London Marathon- here I come!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I am so excited to announce that I have joined Plantlife's London Marathon team for 2017.  This will be my 5th marathon and 2nd World Major race.  I cannot wait to run the streets of the city I now call home and take part in a race I have watched so many times from the sidelines.

Proper training will start in January so for now I will continue on strength training (you can start for free!), Friday mornings with Adidas Runners London, and developing my fundraising strategy. I have pledged to raise £1000 for Plantlife by 20 April 2017 and would love your support.  There are a few ways to get involved:

1.  Make a donation on my Just Giving page.  Easy-peasy.

2.  Buy a limited edition 2017 wall calendar*  PRICE REDUCED (21 x 28 cm) for £8 plus £2 shipping to UK addresses only or a desk calendar for £6 plus £2 shipping to UK addresses only.


2.  Order wildflower seed packets*  PRICE REDUCED (£1.50 plus 50p for postage) or boxes (SOLD OUT) which make the perfect stocking stuffer.

Big thanks to Wildflower Favours for supporting me on this aspect of my fundraiser.

Seed packets

3.  Buy a £5 raffle ticket. Only 100 tickets will be sold and the aim is to have 10 awesome prizes.  Top prizes include Fitbit Aria Wifi Smart scale, massage from The Green Well, kit from the Physical Company, Brodie SkinCare moisturizer, Hale Naturals PPB, one month free membership to Crossfit Dawn and more!

Check back on 9th December for a full list of prizes.  Drawing to take place 20th December so prizes can be posted in time for Christmas.  Prizes will only be posted to UK addresses.

4.  Attend the Winchelsea Christmas Fare in Forest Gate on Sunday 4th December, where I will be selling the calendars, seeds, Krispy Kreme donuts, raffle tickets, and other goodies.  Stop by The Wanstead Tap, 352 Winchelsea Road Forest Gate, London E7 0AQ  between 12pm and 8pm and say hello.

5.  Attend a health workshop with yoga, running, and goal setting tips in Central London in January and March 2017, co-hosted by my friend, Emma Heald.  Register your interest here.

View your cart here

A little more about Plantlife:

Plantlife is the organisation that is speaking up for our wild flowers, plants and fungi. From the open spaces of our nature reserves to the corridors of government, we’re here to raise their profile, to celebrate their beauty, and to protect their future.

HRH The Prince of Wales is our patron.

Wild flowers and plants play a fundamental role for wildlife, and their colour and character light up our landscapes. But without our help, this priceless natural heritage is in danger of being lost. Join us in enjoying the very best that nature has to offer.

Britain's countryside.
Save it with flowers.

*All proceeds to go to Plantlife.

Winter is coming. Send help.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Let's get right to it.  The days are shorter.  It actually is cold now.  And wet.  I assume you feel like I do this time of year and just wanted to stay under the duvet all day with the electric blanket on.  Here are six tips on how to stay out of hibernation.

Stay warm with merino wool baselayer and socks-I discovered merino wool years ago and have never looked back.  Depending on how 'heavy' it is, it will keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  It also has the unique ability to not smell because it absorbs moisture so well, meaning there isn't an opportunity for bacteria to start growing on your skin.  I particularly like the socks for the winter because cotton holds on to the moisture (either from damp weather or sweat) which makes me cold.

Drink plenty of fluid- If you don't carry a water bottle around with you, now is the time to get on board.  Hydro Flask is a vauum-insulated stainless steel bottle that keeps drinks warm or cold (they gave me one filled with ice and it lasted through the night!) so it is a perfect vessel no mater what time of year (or beverage choice). You should still be drinking plenty of water in the colder months, even though you are not sweating as much. Carrying a bottle is super-convenient and will help you measure how much you drink each day.

Note the beer flagon/growler size

See sunlight- I am still using my Lumie alarm clock which helps me wake up a bit more naturally when it is still dark outside.  I also have a Seasonal Affect Disorder lamp at work which helps the entire team during the dark months.  Another way to see more sunlight would be simply to head outside for a walk on your break or eat lunch outside on the sunny days.

