Thursday, March 29, 2007


The last few days (although not today unfortunately) have been beautiful. It really feels like spring is here, and summer is on its way fast. The evenings are light now the clocks have changed, the sun is out, and it's warming up a little.

It's also brought home to me yet again how I've changed. What I'm looking forward to about summer isn't BBQs or beer gardens or ice cream, it's daylight to run in, parks to explore, salads and strawberries.

Tuesday evening was the most perfect running weather I could imagine. Bright and sunny, warm enough not to need to wrap up, cool enough not to overheat, light. I was on a rest day from running so went for a walk round the park on the way home from work because I couldn't face sitting inside all evening, and I was so jealous of the people who were out there running, making the most of it. I wanted to run more than I wanted to sit in the sunshine with a book and a drink. I wanted a bike so I could head off into the countryside for an hour or so. I'm so looking forward to exploring on Saturday's long run.

I'm looking forward to those cool early morning runs before the day warms up, the soft diffused light of evening, seeing the countryside change around me as the summer wears on. The smell of trees and woodland and lakes, even the farm smells that bring back summer holidays spent tearing around country lanes on a bike and building dens in a field of long grass.

This is why I've been slogging away all winter. Monday's run was a joy, getting off road and running through parks and woods on a light sunny evening. All those housing estates and main roads over winter were a necessary evil to get me to a place where the first day of spring gets me lacing up my trainers and heading out of the door without a second thought. I'm ready to make the most of it from day one.

This summer just seems so full of potential and hope. I have new friends, new interests, new goals. I feel alive. I'm not dreading the feeling of my thighs chafing, or sweating in the hot weather. I want to get out there and enjoy it, spend my time outside as much as I can for a few months. Make myself a salad and carry it down to the park to eat rather than sitting in front of the tv. I want to feel free and alive. I want this to be a good year.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Run, Sleep, Eat, Work

It's a constant cycle at the moment. My routine works, and it's getting results (a 1:43:04 half today!), but sometimes it seems like there's not much time for anything else. I even missed the rugby on Friday because it didn't fit in with my priorities for the weekend as well as getting a rare night in and some rest.

I'm not complaining, as such, but what's interesting is the things that make way when life gets hectic, and the things that are immovable fixtures in my routine. Having a late night at a running club social and don't fancy getting up the next morning to run? Run before instead. Getting weeks behind on Lost and Desperate Housewives. Fine. It can wait.

I've started to realise how much time I've managed to waste over the years doing stuff like watching tv when I could actually be doing something. At the moment doing something is running, and I love it, but even reading something with a bit of quality, or listening to new music are working their way up the priority list.

On the other hand, I'm looking forward to the day after the marathon when I've booked myself a holiday. I'm flying straight from Edinburgh to Madrid, having a day shopping there, then going on to GC to spend my birthday with my family, not to mention letting my legs recover from the marathon. 10 whole days of relaxation, to recharge the batteries. Fantastic.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy anniversary to MEEEEE

Tomorrow I'll hit my first anniversary of maintenance. That's a milestone I'm not sure I ever thought I'd achieve until suddenly it came looming up on me. Why didn't I think I'd make it? Well, firstly because I was never entirely convinced I'd get to maintenance. Losing 100lb sounded almost impossibly hard, and hearing all those stories of people who struggle with the first pounds, or the middle pounds or especially the last pounds, I thought that setting my goal 8lb below a BMI of 24.9 was asking for trouble in getting there.

And secondly, I'd heard all the statistics about regain. About people who take the weight off and then put it back on again, and then some. The thought of lifelong maintenance was daunting, and the thought of even doing it for a year without the weekly payback of seeing the scales moving scared me. And as for looking beyond a year, let's just say that I didn't do that.

But day after day, month after month, I've just kept on doing the simple things, moving more and eating better, and the year has ticked by. There hasn't even been a small spell of falling off the wagon, a month or six weeks, it's been consistent and it's been steady. I've lost another 10lb that, in all honesty, I didn't need to lose but am not complaining about. But that would come way down my list of achievements for the past year underneath things like running a marathon, overcoming my fear of cross country and expanding my vegetable eating capacity beyond belief.

