Sunday, 22 November 2015

Weekend Warrior

Weekends are really nice.
Weekends that start with £1.50 slices of pizza and buy one get one free cocktails which mean you get dinner and cocktails for two for £15.
Weekends when your Mum comes to visit and buys you a new jumper and you spend the day trying to find (and finding!) her the perfect New Year's Eve dress.
And when she takes you and your boyfriend out of dinner and you have Indian street food so you get to try eight different things on the menu and they are all amazing.
Weekends are nice when you rush to the pub after dropping your Mum off at the station and get there and your team are already 3-0 up. And go on to win 4-1 and your throat hurts afterwards from screaming so much every time the ball goes remotely near the goal.

Weekends are nice when you get up later than usual for your Sunday run and run your longest run since injury in your new trainers (even if you did get them a bit muddy).
Weekends are nice when you wear your new jumper the next day so you can show your Mum. Because she got a new jumper too and you said the day before you would both wear your new jumpers when you saw each other on Sunday.
Weekends are nice when you spend the day visiting family. An hour and a half with my Nan, who made cakes and sandwiches and endless cups of tea. Then to Phil's Gran's. Then to my Auntie Bre's where all my family pop in on a Sunday afternoon and you arrive at 4pm and there are already 13 members of your family squeezed into the living room with cups of tea and slices of banoffee pie, which my uncle made especially because he knew Phil was coming.

Weekends are nice when your Dad gets you a heater so you can warm up your freezing flat and it's nice and toasty while you're making a roast dinner and you think "I want to blog about this just because I want to remember this weekend."

Weekends are nice when it's 7pm and there's still three blissful hours of weekend left before bedtime and you're not quite ready to let go just yet.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

My favourite podcasts

I am obsessed with podcasts. I honestly don't think I would have gotten through my half marathon training without them. Some days, the only thing that gets me out the door for a run is the promise of a really good podcast.

When I was injured, one of the things I missed the most about running was my time alone with just the road and a podcast. My favourite podcasts are a "treat" for my long runs, and I save them til Sunday so I have something to look forward to.

But I don't just listen to them when I'm running - I listen to them while I'm cooking, when I'm putting the washing away, when I'm cleaning the flat, or really any time that I'm doing a task and just fancy some background noise.

Like most people, my love of podcasts started with Serial last year, but now I listen to at least a dozen on a regular basis. In fact, my iPhone is currently moaning about having no storage because I have 5GB of podcasts on there!

Some of these playlists are pretty popular, some not so much. You might notice that I have a bit of a "type" - stories, knowledge, interviews. When I'm looking for new podcasts I only really peruse the culture and society category, and I tend to get my recommendations from other people.

I am currently subscribed to 25 podcasts, but I would say I only really listen regularly to 5-10. I like long podcasts - I don't like to be flicking from one to the next during a run, and I am currently really mourning the loss of the Playlist feature in the iPhone podcast app which was lost with iOs 9.

If you are a beginner to podcasts, I would definitely recommend whetting your appetite with the first five on my list. If you are a seasoned podcast listener, I hope my honourable mentions has a couple of new podcasts for you!

I know, I know, everyone listens to This American Life. You know why? Because it's the best. I have never once been disappointed by This American Life, and every week I look forward to listening to it on my Sunday long run. I ration it, I savour it. It's just wonderful.
Why do I love it so much? It's storytelling in it's most sincere form. It covers a huge variety of topics which I would normally have no connection to. Sometimes it's dark, sometimes it's funny, but it's engrossing purely because it's real. It's real people, real stories and they do an excellent job of covering a wide range of topics that always feel relevant.
I talked about This American Life and my love of podcasts in the webinar I did a few months ago for work - I even quoted Ira Glass!

I was surprisingly late coming to the Bret Easton Ellis podcast, considering I would list "podcasts" and "Bret Easton Ellis novels" in some of my all-time favourite things. Bret Easton Ellis, as a person, is not everyone's cup of tea, I appreciate that, and this podcast is very much focused around his interests, his experiences and I want to say his favourite time period (it's very much grounded in 80s and 90s culture). Each week he interviews a different person on a range of topics, but in a relatively informal way - it just feels like two people who know each other well having a chat. One thing I love about this podcast is it takes me back to university. Literary theory and film theory are rife in this podcast, and I love being able to use that knowledge that I gained at university and feel like I'm involved in an intelligent conversation. That's not to say a lot of it doesn't go straight over my head!

