The horrors of cycling apparel

To celebrate me finishing my first semester of ECE studies yesterday, I signed me and the Husband up for what will be our first century ride – excluding his Ironman exploits, of course! We’re doing the Surf City Aids Ride in Santa Cruz in September! I am super-excited about this new challenge. My bottom is a little more apprehensive!

Over the weekend, I’ll be working out a training plan for this, plus my next big half in November and a little hill climb I want to do over the summer, but it means that over the next three or four months I’m going to be ramping up the amount of cycling I’ll be doing. I have plenty of workout clothes so I’m going to try to buy as little additional cycling clothing as possible but there are a few things I do actually need.

In the past, I’ve worn simple padded shorts and running tops. Because I’ve ridden a touring bike with a rack on the back, I’ve been able to carry a nice big bag with me, and it’s carried most of my worldly goods.

 

I like to carry a lot of stuff when I cycle

I like to carry a lot of stuff when I cycle

 

But Margarita has no such rack. And my teeny tiny saddle bag means I have to wear something with copious amounts of pockets so I can carry all my stuff.  In addition, I do need to woman up and learn to clip into my pedals, which means I need some cycling shoes. (These are the very epitome of ugly). I think these two items are all I’ll need.

But OH, cycling clothes are so VERY ugly.

I’ve always thought that cycling clothes are particularly dreadful. We’ve all seen overweight MAMILS (middle-aged-men-in-lycra) wearing the most horrific, lurid cycling clothes as they slog uphill on their bikes, and I’ve shuddered. NOT at the guys (I NEVER mock people getting fit) but there are some UGLY jerseys out there!  The Fat Cyclist did an awesome post about it!!

This is a Colombian men’s cycling team.

 

 

Colombian ladies don’t get off any more lightly.

Colombian bikers 3

 

There are some HORRIFIC cycling jerseys out there for us girls. In fact, there’s a whole Tumblr devoted to  bad women’s jerseys.

So I’ve been exploring companies that make NICE cycling clothes for women. I asked for recommendations on twitter and THESE companies were suggested, as people who make clothes that don’t make you die inside when you put them on.

Please note – some of these companies aren’t particularly cheap (nothing about cycling is particularly cheap) but they have sales. Also, none of these are affiliate links. No-one pays me to blog. If they did, I’d be spending it on a really nice cycling jersey.

America

Coeur

It seems that all the cool California kids wear Coeur! They’re kind of like the Oiselle of the cycling/tri world but not as obnoxious. Their gear is seriously nice but slightly out of my price range so I’m hanging in there for the sales.

Twin Six

Recommended by Kristen, these guys have some cool retro-style jerseys. They also do ‘bundles’ where you buy the jersey and the shorts and get 16% off, which I find really appealing.

Assos

A Swiss company also recommended by Kristen, these guys deliver to the US and Europe. Their clothes are nice but their marketing is frankly so sexist that I’m boycotting them. This isn’t something I do often… but seriously!  Once again, the Fat Cyclist nailed this on the head with this Open Letter To Assos. (You need to read this).

Team Estrogen

Despite spelling oestrogen wrongly, they have some good stuff. They also have a Game of Thrones inspired range! I would willingly spend a fortune for a GoT themed jersey, but it’s just unfortunate that the jersey named after my favourite GoT lady, Cersei, is so ugly. And why does the Daenerys jersey have fish on it?? DRAGONS is what’s needed. I would definitely buy a dragon-themed jersey!

cersei

The Cersei jersey. Can you see the Mother of Madness wearing this monstrosity?

 

Lexi Miller

Danielle recommended this company to me and I kind of wish she hadn’t, because their Wrapture jersey is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen and it’s about three times my price range! Ever since seeing it, nothing else has compared.

Be still my dodgily-valved heart!

Be still my dodgily-valved heart!

She also recommended Smashfest Queen and Betty Designs . They’re not my style but are definitely worth checking out.

Dude Girl

I have one of their t-shirts and I love it, so I’m inclined towards some of their stuff. I like their Bike Love jersey but am not good with white. (I’m the girl who got dog poo on her wedding dress.

dude girl

 

UK

There are some great UK companies out there at the moment and these guys all deliver to the US.

Minx-girl

These guys are my fave – I bought stuff from them before we moved out here. I really like their selection, they’re a lovely company fairly local to my parents and their sales are excellent. Also, I love the word ‘minx’.

Velovixen

Recommended by Rachel, I discovered these guys recently and their stuff is so stylish. They have some reasonably priced items and I want about half of what they have on the site.

Primal-Women-s-Bold-Jersey-Short-Sleeve-Jerseys-Grey-Green-Blue-Pink-SS15-BOL1J60W0

Thoughts? Is this too much black for a hot Californian summer?

 

Rapha is a very elegant, hipster-y British company who make very elegant and beautifully constructed (if slightly dull?) cycling clothes. Vulpine is another similar company and their founder is very funny on Twitter.

No idea what I’ll end up with.

Anyway. The summary of this blog post is:

  • I’m going to be cycling 100 miles in September.
  • I need a new jersey and some cycling shoes.
  • Much of what’s out there is very ugly

Before I wrap this up…let’s take a few minutes to be grateful we’re not wearing this!

wolf

…and PS…check this out for a laugh.

