Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Where on earth is Halterworth?

I am going to be a Halterworth Harrier!

I am joining a running club. I'm joining on a "not being expected to either turn up to training or pay a membership fee" basis, but I'll get a membership card that gets me money off race entry fees and money off in sports shops.

What's not quite so sensible is that (1) I don't know exactly where Halterworth is (is it a town? a region? a village? a suburb of somewhere else?), and (2) I think the club is somewhere in Hampshire (in or near Romsey, wherever that is?). I can't see me turning up to training too often. I can't even remember the last time I went to Hampshire. Sometime in the early 90s, perhaps, to catch a ferry from Southampton.

But they have invited me to join, so I will.

How this bizarre invitation to join a random club in Hampshire came about is that I know this guy called Martin through a rugby message board. He runs, and has always been ultra supportive of my attempts to start running. We've never actually met, but he checks up on how I'm doing every so often. He started a three page congratulatory thread about Berlin on the rugby board before I even got back, having been online to check my result*. What I didn't know is that he's the president of what seems to be a fairly new, small running club, which seems to cater for what I will call the less speedy runner. (from the website - "The club is open to all adult runners, although if you are very good we may advise you to join a higher standard club"!)

He said that he's trying to raise their profile by getting reports in the local papers about races their members have done. There seems to be some competition with another local club. So he said that I could join for free if he can claim me as one of theirs and write about Berlin. So in fact, not only am I going to be a member of a running club in Hampshire, but my exploits will be in print for all the good people of Halterworth to read about. Maybe he'd like a follow up report from Amsterdam. I have to keep my public interested.

(I've already had my name in a German newspaper - along with 40,000 others - so why not hit the south coast market too...)

Anyway, I don't have to pay anything out but I will get the discounts that a club membership card brings with it. I'm still a bit wary of joining my local club because they take winning races far too seriously - this lot don't seem to (not that I'll come into physical contact with them too often anyway if the others turn out to be obsessive nutters). I wouldn't be able to get to training with the local clubs anyway, so whether my club is 2 miles down the road or 200, it doesn't make any difference if I'm still in work at 6pm on a Tuesday (to be honest, I would struggle to get to the local club for 6pm even if I left work at 5, which is why I've pretty much ruled it out). I wasn't impressed with the email response I got from the local club, it was detailed but seemed to be a standard reply which wasn't tailored overly to me. For example, I said "I almost certainly won't ever get to training, does this matter?", they said "the best way to decide whether you want to join is to come along to training". And some of the email just seemed a bit patronising to me. Yes, there are some really inspirational people like Tracey Morris who are members, but maybe they just take things that bit too seriously.

I know that the way to get most benefit out of a club is to actually turn up and get proper coaching and do structured training sessions, but I also know that I just can't make it up there in time, whether I want to or not. So I may as well join a club where I at least know someone and feel comfortable with joining in on email lists etc, even if I can't turn up to training. The other option I was considering was joining an online womens running club which has been set up to reflect the fact that traditional running clubs with club sessions don't work for everyone. There's little difference really between that and what I'm doing, so I'll go with Halterworth.

So if you see me in the Romsey Advertiser, yes it is me, and no, I haven't moved down south...

Part of me also wonders whether this is my second chance to get into FLM. Martin has been badgering me for ages about doing London. He knows that I've put in a ballot entry, but he knows as well as I do how unlikely I am to get in through that route. As I understand it, running clubs get a certain number of club entries which they then distribute between their members as they see fit. You never know...

*My mother also reads that rugby board. I hadn't told her about Berlin as such. She knew I was going, but not what I was doing there. I wasn't trying to hide it as such, but trying not to get (a) discouraging comments or, alternatively (b) too much pressure from family about it. I got an email from her yesterday. "Did you run in Berlin?" Erm, just a short jog really...

And for my next trick...

This is one thing that I worried about. I worried about most things in the run up to Berlin, to be fair, but this was one of them. I've read lots of messages from people on running websites saying about how down they felt after completing a marathon. Because everything had been building up to the one event for so long, then it's gone, and where do you go from here? I didn't want that to happen to me.

I'm surprised at how "normal" I feel today now I'm back in work. There is an emotional comedown, and I'm feeling it. I didn't expect banners and balloons and flowers on my triumphant return from conquering Germany or anything like that, but now I'm back at my desk it's just the same old work for the same old clients who don't know, and probably don't care, about what I did over the weekend. Some of my colleagues too, those who knew asked the usual polite questions, but some people didn't know (and, to be honest, I know very little about what they get up to at the weekend, so I'm not criticising them for that). I've got my medal in my bag, but I'm not going to look like an idiot and wander round work wearing it (although I'll happily show it off if I'm asked).

Even inside, I maybe don't feel the same sense of elation that I expected. My mind seems to be downgrading the achievement. Even though it's something I dreamed of for years, and worked towards for months, my own mind is actually asking "so, what's the big deal?". It sounds stupid, but part of me is thinking "well, it can't be so hard if you can manage it". Rationally I know that's a load of rubbish, but still, I've realised that however big a milestone this is to me, I can't spend the rest of my life dwelling on the fact that I once ran a marathon. I need to carry on doing stuff, rather than focussing on something in the past that was challenging but hardly unique.

So, where do I go from here?

Firstly, I still have plenty of running things to look forward to. I've got the Amsterdam half in less than three weeks. I probably won't be ready for a PB attempt (although you never know, particularly as it should be a bit cooler than my last half in June - but even that was cooler than Berlin!), but it should be an enjoyable run and weekend away with friends. I know that I can run a half, and I will aim to just run it to enjoy myself. Maybe I'll push the pace up a notch after 8 or 9 miles if I feel up to it.