Since discovering this I've been thrilled to have hours and hours of back catalogue to go through, so I'd probably say it's up there with This American Life at the moment for the title of my favourite podcast.

I didn't like Stuff You Should Know the first time I listened to it. I expected it to be straight-up facts and I didn't like all the chatting and tangents between Chuck and Larry. Now, however, I think that's what I love most about it. Each week, Chuck and Larry discuss a different topic, from "how Pez works" to "how circus families work " (I've listened to both of these). It's fun, it's playful, it's not all facts. I admit sometimes I come out of one of these podcasts not actually knowing much more about the topic, but I definitely enjoy listening to it.
This is quite a recent addition to my podcast app after reading about it on fellow-podcast-lover Rosie's blog. How to Be Amazing is hosted by Michael Ian Black and each week he just chats to a different person about their life and their achievements. Very easy, very relaxed, but very interesting and inspiring. 
The TED radio hour was the first podcast I ever really listened to. I love TED talks so I thought this might be a good way to learn on the go - and it is! Each podcast is themed around a particular topic, say Space or Learning or Hacking, and the podcast will then cover a few different subjects within this topic, using exerts from different TED talks. Very interesting and informative.

Honourable mentions

While those are my five absolute favourite podcasts, there are a few more that I listen to on a regular basis:

6. Love and Radio
I don't even know how to describe Love and Radio because it covers such a variety of topics. These are effectively short stories. Little snippets of lives and experiences. Some of them I like, some I don't, but it's definitely worth a download if you like stories.

7. Death, Sex and Money
Exactly what it says on the tin - Death, Sex and Money covers stories every week involving death, sex and/or money.

8. Criminal
If you like Serial, Criminal is much shorter, but covers a different story every week. Short but gripping.

What are your favourite podcasts? Do you have any recommendations?

Charlotte x

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Two more years

Today is mine and Phil's two year anniversary. Two years, whattt. It definitely feels like we've been together forever, but it also feels like, wow being in a relationship for two years is pretty good going! I won't get super soppy (because I already did on Instagram) but I've had the best two years of my life with him and I love him more every day.

We went out last night to Hotel Gotham which we've wanted to go to for a while. The restaurant was very cool, the view was awesome and we were well looked after. It was nice to get dressed up and go somewhere nice. We went for cocktails afterwards and on our way managed to catch some of the gorgeous fireworks at the town hall. It was such a lovely evening!

Today I managed to go on a 2 mile run (!!). After about a week of being relatively pain-free, my foot decided to bring me a new dose of pain on Tuesday which really really got me down. I dithered and then decided to finally book to see a physio. So yesterday I marshalled a very soggy parkrun again and went to see a physio. He was very, very good and asked me a lot of questions, but he couldn't really pinpoint what was causing the pain, and I also wasn't getting any pain so it was hard for me to explain where it was and what it felt like! The conclusion of the appointment was that I don't stretch enough, my left side is my weakest and I have weak glutes, so he sent me off with some exercises and told me to give running a go.

So this morning I dragged Phil out on a 2 mile run with me to see how I got on. Being with Phil distracted me from thinking about my foot and it was so nice to be running again! I'm not going to rush into running 30 miles a week, but I'm hoping to be better for parkrun next week.

We've also popped into town today to do some shopping, and for the first time ever, Phil came home empty-handed and I came home with a few treats! In the two years we've been together I don't think we've ever had a shopping trip where Phil hasn't come home with something.

My first stop was Bravissimo where I went for a fitting. I'd known for a while I was wearing the wrong size bra (I could pull the band about 5 inches away from my back!) and I knew it was time to get it looked at. So today I went from a 34B to a 30E, which was a bit of a shock! I had a lovely experience and would definitely recommend it. Bravissimo are a bit unusual as they do everything without a tape and just go on fit. Don't be put off if like me you thought you were too small for their sizes - you might be surprised!

