Rants and Raves #32

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post as I needed a break from completing a slightly tedious job application. I’m also preparing to travel back down to Wallingford. I’m not looking forward to returning to my shared house. As a result, this blog may be slightly more ranty than usual. As always, all moans and groans and rants and raves represent my own views. Other, less negative running and fitness blogs are available**

Rave: Christmas

I hope that everyone had a great Christmas, mine was reasonably positive. I managed to eat and drink far too much and spent some quality time with my parents. I like to think that my parsley stuffing balls were the highlight of our Christmas dinner. Actually, I think the turkey was the highlight; I love turkey and all the trimmings.Christmas 2018Christmas Day was actually quite a low-key event as there were only three of us. Boxing Day was a bit challenging at times, and I ended up in the local pub in the evening having a quiet drink. I found being surrounded by large groups of people a little difficult. I didn’t get to see a lot of my family, but will hopefully see them sooner rather than later.

Rant: Festive food shaming

One of the not-so-positive aspects of Christmas is what I call the festive food shaming. I hadn’t even digested my Christmas meal or eaten any sherry trifle when I spotted this on twitter. I can’t remember who shared it.  Christmas food shamingWhy do people (and some organisations who should really know better) feel the need to share this sort of rubbish? Maybe I’m just as bad for sharing it on my blog. I don’t want to know how far I’d need to run to burn off my Christmas meal. Talk about encouraging unhealthy eating habits.

Unfortunately, running related brands weren’t the only culprits. I spotted this Spillers advert on Boxing Day.SpillersI’m off to run three marathons and then to ride a random horse for a couple of days!

Rave: TK Maxx bargains

I’ve said it before, but I love TK Maxx and its randomness. I love finding hidden gems and the occasional pair of trousers that actually fit. Having said that, I also love the fact it’s now relatively easy to find bargainous running gear online – my local store has always had a slightly disappointing Activewear section.TK MaxxMy brother and sister-in-law very kindly gave me £40 of TK Maxx vouchers as part of my Christmas present. Although I told myself I wouldn’t buy any more running gear, I couldn’t not buy the 2XU leggings I spotted in the red sticker sale. I mean it would have been rude not to buy them as they were so cheap. I bought a couple of sizes to try on and must remember to return one pair. I’m good at buying things and forgetting to return them.

Rant: My Garmin 235

I’m aware that I’ve moaned about my Garmin 235 before and I’ve tried really hard to make myself like it, but I’m still not a fan. I don’t know if mine is faulty but the battery life is rubbish, it takes 5+ minutes for the GPS to be ready, the wrist-based heart rate sensor is a waste of time and spends half the time telling me I’m dead, and a large chunk of my data has randomly disappeared. So based on my personal experiences, I wouldn’t recommend runners buy a Garmin 235.

Apologies for the rather random rant, I do feel a bit better now. I’m tempted to contact Garmin as I don’t think my 235 should lose 50% of its battery life during a 30 minute run.

Rave: TopNine2018 Instagram

I spotted a few snide comments from the usual suspects about people sharing their #TopNine2018 photos, but I loved looking at all of them. My Top Nine Instagram posts had a definite running theme.MyTopNineI guess this makes sense because most of my Instagram followers are runners and I only tend to share running related photos. This year, I’m going to make more effort to update Instagram on a slightly more regular basis. Shameless self promotion alert, but if you don’t already, please follow me.

Rant: Out of control dogs

Although I love running in Sutton Park and I also love dogs, I’m getting slightly fed up with the number of out of control dogs in the park. I can pretty much guarantee that every time I run or walk in the park I’ll have a ‘run in’ with a dog.

I don’t care if your dog is “being friendly” or “just wants to play with you” or “won’t hurt you”, I’m going to be pissed off if your dog jumps up at me or chases me bearing its teeth. And as for the lady I spotted trying to walk five large dogs last week, did you really think it was a good idea?

Rave: Wolves

I’ve been a Wolves supporter since I was a child. There have been ups and (quite a lot of) downs, but at the moment, I’m enjoying the Wolves roller-coaster. The second half performance against Spurs was amazing. The performance against Crystal Palace was terrible.

Although 2019 didn’t get off to the best of starts, I’m looking forward to Wolves having a successful 2019.

Rant: The weather

I know I shouldn’t complain too much because it hasn’t snowed (yet) and the weather hasn’t really messed with my half marathon training schedule. However, I can’t remember the last time I spotted blue skies in Four Oaks. The skies in Four Oaks have been grey for what feels like weeks.WeatherI’m starting to suspect that the lack of decent daylight is messing with my mood. I need some sunshine and blue skies to cheer me up. I also need some slightly chillier weather to test out some of my Christmas presents.

Rave: New Trainers

During my Boxing Day online shopping spree, I somehow ended up on the Brooks Running website and found myself hitting ‘add to basket’ and then buying these Adrenaline GTS 18 trainers.BrooksAt £84 they weren’t cheap, but this FREE SHIPPING & RETURNS. With Brooks’ True Blue Guarantee, take our gear for a trial run and if you’re not 100% satisfied within 90 days, return it for free” caught my attention. If I’m not 100% satisfied, I will be getting in contact with Brooks.

If you’ve reached the end of this blog and have read all of my somewhat 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 put pen to paper so to speak.

What was the highlight of your Christmas meal? Are you a turkey fan or do you prefer to eat something else?

Have you ever had any scary dog incidents while out running? I hope that my recent experiences are unusual rather than the norm.  

What is the most you would spend on a pair of trainers? £84 was slightly more than I’m usually prepared to spend.

