Tuesday, 30 December 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: The start of triathlon training

I was recently interviewed by expert health and beauty website, Get The Gloss, about how I stay fit. This section of the site interviews women who lead full time, demanding jobs yet still find the time to exercise regularly and lead an active lifestyle.  

One of the questions I had to answer was what a typical training week is for me. If this has been brought to me six months ago, it would have been answered with ‘I carry out 3 to 4 runs a week’. Simple. Now though, with triathlon training in full swing it is actually a trickier question to answer, what with three disciplines to now train for.

It got me thinking that I haven’t really revealed in full detail the nature of my daily lifestyle now and how I have adapted to this change in exercise. When I tell people I am going to do a triathlon, the first thing people normally ask me is ‘how are you going to train for that!?’. They almost seem surprised to think that I can manage the training along with a job, seeing friends and spending time with family.

The truth is, no matter what you think, you can work exercise around your everyday tasks.  Excuses of ‘I’m just too busy’ just don’t suffice. There is always a way to lace up your trainers and squeeze in 30 minutes of cardio or weights.

For my triathlon, I have taken the approach to plan ahead each month and create a calendar to list my activity. This is to help me stay focussed and see each week and what needs doing. If I have also planned in advance social activities, I will make sure these are added to the calendar as marked rest days.
To kick the week off, I try to swim on Mondays. Due to being a cyclist, I head straight from work to a local pool around four miles away. Each week I alternate between technique and distance practise. At the moment the technique sessions are carried out to help improve my front crawl and consist of various exercises such as arm pulls (where I place a float between my knees and without kicking pull myself through the water using just my arms), round the world (where I won’t lift my other arm up until my hands meet out in front) and fast kicking using just my legs with my arms out in front holding a float.

For distance sessions, this is where I carry out 25 lengths of front crawl non-stop. This equals to 750m that is required for the sprint triathlon. I will gradually increase this to around 900m, which will help to build my strength so that when it comes to the big day, doing 750m will (hopefully) be a breeze.

Tuesday is a run day where I head to my running club for a casual social run. This is never intense; it’s merely an enjoyable session where I normally do 5/6 miles running various routes in London. It tends to be my time to have a natter with fellow club friends and stretch my legs. Thursday is then my weekly interval session where I head to an athletic track and carry out specific sessions designed to improve speed, endurance and core strength. These workouts hurt but I definitely see the benefits of them when it comes to races. Same as swimming, I also use my bike to get to all my training sessions and can complete around 10-12miles per day cycling around London, which is an added training benefit.

Come the weekend, I try to get in bigger sessions or races. If not, I will do two smaller sessions across both days. It’s really important I try to get out on the bike for a long ride or interval work but this has been an area I have lacked focus in since starting my triathlon training. It is my New Year target to resolve this and my January calendar has had more cycling specific sessions built into it.

As I live in London, I like to head to Regents Park on my bike as it has a huge outer circle that is great for cycling speed work. So many cyclists head here in London as it is easy to reach, a great place to train with others and ideal for intervals. The latter I like to do, carrying out a routine of one lap fast and hard then one lap gently. I do find I am very weak at this as after four laps I’m shattered! I have read that the cycle is a bit part of the triathlon to train consistently for and I'm well overdue a slapped wrist for not concentrating on this discipline more.

At the weekends, I also try to get a longer run in. I am currently training up to 10K. My triathlon only has a distance of 5K and I am also trying to secure a new 5K PB from my training (more can be read on this HERE) so keeping my legs comfortably ticking over 10K seems appropriate right now. I'm trying to fit in a couple of races at weekends too, such as cross country fixtures and also the Mornington Chasers Regents Park 10Ks which run through Winter. 

Over time, my training will develop into different sessions. Swimming distances will increase and by March time, I will be carrying out brick sessions. This is where I will be cycling and then running straight after, a training method crucial for multi sport races. By building up my training calendar bit by bit, I can gradually merge it into my work and social schedule so I don't feel like I am chucking myself in at the deep end. Steady integration is the way forward!

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: Post exercise breakfast

My most important meal of the day is breakfast and I think that goes for pretty much all runners. I have a few friends who can easily skip this meal, which leaves me baffled. By the time I arrive at the office from my cycling commute, I'm so hungry and I can't wait to get to my desk to eat my bowl of porridge (or cereal in the warmer months).

At the weekends, I tend to carry out my bigger training sessions, such as longer runs and bike rides. Aiming to head out early(ish) morning, by the time I get home around 10.30/11am, all I can think about is food. This is where I make a bit more effort and make a breakfast that is fulfilling, rewarding and a great source of energy to refuel my body after a tough workout. 

Poached eggs on toast
This is my savoury go-to that is packed full of protein and is a nice toasty warm meal that goes down super well after a cold winters run. 

Now, I must admit I am crap at poaching eggs. We have those rubbery round moulds that we crack the egg into and then float on water to poach. I'm very good at over boiling the water which then floods the moulds and gets the eggs all soggy. So, I normally opt for this breakfast when my fiancé is home - he's a pro at making the perfect poached egg!

I tend to have two eggs with two slices of spelt toast. I then season with salt and pepper and a generous amount of tomato ketchup (the important finishing touch). The humble egg has a rich nutritional value. The whites of an egg hold a valuable amount of protein, as well as zinc and iron. They also are low calorie and low cholesterol. These benefits are a great source of fuel to re-energise tired muscles and I do definitely feel perkier after this full and satisfying dish.