We also got me some new pyjamas, as Phil had bought me a Liverpool FC nightie for our anniversary that turned out to be for ages 7-8 so that was a bit too small! (He did also get me some flowers and seasons 6 and 7 of The Office as I was basically inconsolable when it was taken off Netflix). I got two pairs from Boux Avenue where it was buy one get one free!
tshirt - Clothing at Tesco
skirt - c/o Joy
boots - c/o Jakes
jacket - Boohoo
necklace - Debenhams
I wore this outfit last weekend when we went to see Spectre with my parents. I chose this skirt from Joy and had to resist all temptation to just pair it with a jumper and boots. Come on, we know by now that I love to rock a jumper, skirt and boots! But I decided to try something a bit different and I really love this outfit! I also wore the black Ugg boots I showed you in my last outfit post because they are amazing!
Hope you're having a lovely Sunday! I'm looking forward to listening to the football, making mac and cheese for dinner and maybe relaxing with a film and some hot chocolate!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 7 November 2015

What's in my bag?

I'm a big bag person. Not as in, I really like bags. I just like big bags (and I cannot lie). I'm actually not a bag person at all. I tend to have one big bag which I take everywhere. Something neutral but the size of weekend luggage which will house everything from my lunchboxes for work to my straighteners in a hair curling emergency.
A few weeks ago, however, disaster struck. The zip on my biggest and best day time bag broke unexpectedly and when I took it to Timpsons, they said it would cost £35 to replace. for a £30 bag. So over the last few months I've been what I will call " between bags". In that I haven't found one quite big enough for all the rubbish I lug around daily. In fact the majority of the time now you'll see me with a handbag and also one of those big 9p Aldi bags carrying my lunch and work day snacks.
In the meantime, however, I've been trailing slightly smaller bags. Okay, I can't get my lunchbox in them, but I can get all of my daily essentials inside, and it means I'm not coming home from work with aching shoulders. At the moment I've been using this leather bag from Yoshi, which is the perfect size for the weekend, and much lighter than my usual big bags. It feels much more grown-up too, and much less carrying-around-my-life-looking-a-bit-like-a-bag-lady.
I decided rather than show you the bag with an outfit (which feels a bit artificial when I'm quite clearly taking photos in my house where I don't need to be carrying my bag around with me...) I thought I'd do a "what's in my bag?". As I said, I carry an awful lot of stuff around with me on a daily basis (I carry even more when I'm going to work!) so I thought it would be fun to show you what my "essentials" are...

Come on, it's 2015. I don't go anywhere without my iPhone. You can't tell in this picture but my phone case looks like a gameboy.
I live in Manchester so...
Book or Kindle
I basically don't go anywhere without a book or my kindle in my bag. I'm currently reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie* which was only available in hardback at the library so that's taking up the majority of my bag space...
iPhone charger
Because, you know.
Ted Baker Purse
My mum bought me this red Ted Baker purse for my birthday a couple of years ago. I adore it but it's getting a bit worn now!
Glass nail file
I always, always need a nail file, so I splashed out on a nice glass one which never leaves my bag. 
I don't need to explain that I need keys, right?
Water bottle
I drink a stupid amount of water, and I prefer to drink it from a bottle, so I fill this up about a dozen times a day. I carry it everywhere and get stressed out if I can't refill it. I recently got a Camelbak because I was always using cheap plastic bottles and ending up with a bag full of water...
Glasses case/contacts box
This is my new favourite bag addition! I read an article a few months ago that said contact lens wearers should carry their glasses around with them like any other prescription in case of any kind of emergency, and when I was in Spain we came across this awesome glasses/contacts box! It hold my glasses in one side and in the other, a contact lens box and two small bottles to be filled with solution. We don't really want to know what the tweezers are for...
I also usually have a box of paracetamol, hand sanitiser and my headphones, plus at least 3 cinema ticket stubs, a handful of tissues and half a dozen receipts.

What's in your bag?

Charlotte x

*I wrote this blog post last week (guilty as charged!) so I actually finished this book last night! If you're interested I'm now reading Columbine by Dave Cullen

Sunday, 1 November 2015

How to not go insane when you're injured or, Advice I give myself but can't take

Runners, as a group, tend to be ambitious, dedicated, obsessive, passionate, competitive types.
We get up at 5am to ensure we stick to our training plan, our weekends are dedicated to getting in those long run miles. We lose sleep, friends, our evenings, weekends, toenails... but none of that matters when you're out on the road, just you and your trainers.
So when we're injured, it's not too surprising that we are absolute monsters.

