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Berlin half marathon

Last weekend I went to Berlin for a reason, to cheer on my friends running the Berlin Half and drink all the free Erdinger Weisbier Alkoholfrie I could get my hands on.

A few of us signed up for the race weekend away last fall but since then and now I’ve been running less and getting pregnant more so racing a half marathon came off my weekend to-do list.  Still, there is nothing better than a weekend in Berlin and cheering on friends in a great race so off to Berlin we all went.

Right before the trip Karkoa luggage sent me an email to see if I wanted one of their runners travel bags to try out in exchange for a review of it. I have a tried and tested pully bag that I can pack for a race weekend in my sleep and still have room for duty free chocolates at the end, so I checked if Alex wanted to test it out and he was keen. We got the Sport Bag 40 which was the perfect size for our 4 day trip.

Arriving in Berlin we saw the familiar green lines on the race route and started our trip with a sandwich from an all vegan food truck outside our hotel. We didn’t realise it was all vegan until we got to the front of the line but it was so good. I’ll happily be tricked out of meat anytime.

Then we made our way to the expo to pick up race packs and some beers.

My top tip would be to read every single instruction on every email the race sends you. They were pretty serious about everyone having their race pass and photo ID, even not letting one of our friends in until he could locate some ID. After our race bracelets were attached we were given our numbers, luggage bags, a gel , some shower soap, deodorant, and some waterproof kit wash and sent out to the expo for all our sample and neon euro kit needs.

Alex and I found our old friend Fraudolin Fink and then set up at the inexpo beer garden to wait for the others.

We discussed race/spectating strategies and bartered goodybag items (“I’ll trade you a gel and the deodorant for your protein infused post-run shower soap?”) After half the group went to watch the football and the rest of us to eat all the brauhaus specialities.

   

The next day we did some sightseeing around central Berlin. This was our third trip we knew what we wanted to see and since it was such a hot and sunny day we took advantage of all the open patios for much needed sitting and drinking.

More food and drinks as we met up for a great dinner at the amazing Meisterstueck.

Race morning we were up and out of the hotel and walking the racers to the start before finding our first cheer point at the Brandenburg Gate. Laura and I planned our own 3 mile spectating run to try to catch our friends at a few places before the finish line. The Berlin Half marathon is huge with 30,000ish runners and we did our best to cheer most of them on, especially the ones in British running club vests.

After Brandenburg Gate we headed to Potsdamer Platz to see our friend Katie flying past at the 17km mark and then hopped on the u-bahn to the finish near Alexanderplatz.

There were a lot of smiles at the finish line and with the weather still warm we rounded up a big group and headed to a beer garden for a recover metre of fresh beer.

Alex and I capped off the day with dinner at our favourite restaurant in Europe Henne. That potato salad is so so so good!

The next day we took it easy at the hotel and walked around to find one more great Berlin meal at BurgerAMT. Trust them and try the peanut sauce.

Fed and recovered it was a great weekend in Berlin with some running, all our friends, and as always the most food and drink possible.

(Photos: Thanks to Laura & Katie for their excellent selfie taking abilities)

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altura A/W womens cycling kit review

Altura cycling sent me some of their A/W kit to test out on my daily commutes. 

When Altura Cycling sent me an email asking if I’d like to try out their AW range of kit. The first thing I did was check their website to check if there were any images of women on the landing page.

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Sadly there are none. There are pictures of women when you navigate to their women’s section but none on their home page including the instagram and twitter widgets when I checked.

It’s one of those little things that I like to logic test with brands. I don’t think there should be quotas, but I’d like to think that the people behind brands would think to put up images of women in their kit, especially on their homepage. Unfortunately, not much of the cycling industry passes this test.

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So, in a “you can’t influence change without being a part of it” mood I agreed to test out their new Women’s A/W kit and get a few images out there of women who cycle in quality made-for-women kit.

WOMEN’S SPORTIVE TEAM LONG SLEEVE JERSEY

My only caveat for the testing kit was, NO PINK, so they kindly sent me a selection of their black & blue kit.  This jersey wasn’t something I thought I needed for cycling (short sleeve jersey and a jacket is fine for commuting) but it’s the thing I’ve worn the most since the weather turned from the hot hot humid summer. It’s a really nice not-too-baggy-fit but still looks sleek on. It has a bit of a lined insulation inside but is still breathable when I work up a sweat passing other cyclists Amwell Hill 🙂 I have found it’s the perfect thing to wear with bib shorts (and fancy socks) autumn when it’s not raining. It also keeps to my most important rule – not too much faff. I know it will be inevitable, but I want to avoid wearing loads of layers when commuting as it’s only 30 minutes and the faff of changing in/out of so much kit every day is just annoying.

