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.

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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.

Rants and raves #34

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post after spending the morning at the dentist, again. My debit card has taken a bit of a battering.  I’m also still not completely recovered from the lurgy and Wolves have just lost. As a result, this blog may be even more moany than usual if that’s possible. As always, all moans groans and rants and raves represent my own views. Other, far less negative running blogs are available**

Rave: The weather

I’m loving the weather at the moment; sunny but quite chilly mornings and gorgeous afternoons. On Thursday, it was mild enough for me to enjoy my first outdoors pint of the year after work. Although the weather isn’t meant to be great this week – I guess it’s time for some good old April showers – the forecast for next weekend looks reasonable.Spring 2019I just need to start running again sooner rather than later because at the moment I’m feeling incredibly unfit. I don’t want a repeat of a few years ago when I started running after a longish injury break and struggled because it was so warm.

Rant: EE network coverage

A rather random rant, but I’ve reached the stage I’ve had enough of EE. Someone told me that EE was formerly known as ‘Everything Everywhere’. I personally think EE should be called NA ‘Nothing Anywhere’. I do wonder how bad other networks are if EE keep winning this.EE best network

[Source]

My EE phone doesn’t tend to work in my office. This is incredibly frustrating when I need to check my personal email account (we aren’t allowed to access hotmail at work) and when someone tries to contact me. My phone lies and tells me it has 4G signal, the second I try to send a text the signal mysteriously disappears and the dreaded ‘No Signal’ appears on the screen.

My phone also doesn’t work for most of the journey between Oxford and Leamington Spa, in large areas of Four Oaks and in my house. Network coverage used to be a million times better, I’ve no idea why it is now so bad. And to think there are plans to install a 4G network on the Moon. I can’t wait to escape from EE when my contract ends in June.

Rave: Feedback from people who read this blog

Like most bloggers, I do sometimes wonder if people actually read my waffle. My blogging stats haven’t been that great recently, possibly because I haven’t had much to say. I was thrilled when Paul contacted me completely out of the blue to say they had found this running blog, and that my blog injected some welcome reality into things.

Thanks for taking the time to contact me Paul, your lovely feedback made my day. I’m hopeful that normal service will resume once I am up and running again!

Rant: My right knee

My fragile right knee has been incredibly painful – 9/10 on my niggleometer – for a couple of weeks now. Frustrating when the lurgy means that I haven’t been able to run recently. The ‘did not starts’ are starting to frustrate me, there’s no way I’m even going to attempt the Cathedral to Castle 10 mile run on Sunday, last year I ended the race with a knee injury.

I had hoped that a break from running would help my right knee settle down and get better, if anything it seems to be more painful the longer I don’t run. I can’t avoid using it as I have to walk to and from the office Monday to Friday. I’ve been following the strengthening routine a sports physio gave me a couple of years ago and have been wearing a knee support. I’m rapidly running out of ideas…

Rave: The Old Post Office

I have a new favourite drinking establishment in Wallingford. After a couple of not so positive experiences, the Boat House has been relegated into second place and The Old Post Office promoted to first place.

As an added bonus, the food in The Old Post Office is amazing. It’s just a shame it’s a tad on the expensive side, definitely more of an occasional treat. I’m still not completely sure how two of us managed to spend £70 in there a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t even feeling tipsy when I left.

Rant: The Oxford Half Marathon ballot

With the exception of the London Marathon et al, I struggle with the concept of races having ballots. Races should be first come first served. I was more than a little surprised when a colleague told me that the Oxford Half was now ballot entry. I mean the Oxford Half didn’t even sell out in 2018. They also had an issue with medals; the complaints on social media were pretty impressive. I can only assume they held a ballot to encourage people to enter and to hype the event up.Oxford Half ballot

[Source]

I don’t know of anyone who entered who didn’t get a place through the ballot. I know some people didn’t get in via the first round of invites, but predictably they got a place via the second round of invites. I won’t complain about the price. Let’s just hope the medals arrive in time for the race this year.