When you take the running out of the runner, is the runner a runner at all?
This has been my thought process over the last two weeks.
To go from being about to run a half marathon (and in a decent time, I would like to add!) to struggling to walk for five minutes, that gets your ego bad.
But worst of all, it gets your sense of self.

When you plan your weekends around your runs, what do you do with yourself when you can't run? When you are used to 5.30am wakeups, do you just stay in bed? When you are used to eating all.of.the.carbs, what do you eat when you don't need the energy for 20 miles per week?

The emotional side of being injured, or at least, when you're a little bit injured, can be a hundred times worse than the physical pain. The ache in my foot doesn't bother me nearly as much as the knowledge that I can't just go for a run on Tuesday morning. Or the fact that I should have started my marathon training by now. Or the fact that I can't do parkrun. Or the fear that I'm losing fitness by the minute.

Being injured has really, really, really got me down. I don't really have any "runner friends" who can really appreciate how much this is affecting me mentally, and all my other friends are sick of me moaning about it! After a week of hoping it was just "post-race tightness", I accepted last week that I was injured and it was time to come up with a post-injury plan.

So here's what I've come up with. It's not perfect, it's incredibly hard, it hasn't made it all go away, and I don't even know if it's working yet because I'm far from there yet. But he's what I'm trying. Or at least, trying to try!

1) Find a cross-training plan (and stick to it)
I am awful at cross-training, mainly because when it comes to fitness I have only extremes. I am either ALL ABOUT RUNNING AND ONLY RUNNING or I am ONLY INSANITY/T25/CHALEAN EXTREME/INSANITY MAX30 and nothing else. Combing these two states has always been a problem for me.
Throughout all of my half marathon training, I had Wednesdays scheduled in for cross-training, and I lost count of the number of times I snoozed, or made an excuse, or went to bed knowing I wouldn't get up to cross train. But when you're injured, you kind of have no choice.
I think for me, it's because I like to have a plan, something to stick to. So to get through this I made myself  a cross-training plan of sorts. I've decided to use Piyo, because it's low-impact and it can help me to work those muscles that get neglected when I run. So I've planned a workout for all the days that I usually run, with plenty of variety, and by having a plan and a purpose for each workout, I know I'll get through it.

2) Stick to your old routines
My usually running schedule is:
Monday - rest
Tuesday - easy mid-length run
Wednesday - cross-train (see above...)
Thursday - tempo/speedwork
Friday - rest
Saturday - parkrun
Sunday - long run
So I've scheduled out a workout plan for the same days of the week that I normally run. This keeps me in the habit of working out on those days, gets me back into the routine of which days to go to bed early and which days to get up early, and means it will be easier to slip back into my routine when I'm recovered.

3) Use the time to do things you wouldn't normally be able to do (including trying new exercise!)
Running takes up a lot of my time. So not running means I have a lot of empty space in my life, so I'm trying to make the most of it. As a person who struggles to relax, this is hard, but I'm trying to use that time productively. I'm trying to have earlier nights, trying to relax and sleep in a little more and using more of my free time to read and spend time with Phil.
I'm also using it to try new things - yesterday I volunteered at parkrun so Phil could still go, and it was really good fun! I was worried that going and not being able to run would just make me sad, but instead I loved cheering people on, and it came me a sense of purpose back into my day.
Then today, Phil and I went to play badminton! We'd been talking about renting a court to play, but at the weekends my focus is always on running and I'd never want to play badminton after a long run or an intense parkrun! So today we took advantage of the fact that I wasn't going to be running and rented a court! It was really good fun, made me feel good that I'd got a good workout in, and it was something new we wouldn't have been able to do if I had been running!

4) Give yourself a break
Obviously, this one I am struggling with. I know I put my body through a lot training for, and running, a half marathon. I know I ran really hard, and I ran really well, and it's natural for my body to be like, "no mate, we need a break." I know this could not have come at a better time - I have 23 weeks til my marathon and I've just ran the best half I could possibly have imagined. But it's still really hard. I'm still really annoyed at myself that I can't run. But I know I should be thanking my body for its hard work and giving it a chance to properly rest and recover, and know that I'll be back in my trainers in a few weeks. I'm just not quite there yet.