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Race Recap: The Strawberry Stampede 5k

Last week, due to my online commitment to get my bottom into gear, I did just that. I managed to do at least half an hour’s exercise every day except Saturday. I cycled, I ran and twice I did the Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred, which left me drenched in sweat and aching! I didn’t get to swim as it was pretty chilly here this week. It’s amazing how much even half an hour’s exercise makes a difference to your state of mind!!

Anyway. We spent Memorial Day weekend in San Luis Obispo county with the wonderful Marjolaine and her playboy! They live just outside LA, we live just outside SF so it was about halfway between. We’d driven through the area but never stopped there, so it was exciting to visit a new part of California. We rented a cute house in Atascadero.

On Sunday, we did a race, the Strawberry Stampede at Arroyo Grande, to the south of San Luis Obispo. The plan was for Marjolaine and me to race it and for my boys to run it together. The injured Playboy would take photos! I was hoping to PR or to finally go sub-25 – I wasn’t sure if either was a possibility. We were slightly late leaving the house and so arrived in Arroyo Grande slightly pressed for time. The Husband dropped us near the race staging area and dashed off to find parking – there was plenty of parking on the residential streets nearby.

The Strawberry Stampede is part of the Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival. There’s a 10k and a 5k. It was a really lovely little event. Lots of community feel about it. For me, however, it was kind of a disaster at the start. The Dude and I went to use the loo and jogged slowly back across the grass to the start line where the Husband was waiting. And Muggins here twisted her ankle again on the grass. It hurt! So I couldn’t decide whether to run with the Dude and let the Husband race or to press on with my plan. I tested it out a bit –  I could feel the ache in my foot but it wasn’t awful. Okay, I’d race it.

With four minutes to go, the Husband headed over the nearby loos, leaving me and the Dude to line up together. We positioned ourselves just behind the fast people and in front of the strollers. We were chatting away casually, a few minutes to go and suddenly the gun went off and oops, we were running.

Okay then, it looked like I was going to run with the Dude.

After my last race with him, which was ‘frustrating’, I went into this one with a very different perspective. I was super encouraging and perky throughout. And he ran pretty well. There was a lot of ‘Run to that stop sign then walk to the silver car’ throughout the whole race but he was in a good mood and we were having a lot of fun.

dude

At about a mile in, the Husband caught up with us. He said I could run on ahead and race but I felt it was just too far into the race, so we decided to run it together as a family. We’ve not done that before, so it was rather lovely actually. The course is an out-and-back. It winds through residential streets for a bit and then sets off past a big field. Very pretty. Not flat. The first runners headed back past us. The boys were flying. The first girl came through – she was about 8. (Seriously). Then Marjolaine flew past us. Girl is fast!

strawberry stampede

It was much prettier than it looks here

husband dude

My boys tearing up the course… (walk break)

 

We got to the turnaround point and continued our ‘run to the blue car, walk to the yellow sign’ pattern. The Dude was running well, we were having fun. And then, as we got back into Arroyo Grande, our little man heard the finish line commotion and set off at rocket speed, leaving me and the Husband looking like we weren’t trying.

The family that races together eats strawberries together

The family that races together eats strawberries together

At the finish line, there were strawberries for all finishers – genius idea! We caught up with Marjolaine who had come second woman overall with a time under 20 minutes (and behind the kid who turned out to be 10). They told us there would be about 40-45 minutes before the prize giving so we wandered into Arroyo Grande for coffee first. We got back in time for the awards ceremony only to find that they’d done that early as well so Marjolaine had missed out on her moment of glory and we had missed out on the joy of hearing someone try to pronounce her difficult French surname!

Marjolaine and her age-group-win medal..and the Dude with the solar powered hummingbird he talked his dad into buying him

Marjolaine and her age-group-win medal..and the Dude with the solar powered hummingbird he talked his dad into buying him

Apart from the ‘over-promptness’ with the starting gun and the prize giving, there was NOTHING not to like about this race. It’s a lovely event (very friendly) and the course is beautiful, if not easy!! It also measured a perfect 3.1 miles, which I appreciated enormously after the past few short courses I’ve run! It was only $30 which is a bargain these days. I would totally recommend doing this if you’re in the area next year!

Strawberries for finishers

Strawberries for finishers

My foot hurt for a day or so but is much better now! Back on the strength exercises again eh? Whilst I was a little disappointed not to race it and see how I fared, it was probably wise to take it easy, and being honest, I really enjoyed running it as a family. I count myself very lucky to have these boys to myself!

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Our epic bike trip

The post below is a repost of something I wrote back in 2012, just after I started the blog when basically only my Mum was reading it. A few of you may have read it since (in which case, come back later this week) but for some people it may be new. It was one of my biggest adventures and definitely one of the best things I did in my entire life, so I’m taking a chance of annoying you and republishing it!!! Hope you enjoy it!!

2008.

