Enjoying summertime

Monday, August 19, 2019

It has been a while since I posted.  Of course, I feel guilty about this because a "good" blogger posts on a regular basis.  When you don't see me much on the blog, that is because I am out living life in a big way.  This month has been no different.  Most of my time outside work as been spent outside.  I had the London Triathlon (race report coming soon!) and then was in the USA for a week visiting family and friends before a week-long course in Bar Harbor, Maine.  I had never been to that part of Maine before and highly recommend for those who also love the great outdoors.

The sun was shining something fierce on the East Coast during our stay and I have happily developed a slight tan despite wearing sunscreen every day.  My time was spent hiking up mountains, swimming in lakes, exploring American history, shopping at Goodwill (an American charity shop) and eating a lot of donuts.  The #augustrunstreak has been a success so far too.  Having an aim of just one mile a day made it very achievable and dare I say, fun.  Check out my Strava profile to see the places I explored on foot.

I am now back in London, feeling refreshed and excited about the things to come.  My list of blog posts to write is long and there are a few more adventures I have booked in that need some additional planning.  Somehow, I will find the time as all of these things make me happy.  I am also re-branding and can't wait for you to see the fantastic design ThinkMarsh Studio has come up with.

As my tan starts to fade, I will be thinking fondly of the good times I had in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maine this summer.  Hopefully you were able to follow the highlights of each location on Facebook and Instagram.  If there is anything in particular from these trips you would like me to write about, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to get an answer up by September.

Photos by Eileen at Crooked Flight.  Dress from Goodwill shop in Quincy, MA.

Join me for 30 Days To Happy

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Everyone deserves to be happy.  As the Happiness Personal Trainer and a qualified health coach, I have the tools to guide you through small changes that can add up to make a big difference in your daily life.  Why not join me for a unique online training program that I developed to cultivate happiness through fitness, food, feelings and fun?  I will be there to hold your hand, cheer you on, and guide you through some of your roadblocks as we work together over 30 days.

'30 Days To Happy' is conducted online, meaning anyone in the world can join as long as they have access to the internet.  Held over email and Facebook, we will touch upon attributes of fitness, food, fun and feelings, learning healthy ways to incorporate each into our daily lives by gently stepping in and out of our comfort zones. 

For only £59, you'll get a introductory webinar to learn more about the program and meet others in the group; a weekly challenge video and worksheet to complete; personalized coaching via the Nudge app on your Smartphone, and community support in a private Facebook group.  We will wrap it up with another video call to see what each participant learned through the course. Overall, it only takes a few minutes a day to complete the weekly challenge.

Testimonials from my pilot session:

"I really enjoyed working with Mollie on the 30 days to happy programme, I learned a lot about my habits and had fun trying new things."    -Julie

"Mollie's 30 Days to Happy is like a gentle nudge from a friend. She provides really great prompts to dig a bit deeper and really think about your day-to-day mood. It challenges you to find happiness is all aspects of life and see how it all relates. I liked meeting new people through the program too and hope to continue using her tips throughout the year!"    -Eileen

Are you in?  

The program runs 23 August- 21 September 2019, costing just £59.  The strategies you will learn will last a lifetime, so invest in yourself and sign up today. Registration closes 23 August 2019.  Sign up via the button below. I am once again limiting the session to 30 people to ensure you get the attention you deserve, so don't wait. :)

Taking triathlon training to the next level

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Waiting to scan my barcode at parkun

On the morning of 13th July, I slotted in some time to dedicate to my triathlon training even though the Super Sprint should only take me an hour or so (the course is a 450m swim, 10K bike, and 2.5K run).  My training plan was a brick session, which meant I had to complete two disciplines back to back.  I took my bike out for an eight mile cycle before parkrun which was nice as the roads were fairly quiet.  I also tried to only turn left so that I could keep my momentum going.  Parkrun is always 5K, twice the distance I needed to run.  Conveniently, my parkrun is two laps so I took the first lap what I thought was pretty fast (for me) to replicate what the London Triathlon will be like.  After looking at my splits on Strava, it turns out the second lap was faster for me.  My legs must have been feeling it from the bike ride.  That is one of the great things about brick sessions is that you have an idea of how your body will feel switching disciplines.  You can mentally and physically prepare yourself for the race, knowing that you will come out the other side.