Stay active with home workouts with Julia- If you are anything like me, once I get home and sit down, I find it hard to get out the door again for a pint of milk, let alone the gym.  That is the brilliance behind Julia's online gym.  I don't need to rush about for a class schedule or to meet a personal trainer. Julia is my coach and available anytime I need her.  Join now for free and give it a try.  The workouts last 20-60 minutes making them very easy to slot into your day.  You can even do them at work as some don't require equipment.  Julia is currently offering her Bronze level membership for FREE so you really have nothing to loose.

A photo posted by Mollie, the Happiness PT (@ptmollie) on

Cooking with colourful vegetables this time of year.  Have you tried 'crack vegetables yet? Sure, fruits in the summer are great, but now is the time of year to dig in (see what I did there) to the root veg selection at your local grocer. Select as many different colours as possible, and heck, pick one you have never eaten before and live on the edge a bit.

Pick up an old hobby- You probably don't feel like going out quite as much as you did the summertime.  You will need a new way to fill up your time  did you love to read as a child.? Or take ballroom dance lessons at uni?  Or did your grandmother teach you how to knit when you visited her during summer holidays?  Keeping the mind active and doing things you enjoy is just as important as being physically active.  You will meet new people as you take up your favourite pastime, rediscover a lost passion, and maybe even get a confidence boost if you find you still have a talent for it.  How cool would that be?

These are just a few tips and perhaps you may have heard them before.  Dd you act on them? Did you take control and make positive changes to feel better and stay fit?  One of my favourite quotes is 'if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.'  Remember your goal is health and happiness, so take the first step today.  And of course, let me know how it goes.

Hydro Flask kindly gave me their bottle to try out.  All opinons are honest and my own.  This post also contains affiliate links.  These are at no additional cost to you, but help maintain the cost of running the blog and supporting my activewear purchases.

Shoes for every season with function AND fashion

Thursday, November 10, 2016

It always amazes me how Londoners will go for fashion over function when it comes to shoe choice.  I know I am neither trendy or cool, especially in an urban sense.  But where I grew up, when there was 2 feet of snow , you would wear warm tall boots.  The first winter we were in London, it snowed a few wet centimetres. As we had just came from Michigan and still had our gortex winter boots. We met friends for coffee and they were in Nike trainers with frozen feet. We may not have looked cool, but our feet were warm and dry.

Brand new OOFOS. I need a pedicure STAT!
After races, people often change out of their running shoes (cuz those are only for running in) and throw on flip flops.  I can't wear most flip flops because the design often lacks arch support and cushioning. With my history of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis, it causes me a lot of pain to wear flat shoes for long periods of time.  Usually I will leave my trainers on after a race or bring another pair with me to change into.

This summer, I was fortunate enough to have a pair of OOFOS Recovery flip flops (OOriginal in Fuschia, of course) to product test after my races.  I wore them after the Dublin Half, between laps at Spitfire Scramble, after the Berlin Marathon, and while I was awake on the bus during the FitbitFifty.  The OOFoam technology is a little cushy, yet supportive.  The shoe design also has an arch built in.  Usually my narrow feet don't feet in sandals were the straps are not adjustable (the straps would be above my feet making it hard to walk), but my feet fit in oofos just fine.  The shoes are light, making it a no-brainer to take them travelling.  The color selection means they can compliment many outfit choices too and there are a range of designs too.  I felt great the day after the races where I tested them out, while during the relays I was able to keep going.  You can even throw them in the washing machine to spruce them up.

Easy to wash, but because mine are a ligher color,
there were still a few areas of wear.

Fast forward to colder weather......

Muddy dog walks are now bareable due to warm
dry feet
In the summer, I wear trainers while I wear gortex shoes from September to May in London. It rains a lot here and I hate having wet feet.  Walking Oldland in the park through long grass, there is still a chance my jeans and socks will get wet. I have some budget wellies from decathlon but they are really heavy and my socks always fall down (do you ever have this problem?). I also had to invest in insoles for the wellies as there was no support in there at all.

