Back and stress relief with HoMedics

Monday, December 10, 2018

This post is in collaboration with HoMedics.

December is in full swing and my diary is filling up.  With that comes the stress of shopping, working, having the right clothes to wear to holiday parties, trying to schedule in time for the gym, and eating good food to balance out the party fizz.  Unfortunately, it doesn't leave much time for relaxing.

When HoMedics reached out out to me about their new home Stretch mat, I was intrigued.  My back is often "locked" (limited mobility, not a muscle spasm) when I see my physio at Function360 (probably from working at a desk and being a runner).   He says I need to stretch out more. Because I teach spinning, have started lifting again, and run, that leaves little time for stretching or yoga.  The busy holiday season means I have even less time to book a massage (even with Urban who come to your home.  Email me for 20% off code).  The mat seemed like it was just what I needed to release and decompress without being too technical (technology and I don't always get along) or taking up a lot of time.

It was so easy to set up.  The hardest part was clearing a spot on my floor (we have too many dog beds and shoes).  I simply pulled the mat out of the box, plugged it in and turned it on.  There are four different settings: flow, stretch, twist and energize.  The mat inflates itself during each program which last 7-10 minutes.  All you need to do is close your eyes and lay there.  There are three levels of intensity that allow people with injuries or pre-existing conditions to modify the stretch to a level that is comfortable to them.  Most of the stretches are back extensions which are perfect for those who work at a desk all day or bend over at a counter or cash register.  Personally, I would have liked the option for flexion too but understand that this would difficult to achieve laying supine on the ground.

The mat comes with a small pillow you can Velcro on to keep in place.  It folds in half and Velcros shut for storage too.  It would easily fit under a bed or in the back of the wardrobe when not in use.  There is also a handle if you would like to carry the mat with you to and from the car when going on holiday.

I don't think this mat will cure any long term back pains or conditions, but I do think it will help with relaxation while supplying a gentle massage and some guided mobilizing.  In today's crazy world, we never sit still and just be.  This mat will allow you to do that when you have a few minutes at home.  This month especially, please make a point to set aside time to relax.  You just need 10-15 minutes with the mat and either silence or chilled out music.  Leave the phone and any other distractions (pets, children, partners) in the other room.  Focus on your breathing and reset your mental state.

I tried to make an unboxing video of myself setting up and using the mat.  This one has a bit more info however:

The Stretch mat was provided to me to review.  As always, all opinions are honest and my own.  The affiliate link costs you, the buyer nothing additional but contributes to the running of this site.  

Happiness Advent - 10th December

Happiness Advent - 9th December

Happiness Advent - 8th December

Happiness Advent - 7th December

Happiness Advent - 6th December

Happiness Advent - 5th December

Happiness Advent - 4th December

Happiness Advent - 3rd December

Happiness Advent - 2nd December

Happiness Advent - 1st December

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Hello and welcome to my annual advent calendar.  This year, in addition to the usual motivational graphics, I am adding in positive suggestions to help you find and share happiness.

See something you like?  Feel free to print out the post and hang it somewhere where you will see it on a daily basis.

Later on this month, there will also be a Christmas wish list and a giveaway.  Keep checking back so you don't miss out.

Adventures are for everybody

Thursday, November 29, 2018

As part of the Decathlon Bloggers' Community, I was very happy to take part in their recent #sportforeverybody campaign.  We wanted to demonstrate that anyone, no matter what there size or shape, is able to over their body in a way they enjoy.  Most people think running is how they should get fit, but they actually don't like running.  One of the concepts I try to get across here on my blog is that you need to do what you love.  Of course, you need to be a bit brave to try something new (and maybe a bit wacky) but you never know unless you try.  This concept doesn't just apply to sports, in my opinion, but also for going on adventures.

I have been so blessed that 2018 has been a big year of adventure for me.  I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and ran my first ultra marathon, which happened to be in a desert (race review coming soon). I also tried camping at a running festival in Wales and attended a yoga festival too.  Turns out when you try new things, you need the equipment to go along with it.   Because I wasn't sure if I would actually enjoy all of these new experiences, I didn't want to invest too much in the kit and supplies.  When selecting what to invest is (vs borrow or hire), I reviewed the recommended packing lists and then made selections based on what I know about myself.

