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My first try at a tri

Don’t faint. I’ve just realised it’s been YEARS since anyone wrote here. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. It’s all OK. Maria and I are great and still adventuring around, and there’s some running involved in our lives as well. Somehow, there always is. We are the M&M Running Club, after all. No matter where in the world, how far apart – that never changes.

So, some quick updates needed. I am currently writing this in in my home town, Hunstanton, England. After our second daughter was born in Luxembourg in December 2016, we moved to Miami, Florida (The sweatfest that is running in south Florida will surely be the subject of another post!) We lived there for two years and are now on a hiatus between places, enjoying some time with family and friends in England. In the mean time, Maria got married in Mexico and spent an incredible year traveling through southern and eastern Africa with her new husband. You can read about their adventures on their blog: https://www.roamtodiscover.com/ She is now back in Austin, Texas and has set up her own business working as a registered dietician.

Right, back to the plot. Six weeks ago I signed up for a mini triathlon in my home town. Hunstanton sits on the east coast of England, overlooking the Wash. It’s beautiful because it faces west and we still get stunning sunsets over the sea. We have cliffs and wide sandy beaches. And wind. Way too much wind! In the spirit of “having something to focus on” while being back here on life’s pause, I decided to go for it. My main driver was that it was a pool swim and therefore I wouldn’t need to buy anything special in order to do it (the Wash does not particularly appeal to me, in a swimsuit, in a chilly May). I haven’t followed any special training schedule; I’ve just made sure I’ve mixed up all three disciplines each week and also done “brick” workouts. These, I have learned, is combining the disciplines in one workout, therefore practising what happens in a triathlon.

This is a “mini” triathlon. For me, at this moment in my life, it’s the perfect taster of the sport. I signed up determined not to buy anything in order to do it. I am borrowing my dad’s bike, a fairly heavy road bike bought second hand for 20 quid, but with gears that work like a dream. I am also borrowing my mum’s cycle helmet and my husband’s day glow gear. The rest of anything I might need is made up of my Apple music playlists and the trainers I wore when I left Miami. Done!

The swim is very short, just 200m. This will be followed by the cycling – 18km, which is a loop three times of the whole town. There’s a nice long burn of a hill at the start of each loop (hoping for a non-head wind on that one!) This is topped off with a 3.5km run along the seafront and cliff top to the lighthouse and back. So, the distances aren’t vast, I thought. Totally doable!

The first thing I have loved about training for this triathlon is the variety. As as life long runner, it has actually quite surprised me how much I have enjoyed biking one day, swimming the next and not always just pounding the streets and country lanes in my trainers.

The second surprising part about this triathlon journey is the cycling part. I am not a cyclist, though I have always had a bike and gone on bikes rides. My commute to work in Miami was on my bike (sweating) through the shady streets of Coral Gables. In my youth I spent summers in the Netherlands with a tent strapped to my bike, camping and cycling around the country with a friend. However, my cycling history has been one of enjoyment and meandering, not one of peddling to get there as fast as possible. Sometimes during training rides I have to remind myself not to lazily gawp at the fields and birds and instead focus on making those wheels go round! But my average speed has gone up over this six weeks, so the day dreaming has obviously been getting less as I ride!

The triathlon is this Sunday. Last week I had chicken pox which put the whole event in doubt for me as I wasn’t sure they would allow me in the pool. I felt terrible for a week and obviously didn’t train. But yesterday I came out the other side of it, learnt I could take part, and went out for a run. I’m weakened, but still strong, so am going to go for it and enjoy it.

After all, how do you know if you don’t try?

Wish me luck!

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I’ve been using an app and taking photos on my most of my training rides and runs. Here are a few.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New horizons

Today I chose the wrong way round to do my 5-mile loop. But there were reasons to smile: the sun was shining brightly; I passed teachers on their way to school (where I used to work – hence my smarmy joy); and I’m going on a trip in a day, so what the hell? This strange wind which shoots across the coastline of north-west Norfolk won’t be where I’m going, will it?