Banana & cinnamon pancakes
OK - this is more of a 'treat' breakfast. When I know I have been good in the week leading up to the weekend and I have had a particularly tough session, I opt for this super sweet brekkie. By all means, these aren't pancakes lathered in chocolate sauce, sugar and ice cream. I do take into account some nutritional value.

First of all, I make the batter myself which is made using spelt flour. As you know by now spelt is the only way forward for me as I find it lighter and far easier to digest. I also add in a sprinkle of cinnamon which carries health benefits such as aiding colds and controlling blood sugar levels. It gives the batter a sweet kick and is an instant seasoning.

The mix makes around six pancakes so I tend to make this when I have someone to share with. When the pancake is made, I fill it with banana and drizzle a small amount of honey before rolling it up to eat. High in fibre and potassium, bananas are a common source of energy post exercise. They help aid muscle cramps and sustain blood sugar levels. 

Fruit, granola and yoghurt 
More a choice of breakfast during the summer months, mixing fruit and granola with low fat yoghurt is a extremely quick dish to whip up and is surprisingly very filling.

When I make this, I chop and prepare an apple, banana, clementine and grapes. This I will then mix with a low-sugar shop bought granola (although sometimes I do make my own which you find the recipe for HERE). Finally, the finishing touch is normally with Onken Fat Free Strawberry Yoghurt. This particular option carries less calories than its competitors. Here in this picture though, I have chosen a natural greek yoghurt. 

I am a total fruit bat and I find myself eating this almost every weekend during Summer. It's incredibly refreshing and curbs any sweet craving that may develop later in the day, which is an added bonus!

These three are definitely my top breakfast picks. Like I said, these are what I prepare after heavier/intense training sessions where I can feel my body has worked at maximum effort and is in need of some hearty refuelling!

What are your favourite post exercise meals?

Lipstick Runner. 

Friday, 19 December 2014

My 2014 fitness journey

With 2014 drawing to a close and another whole year complete, what better time is there to reflect on your own journey - both achievements and learnings. 2014 for me has been a jam packed year full of fabulous progressions in all aspects of my life. I started the year newly engaged and with a new job which was very exciting and throughout the year, I have set myself many fitness goals. Some I have smashed, some I have failed. But that's OK - failures are simply learnings and everything I set out to do I always try to reflect on positively for the future.

So on that note, here are my 2014 fitness highs and lows.

1. Securing a 10K PB
1st January and half marathon training was back on track after three weeks off holidaying in Hong Kong. It was tough getting back into a routine but I actually found having a decent break to let my body chill and recuperate did the world of good! My pace was on top form - faster than before in fact and I didn't have one single niggle. By the start of February and crossing the start line of Mornington Chasers Regents Park 10K, I never dreamt of heading under the sub-46 minute mark. But I did! 45.45 to be precise. 

Funnily enough I returned to this course at the start of December and working at maximum effort, I finished in 47.40. I found it hard to believe that I had been two minutes faster at the start of the year and it made me realise that I have in fact lost speed. A big chunk of what I know I am capable of. 2015 will be focussed at bringing this back - especially for the triathlon. I am hoping my 5K plan (which you can read about HERE) will contribute to this greatly. 

2. Missing my half marathon target...by seconds
After smooth sailing training, I was ready to smash my half marathon target of 1.45. My training had me on schedule to go clean under and I was so excited to cross the finish line with this secured. Choosing Reading Half Marathon for the second year running, I carried out the race in the wrong way from all aspects. Due to rainy, cold weather I decided to wear leggings and a skin under my club vest. Big mistake. Here's a note for you in case you didn't already know - no matter how cold it is, don't layer up. Once you start running, you will boil. I learnt the hard way and by the 5K mark I was beetroot red, itchy and irritated. 

Due to being so hot and bothered I started to stop at water stations, drinking far more than I am used to when running. This lead to a huge stitch at around mile eight. I was practically crawling now and at mile 10, with just 5K to go, the 1.45 pacer passed me. I remember it clearly. I was about to come up to the hardest part of the course, a dual carriageway. A long straight road that seems like it never ends is the easiest place to lose the will to live and once the pacer past me, I felt close to tears. 

Why had I gone so wrong? Well whilst I was thinking this, when I reached the end of the carriageway and turned into a road, I got close to the curb and a spectator's giant husky dog jumped up at me and nearly sent me head over heels. Yep - that definitely topped it.

Despite all these setbacks (most which I am to blame), I crossed the finish line in 1.45.30. In all honestly I found this worse that finishing way past 1.45. I was so close and I messed it up. It really got to me. I stood there at that finish line and bawled like a baby. I had never cared so much about a race and never had I trained so hard. 

It took a while to get over this race trauma but I am happy to look back at it now as merely a learning experience. Deep down, I know if I train right and avoid these errors, I can go under 1.45 and one day (when I am not 5K or triathlon focussed) I will definitely give it another go!

3. 24 hours of team running
By the summer, the most exciting event of my 2014 calendar (in my opinion) was taking part in Mizuno Endure24. Not only was I facing my biggest challenge yet, I was doing it with my home club and best friend. Donned head to two in Newbury A.C gear, I was raring to go and despite the horrendous storms that took place over the 24 hour period, the grin was not wiped off my face. I completed four laps, totalling 20 miles and kept each turn consistent with pace. Yes, I injured my ITB rather badly on lap three (at 3am might I add) and I was out of action for the next couple of months but it was worth it! Best 24 hours I have spent awake (mind you this has probably only occurred in my life twice - but still it was the best).

