Race review: Marathon du Medoc

Thursday, September 20, 2018

What you will see most of the race- runners and grapevines.
Have you ever heard of the Marathon du Medoc?  This no-pressure race was the first in my 4x4 challenge.  It is quite famous in France, as well as among the international running community, for its unique format.  Fancy dress (costumes) are mandatory and wine it offered alongside water at all the refreshment stations.  Many of my London running friends have done it before.  A group of them had a spare place which gave me the opportunity to run the race this year.  I love to explore new places by taking part in running events.  This trip was no exception.

It seems a bit odd to be running on these gorgeous estates, but hey ho.

Race entries and fees: This is by no means a cheap race.  Registration was about €80, which included a really nice technical running t-shirt (women- size up as the women's cuts is extremely form fitting), small branded drawstring bag, food and wine along course, "lucky dip" bottle of wine from one of the wineries along the course in a really nice wooden box, a cooler bag, finishing line rose for female finishers, a plastic cup for the after party, medal, and more food and drinks after the finish.  Add on top to the cost of the registration fee the transportation and accommodation costs, especially if you decide to stay in Bordeaux rather than Pauillac.


Line for the loos
Course and bogs:  The course starts along the Pauillac riverside and winds through the vineyards of the Medoc region.  Some of the course is paved and some on loose gravel and dirt.  The start is a bit conjested due to the narrow town streets and plenty of runners but people start to spread out after the first and second wine stops.  Of course, the scenery along the scenery is a very pretty due to the surrounding vineyards.  We were spoiled by blue skies and sunshine too.

There are plenty of toilets in the start area compared to the number of entrants.  I was really disappointed at the number of port-a-loos along the course through.  There was a lot of peeing on the vineyards, which looked funny when several men dressed the same lined up adjacent rows.

The bag drop was a bit of a faff as all bags were searched, then a label was handwritten by someone else and attached before the bag was placed in a big trolley.  Later, you collect your bag, they look at your bib for your number, then asked you in French 'what color your bag was' (I think) and dug through a large pile of bags.

Few members of Team FOOD!
Location:  Pauillac France, about an hour drive north of Bordeaux.  You can fly direct to Bordeaux or take a train to Paris, then another to Bordeaux. From Bordeaux, there are occasional trains, a local coach (bus) service or the marathon has a private shuttle service organized too.  Each option runs at a specific timetable which you should check before booking.  Half of our group took trains via Paris and the other fly to Bordeaux.

Refreshment station
Atmosphere:  Was absolutely amazing!  Everyone at the start line was happy and relaxed with the goal of having a good time.  So many people from the local community were out too, both cheering us on and volunteering at the numerous refreshments stations.  Many people put picnic tables out along the road and were enjoying meals as we ran by.

Goody bag was ace!
Race bling and goody bag:  Last year's medal was in the shape of a guitar because the theme for the race was music.  This year's theme was amusement parks.  The medal was round and had the roller coaster logo in the center.

Race 1 of my 4x4 challenge done!
After you get your medal and bottle of wine, you can enter the after party tent, where there is more wine, beer, and snacks.  We were a bit rushed for time at the end because we wanted to make the shuttle bus back to Bordeaux.  Thirty minutes was enough time to have a few drinks before hopping on a hot bus and getting stuck in traffic.  At least no one from our group got sick, unless some of the other passengers.

Team FOOD finishing hand-in-hand.


Tips if you want to take part next time (from me and my teammates):

  • Plan ahead.  Accommodation is very limited in Pauillac.  There are shuttle buses and trains but you need to book in advance.  Pay attention to the booking cut off dates!
  • Add a day or two on to your trip and enjoy Paris (especially if you have never been).

Matt and Pippa ended up slowly cutting off bits of their costume along the way.

  • Consider how hot and heavy your costume will be.  If you are running with friends, matching costumes might make it easier to spot each other in the crowds.  I was surprised to see that not all costumes were related to this year's theme.  There were lots of minions and Disney characters. You can be as creative as you want.
  • Don't forget you will be running a marathon.  It is easy to get caught up in the other details for this event but you will be on your feet for about 6 hours if you enjoy the refreshment stations.  You can take it at a party pace but it is still a lot of time on your foot.

