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Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Secret Vegan

The problem was that it was my SISTER daring me to do it. My LITTLE sister. And if there’s anything a big sister can’t take, it’s being beaten in something by a little sister. It’s pretty much against the laws of the universe.

However, what she was challenging me to sounded if not impossible, then very nearly so. It sounded miserable, torturous and a downright slog. In fact it sounded a DREADFUL idea. 

But it was my little sister daring me to do it.

Ah crap. I was going to have to give it a go. With 31 days of misery ahead of me, I notified my triathlon coach, organised a nutritional check 3 weeks in (in case I was dying or could bribe her to provide me with a valid excuse to back out), stocked up on things that had never appeared on my grocery list before (what the actual frog is TOFU and is it supposed to taste like a mix of frogspawn and scrambled eggs?) and bought a veritable Holland & Barretts worth of supplements, vitamins and pills.

So what was this awful challenge that I was dreading? Veganuary. Yep, me a self-confessed creme-egg addict and cheese devotee was considering giving up all things animal based for 31 days. There were caveats however; part of my work uniform is leather  (no - I’m NOT some sort of bondage mistress before you even consider asking that) and I was still cooking animal products for my daughter so I wasn’t a ‘proper’ vegan by the strict terms as I was still using some animal products even if I wasn’t eating them. 




So how did I get on?

The Downsides:

  • Farting. Oh my God, the farting. I got away with it for the first few days as no-one could believe that the stench was from an actual person rather than roadkill, a sewage plant or some truly appalling drain problems. I actually had to check that I hadn't inadvertently crapped myself several times. 
  • Eating Out. I was panicking that I wouldn't be able to eat out at all but actually most places I've been to have have offered at least one vegan meal option. And if I was really stuck, then there was always chips. Mmm chips. However one thing I HAVE needed to check was that the place I was going to offered options that were not only vegan but also had no gluten in as should that happen I'd probably dissolve into a puddle of farts and actual manure. 
  • Code Browns. Every single bloody time I've run a speed session in January, l had a code brown. In other words I had a 3 minute warning either during or immediately after that I needed a poo. An urgent poo. However I'm not sure I can blame this entirely on Veganuary as this is a standard January thing for me. No idea why. It's possibly my body complaining about having to run fast after a nice long sit down for the entirety of December. 
  • Meal Planning. Rather than just being able to stick the contents of my freezer drawer into the steamer and press the on-button, I was having to actually plan my meals in advance unless I was prepared to live off tins of baked beans and bourbons (I don’t believe in living off salad - it’s not real food - this was what I was concerned about when my sister first suggested it. I thought my diet would be brown rice and lettuce which sounds joyless and quite frankly shit.) This meant I was having to bulk cook and pot everything up in little plastic pots in the fridge. The microwave was my new best friend.  
  • No Creme Eggs. No cheese. These two alone were almost deal breakers for the 30 days. 



The Upsides:

  • Proper Athletes. There are PROPER athletes who are vegan. Scott Jurek is vegan. He doesn't seem to have any problems smashing out the miles and winning all the things.Rich Roll, ultrarunner and triathlete is vegan and other notable vegan Brits include Fiona Oakes, Sally Eastall and Jack Maitland. Doesn't seem to be holding this lot back at all.
  • I Learned To Cook. I had to learn to make food. Things were no longer as simple as chucking a bit of fish and some veg into the steamer. I went through a phase where I was eating curry for every meal. Actually it’s not a phase. I’m still doing this. It’s fucking awesome. 
  • Eating Less Crap. I didn't realise quite how much shit I ate until I couldn't eat it in January. I almost had a melt down when I realised that there would be crème eggs and no cheese. But then again they're not really top of the list when I think of things likely to improve my triathlon performance. However surprisingly I found out that most dark chocolate was vegan as were doritos, peanut butter, party rings, Fox’s custard, pringles, a lot of the Mr Kipling cakes, several of the haribo (phew!), bourbons and most importantly Aspalls Cider was also vegan. 
  • I Like Animals. And I don't just mean in a sizzling pan. I've always been a bit unsure why my cat dying was a tragedy to me but I was happily eating pigs, cows and sheep without a second thought. I've always avoided watching anything on intensive farming too as it's something I'd rather not know about. At least this month I was actually being the person I probably should be all the time. 
  • Tummy Friendly. I don’t get bloating. Yes I’m farting like a … I’m not quite sure what actually. But my family are appalled at the smell and I’ve become shameless at farting on the treadmill at the gym which means the snow really does need to hurry up and go away as the gym will be charging me for people leaving soon. It was interesting to have a flat tummy for the first time in years though even if that comes at a cost of trumping like a whoopee cushion. 