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WOMEN’S SYNCHRO WATERPROOF JACKET

I had been wearing my vintage (2 year old) pink Aldi jacket for cycling and didn’t see any need to upgrade, except to get away from the pink. This Altura jacket is a lovely shade of blue and so so so light. It’s like wearing a feather. When I get out on longer weekend cycles this will always be in my back pocket.  I love that when I’m wearing it the sleeves are long enough that there is no pull on my arms and the thick cuffs hold gloves well so there’s no wrist gap on chilly mornings. It’s a very slim fit so I can only wear it on cycling only days (ie. if I’m going to coach or run after work I wear a different jacket that can layer up)

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WOMEN’S SYNCHRO PROGEL BIBTIGHTS

Oh my god. These are lush. It hasn’t been especially cold so far, and I held onto shorts as long as I could, but as soon as I put these on I knew I was a bib tight convert. They are lined with soft fleecy fabric so it is like a warm, cuddly hug for your legs each morning. My only gripe is they’re just a bit too short for my long legs so I have to make sure my socks match.

Again, having a bib just makes life so much easier. There’s no “is my shirt riding up” worry (ahem, I’ve cycled behind enough men to know this is something they SHOULD be worrying about) and no wind gets in those little spaces between trousers & top. They’ve got reflecty-bits on them too so I feel safer now that it’s going to be dark for my commutes for what seems like forever more.

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THERMOCOOL LONG SLEEVE BASELAYER

At first I was like, who needs a base layer? And now I answer myself, “people who are cycle commuting when there is frost on the roads will really enjoy base layers” If I wake up and hear people scraping their windshields outside my window I know it’s base layer time. This one from Altura is really nice. It’s tight but not compression squeezy tight, fits under my bib tights nicely, and looks pretty cool and sleek when I’m wandering around my flat in a hungry daze post-commute. I wore it with the long sleeved jersey and jacket on the especially chilly days, but often just wear it under the jacket for normal London weather commutes.

So there you go. Hopefully, some honest, real reviews of kit I have now worn for 2 months commuting daily. It’s reasonably priced for what I think is pretty nice looking women’s cycling kit so chuck it on your Christmas list and hope that Santa is nice to us cyclists.

As mentioned above Altura sent me this section of their
autumn/winter cycling kit for free to test out and share on my blog. 

oxford half marathon

It’s the Higher Education league table you didn’t know you needed. Cambridge vs. Oxford: Who hosts the better half marathon? Running both this year, I consider myself highly educated and confident to present the following dissertation as an expert in the field.

The Oxford Half Marathon didn’t have the best start. Train tickets to Oxford aren’t cheap, so after getting a spot in the race from Brooks Running I quickly booked advance tickets for £6. The first train from London was scheduled to arrive at 9:12am which I took as perfect.

The race organisers then decided to put the race village (with bag drop) at a different location from the start. I had to make a choice a) jog to the start and run the race with a small pack and make it in time to get into my starting pen or, b) jog to the bag drop, hope it was still open and then jog to the race start joining the back of the starters. Because I was going for a time goal I wanted to be in the right pen and and hoped I’d find the promised 1:50 pacer (there wasn’t one, only 1:45 – race brochure lied) to stick with. I’m used to running with a big pack run commuting so my little race vest wasn’t a problem.

Another bummer of Oxford is you have to take a train from Paddington (Cambridge departs from the always convenient and now on the 24 hour Victoria line Finsbury Park). Paddington is close to nothing and impossible to get to without 3 tube changes. Luckily early on a Sunday morning, it’s a quick 40 minute cycle along the empty canal, which turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the day.

On the train with a few other time-confident runners who chose to ignore the race organisers warning of delayed trains. The one hour train ride was the perfect amount of time to eat, drink and use the toilet before arriving and jogging the 1 mile to the start as a warm up.

made it to the start!

made it to the start!

I made it into my pen with 2 whole minutes to spare, and then waited another few while the start was slightly delayed. Starting right in the city centre was beautiful and there were loads of people out cheering the runners on.

Right away I turned my watch off the pace screen. I knew I was going to have to push the pace to get to my goal, but for the first two miles I wanted to run at a sustainable effort and not start worrying about pace right away – that would make it a long long two hours. The first few miles felt fast but eventually I passed the two hour pacer (who was running very fast 8:45s to start) group and finally felt settled in to the effort pace. Being the first time I’ve raced in a while I got used to the “This is hard but I’ve got to keep going” feeling. I used a mental tip from my friend Laura to say to myself a few times, “You can slow down but you can’t stop”

I passed the 10k in 53:21, a bit fast but knowing I didn’t have the endurance base from consistent training this year I was happy for the bit of a time buffer in the second half.  I kept slowing down a little bit when it all got a bit too hard, and then pushing again when I felt OK (confession: or decided to pick someone off ahead of me!)