Rave: Wolverhampton Wanderers

I know I’ve said it before, but after a few not very enjoyable seasons, I’m really enjoying being a Wolves supporter. I would love to be able to say that I’m heading down to the FA Cup Semi-Final on Sunday but I’m not. I’ve donated my ticket to a good friend who has never experienced the new(ish) Wembley.WolvesI just hope that he manages to get on the right train to London Euston, manages to find Wembley, and that Wolves put on a decent performance. If they get hammered by Watford it will be a disappointing day out for Wolves.

Rant: CrossCountry Trains

And while on the subject of trains, I want to rant about CrossCountry trains. I won’t complain about the fact most of their trains are overcrowded and quite clearly not designed for passengers with longer than average legs. I won’t complain about the fact that 90 per cent of the trains I catch on a Friday arrive into Birmingham New Street late. I do want to complain about the fact CrossCountry trains now charge £1 for the privilege(?) of having paper rather than e-tickets. When I contacted CrossCountry to ask why, this was part of their response: 

CrossCounty always offer a free method of fulfilment, and the £1 collection fee for collecting your tickets at a station is only chargeable where an m-Ticket or e-Ticket is available.

E-Tickets are easier to collect due to how flexible they are, you get four options for showing your ticket so you can save time queuing at the train station or waiting for your tickets to arrive in the post. You can show the PDF on your smartphone, print at home/work, send to Apple Wallet or use our Train Tickets app where your ticket will be visible in your wallet.”

I’m quite happy queuing at the train station for a couple of minutes to collect my tickets. I’d rather have paper tickets as I know they (1) will open the barriers at Oxford station, (2) will open the barriers at Birmingham New Street station, (3) don’t rely on having phone signal to actually work, (4) don’t rely on me having phone battery, (5) mean that I don’t have to risk dropping my phone when I’m already struggling to carry a couple of large bags and (6) are far more convenient.

And finally, I’m afraid I’m going to finish with a bonus rant…

Rant: Me!

I’ve been feeling incredibly gloomy and completely lacking in motivation for a couple of weeks now. Although not knowing where I’ll be living and working when my temporary contract ends probably isn’t helping, I’m blaming my gloominess on not being able to run. I’m definitely more positive when I can run. I’ve been struggling at work and have stopped enjoying my job. Getting out of bed each morning and heading into the office has been a chore. I haven’t felt like blogging and have struggled to find the motivation to write. Most evenings, I get back to my room; have a lengthy nap and then waste time watching TV.

I’ve got a job interview later this week and to be honest I don’t feel very well prepared. I don’t even know if I want the job, I just felt like I needed to apply for it as it’s a permanent position nearer to Four Oaks. Hopefully I’ll start to feel a bit more positive when I know what I’ll be doing when my temporary contract ends. Running will also help.

If you’ve reached the end of this selection of random rants and raves, then a huge ‘thank-you’. I’m not sure I would have made it to the end. I hope that you think that my rants were reasonable. As always, I do feel better now that I’ve shared my moans and groans on here.

Do you have any recommendations for mobile phone providers? After 15+ years, I’ve had enough of Orange/EE. I’m just worried they are all equally as bad.

Do you agree with races holding ballots or do you think it should be first come first served? I can understand why races like the London, Chicago and Berlin Marathons hold ballots. I struggle with the concept of smaller races holding ballots.

London Landmarks Half Marathon training week 12

Good morning and happy Thursday. I hope that everyone who reads my weekly updates had a great weekend. Mine didn’t exactly go to plan. At least we’ve got most of the week out of the way, it will soon be the weekend again.
Collage 29The final week of my half marathon – taper week and race – recommended I completed an easy 20 minute run on Monday, a comfortable 40 minute run on Wednesday, a steady half hour run on Friday, and finally, a half marathon on Sunday. Spoiler, after spending several days in bed feeling terrible, it took me until Tuesday to accept I wouldn’t be well enough to complete a half marathon. A difficult decision to make but most definitely the right decision.