Kneesuit for me is function over fashion
In order to stick to my rule of "nothing new on race day," I tried out a kneesuit from Simply Swim* as part of this session.  This suit appealed to me because I could wear it under my wet suit and not waste time in transition changing my outfit.  Padded shorts are not my thing, which is why I didn't go for a traditional tri suit.  Of course, I needed to wear a sports bra under the suit because it only had a shelf bra but this would be the case if I wore a regular swim suit too. 

Usually, I prefer to wear clothes that cover the areas of my body that make me insecure (primarily my stomach).  This kneesuit leaves nothing to the imagination in terms of my body shape but at least it is all black.  The light blue on the top is a nice detail too.  While I don't think it is flattering on me (some swimsuits may have shaping material but the kneesuit did not), it did not cause any chafing or get pulled into an uncomfortable position.  Not once did I have to adjust it while on the bike or run.  That makes it a winner in my book and perfect for the tri.

Although I was self-conscious at first of this form-fitting suit, I quickly realized that I actually looked pretty bad-ass in it.  I was training for a triathlon! The people around me didn't know what distance I was doing.  I just looked like I meant business in my knee-length-swimming-costume-turned-run-kit. As my mindset changed, I carried my head a little higher and slowly started to pass people, though the passing people bit was probably due to my legs recovering from my bike ride.

There are two downsides to the kneesuit.  The first is that I don't have anything to wipe my sweat or snot on (this is where a sleeve comes in handy).  The other is that it is hard to stop for a pee in the suit as the entire top needs to be pulled down to use the bathroom.  Luckily, this was never an issue during my training sessions in the kneesuit.  With an aim of finishing the Super Sprint in 60 minutes or less, so I should be able to hold it.  It would be something to consider if I up my distance next year. Many times during my marathons, I have to stop and use with bathroom.  Some athletes, who take their racing much more serious than I do,will urinate on their bike or while running.  I don't think I can do that on purpose.  If I start coughing while running, it might happen but be out of my control.  We shall see what happens on race day.

The kneesuit worked great with my Aptonia triathlon wetsuit* when I finally tried them both in the open water.  While I am a fairly confident swimmer in the pool, mentally everything changed for me in the open water when I couldn't see the bottom.  It took a few sessions in the open water to calm my nerves and figure out that I needed to pull my neck and sleeves a bit open to ensure water entered my wet suit.  Again, no chaffing from either piece of kit during the swim, which was a relief.  Having tried these together makes me more confident for the London Triathlon* on Saturday.

What do you wear for a triathlon?  Do you change your outfit depending on the distance?

*Thanks to Simply Swim for gifting me the kneesuit, Decathlon for the wet suit, and Limelight Sports for the London Triathlon entry.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Have you tried plastic fishing?

Friday, July 19, 2019

Caring for the environment is something I have always felt strongly about.  There wasn't any recycling on campus when I went to university so my first trip home (a six hour drive) I brought a laundry basket full of recycling (and another full of dirty clothes).  Living in London, I am amazed at how many people litter and how much rubbish ends up all over the place.  Some of it may be due to lack of public rubbish bins (there are reduced numbers available due to security), but I think it is primarily down to laziness and lack of respect.  When I used to go on dog walks, I would pick up crisp packets and empty bottles to help keep the local parks clean.

A brand I am quite fond of, Keen Europe, has started up their own initiative to keep our water ways clean.  Their new campaign, #bettertakesaction, had a boat tour all over Europe to encourage people to get outside, explore, and protect the planet (which is a big part of my own brand's ethos).  Did you know that 60% of the European population is not active enough and do not spend enough time outdoors to keep healthy?  Along with that 18 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean every year.  80% of this waste comes from land.  People- we can do better on both accounts.

