Sunday, 26 April 2015

Two running milestones

So as you can probably tell from my last post, running has been on my mind a lot lately.
I've started running again in the mornings, something I haven't done for almost a year. On Tuesday I ran an easy three miles before work, and on Thursday I ran four. I've fallen head over heels back in love with running and I'm 100% sure now that I want to run a marathon next year. 
One thing that has really helped is listening to podcasts while I run. I've always liked the idea of listening to a podcast while running, but I was concerned that trying to concentrate on something other than running would make me confused, or that I'd get a few miles in a realise I hadn't been paying attention. Instead, I'm coming back from runs buzzing with new information and I'm finding the miles just fly by. Currently I'm obsessed with the TED radio hour. I know these will really help me through my marathon training.
So two big running milestones this week. One is that I've joined a running group! I kept seeing Chorlton Runners at my local parkrun and when I decided I wanted to run a marathon I thought I had better start thinking about joining a group. There are just so many questions I have - which training plan to follow, what to do about gels, what pace to run my long runs etc. - that I'd rather ask a human than Google. So over the past week I've been talking to people about the group and getting more information about getting involved. Unfortunately it's a very popular group, and there's a wait list for affiliation, but I can still join in with most of their runs.
So I decided earlier in the week that I would join them today for their Sunday run. I hopped on the bus, got completely lost when I got off at the wrong stop, but eventually I made it to the meeting point at 9am. Thankfully I wasn't the only new person. Straight away, people were lovely, and I got chatting straight away on the warm up mile. Once we finished the warm up we started to split into groups. One group were running 5 miles at a 9 minute mile, and one group were running 7 miles at a 9 minute mile. Now I admit I did panic a bit. I run about a 10/10.30 minute mile now, so 9 minutes for that long might actually have killed me! Thankfully, there was another group that wanted to run 5 miles at about a 10 minute mile pace, so I tagged along with them.
The route was absolutely beautiful. It was at Chorlton Waterpark and it was just gorgeous to run by the water. I was running in the middle of the group, a few seconds behind the leaders, but on my own for the first few miles. We stopped every mile or so though to make sure nobody was left behind. When it got to the last couple of miles I got chatting with the girls around me, and it was lovely to just talk and not be looking at my watch all the time! We ran a lovely 5 miles and then finished off with a good stretch. 
I'm so excited to meet more people and get involved with more and more runs. I've always been a real solo runner, but it was a nice change to run with other people. It definitely pushed me, and I think when you run alone you need that.
And on that note, my other running milestone, which actually happened on Saturday. I've been trying to break a 30 minute 5K at parkrun ever since I started running, and while my PB was 30:12, I'd been mostly running around 31 minutes the last few weeks. I found out a few weeks ago that Chorlton Runners (the group I've now joined) run as pacers for parkrun on the last Saturday of every month. I knew this was my chance to finally break 30 minutes.
I tagged on with Rob, the 30 minute pacer, straight away, and for the first mile I was just at his heels. The pace felt slower than I normally run, but I know I often start out too fast and then fade after the first two miles. As we started the second mile, I ran alongside him and we got talking. We were well on target for 30 minutes and I was feeling pretty good. I've never talked to someone while running before, so it was definitely a few words between gasps at first, but after a while I found my pace and we could happily chat. As we approached the last half a mile he told me to run ahead if I wanted to, but I knew I wasn't quite ready. As we turned around the penultimate corner though, I went for it. I felt absolutely amazing running around the last corner, glancing at my watch and knowing I was well ahead of my usual time.
I crossed the line at 29:19. Almost a minute faster than my PB.
I can't thank the pacers enough, but I know I did this. I kept up, I kept pace and I pushed ahead at the end. I've come so far in the last few months and I'm so proud of myself and so excited to see where I can get to. One of my goals for 2015 was to finally run a 5K in 30 minutes, so I need to think about my next goals now! Maybe I'll try to stick with the 29 minute pacer next month!
I'm excited for the next few months. I'm excited to be running again, and I'm planning to mostly run now instead of just doing workout DVDs. Now it's nice outside it's good to get out for a run, but I think I'm going to do a couple of days a week of Piyo as cross training, because I think Insanity Max 30 might be a bit too much.
So those are my running updates! I know these achievements might not seem much to you, but they mean the world to me!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Pros and Cons of running a Marathon


I'm thinking of running marathon.

Remember that time I ran a half marathon and it was the hardest, most challenging thing I've ever done in my life?
Well I'm thinking of doing that, all over again. Twice.

I'm terrified. 
Running a marathon was always on my list of "things I want to do one day" even as far as being on my "things I want to do before I'm 30" list. But the reality of actually doing it is an entirely different story.

Because a marathon is really, really flipping far.
26.2 miles.
That's over four 10Ks. Or nearly nine 5Ks.
Just writing that down makes me sweat, thinking of the challenging parkrun I ran yesterday. 