At a recent press event, I was introduced to Bogs Footwear.  They specialise in waterproof shoes, from wellies to walking shoes.  Most recently, they launched a leather range but this is only available in the USA so far (good thing I am going home for Thanksgiving in two weeks).  I have been using the Crandall Tall wellies on my dog walks and while out watching Guy Faulkes fireworks.  My feet have stayed toasty warm.  There is a soft lining and handy holes on the sides to pull the boots on with.  The heel has plastic higher up which allows you to take shoes off using other foot without ruining the Neo-Tech waterproof insulation.  The design is sleek enough that I would wear them out to a country pub but I don't think I would wear them on a night out, unless it was a bonfire or haunted hay ride.

Both shoes are fit for purpose and stylish enough to wear outside of race recovery and dog walks.  I am so glad I can finally have shoes that are comfortable and look good too rather than having to pick function over fashion.

What is your shoe of choice after a tough race or while on a wet walk through the woods?  Do you go for fashion over function?

Bring on London wintery weather!

OOFOS and Bogs Footwear were kind enough to gift me these shoes to try out. All opinions are honest and my own.

Let's remember today as the day I nearly met the Queen

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Between the election results and pouring rain this morning, I did not want to get out of bed.  It was dark and cold outside in the world, where I was safe and warm in my bed.  However, I needed to get up because today, Her Majesty, the Queen, was coming to my place of work.

You may not believe it, but I have what I call 'a real job'- one not related to health and fitness.  I am a lab manager at a large scientific laboratory in Central London.  Today, the building had its official opening with HM, the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince Andrew in attendence.  Of course, everyone at work was super excited about a chance to see royalty up close and personal.

The day had a strict schedule, with the royalty in the building for only one hour.  There were several stops for them along the way- to meet scientists, see the research labs, and attend a short lecture in the auditorium.  A raffle determined which employees were able to meet HM and also to attend the lecture.  Unfortunately, I did not win either opportunity.

Instead, I thought I would get small bouquet of flowers in case the Queen happened to walk by me. It ended up being slightly controversial as my workplace had already selected a few local children to give the Queen flowers. I assured the stewards I would not approach the Queen or interfere with the procession when they walked by.  I would just stand by and smile.

Here is a video of the Queen entering the lobby of our building and taking a lift up to see the science labs.

On the way back down, the lady-in-waiting came over to me (eek!) and suggested I be moved over to a different spot so the Queen would walk by me and I could present her my gift.  OMG!  The only things going through my head were 'I wish I wore a dress' and 'I hope I don't get in trouble' (which I often do at work for being over-enthusiastic).

Unfortunately, the royal party were already behind schedule and the Queen was quickly ushered passed me into the auditorium for the lecture.

Waiting patiently

The royal security team then moved me to the exit of the auditorium, right in the sight line of the Queen so she would see me when she exited.  I was so nervous to be waiting there for her to exit.  None of my friends or colleagues were standing in this area, nor could they move over there.  The head of our security tried to keep me calm by talking about the weather in America, but I was sweating.

Once again, the Queen walked by me while talking with the director of my institute.  The lovely lady-in-waiting came over though and said she was sorry and she had tried for me to meet the queen.  She then asked if she should take the flowers for me, to which I curtsied a thank you.  (Are you supposed to courtesy ladies-in-waiting?).

There was then a short speech by the director, after which the queen unvieled a portrait and the official building opening plaque.  It was a whirlwind morning, followed by champagne and lunch after HM, Duke, and Prince left the building.

So, instead of remembering today as the day Trump became the 45th president, I will instead remember it as the day I nearly met the Queen. Twice.

Big thank you to Lady Susan Hussey, Baroness Hussey of North Bradley for rooting for me today.

