Do what you love

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Since the London marathon, I have been struggling to get back the body and the fitness I had this time last year. I was lean, stronger and faster and, above all else, I was happier. I was training up to half marathons, running lots of 10ks and feeling good. BUT, I felt this need to sign up for a marathon. I got sucked in by the other runners at my club and people on Twitter and Facebook – I felt the pressure (albeit positive and well meaning) to join in. Thereafter followed boredom and misery for nigh on 6 months. I felt stressed and irritable, and I was a pain in the backside to be around. I irritated myself on pretty much a daily basis. I had turned into a marathon arsehole – I lived, breathed and slept marathons, and avoided socialising in case it interfered with the dreaded plan.

Then the RUNger set in (noun: the need to replenish energy stores used up after a long run with cake and shit food) and where once I had traces of abs trying to peak through, was a blob of gloop. In essence, marathon training had turned me into a blobby, slow and miserable loser.

Contrary to what others have said I would do, I haven’t come away from the marathon after all of that trauma and all-round bollox and thought ‘hey I’ll sign up for another one’; quite the opposite. I’ve looked at why I feel the need to self flagellate by signing up for things that are frankly horrible and not right for me, and I’ve looked at what I really want to do and what I enjoy. Life is supposed to be about fun after all, and that involves feeling good about ourselves and sharing that positivity with others.

Lately I have been indulging myself in pretty much anything I want to do and it’s been a huge amount of fun. I have been strength training daily with Julia Buckley‘s Extreme Inferno (more on that another time, but it’s great!) and my personal trainer, I’ve gone out and got drunk, I’ve learnt to love cycling and I’m going open-water swimming this week. I leave the watch at home and I’m ok with that.

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I may not be a marathon runner, but I’m a happy, strong and positive runner and that’s what matters to me.

sian

Back to Kilimanjaro

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On a rainy day in July 2010, I was sitting on the train reading the Metro (a free London commuter paper) and I saw a large Alzheimer’s Society advertisement for Kilimanjaro. For some reason this really sparked something inside of me and I immediately signed up on a whim. Apart from hiking boots, I didn’t have one single piece of hiking, camping, exercise-related kit so I had to buy everything from scratch. The other point to mention is that I was really quite unfit and overweight. I didn’t let that put me off though and I did do a lot of hiking training for the trip. When Kilimanjaro came around, it was probably all a bit too much for me – I wasn’t used to camping, not washing for days, drinking slightly murky tasting water and being away from home comforts.

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I was also carrying a bit more excess baggage than I should have been and the rest of it is pretty much a blur. I got quite bad altitude sickness and didn’t make the summit, and when I came back I was broken. For ages when people asked me about the trip and Kilimanjaro, I didn’t have a good word to say about it and now I’ve since realised it wasn’t the mountain I hated, but myself. What I did make though was huge changes to my life afterwards, which you can read about here. The shame and the disappointment kick started this love of exercise and travelling, and in that respect I am thankful, but I have unfinished business with that mountain…

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So I am taking my new-found confidence having taken on Toubkal, Mont Blanc and Elbrus to go back and face Kilimanjaro again, this time for pure fun! Now I know what to expect and I am better prepared. I know that I can do it and, importantly, I can enjoy it this time. I’m also going to make the most of being there by visiting the orphanage and going on safari.

This is who I am now, and I’ve got this!…

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I am climbing Kilimanjaro in August 2015 with Discover Adventure. Come and join me! x

sian

Triathlon training: Why I love cycling

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My Trek Lexa and I have had some fun lately She’s taken me much further than running ever could…

Cycling is scary, it’s complicated (well, for me it is because I previously hadn’t ridden a bike since 1993) and it hurts your bum. That was my previous assessment of cycling and why I got a bike and did nothing with it for a year. This year, after the marathon, I decided I needed to shake things up a bit and get out there doing other things as well as running. I dragged the boyfriend out with me as moral support and we took to the cycle path (one of the few good things about living in Bicester – sorry, Bicester village doesn’t count for locals) and then ventured out towards quieter roads in the surrounding villages. It took me a little while to get used to the gears (I think I have just cracked them now), mainly anticipating hills, getting the speed up and legs turning over, and getting in the right gear. Apart from at busy junctions where I am still really cautious (and rightly so!), the traffic hasn’t scared me as much as I thought it would.