After that the Abbey Dash. Given my new years resolution to run all the races I did last year and to improve my time in them, this will be the only race I've actually managed to repeat. However, I don't call that a failure, given that my reason for missing the Cancer Research 10k at Harewood House, for example, was that I had a marathon the next week. I hadn't taken that into account when writing my original plan... I should beat last year's time of 59:19, I'm less sure that I'll beat my PB of 47 something, but we'll see how I feel. I quite fancy doing some speed work now - cutting the mileage to let my legs recover a bit, but doing some good quality speed sessions. But the main aim for this race is to reflect on how far I've come in the year since I did it for the first time.

And then after that the Brass Monkey. That's a very highly rated half marathon up in York in January which filled up within two days. Application forms were available on Saturday so the first ones would have arrived at the club on Monday, it was apparently full on Tuesday. I posted my form on Monday and had an anxious couple of days waiting to see whether my cheque would clear or whether I'd missed the boat. That's the one I'll target to improve my half marathon PB, and I'll be aiming to get under 1:50 I think. I've got plenty of time to get some good training in, and it will be cool (blessed relief after Sunday!).

So, I'm hardly lacking in running motivation. One fun race, one milestone race, and one "race" race to aim for. But that's all "medium term" stuff. I want another long term goal, and I think I could go one of two ways for the next one. Marathon or tri.

A couple of people asked me this morning whether I'd do another marathon, and my answer was an immediate, unequivocal, yes. I want to prove that I can run faster than I did on Sunday and, yes, I actually quite enjoyed it. I'm not sure whether I'd enjoy it quite so much in a smaller race, without the constant crowds and constant stream of other runners, but I'd definitely do another.

Which is why I posted my London application on the way into work this morning.

But realistically I won't get in, so I've been looking round for a backup plan, and I have two, which I need to decide between. It seems that all roads lead to Stratford, as my choice is essentially between the Stratford Marathon and the Stratford Tri. They're within two weeks of each other so there's no way I'm doing both. I really really want to go back to Stratford to do something impressively sporty. Not just because it's a nice part of the world to spend a weekend, but because I grew up down there and I want to go back and prove that I can become the athlete my teachers never thought I'd be. The only issue is deciding between them (and to be honest, I won't do either if I get into FLM, but I know how unlikely that is so I'm making other plans).

There's no post marathon lack of motivation here! But equally, I want to do more stuff that's not running related. Like swinging round dangling from ropes in trees and jumping out of planes. Cycling more (maybe even in and out of work), and generally doing fun fit things. Now that I don't have to plan my weekends round stupidly long runs I want to be a bit more creative with how I work out.

"You just have so much energy", my trainee said, in awe, when I mentioned some of my plans now I've done Berlin. It's fun, I am becoming the resident scary fit person. It's not the role I ever imagined for myself when I started here, but I kind of feel like I'm growing into it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I did it!

Go here for the gory details. And be warned, in parts I do mean gory.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

6 months!

I promise you that for a change this isn't marathon related. Seriously!

No, this is just a short post to say that today is my 6 month anniversary of losing 100lb. I can't quite believe that it's been so long, time really does fly sometimes.

I'm getting more used to thinking of myself as thin, and I think this must be pretty much the first time I've maintained my weight within a 6 or 7lb range for a full 6 months - first it was going up, and then down. Now it's fairly stable. I go more by how The Jeans (which are worn constantly, they are so good, and the cost per wear ratio is almost becoming sane) feel. And whether I can wear a size 10.

I never thought that I'd get to the stage where I'd judge my weight by whether I fit into designer jeans and size 10 suits - admittedly I used to only know my size rather than my weight, but at that stage it was more the constant denial of the fact I wasn't a size 20 any more rather than hovering about on the 10-12 borderline.

More trainee news, she is officially in awe of me. Not only am I supremely good at my job, and therefore intimidating to someone who's just started, and not only am I fit enough to do that thing I said I wasn't going to mention, but she's started to notice the aromatic loveliness of my lunch every day. Of course, most people in the office are used to the constant stream of homemade food that gets carried into work, stored in the fridge and where necessary heated in the microwave. But she's still in the mouth open "you made that, where do you find the time?" phase.

Tomorrow though I'll have to disappoint her. I'm allowing myself a treat lunch of something nice and carby and decadent from the posh sandwich shop. Washed down with a bucket load of jaffa cakes...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Aisle of Forbidden Pleasures

This is a bit Berlin related, but then isn't everything in my life this week? But it is interesting, honest.

Tonight was the great carb loading shopping trip. Of course I have plenty of brown rice and wholemeal pasta in the house, and I'd managed to buy enough fruit and veg on my normal Friday night shop to get me through til Friday. But what I hadn't bought was any of the carb loading stuff I wanted to buy. Did I think I'd start eating it too soon if I had it in the house? I don't know, but the fact remained that I hadn't bought it, but realised that I needed it.

So tonight's trip to the supermarket involved buying very little other than carbs. And unlike my normal sickeningly healthy shopping trolley, I instead looked like the cake fiend from hell.

You see, it transpires, that in terms of sports nutrition, some things I haven't touched for years aren't forbidden after all. Not that I completely ban anything from my diet, but there are some things that I generally treat as not being as good as other things I like, so I rarely eat them.

But today I had to force myself down... the biscuit aisle. And the cake aisle. And the jelly babies aisle.