Sadly the tour is over now, but Cal Majors, of Paddle Against Plastic, is continuing her own campaign.  She stand up paddle-boarded (SUPed) from Land's End to John O'Groats over two months.  Plastic Whale came over from The Netherlands to help us collect the plastic we found in the canal around Hackney Wick.  This company takes plastic bottles (like water and soft drink bottles) to make their boats as this type of plastic can be made into the correct material.  The other waste we collected was sorted into "other plastic" and "garbage" for various recycling efforts or the landfill.

Between the kayaks and the Keen boat, we found all sorts of stuff- shoes, noise makers, bottles, watering cans, a pregnancy test, candy wrappers and a ceramic vase.  You can see that some stuff gets blown in if the bins are full.  There were also a lot of small pieces of plastic that went right through the nets which we were unable to remove.  The bigger stuff eventually gets broken down, which makes it harder to remove and easier for animals in ingest.

Personally, I think there are two simple things you can do to greatly reduce your impact on the environment.  First, carry a reusable water bottle (I love my Hydroflasks) or just drink tap water.  If you can't find a water bottle that is convenient to carry, dust off your flask and simply fill it with water.  It will fit easily into your pocket or a small bag.  Second, don't buy takeaway coffee or if you must, use a reusable cup.  My husband has several of these collapsible silicone cups and leaves them around so he always has one handy.  There are lots of other things you can do to help too, but from what I see in London, these two would have a significant impact.  Keen was kind enough to give us a reusable water bottle, metal straws, and canvas bags to us to get started.

I am hoping to continue #bettertakesaction in the local London waterways on a SUP board ramping up to the London Regatta.  There are a few bits to put into place before I can announce anything formally. 

My Keen Ethos with the bottle cap boat floor
If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you may remember I reviewed the Keen Ethos last summer.  Their range of shoes are versatile for adventures on land and water.  While already a big name in the USA, they are steadily finding their way into the European adventurer's closets.  A lot of my outdoorsy friends have their kids kitted out in Keens as the sandals have reinforced toes and the soles are thick plastic and very durable.  For those who prefer hiking, you can also read my review of the Terradora boots.

As a consumer, it is important to me to support brands that align with my values.  Keen is one of those.  Since the company was founded in 2003, Keen has donated more than $17 million to chariites and non-profits that work for people, animals, and the environment.  I hope you spend some time getting to know them too.  If you enjoy being outdoors and active (whether in the mountains or on the water), you will also love their shoes.

Before you go, here is a minute-long time lapse of our group going through the lock on the canal.  I can't remember the last time I was in a lock.  It was so cool!

Thanks to Keen and Plastic Whale for inviting me along to this event.  All opinions are honest and my own.  This post contains affiliate links which cost the buyer nothing additional but help contribute to the costs for running this site.

What to pack for a desert ultra

Friday, July 12, 2019

Summer race season is here.  Many committed runners have ultras booked in (any race longer than a marathon) and some even are looking forward to an ultra in an extreme location, such as high mountains, hot jungles, arctic snow, or in the desert.  I only have experience with a desert ultra so far so I thought I would share the things I am glad I packed.  Of course, this list is not exhaustive nor specific to your event.  Be sure you read all of the race info when packing as some races, like Marathon des Sables, you have to carry everything you pack while you run.  But others, like Ultra X Co's events, will transport your luggage for you.  These are important details you don't want to overlook.

In no particular order, here is a short packing list.  Items marked with a ✓ are for if you do not have a weight restriction. I will say that a local Jordan man joined us last minute with a regular rucksack, plain old trainers, and a baseball hat and was able to finish the race.  No sunglasses or fancy equipment.  Mind over matter, eh?