5) Cut down the running talk 
I'm finding it really hard to hear other people talk about running right now. Yes, I know that is really, really selfish. But it's the truth. Right now I just need to not hearing about other people running. And I hope people can respect that. For example, my best friend Eve, who inspired me to run in the first place, had two foot operations around the time I started running and couldn't run, and even though I was really excited about my running progress, I knew it would be hard for her to hear about it, so I didn't talk about it with her much. So for now, just let me recover. I'll be desperate to talk about running again soon, I promise. It's just too hard for me right now.

6) Don't compare yourself to others
Some people will recover more quickly than you, some more slowly. Some will be back up to 30 miles a week days after their first tentative run. You might not. I know this is really hard advice, believe me, but you look after you.

7) Take it slow
Okay I definitely can't take this. I am dying to get out on the road again. But I know I'm not there yet. This morning I jogged for five minutes on the way to badminton. After a minute or so I was aware of the ache in my foot, but after about four minutes it was starting to hurt, so I knew I had to stop. And now I know I need a longer break from running. Do not push through the pain. It's so hard, so so hard. I know. But you have to be patient. The one thing stopping me from getting out there is knowing I could make this so much worse by trying to run again too soon. Or pushing too much once I feel a bit better. Be patient and think long term. Those extra little runs will not be worth it if you end up sidelined for months.

So that's my advice. I don't know yet if it will work for me, let alone anyone else, but it's how I'm going to get through the next few weeks. I'm still praying to the running gods to get me better soon, but for now I'm going to focus on cross-training and not going insane.

Charlotte x

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool

Today I am relaxing. Sort of. It's weird and I'm not very good at it. I went out with friends last night and didn't get out of bed til 8.30am today. Then I threw some ingredients into the slow cooker to make soup, made a coffee and curled up with my book. I didn't have a shower til 11.30am.
This is weird. So weird. But if you've been following me on any form of social media this week you'll know that last week's half marathon took its toll, and I've had a bit of a poorly foot all week, so parkrun was out the window this morning. Phil is away so I can't do the food shop (we use his car, and not only am I not insured on it, I wouldn't trust myself to drive it even if I was) and I don't have to leave for my choir concert til 6.30pm. So as a result, I don't really know what to do with myself.
This week has been intense. I've had three nights of choir rehearsals, which have started at 7 - just giving me enough time to get home, throw together some dinner and rush out. They also mean I get home about 10, which gives me about 20 minutes with Phil before I need to go to bed. We had one night in together this week, but my foot was hurting so much that I hobbled to bed at 9pm. This has been my first official week running my department at work, and my foot has really been getting me down.
To go from being able to run a half marathon to not being able to walk for 2 minutes without needing to stop has been a struggle. Everyone has told me not to worry and to ignore any niggles for at least a week post-race. A friend in my choir has given me two massages this week and assured me that it's just tightness down my leg from the race and not to worry about it. But it's getting me down. I was looking forward to a week of resting, but I was excited to run again this weekend. It is getting better and I'm desperate to run, but I know it would be stupid to go out tomorrow and try to do a few miles, and I know that losing a few days of running now is better than losing months out if I injure myself probably by trying to run too soon. But it's hard and debilitating. And I know I don't have a race til my marathon in April. I know it doesn't really matter if I don't get my 50 Parkruns tshirt before Christmas. I know all that. But I still just want to be able to run.
floral jumper - Oasis
leather skater skirt - Oasis
necklace - c/o Onecklace
Anyway, let's talk about clothes. So I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse, but last week two of the jumpers I'd been eyeing up in Oasis went into the sale. The first was this one and the second is the one I'm wearing here. I've mentioned a lot lately how much I love Oasis (I swear they're not paying me!) but sometimes they can be just a little bit too expensive for me. But their sale is always excellent, and I love their Seek and Send service, which will send you items from stores if they're out of stock online. I wore this jumper last week just with jeans, but I loved the idea of it with my leather skater skirt (which I only remembered as I typed this, is also from Oasis...).
I also have new boots, which you won't believe are UGGs! Now, don't get me wrong, I used to wear UGGs at 21 when I lived in Minnesota and it snowed 6 months of the year, but they've been buried at the back of my wardrobe for a long time. I picked these from Jake Shoes because I wanted some black boots with just a little bit of a heel, like my Oasis ones. I hate wearing heels these days because I'm just.too.impatient, but I like a little bit of a heel for a boost for my shortie legs. OH and they have a fleecy sole too for toasty feet!