No, there will instead be every reason not to go for a run. Maria and I are meeting for an M&MRC Eastern European adventure. We start in Vienna. Then we take the train to Zagreb and travel through Croatia and Montenegro. At the end we fly out of Tirana in Albania. Needless to say we are both very excited.

So, you can see: with islands and churches, waterfalls and lakes, buses and bikes, wine and wienerschnitzel, boats and exploring we might forget to put our trainers on.

Hang on a minute. We are a running club, are we not? We revel in new horizons and adventure. That’s the thing about holidays, there are new horizons everywhere. At every turn new sights and smells, tastes and words – and opportunities. I’m not going to suggest we run up the hairpin bends to the cliffs over Kotor, but thinking about it, I have no doubt there will be moments when we can run along the beach of our little island, or along the sea wall of a fishing village, or round the park of a city. We are not tourists. We are runners.

It’s about enjoying those different horizons. With a good friend. With trainers. With the promise of wine and fine food afterwards. You’ll always come back to the horizons you know.

Here are some views from one of my typical Hunstanton runs (not all taken the same day) which I’ll be leaving for the next few weeks. Here’s to the new horizons we run towards – check out the blog during June for some pictures!

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Double chin, double quick

You’ve read those stories.

Jean from Milton Keynes saw a picture of herself on holiday in Corfu and decided to lose weight. “I didn’t realise how fat I’d got, so I went on a diet and lost 10 stone eating yoghurt and melons. Now I feel great and I keep that photo stuck to my fridge so I’m never tempted to go in there and snack on the packets of mini chipolatas and sausage rolls my (16-stone) husband still buys.” 

I have no intention of turning this blog into a weight-loss-tips-for-success site, but it is amazing how a dodgy shot of you can prompt a rush of angry blood around the body as trainers and leggings get put on and out you trot.

Actually, make that gallop. Yesterday I made a video for a friend of mine and while watching it back there was this horrible double chin moment. Nobody likes a double chin. And I know, it happens to us all (even Kate Moss as she stumbles drunkenly out of a concert guffawing at something), but, we’ll, it’s just not nice.

I needed to go for a run. I hadn’t been since the weekend. Now the days are longer you can actually get back from work (a school in my case), do some more work (marking in my case) and still hit the pavement in daylight hours. Brilliant. Last night it wasn’t windy at all (unlike today’s gales causing chaos around the UK), the sea was without a wave, almost glass-like and nothing daunted me.

Because here’s the thing: running when you’re angry or not happy with something SPURS. YOU. ON. Think about it. When you’re angry or frustrated you do everything faster: make decisions, sign cheques, walk, eat, talk/shout/moan, stab out texts/emails on your phone. So it goes without saying that the same goes for exercise.

The double chin had already made me put my trainers on. Then, for the first time in, well, years, I wanted some music to run to. My husband couldn’t find his iPod. Mine no longer works at all. My mum’s doesn’t work if it’s off its speakers. There was nothing to plug into. After ten minutes searching all ‘his’ drawers, still no iPod. (That’s a total other post on a totally other blog about him and losing/misplacing/never seeing again his things). Anyway, I needed to get out. I was ready so I just left: fuming at the world, its double chins and losing of things.

And I ran fast. I even laughed to myself as I went along, thinking how ridiculous it was to be running faster because I was mad. But it worked. I finished up the hill and could even exchange some jokes with an old lady as I passed her standing at the top. She had been watching me come up from the bottom.

“You made it!”

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“Yes, thankfully you’ve been getting bigger and not smaller!”

“Keep going!”

Ah, old people. The ones round here love to joke with runners. “Are you tired yet?”, “Nearly done?” or “You’re going too fast!” are favourites of the Hunstanton Old Set.

So, next time you’re sitting there, wondering whether to go out running, get angry. Think about that idiotic thing your boss said; the injustice in the world; or just give my husband something to look after for you.

When you never see it again, you’ll run doubly quick.

Running rituals

Happy New Year!

Imagine it’s still December 28th 2012: a gorgeous and bright summer morning in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the morning of my wedding . I wake up next to bridesmaid and running buddy Maria. She knows what to do. She’s up for this ritual. It’s not often than M&MRC are together these days, especially in our adopted South American city. This is why we have to make it count: make it what we do, what we’ve always done.