What I love about cycling is the freedom it gives you – it can take you places much further and faster than running ever could. Yesterday I cycled to my work and back (70k, nearly 44 miles) as a test run. It was the furthest I’ve ever cycled in my life and I felt great. We stopped for a cheeky chocolate fudge cake in the local pub and headed back much faster than on the way there. Looking at the stats, we were flying along at 30k/h at one stage! When we started out yesterday I felt tired and my butt hurt at 3k – it didn’t bode well, but then I just got on and did it! I’m feeling so proud of myself today.

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I wanted to share with you some of the tips I have picked up along the way:

– Familiarise yourself with your bike before heading out – don’t do what I did here.

– Find a friend who is a reasonably confident cyclist and get them to cycle along a quiet road (or better still a cycle path) side by side with you to help you get used to the gears.

– Pick a short circular route to start with.

– Think ahead – drop it down into an ‘easy’ gear (ie, one that you can turn over quickly) when coming up to junctions, traffic, obstacles etc. That way, you can get away quicker and easier if you have to pull away from a standing start.

– If you can’t remember which gear is what, then try to logic it out. On my bike, I know that the easy gear (used on hills or at a junction) wiis the small switch (ie, easier to change), the harder gear (one you use on the flats) is harder to change (mine you have to push the break lever side ways). You don’t have to worry too much about the chain stresses as much with road bikes as they have fewer gears than mountain bikes so can readily switch among all the gears while you learn without consequence.

– If you’re in the wrong gear going up a hill, don’t sweat it – just cycle back down and start again.

– Attend a cycle maintenance course (this is next on my to-do list).

– Just go for it – don’t put it off until tomorrow, cycling is so much fun!

So this week I am putting on my clipless pedals and learning how to use them. 🙂

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I am training for the Tri For Life triathlon in September – a charity triathlon. You can sponsor me here.  I chose the tri for life triathlon as it looks perfect for beginners, it takes place in the stunning grounds of Woburn Abbey, and, as it happens, it’s organised by a small friendly team of people. It’s also a charity triathlon. It’s been ages since I’ve done anything for charity because running is something I just do it seems rude to ask for sponsorship. This, however, is a major challenge for me. I’ll be raising money for charities such as Great Ormond Street Children’s Charity, Rays of Sunshine and the Teenage Cancer Trust.

You can check out how the competition winners, Lucy and Lozza are getting on here and here.

sian

Still time to enter to win a space on a triathlon

If you fancy a chance of winning a place on tri for life triathlon (any distance of your choice) on 7th September all you need to do is:

  • Blog about why you want to do your first triathlon or why you love triathlons (linking to dashing-divas.com and triforlife.co.uk in your post).
  • Or, tweet the following: ‘I want to win a place on @triforlifeuk triathlon with @dashing_divasuk http://tinyurl.com/ndxfqt8′

Check out the post here for more details.

Competition: Fancy a tri with tri for life?

After the marathon, I was so cheesed off with running, but it never occurred to me to consider a triathlon for 2 reasons: 1) I used to be a really good swimmer – that’s my thing, but over the years I’ve lost my technique and confidence and 2) I have the cycling skills of a 5-year-old.

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After a lesson with Olympic swimmer Adam Whitehead in April at the Swim Tour in Oxford (places are still available for Southampton, Stockport, Belfast and Surrey if you fancy being trained by Olympians), I realised that with a few very minor tweaks, some new kit (hand paddles and a snorkel, which allows you to focus on technique without worrying about breathing), and some new-found confidence, my swimming is actually pretty damn solid. This made me realise that if I could JUST get over my fears about cycling (falling off, hurting myself, looking like an idiot and getting run over, etc.) maybe, just maybe, I could have a go at a triathlon.

So, over the last few weeks, I’ve dragged by over-developed thigh muscles out on the bike and do you know what, I’ve become mildly obsessed with it. I’m now frantically checking the weather forecast and calculating the hours of daylight left to see if I can get a cheeky bike ride in of an evening. Years of chronic overstriking and huge quads have given me an innate ability to cycle. I knew my chunky thighs would come in useful for something! I’m still getting to grips with the gears, but I’m sure that will come in time. I’m not going for any world speed records after all.