4. ITB woes
Post Mizuno Endure24 and I faced my first, ever proper time out from running. After experiencing a slip on lap three of the course, I knew I was in sticky territory. I knew it even more come 8am and heading out on my final lap where the pain in my right knee was agonising. 

In the weeks that followed I attempted running, only to find myself retiring a mile in clutching my knee in sheer pain. After a trip to my sports masseuse, it was confirmed I had damaged my ITB and immediate rest from high impact sport was needed. I came back home with a foam roller under my arm, a plan to switch to swimming and determined to get myself fixed.

5. A brand new shiny bike
So with my injury comes the urge to dabble in a new hobby. I had always wanted a bike in London (for commuting and getting about town easily) but my fiancé had always disapproved. However, I think seeing me in the depth of misery through my injury brought his soft spot to life and after giving his blessing to get a bike, I was out the front door in a flash to get one before he changed his mind.

Seven months later and I am glued to my bike. I pretty much go everywhere in London with it and rarely travel by bus or tube anymore. It's brilliant! I never knew how much fun cycling could be and I will make sure in 2015 I broaden my horizons and take up more cycling adventures. I'd love to head out of the city somewhere, see some sights on route and get a good grip of long distance cycling. 

6. A 10 mile comeback
Come September, my ITB had healed and I was getting back into the routine of running. Rather a relief considering I had Cabbage Patch 10 just weeks away. With very little time to train, let alone strengthen my ITB, I decided to just do the best I can and not set any expectations. After Reading Half Marathon, I wasn't prepared for disappointment again thats for sure!

I focussed on distance over speed for this one. I hadn't attempted 10 miles since the spring so putting aside how long it took me, I trained up to eight miles which turned out to be just plenty come race day. I honestly believe going into a race with little expectation can be more beneficial to you than setting a target. It proved to be right for my 10K at the start of the year and it did for this too. A PB wasn't secured, no, but courage and belief was. I ran the whole course light footed, relaxed and well, breezily. I finished in 1.22 (two minutes slower than the previous year) and I was overjoyed!

7. Tri-life begins
Around late summer, I had decided that I was going to bite the bullet and enter my first triathlon, choosing Blenheim Palace in July 2015 as my debut. By November, I was starting my first month of full training and am now in a regular routine of swimming, cycling and running each week. It has been a hard adjustment to make as I have only been used to training in one discipline up until this point. However I have now found my rhythm and am already seeing improvements in my swimming and cycling.

My parents also kindly took me for a day trip to the palace itself to get a feel for the course and see the lake that I would be swimming in. I have never done a 'reccy' before, mainly because I haven't felt the need to. However, seeing where it will be taking place was so helpful. I am a little daunted at taking on this challenge but I do feel slightly reassured that I know the surroundings of the event a bit more and it won't feel so alien to me on the day.

I honestly cannot wait for the big day to arrive! To say I have completed a triathlon will just be incredible and I am already feeling so chuffed that I will be taking part.

8. Getting trim
One of the best things about triathlon training is the change that is happening to my physique. As you may have read, I have started Operational Bridal Bod. A fitness journey to me becoming bride ready for my wedding in July 2015. Since I started this back in September, I have dropped 6lbs, nearly a whole dress size and already areas of my body are slightly trimmer.

Of course it wavers at times. With Christmas coming up, I am expected to lose concentration a tad (because who wouldn't?) but knowing the level of training I have to take on for the tri, I really hope I see further improvements in my overall appearance over time. I can't afford to gain anything extra otherwise the wedding dress simply won't fit. What more motivation do I need eh!?

9. Feeling Tough
I was incredibly fortunate to experience one of the most sought after obstacle events in the world. Tough Mudder takes place at various locations across the UK and after being invited along to the London South course in October, I was rather curious as to what the whole experience would be. I was given a months notice so no time to train at all but I went out there with my Tough Mudder team and endured 12 hilly miles and 21 obstacles. I faced my fears of being trapped in water, got electrocuted and hauled my body through a shipping container of ice.

I think it's safe to say I will never experience anything like Tough Mudder again but I am slightly smug at having the honorary headband as evidence of what I went through.

10. Losing speed
As of November, triathlon training began and I went to solely running three times a week to swimming, cycling and running - aiming to workout four times a week. Having to focus some attention on two other disciplines does mean my running has dropped slightly. My speed on track and in races has reduced and whilst I actually feel quite miffed about this, I have to accept that this is actually to be expected in the early days of tri life. My body is still adjusting to this massive change of routine and I'm hoping once it's in the loop of things, it will begin to advance across all three sports. For now though, its a case of grim and bear the setbacks and work towards moving forwards.

So there we have it. My 2014 fitness journey. It's been really invigorating writing this post and looking back over the past year. I am so proud of all that I have achieved this year - both the good and bad experiences - and I am really excited to get stuck into 2015 and the new challenges that I face.

What are your 2014 highlights? Do you have any challenges set for 2015 too?

Lipstick Runner.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

KIT PICKS: My Christmas Wish List (triathlon style!)

"What do you want for Christmas?" The question everyone asks one another at this time of year. My answer is always "I dunno, nothing much really. Shower gels and stuff?"