Inside of my 3-person black out tent.  Sleeping bag and borrowed mat on the right.  All my kit and foot on the left.
When planning for your adventure, consider if you are usually hot or cold.  Me?  I am always cold so it was worth it to me to invest in warm things.  For example, I wanted to own a sleeping bag rather than borrow someone else's (who knows the last time it was washed?).  My Forclaz Helium sleeping bag* was warm enough for normal people to be out in 0 degree weather. I know myself, so I also used a sleeping bag liner* when camping in Wales and on Mount Kilimanjaro, which meant I was snug as a bug in a rug in these extreme (for me) temps.  Then I used the liner by itself (instead of my sleeping bag) when camping in the desert.  I also packed it as an act of desperation in case I couldn't find a place to sleep in JFK airport during a 9 hour layover.  Sleeping bags are something I would recommend investing in due to hygiene and maintaining a suitable body temperature.  Nowadays, sleeping bags pack down small so they don't take up too much storage space.

In case you hadn't guess, I like sleeping but am a light sleeper due to various factors.  I need to make sure I a comfortable no matter where I am (except I'm the car.  I have no trouble falling asleep there).  A sleeping mat or inflatable mattress is something that not everyone will need so it is a good thing to borrow from a friend.  If you are travelling solo, a sleeping mat is a good option but can still be a bit bulky to carry.  If the ground won't be too rocky or cold, you might not even need it.

We now have an air mattress* for when I go camping with my husband.  It helps keep us insulated from the ground and we don't need to be spend too much time selecting the perfect place to pitch our tent.  We had some friends visit last month and they used it in our living room as our normal inflatable mattress had a leak.  The Quechua Air Comfort mattress was super easy to inflate with the built-in foot pump. Even though it wasn't very thick, my friends said it was comfortable and warm.  Again, it depends on how light a sleep you are and how much space you have if you need to invest in one or borrow from a friend.

My husband needs complete darkness to sleep, no matter where he is.  It wasn't until a friend mentioned waking up with the sun at Love Trails Festival, that I realized how amazing our Quechua black out tent* is.  No long are we at the whim of sunrise when camping.  We can sleep as late as we want!  It is also great having a zippered 'porch' to store our shoes, which keeps the inside of the tent clean.  The waterproof bottom goes about six inches up the sides as well, ensuring dry kit on the rainy days.  A tent is something you can also borrow from a friend but if you start to go on adventures more often, it would probably be easier to have it on hand for last minute escapes.

Having a few cooking/eating containers is a good idea. It is always best be prepared for any adventure at any time.  You will always need to eat when you are out exploring.  I highly recommend a multi purpose pot* (as above) to cook food in or prepare overnight oats.  This one also fits on my camping stove, which is fantastic.  I also have a handy thick plastic bowl that doesn't conduct heat, making it easy to hold when the foot is piping hot.

This insulated mug was it was on my list of required kit for my ultra.  I never used it though because I don't drink coffee or tea.  It is handy to have in London for hot chocolates on cold days as we are making more of an effort to carry our own hot drink cups.  I already carry a stainless steel water bottle with me at all times.

It isn't an adventure without have to use a compass,* right?  Decathlon's basic model is on a lanyard with a transparent background to allow for map reading and orienteering.  My husband, a geographer by training, was super excited when I brought it home.  If you are just starting out with adventures, you might be able to borrow a compass when you need one but they are inexpensive and small so why not get one and practice your map reading skills?  If there are maps involved on your trip, definitely have one.  Your mobile phone won't always have reception or battery power.  You might have to go old school.

Just because I did some pretty crazy trips abroad this year, don't think you need to do the same to be on an adventure. Micro adventures, such as camping in the backyard and going on a long walk that ends in a pub, are equally exciting. I like to think adventures take you into unknown or unusual situations which might even be outside your comfort zone.  It is here that you will find personal growth.