The past year has been funny though. I'm not sure I quite have the maintenance mindset yet. I seem to waver almost daily between "I'd really like to just lose a pound or two more" and "I'm thin enough anyway so a piece of flapjack won't hurt". They even themselves out, the exercise helps, and overall the balance is right, but I'd love to be in a place where I'm actually happy with my weight and not constantly switching how I feel about my body.

I am starting to get more used to my size. When I'm shopping I tend to head for the right size things, and I can't believe the size of the clothes that I used to fail miserably to fit into. I can take a 10 into the changing rooms without feeling like the assistant is going to laugh at my optimism. (Indeed, I have been known to accidentally try on 8s on the wrong hanger and be surprised at how well they fit). I don't feel obliged to buy something simply because it fits and doesn't look awful, and I've become a lot more discerning in deciding what actually suits me and what I'll wear. Admittedly what I wear is mainly exercise gear, but at least I get value from it. I don't get the same thrill as I did from walking into a normal shop and trying something on in a teeny size, but that's probably good for my bank balance. It's also quite nice not having to buy new clothes every couple of weeks because they are too big, maintenance is letting me buy stuff that I'll actually get some wear out of!

I'm happier about walking through small gaps without feeling like I need more room to get through. I can even run through some of the narrow tapering at the top gates they put at entrances to parks to stop bikes going through without worrying about my shoulders getting stuck. I wriggle about in plane seats (even the ones with the trays in the armrests), and people sit next to me on the bus because I don't spill over onto two seats. I have a more accurate perception of how much space I take up.

I also feel more like a "proper runner" and less of a "fat person pretending to run". Joining a proper running club has changed my outlook more than I thought it would. For one thing, the people there only know me as one of the fast female group. They don't know how I got to a stage where I can keep up (just!) with that group, and they don't think of me as anything other than a decent runner. That's so liberating. It pushes me on, because I can't make excuses like "well, I might not be amazingly fast but look how well I've done to even get here". Instead, I've lost any preconceptions about how fast I might be able to go, and I want to train well and see if I can get there. It's hard to believe that there are people out there who I count as friends who have rarely seen me in anything other than buttock hugging lycra and who haven't had nightmares after seeing it! I've realised that running clubs are for people of my level, and pulling on that club vest, or my club hoodie reminds me that I'm one of the team, and a valued member of the team at that. When I first joined I was a bit unsure about representing a place that didn't mean a huge amount to me, but I'm so proud of my vest and my team now.

Food wise, things are good. I'm eating pretty much what I want, when I want, without unnecessary bingeing and without spending my life feeling hungry. Sometimes I worry that my diet could be cleaned up a bit, without so many unplanned trips to the vending machine and without so much evening snacking. But it doesn't do me any harm, I'm at a weight I'm comfortable with, so why get worked up about it? If those snacks aren't causing me to gain and aren't horribly unhealthy (the late night ones tend to be handfuls of dried fruits, bowls of greek yoghurt and muesli or slices of wholemeal toast - calorific, but not horrendously artery clogging), then why worry too much about them? If I do start to gain at least it will give me a couple of easy targets to stop the process as soon as possible!

The balance is pretty much right, it seems, and I now doing have any fear about carrying on doing the same things for another year. If I want to run Amsterdam in October and FLM next year I don't have much choice anyway!

Hitting the one year mark has also led me to think about a couple of things that I tried not to think about while I was losing. The first, big, one is surgery. I always said that I wouldn't even think about it until I'd been at a stable weight for a year or more. Well, here I am, is it time to start considering it now? On balance, probably not. Yes, my stomach is a bit looser than it could (should?) be at this weight, and if I don't wear a padded bra my boobs don't exist, but does it bother me enough to be worth spending a lot of money on them, and having to give up running while I recover? No. I'd rather get a padded bra for a couple of quid from Primark and spend several thousand pounds on a new car or a new kitchen or that holiday of a lifetime to Australia that I've had pencilled in for years. And anyway, at least I can run without having to worry about getting a black eye!

I say that surgery was the big one, but maybe the second one is the more fundamental, life shaping one. Where am I now in terms of my sexuality? I still see myself as predominantly asexual, but very much in an "asexual for now" sense rather than "this is permanent and will never change" sense. I'm not actively trying to change who I am, but I'm not going to feel betrayed if my feelings start to change. I'm happy to be relaxed about things and see what happens. Losing weight alone didn't unlock that door to feeling more comfortable about the thought of doing that sort of thing, but maybe it's part of a jigsaw that will one day unlock that side of me. The key to that is finding the right person. It's hard to know what I'd do in a hypothetical situation, and while I'm not looking I'm not ruling out being found either.