Well this year, with Santa's visit fast approaching and along with enjoying some blissful time of work seeing family, I have devised a wish list of all the things I hope to pick from under the tree. 

Friends, family, read closely...

Zone3 Women's Aquaflo Trisuit
One thing I have specifically asked for is a triathlon race suit. Mainly because they can be quite pricey and along with buying a wet suit (or I might hire - I haven't decided yet), I could see my bank balance buckling at the cost of everything I need for the big race. So my parents have kindly offered to get me a trisuit and I spotted this beauty on Evans' website. 
Designed specifically for women, this trisuit offers high performing comfort and support for all three disciplines, including drag reducing fabric for the swim, padding for the cycle and an inner bra for extra support on the run. I can't wait to get my hands on this and I'm bursting to try it out during some training sessions to get a feel for an all in one suit. 

Zoggs Predator Flex Reactor Swimming Goggles
I threw a question out on Twitter this week seeking advise on a decent pair of goggles. I have an old pair of Speedos that are touch and go on leaking and always, ALWAYS leave marks that remain evident the next day. These are no way an option I am going to consider for my open water swim and after some fabulous feedback from the Twitter community, I found a few people suggested these bad boys. 
These are the creme de la creme of goggles so to speak. With a flexible frame that bends in all sorts of directions, comfort and the right fit is guaranteed. Along with this, the curved lenses offer a 180 degrees peripheral vision (amazing for open water swimming!) plus they are photo chromatic, meaning they darken depending on the brightness of natural sunlight. 

I was immediately sold by all these qualities but at £30-£35, they aren't cheap. I also found they were sold out on Zoggs website so I rather cheekily sent my other half a link to Amazon for them. Not subtle at all.

Sealskinz Women's Winter Cycle Gloves
I'm not going to lie. This freezing weather can make my daily cycle to work painfully cold. Especially for my hands. At the moment, I am wearing two pairs of gloves. A thick wooly pair from Primark and then my Summer B-Twin light gloves over the top. Even this double layer doesn't protect my hands from the cold and some days, my fingers have become so frozen it hurts to bend them for braking.
So, this obviously calls for a new pair of snazzy (and snug) winter cycling gloves and Sealskinz is a brand that gets recommended time and time over. This particular pair are built to stand both wet and cold weather conditions with a super cosy lining and a synthetic palm for that all important grip. The gloves themselves also look rather slim, which means that movement of the fingers isn't restricted. 

Hand Weights
One area that I really need to work more on is strength training. I am awful at core exercises, lifting weights, holding planks etc... With just a cheap yoga mat in the apartment, I rarely pluck up the motivation to dig it out and do a workout at home. 
For the triathlon, I am going to need a strong core, arms that can carry me through a 750m swim and sturdy legs to take me through all three disciplines. I need to strength train. I have no choice about it. To get me in the mood for it, I thought some nice shiny new weights would spur me on. Gone will be the tins of baked beans I sometimes resort to using. Now I will hopefully (if Santa is feeling nice) have a a proper set of weights so I can pump some iron. Grrr!

In all honestly, this list has been reiterated to my loved ones (thanks in advance guys!) and fingers crossed I will have the real life versions to show and review very soon! 

What's on your Christmas wish list? Have you got any triathlon must have's to suggest? 

Lipstick Runner.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Operation Bridal Bod: Week 12

(L-R: Week 1, Week 4, Week 12)
Three months into my plan to get wedding ready and I am feeling really good! After a slip up at week eight (which you can read about here), I made it my mission to get back on board both the diet and fitness wagon. Looking back at the last month, I feel like I really have! What's been great is that I haven't necessarily felt like I have been dieting. An extreme case of 'being skint' has lead to purchases of tinned soup, bananas and porridge, with dinners then being freezer food (which I know isn't great) but having no money has meant no subconscious mid afternoon sweet treats have been purchased from Tesco Express.

Looking back at week four, I was on a roll. I had dropped 5lbs and keeping my running up in training for Cabbage Patch 10. Then once the race was over, I slipped. Lots of social engagements led to eating out, drinking and feeling too tired to exercise. A bad patch but one I have definitely learnt from. I have since picked myself up, especially on the exercise front as I have just completed my first full month of triathlon training! 

I have kept to around 75% of my calendar plan and where I have made tweaks or missed sessions I have tried to make up for them elsewhere. Taking on swimming, cycling and running has been hard to adjust to but looking at my results, it has been totally worth it! Using my bike to commute is really helping me to pick up cycling skills, especially on long straights where I try to pick up pace (safely of course :)) and work flat out, pushing myself as far as I can go. Each week, I find my legs are getting stronger and I'm climbing the steep hill I face every morning faster. I even managed to get on a gym bike whilst visiting my parents where I practised the Sprint Tri distance of 20K. I found it quite uncomfortable cycling indoors as the room got so stuffy but was pleased to complete the session in 36 minutes. I'm hoping on the road bike I can shave off some time but for a starting point, I'm really happy!
For my swimming, it's, well, going swimmingly! Each week I alternate between technique practice and distance practice and I was astonished to find in my first distance session that I managed to lane swim 750m front crawl without stopping. I was chuffed to bits (below shows just how much).
With my running, as you all know I have decided to set myself a 5K challenge of reaching sub 21 minute territory (read about this here). I have only recently started this in the last week, tailoring my first training session to a track workout. Consisting of four sets of 800m followed by 400m, this workout was all about working to maximum effort at 3-5K effort and I managed to nail the exact pace I need to keep for a sub 21 minute 5K.
So where has this left my body overall? Well I am thrilled that say I have lost another pound (not much I know but it's still weight lost!) and I am now hitting the scales at 8st 13lbs. I cannot remember the last time I was under nine stone so to sneakily slip under this is huge for me! With 6lbs lost in the bag, my focus now is to not slip up with Christmas on the horizon. 