We’re going on a magic 4-miler around the parks of Palermo. Neither of us has run for a few weeks, but that doesn’t matter. It won’t be painful because if it is, we’ll laugh at ourselves. And if you can laugh at pain, it can’t hurt that much.

From top athletes to park joggers, from those sprinting a few metres, to those slogging over tens of miles: everyone has their running rituals. Whether it’s related to the first song they play on their run (mine was always American Girls by Counting Crows when I ran with my old iPod) or what they wear, or the routes they take and where they cross the road; it’s all part of what it means for that person to go running.

Rituals are performed consistently and one of their effects is to calm the mind. The ones I write of here can have such a positive effect that even when motivation is lacking, those songs/shoes/friends can mean it’s not a chore. So, Maria and I donned our t-shirts from our latest event (weDSCN0069 both ran halfs on November 11th); we talked the route, the need for and wonder at new shoes; and we did the M&MRC pose to record for posterity.

As we ran the blocks towards the parks, both of us were chatting on, dodging reversing cars and wayward buses, jumping over bulging tree roots and moving into the shade where possible. It was turning into a beautiful day, which would get even more so as the day and night wore on, not just for weather reasons. It was so good to get the legs moving, arms pumping and lungs working. I think we had both missed it, and we talked about the effect of not running on our mood (another post). But, beyond all of that, the most special running ritual was the fact that we were there, shoulder to shoulder, together. This time there were no volcanoes, or Andean lakes, or rivers to run through. We didn’t need them. We just needed that city, its streets and us being us.

When you get married, there are numerous rituals you can get bogged down in (my favourite is simply drinking champagne at whatever moment). Going for a run doesn’t crop up on many wedding day to-do lists, but for me, that place and that person meant a ritual was re-born.DSCN0070 And it was wonderful.

We even surprised ourselves by not being as slow as we thought we were!

If you’re in the UK at the moment, I hope you’re running very, very carefully. It’s so icy right now in Hunstanton, Norfolk that we daren’t step out to run. Which is OK, as it’s given me some time today to write about running instead.

A change of scenery (and changing weather!)

I’m in Norfolk for the weekend leading up to Sunday’s 5km Race for Life in Cambridge. I’m running it with my mum, Wo, who I signed up without telling her (she hadn’t run properly in about 20 years, read here: http://bit.ly/H8KVn0) After arriving from London yesterday, I headed straight out to run. I hadn’t run during the week, choosing instead to spend hours in my garden digging, cutting, mowing, sweeping, planting, tidying and weeding. I found muscles I never even knew existed (even during Cruce de los Andes!) so expect another post on the cross training benefits of gardening!

Anyway, I ran a route I often do when here, which takes me along country tracks and lanes followed by the Hunstanton cliffs and prom and then up the hill back to my parents’ house. Yesterday, it was incredible, in the sense that I was battling with a wind I hadn’t seen since camping in Patagonia. People were still braving a promenade stroll, although no one was walking in my direction. They all looked at me with puzzled expressions: Why are you going that way?!

This morning I decided to head out and do the same circuit, but the other way round. I enjoyed the first downhill, even with the wind in my face, and then the lovely tail-gust as I ran along the sea front. But I wasn’t prepared for the dark clouds to suddenly descend and explode in hail. Yes, hail. In June. People ran off the beach to shelter under the pier. I battled on to more strange looks, feeling strange again myself. What weather jinx did I have with my home town? The five-minute hail storm battered my back until it passed as quickly as it came and the sun poked out again. Phew.

So, the lesson I have learnt from my recent Norfolk running is that tomorrow we should be prepared for anything: rain, hail, rainbows, sun, wind, sleet. But we are looking forward to it, and even though she’s feeling “a bit nervous” Wo is also ready for the challenge and excitement that her first 5km has to offer. And we’re changing our running scenery again as we will pass through the colleges of Cambridge which are hopefully beautiful enough to distract Wo from the fact that she’s been running for the past three minutes and counting…

 

We are raising money for Cancer Research UK. To sponsor us visit us here www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/lauraandwo Every penny helps. Thank you.