Ye Gods.

There it was, all lined up before me in its sugary, trans fatty "goodness". It actually surprised me how little of it I craved, and I managed to make a beeline to the recommended products I'd come for. I looked at the cookies and the muffins, and I ruled them out. The chocolate digestives too. I was strong. Ish.

I haven't picked up a packet of Jaffa Cakes for years, and it surprised me when I noticed on the side the following "recommendation"

Each McVittie's Jaffa Cake contains lots of energy, and only 1.0g of fat per cake. That is why they are recommended by sports nutritionists.

I suppose some people might interpret that statement as "good for you", whereas at least I'm now starting to read behind the statement and work out for myself what it means. Actually, looking at the nutritional info they're under 50 calories per cake, which isn't bad for a pre-run energy boost if that's going to mean you run 6 miles instead of 3. And despite their startling lack of pretty much anything other than carbs, they have been recommended to me as a good, quick release snack. And they'd been on the list even before I read that. So in the basket they went.

Also in the basket went some malt loaf. This has much less fat than the jaffa cakes (the 1g of fat per cake isn't quite so impressive when you work out that each cake isn't much over 10g), although I suppose it depends how much butter you smother it with. Again, it's been recommended, and I suspect it's lower GI than the Jaffa Cakes.

And finally, Jelly Babies. These are, I think, an integral part of the race plan - to be carefully counted out and eaten at pre-determined intervals to mark the achievement of certain distances.

(Actually, not finally, some individual pecan pies sneaked their way in from the marked down section. But if you can't treat yourself when you're carb loading, when can you?)

I was almost ashamed when I got to the checkout. There I was with a pile of sugary treats, no fruit, no veg, no complex carbs. I felt like telling everyone, I don't always eat this stuff, honest. I'm half expecting a call from Tesco asking if someone's nicked my clubcard it's so different to what I usually buy.

But for me the important thing is that I'm not using this as an excuse for a free for all. Well, apart from those pecan pies. I'm looking at the nutritional information, and at what I need, and I'm making considered decisions about what my body needs.

Of course, I have yet to see whether I eat all 24 Jaffa Cakes in one sitting, but I do seem to have developed a more considered, mature attitude to food, and maybe now I've discovered the nutritional gems living in the biscuit aisle I'll be strong enough to visit it now and again.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Sometimes do you ever wish that you had a voice recorder so that you could play back and re-listen to something someone just said. When you can't actually believe what they came out with?

I had one of those moments today with my trainee. She seems to be making ever more frequent appearances on this blog, but today she almost managed not not annoy me due to the jawdroppingness of one of her comments.

It started when I was explaining that I thought I'd be a bit distracted all week, with the marathon looming and packing and shopping to do. My main problem being suddenly remembering something that needed to be on the list, which I'd forgotten up to that moment. By way of example I told her that I'd only remembered to pack swimming stuff that morning on my way to the gym for a pre-work swim.

Her response?

"You're so fit... no wonder you're like a beanpole".

I was literally speechless. So much so that a couple of open mouthed moments later she followed up with "that was meant to be a compliment, you know". Erm yes, just a compliment I never in a million years thought that anyone would ever pay to me. I was just speechless because I didn't know what to say, and because I was trying to replay the recording in my head to check that she'd said what I thought she'd said.

It's funny how other people see you sometimes. I don't know whether she knows what I used to look like, but even if she does, she's never known that me and has only ever known the, ahem, beanpole me. But I don't see myself like that a lot of the time. I'm getting better, and starting to think of myself as a thin person who used to be fat, rather than a fat person who suddenly got thin, but sometimes I still don't really grasp just how thin I am.

The number of people who said, as I was losing weight, that at my height I didn't need to be thinner than a 12 - 14. Maybe that was partly their expectation that I'd always be a bit on the chunky side. Not that a 14 is fat by any means, but it's not my current size 10. I really can't believe it, every time I put my size 10 suits (I have 2 of them now!) on I check the label, to make sure I'm not making it up.

But back to the comment that it was meant to be a compliment. I started thinking, how else could I take it? Oh God. Is it really possible that she thinks I thought she meant I am TOO THIN? And then I was unable to speak again...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Day Trip

I can't remember how long it is since I went to the cinema. I dread to think, really. I'm not a big film person, but I did want to see Volver. There was meant to be a Spanish trip to watch it, but I haven't been to Spanish for an age so don't know what's happening with that, and also it's meant to be while I'm in Berlin.

So, to tie into both my "getting out of a rut" and "learning Spanish in other ways" goals, I decided that I would go to watch it, no excuses. The original plan was to go on Saturday afternoon to the cinema in the Light after going to the veggie curry place, and I'm sure when I checked the times earlier in the week they were showing it, but when I checked this morning it was just listed for 9.10 tonight and 9.10 tomorrow. Now, I know it sounds sad and old, but going into town for a film at 9.10 is just a bit too late for me at the moment. I had plans for tonight anyway, but I don't like a late night on a Sunday.

So, I looked around on t'internet and decided to go over to Bradford to watch it, at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television. That gave me an excuse for a bit more of a day out, as I had a bit of a mooch around the museum-y bits.

The shock news though was that I left the house with no idea of what I was going to eat. Normally I at least like to make a vague plan before heading out, but instead I left the house at about 10, knowing I wouldn't be back until nearly 5, and I didn't plan.