Already I have had to tell all my loved ones to not under any circumstance purchase any form of chocolate, biscuits, sweets or cake for me. I have even (with great strain) turned down my Mum buying me my traditional present of a Cadbury's selection box. However, what I avoid in the form of presents I will no doubt face on the coffee table at various family get togethers over the festive period. My willpower will most definitely be tested when I am in front of massive tubs of Quality Street, mince pies and cheese boards but I am going to try my absolute hardest to not go crazy. Note I am not saying I will completely avoid these treats. Christmas is a time to indulge a little and I will of course be eating Yule log and dipping into chocolate tins. I just won't be devouring whole packets.

You'll know how good I have been early January for my 16 week update. Let's hope for a good one!

Lipstick Runner.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: Targeting a sub 21 minute 5K

Throughout my journey to completing my first ever triathlon, I have decided to set mini targets along the way. One of them being a shiny new 5K PB. I haven't dabbled in this distance for over a year now and I think I have ran 5K about three times this year, one of which was a parkrun. 

The distance itself is actually great for all sorts of abilities. Whether you are new to running and making it you first target, or using it as essential strength building time during marathon training, everyone really should be boshing out a few 5K every now and then.

In the last four years I have been a runner, I have rarely chosen to complete the distance. Mainly because I always saw it as 'too short' and not relevant to my training but really, it can make a nice change to pounding the pavements for miles and miles. I am also a stronger competitor over shorter distances so why I have never seeked regular 5K PB has left me a little clueless. Still though, with a 5K in my triathlon, there really is no excuse now to set up some training sessions to improve my speed over the 3.1 miles.

Why 5K?
What's brilliant about 5K I guess is parkrun. One of the greatest events to be funded by the UK government, it's is a free 5K race for anyone to take part in. Taking place around the country at 9am every Saturday, thousands and thousands of Brits descend on their local parkrun to take part. The timed run is something many people I know dedicate their Saturday morning too and I really must pluck up the courage to squidge one or two into my training regime.
My current 5K PB is 21.58, which I achieved almost a year ago (above is where I achieved this at Newbury parkrun). If I was to go out now and run 5K, I'd be lucky to go under 24 minutes. Not good. So what time do I target? I feel like I could play it safe and aim for sub 22 minutes again but then part of me is thinking it's time to push myself and so why not try and aim for sub 21. I guess I am being an eager beaver but it would train me to work at 110%, which in turn will be very beneficial to me come further triathlon training.

Looking deeper into my reasons for this target, in all honesty I also am in desperate need of speed, endurance and most definitely a decent core, so fitting in some 5K tailored sessions will help tick these boxes. You could even say I am starting my New Year's resolution early!

The strategy 
How will I achieve this? Well I guess I am already halfway there in terms of tailored training with Thursdays spent at the athletics track enduring numerous sessions to get the body working at VO2 max and so I will definitely continue with this part of my normal training as it already helps with my speed. I will then make sure I balance our these intensive workouts with consistent running, aiming to do 3-6 miles for each run I do. I will try and do this twice a week, along with the cycling and swimming I already do as part of my triathlon training. Phew! 

The idea overall is for my track and running sessions to gel together, meaning that interval training will generate speed and muscle whilst consistent running will build endurance and efficiency.

More importantly, I need to fit 5K events into my diary and for this, I will most definitely turn to parkrun. By fitting these in, I will (hopefully) notice increased speed as my times get faster and faster with the aim to end up with that sub 21 minutes (20.59 here I come!). I did back in August take part in a parkrun and crossed the line in 23.09 so I am hoping I can land back around this sort of time and work my way up from there. Still though, hope is no guarantee so whatever time I do, I must accept it, be patient and build on it.

Key 5K training tips
For anyone who, like me, are also hunting down a 5K PB, here are some key training tips to remember when working towards smashing this distance...

1. Integrate speed work into your training. Opt for sessions that involve short bursts of hard running with small rest breaks. Pyramid sessions are great for this:
2. Hit those hills! This is rich coming from me, the Queen of hill dodging. I will however put my hands up and surrender to undulating courses and steep climbs. Hill training will really help to strengthen your core, not to mention your endurance. Head to a local park where you know a decent hill lies and again aim to do intervals running up and down the hill, followed by short sprints across flat ground. 
3. Master your stride. 5K is fast and requires lots of speed training so perfecting your stride will help to avoid injures and niggles. Lengthening your stride will also assist you in securing that all important PB. Short hill reps will help you achieve this.
4. Plank it. Like I have said throughout this post, a solid core makes such a difference when racing. To speed up the process of toughening it up, mix up your training with static workouts, such as planks. I have recently discovered walking planks to where you lean down on your elbows and push up so your arms are straight. It burns so bad but is totally worth it in the long run!

All of the above I will most definitely be adopting into my training regime (even the hills!). After all, I have a long journey to take to reach that sub 21 minutes, with the aim to hit this milestone by my birthday in April 2015

What PBs does everyone else have on the agenda? Are you aiming for a 5K personal record too?