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Supacore Compression performance wear review

Most of you will be aware that I’m a somewhat injury-prone runner. So as you can imagine, when the marketing manager for Supacore Compression, a compression performance wear company with a focus on injury prevention and rehabilitation contacted me, I was over the moon. They had found this website when they were searching for running blogs, and wondered whether I’d be interested in collaborating with a product review or feature. supacore_compression-colI went away, did a bit of research, liked what I read and agreed to review some products. Before I start my review, I’m aware that people may not have come across Supacore Compression (I hadn’t) so here’s some information about the brand.

An introduction to Supacore Compression

Supacore’s website includes a page dedicated to answering a range of FAQs. I’ve decided to share a couple of questions and answers here to provide some information about the brand.

How is Supacore different from other compression brands? Supacore is the only seamless compression product that assists with injury prevention and recovery for core, hip, groin and back related injuries. Products are constructed using unique seamless technology, enabling specific compression to be engineered into the garment without the use of uncomfortable seams.

Who should be wearing Supacore? According to the website, Supacore should be worn by:

  • All athletes (from beginners to professionals) who suffer from back, groin and hamstring injury and would like to keep playing and recover from injury faster.
  • All athletes who want to increase core stability.
  • All athletes wanting increased blood circulation, less soft tissue damage and faster recovery.
  • All athletes wanting to reduce the effect of DOMS and increase blood circulation.

A few months later, I was a little surprised when a parcel from Australia arrived in the post (I’d assumed I’d be receiving a parcel from Supacore’s UK-based distributor). Supacore had very generously sent me three items to review:

  • A unisex sleeveless compression top
  • A pair of women’s Coretech injury recovery and prevention compression shorts
  • A pair of calf compression sleeves

The items were well packaged and had been placed inside a white net bag with a drawstring. I’ve used this bag to transport my toiletries to and from the bathroom of my shared house. I had struggled to carry everything before; it’s always good to receive a ‘bonus’ item from a brand.  

Anyway, back to the point of this blog, a review of Supacore compression performance wear! I’ve decided to review the top, shorts and then the compression sleeves. A sort of top-down approach.

When I saw how tiny both the shorts and the sleeveless compression top looked, I had a scary flashback to the time I got myself trapped inside a top in a tiny changing room inside Selfridges. The changing room was boiling hot, and the more I tried and failed to remove the top, the more I panicked. At one stage I thought I was going to have to be cut out of a £100 top. I’ll never forget the feeling of relief when I finally managed to wiggle my way out of the top.

Sorry, I got sidetracked again. I figured that (a) compression gear is meant to be tight, the clue is in the name and (b) I was in my own bedroom, not in a tiny changing room. Also, if I couldn’t physically squeeze myself into the sleeveless top or the shorts it wasn’t the end of the world. I could always pass them onto someone who hasn’t spent the last couple of months trying out every food establishment in Wallingford.

Unisex sleeveless compression training top

According to Suapacore’s website, this top provides postural support at the upper and lower back which enables improved body movement, as well as reducing muscle oscillation and thereby injury during training. Compression also aids circulation during workouts, increasing performance and recovery.  The top is designed to be worn whenever you exercise, and can even be worn underneath everyday clothes to provide postural support. While I wasn’t quite brave enough to wear the top underneath my work clothes, I was brave enough to test the top out during some of my longer training runs.Training sleeveless top

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Apologies for including a stock photo, but I’ve decided not to include the photo my friend took of me wearing this top. I’m all for keeping it real, but I look terrible in the photos. The top was so tight I looked at the size guide for the top, unearthed my measuring tape and checked I’d asked for the correct size. I had done. I think it’s safe to say that when I saw the photo I had a bit of a reality check.TrainingTankBlack1_grande_13ac0cf6-aab4-474f-bd19-40871644b4fc_540x

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During longer runs, my complete lack of core strength and poor posture occasionally combine to leave me with back ache during and after my runs. In the lead up to the Royal Parks Half Marathon, I actually had to lie down after some of my longer training runs to give my back a break. I briefly considered wearing the sleeveless compression top during the Royal Parks Half, but decided that wearing two new running tops in wet conditions was possibly asking for trouble.

I’ve worn the top during some of my recent longer training runs in Sutton Park. I love it! The top is quite long and doesn’t ride up when I’m running, perfect for this taller than average runner. The material is comfortable and doesn’t rub; I wish the same could be said for some of my other running vests. The material is also breathable which is brilliant because I don’t overheat when I wear the top as a base layer. Finally, the top feels incredibly supportive while not being restrictive, and definitely seems to help my posture. I haven’t had backache during or after any of my recent longer runs. I’m looking forward to wearing the top during a 2+ hour training run later this year.

Patented women’s CORETECH® injury recovery and prevention compression shorts 

I checked out the Supacore website, and discovered that these shorts are ideal for people with groin injury, hamstring injury or osteitis pubis; a common cause of chronic groin pain in footballers.  The shorts are also described as being ideal for new mothers wanting to speed up recovery after pregnancy. The shorts are different to other shorts, because along with several other features they have patented waistband technology, seamless knitting technology for comfort and longevity and medical grade compression level.Womens Coretech shorts

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Now although I can honestly say I’ve never owned or worn such an expensive pair of shorts – the shorts have a RRP of £85 – I looked forward to trying out the Coretech compression shorts more than the sleeves and top. It’s been a long time – possibly more than 10 years – since I last ran in a pair of compression shorts. I was intrigued to see how much or even if compression technology had evolved. Would the Coretech shorts live up to my expectations?Shorts

Shorts 2I’ve had more than my fair share of random running injuries. In 2005, a groin injury meant that I missed all of my longer training runs in the lead up to the London Marathon. One second I was running on a treadmill, the next I was in agony and could hardly walk. I managed to get around the London Marathon but ended up having to take a break from running. Fortunately, I haven’t had any issues with my groin since that disastrous treadmill training session.