Oysters, steak and ice cream are available at the last few refreshment stations.

  • The race website is extremely hard to navigate.  The translations are poor which can be frustrating when you are trying to find the answer to something (like when the shuttle buses are).
  • Pack medication for tummy troubles.  Basically, we broke all of the normal pre-race rules by drinking the night before the race, staying up late the night before the race, and eating different foods  like rich cheese and wine.  I was suffering a bit from stomach issues on the course and wasn't able to find an open pharmacy over the weekend until 11pm on Sunday night in Paris.  It was not ideal.

Cheers!

  • Bring your friends and make some new ones along the way.  There is plenty of time to  meet other runners at the pasta party, race, and after party.
  • Stay hydrated!  We had unseasonable temps this year.  Although you only get a few shots of wine at each refreshment station (I wasn't even buzzing at the end of the race), keep drinking water along the way.
Have you ever completed Marathon du Medoc or something similar?  Let me know in the comments below.

Post script: My teammate, Melanie, says she likes the little quirks of the race (website, bag drop, transport) and thinks is what makes it more of an adventure.  I say there is a race out there for everybody!

One of the large ducks we had to avoid being run over by.

Thanks to Simplyhealth for sponsoring my 4x4 challenge.  If you enjoy living an active lifestyle, check out their new Active Plan.

Thank you Simplyhealth

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

As I hinted on social media, I have a big announcement to make this week.  I am thrilled to say Simplyhealth is sponsoring my 4x4 challenge for the next five months.  Be on the lookout for some great posts and vlogs about my upcoming races and the preparation that goes along with it. My challenge offically started over weekend with a wine tasting/fancy dress marathon near Bordeaux, France. I left London Friday morning on a crisp morning but the weather was lush on race day. Some of my team were wearing proper costumes during the run whereas I had a t-shirt with tulle sewn all over it (see my Instagram for some pictures of the day).  Thankfully, no one suffered from heat exhaustion as we made our way around 20 wineries in the sunny French countryside.  We were able to sip wine along the way to stay cool and eat local cuisine to refuel.  It is a pretty famous marathon and I am had an amazing time running with my Advent Running friends.



Included in my sponsorship with Simplyhealth is a year-long membership to their new Active Plan.  If you are physically active like me, you might put off seeking treatment or professional advice due to the expense.  Simplyhealth wants you to stay healthy and the Active Plan can reimburse for: sports massages, osteopath treatment, prescriptions, dental cleaning, trips to the optician and more.  There are four levels of cover to select from, helping you to choose a rate that’s affordable to you. I know I will be taking full advantage.  Having a big birthday coming up in February (eek) made me realize I need to start sorting out my health, like how I sometimes have blurry vision and how I need to see a dental hygienist on a regular basis.


Over the next five months, I will be sharing my story through each of the challenges along with my experience using the Active Plan to help me keep my body in tiptop shape.  Luckily, the plan can also be used internationally if need be (touch wood).  If something happens before or after a race abroad, I don't have to worry about waiting until I come home to the UK to seek treatment. Some of my posts will also be shared by Simplyhealth meaning you can also track my running and health adventures through them as well.

Follow me on social media (click on pink buttons to the right) so you don't miss the links when I share them.


Big thanks to Simplyhealth for believing in me and my lifestyle choice to remain healthy and active.  I really appreciate their support.

Learning about the food you should eat

Monday, August 13, 2018

Back in October, I began the first of five modules of my Future Fit Advanced Nutrition and Weight Management online course.  After running the Chicago Marathon, I had a few days with my feet up recovering so I started chipping away at it.

Studying in my office with help from my personal assistant
I started off with the longest module, Nutrition and Weight Management.  I figured it would give me a good review of nutrition topics I had covered in my personal training course with more detail.  There were 16 lessons all together in this module, each of which took 20-30 minutes to complete.  For this course, I had to be online to play each lesson, which features an audio track of the text.  There are knowledge checks periodically within the lesson to see if you retained key bits of information or to see if you have prior knowledge about the next topic.  The information delivered so far is simply put and broken down into little chunks that were easy to digest.  If I didn't finish a lesson, it would save my place and offer me an option to resume where I had finished or to start at the beginning of the module.  Before passing each lesson, you must complete a five question quiz and score 100%.  You can repeat the test immediately of you missed one or two questions but if you take too long to pass, you will have to log out and back in to restart.