Lipstick Runner.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Blenheim Palace Triathlon: Venue Visit

As I am about to endure my first ever triathlon, I took it upon myself to organise a day trip to where it will be taking place - Blenheim Palace.

Now, I have never done a 'reccy' as some people call it (basically cast your beady eyeballs over something) but triathlon is unfamiliar territory to me, especially the outdoor swim so visiting its location and getting a good grasp of what surroundings, terrains and conditions I will be facing was essential to me.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire is the only place in Britain to be given the honour of being called a palace (the only other place is Buckingham Palace, which is a royal ground). Owned by the Duke of Marlborough, it's renowned ownership in the past has been the Churchill's (Winston Churchill who was Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War was born here). But, along with the history of this magnificent building, it is also home to a large annual triathlon event! June 2015 will see around 7000 triathletes enter through the gates and take part in either Super Sprint or Sprint distances.  The latter I am doing and I was really keen to head off for a long, relaxed walk around the grounds of Blenheim to check out the course and what I was going to eventually face. 
The swim is my most uncertain area. Having never swam in open water, checking out the lake was really important and working out where I was going to swim. Looking at the course map on the event website, it looks like I will be swimming up this part of the lake:
I really can't imagine myself actually swimming up this. But on race day, the atmosphere will be buzzing, I'd have practised in open water so will (hopefully) be feeling confident to get round the 750m lap.

I also made sure I snooped around the actual palace as well as the grounds. It was great to see the space which will become the transition area where all our bikes will be lined up. It's crazy to think this will be brimming with rows and rows of bikes!
Looking at the grounds, the pathways are quite undulating, so I reckon I am going to have to get solid training in for my running and cycling. I will need to ensure I am well practised on courses both flat and hilly. Building strength will help me get round when my legs are probably going to feel like wanting to collapse! Deep down I know cycling is my weakest of the three sports so I will be looking at my training plan and seeing where I can fit in beneficial training sessions. It's a good job I've got a duathlon in the diary for April too!

Overall, it was great to walk around the grounds of Blenheim and envisage the triathlon and how it will work. Now I have seen the lake, I know what I am in for and even being aware of the course and it's flat and slightly hilly areas is powerful knowledge for my training. I know what I need to work on and more importantly I know what I am going to face.

Have you ever checked out a venue prior to race day before? Have you found it useful to know what you are facing?

For more information on Blenheim Palace Triathlon, visit the website HERE

Lipstick Runner. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: Facing Cross Country

Cross Country. These two words either bring joy to someone or sheer dread. For me it is the latter. Don't ask me why but for some reason me and cross country have never really hit it off. I think its the extremely competitive nature of it, the field of performance and the fact that is involves mud and hills. My running club take big pride in being part of the Met League which consists of a set bunch of races taking place in the winter months. As members, we are encouraged to try it out as it is a great deal of fun. The social aspect certainly is for me (and the post race cake) but the idea of running in the actual race makes me so nervous.

Despite my dread and misery for the event, I do drag myself along to at least one meet in the league as really, cross country is one of the best forms of training. The short distance (women races normally vary between 5-8K) means speed is required and notching up a gear or two over hills and muddy terrain makes the challenge even more beneficial to your endurance, strength and speed.

I recently made my one off appearance at the second fixture of the league which was based in fields and woodlands in Stevenage. I strategically chose this one as a) I didn't have other plans that day and b) it's the flattest course of them all. I very much had my tail between my legs too as I didn't actually get round to taking part in the league at all in 2013 so I was very nervous at returning to give it another go.

I guess you could say my main fear of cross country is that I might come last, which I know sounds ridiculous but I find the field of ability is so much more elite to what I'm used to in my local 10Ks and parkruns that really, I feel quite daunted. I have learnt from the past races that I have taken part in (my last was the Southern Championships at Parliament Hill which was the hardest run I have ever done!) that positioning yourself near the back is a good starting point (unless your an absolutely whizz at XC of course). This allows me to pick people off as I go through the course, meaning I never get overtaken and the feeling of passing other runners is a great confidence boost!

So, positioned at the back of the pack at Stevenage the gun went off and I started off nice and easy running around the outer edge of field, which involved short steep hills. I managed to keep with a fellow club member and decided early on that my goal was to keep her in close sight. After the first 1K in the field we then entered some woodland which was really pretty to run through. The terrain wasn't that muddy but was soft enough to need spikes. By the time I popped out the other end of the woodland to complete lap two, I actually was feeling really good. With my trusty Garmin notifying me of the distance by the time I was back in the woodland I had reached 5K and I knew with my last kilometre to go that I had the energy to push it. Advancing forward, I passed my team mate and powered through the woodland as fast as I could. As I was reaching the end, I could feel my core begin to tighten - I knew my body was working so hard. The final straight involved popping out the woods, heading down a steep grassy hill to a 50m sprint finish. I came out in a group of five and managed to overtake three of them on the final stretch, crossing the finish line 132nd place in a time of 29.06.
(me in action (no: 763) coming into my second lap at Stevenage)
Now 132nd may not sound great but for me, well, I was bloody chuffed! Out of 180 runners, by starting at the back I had managed to overtake around 40-50 people throughout the 6K distance. Not bad considering I am no cross country lover. But that's what surprised me more - I actually really enjoyed the race! A first for me. By being a little strategic and planning how I was going to tackle the route, I was able to reserve energy, keep my pace steady and run it controlled. Much better than my tactic before which was to bolt off at the start to get a good position to then crash 2K in, with a painful stitch and tired legs.