Monday – 20 mins easy Rest

The final week of my half marathon didn’t get off to the most positive of starts when I felt far too unwell to make the most of a day of annual leave. Like the vast majority of people – I can think of a couple of exceptions – I hate feeling so unwell I can’t function properly. Walking the mile to the local shops left me feeling exhausted and food didn’t taste right. Mum treated me to a small cooked breakfast at the local farm shop, I struggled to clear my plate. To add insult to injury, during one epic coughing fit I smashed my fragile left foot into the wooden storage box at the bottom of my bed. A week later it still feels painful. Only I could injure my foot coughing.

Tuesday – Rest

I had originally aimed to travel down to Wallingford so that I’d reach the office at lunchtime. I phoned my line manager who recommended I didn’t attempt to come into the office. I got off the phone and had a terrible coughing fit. I think it was at this point I accepted I wouldn’t be well enough to attempt a half marathon on Sunday. The thought of attending a two-day drought conference in Oxford was stressful enough.

After another what felt like another complete waste of a day, I walked the short distance to the local train station and started the long journey back down to Wallingford. I didn’t feel great but I was determined to attend the conference the following morning. A colleague very kindly picked me up from Oxford train station – apparently I looked shattered – and we drove back to Wallingford via McDonald’s. I clearly was far from well as I didn’t even manage to finish my chips.

Wednesday – 40 mins comfortable Rest

The short walk into the centre of Wallingford left me feeling shattered. I usually love a good hydrology related conference, however, the thought of spending the day listening to presentations while trying not to irritate people with my cough meant that I couldn’t relax. The venue of the conference was stunning – Pembroke College, Oxford – definitely a case of how the other half live go to university. Completely different to both Birmingham and Leeds University. And to think I turned down a place at Cambridge. It’s just a shame it was so cloudy and gloomy both days we were there.

The first day finished just before 17:00 then there was a drinks reception. By this stage I felt far too tired to network, so I positioned myself in a corner away from the crowds of conference delegates. I spotted one of my PhD external examiners, said a quick hello, made my excuses and headed back to Wallingford with a colleague. Most people would have headed straight to bed. I’m not sensible so I convinced my colleague to grab a bite to eat in the Old Post Office. I’m not sure drinking Malibu and Coke was sensible, but I slept well that night.

Thursday – Rest

I woke up well before my alarm feeling much better; my throat had progressed from what I call the irritating ‘tickly’ stage. I had a shower, got dressed into some reasonably smart (for me!) clothes and walked the short distance into the centre of Wallingford. I grabbed myself some breakfast in Greggs and met up with my colleague at the bus stop. We arrived at Oxford about an hour before the conference started so decided to pop into M&S. I checked out the length of some so-called ‘longer length’ trousers, and not for the first time wondered who actually buys clothes in M&S.
Collage 30Although I’d slept well, I found the second day of the conference tiring. Following the most amazing lunch – the Pembroke College dining hall made me think of Harry Potter – I found myself almost falling asleep a couple of times during the afternoon session. The presentations were informative, I just seemed to run out of energy. There wasn’t a lot of conversation during the bus journey back to Wallingford.

Friday – 30 mins steady Rest

After spending the week either at home or at the conference in Oxford, it felt slightly strange being back in the office. By the time I’d read almost 250 emails and had written up my end of year review, it was time for ‘fish and chips’ Friday. I was clearly not completely recovered as I struggled to finish my tiny portion of chips. Most people know my Friday afternoon routine, I left the office at 15:00 and arrived back in Four Oaks three hours later. I briefly considered attempting a steady 30 minute run but decided I needed give myself more time to recover from the office lurgy. Definitely the right decision as I felt so tired I headed to bed straight after eating my traditional Friday evening Chinese. Not the most of productive of starts to the weekend.

Saturday – Rest

With the exception of buying two tickets for the FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley, Saturday was more or less a complete write-off. Completing a few simple adulting tasks in the morning left me feeling so tired, I clearly needed more sleep as I spent five hours in bed asleep. Another waste of a day. Not heading down to London was definitely the right decision. Although I felt much better when I woke up, I had no appetite and zero energy. More worryingly my head felt so fuzzy, I wasn’t able to make any progress on the academic paper I need to complete by the end of March. As for the job application I had planned on completing, not a chance!