And the future, what else does that hold? More of the same, I guess. I want to try more activities, do the three peaks walk in the Dales, try horse riding (now I won't permanently cripple the horses), gorge walking, parachute jumping. I want to live life rather than just surviving through it. I want to run, now, next year and after that. I want to carry on eating healthy food because why would I eat stuff that isn't healthy and doesn't taste as good anyway? I want this to be the real, permanent me, and to spend more of my adult life as an active, fit person than I did as an obese one. I want to hit 30 fitter than I was when I was 20. I want obesity to be a distant memory rather than something I'm constantly fighting against. I want to do this because I want to rather than because it's something I have to do. I want to be this person, not the person I was.

And the most important thing I realised when I was writing this post? The thought of doing this for the rest of my life doesn't scare me any more. What scares me is the thought of not doing it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


So, I had a fab weekend. I've written a full report about the run over on my running blog, so what about the rest? Friday night was the rugby, then to the hotel. Saturday was taken up mainly with running, preparing to run, and recovering from the run. I'm never in much of a state to do much after the run (which might bode ill for my birthday celebrations in Edinburgh). I tend to feel weak as though I've used most of my energy, but not able to eat much because my stomach still feels full and all sloshed around. Maybe I extract the energy from the food and then direct it straight to the running bits of me rather than wasting any of it on digesting it properly? I'm working on my pre and during run nutrition to try to sort that out, but in the meatime, I headed back for a quiet night in my hotel room with a salad and a slice of apple cake from a supermarket on the way back, a bottle of wine and a DVD.

Not that I fancied pubs. It was a double whammy of Wales v England in the RU, which I didn't desperately fancy watching (in Wales) when Hull v Saints was on sky in my hotel room, and St Patrick's Day. I've never really been into the St Patrick's day thing. I'm not Irish, and I've not been brought up to see it as a special day. I don't have Irish friends who have a reason to celebrate and invite me to celebrate with them. If I wanted an excuse to go out and drink, then maybe, but I tend to see it very much as a marketing ploy dreamed up by Guinness rather than a celebration that means something to me. So I decided to give it a miss. After all, I wanted to rest my legs and recover for the rafting on Sunday!

So, I watched Little Miss Sunshine and read a bit, had a bit of (less than expected) wine, then slept. And despite a relatively late night for me, I still woke up at 6am on Sunday morning. I just can't sleep much past 7, no matter what time I go to bed. Sometimes it's really frustrating if I want a lie in, but I just can't sleep. This is why I tend to exercise first thing.

So, I had breakfast, had a bit of a wander round Llangollen and went up to the rafting place. I should mention the weather. The cold weather that was being predicted most certainly arrived, but in an odd sort of way. You'd get bright sunshine, and then hail showers. The sunshine wasn't too bad as long as you were out of the icy wind, but the hail and snow was just nasty. Still, I was going to get wet anyway...

The wetsuit went on without any dramas. I guess I must be getting used to the sight of my legs in tight shiny black stuff from all the times I wear running tights. I needed to ask for a smaller helmet because my head has apparently shrunk, but all kitted out I was ready to roll.

It was great! We weren't out for as long as they usually do because of the cold, and apparently it's not a great time of year because the river isn't at its winter levels, but it's too cold to do the summer stuff where they deliberately tip you in, but it was still fun. Although I think that if I do it again I want to do canoe/kayaking rather than the raft.

There's a bit of history there. When my dad was at school and uni (before the scuba diving took over) he was into canoeing in a big way. When I was growing up there were always several canoes in the garage, and I've been told that he used to be at a standard where he went to olympic trials. He used to teach (or at least he was a scout leader so maybe he only taught his scouts rather than other people), and I'd go along to the pool sessions and do eskimo rolls and stuff like that. He's always been big on watersports, and while up until now I've preferred land based stuff, it's something I wouldn't mind getting more into.

Anyway, my feet froze, and my arms were sore from all the paddling, but I had a really good time. I figured that two hours of rafting was a decent work out so treated myself to a decent lunch in the cafe on site before heading home, and managed to get into the car just before the snow started getting heavier.