My resting heart beat, according to my Fitbit Surge, shot up to 134. From 11:30am- 12pm see all the spikes while I nearly met Her Majesty the Queen.

Have you ever met (or nearly met) any royalty?  Tell me about your experience in the comments below.

#fitbitfifty Recap

Monday, November 7, 2016

What a whirlwind this #fitbitfifty journey has been.  The Coach magazine article was out a few weeks ago and the next issue of Cyclist will delve deeper into the experience. It was truly an unforgettable experience and I will try do it justice below.  Grab a cuppa as it will be a long post.

Ready to go!
I applied for Fitbitfifty in the summer when I saw an advert on Facebook.  It seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity and I never thought I would be even considered.  I know so many more athletes in London alone who were better qualified than myself.  Then I was shortlisted and had a phone interview. Then I was made a reserve in case someone became injured in the six week lead up to the event.  Days before the Berlin Marathon, I got a call that one of the athletes was injured and Fitbit requested me to be their replacement.

I was buzzing all weekend in Berlin and petrified too that I would be the weak link on my team. My worries were that I don't cycle with clips, I was just coming back after a month of marathon training with limited cycling incorporated into it, and I don't consider myself to be a fast runner. But there was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity like this.

After returning home from Germany, I only had a few days to unpack and repack. Participants were given a long list of what to bring with them and I quickly realised I was missing a few key items for cold weather cycling.  The good folks at Altura kindly sent me ax express care package that contained my night ride kit (long sleeve jersey, sleeveless baselayer, a waterproof jacket that I slept in). All my running kit fit into my Workplay Bags Goddess II and my cycle kit went into my Adidas bag.  My fuel (MyProtein energels, Energy Bits, and various granola bars) went into my ruck sack.

A photo posted by Mollie, the Happiness PT (@ptmollie) on

All athletes, Andy Cook and his team, reps from FitBit and Dennis Publishing met at the hotel Thursday night and shared a meal together.  After dinner, the teams decided we would work together for the duration of the challenge, rather than competing against each other.  Riding four-up seemed easier than two-up.  We matched our pairs into fast, medium, and slow (guess which one I was on?). These groups were perfectly matched, both in terms of ability and personality which made the entire challenge remarkedly calm (no drama, no breakdowns).

Breakfast was served at 4.30am on Friday morning and we headed over to Buckingham Palace by 5.30am.  A bunch of people from Dennis Publishing and FitBit met us on the Green Park side for a few photos and for official start.  We aimed for 10 min miles but everyone was so excited, it was a bit faster than that. The route was 12 km, winding through London streets  to the Olympic Park Velodrome.  There, the tour buses awaited our arrival. The group of four gentlemen would start off on their bikes while the rest of us would be transported in the bus to the first transition zone.

All my stuff in my bunk
Life on the bus was cramped.  There was lots of kit and tons of food. The loo was smelly and for liquids only. The bunk beds were comfy and dark, but a bit small for the taller guys on the team.  We started off being modest when changing kit but by the end, it just didn't matter anymore. We were tired, sweaty, and short on time when it came to transitions.

The majority of the #fitbitfifty was on the bike and for me, it was hard. I don't cycle with cleats, instead I used my Salomon trail shoes with toe baskets. However, after this experience, I vow to learn how to use my clip-ins. In the past, I have fallen off one to many times and was worried about doing it again during this challenge, especially while riding in a group.  I just fantasized about a giant crash in the middle of nowhere.

My view of Ozzie's Angels
Even though I found the rides challenging, I am so happy I still have the Forza Stratos RC23 wheels that Merlin Cycles let me review during this year's Ride London. My cycling is so much more effortless with these wheels even though my bike is entry level.  My teammates had super fancy bikes, but my BTwin got me to through it.

