Sunday, 30 January 2011

Fully Functioning Triathlete

I would just like to report that after months of being some kind of injured, I actually feel like a fully able person again.

My weights kicked off again last week, and the elbow is strong enough to support tricep dips, which were proving to be my strength nemesis.

A swift run to swimming this morning followed by a quick blast on the bike in the glorious winter sunshine sealed the deal. I FEEL AWESOME! 

That is all.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Mental Battling in January

January is a bizarre time of year where you're not really fully back in the swing of things after Christmas and yet you are trying to set all your goals out for the rest of the year, follow your resolutions etc etc.

For me it has all been a bit hectic, and health-wise, a month of serious ups and downs. Work has been busy (which isn't a bad thing) and mentally taxing as I've been doing a lot of learning in a new department, college has also been quite full on and will continue to be up until June, with lots of assignments to get through, there seems to be more social occasions popping up than there was in December and I have daily mental battles over what needs to take priority: training, assignments, socialising, work deadlines or locating and consuming new and exciting Easter treats. I'm sure you can guess what has come first...

Last weekend I went away for a girly weekend to a lovely place in Kent, right by the sea. In my head I had envisaged runs along the waterfront, a bit of time in the afternoon for study followed by making healthy choices for our lunches and dinners out. In reality what happened was copious amounts of wine and laughter running parallel to an almost permanent state of snacking on anything and everything. The "healthy choice" I made on Saturday night was the largest, meatiest pizza on the menu. It was of course, completely worth it, one of the best pizzas have ever eaten. Once I had demolished that I finished my sister's dinner, ate what was left of mum's mixed grill and decided a chocolate fondant would also be necessary in order to clear the palette.

Suffice to say I was horrified when I stepped on the scales and went out to buy salad to sustain me for the coming week.

On the upside my arm and hand are well on the road to recovery and I've been back on the weight training for a week. A tricep dip has never felt so good. The swimming is also slowly getting back to full throttle, running has been short but regular and I just need to ease myself off the turbo and onto the road to complete the set. But if I'm honest I'm a bit scared and don't want to somehow injure myself again.

I also have a confession. Before I confess though I should say that on Thursday I started to get a sore throat and when I woke up yesterday I was in a world of pain. Cool soup and mashed banana (not together..) were the only things I could get down. That was until I bought a pot of nutella, and ate the whole thing! Oops..

I now really do need to have a healthy week. I'm off skiing next weekend and I have salopettes to squeeze my nutella-filled ass into. I have even prepared for my sweet cravings by making jelly, so I clearly mean business..

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Puddle-dodging on Thorney Island

As I've spent so much time recently in medical establishments, I couldn't help noticing countless leaflets detailing the "health benefits of walking". It's true, walking is free, simple and mostly injury-proof exercise. I do love a good wander in the country too, the fresh air filling the lungs and all that jazz. I felt inspired to take myself off for a stroll and decided Thorney Island would be the destination for my latest two-footed adventure.

Thorney Island is a little outcrop of land right on the border of Hampshire and West Sussex. The island is used as a military base and public access is restricted to the footpath that skirts around the edge, forming a nine mile stretch of the Sussex Border Path.

Whilst contemplating important adventure factors such as weather, snacks and general topography, I thought back to my previous two walking adventures (excluding the ill-fated Snowdonia trip). For both journeys I had worn my walking boots and on both journeys I had regretted doing so. The terrain hadn't really been tough enough to warrant boots and all they had succeeding in doing was slowing me down. As this would be a much shorter excursion and as it was an official path, I thought it would be more sensible to use trainers and go 'fast and light'.

I arrived at Emsworth train station in the dark and ambled through the very picturesque village centre. The only life was a bakery van making it's morning delivery and then down at the harbour, two fishermen readying their boat.. all lovely, wholesome stuff!

I turned off at the first footpath and very quickly realised that I was walking through a particularly sludgy field. My very lightly covered feet were gradually getting closer to total mud immersion when there it was, gone, right into a huge puddle. I looked onward to much of the same, and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have slightly soggy feet. The worst bit about this was that running parallel to this utterly ridiculous field/footpath I was in, was a perfectly good road that I would end up crossing anyway. Fiddlesticks.

As I continued to negotiate more exceptionally wet and mud-ridden trails, I encountered a couple of chaps in flat caps armed with shotguns and excited-looking dogs. They informed me they were out hoping to shoot some ducks. We made some typically British chitchat about it "being the right weather for ducks" but apparently they weren't coming out to play. Then I came to the gated entrance of the island itself.
When you get to the gate you have a ring a bell and wait. Then, mysteriously, the gate unlocks and lets you in. I noticed there was a teeny camera by the bell. Some soldier has obviously got the easiest job ever: sitting, drinking tea and letting tourists on to the island.

