Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Half Marathon Training: Twelve Point One

Well, I did it! 12.1 miles-my training goal!
But it hasn't been easy.
Since that awful 10 mile run a few weeks ago, running and I had a bit of a falling out.
I was running and running but it was getting harder and harder.
I was suffering from a bad case of runners burnout.
So I took a week off, and after one or two difficult runs while I eased back into it, I finally remembered why I loved running, thanks to a lovely 6 miles on a sunny Sunday morning. 
And on Sunday I ran 12.1 miles.
The plan was 11. And I was absolutely dreading it.
That horrible 10 miles had really affected me and made me think that every long run was going to be just as awful. Only longer.
But I decided to learn from it.
First of all, an early run. I much prefer running in the morning to later in the day, but usually on a Sunday I stay at Phil's Saturday night, then my Dad and I do the food shopping, I have lunch, let that go down and don't normally get out til 3 or 4. It makes such a different to go early! On Sunday I was up at 7.30, ate a bagel and headed out by 9. I was back by 12 and still had all the day left. Going early meant I also had more time for the run. Because I go running so early before work, I've been known to skip my warmup (I know, I know) and on Saturday actually injured myself because I hadn't warmed up enough. On Sunday I gave myself a good 5-10 minute warmup to get me ready to go.
Also, last time one of my big issues was drinking too much water and needing the toilet 3 miles from home. I also took my running belt and my O shaped water bottle, which was annoying when I finished my handheld bottle because it wouldn't fit in the belt. Instead I had to keep stopping and pouring the liquid from the belt-bottles into my handheld one. Not ideal.
So this time I made sure not to drink much before I went for my run, filled both my belt-bottles with water and carried a bottle of Lucozade so I could throw away the bottle when I was done. I drank my Lucozade first, had a few jelly babies on the way (while running! And didn't bite my tongue!) and actually only drank one of my other water bottles on the run.
I've also been finding that I don't run as fast as I probably could on my long runs, but even when I run extra slow, I'm still exhausted by the end, so I tried to run a little quicker for the first few miles. This made me feel much more confident about my mile times and I wasn't actually much more tired! 
Finally, factors beyond my control- the weather. Going early definitely helped avoid having to run in the dark, but it was dry and fairly mild, if a little windy. I hate running all layered up in hi-vis vests and rain jackets, and I think that made a huge difference to the enjoyment of my run.
The run itself was a nice route, with some hills to get me ready for my race (it's meant to be a really hilly course!) and I managed to get my Lucozade to last 6 miles (I can drink a 500ml bottle of water during a 5K. This was a big deal), and although the run was long, it didn't feel laborious. It's funny how I see long and short runs so differently. On a short run I just want the miles to be over, on a long run I kind of ride the waves a bit more. I just go one mile at a time. And it's relaxing. 
The miles seemed to fly back (twice I didn't even check my mile time cause I was too in-the-zone to notice my watch had beeped) and after 9.5 miles I was still feeling alright.
It was then that I decided to go for 12.1.
I knew 12.1 was a big deal. My training target. And I knew how relieved I would feel if I hit it. I would be ready for my race, four weeks before the day. That big, scary 12 mile run would be over.
So instead of turning down the road that would get me home in another mile and a half, I kept going.
And going.
And then my watch said 12 miles. 
I was all ready to sprint my last 0.1 miles. 
But my legs just didn't go.
I managed to run that last tenth of a mile as quickly as I could.
And then I stopped. It was over.
I checked my Garmin in disbelief.
12.1 miles.
One mile away from my race-day distance. 
And it was done.
And 20 seconds a mile faster than I had estimated.
I had a very long cool down, a good stretch and a well-deserved shower.
Okay I'm still aching three days later. Okay, my run this morning was pretty much a walk with a couple of five minute runs thrown in.
But I did it.
Roll on race day.