It would undoubtedly take over my life.
I'd have to turn down Saturday plans to ensure I was fresh for hours of running on a Sunday.
And people wouldn't understand "oh I can't come - I have 17 miles to run tomorrow."
I'd have to explore the terrifying world of gels and peeing in a bush with 8 miles to go.
I'd have to (mostly) give up my beloved Beachbody workouts in lieu of running nearly every day.
I would have to think about joining a running club, eating into my relaxing evenings.
I'd have to start running after work, because running 10 miles before 7am does not sound appealing.
I'd have less time to spend with Phil. Less time to spend with friends.

But I'd be training for a marathon.
And eventually, I would be a marathon finisher.
I would be part of an elite community of people who have pushed themselves and their bodies to the max.
I would have a challenge, a goal, something to reach for.
And I know it would be something that would change my life completely.
And I know, deep down, that I could do it.

On Friday, I told my boss I was thinking about running a marathon and she said "if anyone has the drive and motivation to run a marathon, it's you."
Right now I have the time and the lifestyle to do this. What if I never get the chance again?

But I'm scared. 
I'm scared of that cons list.
I'm scared I'm not ready.
I'm scared of doing too much, pushing too hard, burning out.
I'm scared because I don't know why deep down why I want to do this.
I'm scared of putting pressure on my relationships.
I'm scared I'm never going to get a moment to myself and that I'll drive myself insane.

The Manchester marathon is today.
That means I have a whole year.
A whole year to train, a whole year to decide.
I know I don't have to decide right now, and thank god.
I have some time to keep running, keep running further, and keep this in the back of my mind.
Maybe when I get back to running eight, nine, ten miles I'll change my mind. Or maybe that will push me further.

I don't have to decide right now.
But I wish I knew if I was ready.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

On the quest for better nails

Last year, after 24 years of trying, I finally broke my nail-biting habit.
Thanks to three months of wearing acrylics, I finally had long, beautiful nails.
But as anyone who has ever worn acrylics will know, I had long, beautiful, weak, damaged nails.
Add to this the fact that I naturally have very small, very weak, very soft nails and the period where all my nails grew over the tips of my fingers was brief.

To this day, I've avoided biting my nails, but I do perpetually have my fingers in my mouth (I realise how disgusting that sounds) and as soon as my nails get long, they rip, right at the base. Currently my nails barely look different to how they looked before I stopped biting them.

I've also discovered in recent years that I just can't wear nail polish.
I've tried every polish, top coat and base coat under the sun, but I can't get nail polish to stay on my nails for more than a day and a half.
No, really. After a day or so it just starts coming off in big flaky pieces.
As a result I've basically given up on painting my nails. It's just not worth spending half an hour doing them for it to only last a day.

So as you can imagine, I'm pretty frustrated. 
I've tried many different things to strengthen my nails, from OPI's Nail Envy, to magic nail hardener I had to get from France to no avail.
I've tried hand creams and cuticle oils and keeping them short. 
Nothing works for me.

So in a last-ditch, miserable attempt for longer nails, I ordered myself some Mavala nail strengthener and Healthy Hoof Intensive protein treatment. Mavala is a nail strengthener, and Healthy Hoof is a cuticle treatment.
Both these products have excellent reviews and I'm excited to see if they will work.
I'm going to apply them as directed for a month (Mavala twice a week and Healthy Hoof every night before bed). And let's see what happens.
This post is my incentive to stay motivated and stop putting my fingers in my mouth all the time.
I'm going to take photos once a week and let's see if it works!

Any other advice you have is appreciated!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

How Roller Coaster Tycoon taught me to finally relax

I am absolutely terrible at relaxing. 
I take my downtime with a side of guilt.

I feel like I should always be doing something productive. I should be doing food prep, or I should be working out or I should be tidying or I should be cooking. Even when I "relax" it's usually reading so I can work towards my reading goal, or only watching TV or films that are classics or highly rated or on my list of films to watch. When Phil and I have the evenings in together I feel like we should be doing something together, something meaningful, not just wasting the time away.
I have a huge fear of wasting things.
Wasting time, wasting money, wasting opportunities. As I kid I had a sticker book made of shiny, peelable plastic pages because I was so scared of commitment I couldn't even stick a sticker somewhere in case I changed my mind later about its location. 
And now, I sometimes buy ingredients for cooking that I'm scared of "wasting" and want to keep them for "emergencies" or "something special", as though I live miles and miles away from the supermarket.