During the first ride regment for my team of four ('Ozzie's Angels'- Ozzie, Natalie, Elise, and myself), we only tried changing leaders a few times.  Elise had never drafted before and Natalie had just learned. Elise also wasn't that confident riding in traffic, so Ozzie was kind enough to let us ladies draft him the entire segment. On the flats, we were able to stay together at a good pace but hill climbs seperated us out as Elise and I were able to climb but Ozzie and Natalie loved a fast decent.

After we made it to the Scottish border, Ozzie switched with Jer so our trio of ladies came 'Jer's Gems'.  We kept the same order and strategy, and experienced similar disconnect of pace on the hills.  I was loosing my ability to climb by the last 2 cycle segments.  Exhaustion was setting in even though I tried to sleep as much as I could on the bus.

My group did a lot of run-bike segments.  It was hard, but it was also to match us with short flat cycle segments.  I was usually bringing up the rear of our group.  I didn't mind as I have a fair bit of experience cycling on open roads and I can't hear very well on the bike so there wasn't any point in me being close to the other riders for a chat.

Meal by FitHQ
Fuelling on this adventure was tough.  I knew I needed to eat but my body clock was off from lack of a routine.  We had meals from Fit HQ (which I ate most of) and sport drink powder from SIS.  There were also crisps, candy bars, ginger biscuits, and full-fat Coke.  Every stop we made, we ended up doing a bit more shopping as people experienced different cravings throughout the weekend.  I enjoyed chocolate milk after my segments, along with toast, Nutella and bananas. I was never starving and often times forces myself to eat something. It was tough to figure out what to eat and how much that would allow you to fall right asleep and be ready to workout only a few hours later.

Here is a breakdown of each of my segments (hopefully the formatting isn't too weird).  You can also check out my Strava page for the routes we took and other nifty stats.   My Fitbit Surge did a great job picking up GPS quickly no matter where we were and gave me the actual and average speeds which was really helpful on the bike segments.  I also kept an eye on my heart rate but did the best I could with each effort regardless.  It is only when my heart rate gets up to 160+ that I feel like I am going to die.

Discipline     Time     Day     Distance      Elasped Time        Elevation       Average Speed
1. Run  6am Friday   7.4  miles    1:24:41   103 feet    10:21 min/mile
2. Bike  10am Friday    34.5 miles   2:22:14  817 feet    14.9 miles/hour
3. Run  8pm Friday  6.6 miles  1:06:32  42 feet   10:04 min/mile
4. Bike  9:20pm Friday  26 miles   1:43:24   270 feet     15.5 miles/hour
5. Bike  5:15am  Saturday  23.9 miles   2:08:08  1623 feet   11.7 miles/hour
6. Run  11am Saturday  5.9 miles  59:35  86 feet   9:57 min/mile
7. Bike  12:30pm Saturday  29.7 miles   2:19:56   1560 feet  13.6 miles/hour
8. Bike  9:50pm  Saturday   27.1 miles   2:07:25   809 feet   13.5 miles/hour
9. Run  2:05am  Sunday  6.0 miles  1:20:44  0 feet   12:48 min/mile
10. Ride 3:30am Sunday  28.8 miles 2:03:22  37 feet  14.8 miles/hour
11.  Ride 9:40am Sunday  31.9 miles  2:27:43   937 feet  14.2 miles/hour
12. Run 4:30pm  Sunday  7.3 miles  1:18:27   150 feet    9:46 min/mile

Waiting for the fast boys to join us for the last run.
I really hope that our team of 12 can continue on with other events over the next year.  We are a diverse group that demonstrates the average/part-time athlete is not something to mess with.  We train hard but play hard too and have kept in touch since the epic weekend (God bless Whatsapp).

If you have any suggestions on events or races we should attend in the UK, please leave a comment below.

Big thanks to Coach Magazine and Fitbit for this unforgettable opportunity.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Berlin Marathon, my 1st World Marathon Major

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Berlin Marathon was my 4th marathon but my 2nd big one.  It was so much fun so travel to Germany with Sabine, of My Life My Challenges, and meet up with the Advent Running/Adidas Runners London crew.  I love visiting new places and running through them is even more fun.  Sabine and I had big plans to do lots of touristy stuff around town, but because of all the fun marathon events, we only made it to the Berlin Zoo.