Speaking of race day, if you do want to donate to my race fundraising (which would be utterly amazing-it's all for the Alzheimer's Society), you can do so here. Thank you so much you wonderful people. Thank you for always pushing me to do this. Your amazing comments keep me going.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Keeping it Simple

I haven't run for almost a week. I have run at least three times a week since September. I have a half marathon in five weeks and the longest I've run so far is 10 miles. But I needed a break. Seriously needed a break. I hadn't had a good run in two weeks and every. single. run was a challenge. 3 mile runs were taking longer and longer and I was more and more exhausted after each one. I was feeling constantly tired and ill. Running just stopped being fun. I rejected it for a while. Kept trying to push myself further when the answer was right in front of me. A break. I was burnt out. Running was becoming my life. Coming before my friends, my family, my boyfriend. And I wasn't enjoying it. I needed a break to find myself again, not just me-as-a-runner. I needed a break to fall back in love with running again. What was meant to be a break of four days turned into five when it took me two and half hours to get home in the storm last night, and six when I didn't feel it was safe to go out for a run this morning. I did an hour of strength and I am ready for my run tomorrow. And my break was amazing. I went out with Phil on Friday night without worrying about missing park run. We spent the whole day together on Saturday- the last time we did that was the day before my last 10K because I was tapering (and just writing that down makes me realise how much running has taken over my life). And on Sunday I didn't have to jump out of bed to get home for a run. We actually got a Sunday morning together. It wasn't always easy. Not running on Sunday was awful. Long runs have become as synonymous with Sundays as food shopping and cooking dinner. But I pushed it aside, and I rested. I had a rest of my body and my mind. And I am so excited to run tomorrow. I'm even excited for my Sunday long run. I haven't been excited for a long run in months! I have to be honest though, I am excited to get my life back after my half marathon. I have another 10K in May and I can't wait to just train for a 10K! I just want to run 10Ks for a few months and then I'll see. But there's a half marathon in September that I quite fancy so we'll see...
dress- c/o Glamorous
shoes- Warehouse
Anyway, on the theme of keeping it simple, this outfit! It is so simple but it's cute and comfortable and that's kind of what I need right now. And look, another shift dress! I really am a convert! I am such a big fan of prints, and I love dresses that have such a great print that you don't need to wear anything else with them to still feel "done". I was going to add a jacket but I decide just to, well, keep it simple and show off this dress!
Have you guys got any exciting Valentine's plans? I kind of like Valentine's Day. I know, I know, it's cheesy. I haven't had a date for Valentine's day for absolutely years (I gave blood on Valentine's Day last year!) but I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Mainly because I can't wait to give Phil his present! It's his birthday in a few weeks so we're just doing little gifts, and then we're going to the cinema to see Her. Probably not the most romantic of Valentine's films but we've both been wanting to see it for ages. Think we're going to have a pretty chilled out day on Saturday and then we're going out in the evening. I'm looking forward to it. I've had a pretty long week and haven't had a single night this week when I've been home at a decent time due to choir and plans with friends and then delays with trains, so I'm ready for the weekend!
Hope you have a great one!