Salt/hydration- In the desert, you are going to sweat more in order for your body to deal with the heat.  Plus you will be running, which is another reason to sweat.  Staying hydrated is very important.  Drinking plain water on its own will affect your body as osmosis in your cells won't work properly.  You need to add salt in some shape or form to your drinks and food.  I used Aptonia Salt capsules* during my race, along with nuun tablets and salted pretzels.  I kind of made up my own dose and luckily didn't have any problems.  Please speak to a professional when determining how much salt you should take and when.

Poles- I used my Leki Micro Trail poles (similar to these Micro Trail Pros) every day except the first when out in the desert. I didn't strength train enough, nor practice enough in sand, to move efficently.  With the poles, I could use my upper body to pull myself along, as well as keep steady in the shifting sand.  My poles have a minimalist 'glove' which protected my hands and secured the poles.  They easily unclipped from the poles for ease (rather than having to remove the entire glove).  The poles were super-light and folded up if I needed to attached then to my rucksack instead of using them.  Poles tend to be a personal preference.  If you are new to desert running, I would say give them a try.  The majority of the competitors used them.

Sunscreen- This is a no brainer.  Adding a sun burn on top of fatigue would really put a damper on the race.  My Race Kit recommended Tingerlaat SPF50 because the sand won't stick to it. It was expensive but I used it and can report that the sand didn't stick to me at all.

Cap or scarf- You need to have something to cover your head from the sun.  I picked up the RaidLight Sahara cap and loved it as the cloth attaches with velcro.

My snazzy cap and Salomon Agile 6 with Camelbak
Bag to carry stuff- If you don't have to carry everything with you, but just what you need for the day, a small rucksack could do the trick.  Of course, you should try running in the bag before your race.  Figure out how/were a hydration pack will go too.  The Salomon Agile 6 worked for me.  I had two water pouches (one for plain water and one for nuun tablets) plus it fit my 2L hydration pack.  I would have preferred zippered pockets on my waist for easy access to snacks but I guess that is why the bag was so light!

Snacks you crave- As I mentioned, I had pretzels for the salt, but also Haribos, protein cookies, Lucho Dillitos, and more to keep me sane.  The one thing I didn't pack but wish I had was Diet Coke (hello- no weight limit!).

Warm clothes for evening- Depending on the time of year and where you are sleeping, the desert can get a bit chilly in the evening.  The nights we were in tents, I was fine.  We did have one windy evening outside on a rock, for which I wore my beanie cap and everything I had that was dry.

Biodegradable loo roll-  Lessen your environmental impact but using biodegradable loo roll.  I found it basically disintegrated when it got wet but it was better than nothing when in the middle of a 50km run.

Sunglasses- You need to protect your eyes from the sun's rays, as well as have a slight barrier for blowing sand.  My SMITH Attack Max with Chromo Pop were amazing.  They wrapped around my eyes and had a maximum view of the landscape ahead of me due to the single lens design.  The other cool thing, is that the lenses are interchangeable so I could choose a lens to suit the weather (but never had to swap as the sun was bright every day).  This option is perfect for like in the UK.

Music for the long days ✓- I bought a £10 MP3 player off of Amazon and only used it on my longest day.  I went for something cheap as I wasn't sure how the heat and sand would affect the technology.  To be honest, I don't usually run with music, so for not having music the majority of the race wasn't a problem.

Solar powered battery pack ✓- This should be the first extra thing you pack when you discover you can. I used it to charge my fitness tracker and activity camera (or faux pro as I like to call it).  Of course, I was not running to win the race which meant I had plenty of time to take photos and enjoy the scenery.

Blister kit- This is a no brainer.  Do your research to figure out exactly what you need.  Practice taping your feet up beforehand too.

Getting blisters fixed by the pros
Hand sanitizer- For the wild wees and camping without running water.  Nobody wants to get sick in the middle of the desert.  Along the same lines, don't high five anyone until after the race.

Camera ✓- As mentioned above, I had a faux pro for snapping the scenery and taking some videos (which will some day be a vlog).  The serious competitors did no bother with this or used their mobile phones.  It depends on how you want to remember and commemorate the experience.