Sunday – London Landmarks Half Marathon Rest

And so to Sunday, the day of the London Landmarks Half Marathon. Some runners seem to have the ability to complete half marathons and even marathons when they aren’t feeling 100 per cent. I’m definitely not one of those runners; I must be getting sensible now that I’m approaching 40. A slightly scary prospect! The nearest I got to running was putting my warmer winter running gear into storage, washing and retiring a pair of trainers, and putting my customised insoles into a pair of trainers I’d forgotten I’d bought in the sales. Please don’t let me buy any more trainers!

After what felt like the shortest and least productive weekend ever, I started the lengthy journey back down to Wallingford. The long journey gave me time to reflect on my unsuccessful half marathon training cycle and future running and race goals. At one stage last week I seriously thought about quitting running, I’d had enough of niggles and illnesses preventing me from making it to the start of my target races. It’s getting a little predictable and embarrassing. Now that I’m starting to feel better, I’m feeling slightly more positive and can’t wait to pull on my new trainers.

So a massive ‘thank you’ to everyone who has read my half marathon training updates. I’m sorry didn’t make it the start and that there won’t be a detailed review of the London Landmarks Half Marathon. I’d love to take part next year but doubt that I’d be lucky in the ballot two years in a row.

Training totals

  • Runs: 24
  • Time: 19 hours 2 mins
  • Distance: 105.12 miles

Niggleometer

  • Left knee: 5/10
  • Left foot: 9/10

London Landmarks Half Marathon training Week 11

Good afternoon, I hope that everyone who reads this – ‘thank-you!’ – had an amazing weekend and start to the new week. This blog is over 24 hours later than usual because I’ve been stuck down by the office lurgy; again. As it stands, I think it’s extremely unlikely I’ll be well enough to head to London, at the moment; I can’t even run a bath.Collage 27The eleventh week of my London Landmarks Half Marathon training – the ‘start of the taper’ – suggested that I completed a 20 minute jog on Monday, a steady 40 minute run on Wednesday, a steady 40-45 minute run on Friday, and an hour long run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. After cutting short a couple of longer runs, I decided to run for 90 minutes on Sunday.

So how did I cope during the penultimate week of half marathon training? Did Storm Gareth – does anyone else think the name ‘Gareth’ sounds far too friendly to be a storm? – derail my training? Most importantly, did I manage to avoid picking up my usual last minute injury or illness?

Monday – 20 min jog Rest

Thanks to a couple of glasses of red wine on Sunday evening and a late night, I started the week feeling tired with a slightly fuzzy head. Fortunately, the combination of a somewhat windy 30 minute walk into the office and a Gregg’s sausage roll cleared my head. A good job, because the first challenge of the day was getting my computer fixed. Apparently a colleague had saved 4GB worth of ‘stuff’ on my computer, the computer technician said he was amazed it was functioning at all. I wonder if I’ve got too much ‘junk’ stored away inside my head, maybe a good clear out would help me too. Anyway, fingers crossed that’s the end of my work computer woes.

I escaped the office at a sensible time, walked back to my lodgings and lay down on my bed. Not the most productive use of my time but I felt completely shattered. I’m sure people who read my weekly updates on a regular basis can predict what happened next, I nodded off and woke up a couple of hours later feeling a tad disorientated. I decided to delay my 20 minute run by 24 hours.

Tuesday – Rest 20 min jog

Tuesday got off to a positive start when I managed to avoid getting soaked on the way into the office. I also remembered to distribute the report I’d produced last week, I have been known to forget.IMG_2778The rest of the day was reasonably productive as the office was virtually empty. I discovered that I’d got an interview for the job I’d applied for a couple of weeks ago. After completely messing up my last interview, I’ll make sure that I’m more prepared.

I almost stopped off at the Boat House pub with a colleague after work, but knew that one pint would turn into ‘several’ pints and I wouldn’t run. Such will power! I got back to my room, got changed into some running gear and spent an hour catching up on emails and blogmin. I was a little frustrated when I discovered Holby City had been postponed due to the idiots who are failing to lead our country.