Charlotte x

Monday, 10 February 2014

January in Photos

It's late, as usual. In fairness, I just have a lot of photos this month! I've been doing #100happydays and nearly didn't include those photos to save them for finishing the challenge, but I decided to keep them in. But it means I have a lot more photos than usual as I have to taken a photo every single day! So I'm sorry this is a little photo heavy...
1. New Year's Day Dinner
We normally have a proper roast on New Year's Day. Instead, Phil and I got a takeaway and did absolutely nothing!
2. Pizza Hut Buffet Lunch
My Dad has wanted to go for a Pizza Hut Buffet Lunch for years, but because it's only on on weekdays during the day, he's never had a chance to go. A few weeks ago he and my Mum had a Friday off work and guess where we ended up!
3. Welcome tweet from AO.com!
This was just after I accepted my job offer. Such a great feeling! 
4. Cinema date with Phil
5. Unexpected Flowers
Seriously, where did I get this boyfriend from? I'd accepted my job offer earlier in the day and we had a date in the evening. I got in the car for him to give me a lift home and he produced this bunch of flowers! They are absolutely beautiful. I've only been bought flowers a few times in my life and it was such a surprise. What a sweetie.
6. Party time
I haven't worn this dress for about 3 years but we had a wedding to go to a few weeks ago and I thought I'd get it out. I was actually dithering over wearing it but everyone loved it when I posted it on Instagram so I decided to keep it on! 
7. First 8 mile run
8. Beans, rice and avocado for recovery
9. Gorgeous meal with my Mum
My Mum had a day off a few weeks ago so we pottered around and ended up going out for lunch. This sweet potato curry was on the lunch menu so we both decided to order it and wow. It was amazing! I've never had such flavourful rice before! Note to self- learn to make rice pilaf. 
10. Book buyin'
I absolutely love scouring charity shops for books. I got these for £2 each!
11. Party dress
I have two weddings coming up this year, and haven't given a thought to what I would wear. When I saw Sian wearing this gorgeous Coast dress, I knew I had to try it! It was down from £195 to £95 in the sale and it is absolutely perfect!
12. Phil and I are going to see Derren Brown in June! 
I absolutely LOVE magic and I have a huge crush on Derren Brown (Is that weird? Is it just me?) so I can't wait to go and see him!
13. Yummy homemade omlette
It was mushroom, spinach and goat's cheese
14. Joined the onesie club
I swore I would never own one of these but when my friend Meg got this one, I couldn't resist. It is so cosy. I never want to wear normal clothes again. 
15. Lunch with Steph
I started #100happydays a few weeks ago and this was photo one! Steph and I have been for lunch a few times at our favourite cafe in Didsbury and it's our tradition. Also how awesome is her Clueless jumper? 
16. And we shared a brownie
17. More second-hand books
18. Yummy dinner
I made this pasta dish for Phil and I a few weeks ago. We've been talking about making it for ages and it was lovely, and very cheap! 
19. Snuggles
20. This guy
21. Lovely lunch
Roasted chickpeas, salsa, homemade guacamole and cheese. 
22. Roasted Brussel Sprouts
I have never been a fan of brussel sprouts, until I heard about roasting them. Now I love them. Seriously, cover them in salt and give them a go!
23. Gingerbread Friend
This little guy was made by my friend Meg for charity. He is filled with lavender and really helps me sleep. Plus look how cute he is!
24-26. Healthy Brownies
I've fancied making black bean brownies for a while, and on my last day of unemployment I decided I really should take the opportunity to bake. So I made these. And they are divine. A little gooey, but you wouldn't know they were healthy!
27. Even more charity shop books!
28. Running through the mud
29. Egg curry for two
Phil's parents bought him a veggie cookbook for Christmas so he could cook for me. How awesome is that? This was a recipe from that that he wanted to try.
30. Date night!
31. One of my favourite photos of Phil
32-33. Cocktails!
34. Bowling date
We decided to go to All Star Lanes a few weeks ago for a fun little date. Turns out I am absolutely awful at bowling and it's not socially acceptable to have the bumpers up when you're over the age of 13.
35. Breakfast in bed
36. Replicating my favourite bagel
I've been going to Bagel Factory on a Monday night before choir for months and I always have the Halloumi Melt Bagel. So I decided to make my own. It was actually pretty good! Warm halloumi, sundried tomatoes, rocket and a bit of mayo.
37. First 9 mile run
38. I ran 28 miles in a week!
39. First day of work outfit!
Cue a new dress and a new bag, obviously.
40. Learning about my new job
41. New iPhone case
42. Disney at choir
We've been waiting for this for ages.
43. What would have been a really great photo of Phil and I
Damn you blurriness!
44. Amazing Thai Sweet Potato soup at work
And it was £1! (My banana was free)
45. Free snacks at work
Every floor at work has a huge American fridge freezer and the salad drawer is filled with chocolate bars. I know, so dangerous.
46. Free breakfast at work
Mmmm porridge.
47. Did I mention we have a Starbucks at work?
And it's subsidized? This latte was £!
48. First run after work
 I hate post-workout selfies, but it was a big deal that I got home from work and went straight out for a run. I've gone back to doing it in the morning mostly now, but dragging myself out after work was a challenge!
49. Buying a running belt makes me a real runner
50-51. Cocktails with my favourite people
Funny story about this night. I booked a table at Revolucion de Cuba cause I love it there and Phil and Steph were meeting for the first time so I wanted to take them somewhere nice. It was all lovely and then after we'd eaten, the waitress came over and kept asking if I'd booked the table for Charlotte and if my name was Charlotte. I was like "yep, that's me. Booked under my name." Then she came out 5 minutes later with a cocktail with a sparkler in, and sung Happy Birthday to my! My birthday is in March. It was SO embarrassing and of course, Phil and Steph joined in because it was just so ridiculous, but so did people on other tables! It was so funny.
52. Girls night means one thing...
I think it's replacing Mean Girls as the film we put on for girls night. Serious words.
53. Bye bye long hair!
54. Board game night
Who doesn't love Cards Against Humanity?!
55. Cinema date, again
I read The Wolf of Wall Street last year so I was extra excited to see this. I thought it was great!
56. A lift to work
On only my second week at work, I got to the train station to find my train was cancelled. I called my Dad let him know while I sorted out an alternative route. While I was waiting for another train, he called me back and said he'd turned about and was going to give me a lift to work! Lifesaver.
57. Finally bought my choir badge!
58. Finally made it to Solita
Phil has wanted to go for ages and we finally went a few weeks ago. Phil has a burger that had something called Bacon Candy on. Apparently it was amazing.
59. Beautiful sunrises make my commute much prettier
60. Snow!
Yes, we got snow in Horwich. Seriously, whatever the weather is like in Manchester, it's 10 times worse in Horwich.
61. Yummy dinner
Salmon with sriracha (I'm obsessed!) and honey, with roasted chickpeas, avocado and salad.
62. Reunited with Kris!
Kris and I used to work together and it's rubbish not seeing her everyday. 
63. The best stir fry I've ever had that I made while drunk
After two glasses of wine, naturally.
64. New issue of Runner's World
65. Homemade prawn curry
Super simple, but my specialty dish. Seriously though, it's pretty much just prawns, onions, curry paste and tomatoes.
66. Educated Phil in one of my favourite films
Phil is a real film buff so it was nice to be showing him a film for a change!
67. Enchiladas!
68. My very long and very horrible 10 mile run
Read more here.
69. I love my choir
70. Perfect evening in
That's fruit tea, not read wine, by the way.
71. Getting back into strength training
I was aching for days after this!
72. Finally getting to sing Circle of Life at choir!
73. Pizza Express nom
Whenever I have a voucher, I always get a big pizza (instead of the one with the salad in the middle!) and a side salad and take the rest home for lunch the next day. People were getting serious lunch envy when I rocked up at work with pizza for lunch!
74. Post-run mango and banana smoothie
75. Phil cooked dinner
I say cooked... :)
76. And then we had dessert
With two spoons, of course
77. New dress
I decided a new job was a reason to buy lots of new dresses...
78. 70 miles run in January!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Half Marathon Training: Running Kit Update