A group of Adventure Queens
Also, remember you don't have to go solo.  If you would rather have someone else figure out all the details, signing up for an adventure with a tour group is a great option.  In my opinion, it still counts as an adventure.  And it saves you a lot of hassle and headaches if someone else plans the logistics, knows the area, and can advise you on how to prepare. Why make things harder for yourself as you build your confidence in trying new things?  You will meet a bunch of new people on the trip who are interested in the same things you are too.

I hope my suggestions on what kit you need to own versus borrow have inspired you to get out there and find an adventure! Remember, if you need some inexpensive but quality kit, definitely check out Decathlon.  Their stock tends to be seasonal so keep that in mind if you are planning head.  If you don't have a lot of room for new kit or don't have a friend with what you need, Decathlon also hires out kit and has a 365 day return policy.  Getting a car to carry everything might be the only obstacle to overcome.  (I am serious.  I will never go camping via public transport again).

What is a piece of adventure kit that you can't live without?  What do you tend to borrow?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

Thanks to Decathlon get for gifting me the items marked with a * as part of their Bloggers' Community.  Items linked without an * are items I bought from Decathlon.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Race Review: Ragnar Relay UK

Friday, November 23, 2018

Ragnar Randoms- ready to go at the start line.  Photo from team captain, Natalie.
Ragar Relay has been on my radar for a while.  It is HUGE in the USA and my sister-in-law takes part a few times a year (she is really fit BTW).  This year was the second year it was held in the UK and I think it lived up to the hype (aside from the typical British weather).  If you like adventure, sleeping in smelly cars, and have some friends who also enjoy running, this might be the perfect race for you.

Ready to run.

Entries and fees:
The entry fee was £95 per person as we entered in April with an early bird fee..  Then we had to add on van hire, petrol, team t-shirts, van decorations, and transport to the start and back home again.  We decided to keep it as affordable as possible.  Some teams also made magnets to put on other cars but we skipped this.  Maybe if we had been more organized, we could have done it.  Most people on the team brought food and snacks for 24 hours, although we were given bags full of candy, snacks, and energy drinks at the start.

The race had staggered start based on submitted average run times.  We started at 10am which was perfect as no one had to sleep near the start line.  Before you start, there is a safety check of high vis, head torches and back lights, as well as a compulsory safety video.  All of the Ragnar staff at the start area were super helpful.

Running along the sea
Course and bogs: The course was a little different than last year.  We started near Sittingbourne and ended in Brighton, running along the coast as much as possible.  I was super excited to see the White Cliffs of Dover (it was a big selling point when deciding to sign up).  Unfortunately, it was dark when I ran over them so I will need to go back another time.   I did spot some chalk in the mud as I climbed up the cliff path to overlook port of Dover.

The majority of the checkpoints were small car parks or along the side of the road.  Every 5th checkpoints was big as the teams hand over to their other vehicle.  There were stands with coffee, a small selection of food, and of course, port-a-loos.  The small check points also had port-a-loos but they didn't always have toilet paper.

We had terrible, cold rainy weather the weekend of our race.  Four legs were cancelled due to the rain and unsafe conditions, some later in the day.  Unfortunately, one of them was the Ragnar Leg (27 out of 30, which earns the person who completes it an extra medal).  The organizers decided to give the medal to one team member who ran the last two legs.  The only thing was (due to logistics) that they gave you the medal before you actually ran either.  Our fearless captain, Natalie, was due to run the Ragnar Leg.  She dug deep and was able to run the last two legs, which were the equivalent of a half marathon, after living in a van for over 24 hours with barely any sleep.  Well done, Nat!

T-shirt with a summary of the weekend.
Location: Ragnar Relay started off in the USA and are now expanding globally.  This race was along the southeast coast of London, covering about 120 miles.  This was split between each team of 10 (although you can also do as a team of 5 for an ultra Ragnar).  It seemed like most of the runs this year were in the rain and/or dark though, which was a bummer.

There is a Ragnar Relay app, which gave you info on all the checkpoints, but I didn’t find it very helpful when I got lost in a cow field.  It was crucial when we were racing runners from checkpoint to checkpoint though.  Be sure to pack a mobile phone holder that attaches to the windshield to hold your phone as you navigate from check point to check point.