I've noticed how much more attentive I get to food and drink opportunities. Walking from the station my eyes were going left and right, with a mental commentary like "there's a Subway over there, which wouldn't be as bad as that takeaway over there if I can't find anything else". Constantly checking out various options. In the end the museum cafe had a surprisingly nice choice, and I had spicy parsnip soup with a lovely chunk of wholemeal bread before the film, followed by the nicest apple and nut cake on earth after it. It's a good job that cake lives in Bradford, that's all I can say.

As for the film itself, I was impressed by how much of the Spanish I could follow. Obviously the subtitles helped, but I could pick up a lot of the words, and even some of the times when the subtitles don't reflect quite what's actually said. So I must have made some progress.

I enjoyed actually getting out and doing something. It doesn't have to be anything flashy or overly exotic, just getting out of the house and going somewhere.

(But when I said it wasn't running related I kind of lied... On the way back to the train I spotted a HUGE running shop. I couldn't walk past and not go in...)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A change is as good as a rest

A sudden lethargy has come over me. I don't know whether the exertions of the summer have finally got to me, but I just seem to have run out of will to keep on plugging away. I skived Spanish tonight. I didn't go last week either. And I suspect that, with Berlin excitement building, I won't go next week either. That's the end of the course, and I've pretty much decided that I'm going to take a break for a while, and not move on to the next one.

I haven't done badly I suppose, I've stuck at it for almost a year and I'm a lot better at it than I was when I started. I've also made a decision to keep on doing something, by going to a free, six week, series of Spanish films, and by going to conversation group more regularly. Studying in my spare time, at times that suit me, not for 2 hours on a Thursday night when all I want to do is to go to sleep. I have piles of Spanish books at home, and I can watch TVE on Sky (it's on now, as it happens, because this is my Spanish spot. I'm even getting the vague gist of a piece about efforts to stop Senegalese immigrants attempting to row to the Canaries, which is actually a subject which I'm quite interested in!). I can always go back later (lots of people in my class had taken time out), and maybe even skip a class if I take a level test and I've been able to keep up with their progress. Maybe once I've had a break I'll feel like going back and putting more effort into it again.

But while the Spanish decision alone seems a sensible one, it doesn't explain the all pervading feeling of laziness round these parts. I was using the training as an excuse, but even as I taper it doesn't seem to be making too much difference. It's been building for a while, but I've kept on ignoring it, or making excuses for it. I cook less and less often, my menus are nowhere near as carefully planned. I think about doing yoga, but can't bring myself to get off the sofa to do it.

I don't know whether boredom is the right word. When I first started this whole lifestyle change thing it was all so easy. I liked the changes I had made, and I didn't want to go back. I still don't. But now I'm more used to it, there's nothing to get me excited any more. I don't have the rush of trying out a new recipe, discovering that it's healthy and delicious, and adding a new food to my list of things I like. I'm no longer excited by the fact that I can run 5 miles without stopping before work, I just assume that I can and get frustrated if it feels harder than normal. It just doesn't give me that buzz any more.

Going back to eating junk wouldn't give me that buzz either, so I know that's not an option. The main question is what can I do to get my mojo back? I think that the film and conversation group might actually help with that, because it's something different that I'm not bored of yet. Maybe thinking more about triathlon will help on the exercise front, if I decide to really focus on swimming and cycling rather than running for a while. Or maybe just trying a different way of running training, maybe doing a proper HR training programme, and seeing where that takes me. Food wise, I might try to change the sorts of veggies I'm eating, as the seasons change.

This really rubs home how hard it is to commit to doing something for the rest of your life. Even where you enjoy it, you just have to mix it up a bit, to keep things feeling fresh. I wrote earlier in the week about willingness to change, and it strikes me that change isn't just something you need to do where you want a certain result with your weight or your career or your life, but change is essential every now and then, just for the sake of it. Just to keep things interesting, and stop ruts forming, imprisoning you in a particular set of ways.

I've read articles suggesting that even the smallest things make a difference, like lying the wrong way round on your bed, or going a different way to work. I might try a couple of things, and see whether that lifts me out of this hole I feel like I'm in at the moment. I suppose that no longer having a marathon training schedule won't hurt either. But for now, I'm just going to make some small changes. I'll take myself out for a treat day on Sunday (to alleviate taper madness), to the cinema, and possibly for the curry buffet I've been promising myself for months. I might go into town on Saturday and try on expensive clothes that I have no intention of buying. I just want to add something different for a change.


One thing always guaranteed to perk me up, however, is the prospect of a holiday. Exploring somewhere new (see, that change thing again), always livens me up at the weekend. (In which case, why can I never be bothered to take a day trip in England?). Today I got a fantastic offer. A friend of mine won a return Ryanair flight voucher, but it's only for one person and has to be redeemed within 7 days. (That's booking the flight, rather than using it within 7 days). He didn't want to book anything because the cost of taking someone with him would outweigh the benefit, plus hotel, food etc etc. And he's not quite as impulsive as me, and would want more than 7 days to arrange things.

When you have a single free flight to get rid of, who do you call? Miss City Break herself, obviously! As it happens, earlier in the week I was wondering where I would go this year for my Christmas shopping trip. I had a good time last year just getting the train up to Edinburgh for the day, and had been looking at trains down to London to do something similar this year. But with the prospect of a free flight to anywhere, my horizons expanded slightly. A couple of years ago I went on a christmas markets trip to Prague, and had a really good time, other than the fact that it was a day trip (the most expensive day out I've ever had, but I was just desperate to go somewhere at the time). So I started thinking about where else, on the Ryanair network, would have a christmas market and be nice in December. By nice in December I actually mean cold and meant to be like that, rather than going to a Spanish resort that's closed down for the winter. Oh, and I also wanted somewhere

I came up with two options - Riga and Bratislava. I think I'll probably plump for Riga, on the basis that it's been on my "to visit list" for longer than Bratislava has. Hotels look cheap, food and drink looks cheap, and the flight's free. It will probably work out cheaper than London on the train in the long run, and it gives me something a bit more exciting to look forward to. The Christmas market isn't as long running as some, but they do have one, which will do me. As long as they serve mulled wine and hot chocolate with rum, I'll be happy!