I wrote a post a few months ago about my half marathon running kit and over the last few weeks I've added a few more pieces that I wanted to show you! You can read my original post here.

I told you another one of these would be coming up! I thought I was pretty much set with my kit when I wrote my last post, but I have picked up a few bits since Christmas so my kit is continuing to grow! As I said last time, I'm still a real beginner and I still haven't really bought much for "fun" yet (although I am definitely after some new fancy trainers after my half marathon) but I think that's my next step. Here are the new additions to my kit...
Ever since I saw Rosie's Galaxy-print running leggings, I've been desperate for a pair. The ones she has are actually out of stock, so my Nan got me these ones for Christmas. They're much more exciting than my plain black leggings! They're cotton though instead of lycra so I only wear them when it's extra cold.
Ah I love my Garmin so much! I realised I needed a GPS watch after my last 10K when I realised between my music and my Endomondo app, my phone was down to 29% battery by the end of my race. Phil offered to get me a GPS watch for Christmas and I cheekily asked him for this one. This is pretty much the most basic GPS watch that Garmin do. Because I have my Polar HRM I didn't need one that had a heart rate monitor or any fancy options. It literally just shows my distance, time and bleeps once a mile to tell me what my time was for the mile. I also have it on autopause for when I stop at traffic lights or something. There are other settings I haven't tried yet, like choosing a pace and getting it to bleep when you're above or beyond that pace. It's dead simple but I love it. I just plug it into my laptop to charge it and then I can update my Endomondo profile from there.
I felt having a running belt made me a proper runner. I bought this when I was finding I needed a boost at distances over 9 miles. My leggings don't have pockets and I wanted to take jelly babies with me, so I bought this belt. It has two 500ml bottles and three little pockets (which I've used for my phone and jelly babies but could also fit a key). Once I got it tight enough it was fine on my waist and didn't bother me at all.
Leggings and top c/o Matalan
And the most recent addition to my running kit! I have to admit, when Matalan got in touch about their new Activewear collection I didn't have very high expectations. I expected the leggings to be cotton and had mentally prepared them for my indoor workouts (I like my leggings to be stretchy and made of something breathable for running). But when the items arrived, I was so impressed! I went for the Active Tshirt and Active Leggings and they're both made of lovely stretchy, lycra-style fabic and the tshirt has mesh areas for extra breathability. I also love the extra touch of the leggings having a stripe in the same colour as the top- I love some co-ordination! I'm really glad I can wear these leggings for running cause I have a habit of splashing through puddles when I'm running and my leggings are constantly in the wash. And look how flipping bright that top is...
Next on my list, new trainers! I am kind of ready for a new pair now (I've done about 350 miles in mine so they're on their last legs) but I don't want to have to wear in a new pair before my race. My current pair were £18 so I'm excited to get a fancy pair!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Something Shifty