I feel like all my time should be productive. Phil and I have a joke that I'm always planning ahead, always trying to make life easier for "future Charlotte" whereas Phil is always thinking about "right-now Phil."
But future Charlotte's life is never easier.
I'm constantly tired, constantly worrying and stressing and always, always ill.
I'm constantly about to burn out. 
I'm constantly thinking about what I should be doing, not what I want to do. 
I'm always on edge and I find it impossible to relax.
On Friday, Phil surprised me with an eight-disc box of Roller Coaster Tycoon games. He knew it was my favourite game growing up and I make references to it all the time.
I was touched by the gift, but half-jokingly said "When am I going to have time to play this?"
And do you want to know the truth - I actually panicked.
I panicked about that time I would waste playing this game when I should be folding washing or reading the book I've been working through since January or cutting up carrot sticks for my lunch.
See, as a result of my need to be productive all.the.time I don't play games.
In fact I haven't played a game really since I was about 18.
Of course, I waste time in my own way, but never intentionally.
I might end up spending an hour reading blog posts, but I never go into that hour planning on spending it on my phone.
This is why I haven't seen that many films - I'm scared to commit to that two or three hours of not doing anything. But I can accidentally watch TV for that length of time.
I digress.

As I mentioned in this post, Phil and I had purposefully made minimal plans for the bank holiday weekend to give us plenty of time to relax.
Which meant that by Saturday afternoon I was already bored.
I didn't need to do my food prep til Monday, I'd already been for a run and we'd done the food shop. I'd done two loads of washing and we had a good 24 hours to clean the flat before we had visitors on Monday.
So I decided to admit defeat and popped the game into my CD drive.
And happily wasted an hour just playing.
And for the first time, I felt relaxed. I had committed to spending some time just playing my game and I felt better as a result. Phil was playing Football Manager next to me, and we chatted from time to time, but we were mostly just in our own little zones and it was lovely.
Of course, I should have been cleaning, but the cleaning still got done. In fact, everything got done. And I wasn't bored or restless or stressed.
For once.
Last night, Phil got home late and was tired and stressed out from work.
We had dinner, and I knew all he wanted to do was to play Football Manager.
Now normally I feel a bit sad when he wants to do this. It means we can't really spend time properly together.
But instead, I played my game too.
We chatted, but mostly we just played.
And it was exactly what I needed after a day at work.

I know this isn't rocket science, but it's always eluded me how people can spend hours playing games. Don't they feel like they've wasted that time? I wondered. 
But now I get it. As Phil put it "it's classic escapism."

I thought Roller Coaster Tycoon was a game for my past. When I had endless evenings and long summer days, but it might actually turn out to be a little thing that makes a big difference.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter Sunday

Hey, look, an outfit post! Happy Easter! I hope you're having a lovely day. Phil and I are having the most relaxing Easter weekend - I wish all weekends were four days long! "Relaxing weekend" is not really a term I use very often - I'm always going a hundred miles an hour at the weekend - catching up with stuff around the flat, running, seeing friends or my family. But this weekend we decided we were just going to relax and do whatever we wanted to do.
As I wrote in my last post, on Friday we went to Ziferblat in the afternoon, and then came home and watched Searching for Sugar Man and then Silence of the Lambs from our 23 DVDs we bought on Friday. Saturday we went out and did a very soggy Parkrun. The entire first half mile and last half a mile were just puddles ankle deep! After a quick food shop we went to watch the football, but Liverpool were so awful we left the pub at half time! Phil was a bit down after that, so we went home and cleaned the flat, and then had a chilled out afternoon playing games. While we were in town on Friday Phil treated me to my favourite childhood game - Roller Coaster Tycoon, and bought himself the latest Football Manager. At first I thought, this is great but when on earth am I going to play it? But it has actually been great for helping me relax! I struggle to relax because I get bored easily and always feel like I should be doing something productive! After a few hours of playing and dinner though we were feeling a bit bored so we decided to take advantage of living in the city centre and go out for a drink. It was so nice to just get out of the flat, it was such a nice warm, light night and it was just great to enjoy being in town and not just stick on a DVD.
dress - New Look
jacket - River Island
shoes - New Look
lipstick - MAC Please Me
And this is what I'm wearing today. I'm back at my parents today and Phil is back at his, and I'm making up for all the chocolate I gave up through lent! For the first time in ages, everything I'm wearing here is new. I've barely bought myself anything since we moved, but I've fallen in love with these New Look floral tea dresses (I wore one on my birthday too) and this jacket was a birthday present. I ordered these shoes from New Look on Thursday in the hope they would arrive in store before today, and we picked them up last night on the way for our drink - they match my jacket perfectly! I'm ready for it to start getting spring-like now - I'm fed up of bundling up in my coat and scarf everyday!
I hope whatever you're doing for Easter you have a lovely day!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Places We Went: Ziferblat, Manchester