Diary and pen to write memories ✓- This would be the thing I pack after the battery pack.  I have a terrible memory so I needed to take a few minutes each evening to record what happened that day.  After a while, everything becomes a blur!  If weight is precious, you can download an app, such as Evernote, to type in your memories each evening.  It works without internet.

Head torch- Because it gets dark.  Make sure it had red light so you don't wake up your tent mates and is strong enough to light the path ahead of you when running before sunrise.

Container and spork for eating food- Depending on what you pack, you will probably need a bowl of some sort (although I think for MDS you can use water bottle) and a spork.  You will be hungry.

Comfy shoes with insoles- In Jordan, I wore the Salomon S Lab Sense 6* (similar to these Sense 7s) with SOLE active medium insoles*, plus sand gaiters.  Because of my history of Achilles tendinopathy, I am very particular about what trainers I run in. I need something stable and cushioned.  The Senses were super comfortable during my training before I had the velcro for the gaiters sewn on.  Unfortunately, that is a risk with any pair of shoes when you have to add on velcro.  I was so bummed I couldn't wear them any more!  I have worn SOLE in the past and went with the medium thickness to allow for sandy conditions where my foot would be flexing over uneven terrain. I then transferred them to one of my other pairs of running shoes and am very happy with the fit.

If you have ever run a desert ultra, let me know if there is anything I have missed off of this list by leaving a comment below.  If you want a packing list for a regular race, click here to have a read of my head-to-toe packing list.

Interested in the Ultra X Jordan race (read my review of the 2018 event here)?  Entries close 21 July 2019.  You had better register asap if you want to join the team this year.

Items marked with an * were given to me pro gratis to review.  As always, all opinions are honest and my own.  This post also includes affiliate links which cost the buyer nothing extra, but help contribute to running this website.

MLB London Series 2019

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Spending four years in Boston, MA for university, I rapidly became a Red Sox fan.  My campus and the dance clubs we went to were within walking distance of Fenway Park.  My junior and senior year, I could hear fans cheering from my dorm room when my windows were open.  I was lucky enough to attend a view games when I lived in Boston, and then in Detroit and Toronto.

I would rather play any sport than watch it, but attending a baseball game is an American pastime.  There is a social aspect too, of course, and lots of eating.  These are the points I enjoy more than waiting for some action on the field.  As a kid, I played softball for many years and then played again in grad school.  Unlike rugby, cricket, or tennis, I know the rules and understand the strategy.  Therefore, I can shout things that make sense and are relevant such as "two out- run on anything!"

This year was the first time baseball teams from the US came to play in London.  The MLB London Series took place last weekend at the London Stadium in Stratford.  As soon as I heard the teams were the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, I knew I had to be there.  The Red Sox and Yankees have one of the oldest rivalries in baseball.  Living in New England and having many friends from there too, there is often a divide in the group as to which team they support.

Getting tickets for a Red Sox/Yankees game in the US is nearly impossible so I wasn't sure I would have success here in London.  I had four people trying to tickets for me and luckily I did!

James came to the game with me (wearing his Detroit Tigers gear).  I had scoped out the stadium and gift shop the day before.  Unfortunately, I wasn't keen on the section of womens' clothes available.  I ended up with a magnet and koozie.  At the game, I enjoyed Pimm's then Jack Daniels and two feet of nachos.

There was an area to try your baseball skills out called Playball Park.  You could hit balls in the batting cages or try virtual reality batting.  There were also speed cams to see how fast you could pitch and a pit to make a diving catch.  For people who have never played baseball, it was such a great way to let them experience the game.