Right well my slow cooker soup should be done now, so I'm going to go eat a bowl of that and then hope my foot holds out on a walk into town. My favourite jeans have developed a hole so I'm off to do some dreaded jean shopping.

Wish me luck!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 18 October 2015

What a week!

As weeks go, this one hasn't been bad.
On Thursday, I got promoted! 

For the last few months, we've been a marketing team of two, and my boss, Karen, is pregnant! She left for maternity leave on Friday so now I'm heading up the marketing team. I've been very nervous about this for months, but I think this is going to be a really exciting time and I'm hoping I'm ready for the challenge!

And today...

As some of you might remember, I ran my first half marathon a year and a half ago, and despite all my training, I struggled on the day. The race was very competitive, quite a difficult course and in the middle of nowhere with mostly fields and very little support.

I decided to do the Great Birmingham Run after signing up for my first marathon, as I thought it would break down the training a little bit. I knew it would be a big, exciting race with plenty of atmosphere and after going to uni in Birmingham, I knew it would be the perfect second half marathon.

I've been training for months and had 2:15 in my head as my goal time, but I was hopeful that on the day I might be able to get closer to 2:10. 

The weather was perfect, cool but not cold, cloudy but not drizzly. I lined up at 10.35am and kept telling myself not to worry about my time and just to enjoy myself. I was so excited.

I ran the entire race (okay, until 10 and a half miles) with a smile glued to my race. It wasn't an easy course (I'd heard about "The Hill" at 11 miles) and it was quite up and down, but there were people lining the streets cheering us on, giving out sweets, shouting our names. I didn't plug my headphones in once so I could soak up the atmosphere.

I knew I was doing okay. I didn't want to set off too fast so I kept an easy pace for the first three miles. I pushed myself up the hills and let myself "flop" on the way down to catch up. My friend, Steph, was waiting for me with a sign at mile 7. I was so excited that it's no coincidence mile 7 was my fastest mile! 

I hit 10K in an hour and 30 seconds, and I was running about 2 and a half minutes faster than my goal time. I started pushing forward. At mile 7 I spotted the 2 hour 10 pacers, and I overtook them at mile 8. I remembered at my last half marathon I started to hit the wall about 9 miles in, so when I saw the Lucozade at mile 9 I made sure to grab on and try to drink it as fast as possible.

I started to get tired after ten and a half miles. But I knew I only had two and a half miles to go! I knew I'd banked some time when I got to "The Hill."

Man, it wasn't easy. It's like the hill that just keeps on giving. A small incline, then some flat, then a tough incline up to the last mile. It was about a mile long and I was flagging. I gave myself an extra few minutes to get to the top, but half way up I saw a group of University of Birmingham cheerleaders. I just had enough energy to yell "BIRMINGHAM UNI!!" and they cheered along as I waved my arms in the air. I think that's how I got to the top.

The Hill only robbed me of a minute. At I hit 12 miles at under 2 hours I started to realise I was going to hit under 2 hours 10. In my head, I'd hoped I would just absolutely go for the last mile, but the reality was I was spent. I'd just ran 12 miles - a 9 minute final mile was not going to happen. 

With 0.3 miles to go we ran through an underpass, and the slog back up the other side, with the end almost  in sight, was tough. But then I saw the end. I started to speed up but it was not my usual sprint finish. But I stopped my watch at 2 hours 8, and 5 minutes later, my text confirmed 2 hours 8 and 2 seconds.

I was exhausted, emotional but most of all, incredibly proud of myself. It had all been worth it. The early morning runs, the long runs on Sundays, all the parkruns. The aches, the blisters, the pain. All worth it.

Let's put this into context. My last half marathon took me 3 hours 2 minutes. I just ran a 2 hour 8 half marathon. I just took 54 minutes off my time. Plus I did almost the entire thing with a smile on my face.

I'm so so so proud of myself and I can't wait to run this race next year.

Sub 2 hours next time, yeah?