Within half a kilometre I spotted hoardes of ducks, very sensibly staying on the side of the fence where I don't imagine they allow country types with shotguns. I made my way down the Eastern side of the island, teetering on the edge of the path as much as I could to avoid the deep mud. Gradually the mud got worse and worse and the puddles started to get bigger, and bigger. The path was narrow, the tide was in, and there was nowhere else to step. I was on my tiptoes being a proper girl and edging around the small ponds, favouring instead the brambles on the inside edge. It got so bad that there really was no edge left to teeter on. I didn't have a choice, I had to step into the water. I was cursing myself for not wearing my lovely gore-tex boots as my foot sunk into the murky depth. Once I emerged from the other side I stopped, removed the trainers, emptied them out, rung out my socks etc etc. All of that was completely pointless of course as less than 100m further and there was another pond to cross. 

It got to the point where I really didn't care about bothering to try and stay in any way dry, the water was mid-calf deep in places and I ended up happily trotting through, amused at situations I get myself into. As it turns out, trainers were actually a much better option, as the water was so deep it would have gone into my boots anyway and this way at least it squirted out the sides and wasn't trapped inside a layer of waterproof.
Once I hit the Southernmost point of the island, the wind really picked up and I was being buffeted with salty spray. On a sunny day the view out over the Chichester Harbour would have been stunning, today however, it wasn't. I trudged onwards, with watery snot streaming from my nostrils and finding a place to rest on my wind-battered cheeks. I upped the pace to stay warm and soon enough I reached the Western corner of the island. From here I could just about see the harbour at Emsworth and I knew I was on the home straight.

Thankfully the quality of the path dramatically improved and I made quick progress back into the village. I was met here by my sister who took me in and gave me tea and clean, dry socks.. marvellous! Despite it not really being the best conditions for a island walk, I felt hugely refreshed and pleased with myself for getting through it in (reasonably) good humour. 

Sadly the health benefits were lessened by the vast amounts of chocolate I consumed that afternoon, and the Chinese we ate that evening...

If you're considering going for a nice coastal walk I would really recommend Thorney Island. But do it in summer, and wear waterproof socks.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

An Experimental Binge

Binge-eating, it's the worst thing ever. It's just too easy to mindlessly plough through an entire pack of biscuits or a box of chocolates because - you tell yourself - "it's open, I might as well eat it". I don't recall ever having some sort of emotional issue in my childhood that would have me replacing happiness with food, and to be honest I don't believe in all that mumbo-jumbo psychological stuff either. All it is is a combination of greed, boredom and the naughty stuff being too tasty.

I know it's absolutely nothing to do with hunger because I performed a very scientific experiment. On one day I tried to binge on vegetables, and on another day I tried to binge on salad. Neither of these were in any way successful. I either reached a point where I just didn't want to eat any more (also known as "being full") or I got jaw ache from chewing on lettuce.

I then performed the same experiment with jaffa cakes (a major culprit in the binge-eating crime underworld) just to check that I was a good test subject, and this particular experiment was a resounding success. So successful in fact, that I was glad I only had the one triple-pack.

After an afternoon session of tea and cake on Sunday, I realised that it wasn't just naughty snacks that gave me the binging mentality. Fuelled by guilt of excess cake-eating I stormed home, set up the turbo trainer in some sort of maddened frenzy, and set about on an exercise binge. This wasn't any turbo session, the mindless binge meant I did thirty minutes of absolute physical suffering - with Liz sneaking in at the end to check I was alright after hearing various grunts and groans from behind the kitchen door.

I realised how much better the training was and how much harder I worked when I was doing it "because I had the urge" rather than it being something on a plan that you have to follow. Of course, these urges can't be relied upon entirely, otherwise my life would consist of cycling when the sun shines and then eating copious amounts of Ben and Jerrys but I think it's important to make the most of them when they do arise.. and if it takes a whole chocolate cake to create that urge, then so be it.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Challenge results!

I stepped on the scales tentatively on Tuesday morning. Whilst I'd done quite a considerable amount of exercise over the Christmas break, and eaten reasonably healthily - I had still been having the odd chocolate treat and glass of something bubbly, plus a delicious meal out at a local Italian restaurant (with THE best garlic bread I think I've ever eaten). So suffice to say I was nervous, was I going to reach my goal of 55kgs?

Adam had challenged me to a ten minute wall sit, which a number of people declared was a physical impossibility.. but I managed 7 minutes and 11 seconds (and will continue to reattempt!)

Sarah B had challenged me the the trek across the Plains which had all gone well. Then you have the lunges, the silly distances on the crosstrainer, loads of turbo training etc etc.