Before we had a baby, before we had a cat, before we lived in California, we took a month off work and cycled across Europe. This had been a long-term dream of mine – and was the one thing I absolutely had to do before we started a family. I had been planning the route for about a year on a mammoth spreadsheet, investigating roads, accommodation, things to see. I’m one of those people for whom planning is as much a joy as the trip itself,

We left in the May. However, in the January, I broke my leg skiing. My physiotherapist and I worked so hard to get ready and I have never been so flipping focused on anything in my life. So, come May, even though I couldn’t walk very well, we put our bikes on the plane and headed off.

When you break your leg, be sure to get your companion to take loads of photographs of the rescue operation.

We were just kids! Leaving Toulouse airport at the start of our trip

We started in lovely Toulouse, the pink city, in the South West of France, and cycled the gorgeous Canal du Midi, visited the amazing castle at Carcassonne and the Roman Arena in Arles before finishing in beautiful Aix-en-Provence, where, in my youth,  I spent six months as a student!!

Day One down the Canal du Midi

Amazing Carcassonne

Beautiful Arles

Market in Aix-en-Provence

Clock Tower in Aix

From Aix we entered the hill country so life got tougher but SO much more beautiful. We crossed the Luberon, saw Mont Ventoux, cycled up 4 ‘cols’ (mountain passes) and through the amazing Vercors National Park before plummeting like stones into the cool, Alpine University city of Grenoble.

Gobsmacking rock formations near the village of Remuzat

Me at my happiest, climbing the Col de Rousset

From Grenoble, it was lake-tastic. We started with beautiful, lakeside Aix-les-Bains and then cycled along Lake Geneva before spending an incredible day in the idyllic Alpine countryside along Interlaken. We then had a wonderful rest-day in the car-free, fairytale village of Muerren.

Paraglider outside Grenoble – alas it wasn’t me.

Lake Geneva

Lovely wooden bridge outside Interlaken

Breathtaking Lauterbrunnen

Muerren chalet

Our next leg crossed over the Brunig Pass to Luzern and its lovely lake, and then on to Rapperswil, a little lakeside town where frankly I could have stayed for the rest of my life! And then, in one day, we had breakfast in Switzerland, lunch in Liechtenstein and dinner in Austria! We then slogged slowly up the Arlberg Pass and along the Inn river in the rain to damp but beautiful Innsbruck.

Lake steamer outside Interlaken

My much adored bike Liesl by the SarnerSee

Walensee, Switzerland

Made it to Liechtenstein (Also…I remember that pre-child waist)

Our final leg followed the River Inn for a day or so before veering briefly into Germany for a night and then somehow we made it to Salzburg and our trip’s end.

Golden Roof in Innsbruck

1187 miles down and we finally made Salzburg

Because the Husband hadn’t carried enough weight during the past month…

My favourite place on earth – Salzburg

1200 miles in four weeks. I look back on those days and all we remember is the freedom and the happiness. Yes, we had tough days, our legs ached, we squabbled about map-reading, I had awful hay-fever, we got wet some days. But years later, all we remember is freedom. The freedom to choose the only clean clothes you have in your panniers. The freedom of the road, where map-reading is the only issue you face. The freedom to feel the rain in your face and the sun on your back. There is nothing like the buzz I got from the morning ritual of putting panniers on racks, swinging my leg over the crossbar and heading out into a new world. Just writing this makes me ache for that freedom. I totally don’t regret having our little man, but those happy days cycle-touring are the one thing I ache for.That season will come again before I know it, but for now, I miss it.

There’s a MUCH longer write-up of this trip HERE at crazyguyonabike.com – a fantastic cycle-touring website where hundreds of cyclists write the journals of their epic bike trips around the world. It’s quite addictive and inspirational…proceed with caution.

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A kick up the bottom

I have a confession to make.

I did VERY little exercise last week.

I know I don’t ‘owe’ you an apology but one of the things I love about blogging is that it makes me somewhat accountable and often, I need your virtual eyes on me to motivate me to run. Jen blogged last week about struggling with motivation as her job situation has changed – I’m sure you’ve noticed that since I started studying, my motivation has wavered, I’m in the same boat as she is, to some respects. What I gained from running, I’m now largely gaining from another place and busyness has increased dramatically.

The issue is not so much not having the time to exercise as prioritising it. The fact I took all of Friday morning off to go cycling shows that I DO have the time – I just need to plan my work/life balance better during the week. In the mornings when I study, I need to have the self-discipline to say ‘Enough for today, go and run’, knowing that I’m still on track to get my work done throughout the week.

ramage angela 1

Back when my running mojo was in full flight :)

 

Last week looked like this. I snuck my long run in on Monday and managed 9 miles at 9.41 pace. I actually really enjoyed it, it’s not that I’m not enjoying running. But then I couldn’t motivate myself to get out and run again. Then I went for my bike ride on Friday.

margarita

At the weekend, I did nothing, exercise-wise. I did a lot of checking of Instagram to see people’s Bay to Breakers photos, which was fun but wouldn’t get me healthier.

It’s just not enough exercise. It’s not good for my health to have so many ‘rest days’ and it’s definitely not good for my spirit. I find myself getting lethargic and lazy. It has to stop.

So therefore, this week, I hereby commit to these things.