In June 2019, Ragnar Relay is headed to Sweden and I would love to take part!  Who's in?

Night stage was full of disco lights and high-vis
Atmosphere: My team had great banter over WhatsApp and very fun vibes in my van.  At the big exchanges, everyone was chatty and friendly, even though the weather was grim.  There really weren't any spectators cheering you along the route on however, so at times it was a bit lonely.  There was also potential to get lost because the sign posts were only at major junctions.  You were supposed to be able to follow along on the app, but I struggled with this (I don't get along with technology).  The race does give you a chance to enjoy nature if you had a leg through the woods or along the coast.  The runners were really spread out due to staggered starts and hand over logistics.

Race bling and goody bag:  The team was given 10 medals that interlock with each other.  On the back of each one is a Ragnar Relay quote, some of which resonated with each team member.  I wasn’t too choosy, so I let everyone else have first dibs on their medals.  At the end, everyone was given a free drink token and a voucher for one (small) pizza to share.  Most of the goodies were in the bags given to each van at the start.  Also included in the starter bags were sunscreen, lanyards, ear plugs, and disposable rain ponchos.

We did it!  Celebrating at the finish line.  Photo from Paz.
Tips if you want to take part next time:  Before Ragnar Relay, I had completed a few relay events, some while camping (at the Spitfire Scramble) and some while on the road (Fitbit Fifty).  Here are my tips for Ragnar Relay:
  • Practice running at weird hours so you know what to eat, how cold/hot you will get, and feel comfortable running in the dark.
  • Pack a Dry Robe, blanket, or sleeping bag.  I did none of these as I was on public transport and 100% regret it.  A pillow is a good idea too (maybe an inflatable one?)
  • Aim to get to the next checkpoint ASAP rather than leisurely change your clothes.  We were late a few times and felt bad to have our team mate waiting in the rain.
  • Discuss with the team who is bringing what.  You only need one foam roller per van but everyone needs their own battery pack to charge their phones.
  • You will need to bring water but will not be able to eat all of the food.  We had time to go out for pizza on the earlier break when Van 2 was running but then slept during our second break.
  • Bring along a new set of clothes for each leg, and then pack another.  I would have run the last leg if I had dry kit to wear.  The sun was out and most of the team was running. 
  • Keep the sweaty clothes in big zip lock bags to prevent the car from stinking up.
  • Make sure you have enough data on your mobile plan for all of the WhatsApp chats.
Some of the above I got from other people before I ran the race.  Do you have any others to add?  Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks to Simplyhealth for sponsoring my 4x4 Challenge.  You can click here to learn about their new Active Plan, which is perfect for people who like to stay fit and healthy.

Hydrating for a desert ultra

Monday, November 19, 2018

The biggest worry people seemed to have about my desert ultra was how I was going to stay hydrated.  In actual fact, more people tend to suffer from hyponatremia during these sorts of events than dehydration.  Hyponatremia happens when you drink too much water and the salts in your body reach a low concentration.  I remember hearing stories of people dying from chugging water for a radio contest or when pledging a fraternity (because they were under age).  Careful planning went into the food and supplements I brought with me to Jordan.  I chose salty foods, like Lucky Me instant noodles and pretzels.  I also brought Tailwind and nuun tablets, both of which provide electrolytes by dissolving the product in your water.  Finally, I invested in salt tablets from Decathlon as an additional preventative measure.

The week before the race, I started taking the salt tablets as directed on the bottle to make sure I could stomach them and also to start off with a higher-than-normal salt concentration.  I avoided drinking loads in the week leading up to the race and on the plane.  Starting off my adventure with a hangover would not be wise.  My plan was to space out the salt suppliments I had evenly throughout the day and hope it did the trick.