Just after 9 miles though after a long out and back that felt uphill both ways I didn’t need to look at my watch to know my pace had slipped down while my effort was still sky high. I think at that point I quietly accepted I wouldn’t get my goal but also felt OK (just the normal hard effort tired) so would keep pushing to the finish to see how close I could get to my goal.

The course went through lots of lovely neighbourhoods of Oxford and surrounding villages, and then the last 2 miles were through a park. The dirt path was welcome to my pavement weary feet, but it did get quite narrow and being a solid mid-pack runner this meant that it was almost impossible to push ahead even when I felt like it. The route snaked around the park too which, at this point in the race, you couldn’t help but feel like, “Ohmygod another cut back loop to here?”

I saw this guy at the end of the race. If I could have caught up to him I would have had some choice words about his interpretation of 400m

I saw this guy at the end of the race. If I could have caught up to him I would have had some choice words about his interpretation of 400m

Once out of the park it was half a mile to the finish but about 5 or 6 turns on to different streets. Again, since it’s been a while since I raced a race I forgot how badly you just want to see that finish line (no matter what your watch says). I had a few choice words for the 400m to go sign that was at least 800m from the finish (!!!) but made it to the finish without anything left for a sprint.

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After the finish we got our medals, race t-shirts, and a goody bag. All you can carry bananas and lucozade too. Wrapped in the foil cape I shuffled out past all the spectators and found a sunny patch to de-race and get some dry and warm clothes on. The goody bag had a wet wipe in it which was ace. I love actually useful items you need post-race.

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Suitably wet-wipped, my friend Katie took me to the most amazing brunch after at Malmaison. I almost want to keep it a secret for myself but I’ll just say that an all you can eat brunch buffet is EXACTLY what I needed before my train back to London. Cycle > Train > Run > Brunch > Train > Cycle and I was home with my legs up the wall by 4pm. It was a great half-marathon day trip from London if the organisers can figure out the train situation.

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So, even with an all-you-can-eat brunch right at the end trying to sway me, I have to say that Cambridge wins top spot in the 2016 Half Marathon League Table. Oxford Half was a great race and I don’t have anything bad to say about it at all. The only thing is that as another Vitality race it all seems a bit samey-same. The same branding, similar t shirt design, almost identical medals across the series. It just doesn’t entice me to go all the way to Oxford to run a race when it will be super similar to the Hackney Half in my neighborhood. Cambridge was a great race, great organisation, great course, massive unique medal, and overall just that much better.

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Brooks UK gave me entry to the Oxford Half Marathon, these leggings above and a sports bra to wear for the race. It was too warm for the leggings but I wore the sports bra and loved it so much bought a black version as soon as I got home.  

 

performance kitchen

A few Saturdays ago I woke up and began the epic journey from NE London to SW by bike. Not something I normally do on a Saturday but I was invited down to Clapham Studios to watch a morning of filming of Performance Kitchen. Only 2 stops (one for coffee and one for directions, Battersea roundabouts you are HUGE) later I made it to the kitchen studio.

David emailed me a month ago via twitter with a really nice invitation to come down and see the behind the scenes of their great project. I say great because it actually is a great idea. They film elite athletes cooking the food they actually make and eat for themselves during training. None of this “you should eat, you shouldn’t eat.” Nope. Just what actually gets made by athletes who are tired, hungry, and need their bodies to perform to the best of their ability.

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I arrived just as they were setting up the first guest, Katy Sexton MBE was setting up her kitchen. Katy was the first Brit to win a swimming world championship medal, so I was ready to take notes for my next pre swim race meal.

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Katy made a delicious pasta bake while chatting with the host about all things Olympics and training. What I liked most about her was that it was a really simple recipe. Pasta, chicke breasts, bacon, frozen corn & peas, and a can of chicken soup. It doesn’t have to be fancy macro this or spelty that.

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The filming was mostly continuous just taking a few breaks to get an instagram shot or two, and a bit of editing to avoid all that oven baking time. After the glamour shots of the food were done we got to dig in.

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Katy’s episode isn’t live yet, so I don’t want to give it all away, but you can check out the other videos on the Performance Kitchen YouTube channel in the meantime.

Performance Kitchen didn’t ask that I write or share anything about the day, they genuinely just invited me down to see what it was all about. I’m sharing about it because I think it’s a great resource in a sea of rubbish online nutritional advice. I also didn’t get any freebies save for a few (big!) scoops of Katy Sexton’s pasta bake. 

 

good books

I obviously enjoy running and going on adventures, but I am also a major armchair adventurer. I love reading about other people’s adventures and sometimes take this too far and start to believe it is possible to become an international mountain bike champion… if I could just get out from under this heated blanket.

Here are my recent reads that I’ve loved and can fully recommend for anyone looking for some paper inspiration.

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Yoga mat, books, work clothes and slippers. Multitasking pre-work like a hero!