The day didn't end on a happy note because the Red Sox ended up loosing to the Yankees.  Both of the London Series games were higher scoring than a usual game.  Hopefully, it made the game more exciting for new baseball fans.  The London Series is back in 2020 with the Cubs and Cardinals.  James is just going to have to wait a bit longer for the Tigers to come for a visit.

lululemon Sweatlife Festival

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

For the third year in a row, I made my way down to Tobacco Docks early on a Saturday morning. It usually takes some sort of workout for me to get up early and Sweatlife Festival is no exception.  For about £30, you have a multitude of 45 minute classes to choose from, featuring many of the London boutique studios, such as Frame, KoBox, Un1t London, Third Space, and Triyoga.  Big name yogis come in to teach hundreds of students.  Then there are other perks, such as healthy food options (prosecco too), a marketplace, hair braiding in the Mermaid Cave and a stretch out space with foam rollers.

After registering, we all received a water bottle to ensure we reduced our plastic use over the course of the day.  I got in at 8:30am for my first session at 9am, which gave me time to explore the layout and see where my registered sessions were.  I knew I would have to refill a few times due to the warm weather and all the classes I was going to take, so I also noted where the water refilling stations were.

Why this and not the others?

Your ticket includes one red class and one yellow plus unlimited talks and yoga classes.  You get at least  three classes for £35 for a single day pass.  Last year, I tried KoBox and Un1t to see what they were about.  This year, I tried Olympic lifting and a barre class.  I tend to skip Frame classes because I worked there ages ago so totally get what the brand is about (plus their classes are intense so I need to conserve my energy for a marathon day). The day is a fantastic opportunity to try out different boutique studios with a minor financial investment.

My first session was Introduction to Olympic Weightlifting with CrossFit London (based in Bethnal Green).  My partner was Amanda, who was from Australia and very friendly and experienced in lifting (thank goodness, she had great tips).  Unfortunately, we had very loud neighbors which made it hard to hear the instructors.  The class was split so we could work on two different movements but still hear our instructors.

My next session was reiki with Re:Mind studio.  Based near Victoria station, it is a meditation center that offers reiki, crystal bowl sessions, meditation classes and more.  I hadn't heard of them before so it was very cool to experience their class.  Reiki channels energy and vibration to help with healing. I have hard it before in a 1-2-1 setting but never in a large group.  It was a lovely way to recoup after an early start and lifting session.

The first talk I went to was all about meditation and mindfulness from Danielle of lululemon corporate office.  She gave us a 21 day meditation challenge were we only need to spend a minute a day meditating.  The mantra she gave us was 'I am.'  My meditation reminders are in my diary and I am determined to finish this challenge.

The only yoga class I went to was lead by Sanchia Legister.  Funny fact- we sat next to each other on the plane to NYC marathon!  Her music selection was amazing, both in mood and lyrical choice.  She also doesn't take yoga too seriously, which made the class of 400 yogis a lot of fun.  The energy in the room was amazing.  Me being me, I re-introduced myself to her at the end of the class.

The next talk I went to was about doing less but better.  Another leader from lululemon's leadership team talked about how if we cut out 80% of the things we spend energy on to focus on the most important 20%, the resulting outcome would be significantly greater.  Inspired by her talk, I already cut out a few one-offs things I volunteered for but weren't going to help me reach my end goals in life.  This has made me feel more relaxed in some ways and focused in others.

My last class of the day was with Xtend Barre London.  I thought it would be a traditional barre class, but instead it was a little bit of everything (minus the bar).  We did first and second positions, plies, and a bit of rhythmic movement.  I definitely felt the burn in my arms and legs.  Great music and moves made it a lovely way to end my day.

The last session I tried to attend was a crystal bowl session with Re:Mind but sadly it filled up.  I have been meaning to try it but wasn't sure how it worked.  It is still on my list of things to do.  My friend, Kate, offers this regularly and I need to make it prioritize it.

Less than a mile from Tobacco Docks is Rinkoff Bakery. So I walked about 15 minutes to enjoy my crodough in the sunshine.  It was the best way to end the day. I rarely get over to Whitechapel so this was something I was thinking about all day.

Have you been to Sweatlife before?  What did you think?  I am signing up again for next year!