But, it's not booked yet (I have to wait for the voucher to arrive in the post), so if anyone has any comments or other bright ideas of places I could go, feel free to leave a comment! (The main criteria are (a) Ryanair flights, (b) out early Saturday, back late Sunday, (c) will fly from anywhere within reason - Riga and Bratislava are both from Stansted, and (d) preferably cheap when I get there - ie not Dublin or Paris. Do they even fly to Paris? And not Amsterdam, because I'll already have been there twice this year by then)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Netball colours

Up until the past year or so, the highlight of my sporting achievement was clear. Admittedly, it's now being surpassed by running a marathon*, but for many a year one thing stood out.

At school I was awarded both netball and rounders colours. That was actually not a bad haul at all, and a hell of a lot more than most people at my school. Of course there were the scary hockey people who were in a league of their own, but in the second tier as it were, not many people got both.

I don't think you got colours just for making the team once, it was more of an award for consistency and dedication (possibly alternatively known as being cr@p, but have nothing better to do if the team had a sudden injury crisis). I don't remember huge numbers of people getting colours, although I could be wrong.

It occurs to me typing this that maybe not every school had this sort of thing. Basically you could get all sorts of badges and awards to pin proudly onto your school uniform. If memory serves me correctly, some of them were fabric strips in different colours (hence the name), and some of them were badges with the name of what they were awarded for on them. I think I was the only person I remember who managed the combination of netball, rounders and library! Library was definitely a pin badge (and not coloured), and I think from memory that rounders might have been a badge. How proud I was of my little fabric strips and badges.

I often wonder where things went wrong. I was overweight, yes, but I enjoyed sport and put effort into it. I was never the fat kid who would "forget" their gym kit or fake injury to get out of PE. (Well, unless it was hockey, and a ball fortuitously hit my foot at great speed enabling me to claim the pain was a little worse than it was to get out of the rest of the class). My school reports never said that I was good at sport, but they did at least say I tried hard, which was the main thing. I never expected to be naturally gifted (even now, to be honest, I'm impressed that I'm fairly average at running, and I don't ever expect to be fantastic, so average is an achievement as far as I'm concerned). But at least my effort and commitment was recognised.

I think the defining moment was when I changed schools and everything became a lot more intense, competitive and compulsory. I didn't mind sport if I had some element of choice about what I did, but I hated being forced into a cross country run or being made to play hockey when I far preferred netball and would have happily volunteered to do that.

My size (or my height at least) gave me a bit of an advantage for netball, and when I played a position that let me stick to 1/3 of the court, I didn't need to run too far so it wasn't too bad. I liked it.

And then I stopped playing it. At least 10 years ago. More than that, in all likelihood.

But today, netball might be on the horizon again. I went to a meeting today about a netball team that they want to start at work. Obviously, with my newly acquired reputation as a super fit gym bunny my name was near the top of the list of people who got asked, and I think it will be fun. I'm not going to attempt it before the marathon, clearly (all that twisting may well play havoc with my knee), but it might be a fun way to add some variety to my exercise regime over winter while also getting me brownie points at work for volunteering.

However, I'm trying to block out the prospect of wearing a netball skirt...

*On that subject, last night I was pondering post Berlin marathon plans, and looked up details of the Shakespeare Marathon next year if I don't get into FLM. Then I realised that if any of my old PE teachers were to scan the results (it's their local race, so they may well come across them) and see my name on it, they'd probably die of shock!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Prima Donna

My new trainee is REALLY winding me up at the moment. She just has such a prima donna attitude, and everything has to be done at her command.

A bit of background - recently my firm merged with another firm, which she worked for. Trainees there seem to have had a choice of staying where they were, or taking advantage of the wider range of seats in my firm. She asked to move across (but not specifically to my department).

However, there are, shall we say, some cultural differences. Partly it's because we do a completely different sort of work to what she's used to, and we have different business processes. We don't have to be quite as specific when recording time, for example, because our fees tend to be agreed with clients and are never assessed by a court. We only have a couple of files on the go at any one time, with a small number of contacts on each file so we know things like phone numbers and file numbers without including them on every piece of work we do. And the sort of work we do doesn't lend itself to an electronic case management system.

I'm not claiming that our processes are perfect, far from it. But it's the way we do things, and for the sort of work we do it probably works better than the processes where she used to work. But oh no, every day I get a barrage of whingeing that she can't work out our document management system (otherwise known as saving things in the right folder in G drive), or has to look for a phone number because there isn't a n electronic contacts system for each case (despite the fact there is often only one contact in the first place...). I don't care what case management system she used to use. We are not changing it because she thinks it would be easier for her. And the sooner she starts trying to use our system, and stops whingeing, the better she'll get on.

She just keeps finding fault with everything. The other day her boyfriend sent her some photos on email. Nothing to do with work, obviously. The system blocked them, and she actually phoned IT and had a go at them because the photos had been blocked. Erm, have you read the email policy sweetie? Yes, everyone DOES send personal emails, but phoning IT and whingeing about personal emails being blocked may not be the way to make friends and influence people. Particularly not when you tell them their system is a load of crap. I think they know more about the IT system than you do.