I’ve worn the compression shorts on several training runs and I’m a fan. While the material the shorts are manufactured from looks slightly unusual, they are incredibly comfortable. I love the higher than normal waistband, it stays put and doesn’t ride down, definitely a bonus. Although the shorts feel tight and I could definitely feel the compression when I wore them, they weren’t overly restrictive when I was running. Finally, the material is not see-through, and the shorts passed the all important squat test.

Although I don’t think I’ll be wearing these shorts when I tackle my next half marathon in March – I need pockets – I will be wearing them during the majority of my longer training runs.

Calf compression sleeves

The final product I was sent to review was a pair of calf compression sleeves. I’m not going to go into too much detail as more information is available online. Supacore state that their calf compression sleeves are designed and manufactured using garment construction technology, including medically-proven gradient compression, and are seamless to ensure durability and comfort during use. The sleeves provide targeted compression to the lower leg providing a range of benefits; these include the reduction of muscle vibration which decreases the risk of injury whilst exercising.Calf Compression

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I’m not sure if I completely misinterpreted the size guide, but these were so long, they actually almost covered my knees. Now I have longer than average legs so this actually made quite a refreshing change. The sleeves felt slightly lacking in compression, and when I wore them during a run, they slipped down slightly.

I’ve worn several brands of compression sleeves and socks. In my opinion, compression sleeves have a couple of major advantages over socks. They are easier to put on and can also be worn with normal socks after a long run. These sleeves were lifesavers immediately after the Royal Parks Half when I wanted to wear compression socks to help my calf muscles recover but my feet were too sore to cope with anything other than my favourite fluffy ankle socks.

I’ve worn the sleeves a lot. I genuinely believe that wearing the sleeves immediately after the Royal Parks Half helped my slightly tight and niggly calf muscles recover from pounding the streets of London. I was able to walk rather than hobble the two miles to and from the office the day after the half marathon. Although at £26 these aren’t the cheapest compression sleeves on the market, I would be more than happy to spend that amount to invest in a second pair.

The washing machine test

One of the reasons it takes me a while to produce my product reviews is that I like to wear and wash items I’m reviewing several times. Unfortunately, in the past some of my running gear hasn’t coped very well with being washed. Grey Lululemon anti-stink top I’m looking at you.

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that all three items most definitely passed my stringent washing machine test.

The Verdict

So would I recommend Supacore compression performance wear? Yes, I would. The compression top, shorts and sleeves all felt incredibly comfortable when I wore them during and after longer training runs. All three items appear to have aided my recovery. I’ll definitely be wearing the shorts and top in the lead up to my next two half marathons.

Although the HQ of Supacore Compression performance wear is located in Melbourne, Australia, Supacore has a distributor in the UK called Live on the Edge.

**Full disclosure: Supacore sent me a unisex training sleeveless compression top, a pair of women’s Coretech compression shorts and a pair of calf compression sleeves for free in return for an honest review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As I didn’t want to break the internet, some photos were taken from the Supacore website. As always all opinions are my own**

My running goals for 2019

Happy New Year! I hope that you all had an awesome Christmas and New Year. Here’s to a healthy, happy and injury free 2019. I can’t believe I’ll reach the grand old age of 40 at the start of May.

As always, I’m acutely aware that people are getting a little fed up with all of the New Year’s resolutions and goals type blogs. I really hope that my slightly unusual mix of running goals doesn’t bore you all to tears.training-journalsLike last year and the year before, I’ve decided to set myself some challenging but hopefully achievable running goals. After – with a few notable exceptions – I failed to achieve most of last year’s goals, I wasn’t originally going to share my 2019 goals. However, I hope that by sharing these goals I make myself slightly more accountable. A runner can always dream.

Run 1000 km – I set myself the same goal last year and ended up running approximately 735 km. I’ve entered the 1000 km in 2019 challenge on Virtual Runner and have set my distance target on Fetcheveryone so that I can monitor my progress throughout the year.

Complete 10 races – I set myself the same goal last year and ended up completing eight races and an unofficial virtual half marathon, a huge improvement on 2016 and 2017. I’ve already entered six races this year so I’m reasonably confident I’ll earn myself 10 running medals this year. I just need to avoid picking up any too many niggles.

Complete 15 parkruns – Now that Sutton Park parkrun is up and running – apologies for the rubbish pun – I don’t have to rely on lifts to and from Walsall Arboretum, I can run into Sutton Park. Last year, I aimed to complete 10 parkruns and ended up completing 13; a massive increase on the one parkrun I completed in 2017. I suspect this running goal may be slightly lacking in ambition, so I’ll see how I’m getting on in June and update it if needed.

Volunteer 10 times at parkrun – I’ve been pretty rubbish at volunteering at parkrun. Having to rely on lifts to and from Walsall Arboretum made volunteering difficult. I felt I had to complete parkrun as quickly as possible and then run back to the person who had (reluctantly) driven me to the Arboretum. Now that I can run to Sutton Park parkrun, I’ll be volunteering on a more regular basis.   parkrun volunteering

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

A sub 8-minute mile – I’ve just looked through all my old race listings on Fetcheveryone and my current mile PB of 9:09 is from way back in 2012. I’d like to lower my mile PB at some point this year, possibly at the Vitality Westminster Mile at the end of May. I’ve already entered the Vitality London 10,000 which takes place the following day, so I could go for a weekend of PBs.