It is hard to know exactly how much salt is gained or lost during an ultra.  I couldn't really see what color my urine was nor did I have a lot of salt sweat on my skin.  I was drinking 1-2 liters of water every 10k with either a serving of Tailwind or nuun.  The food was pre-planned out but could be swapped if I felt thirsty or a bit off.  Luckily, I did something right as I was able to maintain my body weight, muscle mass and percent body fat over the 5 days.  Some people lost as much as 10kg while most lost 2-3kg.  One person even gained weight (I have no idea how!).  This is reflection of what they ate and drank over the entire week, not just during the running bits.  One person needed an IV after day 4 and another started to exhibit signs of hyponatremia.  She quit for the day after a short trip to the ambulance.

We finished the race on a Friday and spent half of Saturday on a bus and half walking around Petra in the midday sun.  We also partied hard on Friday and Saturday, celebrating our crazy feat.  When I got home on Sunday night, I was exhausted from the ultra, the Jordan heat, the late night parties and the early morning flight.  Luckily, I had a visit from the IV Doc booked in as my last defense against my body rebelling against a tough week.

What is the IV Doc?
It is a visiting nurse service that comes to your home, work, gym, etc to administer saline in addition to detoxifying and energizing additives, such as vitamins and amino acids.  When I made the appointment in August, I had to complete a short medical history questionnaire and have a screening call with the doctor.  The at-home visit was eight hours after I landed from Jordan but I still sent them my flight details just in case I was delayed.  The IV Doc confirmed my appointment for an antioxidant IV hydration therapy 24 hours in advance by email too so I wouldn't forget in my jet lag haze.

My experience
My nurse, Judy, arrived at my home with a suitcase full of goodies.  She had saline, liquid vitamins, syringes, and everything else needed for my treatment.  She reviewed my medical history, allergies and asked how I was feeling.  With my info, she said she wouldn't be able to give me one specific solution due to my allergy to sulfa drugs but she could give me extra vitamin B with an intramuscular injection.  We then called the doctor to confirm my prescription.   I actually talked to him too about my allergy and current medications.

Once we got the all clear from the doctor, we set me up on the couch with Bridezillas on the television and a needle in my arm.  My husband got Judy and I tea and we chatted for a while about my race, her upcoming wedding, and working for the NHS.  After 30 minutes, Judy increased the drip speed as I hadn't had any ill effects.  It took just over an hour for the bag to drain entirely. The time passed quickly though as she was very easy to talk to.  Before the appointment, I was wondering what the nurse does during the treatment.  Judy said it depends on the person and where they are having the treatment.  She said people at work tend to be more tense and formal, while home visits are relaxed.

I had read that some people get the chills during the at-home IV treatments, but I was comfortable the entire time.  The needle didn't bother me and I didn't have to go to the bathroom during the drip.  When the bag was nearly empty, Judy unhooked me, tidied everything up and took all of the waste with her.  My husband and I didn't have to worry about needles in the rubbish, which was a relief.  In total, the appointment took about two and a half hours.  It was wonderful to have the treatment in my home, rather than having to travel to an office after a grueling week of travel.

Who is this service for?
Judy told me that athletes use The IV Doc before and or after big competitions.  Entertainers who have a long gig (such as at a festival) or two performance a day (matinee and evening) have also booked in with her.  Obviously, after traveling is a popular choice, as well as after a big night out that results in a hangover.  It is something that would have been a game changer during the Wadi Rum Ultra for participants who were struggling a bit (I am going to suggest it to the organizers).  My treatment was designed to help me get back to a balanced state by providing immediate hydration.  The solution also boosted my immune system and helped increase my oxygen delivery to improve my energy levels and fight fatigue.

The following day, I was back to work and feeling fine.  I was still a little stiff but my feet were less swollen and I slept well.  It was back to normal life after an incredible experience I will never forget.

Thanks to the The IV Doc for the complementary service.  All opinions are honest and my own.

To run or not to run? That is the question.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I wrote this post in the week leading up to NYC Marathon. It gives a good insight into the worries runners have when training no longer takes up most of their time. 