And as for her boyfriend. I really don't care about her personal life. I don't care how much he earns. I don't care what she's buying him for his birthday. OK, so I make a little small talk, but when I'm working I would rather concentrate on my work than getting all the gossip about him. I'm simply not impressed that he's a footballer, and I'm not going to get all excited by the prospect.

She complains about her commute over from Manchester (where she used to work), but doesn't seem to have made too much of an effort to find somewhere over here. She complains that her boyfriend isn't helping her look (they don't live together) and is trying to get her mother to look, but doesn't seem to be making too much effort of her own.

Things don't always go to plan, and things aren't always what you're used to. But I'd much rather just settle down to working with things the way they are rather than ranting and raving about how they could be better. If you can't change the way things are, you can change the way you react to them.

You may have gathered that she's been winding me up a bit today.

But it's not just at work that I see this attitude. Sometimes, when meandering around in fat-internet-land I come across people who complain about how they can't do this and they can't do that and they can't exercise or eat healthy because of this or that or the other. I'm not saying that some people don't have some valid excuses, but when those people then complain about how unfair life is because they can't do exactly what they want and be thin, then I want to throw something at the screen and tell them to get over it.

OK, you might have a shit metabolism, or you might not be able to do certain forms of exercise. But that doesn't mean that you can't make yourself healthier in other ways, or even just have a healthier self-image. Not everyone needs to, or can be, stick thin, but you can change the way you see yourself and your life, and focus on the things you can do, even if it doesn't change your weight.

If you're not willing to change who you are, and the way you do things, you'll never lose weight and keep it off. Simple as that.

And if my trainee doesn't change her insistence that everything her old firm did is better, I'm going to kill her.

Change can be good!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Alone in a Crowd

I'm just never going to be the sort of girl who sits around waiting for someone to do things with. I've had a fantastic weekend and all, largely, on my own.

As ever, being on my own gave me lots of time to think a couple of things through. I sometimes wish that I had some sort of system set up where my thought process got blogged automatically, as sometimes I think I've had a fantastic insight into my life, or come up with a wonderful phrase, and then by the time I get to a computer the moment's gone. On the other hand, most of what comes out of my brain would probably be unreadable garbage, so maybe it's good that you get the edited version.

I spent quite a while thinking about the things that are important to me, and what I enjoy. One thing that struck me that I'd never really thought of before is the similarity between watching rugby and running, and possibly the heart of the reason why they both appeal to me. I'd never really connected them before, but suddenly I saw it.

Much as I love travelling around on my own, doing my own thing, I sometimes like to have a sense of purpose, to justify my solo exploring. So when I went to America to study I travelled around alone at weekends because I was there and wanted to make the most of the experience. When I went to Italy for a week, it was because I had a university interview, not because I fancied a holiday. As time has gone on I have started to go on more and more trips just because I feel like it, but sometimes I do still like to feel like I have a purpose for my trip. It takes away a bit of the self consciousness sometimes. I've travelled alone to see a match because I wanted to see it, not because I have no friends and nothing better to do. Even though people seeing me don't necessarily know that, and I shouldn't need to justify spending a day or a week travelling round on my own, it makes me feel a little better that I can.

Now, trips to Wakefield and St Helens may not be exotic, but still, they encourage me to go out and be part of a group, have some sort of purpose, while still being alone. I can sit in the middle of a 70,000 crowd (not at Wakefield or St Helens by the way, but elsewhere) and feel connected with everyone else, but still with a degree of independence. I can blend into a group of Wigan fans in a bar, and I can sing along with the songs. I've always liked rugby for the way it lets me feel connected with people I've never met before (and may never meet again), while still giving me time for myself.

It was only yesterday though that I realised that running appeals to me in exactly the same way. I can stand alone at the start of the race without being isolated, because I know that there are plenty of other runners there. United in a single purpose, with similar goals and hopes and fears. We will all ride a similar wave of emotions and be united in a common experience, and I don't need someone holding my hand to be able to join in with them. I'm there, in my own right, and I'm participating.

In my increasingly anti-social life (life's too short to spend time with people I don't like just because I feel like I should have company!), it's nice to sometimes immerse myself in a wave of human emotion, whether it's running or rugby.

Dirty Stop Out

I can't remember when I last did 3 consecutive nights getting in after 11pm. Usually I'm in bed way before then, ready for an early morning training session. I'm knackered this morning, but I had a great weekend. I'll post more after work hopefully, but for now here's a photo from Saturday night.

I didn't realise that my bra showed through my top when the flash on the camera fired at it - the top's really thick too, so I don't know if it's some sort of magic x-ray flash that blokes pay extra for!!!

That's at the quiz night, with my partner John. We were put into random pairs, and we actually ended up coming second. Not bad considering we hardly answered a question in the first round, but made a stunning comeback later on. No idea what I won though, I think it's being posted out to me at some point.

Anyway, I'm not going to blog about it all now, I must have a shower and drag my sorry arse into work.

But I must just mention the big downside from the weekend. I've hurt my foot. This isn't good timing.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Yesterday I ran home from work. My bus home wasn't running down its normal route and there were predictions that the traffic would be bad down the part it did run down. The school down the road was shut all day. On Thursday I had to argue with a security guard to be allowed to run my normal 5 mile route round the park.