When I eventually set out on what should have been a jog, I discovered it was mild and quite windy. I found the short ‘jog’ quite challenging, it most definitely wasn’t a confidence boosting training session. My post-run beetroot-face took a long time to fade.

Wednesday – 40 mins steady Rest

I think the highlight of the working day were avoiding getting drenched during the walk into work – others weren’t as lucky – and the amazing cakes a colleague brought in for our team meeting. I spent lunchtime reminiscing about clubbing and trance music in the late 1990s with a colleague. We both agreed the lack of digital cameras and social media when we were at university was definitely a massive positive.

I’m not sure what went wrong but I didn’t leave the office until 17:30. This meant that I had to postpone my training run by a day as my landlady had arranged for her neighbour – a lady who works in my office – to come round for some wine and nibbles. The evening was incredibly civilised, I think the equation three bottles of red wine between three people over three hours worked well. I even remembered to pack my bags before heading to bed.

Thursday – Rest 40 mins steady

I woke up feeling incredibly perky, perhaps I should drink red wine instead of beer next time I find myself in a pub. My day got off to a positive start when i avoid the rain by a matter of minutes for the second day in a row. The theme of the day seemed to be ‘ask Dr Emma’ this was great as it meant the day flew by really quickly.

I did my usual trick of getting an earlier bus back to Oxford than I needed to. This left me with enough time to have a quick look around the castle and prison located in the centre of Oxford. I must admit I found both slightly underwhelming.   Collage 28I got back to Four Oaks at 20:00ish, dumped my bags, pulled on some running gear and headed straight back out the door. I found the 40 minute steady run difficult as I felt like I had no energy. I hadn’t eaten for eight hours so I guess I was running on empty. I got home, had quick shower and went into ‘adulting’ mode. It’s just a shame I didn’t feel hungry and completely forgot to eat.

Friday – 40-45 mins steady Rest

I didn’t feel great when I woke up, but put it down to the fact I hadn’t eaten enough after running the previous evening. I made myself eat a decent breakfast and then made a start on the manuscript I need to finish reviewing by the end of the month. After a couple of hours I needed a break, so when my friend said he was popped into Sutton Coldfield, I asked if I could join him. I wanted to buy two things; an electric toothbrush and some running socks. I went into Boots; they didn’t have the toothbrush I wanted. I also failed to find any running socks and was reminded for the millionth time that online shopping is the way forward. The rest of the day was so mundane I won’t bore you all to tears with the details. It’s just a shame my head felt so fuzzy – not alcohol induced – I was unable to make much progress with the manuscript. I was also unable to run.

Saturday – Rest

I spent all day in bed feeling terrible. One minute I was boiling hot, the next I was freezing cold. After one epic coughing fit, my heart was beating so quickly it started to scare me. I unfortunately felt too unwell to travel to Wolverhampton to the Wolves v Man United match. I didn’t even feel well enough to watch it on the TV; hopefully I’ll be able to get tickets for Wembley.

Sunday – 60 mins comfortable pace Rest

Just looking at my trainers made me feel tired, there was no way I could have completed a training run. Rather worryingly, I somehow managed to injure my foot while lying in bed coughing. It feels like I’ve managed to bruise a bone. Only I could injure myself lying down! Sunday was another waste of a day, just thinking about running a half marathon stressed me out.1 week to goSo that’s the penultimate week of my half marathon training not successfully completed. Once again, I’ve been struck down by the office lurgy in the lead up to a race, I wish people would stay at home when they are ill. I also wish I had a better immune system. Unless I recover quickly during the week (it’s now Tuesday, and I still feel terrible) I don’t think I’ll be heading down to London. I’m in danger of earning myself the nickname the ‘DNS’ runner.

The final week of my half marathon training is described as the taper and race week. After missing far too many training runs, I don’t need to taper, I just need to get better ASAP! At the moment, I think there’s zero chance of me making it to the start line of the London Landmarks Half Marathon. Even attempting to walk around the course would end in tears.

Training totals

  • Runs: 24
  • Time: 19 hours 2 mins
  • Distance: 105.12 miles

 Niggleometer

  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Left foot: 5/10