear online.

Rave: The weather

I’m aware that the weather features in virtually every blog I write, but the long Easter weekend weather was amazing.

I lost count of the number of burnt Brummies I spotted during the weekend. In the words of Baz Luhrmann, wear sunscreen:

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
Wear Sunscreen
If I could offer you only one tip for the future,
Sunscreen would be it
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…
I will dispense this advice now…”

I remember when I first heard Everybody’s Free, I was 21. Now I’m rapidly approaching 40! The lyrics to Everybody’s Free are pretty much guaranteed to make me cry every time.

Rant: Food shaming, the Easter edition

Apologies for another repeat rant, but I was disappointed but not at all surprised to see so much Easter related food shaming on social media. I can’t remember who shared this infographic, but I’d need to complete a lot of push ups after my Easter egg consumption.Easter food shaming 1

 Women’s Running Magazine shared this on Facebook…Easter food shaming 2…and subsequently deleted their original post and published this apology:

“We’re really sorry for our previous post. We want to promote positive relationships with food: after all, it gives us the strength and energy we need to run our best. Thank you for your feedback we’ll take more care with our posts in future.”

So, to summarise, you don’t ‘earn’ chocolate with exercise. Eat what you want when you want. I need to learn to love dark chocolate.

Rave: Boston Marathon 2019

Although I’m such an injury-prone plodder there’s no way I’ll ever get to take part, I still enjoy following the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, this year I wasn’t able to watch it live because I was at work. I did manage to catch up with the marathon when I got back to my lodgings, so it wasn’t the end of the world.

I loved the sprint finish at the end of the men’s race; I mean how on earth can people sprint at the end of a marathon? It’s incredible; I can barley shuffle at the end of parkrun. I also loved the women’s race; I just wish they got a little more airtime.

I enjoyed watching one of my all-time favourite runners; Des Linden, in the female race. Although Des didn’t come first this year, she most definitely put in a gutsy performance. This interview with Des made me chuckle. When asked if she was tearing up near the finish line (as she waved to the crowds), Des Linden produced a humorous but blunt assessment:

“I’m going to be totally honest with you,” Linden joked. “That was me almost vomiting.”

Des Linden is one of the few elite runners I follow on twitter; she talks a lot of sense.

Quite frankly, the performance of Joan Benoit Samuelson blew my mind. Joan recorded a time of 3 hours and 4 minutes which was within 40 minutes of her 1979 winning time.

Perhaps there’s still hope for me.

Rant: Bad manners

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve completed a product review, have emailed the person I’ve been dealing with to let them know that the review is live, and have heard nothing back. I get that people are busy, but it only takes a couple of minutes to send an email. Where I work, if I failed to respond to an email, I would probably find myself having a conversation with my line manager. I’m starting to think that my product reviews are terrible.

Rave: London Marathon World Record attempts

Yesterday, the organisers of the London Marathon released information on some of this year’s Guinness World Record attempts. Some of the 84 attempts sound more challenging than others, for example, the fastest marathon wearing ski boots and the fastest marathon wearing ice skates. My fragile left foot hurts just thinking about running in ski boots or ice skates; I struggle to run in trainers. Also, the fastest marathon dressed as a tooth sounds like a rather random choice.

I’ve shared this before, but if you do watch the London Marathon on the BBC, don’t forget to play Marathon bingo!Marathon Bingo

[Source]

Rant: People who litter

Apologies for ending this post with a rant. After hearing that Saltaire junior parkrun was cancelled due to there being broken glass and rubbish on a large part of the course, I did a bit of online detective work (cross out) checked out facebook, and was shocked at what I saw.

Littering unfortunately seems to be on the increase. I’ve recently taken part in a couple of organised litter picks in Four Oaks. In a couple of hours, a group of five of us managed to fill 23 large bags with litter. While on the subject of letter, I’d love to see a few ShokzPlog events outside of London.

If you’ve reached the end of this selection of random rants and raves, then “thank-you”. I’m not convinced I would have made it to the end of my rather random waffle. I hope that you think my rants were reasonable. I do feel much better now that I’ve shared my moans and groans with you.

Did you enjoy the long Easter weekend? Did you manage to make the most of the amazing weather? I just hope it’s cooler this weekend.

Do you follow any elite runners on social media? I’m always looking to follow more inspirational female athletes.