Each lesson also has a resource folder which includes a transcript, relevant forms, and sometimes a glossary.  Any time I had a question, I could either email my tutor or submit a question through the website.  Most of my questions were around the technology side of things, rather than the course material, because computers are not my forte.  The Future Fit Training team were always quick to respond and very helpful.

No joke, this cookie is as big as my head.  And when I get stressed, I eat the whole thing.
Part of the course is a case study working with a client to help them learn more about their food habits and emotional links to eating.  It was actually hard to find a volunteer that was willing to work with me for eight weeks.  Through Twitter, I found two competitive male cyclists who wanted to drop some weight to improve their cycling performance.  One of them was travelling a lot of work and was unable to check in with me on a regular basis.  I am happy to say the other client was able to check in regularly and found the accountability very helpful.  He tracked his food three to four days a week for me and started choosing fruits and vegetables over convenient processed foods.  He didn't loose any weight but he was sleeping better and feeling more energized during the day.


My tips for online study success?  Give yourself deadlines to complete each lesson or modules by writing them in your diary.  Think of them as exam dates that you cannot change.  Set aside studying time in your diary each week too.  I prefer to have the same slot every week (although that hasn't be possible with marathon training the last two months) and keep plugging along but your schedule might be better to spend one day every other week.  Set up a place to study that is free from distractions- no TV, no music, no kids (or dogs) interrupting you.  You are taking this course to improve your health and knowledge, as well as to help your clients.  Make it a priority.  Have a notepad to take notes or print out the resource info to annotate as you go along.

Most of all, enjoy it!  All of the information will help you fuel your body properly, feel energized and maintain a healthy weight that is appropriate for you.  As they say, "health is wealth".


Thanks to Future Fit Training for their support of furthering my nutritional education.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Coming up next: 4x4 running challenge

Thursday, August 9, 2018

As someone who was cut from her high school football team for being slow, I never imagined I would be running marathons in my spare time while in my late 30s.  Currently, I am pursuing the six World Marathon Major races, but when an advert for a desert ultra marathon caught my eye, I suddenly wanted more.


I started running in 2006 to fundraise for a local humane society.  From 2011-2015, I supported RODS Racing as a way to grieve for my stillborn nephew.  I have been slowly gaining my confidence from being the slowest girl on the team to a confident athlete who is up for a physical challenge.  My latest adventure was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018 to summit on International Women's Day.

This year by committing to Track Tuesdays and working with the amazing team at Function360, I have never felt fitter or faster.  I have also started to drop excess weight by working with a nutritionist and staying focused on my goals.

With this in mind, I am super excited to announce my 4x4 Running Challenge!

Over September, October and November, I will take part in four different running challenges in four different countries.  They are:

8 September: Marathon du Medoc- fancy dress and wine drinking marathon on Bordeaux region of France

21-22 September: Ragnar Relay White Cliffs, UK- relay race of 170 miles with a team of 10

7-13 October: Wadi Rum Ultra, Jordan- 250 km over 5 days in the Jordan desert with temperatures over 30 degrees C

4 November: NYC Marathon, USA- Mollie's 4th World Marathon Major


#TeamLikeAGirl, who are my new friends 

Wadi Rum Ultra will be the hardest race for me.  Although I am currently feeling strong in body and mind, the only experience I have in multi-day events is as part of a relay team for Spitfire Scramble and Fitbit Fifty.  Plus, I have never run in the desert or an ultra (anything over 26.2 miles/marathon distance).  To successfully train for Wadi Rum, I will need to add more miles into my marathon training schedule, more strength and conditioning to keep my body strong through the challenge, and somehow acclimatize my body to the heat for running for 30+ degree C temps (although the London heat wave is certainly helping).   Can I do this while working full-time and having a (mostly) understanding husband at home? Time will tell.

I was lucky enough to take part in a Wadi Rum training weekend where I met lots of the racers.  Everyone was friendly and happy to chat all things running (my kind of people!).  We have another training weekend coming up in September where I hope to learn more about how to prepare effectively.  There is so much to learn about running multi-day challenges, as well as caring for your feet.   I need to sort out what I am going to eat along the way and make sure everything fits into my bag.  Somehow, I will manage a way to fit it all in.