When it comes to dresses, there are a couple of words I tend to avoid. As I've mentioned before, "bodycon" is one of the words I dislike, as much as I've tried to face my demons. Another one is "shift dress". As a typical pear shape, I lean towards skater shapes. I've always been a bit scared of shift dresses for fear of them making me look shapeless. But when you have to be out of the door for work at 7.15am (my alarm is set for 4.45am on mornings that I run before work!) comfort usually takes precedence. And if there's one thing I can say about shift dresses its that they're comfy. I fell in love with this dress when I saw a girl on my train wearing it and had to ask her where it was from. She actually had it belted so I didn't realise it was a shift. When I first tried it on, I wasn't sure about the shape, but seriously, comfort. I wore this dress two days in a row this week. This was the outfit I wore on Sunday to go to Phil's parents for dinner, and on Monday for work with a blazer. These shoes are surgically attached to my feet at the moment. Oh also, this was the first time I'd curled my hair since I cut it. It was a bit of a relief that I could still curl it, although doing the back was a bit of a challenge!
dress-River Island
leather jacket- Boohoo
ballet flats- Dorothy Perkins
Hopefully, this is a sign of me being back to blogging. I've got four new posts planned and two written, so I'm finally getting back into the routine of blogging around my new job. As I mentioned I'm also back running before work. It's pretty painful when my alarm goes off at 4.45am and it's been tough getting back into it, but it's nice to be able to relax in the evening. Sunday I went to Phil's parents for dinner, which was lovely, Monday I had choir and last night Phil and I had a double date with my friend Shaunagh and her boyfriend, Martin, which was a lot of fun. I've gone from a few quiet weeks to having every weekend booked up until the end of March. I'm not complaining though! I love being busy. Work is keeping me busy too and I'm starting to be able to do things on my own now which is exciting. I really love my job and I love working for AO.com so it' so nice to enjoy going to work. I even love my commute because it gives me a lovely hour to read and relax. I finished 4 books last month! I finished Stephen King's Different Seasons, then read Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Road and No Country for Old Men. I was going to read Blood Meridian straight after but I thought I'd better take a little break from Cormac McCarthy. I'm currently reading Love in the Time of Cholera.
Wow, major blogger head-tilt here haha. Think I was trying to show off my short hair.
Right well, my alarm is set for 4.45am, I think it's time for bed! I'll be back tomorrow (no, really!)

Charlotte x

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Half Marathon Training: My First 10 Mile Run, or Sometimes Running is Rubbish