Try on my Trainers: A Day in my Life

Happy Friday, the weekend is nearly here. I’ve got something a little different for you all today. As I can’t run, I’ve decided to write and share a ‘Day in my Life’ type post. I personally really enjoy reading these sort of posts, I love reading about how other people spend 24 hours. I hope that a typical Tuesday in my life isn’t too boring.

For obvious reasons, I haven’t gone into too much detail about what I got up to at work!

7:00am – My alarm wakes me

The alarm on my phone is set to go off at 7:00 every day of the week. I used to treat myself to a lie in on a Sunday morning, but don’t now because I realised that the extra sleep was making me feel more tired. This time of the year it’s so light, I’m usually already awake when my alarm goes off, this morning it was so dark outside my alarm woke me up.

7:05am – Have a wash, brush my teeth and get dressed

My weekday routine is very predictable. I’ll get up, pop to the loo, brush my teeth and wash my face etc, get dressed, grab my breakfast and then head out the door. I’m very much a get up and go type of person. As I’m rapidly approaching 40, I think I need to start making a bit more effort with my skincare regime.

7:20am-7:50am – Walk to work

The walk into the office takes me between 30 and 40 minutes. Once I’ve walked through Bull Croft Park, the centre of Wallingford and have crossed Wallingford Bridge, I have a range of different routes to choose from. Some are slightly weather dependent, the cleaners get a little grumpy when I walk mud into the office.
The Bull Croft 1The Bull Croft 2Wallingford 1Wallingford BridgeThe Boat House

This morning, when it started to rain, I decided to risk walking across the recreation ground. The ground was a little on the soggy side, but I managed to avoid getting wet feet and muddy trainers. I reached the office, dug out my security and access passes – I can guarantee that these are usually buried in my bag – let myself in, had a quick conversation with the security man, and then headed up to my desk.

7:50am-8:00am – Breakfast

I switched on my computer, headed to the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea, filled up my water bottle and prepared my breakfast. Some mornings I’ll have porridge, other mornings just a croissant. This morning I wasn’t feeling very hungry, so I opted for a croissant.

8:00am-12:00pm – Work

The highlight of my morning had to be eating my first ever hot cross bun. A colleague had made a batch of hot cross buns, they were amazing. I just worry that if I buy some in a supermarket at the weekend, they won’t taste the same.

12:00pm-12:30pm – Lunch

One of the unwritten ‘rules’ of my team is that whenever possible, we all walk down to the Manor House for lunch as a team. When I worked in Lichfield, my office was located on an industrial estate. We tended to eat lunch at our desks. My Wallingford office is located in the grounds of an old Manor House, it couldn’t be more different.
Howbery Park 1Howbery Park 2Howbery Park 3A massive perk is the staff canteen which sells the most amazing hot and cold food. Everything is subsidised, so I always tend to treat myself to a hot meal at lunchtime. Today, I treated myself to lasagne, garlic bread and potato wedges. And I wonder why I’m putting on weight!

When the weather is warm we eat outside, today it was unfortunately a tad chilly and wet so we had to eat inside. Once lunch was done and dusted, we walked the ‘long way’ back to the office.

12:30pm-4:30pm – Work

Highlights of the afternoon included a TED talk on the subject of the Happy secrets to better work, getting a job application submitted and completing some slightly tedious river flow assessments.

4:30pm – Leave Work

I usually pack up all my belongings and then double check I’ve got everything. Today, in my rush to leave the office, I almost left my phone charger on my desk. Now that would have been a disaster. As I was feeling slightly on edge and needed time to think, I decided to walk the long way back into Wallingford.

4:30pm-5:00pm – Walk back to Wallingford

The walk back into the centre of Wallingford is usually a time of reflection for me. I like to think about what went well at work and what I could have done differently. Occasionally I’ll spend a couple of minutes watching the Thames flow past me. I’ve always found being near water incredibly relaxing, one of the reasons I became a hydrologist.

5:00pm-5:45pm – Quick drink in the Old Post Office

I decided to pop into one of my favourite pubs in Wallingford – the Old Post Office – for a quiet pint. My plans for a peaceful pint didn’t go completely to plan as a rather noisy family decided to sit at the table next to me.
The OPOOPO 2The rest of the bar area was completely empty, I’ll never understand what I call the herding instinct. I was sensible and left after one pint.

