2013 – A review

So 2013 is nearly up. At the end of a year, before starting to think up new goals and resolutions for the year ahead, it’s always good to look back on how far you’ve come this year. Personally 2013 has been great for my running and had turned out to be the year of the PB, which feels fantastic. I have set new PBs at 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon distance, and I have the data from my Garmin to prove it.

2013 - a year of PBs
2013 – a year of PBs

I’m also delighted to see that I’ve doing more running this year than any other. 747.93 miles run over 137 hours 37 minutes 17 seconds. Phew -I feel the need for a sit down and a restorative glad* of wine just thinking about it.

2013 Report

Now whilst I’m comfortable, let me think about new goals for 2014…

*this of course should be glass of wine. Although I was very glad of it as well

December’s Excuses, Builders and Alien Invasions

Picture the scene. I’m lying on my bedroom floor trying to hide under the bed. All around me is noise – crashes, bangs, electrical equipment. Strange men are shouting and figures are going past my windows.

Was it an earthquake? Was my home being burgled? Was it an alien invasion?? Some of all of the above actually. We had builders. A small extension we’d been planning for 10 years was finally taking shape, but it meant my home had been invaded and over run.

Over the last few weeks I have made it out for just a few runs, sneaking off in my lycra when work was going well and I wasn’t going to be needed to answer any ‘technical’ questions for half an hour. I had days when I planned to run, but then the plumber turned up and the water was turned off. Or the electrician switched the power off. Or there were just too many people needing cups of tea and coffee to keep them happy and working. Determined to do something instead of running, I decided I would try an Advent ‘plank’ streak instead.

So throughout December I have tried my best to do a plank every day, building up my time from a pitiful 40 seconds to a slightly more respectable 2 minutes and 10 seconds. It hasn’t been a compete success, as I did miss a few days. I was often to be found planking in the early hours of the morning just before going to bed. On the day of the ‘hiding from the alien invasion’ I was spotted planking on my bedroom floor by one of the builders heading across the front of the house to the portaloo. It’s amazing quite how quickly I found I could ‘drop and roll’ and pretend to be looking under the bed for something.

As we come to the end of December, our builders are having a break, the first phase of our building work is very nearly finished and thoughts are turning to January and New Year’s resolutions. I have signed up to Janathon and Jantastic, both of which should encourage* me to get out and run as well as building my fitness and strength in other ways. Oh and Janathon will ensure I get back into the habit of blogging regularly. Brace yourselves!

* encourage / prod / shame

The Epic Review Post

Picture the scene. Wimbledon 2011, World class tennis is being played, the sun is shining, the strawberries are over priced and I’m lucky enough to be there. I’m handed a plastic glass full of Pimms and ice, which I’d never tried before, but which looked delicious. I take a cautious sip. I’m not immediately bowled over by the taste. I gently swill it round my mouth and make little lip smacking ‘tasty’ noises and try to decide if I like it or not. I take another sip and repeat. Another sip, more lip smacking, more deliberation. Finally I  reach the bottom of the glass and decide that, all things considered (not least that I’ve drunk every drop and am now starting on the fruit), I did enjoy it.

Fast forward two and a half years, to find me stressed having not run since the Running Show 10K 10 days ago, surounded by builders’ noise and dust. On an impulse I decided to run away from the chaos for just half an hour. I also decided it would be a great time to road test the bag of goodies I brought home from the Running Show.

Ron Hill Half Zip Running Top
My new Ron Hill Half Zip Running Top

I grabbed my new Ron Hill long sleeved top which I’d bought for half price at the Running Show. Although I have several (cough cough) long sleeve tops already, I was drawn to this one because it had useful pockets on the back, like on a cycling jersey. It also had a very special zip neck. With all zip up tops (and jackets and gilets) I’ve had before, as soon as I undo the zip I find the edges of the collar really annoying and flappy. I end up having to tuck the edges in to stop the flapping, which isn’t attractive. This top though, has curved edges at the top of the collar, so I’m hopeful it won’t flap.

I love new socks, and had been delighted to find a pair in my Goody Bag from the ‘Write This Run’ conference. I read another attendee’s blog  (Lucy Lemon) who said that having tried on her socks she ‘may never take them off again’ so I had high expectations that they were going to be comfy.
Balega Socks from my Write This Run goody bag
Balega Socks from my Write This Run goody bag

With size 6 (and a bit) feet I was hoping the medium size would be big enough, and they did fit very nicely. They were padded nicely around the tops, heels and toes which was looking good for keeping my feet warm on a cold Autumn day. They did come quite a long way up over my ankles which might bother the sort of people who love ‘anklet’ socks (you know, the sort that disappear  inside your shoes as you’re running and you have to stop and retrieve them), but was fine for me.

I also pulled out the packet of Bonders which I’d found in my Goodie bag from the Write This Run conference. Reading the instructions these little pieces of Velcro are designed to hold your laces down so they don’t come undone whilst you’re running.

Bonders from my Write This Run goody bag
Bonders from my Write This Run goody bag

I laced my shoes up, then looked at the Bonders. They sound like a good idea, but by the time I’d knotted my laces I didn’t have long enough ‘loops’ to be able to use the Bonders to strap them down to my shoe. Then I realised that if I did have long enough loops, I would probably just tie my laces in a double knot anyway.