  • I will exercise every day. Even if it’s just for half an hour. I want to run three times, cycle twice and swim  once. But if it all goes tits up, I will do half an hour of a video workout or I’ll do one of those living-room circuits that are all over pinterest. I will definitely do half an hour each day, if not more.
  • I hereby commit to stop eating all the cr*p. I may have been exercising less recently but I have continued to eat like I’m training for the UTMB. I am not. So I commit to be looking at portion sizes, health bang 4 buck and trying to see food as fuel, not reward.
Has anyone seen that scarf? I lost it and I miss it so much.

Has anyone seen that scarf? I lost it and I miss it so much.

  • I hereby commit to drink loads more water. I was good at water for a while but I am not any longer.
  • I hereby commit to post back at the end of the week with an update. This may not be interesting for you guys (sorry) but it’s a good motivational tool for me to stick with my goal.

I developed a nasty little cold over the weekend, which will make things less fun but I have to start afresh, snot or no snot. Wish me luck, people!!

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Adventures with Margarita

By Friday, I had got enough study done to be able to take the morning off. I was planning to go for a run, but then I realized what I  really wanted to do was cycle. My lovely birthday bike, Margarita has been sorely underused and I’ve been dying to do a decent ride lately.

So on Friday morning, the Dude and I cycled to school together, he went into his classroom and I set off on my epic ride.

A deeply flattering shot of both of us on the ride to school

A deeply flattering shot of both of us on the ride to school

 

For me, it was epic. I cycled from Foster City to Woodside. It was about 15 miles each way and involved one giant hill. I climbed up it on the way and shot down it on the way back. It actually wasn’t too bad – long but steady, I climbed the whole thing fairly easily (if not quickly). Then, I had 8 blissful miles along Canada Road – a local cycling mecca. The road is straight, gently undulating and fairly car-free and it ends in Woodside at one of my favourite cafés where  I celebrated the half-way point with a totally unnecessary giant almond croissant and hot chocolate.

cycling margarita

The ride back was equally fun although shooting down Ralston Hill was pretty terrifying.

Crystal Springs on a chilly, grey, blustery morning

All in all, I did 32 miles. Now I know that this is hardly ‘epic’ but for me, it was a big deal. I haven’t ridden 32 miles since the Dude was born. One of my New Year Resolutions was to do a Century Ride. Layla’s recap of her century lit a fire in me earlier in the week and Friday’s ride kind of fanned it into flames. All the local century rides seem to include copious amounts of giant hills but THIS ONE in October in Sacramento is pretty flat and I’m pretty confident this is going to be it. The Husband also wants to do it, we need to work out how we both train for it without sacrificing enormous amounts of family time.

Riding Margarita is VERY different to riding Liesl, my touring bike. Things I’ve noticed are:

  •  Climbing hills is much MUCH easier.
  • Going downhill is terrifying.
  • Road saddles are nowhere near as kind on your nether regions as touring saddles.
  • I feel a little insecure not carrying much ‘stuff’. On Margarita, I only have a little saddle bag. It doesn’t store as many things as I like to take with me.
  • I may need to buy one of those ugly cycling jerseys with enormous pockets in the back.
  • I probably need to learn to clip into my pedals.
  • Road cyclists are not as friendly as touring cyclists.
  • Just because you have a swanky bike and clip-in shoes does not mean you can look down on me, mate!

I do realise that 32 miles isn’t exactly Tour de France stuff and I don’t want to make too big a deal of it…but I had fun. It was great, just what I wanted, and I’m excited about starting to train for Autumn’s big ride!

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Edgewood exploits

It’s been a long time since I ran at Edgewood, my favourite local park! Actually it was August last year. AUGUST, LAST YEAR!!!! How did that happen? I drive past it on my way to college twice a week, just as the evening light is perfect. I see runners head up into the park and cyclists speeding down Canada Road and  even though I’m very happy to be going to college, I grumble inwardly and the desire to run at Edgewood has been eating away at me!

On Saturday, I finally got to scratch that itch. We went to the birthday party of one of the Dude’s little friends, they live just down the road from Edgewood. (Not at all jealous of the redwood in their garden!) So I spent the afternoon hydrating with champagne (and water, honest guv’nor!) and fueling with pizza (and tacos) and then we drove up to Edgewood. My boys went hiking and I set off up the trails.

edgewood trails

Holy macaroni, it was so much harder than I remember! It’s a hilly little park and I frequently had to stop to ‘take photographs’. But despite the tired legs, the ‘full belly’ and the puffing and panting, it was just gorgeous. It’s still fairly green, the wildflowers were out in profusion and it was just really pretty.

edgewood trails

This is what California describes as ‘green’

 

edgewood trails

edgewood trails

The other thing that struck me was how flipping badass I used to be! Because two years ago, my friend Juli and I flipping pushed strollers around Edgewood. Twice!  The trails I slogged up today, we slogged up pushing strollers. She pushed a DOUBLE STROLLER. I mentally high-fived my 38-year old self!!

stroller trails edgewood

juli stroller trails edgewood

I’d hoped to do 6 miles but I’d arranged to meet the boys at the car-park at 4.30 and I just ran out of time. 5.2 miles in the books. No worries – it was just pretty gorgeous! Made me happy.