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You know what’s coming right? Yes that’s right folks – I have signed up for my first triathlon on 7th September. I chose the tri for life triathlon as it looks perfect for beginners, it takes place in the stunning grounds of Woburn Abbey, and, as it happens, it’s organised by a small friendly team of people. It’s also a charity triathlon. It’s been ages since I’ve done anything for charity because running is something I just do it seems rude to ask for sponsorship. This, however, is a major challenge for me. I’ll be raising money for charities such as Great Ormond Street Children’s Charity, Rays of Sunshine and the Teenage Cancer Trust.

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I’m doing the short distance (which is long enough frankly) –

  • 400m swim
  • 20k cycle
  • 5k run

My goals are simple:

  1. Have fun
  2. Try not to look like too much of an idiot
  3. Not fall off the bike

You can follow my training over the next few weeks through my training updates, plans and Q&As.

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Competition time!

Fancy having a go yourself at your first triathlon? The lovely people at tri for life have very kindly given me two free spots to give away to two very, very lucky people.

How to enter

  • To enter, all you need to do is blog about why you want to do your first triathlon or why you love triathlons (linking to dashing-divas.com and triforlife.co.uk in your post).
  • Or, tweet the following: ‘I want to win a place on @triforlifeuk triathlon with @dashing_divasuk http://tinyurl.com/ndxfqt8’

T&Cs

  • Qualifying posts must link back to dashing-divas.com and triforlife.co.uk.
  • Winners must agree to blog/tweet about their training (linking to dashing-divas.com and triforlife.com and @triforlifeuk and @dashing_divasuk, respectvely).
  • Winners must also pledge to raise a minimum of £200 for tri for life – it’s for charidee people!
  • Winners will be chosen at random on Friday 13th June at 8pm UK time.

Good luck everyone! x

sian

Race report: Edinburgh Marathon Festival

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Going up to Edinburgh to take part in the marathon festival has been on the top of my list for a long, long time now. It’s only been a matter of weeks since I ran in the London Marathon a haven’t done a great deal of training since then so this was only ever going to be an excuse to check out Edinburgh and have some fun. The Edinburgh Festival is a weekend of running, starting with the 5 and 10k on the Saturday and ending with the half and the full marathon on the Sunday.

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Rich, Ewan and I headed up on the Friday night for our epic trip. The drive took us 6 hours and we didn’t get there until gone 11pm. Thank goodness for the lovely owner of the B&B, who kindly waited up for us. Rich was running in the 10k on the Saturday morning so we were up quite early to see him off. The 10k takes place around the beautiful Holyrood Park at the foot of Arthur’s seat. He said a lot of the course was flat apart from one section which was quite hilly. Anyway, he managed another fab PB (around 50 minutes). We spent the rest of the day mooching about in Edinburgh, watched the gun go off at 1pm outside of the castle.

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On the Sunday it was Ewan and my turn to run in the marathon and half marathon, respectively. Ewan, who crazily runs lots of marathons (I think he’s as mad as a box of frogs), was aiming for a PB as close to 4 hours as possible. I realised pretty much an hour into our journey that I hadn’t bought my TomTom GPS watch, but it wasn’t the end of the world because I was just going to use the half marathon as a training run anyway. Besides, I had my Nike+ app (or so I thought).

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In true Scottish style, the conditions on the morning were pretty horrible and I was drenched standing around waiting for the race to get off. Here’s how the race went:

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Ewan achieved an official race PB of 4:13. I loved Edinburgh, but next year I think I’ll do the 10k on the Saturday so that I can spend some more time checking out the city!

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The verdict: DIVA rating 4/5

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Good points:
– Nice coastal route
– Started in a central location (easy to find)
– Starting pens
– Nice medal and really good goody bag with a decent technical T-shirt
Bad points:
– The finish is nowhere near the start so you have to organise your own transport or book the buses, which is not ideal when you usually just want to get back and shower
– Really early start (8am on a Sunday)
– Not overly keen on loopback courses

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sian