A sub 25-minute 5k – Last year, I set myself the goal of completing every parkrun in under 30 minutes. My times ranged between 27:10 and 33:59 so I more or less achieved my goal. I set my parkrun PB of 26:49 in February 2016 when I weighed less than I do now and was fitter. Once again, I suspect I’ll find running 5k in under 25 minutes incredibly challenging but I’m going to give it a go.

A sub 60-minute 10k – in 2016, 2017 and 2018 I set myself the challenge of completing a 10k in under 55 minutes. After struggling to complete the so-called ‘fast’ Lichfield 10k in 61:17 and feeling completely demoralised, I’ve decided to set myself the challenge of completing a 10k in under an hour. I was going to enter the flat and fast Fradley 10k in March, but I already have a date with a half marathon on the same day. I just hope the weather on the morning of the Vitality London 10,000 in May is kind this year.

A sub 2:15 half marathon – After completely messing up my pacing, I finished the Royal Parks Half in 2:24:19. Although this was a 5+ minute PB, I came away from London feeling disappointed. The training plan I’ve cobbled together for my next half marathon – the London Landmarks Half – started on Monday. My running mojo has returned and *touch wood* my temperamental left foot is behaving itself. I’m quietly confident I’ll be able to improve my half marathon PB in March.

Listen to my niggles – I’ve said this countless times before, but I’m definitely an injury-prone runner. Some runners hardly ever seem to get injured – or else they are really good at pretending they don’t – I seem to spend a lot of time nursing various niggles. As I don’t want to spend weeks on end feeling envious of other runners, I’m going to continue to listen to and closely monitor my aches and pains. Finances permitting, I’m also going to continue to work with a local sports injury expert. Knee injury

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Improve my core strength – At the moment, my core strength is pretty much nonexistent. My friend who is a qualified running coach friend has told me that if I want to stop getting injured all the time, I need to improve my core strength. In between Christmas and New Year, I spent far too long time watching core strength exercise for beginner’s themed videos on YouTube.

Run with others more – I set this as a running goal last year and did reasonably well. I tracked down a local running group in Wallingford and ran with them when my training schedule allowed. I’ll never forget some of the more challenging runs I completed with Run Wallingford. Running with faster runners most definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, it nearly killed me. Run WallingfordThis year, I’m aiming to run with Run Wallingford on a more regular basis. I’m only going to be working in Wallingford until the end of March, so I need to make the most of the time I’ve got left there. I’m also aiming to complete the majority of my long weekend training runs with Ellen. Running in Sutton Park is far, far more enjoyable than running around Four Oaks.

Train consistently – I’ve never been great at running and training consistently; some months I love running and will run 3-4 times a week. Other months I seem to fall out of love with running and don’t run at all. If I want to improve as a runner, I need to train more consistently. I also need to get better at actually following training plans.

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – I set myself the same goal last year and failed miserably. My family bought me some amazing running gear for Christmas. I also treated myself to some trainers in the Brooks sale, a couple of t-shirts and a pair of gloves in the Lululemon sale and some 2XU capris in the TK Maxx sale. So although I’m definitely going to have to invest in a couple of replacement running bras sooner rather than later, I don’t need to buy anything else.

I know I ask the same question every January, have you set yourself any running goals for the year ahead?

Have you entered any target races?

Can you recommend any core strength exercises or YouTube videos that are relatively beginner-friendly? 

2018 Review: Running highlights & lessons learned

As 2018 is almost over – I swear January was only a month ago – I’ve decided to review my running highlights, lowest points and lessons learned throughout the year. As always, if you don’t enjoy reading lengthy posts I’d recommend that you close the page. Here are the links to my reviews of 2017 and 2016.

January

While most sensible people were out and about having fun, I quite literally ran into 2018. If I’m injury-free, I’m planning to do the same again this year. I started 2018 feeling positive and shared my running goals and entered a slightly ambitious number of races.Sutton ParkTraining for the Cambridge Half Marathon was going well, and I felt reasonably niggle free. I relocated to Wallingford to start a new job and joined up with the local running group; Run Wallingford, for some challenging training sessions. I completed my first Walsall Arboretum parkrun of the year in 29:15 and had some incredibly enjoyable runs in Sutton Park.

February

I was thrilled when I discovered I’d finally got a ballot place in the Royal Parks Half, and paid the £57+£3.95 postage and packaging entry fee without hesitating. A top tip, always check out the route and read the small print before entering expensive races. Although my Cambridge Half Marathon training continued, a frustrating knee niggle meant that I missed quite a few key training runs. I think it’s safe to say I didn’t feel very confident as the half marathon approached. I completed one parkrun in a slightly faster time of 28:44 and set myself the target of running the 5k distance in less than 25 minutes in 2018.

March

I unfortunately missed my target race the Cambridge Half Marathon due to illness; a touch embarrassing when I’d raised £500 for The Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust. Once I’d recovered, I completed the inaugural and very exclusive, Four Oaks Half with Ellen and spent the rest of the day in bed feeling terrible.Post run selfieI also found myself running laps around Walsall Arboretum three times in March in times of 28:03, 29:05 and 29:51.Walsall parkrun 24_03_18 1

[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

So much for getting faster with each parkrun, I’m definitely getting slower with age. A highlight of one of my trips to Walsall Arboretum was getting to meet blogging and running superstar; Anna the Apple.