5:45pm-6:00pm – Walk back to my Lodgings

The walk back from the centre of Wallingford to my lodgings usually takes me between 15 and 20 minutes, it all depends on how much I’ve had to drink. The walk takes me past what I called the ‘House of Doom’, I always feel a huge sense of relief that I escaped my previous accommodation. I got back to my lodgings, let myself in, headed up to my room, kicked off my trainers and collapsed on my bed.

6:00pm-7:00pm – Catch up on emails and some blogmin

I was in a fairly productive what I call ‘get shit done’ mode, so I decided to allocate an hour to responding to emails and also some slightly overdue blogmin. I was a little surprised this blog had so many broken links, clearly monthly broken link checks aren’t adequate.

7:00pm-8:00pm – Eat and Have a Nap

By 7:00pm my stomach was letting me know it was time to eat so I made myself a quick and easy meal. So quick and easy I forgot to take a photo #bloggerfail!

And I guess you know what happened next, I ended up having a sneaky nap. At least I woke up in time for the highlight of my Tuesday evenings; Holby City.

8:00pm-9:00pm – Watch Holby City

I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but I’ve watched Holby City since it started in 1999. My friends and family know not to contact me between 8:00pm and 9:00pm on Tuesday evenings.
HolbyI’ve no idea what happened the previous week, but it took me a couple of minutes to realise that I’d somehow managed to miss an episode. I had some urgent catching up to do. Fortunately, BBC iPlayer came to the rescue.

9:00pm-10:00pm – Make a start on Outrunning the Demons

Some evenings I’ll spend an hour blogging, it really depends if I’m in the mood. As I wanted to give my eyes a bit of a break, I decided to make a start on Outrunning the Demons.
Outrunning DemonsHere’s a bit more information about the book:

“Running can take us to fantastic places. Just as importantly, it can also bring us back from terrible ones. For people in times of crisis, trauma and physical or mental illness – when normality collapses – running can put things back together again.

Told through 34 deeply affecting real-life stories and covering such diverse themes as trauma, bereavement, addiction, depression and anxiety, this compelling book is an exposition of just why running can so often be the answer to everything when we find ourselves in extremis.”

10:00pm-10:15pm – Shower etc

I never shower in the mornings. I’m lazy and I like going to bed with wet hair and waking up with dry hair. I like heading to bed feeling clean. I’ve never owned hair straighteners or any sort of fancy hair products. When I had my hair cut last Saturday, Alicia the lady who had the dubious honour of cutting my hair said that my hair was in very good condition. It’s just a shame it’s so grey. Apologies, I got side-tracked again. I brushed my teeth and had a great shower; I don’t think I need to say any more.

10:15pm-10:30pm – General faffing

Once I’ve got dressed in my PJs, I like to spend a few minutes getting ready for the next morning. I pick an outfit for work, pack my work bag and make sure that my phone is on charge.

10:30pm – Climb into Bed

I aim to be in bed by 10:30pm at the latest. This probably won’t make sense, but it takes me a long time to relax and feel ready to go to sleep. I decided to read a few more pages of Outrunning the Demons. I was clearly quite tired because I only managed a few pages.

Please, if you haven’t read Outrunning the Demons consider treating yourself to a copy of the book.

11:00pm – Lights Out

I usually try to switch my bedside lamp off before 11:00pm. I check my phone is charging – the battery life is terrible and I can’t wait to get a replacement – grab my teddy and hopefully fall asleep.

I hope you enjoyed reading about what was a more mundane week day, the following day was far more interesting as I had a few glasses of red wine after work and didn’t fall into bed until 12:30am.

Some evenings I’ll head straight to the pub after work. When I’m feeling brave, I’ll head along to the fortnightly ‘Beer and Bants’ evenings. These are a brilliant way of meeting people from my office outside of work. When my right knee recovers, I’ll aim to run a couple of evenings a week after work. I like to let the traffic calm down so don’t head out until after 7:00pm. At the moment my weekdays are slightly predictable, I think this suits my personality.

I’d like to say that my weekends are a little more exciting, but that would be a lie. Circumstances mean that my weekends are a tad mundane. Four Oaks has a lot to offer, I need to be brave and to meet up with people. My schoolmates keep asking when I’m free, I need to organise some sort of get-together.

Finally, if you made it to the end of this waffle than a huge thank-you, I think you deserve a medal.