Robbie's here. Yesterday and today he's doing big concerts in Roundhay Park.

Earlier in the week I was a little bitter about this. They were fencing off bits of the park, and stopping me running where I wanted to, and worst of all, I didn't have a ticket. 90,000 or so people each night did, but I didn't.

I don't mind Robbie Williams, but I wouldn't pay the amount of money they were asking for tickets (particularly not the ebay/touted ones once the Ticketmaster allocation sold out). But even the Ticketmaster ones, I saw that they'd released some additional Friday tickets a week or two ago, it was letting me buy them (just good timing I guess, they weren't there long), but I couldn't really justify the cost and buying tickets for a concert when I could spend that money on new running kit or a new car tyre.

Not least because tonight's concert is on TV, and I knew that I'd be able to hear it anyway if I really wanted to.

So I didn't buy the tickets I saw, and then started regretting it a bit. I mean, I wouldn't travel miles for it, but when it's a mile down the road and the area is filled with excited people who are getting worked up for the concert, it kind of seemed a shame to miss out. Running back I ran past the park (and dodged Robbie lovers), and I was getting tempted to see how much the touts were selling for. Until I gave myself a kick, reminded myself of all the running stuff I could spend the money on in Berlin, and went back home. (Incidentally, on the run, the traffic didn't look anywhere near as bad as I'd been fearing, so I didn't really need to do it, but once I'd psyched myself up I decided to go through with it as it was a lovely evening, possibly one of the last of the year.

But, I did venture out for the concert in the end. Instead of paying through the nose and crowding in with the masses I used my local knowledge to end up on the other side of the fenced off area. I couldn't see the stage, but I was probably as close to it as some of the people in the fenced off area who were facing it. I could hear perfectly (to be honest, I could hear from home, I got a good blast of Orson as I got home from work, but I decided to go down there). There was plenty of space (although there were a fair few of us lurkers), no queues for the toilet, and you could take your choice of alcohol (in my case a bottle of red wine with a screw top, so I could transport the remnants back home). I even took a proper glass to drink it out of!

So I propped myself up against a tree (it didn't actually matter which way I was looking), and enjoyed. Except it was a bit more surreal than that. All season my rugby team have been flirting with relegation, and last night was the night we could be confirmed as mathematically safe, depending on the results of the teams who had a chance of catching us. So I had a radio in one ear for updates of the games, and was listening to (but not watching) Robbie through the other. I like multitasking! My attention switched from one to the other, particularly as the games came to an end. And we did it! Safety was confirmed with me sitting in the dark in a park listening to a concert that I couldn't see, with merlot in hand. Bliss.

And then Angels rang out. Love Robbie or hate him, that song is fantastic. I ended up having such a good evening. I didn't need to pay for a ticket - I can watch it face on on tv, but still say I was there live. I didn't feel left out of the event taking place in the park, and we live to fight another season in the rugby.

I still can't wait for them to take the fences down so I can have my park back though!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wives and Girlfriends

First, the Hello style gossip of the day. My new trainee is going out with a professional footballer, which makes her a WAG. But still my slave for the next six months, tee hee.

I've never heard of the bloke, I've never heard of most professional footballers so that doesn't say much, but if she thinks she's got a Footballer's Wives style 6 months coming up, she's got another thing coming.

Today was a gentle introduction to the contract from hell and a dull seminar from some IT consultants. The champagne lifestyle, clearly! Although we did get some luke warm wine afterwards. Rock and roll.

The wives part of this post is a little closer to home. My sister's about to get engaged. This is clearly the big secret of the family, as it's known my most of my relatives and now it's out in cyberspace too.

She's over here at the moment*, and one of the tasks she's apparently set herself is to bag herself a ring from one of my grandparents that she can take the stone from and re-set it, because she wants something with a bit of family history. Once she finds the ring (or at least the stone for the ring), then it's apparently going to be made official.

Of course I'm happy for her. I actually vaguely like this boyfriend (although he's a bit blokey for my tastes, and it winds me up when he nicks my sky control and watches football when they're staying here and I want to watch something else), and they've been together a couple of years now. But it does make me feel old and spinsterish. I mean, my little sister's getting engaged, and here I am living the life of the eternal singleton.

I don't want to be in a relationship, or get engaged, or live a life other than the one I'm living now, but still it does bring home the fact the differences between our lives, and sometimes I wish that I could be the sort of person who wanted to settle down and nest with someone.

Of course, an imminent wedding means one other thing - the chance to dress up and look absolutely stunning! Now that's a reason to make sure I maintain for a while...

*She lands in the country, and has me running round in circles after her within an hour. I went out for a 5 mile run and got back in at about 7 to 5 missed calls (2 on the house phone and 3 on my mobile). My mind went into overdrive as I wondered what on earth had happened. It turned out that she'd pre-booked (and paid for) a hire car at the airport, but they wouldn't let her have it because she didn't have a credit card for the deposit they needed. Because her credit card was at my house (and my mother hadn't thought to take it back for her when she went back over to Spain on Saturday). So we arranged that she'd get the train to Leeds, I'd go to Leeds station with the card, I'd hand it over and then she'd go back to Manchester for the car. So having spent about half an hour sorting out this plan, and having to jump in and out of the shower to answer the phone when she called with a new update to the plan, I was running around all morning and ended up getting to work late - and of course my boss's husband spotted me between the station and the office at about 9.15 so there was no brazening it out on the basis that I made it to work before she did so she'd never have known...