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Running, lately

One of the downsides of having a running blog is that sometimes, your running is totally ordinary and non spectacular and so there’s nothing to write about which is why I haven’t blogged for a week or so. But I miss blogging so I thought I’d try and pull something together.

I’ve basically been trying to shake it up a little over the past few weeks.

I tried running on a track

I’ve never run on a proper running track before. My school track was a lush green field with chalk lanes painted on. Not complaining, I like lush green fields, but whenever I hear  Americans reminiscing about their high-school track-running exploits, I have no idea what that was like. I’ve also never really fancied running on tracks. Why would you run in circles like a hamster where you could run on trails or run through streets smelling the early morning jasmine? But the other week, I headed out for an easy 4 miler, somehow found myself diverting onto the track at my nearby park and decided to play.

Because this was unplanned, I had no idea quite what I should do on a track. There were several elderly people walking around it so I couldn’t do entire laps. So I did this very strange, ad-hoc session when I sprinted up one straight side of the track, jogged to the next side, waited for the oldies to move along and sprinted down there. It was very disorganised, but actually quite fun.

Three things I noticed. 1) If you run on a track, you automatically feel like an Olympian.   2) You can also pretend to be an Olympian. 3) If you sprint, you see 6s on your watch (my 0.7 mile sprints were between 6.00 and 6.45 pace) and I have never seen 6s on my watch before. Bearing in mind  some of my online buddies had just run Boston with several/many miles in the 6s, my jubilation was a little excessive.

The time I won an Olympic medal

The time I won an Olympic medal

I’ve upped the pace on my tempo runs

After ‘winning the silver medal’ in Livermore, I’m determined to PR at the 5k and the 10k and this basically means holding an 8.00 pace for a long time, so I’ve started blitzing my tempo miles, aiming for 8.00 instead of 8.15 – 8.25 where they usually are. So far, when I’ve run single tempo miles, I’m pulling it off…they’re in the late 7s or very early 8s. But when I tried to link two blitzing miles together, they were a disappointing 8.25 and 8.17.  But I shall carry on regardless.

I did some hill repeats

I live in the flattest town in California (probably) but managed to get some hill repeats in by running repeatedly up and down the footbridge near the Dude’s school. It was a blisteringly hot day and I was running at midday so not the wisest but in the end it was quite fun. 10 repeats of about 0.6 miles up and then back down. My legs felt it the next day.

I gave up on a long run

The day after Hill Repeat Day, I went out for my long run. I was aiming for 10 miles. It was hot, the route was hilly, my legs still ached from the hills. At 7 miles, I decided I wasn’t having any fun and I had a load of studying to do, so I went home and only ran 9 miles. I felt slightly guilty but it didn’t last that long.

I did some intervals. They were fine.

I did a swim workout. In fact, I did two. 

For a while now, I’ve been meaning to swim. One of my New Year Resolutions was to learn to swim properly and the time is coming when I’ll need to actually do it. So I decided I needed to get my swim fitness up a little beforehand so that I’m not dying on each lap during my lesson.

In addition, it hasn’t escaped my notice that when some of my runner friends venture into the dark world of triathlon, their running improves dramatically. Aleks and Amanda are literally flying at the moment, and they both swear that triathlon training has been influential. I want their speed. So I thought I’d suck up my hate of the swim and try it.

Therefore, TWICE this week, I have got myself into the pool in our apartment complex and swum some laps. The pool is about 15 metros long (it’s 0.01 of a mile) which isn’t ideal but it does the job. The first time, I swam 22 laps. The second time, I swam 26 laps – that’s about 450 yards. That’s basically nothing, but I’m proud of myself anyway. I do feel like an elderly lady at  country club pool as I breast-stroke along with my head poked high above the water. I have a lot to do.

senior-lady-in-blue-flower-swim-cap-smiling-in-pool_Banners

Basically, me

 

This is a very unimpressive blog post. I’m sorry. But basically, I’m still running, I’m rather enjoying it but it’s not very exciting for you guys! Hopefully things will perk up soon!!

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April favourites

I WILL be posting about running soon – I feel like I haven’t posted a daily running-related post for a while. I HAVE been running, I HAVE been enjoying it but there haven’t been any particularly remarkable or exciting runs to tell you about lately. But hopefully that’ll be changing soon!!!

In the meantime, as it’s the last day of April, I thought I’d share some of my April favourites! April was good – and unlike March, it didn’t feel like it flew by. Mainly because I didn’t go to Hawaii or Vegas. No, instead I was here and I studied my socks off.

As ever, there are NO affiliate links in the post. No-one pays me to blog. I do it because otherwise I’d drive my husband crazy.

Studying

Studying was fab this month – I just love it. I get so excited. Even when it’s 11pm and I’m still working, it makes me so happy. What a gift, eh? I got my grades for my mid-terms. Lots of A’s. This makes me ridiculously chuffed. This month I learned about the development of kids from 6 – 11 and I particularly loved the bit about how the brain processes reading. Did you know there is no specific section of the brain that handles reading, because it’s not an instinctual skill? That bowled me over!