Overall, cross country is in fact enjoyable, if you run it right and realistically. Plus the post race cake and biscuits makes it totally worth it! I aim to make my next appearance in February. When are you heading out for it?

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

My race wish list

The blogging world is huge and many bloggers post wishlists for clothes, beauty, eating out or even holidays. Then there is my wish list, which is mostly made up of races I want to enter. In fact, my desire to dip my toe into different challenges has grown immensely since joining the running and fitness blogger community. I read so many inspirational stories on peoples training, races and experiences and it's made me incredibly hungry to expand my running CV!

I have found myself bookmarking lots of events that occur annually with the plan to do some in 2015 and even hold out to complete others in the future. Here are my top five that I simply must do.

1. Virgin London Marathon
(source: telegraph.co.uk)
I think this one is on every runners radar and so it should be. The biggest event in the UK marathon calendar, London Marathon is where I want to debut at the distance. For the last two years, I have ventured down to mile 20 and stood on the sidelines whooping people along and even got to witness my best friend smash it in 2014. Each year, the ever expected 'no' letter lands on my doormat but there is that little part of me that clings onto hope that one year my time will come.

2. Blenheim Palace Triathlon
I think everyone knows by now that this is my key event for 2015 and I am so excited! I've always been curious about triathlon. I absolutely love watching it on TV and knowing that I will be taking part in one is crazy! I think it is the challenge of learning to swim, cycle and run back to back that gets me. Tackling open waters and battling across a bike ride with a hundred or so people is a tad daunting but accepting the challenge is the best part!
(source:Triathlon Business)
The event itself is very pricey (I parted ways with £91 for the female sprint distance) but the experience you will get I am confident is totally worth every penny. Plus, I've heard this is a great beginner course as a mixture of abilities take part. So first time triathletes- hop on board with me!

Blenheim Palace Triathlon.

3. Race To The Stones
(source: Race To The Stones Facebook Page)
I've come across this event very recently after seeing a retweet on Twitter. This race is one to soak up the beauty of the great British countryside. A 100km route from Oxfordshire to North Wessex Downs that can be completed over two days, the course follows in the steps of Romans and Vikings along the Ridgeway (one of the oldest roads in Britain) to the finish line at the 3000 year old Avebury stone circle. Looking at the website it looks stunning, with runners taking in some beautiful sights across fields, trail paths and woodland.

Organisers for this event offer several options. You can complete the 100K in one day or even just choose to take part in 50K. There are also solo and team entries available. To bask in the experience of it though, there is the option to stop halfway overnight and this seems the ticket for me. I'd absolutely love to run this with a group of people - in no particular rush of course. I just need to find in myself the strength and endurance to actually complete 100K. Hmm...

4. Adidas Thunder Run
Another confirmed date in my 2015 calendar! After learning that Mizuno Endure24 clashed with Blenheim Palace Triathlon, I was keen to find an alternative. When my running club announced they were forming two teams for this, I didn't even hesitate at signing up! Based in Derbyshire (so quite a trek from London), this 24 hour relay race (which can also be ran solo) is a 10K trail run which looks like a challenging, undulating course. I am confirmed in a team of seven so looking to complete the route four times. After my experience at Endure24 (you can read my review HERE), I am so excited to be taking on a new challenge. I love the atmosphere these events bring. Camping out and cheering along the sidelines at all hours of the day really shows the camaraderie from everyone involved.
(source: Adidas Thunder Run Facebook Page)
Cost wise, I think I struck a reasonable deal. To enter in a team, with camping included was around £50 each. For a weekend away, it's not to be sniffed at!

5. Keswick Mountain Festival 10K
(source: Keswick Mountain Festival Facebook Page)
A festival for running!? Well ok then, if I must.

Another find on Twitter, the Keswick Mountain Festival is a weekend packed full of running, cycling and swimming shenanigans. Set in the heart of the Lake District, there are many events on offer from 5K up to marathons and triathlons. I perused over all the distances on the website and found myself ogling the 10K trail run. I'm not a trail runner so if I am going to do one, it certainly isn't going to be a marathon or half marathon but the 5K option also seemed too short for me. The race description says you have to take a ferry out across Derwentwater to the starting pen and looking at the pictures, it sure looks like a jaw dropping, scenic course. 

The 2015 festival takes place 14th-17th May 2015. 

What sporting events do you have your eye on? Are you like me bookmarking challenges you dream to complete?

Lipstick Runner. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

OPERATION BRIDAL BOD: Falling off the wagon

This post basically replaces my eight week update. Mainly because I am embarrassed to show the current results. I guess you could say I have slipped off the weight loss wagon. OK, maybe hurtled off it landing like a sack of crap on the floor. A heavy one at that matter.

My reasons? No reasons at all. Just excuses but ones that we all are guilty to at some point in the weight loss journey. When I began Operation Bridal Bod weight loss wasn't my main goal. It was physique. I wanted a strong, athletic body but one slim and toned to pull off a swanky wedding dress. My mind was set and driven and by week four, I was doing brilliantly (as you can see from the results HERE). My tummy was a lot flatter, I appeared slimmer and my skin was glowing. Hurrah! After a check up at the doctors, it was also revealed that I had lost 5lbs. Added bonus!