April

At the beginning of April, I realised that I wasn’t really enjoying running, heading out the door had become a chore. After following training plans for what felt like months, I decided to run for fun for a while. It was time to keep it simple with no time or distance pressures. This approach seemed to work, and I completed what turned out to be my most enjoyable race of the year; the Cathedral to Castle 10 mile run in a respectable time.Hopwas Woods

[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

It’s just a shame in typical Emma style I managed to injure my right knee during the race. I ended up missing a 10k race I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity to enter again; the Treehouse 10k in Cholsey near Wallingford.

May

The start of May saw me reach the grand old age of 39! I can’t believe I’m nearly 40, I don’t feel like I’ve achieved very much. The highlight of what was a really low-key birthday was my right knee coping with a five-mile run after work. The following Bank Holiday weekend I celebrated my birthday with a trip to Walsall Arboretum parkrun – I was quite pleased to finish in 28:18 – and far, far too much food and drink.

The following weekend I completed Walsall Arboretum parkrun in 27:10, my fastest parkrun of 2018. I met up with Ellen for a couple of training runs in Sutton Park, experienced a not so relaxing post-work run with Run Wallingford, and at the end of the month, jogged around the hottest race ever; the Wallingford Thames Run.Group photo

[Photo: Run Wallingford]

The pint of cold and refreshing beer tasted amazing, all races should provide bars and BBQs. Looking back, May was a pretty awesome month.

June

The first weekend in June saw me complete a not very enjoyable Walsall Arboretum parkrun in 28:14, and the even less enjoyable Great Midlands Fun Run the following day. The highlight of the weekend was definitely the BBQ and beer afterward. I’ve said it before, but don’t think I’ll enter the Great Midlands Fun Run again, each year I either end up injured or have a shit time. I shared a really personal blog and received a shed load of support from people I’ll probably never meet. I completed another boiling hot race; the Aldridge 10k and failed to achieve a sub-60 minute 10k.

July

At the start of the month I shared a halfway(ish) through the year running goals progress report and adjusted some of my goals. Thanks to some major rail engineering works, I spent the weekend in Wallingford and finally popped my parkrun tourism cherry at a boiling hot Didcot parkrun.Didcot pakrun group 2

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

A couple of weeks later, I returned to Walsall Arboretum and completed my tenth parkrun of the year in 27:52. I accepted that my sub 25-minute goal would have to wait until 2019, I just wasn’t fast enough. The following morning, I found myself running in Sutton Park with Ellen.Sutton Park ice cream

I was reminded that running with others is really, really good fun. I also discovered that I can run a couple of miles immediately after eating an ice cream without any repercussions. The end of July saw me complete the incredibly challenging and soggy Abbott Trail 10k and start my Royal Parks Half Marathon training.

August

Unfortunately, August wasn’t the most positive of months as my PhD supervisor, mentor and close friend Geoff Petts passed away. I’ll never forget opening the email with the heading ‘Geoff’ and realising that I’d missed my opportunity chance to say goodbye. Running and the Boat House pub next to the River Thames became my escape mechanisms. Although I *may* on occasion have had a few too many beers, I managed to complete the majority of my training runs.Sutton Park parkrun finish

[Photo: Richard Hill]

I also attended and wrote a brief review of the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun. After several failed attempts to get a Sutton Park parkrun up and running, it felt amazing to finally have a parkrun in my local park.

September

September was a far more positive month. I completed another four weeks of half marathon training and just about managed to avoid picking up any injuries. I really enjoyed a spot of volunteering at Sutton Park parkrun and managed to bag myself a sneaky PB at the Little Aston 5 mileparkrun volunteering

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

The following weekend I completed the Lichfield 10k in a disappointing 61:17. I made my usual mistake of setting out at a far too ambitious pace and paid the price. So much for finishing in under 60 minutes.Lichfield 10k

[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

While my own performance was pretty shit, my sister-in-law Julie completed the 10k distance in an absolutely amazing time.Lichfield 10k 2018

My slightly disappointing 28:23 parkrun summed up September. At the end of September, I returned to my old university to present some of my research at a hydrology conference. The conference was emotionally draining as it was originally going to be a large part of Geoff’s retirement celebrations.

October

The first Friday in October saw me travel into London for Geoff’s memorial service. The congregation was a who’s who of academia and hydrology. This quote will stay with me forever:

“The candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long”

I stepped up my fundraising efforts and got closer to my £1000 target. Thanks again to everyone who sponsored me. I completed the final few sessions of half marathon training and felt quite confident I’d be able to achieve my sub 2:15 goal. I travelled to London the day before the half marathon and spent a slightly emotional day walking around parts of Marylebone and Southwark.

I wouldn’t recommend eating three large meals the day before a half marathon. I went to bed feeling like a giant slug. The weather on the morning of the Royal Parks Half was incredibly ‘hydrological’, I don’t think I’ve ever run in such wet conditions. The course was more than a little disappointing, I don’t think I’ll enter the ballot again.Royal Parks Half

I’m a little ashamed to admit that immediately after the Royal Parks half I completely lost my running mojo; I just didn’t feel like running. I wasn’t injured, I just couldn’t be bothered to pull on my trainers.

November

I’ve just checked my training log and discovered that I ran seven miles in November. The combination of a persistent knee niggle combined with a complete loss of running mojo meant that I just didn’t feel like running. Even buying new running gear in the Black Friday sales and reading my favourite running blogs didn’t seem to help.

I ran Sutton Park parkrun with Fetchie Rachel, realised that my knee still didn’t feel 100 per cent, and decided to DNS both the Birmingham MoRun and the Birmingham Christmas BII 10k. In an attempt to rediscover my running mojo, I treated myself to some running magazines. My loss of mojo had one slightly unexpected advantage, all the extra free time meant that I managed to get most of my Christmas presents purchased and wrapped and Christmas cards written. I also managed to complete some slightly overdue product reviews. Every cloud and all of that shebang.