I presented with my group about the benefits of teaching maths to preschoolers and we’ve started working with a local non-profit that provides free preschool to low-income families. We’re making a very short promotional video about them and one of their families. This kind of thing honestly rocks my world. I feel very VERY lucky to be doing this. Like I can’t quite believe my luck.

Reading

Despite the crazy workload, I managed 3 books this month.

Skin Cleanse, by Adina Grigore, was my favourite. I finished it at the very end of March waited about a month to write about it here because my skin is ‘hormonal’ and I wanted to go a whole cycle before I raved or not. Basically, I’ve had rubbish skin for months now, maybe for over a year. This book looks at skin from a biological perspective and cuts through the crap of the beauty industry. I realised that I’d been using soap, twice a day, on my skin for ages now because I love how it feels, but in reality it was dehydrating my skin to death and my skin was making gallons of extra oil to compensate. On the book’s recommendation I started using olive oil as a cleanser and grapeseed oil as a moisturiser. I would love to say ‘…AND I HAVEN’T HAD A SINGLE SPOT SINCE’. That’s not true, but my skin is about 90% better than it was and I am so incredibly happy about that!! (Top tip – if you get a spot, make up a paste of baking soda and water and put it on the spot. Leave it to dry, leave it on all night if you want. And boom…it’s gone in the morning. I kid you not, it was nothing short of miraculous!!).

The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer is a Christian book (obviously?). I don’t read many Christian books because I generally find they start out amazingly and get boring. This was (alas) no exception. The first two chapters were wonderful and changed my views on some things and challenged my faith on others. And then it got dull.

I also read Jessica Ennis’s autobiography ‘Unbelievable‘. Jessica Ennis is a British Heptathlete who won Olympic Gold in London. She was the poster girl for London 2012 and I think she’s pretty fab! Alas, her book was a little dull. She sounds like such a nice girl, I would love to be her friend…but it wasn’t the most exciting book to read. I mentioned that Kilian’s book was pretty dull too – I wonder which sports autobiographies are actually GOOD READS!! So far, I only think Chrissie Wellington’s book has been great!

Surfing

I wasted more time on the interwebs this month than I should have – flicking through things as light relief when I was tired of studying. Inspired by ‘Skin Cleanse’, the one good site I found was the Environmental Working Group, which rate all skincare products based on their ingredients and their toxicity/effects. That was quite eye-opening. Based on their work, I’ve replaced my shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen and even my blusher! Great website.

2015 seems to have brought a lot of death into my world and this month, some friends suffered an enormous loss than caused everyone that knows them much heartache. I found this article on the web and shared it via FB. I was surprised at how many people re-shared or commented how useful it was for them at that time. Whilst I was glad it was useful, I’m so sad so many people were in that position. So I’ll share it here too in case it helps anyone else.

Watching

GAME OF THRONES IS BACK AND IT DESERVES ALL CAPITALS. DRAGONS!! CERSEI!! TYRION!! Also, the female nudity seems to have been toned down and there are some male bottoms on screen now, which seems much fairer.

game-thrones-season-5

Seriously! How does anything else on TV compete with Drogon? Source

 

We half-watched a lot of Orphan Black as we studied/worked in the evenings. It was fun at first but then got boring.

Listening

I may have found my song of the year…‘Fight song’ by Rachel Platten is just cool and it makes me want to fight. Great running song, and it’s very funny when my son sings it. The Dude discovered ‘Don’t stop me now’ by Queen this month and there is NOTHING funnier than a five year old shout-singing ‘That’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit’!!

Cooking

My lovely friend Hari and I used to work together about 10 years ago in the marketing department of a big UK retailer. She left about a year ago to set up her own Indian cookery school and got ‘discovered’ by a digital marketing agency and she’s now some kind of future Celebrity Chef. I had MANY amazing dinners cooked by Hari in my yoof and this month I finally got round to trying one of her recipes. This kale and chickpea curry was nothing short of spectacular! Do check out her site if you fancy some Indian cooking – she does meat and veggies.

Scrum.

Scrum.

I also finally tried the recipe to Julia’s Banana Bread which I shared in another post. I’ve made it twice so far and both times it’s been fantastic! My boys keep nagging me to make it again, but I’m concerned about the speed with which we’re eating it!

Obsessed with

Succulents! Our trip to a lavender farm in Maui inspired the Dude to want to grow lavender on our balcony so we traipsed off to Flora Grubb, the super-fancy, hipster garden centre in SF. We purchased lavender, rosemary, some tiny little succulents and some seeds, and then bought cheapo pots at Home Depot! Four weeks in, our seedlings are growing, the other plants are all still alive and our balcony has been named ‘High Garden’ after the home of House Tyrell. (Game of Thrones). Calling some pots on a balcony ‘High Garden’ tickles me enormously.

high garden

Hey, let’s have dinner in High Garden tonight.

 

Looking forward to

For Memorial Day we’re heading down to San Luis Obispo to meet Marjolaine and her Gentleman for the weekend. This is a new part of California for us, so I’m excited about that. We’re running a race, cycling around, eating lots of vegetables…should be fantastic.