Training for a half marathon can be great. Tough goals, pushing your body beyond what it has ever done before, completing distances you never thought you'd be able to run. New clothes, new gadgets, new routes. It can be fun and exciting and exhilarating.
But training for a half marathon can be rubbish. Really, really proper rubbish. It means alarms set to 4.45am to run before work. It means Sunday mornings dashing away from the opportunity of a relaxing day with your boyfriend to get home for a run. It can mean hours upon hours of feeling like you're going nowhere. Hours and hours of feeling tired. Hours of rain and rubbing trainers and the constant left-right-left-right of a run. It means the frequent battle between a nagging headache and the guilt of a missed run. The feeling of utter exhaustion with miles still to go.
Last Sunday I was scheduled to run my first 10 mile run. I wasn't worried. My seven, eight and nine mile runs had all gone well and it was only an extra mile. I knew if I ran slowly enough, took plenty of water and supplies I'd be okay.
Yeah, no.
It was probably one of the worst runs I have ever had, and I've had some pretty awful ones in the last few months. Everything that could have gone wrong, did.
I followed my schedule as usual. Left Phil's at a reasonable time, did the food shopping, had lunch and waited some time for that to go down before I headed out.
Then the first problem hit. The flashing light that I have on the back of my running jacket stopped flashing out of the blue. I knew it was going to be dark before my run would be over, and I wanted some extra protection. I ended up having to put my hi-vis jacket on over the top of my jacket, and knew it would mean I would overheat, but the drizzle outside made me hesitant to go without a jacket.
I struggled to get everything on and sorted, especially as I had to put my iphone under my jacket to prevent it from getting wet, put the hi-vis on top, and then put on my running belt. This was the first time I had tried my running belt too, so I wasn't sure how I would get alone with it. I packed my two 500ml bottles, one with water and one with lucozade, some jelly babies and my 500ml water bottle too. 
And then of course, that was another struggle-getting used to my belt. I was actually okay after the first mile, but with all that liquid inside it was bulky and heavy. I managed to get it small enough to fit comfortably around my waist and after a while I got used to it. However, once I had drunk the water from my usual O-shaped water bottle, I wanted to move onto the liquids in my belt. Now what I hadn't considered was that I might want to pop my empty water bottle back into the belt, but due to its shape, it wouldn't fit. The bottles that came with the belt were difficult to drink from and hard to hold in my hand while running, meaning I had to stop whenever I wanted a drink. In the end I had to stop and pour the liquid into my little handheld bottle, which made it much easier, but not exactly practical!
Around the four mile mark, I found myself getting tired. I wasn't even half-way done and I was tired. With 6 miles to go, I think it was here that my morale started to slip. By mile 6, I found myself staring up at a huge hill that I had underestimated the size of in my route planning. I was exhausted. So I walked. I was stared to feel defeated by mile 7, but strangely, felt that 3 miles wasn't too far to go. I downed some jelly babies and tried to pick up the pace. And then disaster struck. After drinking 500ml of water and 500ml of lucozade, I was starting to need the toilet. I was still 3 miles from home. 
I spent the next 3 miles desperately trying to not wet myself (TMI?) while also trying to get my pace back up so I could get home faster! I drink a LOT of liquid when I run (I often drink 500ml just during a 3 or 4 mile run) but I hadn't considered the implications of needing the toilet while running. This is definitely something I need to think about for my next long run!
When I finally got home, I was so exhausted I could hardly speak. I felt so demotivated. I had completed the 10 miles, but I knew I had walked about a mile in total. I was absolutely destroyed. It's been really hard for me to consider being able to run that extra 3.1 miles on the day, and I only have 7 weeks to go.
To make it worse, I've had a really bad week of training runs, culminating with a tight chest during park run and ending up spending the day feeling rotten and certain that I'm coming down with something. I'm scheduled to give 10 miles another go tomorrow, but with feeling headachey, tired and fluey I'm unsure what to do. Do I try to do a few miles, maybe just 5 or 6? Do I sit the run out completely and give my body another day to rest? This week was my first week back on 5am runs, and my first week getting back into strength training so I've really put my body through a lot this week. To be honest, I think it's still recovering from those 10 miles! I'm learning to listen to my body, but it's hard to know when I'm just feeling lazy and a run will help me through, and when I really need to take a break. That's the balance I haven't quite got to yet.
I guess the point of this post is to show that training is hard. It can look so effortless when people glide by on the day of the race. Part of the reason I'm doing this race is to raise money for Alzheimer's, and I remember reading in Alexandra Hemmingsley's book that people don't donate their money to you for your achievement running the race on the day. They do it for all those tough runs, the runs when you really, really don't want to, but do it anyway. They do it for the struggles and the determination and the blood, sweat and tears.
And last week was my blood, sweat and tears. But I have to keep going,
3 miles to go.