Rusch to Glory – Rebecca Rusch

I saw this recommended on Caitlin’s blog or twitter and grabbed it off Amazon. One of the most surprisingly awesome books I have read in a long time. Rebecca has done A LOT in her life and the book reads like one giant adventure spanning many sports, continents, and decades. No disrespect to Rebecca but she wasn’t someone who was great at sports from an early age and “in the system” of traditional sports.  She is someone who has worked hard to get to where she is in some seriously cool sports and the businesses behind them. I’m partway through my second reading of it it’s so good.

Misadventures Magazine

I think I found Misadventures website when googling around for women specific sport writing (got to love google search language) and fell into a misadventures article hole that at it’s peak had about 35 tabs open in my browser. Their first paper magazine has launched and it’s dirt cheap for a subscription and a beautiful magazine to sit down and read really interesting and diverse articles.

A Long Time Coming – Jacqueline Hansen

A self published book by one of the pioneers of women’s distance running it’s a must read for anyone interested in the (short) history of women’s marathon running. I personally think it could have used a bit more editing, but the stories and passions are still there and Jacqueline’s voice is an important one.

What Goes Around, A London Cycle Couriers Story – Emily Chappell

First, this book has improved my cycling around London by 100%. I have learned no less than 3 shortcuts through the city thanks to Emily. Second, it is a great book. it is so well written and flows with very interesting stories told about London, Emily, and cycle couriers. There are so many bits of this book I found myself nodding along with. Defo a must read.

The Silence of Great Distance Women Running Long – Frank Murphy

This book took me a while. It’s long and dense, but a very good read so worth the time. There are a lot of difficult stories about the women who ran long distances before it was accepted as normal (this is an insane sentence to even type!)  and this book lays them all out. It’s a classic in anyone’s running library.

Those are my favs! Such good books I’ve read through them too fast and I am actually book-less  until my pre-order of Kicking Off How Women in Sport are Changing the Game arrives. So excited.

maximum comfort performance

There is a lot of reflection at this time of the year. Lots of people writing their best of/looking ahead posts and I’m really enjoying reading them while sitting on the couch with my feet up.

photo via: https://www.instagram.com/sixsecondshigh/

Running the Olympic Park 5k with Oiselle UK. Photo via: http://www.instagram.com/sixsecondshigh

Yes, I’ve been running a few races, and doing a few mid-week runs when it’s sunny, but I’ve been doing a lot more relaxing than usual and it feels good. I’ve got a pretty full spring of running coming up so am enjoying the extra rest and layers of energy accumulating on my body.

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A few weeks ago I lost my slippers. We did a big house clean and they vanished. The same day I got an email from Damart asking if I’d like to try a product to review on this blog. Mail order catalogues remind me of pouring over the Sears catalogue when I was younger and cutting out the things I wanted for Christmas for my letter to Santa.  Then in my teens there was nothing cooler than everything in Delias. Even though we couldn’t order the stuff in Canada I spent my whole high school years wishing I could wear a that black spaghetti strap dress to one of the dances.

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I put these comfortable slippers through their paces so I can give you a fair and accurate review of them. I wore them taking out the rubbish, putting up the Christmas tree, and to/from the toilet in the middle of the night. Being a bit more of a shoe than a slipper they’re good for running between the couch and the kitchen. For all your comfort needs! I don’t really know what else to say, if you have any slipper performance questions let me know in the comments.

For maximum comfort performance I have been living in these slippers and my merino wool track pants from Oiselle.

I received these slippers for free from Damart in exchange for writing a product review on my blog.

smelly at work

I thought about getting one of my co-workers to write this but safe to say British culture doesn’t allow me to ask a coworker to write a blog about how much I smell at work.

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I run to work, run at lunch, run home from work, do pilates at lunch, go to the gym at lunch, and sometimes walk to the really far restaurant for good burritos at lunch. Safe to say I sweat in the clothing that I wear and is scattered around my desk.

I’ve written about the amount of companies who seem to know this and want to send me nice smelling things to try. And I thank them for that. Scholls recently sent some products over and included in the foot balms & soaks for dry skin on feet was the deodorant spray for shoes.

A month ago in a pre-marathon fit of organisation I cleaned up my desk and put everything nicely into a desk drawer.

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A month later we are back to this.

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I sit in a pretty busy area of the office (right near the teapoint) and can only figure people don’t want sweaty shoe smell with their teas so have been using the Scholls spray on these shoes and ta-da no complaints! Not that any British person would ever tell me if I smelled. Only their quiet glances and tuts would clue me in on that.

The spray is handy to have and does the trick if you are worried about the smell of your trainers under your desk. I probably will not buy it again though as it’s a “nice to have” and not an essential. The foot lotion I used after spectating the Berlin Marathon (tough gig) and that was also really nice but again, not something I absolutely need in my running life.