Finishing this semester. My classes finish at the end of May. I have some exams, some final assignments, lots of work to do. I’m looking forward to having a break over the summer.

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#thankyoupaula

On Sunday, it’s the London Marathon. It’s kind of special to me for a few reasons. I’m British. I lived in London for seven awesome years. Many of my friends have run it and I’ve spent fantastic days cheering them on. And mainly because it’s my one and only marathon. (A hugely late race report is here).

London Bridge Source

London Bridge
(Photo from the interwebs)

This year, it’s particularly special to me because Paula Radcliffe is running it and it will be her last marathon.

I’m not one for celebrity running heroines although I am TOTALLY inspired by Emelie Forsberg and Stevie Kremer and may (MAY) pretend to be Emelie when I’m running trails. But I am more inspired by people like you – my running friends IRL or online who do amazing things and inspire me to want to run better. Cheesy I know, but totally true. But road marathon runners just don’t inspire me – it’s just not my thing.

Paula is the exception.

I started running in 2001, 14 years ago. I was living in Muswell Hill, in North London, with my two best friends in a house in a primary school. I had this awful boyfriend who dumped me one Spring. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, but obviously it didn’t feel like that at the time. I remember very clearly thinking I could either eat chocolate or I could start running. I chose running and I never really looked back.

Me, so long ago.

Me (and my gorgeous friend) so long ago.

As I started running, Paula reached the peak period of her career winning the London Marathon in 2002, 2003 and later in 2005. She won New York in 2004. She set her first marathon world record of 2.17.18 in Chicago in 2002 and then, in London in 2003, she broke it again and set it at 2.15.25. It was a pretty heady time to be a British runner. It felt like we were winning everything, it was just so exciting to be part of this running phenomenon.

I never met Paula but I think I ran past her at a 5k in Battersea Park once – she was starting the race clearly, thus she was stood still. Injury has dogged a lot of her later career and I was pretty gutted for her when she failed to win Olympic medals. But it’s been amazing career.

 

In the UK, this week, the hashtag #thankyoupaula has started trending in preparation for Sunday’s big race, which I believe she will run as more a lap of honour than a balls-to-the-wall effort. I love this – I love that the British running community is publicly thanking their greatest ever female runner, someone who inspired so many people to run faster and harder and longer.

Check out the Evening Standard’s amazing front cover.

Seriously…Brits don’t get this sentimental about nothing!

Nike did it perfectly, as usual. Darn them and their awesome marketing.

I wanted to be part of it too and to pay tribute to a running heroine.  So here’s my bit.

Thanks for representing Great Britain and British sport so well. Thanks for inspiring millions of women around the world to try harder and to get into running and sport. Thanks for standing against drugs. But most of all…thank you Paula for inspiring this slightly overweight, newly dumped, total rookie to start running, to run a marathon and to fall madly in love with this wonderful sport. 

#thankyoupaula

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Race Recap: Pace for Peace 5k

I hardly know where to start with this race recap.

I signed up initially for the 10k, as part of my Spring of 10k’s. And then, last week, it occurred to me that I knew I wasn’t in shape to PR the 10k (or even get close) but I could potentially PR the 5k. My 5k PR of 26.15 is two years old and I know I am faster now than I was then. All the 5k’s I’ve done since have been pushing the Dude. And I found myself getting SUPER-EXCITED about racing a 5k! So I emailed the organizer, she happily switched me and I started planning.

I had two goals for this race. My A goal was to come in under 25 minutes, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. This would mean I needed to run 8.02 pace, which I thought was possible. My New Year’s Day 10k pace was 8.11 – I know I’m not as fit as I was then but maybe I could hold 8.02 for 25 minutes? My B goal was just to PR, and if I couldn’t beat 26.14,  I would be pretty heartbroken.

My son is ‘taking a break from running 5k’s’ so I was the only one who drove out to Livermore early Saturday morning. I allowed too much time as usual – it took about 45 minutes at 7am! I got there quickly and found the race being set up. It was a really lovely event – a tiny, community race to support a non-profit helping women who have suffered sexual violence. I felt pretty moved to be part of it. I got my number, used the loo (actual loos in their building) and went back to my car to do myself a little playlist and keep warm. It was surprisingly chilly at that time.

livermore

The start line at dawn

 

At about 7.30 I went for a little warm-up jog, just one mile along the course. I’m glad I did – the course was marked by  arrows on yellow pieces of paper, taped to the ground. They weren’t that easy to see – having them standing upright would be easier. A quick reconnoitre helped.

livermore vineyards wine

Livermore has vineyards basically in the town centre. I could live here.

livermore vineyards wine

My future place of work?

 

The staging area was busier now and the queue for the loos was much longer – 2 bathrooms for 150 or so people wasn’t quite enough. But soon enough we were lining up. I positioned myself somewhat uncomfortably near the front – I thought I was in the right place, looking around, but I’m not used to being at the front. And the klaxon (?) sounded and we were off.

It was the weirdest thing. I was in the lead. (For the women, obviously. The men dashed off). I ran along, waiting to be passed (and going too fast) but was in the lead. It was kind of awesome. I ran on and still no girl passed me. I was running hard, I have to admit but I got to the turnaround point at halfway and somehow I was still in the lead. As I turned back, I didn’t really look at the girls coming the opposite way – I was trying to focus on things I could control. My running, my breathing, my race. ‘Focus on the PR’ I kept telling myself. But I was in the lead. I admit it, I felt like an Olympian.