So what happened next is, well, life I guess. In the month that followed my routine became a bit misshapen. I wasn't training regularly, just fitting in odd runs and swims here and there, plus my eating habits got a little out of control. And then there was the alcohol consumption too.*guilty face*

The last few weeks have been very social for me. I have caught up with lots of former work colleagues which always results in eating out in the heart of Soho, gorging on all sorts of foods and sipping wine. I didn't just go for one odd meal. I went for four, back to back. Disgusting I know! From delicious Spanish tapas to Nandos to Honest Burger, I ticked all the unhealthy food boxes. *guilty face again*

Along with my restaurant picks, I have also let me hair down in other areas which can only really be described as binge drinking. I am not a big drinker. Never have I come home from work and cracked open a bottle of wine to unwind. Never have and probably never will. However, that doesn't mean I don't like a drop of alcohol from time to time. Or a gallon of gin. Combining a day at the races with a catch up with best friends was always going to lead to a haze of slimline gin and tonics. And that it most definitely did (plus the £53 I lost on bets). I got to wear a nice dress though which made a change.
There have however been some highlights amongst all this. I have completed two races - Cabbage Patch 10 and Tough Mudder. Both of which aren't a walk in the park (the latter especially!), these two events have helped to keep me focussed and I completed both of them in a far better time than I imagined. I even think for the first time, a race photographer papped me looking in a half decent state!
That said though, both events resulted in this:
*guilty face AGAIN*

Along with eating out alot, I have also found the sudden change in weather has had an impact on my foody habits. The UK has gone from mildy cold to absolutely freezing almost overnight! The heating in my flat is cranked up full notch, the slipper socks are out and my sports gear cupboard has rotated onto full leg leggings and base layers.

This instant change in weather has also had a damaging effect on my appetite. I literally cannot stop eating! It's like my body is never full. Work has been the worst. I am finding myself constantly picking at food and my willpower has been left back in Autumn. From the Hobnob biscuits in the cupboard, to birthday cake and mixed nuts left over from an event, I have spent 9am - 5.30pm munching down on food as if it was going to be taken away from me at any moment. This I think has been the hardest part and one I need to stop NOW!

So how do I rectify this? Well with my first ever wedding dress hunt taking place in two weeks, I need to think of something fast! Whilst I currently think that starving myself seems the only hope, I know I need to make changes that will carry on long term.

Weekly food shop - I need to make sure I am preparing my lunches to be healthy but hearty. By ensuring I eat a lunch big enough to fill me up, my snacking will hopefully ease up. At the moment I am eating small meals meaning I never feel satisfied and so turn to all sorts of bad snacks. By also stocking up the fridge with fresh fruit, I know that if I do want a snack, my options are not unhealthy.

Cut the sugar - I am literally cringing as I write this as I feel a little nauseous thinking about all the sugar I have consumed these last few weeks. Sweets, chocolate, cakes and so much more have been around me all the time. I think the turning point was when I bought a huge pack of Moam's for Halloween trick-or-treats. Not one knock at the door and a week later I had consumed the whole pack. *yet another guilty face*

Get focussed - I need to seek the goal again for what I am doing all this for. I must imagine I am walking down the aisle in eight months time, in a dress that I look fricking fabulous in. I need to see that if I carry on the way that I am, this will not happen. Making small goals in the lead up to this big goal will also help carry me through. For example, my small goal now is to get prepared for my first dress fitting and this means banishing the bloated belly.

On a final note, my week 12 aim is to be able to SHOW my results on here, rather than hide behind the *guilty face*.

Lipstick Runner.

Monday, 3 November 2014

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: Home-Made Spelt Birthday Cake

This weekend it was my fiancé's birthday and I decided to make a spelt based birthday cake for him! For regular readers of my blog, you probably know by now that I make everything that is flour based with spelt flour as a wheat free option and this cake turned out super scrummy! I opted for a chocolate loaf cake as it made a handy size for just the two of us. I could tell if I made a huge Victoria sponge, we would be eating it for days!

For loaf:
175g unsalted butter, melted
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
140g white spelt flour
85g ground almonds
0.5 tsp of baking powder
100ml semi-skimmed milk
4 tbsp cocoa powder
100g milk chocolate, grated
150g Nestle Smarties
2 packs of Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers

For frosting:
250g icing sugar
75g butter
Splash of milk
Hot Chocolate powder to flavour 

1. Set your oven to 160 degrees (fan oven) or Gas Mark 3. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment.

2. Whisk together the melted butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add in the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder, milk & cocoa powder and mix together until fully blended.
4. Add in the grated chocolate and once fully mixed together, pour into the loaf tin.
5. Bake for one hour, checking regularly past 45 minutes. Use a skewer to check the centre is cooked.
6. Whilst the loaf is cooling, start to make the hot chocolate frosting. Pour into a bowl the icing sugar and butter (softened or melted) and mix thoroughly until whipped together. Then add a few spoonfuls of hot chocolate powder (I opted for Cadbury's Wispa) and add until you reach your desired flavour.
7. Once the loaf is cooled, using a palette knife smear the icing sugar around the sides of the loaf. This will be the glue to add the Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers. These will form the chocolate biscuit 'wall'.
8. Next, smear the reminder of the frosting over the top of the cake and apply the Nestle Smarties all over to finish!
This cake is extremely chocolately and the dense form of the loaf means a small slice is plenty, which in turn makes the treat guilt free (well in my eyes anyway!).

Lipstick Runner.