Definitely a good reward for a year of maintenance. Outdoors sporty stuff is what I like now, not pampering in a spa or even shopping. I was looking at all the leaflets and guides while I was there and I'm starting to really fancy going back for a weekend to do some walking (or possibly running one of the flatter walks, if that makes sense) on the Saturday and canoeing on the Sunday. Last week in the Dales and this week in Wales has opened my eyes to what stunning scenery there is to play in in this country without having to dash round Europe.

Although I'll be planning my next trip for summer, when there's a reduced risk of snow...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Knowing When To Stop

You know you're an exercise junkie when the hardest day of your programme is the rest here. Despite a hilly 14 mile race yesterday, my legs are fine, the sun is shining, and I fancy a run. But my legs probably need a rest, even if they don't feel like they do, so I'm sitting here trying to resist temptation.

and as I sit here, that maybe rest is more important for me mentally than it is physically. I probably wouldn't get an overtraining injury if I just did 5 miles or so at a gentle pace, but I'd be perpetuating the idea that has a tendency that lingers in my head to think that if I din't exercise, do something, I'll gain back a shedload of weight over night and it will be the start of a slippery slope.

Looking at it logically, I know it's rubbish, but it doesn't stop me feeling like I have to do something every day, just to keep me on track. And, the other side of that bargain in my head is that an hour spent exercising is an hour when I won't be tempted to raid the kitchen and see what I can nibble on. I need to remind myself sometimes that it's all balanced out, that I ran a hard race yesterday and I have an even harder one next weekend. That today is the first day in weeks I've had the opportunity for a Sunday lie in (8am!), and that a rest would be good before a busy weekend next weekend.

But I still just want to pull those trainers on, head out of the door and do a gentle trot round the lake.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reward Time

The very first time I rewarded myself on this journey I bought myself an iPod to liven up my sessions at the gym. After that, other than the constant (but necessary) stream of new clothes, I've been quite bad at giving myself the rewards I promised myself. But if I had sat down at the outset and thought of some rewards for myself, they would have been possessions, or pampering, or stuff like that. Massages and facials and CDs.
Things change, though.
I've finally actually arranged a reward for myself. This is a two-fold reward, both for 1 year of maintenance, and for hitting the 110lb lost mark (which, despite giving myself 3 weeks to achieve it, I hit this morning. It just shows what a bit of focus can do for a girl! That and running 32 miles in 3 days). Two monumental achievements, which deserve a reward I think.
So what indulgent reward have I chosen for myself? Erm...
Next Friday night I'll go to the rugby (which I was going to do anyway), and go from there to a hotel in North Wales. Or it might be in Shropshire actually, but somewhere over in that direction. On Saturday morning I'll drive to somewhere in the middle of Wales, and do a hilly but apparently ultra scenic and friendly 20 mile race during the afternoon. Back to the hotel on Saturday night to recover with some food (I'll need food!), and then on Sunday a trip to do some white water rafting. Then home, no doubt tired and battered.
This is one of the new years resolutions I actually set for myself last year, to get out and do activity type stuff in this country rather than thinking that I always need to go away to a European city to have a bit of a break. Last year I managed a trip to Go Ape, but never got round to doing the Welsh activity weekend thing I'd been planning. This year I decided to take the plunge (I think that this might be literally the case too...). The rafting is booked (and non-refundable), and the race entry fee is paid.
I can't believe that I'm now the sort of person who thinks that a weekend like that will be fun!!!
I did get myself another reward today too. I was trying on dresses in Zara (I don't really have any smart dresses that fit properly, and there's a do I'm going to in a couple of weeks that might require something more than jeans and a nice top), I tried a couple on and there was one that looked SO much better than the rest - I looked at the label and it was £12! The others were nearer £40 - £50, so there was no contest. The only thing is that it's VERY figure hugging. The sort of dress where I dare not gain a pound from where I am today. So that is now going to be a bit of maintenance motivation for me.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Knowledge is Power

I won't repeat all the stuff from my running blog, but suffice it to say that marathon training this year is going pretty well. Of course, there's still time for me to mess it up or get injured, but I'm feeling a lot stronger and fitter than I did a similar period of time before Berlin.