The problem was…I had no idea how to play this game. I have never been in this situation before. I had no experience of race strategy. I had no plan about ‘racing’ this race. I was a total rookie and I had no idea what I should be doing. So I just kept running.

The way back felt very long. I ploughed along…still in the lead. A woman still heading ‘out’ whooped for me and yelled ‘First woman’. (HAHA, THAT’S ME!). I kept running but I was struggling now. I was running too fast. With about a mile to go, we had to turn sharp right. I turned, and glanced over…and saw a girl just behind me. My heart sank. I kept running.

With about half a mile to go, the inevitable happened. She passed me, looking pretty much effortless, and she ran steadily into the distance. I was disappointed but kept telling myself ‘Focus on the PR’ and just kept pushing. Eventually I turned into the home straight, the balloon arch was there and I may have accelerated a tiny bit…and I crossed the line and stopped my watch.

pace peace me 5k

FLYING to the finish line Photo Credit: Layla!

pace peace 5k me

The hordes at the finish line went wild Photo Credit: Layla

 

24.23! I hadn’t won but I’d got my goal time!

Once I’d caught my breath, Layla came over. She was out cycling for the day and stopped to cheer me over the line. This girl is an amazing team player – she can’t run much at the moment but she’s always out cheering for her friends. I hugely appreciated seeing her and giving her a delightful sweaty hug. Less fun was when I saw the course was short, I’d run 2.99 miles instead of 3.1 and when I extrapolated that pace up, my 5k time would have been 25.19.

So I lost the only race I’m ever likely to win and I didn’t get my goal time.

I shook hands and had a chat with the winner, who paid me the great compliment of saying she had to work  hard to catch me and that I ran a great race (le sigh). A while later, I saw her go up to get her prize, so I sidled up to get my second female prize. I envisaged a giant trophy. Gold, with a plinth and a female runner on top. Oh the Dude would be so impressed. Or maybe a plaque declaring ‘2nd woman’. But somehow… no. There were only prizes for the first three overall runners, which mean that I didn’t get a prize…and more significantly, the female winner didn’t get a prize either! I was actually pretty shocked for her. Bearing in mind, TriValley Haven is a women’s nonprofit, this was pretty ironic. They did have a fantastic buffet spread so I claimed a doughnut as my prize once Layla had cycled on and I could pig out in secret :) There was also a good raffle, but I didn’t win anything.

layla livermore

My awesome cheering squad of one (and her swanky new bike)

 

I have some (genuinely constructive) criticisms of this race, which I’ll mention below but frankly, none of them are important. This race raises money for women who have undergone great trauma and it raised over $10,000 for their work. So NONE OF THESE THINGS MATTER! But because I hope this review might help future runners, these things need pointing out.

  • They need more bathrooms. 2 isn’t enough.
  • The course was short. This isn’t the first time I’ve run a short course and it’s so disheartening. You run your guts out and find that your time isn’t really valid. Checking and double-checking the distance is crucial. I’d rather overrun slightly than run short.
  • You HAVE to have prizes for the top three women. You don’t need age-group awards, nice though they are but the top three women need prizes. The female winner DEFINITELY needs a prize. The girl who won looked like me, like she doesn’t win races every day, and I felt bad for her.
  • Chip timing. This doesn’t actually bother me at all but it’s worth saying this race didn’t have chip timing.

TriValley Haven are organising a race in October and I believe it WILL have chip timing, a certified course and age-group prizes. So I may well be back to try again!

livermore

My returning has NOTHING to do with the doughnuts they provided, obviously!

 

But as I said – it’s not important. This month, I’ve been reminded again of what IS important and what isn’t. Running is awesome, but helping other people is what really matters.

Personally, I have really mixed views about my performance and I haven’t quite worked them out yet. On the positive side…I PR’d and that is always a fantastic achievement and one that should be celebrated. I also placed overall for the first time ever! 2nd woman is pretty awesome! I thought about how I chatted with the winner and how I’ve NEVER had that kind of discussion before. I thought about the male winner coming over, congratulating me and asking if I’d been first female. No-one has EVER asked me that question before. I know this was a tiny race, but this whole experience made me feel like a runner more than anything ever has before!

On the negative side…I didn’t run my goal pace. That is genuinely disappointing. I also lost the race. I could smell my first ever win and I lost. Pretty gutting. Most materialistically, I also think that if I had won ‘something’ as second female, I wouldn’t actually be bothered about losing the race. (That’s kind of embarrassing). So overall, I feel a bit flat.

I’ll tell you something though…I feel flipping FIRED UP! Sub-25 is within sniffing distance for the 5k. Sub-50 is within sight for the 10k. Today’s not-winning experience has filled me with fire and the desire to run fast and achieve those goals. I may or may not have spent the rest of the weekend planning!!! More on that later this week.

Here endeth the world’s longest, most navel-gazing recap of a Saturday morning’s 3 mile run

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