In general, and especially given the season, I thought I had been really rather good and decided I would bear that in mind whatever the result.

..55.4kgs. Damnit! Didn't quite make it, but a good start to the year and still a good amount of December weight lost.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Egg and the Quest to Find Milk Hill

Avebury just before sunrise
As part of the '12 Days of Christmas Challenge', the very imaginative Sarah B set me a challenge to walk from Avebury to Stonehenge - stone circle to stone circle.

I worked out that it would be around 25 miles, just about do-able with nine hours of sunlight. A bit of googling revealed that I could take in the highest point in Wiltshire on the journey too: Milk Hill.

It was just getting light when I arrived at Avebury. I took a few moments to soak up the mysterious atmosphere and then set about locating the White Horse Trail; which I was going to follow for the first part of my journey. The trail took me past Silbury Hill - effectively just an enormous man-made mound - and onwards over the delightfully unspoilt Pewsey Downs. 

The track started to ascend, and I started to get excited about getting up on the roof of Wiltshire. Over the valley I could see Tan Hill, Milk Hill's marginally smaller sibling (by a whole 26cm). Tan Hill is topped with a trig point and it's fairly obvious where it is. Milk Hill, on the other hand, is an elusive beast. The map shows it just as a spot height but you'd think being the highest point in the county would warrant some sort of signage or monument?! I wandered about for a bit, got a bit lost and stuck in between barbed-wire fences whilst committing minor trespassing crimes and eventually found only one thing that could maybe have been the 'summit' (see video).

A white horse in front of
the White Horse
Feeling a bit disappointed with Milk Hill, I cheered myself up by munching on a cereal bar and went on with my walk. I passed the White Horse of Pewsey (just above which was another knobbly bit of hill that could have been Milk Hill) and then ambled through the lovely villages of Alton Priors and Alton Barnes.

The completely frozen
Kennet and Avon Canal
A swift turn off at The Barge Inn (and I almost felt compelled to, with a name like that) led me down to the very iced over Kennet and Avon Canal. The canal is beautiful with a range of barges and boats moored up along the bank.

After I'd meandered along the canal for a couple of miles, I went through another village or two, passed a couple of churches and cautiously crossed through fields with mean looking cows. After all that, I hit Salisbury Plains and I knew I was on the home stretch.

Unfortunately the path I had intended to take off the Plains and towards Stonehenge had been blocked off, so I had to take a diversion which had me finishing my hike at Woodhenge instead. Woodhenge sadly, is nowhere near as spectacular as Stonehenge and really just looks like a giant boy has dropped his building blocks. I'm not entirely convinced that it is a neolithic monument whatsoever! Nonetheless is was a very pleasant spot to finish my walk.

8 hours, 24.19 miles. Challenge complete.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

I Resolve

New year resolutions are always a bit rubbish aren't they? Usually made whilst in some sort of festively inebriated state, they are normally totally impractical and then as soon as you mess one of them up you give up completely and revert to your previous ways!

So instead of making resolutions per se, I shall stick with what worked last year and create some long-term and short-term goals for 2011. The other thing I learnt last year was that the whole 'giving up stuff' doesn't really work for me, purely because when the end date arrives I become some sort of rabid animal and over-indulge on whatever it was I had been going without. With that in mind, I won't be giving up anything for 2011. Instead I shall focus on what I need more of and hopefully that will displace all the stuff I need less of!

Long Term Goals

Swim an 8 minute 400m. The swimming thing really came together in 2010 so now I need to persevere with swim sessions and try to knock some time off.

Run a 24 minute 5k. My fastest 5k last year was 25.34, I started to get close to the 8 minute mile before I had my knee injury, now that I've started to run again I want to bring this goal back in. 

Hit 11,000rpm on the powerball - tough one!

Get up Tryfan without breaking an arm (or leg, or anything else!)

Walk and ride the South Downs Way. I have nearly made it to the SDW several times in the last couple of years but something always happens to prevent me from going. This year I will make it!

Do some time-trialling on the bike. This was another one I intended to do last year and never got around to.

Short Term Goals

Get back into running very steadily, 2-3 runs per week.

Eat more vegetables! Must consume some sort of vegetable matter every day.

9000rpm on the powerball this month - I'm already getting close!

Get in the pool at least two times a week. I have been so slack in this department, but two times a week is definitely achievable. Obviously I won't be doing any proper swimming until the arm is fixed but pool-running and kick drills still count!

If I do buy a bag of cookies, share them.

Sorted. I'd recommend my sister's website at for anybody else who wants to make some achievements this year. She's taught me loads about making effective goals and staying motivated- cheers sis!