Do you ever go somewhere and just think, I need to write about this. More people need to know about this.
Phil and I have lived in Manchester city centre for nearly two months now, but we've been so busy with work and plans and just...grown up life that we haven't really done much exploring. This weekend we had only one plan - to not have any plans. On Friday we woke up late and mooched into town. We then bought 22 DVDs (!!) and then headed to Ziferblat for coffee and cake.
Ziferblat is one of those places you wouldn't know was there if you weren't looking for it. It's right next to some of the best restaurants in the Northern Quarter, but you'd walk past it if you didn't know it was there. All you see is a sign outside and an apartment buzzer, and you have to buzz up to be let in, and follow the signs upstairs. When you walk in it looks like a cross between someone's living room and the common room of a hostel. And when you get to the desk, they take your name and tell you the time you arrived. And then they explain how it works.
Because Ziferblat is not your usual coffee shop. Instead of paying for your drinks and food, you pay by time. Ziferblat is 5p per minute, and for that you can have as much coffee, cake, biscuits, toast, tea, cereal... anything, in that time! You help yourself to whatever you want - and the only stipulation is you wash up after yourself.
Ziferblat have a host of events on each day, but they also have board games, books, magazines, papers and even Lego to entertain you, plus super fast internet. Phil and I had a latte each, a selection of cake and some jammy dodgers (my favourite). We then followed up with toast, diet coke and tea! We played Guess Who? and then Phil played with Lego while I repeated "I love it here. I really love it here. It's so cool" and snapped these photos on my phone.

One of the things I loved most about Ziferblat was the sense of community. Twice other people offered to wash things for us when the dishwasher was full, and it was definitely the kind of place I would feel comfortable enough to go to on my own and I bet it's a great place to meet new people. I'd love to get involved in one of the activities they have going on. It's such a great concept and it was just such a relaxed environment. They clearly have something right though - I could have spent forever in there!
The time Phil and I spent in Ziferblat cost us £4.10 each, which is ridiculous when you think of how much we got. In a normal coffee shop we would probably have only got two coffees and some cake between us for that price. It felt like a home away from home, somewhere that I can't wait to take my friends to, and somewhere that I really hope does well in. I highly recommend it if you're in Manchester, and I think there's one in London too. Edit: According to their website there are 14 venues round the world!
Also, I promise this post wasn't sponsored in any way - I just think Ziferblat is awesome!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Twenty Five

So as I mentioned in this post, it was my birthday on Monday! Now I love my birthday more than anyone else on the planet (except maybe my Mum) so I'd been excited about it for weeks. And managed to stretch it out for about four days.
Friday was my first celebration - party tea at my Nan's with my parents. We had sandwiches and smoked salmon and salad and she even made me a cake! On Saturday Phil and I continued our birthday tradition and we went to Alton Towers, and on Sunday we had brunch, saw family and also did boring grown up stuff like food shopping and washing the bedding. 
On Monday Phil sung Happy Birthday to me and let me open my presents in bed! He had assured me previously that he'd "done really well this year" and I was intrigued when I had four presents seeing as we had a strict budget! He did do well - Phil got me a Mouse Rat tshirt, Toothless, a Cookie Monster oven glove that I'd told him about ages ago and a Wii fit! I also got a Leon cookbook from Phil's Mum and Dad and some clothes from my auntie. 
Now loads of people asked me if I was doing anything nice for my birthday, but I actually just went into work! It was actually really nice to work on my birthday - I brought in sweets and everyone said happy birthday to me, I got more Parks and Recreation stuff from Natalie and presents from my boss. 
We also went out for a great lunch and my meal ended up being free! Mexican food is my favourite and I looooove Lucha Libre which is just around the corner from work. I had the halloumi and pineapple burrito. It was amazing.
After work my parents came over and we did more presents before we went for dinner! From my parents I got lots of lipstick, house stuff and books, and this amazing yellow biker jacket which I cannot wait to wear in the Spring!
We went for diner at Artisan, which is where Phil and I went for our anniversary. It's one of my favourite places in Manchester. We had houmous and olives to start and I had the haddock fishcake with asparagus, hollandaise and a poached egg. It was just amazing. Oh and it was also free! (Seriously though, about three months ago I signed up for the mailing lists of anywhere that did free birthday meals or drinks haha).
For dessert I had two scoops of ice cream - one salted caramel and one raspberry pavlova. They brought it out with a candle in and everyone sang happy birthday! Also the ice cream was incredible. The salted caramel had a big blob of caramel on top but I think the raspberry pavlova just pipped it. I love meringue!
We were going to go for another drink afterwards, but the weather was absolutely awful so I said goodbye to my parents and Phil and I went home. Being the crazy person that I am, I actually came home and organised my makeup and jewellery in my new makeup organizer and jewellery box, and wrote in my new 5 year journal with one of my new pencils.
I had such a good birthday that I had the worst post-birthday blues yesterday! It was pretty low-key as birthdays go, but it was exactly what I needed! I was absolutely spoiled and I spent the day with my favourite people!
Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes - I really appreciate it!

Charlotte x