On the final day of November, I entered the Run up to Christmas virtual running challenge and set myself the target of completing 50 km before Christmas Day.

December

December got off to a far, far more positive start. My right knee finally decided to stop randomly hurting, and for the first time in a month, I actually wanted to run. I got up stupidly early one Saturday morning and entered my target race for the second half of 2019. I met up with Ellen for a series of weekend runs in Sutton Park, these saw us running in some slightly tricky conditions. I also managed to fit in a few runs around Wallingford after work.Rainy Selfie

A lack of transport meant that I unfortunately didn’t make it to the Wheaton Aston 10k yesterday. I can’t wait to get my own car in 2019. After really enjoying quite literally running into this year, I’m planning on running into 2019.

In standard Emma style, I’ve already set myself some running and fitness goals for 2019. Some are quite challenging, and some scare me a little. I just need my left foot to behave itself as I want to start running regularly again. I’ve got two half marathons in London in March.

I think it’s safe to say that on both a personal level and as a runner, 2018 had its ups and downs. Probably more ups than downs. Although my monthly mileage was reasonably consistent throughout most of the year, you can see where I completely lost my running mojo. This combined with a couple of niggles, meant that I got nowhere near my target of running 1000 km in 2018.

2018 milesI’m hoping that 2019 is slightly less turbulent.

What was the running highlight of 2018 for you? Although the weather was far from ideal, my running highlight was completing the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

What are your running and fitness goals for 2019? I’ve set myself the challenge of not buying any unessential running related purchases. I failed in 2018 but will succeed in 2019!

Rants and Raves #31

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post while trying to shut out the noise one of my housemates is making in the kitchen. I’ve no idea what he’s cooking, but it’s taking him a long time. As a result, this blog may be slightly more ranty than usual. As always, all rants and raves and moans and groans represent my own views. Other, less negative running and fitness blogs are available**

Rave: Christmas

After I spent last Christmas feeling quite stressed out, this year I’m doing more to embrace Christmas. I’ve been organised and have bought and wrapped most of my Christmas presents. I’m trying not to worry about the presents I still need to buy. I’ve written and posted my Christmas cards, and helped mum decorate the Christmas tree in the conservatory. I organised the team Christmas meal and definitely won the ‘most pints consumed’ competition.

I think it’s safe to say I’m making a lot more effort this year. I’m still, however, occasionally struggling to deal with what I call Christmas madness. And don’t get me started on the wonky Christmas tree at work.

Rant: Christmas madness

As soon as December started, the local shops got ridiculously busy, traffic on the roads increased, and people (me included) went into Christmas madness mode. I spend my morning walks through the centre of Wallingford playing dodge the vomit and was heckled on my most recent run by a drunken Santa.

Christmas party

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I won’t mention hangovers. After somehow managing to drink six pints of beer on Tuesday evening, Wednesday was a struggle. At one stage on Wednesday morning I was told I looked green. At the grand old age of 39, I really should know my limits. Then again, it’d only Christmas once a year and I won’t be working in the same place next Christmas. I’m looking forward to finishing work on Friday and escaping the madness.

Rave: European Cross Country Championships

Thanks to the BBC Sport website I was able to watch the recent European Cross Country Championships. I love watching elite athletes run cross country races, they make it look relatively effortless. I, unfortunately, felt that the commentators were a little negative about the overall performance of the British athletes. Like many others, my highlights of the championships were the amazing and seemingly unstoppable Ingebrigtsen brothers – have you watched Team Ingebrigtsen on YouTube, they are hilarious – and French U23 winner; Jimmy Gressier. Jimmy Gressier

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Jimmy most definitely defended his title in style. I can’t help but think that the clip of Jimmy’s epic finish will end up on ‘What Happened Next’ on A Question of Sport.

Rant: My left foot

Apologies, but I want to quickly complain about my left foot again. I need to start training for my half marathon(s) in March. I’m hoping that the current soreness at the site of my previous stress fracture is related to the cold weather. I don’t want another stress fracture. If my foot continues to feel sore, I’ll be heading to the minor injuries unit of my local hospital.

Rave: Increased awareness of RED-S

I’ve briefly blogged about this in the past, but I recently discovered that my dubious eating habits when I was a teenager are likely to have left me with fragile bones. I wish that awareness of what was termed the female athlete triad had been more widely available when I was a teenager. The internet didn’t really exist – yes, I am that old – so accessing information was difficult.

Fast forward to 2018, and the female athlete triad now has a far more appropriate name; Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) syndrome.

“RED-S can affect male and female athletes and became a recognised condition in 2014 – replacing another condition called female athlete triad, which recognised the effect of too few calories among sportswomen only.”

Recently, high profile athletes including Anna Boniface and Bobby Clay have shared their stories. The increased awareness of RED-S and the development of the FitrWoman App are both really positive developments.

Rant: Fixed-term contracts

A rather random rant, but being the only person on a fixed-term contract in a team of permanent staff can be difficult. It’s hard to explain, but although my colleagues are amazing and have been incredibly supportive, I’ve never really felt part of the team. Having to attend meetings about projects with deadlines after I finish can be a little awkward and dare I say a little pointless.

Fixed term contract

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My contract comes to an end in March and I’m searching for and applying for jobs. I’m slightly concerned that I’m going to spend the rest of my working life moving from one fixed-term contract to another. I’ve realised that I need to invest more time in my long-term future, the fixed-term job can some second. Perhaps not the right attitude, but I need to get better at putting my career first.