Salomon Agile 6
I am so blessed as a blogger to have developed relationships over the years with various brands.  Many that I have worked with in the past are once again showing their support for my enthusiastic and adventurous efforts.  I would like to say a huge thanks to these companies for sending me samples of the following kit to put to the extreme test over these next few months.  Reviews will be posted after the challenge is complete.

Salomon- Agile 6 bag and Sense Ride trainers
1000 Mile- Breeze sock
Sole- Active Medium footbed
Skins- various compression wear (more info soon)
Suunto- Suunto 9
IV Doc- Post race treatment

One other aspect of this challenge will be verbalizing my 'why'.  Non-running acquaintances keep asking me why I signed up to do all of these races, why would you rather run 20 miles that have a BBQ, why do you over-commit yourself with fitness activities every day of the week?  I can't yet answer them.  I think some of it stems from being cut from the football team. Another is that I do find it fun (when I am not injured, of course). Some of it might be to draw attention to myself as I am so far from friends and family back in the USA, I don't want to be forgotten about.  Lucky for me, I have plenty of long runs coming up to think this through more carefully. 

If you want to keep tabs on me and my training over the next few months, please follow me on Strava.  A little kudos goes a long way.

We raced down this huge dune near Brecon Beacon. I am pretty sure a local 9 year old girl (not pictured) won.

Wild & Well Festival- come be active and inspired

Monday, August 6, 2018


If you are in England 20-21 October 2018, you should aim to stop by Bristol for the Wild & Well Festival that weekend.  Their tagline is "a new style of wellbeing festival for anyone who want to live in a healthier happier, more connected way."  This totally resonates with my ethos and offers many different classes, workshops, talks, and activities at six venues around Bristol.

I wanted to attend last year but was in the USA for the Chicago Marathon.  This year, however, I am giving a talk about my time in Tanzania, climbing Kilimanjaro.  I am super excited to share my story with you, giving tips on how to plan your trip and what it takes to go on adventures big and small.  The final program is still being developed, but my talk will be on Sunday at Ashton Court.
Second tier tickets are currently available for £30/day or £50 for the weekend.  There are also family tickets available.  You can currently pre-book some of the talks (like mine!) and workshops if there is something you are interested in.

My aim to have my e-book about Kilimanjaro available by this time too.  It will includes tips on preparing, a training guide, packing list, and stories from my trip.  All proceeds will go towards my fundraising goal to help a special needs classroom in Moshi, Tanzania, that we visited on our trip.  This classroom does not have any desks or chairs, which means the special needs children sit on the floor for their lessons.

My goal is to raise £420 (£1 for each kilometer I climbed) towards the £1250 needed to buy this furniture.  If you scroll to the bottom of my Kilimanjaro post, you can read more about the project.

Thanks to friends, family and my local community, I have raised £173 so far.  A desk/chair set is £95 ($135).  You can donate through PayPal any amount you wish with this button.




I didn't stop at Stella Point, but kept going (very slowly) to the tippy top of Kilimanjaro.

Come to my talk at Wild & Well to learn more about this unforgettable experience in nature.

Don't forget to check out Wild & Well on Facebook and Instagram (@wildwellfest). Follow me too on Facebook and Instagram.

Sometimes I pee my pants when I run

Thursday, August 2, 2018

This post will quickly become TMI, so only continue reading if you dare. If words like incontinence, vagina, vibrator, fart, and poop make you uncomfortable, stop reading now.  This isn't the typical vocabulary on my blog but I want women to know they are not alone on a few embarrassing bodily functions.  Mom- you have been warned.

When I go out for a run, my main objectives are not to pee or poop my pants (aka underwear or leggings, depending on where you are from.  Either way- it wouldn't be pretty.).  Lots of planning goes into what I can eat in the few hours before a run.  I prefer fasted runs first thing in the morning as the risk of uncontrollable bowel movements is minimized.  With urination, it is a different story.  Usually, I leak a little when I cough due to hay fever while running.  This problem doesn't seem to be as big an issue when a coughing fit strikes while I am on my bike.  During another episode, I was climbing over a stile on a trail race when I felt a slight release.