Instead of my faithful waist pouch I popped my phone into the zipped pocket of my top. As I set off, I could feel it jiggling and bouncing slightly, and just as I thought it was going to be too annoying to leave there, I was distracted by something, and then forgot all about it.
New Ron Hill Top
I’m not a cyclist, but loving these pockets

I only remembered it was there when I had to stop to answer my phone and it was easier to extract than having to rumage under layers of clothing. I found the other pockets very useful for stuffing in some litter I found on a pristine footpath (the Wombles would be proud of me.) As the weather gets colder I can see these pockets being great for discarding gloves, hats, ear warmers etc as I warm up.

The small hill after a mile and a half was enough for me to need to undo the zip a little and let some fresh air in. Amazingly, this resulted in no annoying flappage, even when I undid the zip to about halfway, The zip is long (undoing it fully would reveal most of my sports bra) so there is plenty of ventilation if I need it. And don’t mind flashing my underwear.

Talking of underwear, after about a mile I had suddenly become aware of the underside of my socks. The socks have lovely thick sections under the ball of the foot and the heel, and a tighter thinner section around the innerstep. I could suddenly feel the edge of one of these sections. I have had this with other socks so I suspect I get this when my feet are cold, and sure enough after another mile the feeling disappeared. For the rest of my run my feet were lovely and toasty until I hit ‘that puddle’ at 5 miles. As I felt the cold puddle soaking into my socks, my thoughts turned to what was waiting for me at home. Not the builders with their associated dust and noise, but a sachet of ‘Apres’ Chocmalt hot recovery drink.

Chocmalt Flavour Hot  'Apres' drink
Chocmalt Flavour Hot ‘Apres’ drink

I usually have a hot chocolate when I get back from a  run so I was intrigued to see what chocolate and malt tasted like, and to see if I felt better after a ‘proper’ recovery drink. Squelching around the kitchen I mixed the powder with hot water, and took a sip. I swilled it round my mouth and made little lip smacking ‘tasty’ noises to try to decide if I liked it or not. I took another sip, unsure whether I like it or not. Suddenly I am back at Wimbledon again, sipping and tasting. The Chocmalt isn’t as sweet as hot chocolate, but this means I didn’t feel so guilty about drinking it. It would also appeal to people who aren’t used to such sweet drinks. It feels very satisfying to drink and would be wonderful to have after a cold, wet trail race.  Like the Pimms two and a half years ago, I reached the bottom of the cup still smacking my lips, and decided I did like it. Yum!

Product Scores

Ron Hill Top – I loved this top. Great fit, thoughtful design around the neck, and useful pockets. Its on the top of my pile of running clothes, ready to be put straight back on. I *think* this top is a ‘Ron Hill Ladies Trail Long Sleeve Zip Tee’, but mine didn’t have the labels on. Ron Hill’s website is here, and their stuff is available from all good sporting outlets. And some bad ones. Probably.
Three Stars! three-stars

Balega Socks – Again, I loved these socks. Tight enough not to rub my feet, but not constricting. Long enough so I don’t get that cold gap between tights and socks. These are my new favourite socks, which means they will soon be a sad grey ‘mud stained’ colour. Company website is here, but I’m sure they’re available from all good sports retailers.
Three Stars!three-stars

Bonders – Just didn’t work for me,and I can’t see how they’re better than double knotting your laces. Available from www.4Distance.co.uk if they’re your sort of thing.
No Stars No Stars

Après Hot Recovery Drink – Much tastier than I thought it would be, but at £1.99 a sachet a little expensive for everyday use. I will buy some to take to races, with a flask of hot water and a mug, to enjoy before the drive home. Check them out here.
Two Stars Two Stars

Please Note – with the exception of the Ron Hill top, which I paid for myself, the other products were all given free of charge, and I have received no payment for this review.

Notes on the B&T Star rating 
3 Stars = How have I lived my life up to this point without this?
2 Stars = Pretty good, but I’m hard to impress.
1 Star = Not for me. Someone else maybe, but not me.
No Stars = What were they thinking of?

The Running Show 10K Race

(Cue Claire Balding)
“It’s a cold morning here at Sandown Park as the runners gather by the paddock,  ready for the off.  Breath steaming in the autumn air,  manes being tossed excitedly,  and fetlocks a-quiver in anticipation of the race ahead. Everyone looks in fine form,  although they seem to have forgotten their horses …”

I am always amazed at the places that running takes me, from knee-high mud in the back of beyond, to pounding the streets of our capital city. I have run around a motor racing circuit, but never before around a horse racing course. On 24th November 2013, at the Running Show 10K Race at Sandown park that was all about to change.

I knew we wouldn’t be actually running on the race course itself (those jumps look big!) We would be running a two lap race, each of which wound its way around various buildings, then ran alongside the race course. A lycra-clad cyclist (demonstrating an impressive power stance) made sure we made a u-turn around a strategically placed bin and headed back the way we’d just come. Being nosy I love seeing ‘behind the scenes’ of, well anywhere really, so I really enjoyed spotting all stables, the yards and especially the horse showers as we ran. Running on the narrow paths, whilst keeping to one side to leave room for the faster (or slower) runners going in the opposite direction meant it wasn’t easy to overtake on this course. However the surprising amount of uphill meant this was never going to be a PB course for me anyway. The knowledge of what happens to race horses who fall was enough to keep everyone trotting along fairly smartly.

After my second lap I puffed and panted my way over the line, received my medal and a cup of water, and then made my second amazing discovery of the day.* Fruit flavoured coconut water is disgusting and should be avoided at all costs. Bet if they gave that to the horses they’d spit it out as well.


*First was that horses had showers. Who’d have thought it?