Rave: Sweaty Betty Anna headband

I decided to treat myself to the Anna headband in the recent Sweaty Betty sale. I’m not going to write 100+ words about a headband. To summarise, it’s amazing, possibly the best £10 I’ve spent this year. It keeps my hair under control and also keeps my slightly sticky outy ears warm when it’s cold. I’m hoping that wearing a hairband rather than a running cap will be less damaging to my hair.

Rant: My bargainous coat

Unfortunately, not all of my recent purchases have been as successful. Last week, I spotted a coat in the red sticker section of my local TK Maxx. The coat fitted me perfectly – always a pleasant surprise – so my step-father bought it for me, and then let me keep hold of it. The first time I wore the coat I noticed a few feathers poking out of the seams. My North Face coat moulted a little when it was new so I thought nothing of it.

My bargainous coat seems to be determined to shed all of its feathers. Each time I remove it, I discover feathers stuck to whatever I’m wearing underneath. I’m a little concerned that the coat will shed so many feathers, it will lose most of its padding and insulation. I guess I found it in the reduced section of TK Maxx for a reason!

Rave: Sainsbury’s running mugs

I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted a range of fitness-related gifts in the slightly scary seasonal aisle of my local Sainsbury’s. The mugs only cost £3 each, so I treated myself to six. I’m so clumsy it’s safer for me to buy breakable items in bulk.Sainsburys mugFitness gifts

I also spotted reasonably priced gifts for cyclists, gym goers, and golfers. I think I need to point out that I most definitely don’t work for Sainsbury’s! I once applied for a seasonal job and didn’t progress past the first stage. This failure meant that I applied for a job at M&S, had a brilliant time, and made some friends for life. Thanks, Sainsbury’s.

If you’ve reached the end and have read all of my completely 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. I do feel a lot better now that I’ve put pen to paper so to speak.

Are you ready for Christmas?

Did you have to go into the office the morning after your work Christmas party?

What is your best running purchase of 2018?

A weekend of food, fun, friends and running

Good morning, Happy Monday etc.

I hope that everyone who reads this had an awesome weekend. Mine didn’t get off to the best of starts when Wolves lost at Cardiff. I keep telling myself it’s only a game… At least I remembered to enter the Run up to Christmas virtual event.Run up to ChristmasI set my alarm for 06:30 on Saturday as I wanted to enter one of my target races for 2019. This race is known to sell out quickly, and I didn’t want to miss out due to my laziness. My approach worked and I managed to get a place. Places are transferable so if I can’t run, someone else will be able to take my place.

I looked out the window, saw that it was quite ‘hydrological’ and decided to stay at home. My local parkrun will still be there next week. As the weather was vile, I popped round to my friend’s house, and spent the morning wrapping Christmas presents and writing Christmas cards.Christmas funI *think* I’ve only got a couple more presents to buy. A good job as my next payday isn’t until just before Christmas. After paying the deposit for the work Christmas meal – yes, in typical Emma style I left organising the work Christmas meal until the last possible minute – my credit card needs a bit of a break.

After a much-needed afternoon nap, I had a quick shower, got changed and then headed to the local pub to meet Anna. We had a couple of pints and then decided to walk to Sainsbury’s. Have you ever walked around a supermarket after a few pints? I bought some really random bits and pieces and apparently tried to sing along to “Walking in the Air” when it started to play. Opps, I’m sorry Anna.Sainsburys ChristmasI didn’t treat myself to a running mug because I knew I was unlikely to get it home in one piece. They only cost £3 so I may well end up treating myself next time I’m shopping. We walked to my favourite pub – The Butlers Arms – had a couple more pints and staggered home.

Rather frustratingly I woke well before my alarm. I think I was still a little drunk from the night before. Although it was still dark and I felt terrible, I decided to get up to make a start on some slightly overdue house work. At 08:30 I got ready for my first run since Sutton Park parkrun on November 10th. I was a little concerned when I found the mile or so run to Ellen’s house really difficult.

I met up with Ellen feeling like I’d just finished a 10 mile run. It’s amazing how quickly running fitness disappears. We had a quick discussion about our running options while I removed a layer, and decided to head into the park with the aim of taking it steady, walking when we needed to and having an enjoyable run.
Sutton ParkWe ran past Little Bracebridge Pool and after a short walking break, ran across Lower and Upper Arena Fields towards the Jamboree Stone. At this stage we found ourselves on the Sutton Park parkrun route so decided to follow the route down to Longmoor Pool. I’ve included this map of the park to show where we ran, if you ever end up in Birmingham, definitely head to Sutton Park.Sutton_Park_map-1We crossed the parkrun finish line in first and second place, ran towards Banners Gate and then stopped for a breather. I must admit that at this stage I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back to where we started as I was shattered. I regretted not having breakfast. We started running again, found ourselves back on the parkrun route and headed towards Lord Donegal’s Ride and the Hill of Doom.

Hill of Doom navigated, we ran towards the Jamboree Stone and decided to stop at the ice cream van for a rest, something to drink and to take a selfie. I really need to work on my selfie posing skills 🙂
Sutton Park selfieAfter a quite lengthy rest – we remembered to pause our Garmins – we ran away from the Jamboree Stone down an incredibly steep hill towards Blackroot Pool. This was where the really energy-sapping muddy fun started. At one stage we had no idea where which was slightly concerning. Completely by chance, we found ourselves back on the path that leads to Little Bracebridge Pool. We reached the pool, realised we’d covered six miles and decided to walk the short distance back to Ellen’s.