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I'm back! I've just been through a 10 day spell where I didn't eat a single meal (including breakfast) in the house, so even though I've been popping back to sleep occasionally, it's nice to have spent the day in the house, lying around in front of the tv and eating fresh fruit and veg. (Well, the part of the day that wasn't spent on a 17 mile run, at least).

I seem to have loads of stuff roaming round in my head, so this could be a long post.


London was good. I got to see some friends again, and you can even just about see me on this photo:

I'm kind of hiding behind people, but my head looks tiny! The person next to me was standing on a bench, she isn't some sort of 6 foot 4 amazon, by the way!

Anyway, we met up in the pub and then decided to walk down to the ground for the game. It should have been a 2 mile walk, maximum. Note the use of the words "should have been". Not being Londoners we didn't have an intimate knowledge of the local area, and being a little tipsy we didn't check the map. We decided that instead of taking the most direct route we had enough time to walk the slightly longer route down the river from Richmond to Twickenham, so we set off down the river.

Except we started walking down the wrong side of the river. And we didn't check whether there was a bridge. You would have thought there'd be a bridge, right? Wrong. We got to Twickenham (or more precisely the bank of the Thames opposite Twickenham) and while we could hear the crowd in the ground, we couldn't actually get to it. There was supposedly a ferry, but no indication of it actually going anywhere.

So instead we had to walk on to the next bridge over the river, a mile or two further down, and then walk all the way back. Good exercise, but not so good for making it to the ground for kick off! Also, the sort of walk you'd have worn proper shoes for, had you known.

Anyway, we made it to the ground before half time at least, and didn't have any major mishaps on the way to the airport for Part 2 of the weekend.


I am convinced that Prague hates me. The first time I went it did admittedly have an excuse, being December, and me being there for the Christmas markets. You wouldn't expect the weather to be tropical. And indeed it wasn't. It poured with rain, and it was cold.

I wanted to go back in summer so I could see it at its best. So we went in August and... it poured with rain and it was cold. Fantastic. My mother asked why I was putting a scarf in my bag (a big pashmina type scarf, except not pashmina, because it was £2 from Primark), the real intention was to wear it as a wrap in the evening. But no, it was firmly anchored round my neck for a lot of the time I was there, making my mother insanely jealous of my slight warmth. I had jeans and a jacket, but hadn't really packed for cold weather. I don't know whether I was feeling the cold more because of my lack of insulation, but it was one of those moments where you wonder how cold you'll be in winter if it's this bad in August!

Other than that, the trip was fantastic. We got upgraded to a one bedroom suite at the hotel (and had chosen a pretty swanky hotel in the first place), we saw loads of the city and managed to find some decent vegetarian food (having had the prophets of doom all week at work telling me that veggie and Prague don't really go). I climbed the tower in the cathedral in the castle and hardly broke sweat (forgetting that my mother isn't quite as fit as I am, sadly, in my eagerness to get to the top). Her pedometer said that we walked 25000+ steps each day, and I even went for a run. Of which more...


Other people buy cigarettes and alcohol in duty free. I bought a heart rate monitor/running computer. There is no hope for me!

Anyway, having bought it on the trip out to Prague it was the perfect incentive to actually go for a run while I was there to put it through its paces. I have to say, I'm in love. Obviously, I need to learn what to do with all the stats it throws out, but I just like having them and looking through them, and it's revealed some pretty interesting things so far.

The main one being the "fitness test" function. This essentially monitors your resting heart rate, which is apparently a pretty good measure of overall fitness. But, good test or not, I liked the idea of a fitness test that involves lying down for 10 minutes.

I have to admit, I nearly died of shock when the result popped up at the end, and out of the seven categories it put me in the top one, "elite". I really wasn't expecting that! It turns out that my resting heart rate is glacially slow. Average is 60 - 80, but the other night I spent 10 minutes watching my resting heart rate (see how sad a new gadget can make me), and it was flickering between about 35 and 40. Which is apparently a sign of a "highly trained athlete". Woo hoo! It's ironic that my mother's had heart problems all her life, but my heart seems to be in fine shape.

I really need to measure my maximum heart rate though, by doing some sort of maximal exertion test. On my run today (17 miles at just a bit over 10 minutes per mile - nearly 3 hours) apparently my heart rate was at about 80% the whole way. I really shouldn't be able to exercise at that intensity for so long, particularly when it didn't feel like I was pushing myself that much so I'm wondering whether my actual maximum heart rate is higher than it's estimating. Something to look into I think.

What else?

There's other stuff, like Wigan being almost assured of Super League survival, visiting the relatives and bingeing on fruit when I got back to remove the taste of processed white carbs, having my suspicion confirmed that a long run kills my appetite more effectively than anything I know (you'd have thought that I'd wat anything after a 17 mile run, but actually I'm too tired to prepare anything, and not hungry enough to make it a necessity.

Oh, and my stint standing on the hard shoulder of the M6 last night wearing a size 20 coat which wrapped round me twice waiting for the rescue people to come and fix my car (again). I'm getting increasingly worried that they're going to chuck me out (this actually happened once before, the AA sent me a letter saying if I called them again they'd charge me and it wouldn't be covered by my membership, even though, if I recall, me calling them out is precisely the reason I took out the membership in the first place). We'll see. I did look very strange though, my excuse is that I'd been giving mum a lift to the airport and after she was rescued by my grandfather while I waited for the breakdown people I put the coat she'd been wearing on, because it was a thick coat she didn't want to take back. I can't believe it used to be mine!

But I'm getting tired again so I'll leave those bits for another day. Hope you've all been well while I've been away!