Black leggings are good at hiding wet patches.
I can never tell how much volume of urine actually leaves my body.  It feels like an uncontrollable rush, which is mortifying.  Questions like- "Will anyone be able to tell?" and "Does it smell?" go through my mind.  When I finally get to the loo, it is always much smaller than what I originally thought.  It just seems illogical that I have this issue.  I have never given birth, nor do I suffer from chronic urinary tract infections.  I am still on the younger side of 40, so why do I have the problem of sometimes urinating when I run?

Being a member of Run Mummy Run's Facebook group, I know this is a problem for many women.  On the spectrum of severity, my problem isn't bad at all.  It doesn't prevent me from being physically active and I don't feel a need to wear an absorbent pad.  But what I can't understand is why women don't talk about it more?  As a creative problem solver, I decided to create a survey to help me gauge how much of an issue incontinence with running is and who women are turning to for help and advice.

First, I would like to thank everyone who took a few minutes out of their day to share their story with me and also those who shared my survey.  You can see we had a variety of ages represented, as well as running experience.





One hundred and eighty one women and one man completed my survey.  Only 25% of the respondents talk to someone about the problem (compared to 53% who keep it to themselves).  Of the 98 people who answered why or why not do you talk to anyone about your incontinence problem and who if you do who,  the majority said they were too embarrassed to speak about it. Another large proportion said that it wasn't enough of a worry to bother talking to others.  Those that do talk to others rely on family (mostly moms and sisters) and their running friends to confide in.  I was surprised to see a few women didn't' know how to bring it up and another said it was "frowned upon" to discuss it in the spin community.



Ladies- let me tell you that you are not alone.  Half of the women who do not have kids and completely my survey have some sort of experience with incontinence while running or playing sport.  Seventy three percent of the moms who completed my survey suffer from some degree of incontinence after the kids arrived (both by vaginal birth and C-section). Yes, it is embarrassing, but know that chances are the lady next to you at Parkrun is having the same worries as you at the start line.  Besides, everyone can relate to your body doing something that you cannot control (like farting when you sneeze, or is that just me?).

For those that answered my survey, 63% felt it was a minor problem that didn't require any protection, while 23% wear thin liners or nappies.  There where two big things that also stood out to me.  First, that this problem keeps women from being physically active (33% in my survey will "occasionally" to "all the time" miss workouts because of their concerns).  Other women purposely drink less on a run to avoid the issue.  I would really advise against this, especially with the hot weather we have been having.

The second is that of the few women who were brave enough to bring this up with their general practitioner (GP, aka doctor in USA) (although I hate to use the word brave as you should be able to talk to your GP about anything.  I acknowledge that this is a difficult topic for most though), the GP was dismissive.  In my experience with the National Health Service (NHS), the doctors are too busy and too budget-aware to address things that don't inhibit you from going to work.  Perhaps if you have a good relationship with your doctor, they will recognize that this issue is important to you and make suggestions on how a solution can be reached.



Most women in my survey knew what kegals were and 99.8% knew what pelvic for was (maybe it was the man who didn't).  To ensure we are all on the same page, kegels (named after the doctor who first described them) are exercises that involve tightening and releasing the pelvic floor muscles.  Both men and women can benefit from performing kegel exercises.  The pelvic floor is a group of muscles at and across the bottom of your pelvis.  It holds internal organs, such as bladder, bowel and uterus, in place.  A strong pelvic floor can help you control urination, defecation, flatulence, and sexual function.

Reading a few comments from women who took part in  my survey, it sounds like medical experts just see occasional incontinence as a fact of life after birth.  Some women said you can ask for pelvic floor physical therapy through the NHS to get help.  Over the years, women's magazines report you can interrupt your urine stream when peeing to help strengthen your muscles "down there".  But as a personal trainer, I can't see how that will work as the "sets" would be fairly short. 

I have not yet given up all hope.


Recently, I was contacted by V-Sculpt to try out their pelvic floor toner and vaginal rejuvenation device.  Sold exclusively by medical professionals, it is considered an authorized medical device.  I have never used anything like this (or any "toy") for that matter so wasn't sure how this would go.  It uses LED light therapy, gentle heat and vibration to help tone and health the vaginal cells and muscles.  You can use it if you have an IUD (which I do) so I was good to go.