Maranoia- paranoia about your health, including but not limited to niggles, aches, pains and cold-like symptoms, in the weeks leading up to a marathon

Since coming back from the Wadi Rum Ultra, my right ankle hasn’t felt right.  The range of motion (ROM) was decreased and something inside the joint felt locked and stiff.  Many other parts of my body hurt too so I didn’t pay too much attention for the first few days I was back in the UK.  Over time, the other aches went away and the blisters on my feet healed (no toe nails have dropped off yet).  But my ankle was still off.

I knew only having three weeks between these two big races was a risk.  Running across all of the unstable sand made my ankles work harder than usual.  My biggest fear is that if I run the NYC Marathon on 4 November, I will do long-term or permanent damage to my ankle.  This winter, the plan was to cut back on the miles a bit and spend more time strength training.  However, I also wanted to get back to Track Tuesdays with Advent Running.  I haven’t been in two months and I miss seeing everyone and working hard.  Hopefully my performance will not have suffered by the time I make it back.

Luckily for me, osteopath consultations are covered under my Simplyhealth active plan.  The team at Function360 have a few osteopaths on site, so I booked in for an hour long appointment with Victor.  He had seen me prior to Wadi RUm Ultra for a pain I had in my neck (another case of maranoia).  As we already had a rapport and he knew a bit about my 4x4 Challenge, I felt safe in his hands.  I also know that the Function360 team supports their clients’ goals.  If I said I definitely wanted to run NYC Marathon, Victor would make it happen.

We began with a chat about what the pain was, where it was, and how it felt.  He then observed me moving a few different ways (on my toes, on my heels, bending knees, etc) to see how my ROM and flexibility was on my right vs left side.  He then had me sit on the table and palpated my feet, ankles and calves.  By observing what points were painful for me and how ankles and feet felt under his touch, his detective work continued.  He determined I had a strain and possibly sprain on the inside of my right ankle.  As treatment, he spent some time massaging around my medial mallelous, and also on my calves (sometimes tight calves can cause pain in the feet) to help relieve the pain.  Victor moved my right leg and foot around to encourage lymph drainage and inserted about five acupuncture needles in my ankle to help address the pain.  The last step of my treatment was taping the inside of my right leg from my ankle to mid-calf with a single piece of kinesiology tape. I had always thought taping was a placebo affect, but Victor told me that this study showed that kinesology tape helped promote lymphatic drainage.  The tape stayed in place for three days.

Victor recommended active recovery that was low impact, such as swimming or cycling.  He also wanted me to do some ankle strengthening exercises to help loosen the joint and promote strength.  I only went swimming once, combining walking the water with a doggie paddle as I didn’t want to get my hair wet (but it did anyways).  I also did a yoga class, some slow dog walks, taught indoor cycling once, and lead a beginner’s 5K before work one day at a 10 min/mile pace.

A week after my initial visit, my ankle ROM had improved but it still wasn’t feeling 100%.  I booked a 30 minute appointment to follow up with Victor.  We chatted briefly about what I had been doing to recovery since we last met and how the ankle was feeling.  He again observed me walking and stretching in various ways before manipulating my foot and ankle to find the source of the pain.  Using massage wax, he used manual therapy on the tenderest areas.  He also performed some traction on my ankles.

At this point I was really torn.  Victor confirmed there was still a strain (ligaments) and/or sprain (tendon) in my right ankle.  The process takes 21 days to heal so I technically would have enough time to be ready for the NYC Marathon.  On the other hand, working too hard during the race (like for a PB) so soon after injury could make the complete recovery process take longer.  Victor said the decision was up to me as there was a chance I would be better.  Again, he recommended low impact activities and that I invest in an ankle brace if I was going to run the marathon for additional support.  My ankle feel fine running unless it moves left and right, which might happen during the race as I avoid water bottles and other runners on the road.  Luckily, I know I have medical care available if I do decide to run as my active plan runs for a full year and covers physiotherapy, osteopathy, acupuncture, and more.

There is a chance my travel insurance will reimburse my trip after receiving a letter from Victor, who is a member of the General Osteopathic Council, explaining I am not fit to travel.  I have been doing some soul searching to decide what I should do.  This trip is a package deal with a tour company, so I won’t get a refund from them, not would I be eligible to defer my place to next year.  I am working hard to complete all of the World Marathon Majors but my Chicago race last year was a horrible time due to injuries.  I wanted NYC to be a PB.