The interesting thing is that while last year I studied training plans to find the one that would work best for me and then stuck to it as closely as I could, this year I'm sort of making it up as I go along, but it's still working fantastically. I go to running club twice a week and do whatever run they're planning. If it's not the distance or speed I'd have chosen (ie they're making us do the 3 mile time trial) I just do the run anyway, and don't get worked up about it. I do my treadmill speed session, and I mix up long runs and races at the weekend. It all works out pretty nicely, and two half marathon PBs so far this year don't lie (plus some unofficial 10 mile PBs - on both of the halves I've passed the 10 mile point well within my PB, but haven't actually raced a 10 miler to "validate" it).

This year I'm very much going on working out for myself where my weaknesses are and trying to fix them as best I can with a session that fulfils a purpose. Last year if the schedule said 8 miles, I would do 8 miles. Regardless of whether a shorter faster session would actually have worked better for me, I did the run it said. And I would do 8 miles even if I had to walk parts of it, when maybe a shorter route that I could run all of on the day would have been a better option for me psychologically, to stop those "I can't do this" feelings from creeping into my brain.

It only occurred to me the other day that I shouldn't be surprised about this. After all, I've always believed that the only eating plan that is going to work for a person is the one they make up for themselves. It might be based to a greater or lesser extent on a commercial plan, but until you start to learn about the effect that different foods have on you, and you work out which departures from the plan* work for you without throwing you completely off track, it's always going to be hard to stick to in the long term. Different people have different triggers, different weaknesses, and there is no one size fits all solution to anything, eating, running, other exercise.

So I'll stick with my loose and changeable plan, and this year I won't arrange my whole diary around the words of someone in America transmitted via the internet who thinks that today I should be doing a certain run. I know what my goals are, and I know which runs I can use to help me achieve them, so I'm going to trust myself to work it out and stick to it properly.

*Speaking of departures from the plan, I've got some red wine in front of me. However, I didn't buy it (or not recently) so it doesn't count...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

March Challenge

I've decided it's time for a little weight loss challenge. And when I say little, I mean little. I'm coming up to celebrating the first year of hitting my 100lb lost goal later this month, and I've decided to try a bit harder to reach one of my remaining goals before that anniversary.

This gives me 3 weeks to lose the grand total of... 1 pound.

Writing it down like that it should surely be feasible. 1 pound. 454g. 3500 calories, more or less.

The reason I want to lose that one pound is to hit 110lb/50kg lost. That's not the goal I originally set myself, but I'm starting to feel like 150 would be a better weight for me than 160. There's nothing wrong with hovering at about 152-153 as I have been doing for months, but now I've finally hit 151, I want to push on and hit those nice round numbers.

I think that the main reason my weight has started moving a bit is that since lent started I've made more of an effort to kick some of my more dangerous eating habits. It's funny, I'm not religious, but somehow after the success of last year's decision to give up meat for lent, that keeps me on track more than trying to persuade myself that it's not good for me.

The big habit I've given up is a growing lunchtime flapjack habit. In the right circumstances, like before a run, flapjack can be a fantastic source of energy, and I always made myself walk across town to buy it, slice by slice. But from there, it developed into almost a daily "treat", and in fact stopped being a treat at all, and became something I started to expect to eat. Not that I adjusted the rest of my food for it either. Anyway, I decided to kick that habit for lent, and for good luck I decided that chocolate would have to go with it so that I didn't replace one lunchtime snack habit with another. Chocolate isn't entirely banned, but it has to be 70%/Green & Blacks etc, and it can't be a lunchtime snack. Or out of the vending machine mid afternoon. It's not the food that's the problem, more when and how I was eating it.

I'm also trying to kick the alcohol habit even more. Since November I've got myself down to very much weekends only, but I'm going to try to cut it down even further. Again, it's a bit flexible, I allowed myself a glass of champagne at a retirement party last week, but nothing apart from that. To be honest, I prefer not to drink during the week, or the day before a long run or race, so with marathon training building up opportunities to drink are cut down anyway.

More accidental is giving up caffeine. I've recently got into fruit teas, and the espresso machine at work (the only place I get coffee from) has run out of the little pod things you put in it. So it was a while before I realised that I haven't had any caffeine for over a week because it wasn't a deliberate decision as such. But still, it doesn't seem to have affected my energy levels and I might see whether I can keep it up.

Anyway, I'm hoping that between those changes to my diet, plus increased mileage, I might be able to shift that extra pound before the 21st.