 

 

Training with Mother

My mum, who I secretly signed up for a 5km run on July 1st, got to the end of her first 5km this week. We were both very impressed and proud and I promised I would go running the same route with her again at the weekend.

We did it this afternoon under a grey Norfolk sky. There was some wind about, but nothing to knock us off the cliffs or make us feel like we were getting nowhere (which can happen in Hunstanton quite a lot). She was quite nervous beforehand. Maybe it was my professional-looking running attire. Maybe it was because she thought I would be a sergeant major barking at her the whole way. Or maybe it was lack of sleep the night before. Anyway, I tried to overcome this by giving her a ‘go faster’ headband. It worked.

Another thing I made sure to do was steal her stopwatch. Her training programme has had her doing two minutes powerwalking followed by a minute running. I decided to let her decide when to stop running or not and pretend she’d always been walking for two minutes. By doing so we knocked 50 seconds off her last time.

Taking the watch away meant that she ran further without the pressure to stop because she’d ‘done her minute’. She ended up running two minutes at a time three times and ran around one minute thirty all the other times. Running progress, I believe.

So, by doing this and other 5km routes to not get bored and sometimes throwing the stopwatch away she will feel her body, her momentum, her determination and, more importantly, her increasing fitness taking her forwards… and faster.

We finished with a ‘sprint finish’ and me providing an Olympics athletics commentary as we came down the home straight. I had been the only one to speak during the whole session as my mum was focusing on her breathing and running. Talking is very much a few big fitness steps down the line. As she said, “I’m not a very sociable runner right now. All I can do is nod!”

Well, I was happy running with her; talking random stuff and encouraging each running step. Because with each step we get closer to the goal in July and raising money for Cancer Research and their wonderful work.

To sponsor Wo in her endeavours please visit our Race For Life sponsorship page: http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/lauraandwo Many thanks.

M&MRC Cruce Story #4: Frolicking in the snow

We continued our ascent while singing and enjoying the new surface we were trekking on.  The snow was covered by a bit of ash from the Puyehue volcano, but that didn’t get us down.  With each step we moved closer to the top and that much closer to reaching our goal.

Not far into the snow was the first hydration station.  They used snowmobiles to get Gatorade and buckets of water almost 2000 meters up the mountain.  We paused to drink straight from the containers before beginning our move again.  The water was ice cold, which was partly due to the cooler temperatures as we made our way up.

Suddenly we saw figures to our right running their way down.  How could this be possible?!  We were making good time, but we were also enjoying the sights.  There were others out there to win and they were already on their way to camp to make it in time for lunch and a nap.

We crossed another chip sensor and began our 9 km loop around the top of the volcano.  Due to the recent snowfall from the weekend before, we had fresh powder to have fun in.  This meant we would sink in a few inches before having to pick up our feet to move forward.  It was similar to the extra work involved in running in loose sand.

As we progressed, we chatted with people that we had met before and others that were going at our pace.  Laura even managed to find someone who’d been to Hunstanton, the tiny town she is from.  She was in shock to find someone that knew of the place much less been there and the fact that they’d found each other while on top of a volcano in Chile.  What are the odds!

We passed a photographer so we had to take advantage of the opportunity as we love our jumping photos.  When else were we going to be 2200 meters up a volcano after running 20 km to get there?  Moments like those, must be documented.

Even though we were at the top and we assumed we were done with the uphill battles, we were not.  After multiple times of swearing we’d done the last incline, we hit the chip sensor and the descent.  We skied our way down the slippery slope with our running shoes and tried our best not to fall over.  We laughed at our attempts to find the best way down and skidded from side to side as if we were really were skiing.

The edge of the snow was near, but there were still kilometers ahead of us to be able to say we crossed the finish line on Day 1.

Note: Last night there was a special on ESPN Run about Cruce de los Andes.  We mentioned this before, but now it’s official…we’re famous!  We made the cut and even the US flag on our tent appeared.  We’ll see if we can get a recording or at least the parts we’re in up here soon.