Update #1:  I was able to run the entire NYC Marathon.  A full review of the race is forthcoming here on the blog.  Luckily, my ankle didn't bother me at all.  Instead, I ended up stopping to use the loo five times.  It wasn't a PB race but not my worst either.  I am back to light running this week and look forward to getting that PB in 2019.

Update #2:  After teaching spin class Monday night, going to track Tuesday, and then leading a run club Wednesday morning, my ankle was a bit tender to the touch.  I was able to book an appointment last night with Victor who said I need a longer break from running.  He also taped my ankle and gave me isometric exercises to do.  Someone please hold me accountable on these as I am eager to run again!

Have you ever been in a similar situation?  What did you do?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

Thanks to Simplyhealth for sponsoring my 4x4 Challenge.  NYC Marathon is the last race in the set. 

Join my beginner's run club

Monday, November 12, 2018

I was never a fast runner.  Even now, I am fast for me but nowhere near as speedy as some of my friends.  There have been many times where I have showed up for a group run (either formally or informally organized) and found myself at the back, wondering how much longer it would be until I got lost (have a read of my blog post on how to be a good run club leader).  Turning up to track or even parkrun can be scary because nobody wants to finish last.

You know what?  It is ok to run slower than other people.  Perhaps you have a goal though to improve your running speed. It is up to you if you want to build up your run/walk intervals or want to finish a 5K without walking. There are several ways to get faster.  One is to develop your running muscles (primarily glutes and hamstrings) by lifting weights.  Another way is to add speed work and hill sessions to your training regime.  If you are a beginner though, you might just need to run more frequently.

Rather than wait for the calendar to change to 2019, why not join me on Wednesday mornings through 19 December for a beginners' run club?  We meet at 6:45am for 7am departure near Kings Cross/St Pancras stations.  There is a free bag drop available and our route is predominantly along the towpath.  We have up to 60 minutes to run and or walk 5K before returning to the start point to collect our bags.

Early morning runs can be tough, especially when it is cold and dark outside.  Running with a group is the perfect way to add accountability.  Plus you will be ready to set brand new goals in 2019.

Sign up for MyCrew app today and then register for the runs you can make.  I would love to see you there.  Feel free to invite your friends and colleagues.  I always say, "the more the merrier".

My 4x4 Challenge is complete!

Friday, November 9, 2018

I am experiencing a wave of relief as I type this.  I knew that the 4x4 challenge would be tough on me physically, mentally and emotionally.  There was so much packing, logistics, planning and physical effort involved to get it done.  My house is a mess with bags half unpacked and new kit without a place to go. My usual habit is over-committing, so I am really looking forward to having no races booked in until February 2019.  My first first priority now that I am done is sorting out my house (which will also keep my husband happy) and then focus on strength training.  That Boston Qualifier isn't going to come without some more hard work.

Here is a very brief recap of the races:

Marathon du Medoc, near Bordeaux France
Unofficial time:  6:21:31 (Link to my strava stats here)
Read my race review here

Ragnar Relay, along British coast
4 legs totaling 26.5 miles in less than 40 hours
Race review forthcoming

Photo by Ben Tufnell

Wadi Rum Ultra
, Jordan
257 km over 5 days.  Hardest thing I have ever done
Race review forthcoming

NYC Marathon, USA
Official time: 4:49:15 due to 5 bathroom stops and sore legs from mile 20. Also my 4th World Marathon Major.
Race review forthcoming

Hogwarts Running Club Platform 9 3/4 run, benefiting Rods Racing 
Bonus virtual race because I have a t-shirt that says "Run like You Know Who is chasing you".

Coming soon are a million blog posts about the races, the kit, and preparation.  If there is anything in particular you want to know about, leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer it.

Big thanks to Simplyhealth for supporting my 4x4 Challenge.  Learn more about their new Active Plan by clicking here.

And don't forget that through the month of December, I have an inspirational advent post every day through Christmas.  Be sure to bookmark so you see each and every one.