If you ever get a chance to run with Adidas Runners, I highly recomend it.  The Berlin group was so welcoming during the shake out run and pasta party at their base.  Adidas also hosted a marathon base for us to get ready, drop off our bags, and then eat afterwards.  Because of this luxury, I cannot comment too much on the logistics in the runner village at the race.

AR Berlin race base

Runner getting his official bracelet
Race entry: I didn't even know it was hard to get a spot as I was awarded an entry on my first try (I always have said I was good at games that don't involve knowledge or skill).  For 2017, you can enter Berlin Marathon through a ballot of 40,000 runners.  I am not sure if there is good-for-age entries available.  In 2017, there will also be a 3-person relay option available, which would be a good way to take part if the 26.2 miles intimidates you.

You pick up your race packet at the expo and are tagged with a ribbon bracelet.  You must where this all weekend to get into certain events and the race village too.  The packet pick up was a well-oiled machine with several stages- ID check, ribbon bracelet, packet pick up with your bib printed right then and there.  Sabine and I went over to the expo area after and spent hours there! Shopping, run analysis, sports massage, and sausages in the sun.

Sunshine and sausages!

Long loo lines
Course and bogs:  The course takes you all over Berlin and it known for being fast and flat (hence all the world record-breaking times).  We didn't see as many tourist sites along the route as I thought we would (based on what was highlighted on the course map), but there were bands along the way for entertainment.

As I mentioned above, I was lucky enough to be invited to hang out with Adidas Runners Berlin, so I was able to use their bag drop and loos.  Lines for the loos were so long at the start line, I didn't even bother.  Only once the race started (we were in the last wave) did I jump the barrier to go for a quick wee.  Each water station had a few loos but there was always a queue so I never stopped.  Instead a took a wee in the bush, in a parking lot and in a cafe.  I have never had so many pee breaks in a race before (nor peed outside so much!).  My PB would have been more impressive if I didn't have to make so many stops.
Bag drop

The bag drop area looked very well organized but I cannot comment on if it worked well for bag pick up.

A few charities and run clubs had cheer stations which were a nice boost along the way. I was really looking forward to seeing the Adidas Runners cheer squad, but they had decreased in size by the time I got there.

Location:  The streets of Berlin, Germany

Atmosphere:  This race is pretty serious.  There aren't any official pacers beyond 4:15 which means most people are aiming to be quick.  There was some people cheering from the sidelines and not much fancy dress/costumes on the runners.  People were there to run!

Goody bags and bling:  The goody bag included water, an apple, pretzels, croissant, apricots. and Red bull (one of the sponsors).  You could also pick up an Erdinger alcohol-free beer at the bag collection area. The bling has a German flag ribbon is was silver medal this year and a good weight to it :)

Celebratory gelato
Things to know if you want to take part next time:  Not a great race for those who run 5+ hour marathons as anything slower than 4:15 is in the last pen and there aren't any pacers.  The event area shuts down too if you are at the 'slow' end.

It isn't often that I run such a big race so I forgot to take in bottlenecks when setting my pace.  The water stations really slowed me down as they were crowded and there was a carpet of cups lining the road.  I would suggest training for a little faster pace to make up for these areas.

Also, the finish line is further than it looks.  I thought the Erdinger arches were the finish, but they weren't.  Then I though Brandenburg Gate was the finish, but it was actually a bit beyond that.  So keep running until they make you stop!

Finally, the newspaper on Monday prints a special section listing all the race finishers and their times.  We waited until late in the day to pick up a copy which meant we had to make several stops before we were able to find a copy.

Overall, I had an awesome weekend.  Thanks to PlusHotels Berlin for being so accommodating to all the guests who were taking part in the marathon too.

Did you run Berlin this year?  If so, leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of the race village, bag check, loo lines, and free non-alcohol beer.