We spent a bit of time drinking tea and coffee, eating the most amazing toast and talking about possible training plans for our next half marathons. I think it’s safe to say I didn’t really want to leave as I was enjoying the running chat so much. Thanks for a brilliant run Ellen!

The rest of my Sunday wasn’t as much fun, and the afternoon and early evening seemed to fly by far too quickly. One minute it was midday, the next it was 17:00 and I had to leave to start the long journey back to Wallingford.

I’m looking forward to more muddy running fun in Sutton Park next weekend.

Did you have a good weekend? I feel like weekends should last five days and the working week two days.

Have you entered any target races for 2019? The marathon I entered on Saturday scares me a little.

How are your Christmas preparations going? I haven’t decorated the house yet and need to buy a few more family Christmas cards but feel more organised than this time last year.

OmegaBrite premium Omega-3 supplement review

I think it’s safe to say, I’m a pretty injury-prone runner. My most recent injury – a painful right knee – made an unexpected and unwelcome appearance when I was walking to work. Not ideal, as I was about to start training for my next half marathon in March.

When OmegaBrite approached me to review their Omega-3 gelcaps, I did some research, liked what I read, and agreed to try out OmegaBrite and write a review.omegabrite-gelcapsNormally, I’m not a huge fan of taking supplements, and will try to source the vitamins and nutrients I need from food. However, since the start of the year I’ve been living in a shared house, and have struggled to access the kitchen. As a result, my diet hasn’t been as varied as it could have been.

My box of OmegaBrite gelcaps arrived, I read through the information provided, and decided to start the trial after the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Now that I’ve reached the end of the box and the trial, I feel that I’m in a position to produce what I hope will be an informative review.

What is OmegaBrite?

OmegaBrite is described as a physician formulated, pharmaceutical quality supplement. Each box comes with 60 x 500mg easy to swallow gelcaps. Each gelcap is scientifically formulated with high purity EPA for maximum benefit.

The extremely pure 90% Omega-3 supplement has been scientifically formulated to promote a number of benefits:

  • Cardiac health
  • Emotional well-being
  • Joint health
  • Cognitive clarity
  • Positive mood
  • Eye health

According to the manufacturer, OmegaBrite customers take the supplement for a range of reasons including cardiac and joint health. As OmegaBrite is an Omega-3 supplement, it is a natural anti-inflammatory and is, therefore, great for muscle recovery after exercise.back-of-boxAs a keen but injured runner, I was curious to see if OmegaBrite would help to reduce the pain and inflammation in my right knee. Although I must admit I was a little sceptical when I started taking the gelcaps, I was also interested to see if OmegaBrite would improve my mood. Recently, a complete lack of decent sleep combined with some stressful life events have combined to leave me feeling a little gloomy and irritable. I’m pretty sure I’ve been a bit of a nightmare to work with!

The review process

In theory, the review process was straightforward. All I had to do was take three easy-to-swallow OmegaBrite gelcaps per day with a meal. Each box contains 60 capsules so my trial should have lasted approximately three weeks.

It took me a few days to get into the habit of taking the OmegaBrite capsules. I think it’s safe to say I’m not great at remembering to take tablets. I didn’t want to take the gelcaps at lunchtime – I’m concerned my colleagues already think I have slightly unusual eating habits – so I decided to wait until my evening meal. Looking back, this was a bit of a mistake as I don’t always eat in the evening.

The gelcaps are described as easy-to-swallow, however, by the time I got to my third gelcap, I was reminded that I’ve never been very good at swallowing tablets. omega-3-capsI managed to overcome this minor hurdle by taking one gelcap before, one during and one immediately after my evening meal. I also found taking the gelcaps with a lot of water quite beneficial. My water intake increased a lot during this trial, definitely a positive.

The Verdict

After completing the three week trial of OmegaBrite Omega-3 gelcaps, I can confirm that this supplement is gentle on the digestive system. My somewhat temperamental digestive system tolerated the OmegaBrite gelcaps, a good job as five days a week, I live in a shared house with only one working toilet.

When I started the OmegaBrite trial, I had a painful right knee. I had no idea what I’d done to my knee, but it would get increasingly painful during each walk to and from the office. Walking down the stairs in the office was a challenge, and running was unfortunately completely out of the question.  OmegaBrite-omega-3I’m pleased to report that the Inflammation gradually decreased while I was taking the OmegaBrite gelcaps. Unfortunately, the pain in my right knee didn’t appear to improve much. Although I have a feeling that only complete rest will help my right knee recover, it will be interesting to see how my knee reacts now that I’ve stopped taking OmegaBrite.

One of the main benefits of OmegaBrite is described as ‘mood elevation’. Since the weekend of the Royal Parks Half Marathon, I’ve been feeling increasingly fatigued and quite irritable. Although the OmegaBrite didn’t completely eliminate my irritability, I do think my mood improved during the trial. My stress levels also seemed to decrease, pretty impressive when you consider I didn’t run once during the trial. Once again, it will be interesting to see what happens now I’ve stopped taking OmegaBrite. I’m actually a little concerned I’ll turn back into a ‘mardy Mary’.

Would I recommend OmegaBrite? Yes, I genuinely believe that OmegaBrite helped to reduce the inflammation in my right knee. I also found that the supplement helped to improve my mood. Perhaps both were some sort of placebo effect, I genuinely don’t know.

OmegaBrite are available from OmegaBrite and other online retailers and have a RRP of £29.99 for 60 gelcaps.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a packet of OmegaBrite gelcaps for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As I somehow managed to delete all the photos I took, all images are taken from the OmegaBrite website. As always, all opinions are my own**