To start with, the V-Sculpt recommends six minutes a day of toning over a few weeks, building up to eight minutes and then ten minutes four times a week.  I find I need to lay down to use the V-Sculpt so will check social media or read a book while sculpting. 


Ten minutes a day sounded totally doable when I first agreed to try it out, but I am finding that it is still hard to fit it in.  I need to put a reminder in my calendar or go to bed before my husband (who thinks this whole thing is hilarious) so I can be left in peace.  Apparently, he has never felt the urge to pee or poop his pants while running and therefore cannot relate.  Some guys get all the luck.  After nine weeks of initial vaginal training, you just need to be on a maintenance plan of ten minutes one to two times per week.

I have been using the V-Sculpt once a week since I got up the nerve to charge it.  It was a bit weird to ask, but in my survey 68.2% of the women have had or still do have a vibrator.  Therefore, the V-Sculpt might not be awkward for them to try. 




There is a photogenic gel which helps the V-Sculpt work more effectively.  It is extremely runny and I welcome any advice on how not to waste it when applying to my V-Sculpt or myself.


Why did I agree to review this when I don't usually talk about lady bits?  The V-Sculpt does have a peer-reviewed study supporting its claims.  I have nothing to loose and everything to gain from not worrying about peeing when running.  Plus I want to help other women out there find a practical solution to this very common problem.  I will be checking back as I get into a routine.  It takes about three months to see results if you use the V-Sculpt every day.  I can say my weekly sessions are not working in my favor so far but hope to better commit to my training program and post a follow up in a few weeks time with some good news. 

Here is the user guide if you want to learn more about the V-Scuplt.....

Thanks to V-Sculpt for the complimentary vaginal toner.  All opinions on the product are honest (probably way too honest) and my own.

Shoes for land and sea

Monday, July 30, 2018

Welsh coast from above
This year I have been so lucky to spend time outdoors on various adventures.  Packing for these sorts of trips can be difficult as you don't want to pack too much but you also want to have the kit that you need.  When Keen contacted me about their new Terradora Ethos hiking trainers, I was super excited to try them out.  As you may have read previously, I am very familiar with the US brand Keen.  I have had a pair of their Newport sandals (or something similar) for years and wore them a lot in Thailand (every beach trip and even when snorkeling to protect my feet from sharp shells).  The only thing about them is that they are very bulky and make my feet look very large compared to my dainty ankles. 

Keen Terradora Ethos
The Ethos are designed to be a versatile shoe you can wear on the trail but also through water.  They are very light with a sleek design and I love the purple colour.  I wore them on a few dog walks on Wanstead Flats before taking them to Love Trails Festival.  They were instantly comfortable to walk in at camp.  The cut outs on the side allow for a cool breeze but unfortunately the occasional pebble.  The secure-fit laces make it quick to put them on or take off as I popped into my tent.

The water crossing
At Love Trails, I took them out for a 10k trail run and didn't experience any Achilles pain.  Whenever I switch shoes, I usually experience some discomfort. I think it may be due to a change in the height of the heel but haven't tried to confirm that yet but looking at the shoe stats.  Also, we had a high water crossing on the route.  When everyone else was faffing taking off their shoes and socks, I smugly went straight in and out on the other side.  Running in the wet Ethos didn't pose a problem at all.  In fact, it was really nice to have the cool water on my feet while the temperature approached 30 degrees.



I also took my Ethos on another camping trip to Wales the following weekend.  This time, we stayed at a proper campsite with indoor showers.  I wore my Ethos in the shower and around camp to give my feet a rest from my heavy trail shoes. Even though they were wet in my bag for the long drive home, they didn't stink when I unpacked them late that night.



With the flattering slim design of the Ethos, I think they will be replacing my old Keen sandals on upcoming trips. The are a little more "dressy" if I paired them with jeans while travelling and won't take up as much room in my suitcase. I can also wear them over multiple types of terrain, apart from snow!  I found out they are also very durable as our local fox chewed mine overnight  while they dried in my garden.  No more drying outside!  Lesson learned.

Do you have shoes that are versatile for adventures and travelling?



Thanks to Keen for the complimentary pair of shoes.  All opinions (and urban foxes) are honest and my own.