I kept the fact that I was doing Veganuary quiet as it was a personal challenge for me. Well .. between me and my sister anyway. It was interesting seeing the judgement from both sides - from the vegans who were calling people eating animal products ‘murderers’ and from the omnivores commenting on the vegan posts and getting quite affronted at people eschewing bacon and cheese. It made me see that it wasn’t just a diet choice, but a lifestyle and one that made people feel very strongly on both sides. 

However, what really shocked me was the in-fighting in some of the groups. People asking each other who was the ‘most vegan’ and telling others that they weren’t ‘proper’ vegans. As far as I could see, for whatever reasons people choose to follow a plant-based diet or lifestyle, we should be supporting each other, shouldn’t we? It’s all contributing to less animal deaths and promoting better health, isn’t it? I could see how vegans get given a bad name if this infighting is how they behave towards each other before even starting on people who eat meat.  

However, it was a positive experience for me. I learned how to cook some cracking curries, I cut out a lot of junk food for a month and I’ve discovered I have the ability to simultaneously clear a room and toot a tune with a fart. 

Winner, winner, lentil dinner.    

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Winter Kit Picks: Sweaty Hands, Warm Bums and Being Seen

I love winter in photos. Especially when I'm looking at the photos from a nice warm house or even better, in bed. But training in winter? Brrrrrrr. It's cold. There's ice. There's snow. And after eating the world at Christmas, I have to get out into that cold and buckle down with the training. 

But it's cold. It's just so cold. And the gyms are packed and treadmills are dire … so I have to take my training outside. In the cold. Did I mention the cold?

However one thing that helps is decent kit. And it can make the difference between a successful training session … and one that's not. 

I've added a few of my winter kit picks below. Pieces of kit that have helped me through this cold weather and have allowed me to concentrate on my training rather than have to worry about what I'm wearing. Be aware, that this post is weighted towards ASICS kit as tha's what I've been wearing for the majority of this winter. 


My top picks for Winter kit:

ASICS Basic Performance Gloves

I'm fussy about gloves. My hands are usually either too cold or too hot without a nice in-between and wearing one glove on one hand and no glove on the other hand doesn't appear to work. And makes me look as though I've sacrificed one to the long-run-toilet-gods.


Warm hands (pic by @carelduplessis)
However I've been using these gloves this winter and they've been decent. As they're lightweight, I get protection from the wind chill without getting the sweaty hands of a pognophile at the approach of Santa. 

A handy addition to them is the clip on each glove which attaches them together. This is  useful for me as I tend to leave a trail of kit wherever I go like breadcrumbs from Hansel and Gretel. And I'm more likely to notice a pair of gloves dropping out of a pocket then one glove. Although saying this I DID leave them on a bush the other day and ended up running an extra mile to go and retrieve them.




They've got smartphone tips which mean you can mess about with your phone without taking them off and and they're pretty nice to look at too, with reflective strips and coloured stripes. They're also a decent price for run kit, especially performance race kit. Can't balk at £15 for a pair of run gloves. 

Available here:



My 'I'm going on a bike ride and there will be cake' face


TUVIZO Reflective Belt

Just because I'm a runner it doesn't mean that ALL my kit is in retina-burning neon. Sorry. 

However wearing muted colours does make me a bit less visible, especially at this time of year. I find this belt handy as it means I don't need to pick my training kit around what time of day I'm heading out to train. As the neon is very bright and the reflective strips give me some extra visibility it's a great addition to my winter kit. I use it for both cycling and running and as it packs down small, it's an easy addition if you need to travel light. It's a couple of years old now but still nice and garish and there's no real signs of wear and tear despite being put through the wash multiple times. It's very adjustable and the clip is nice and big which saves me accidentally clipping my fingers which is something I do tend to do fairly regularly with everything else including handbags, utility belts and seatbelts. *sigh* 

Available here:



This *may* be 'I'm running after a curry' face

ASICS Beanie Graphics Hat

I don't tend to suit hats but I do wear them on the basis that they keep my ears warm and my hair out of the way. Lightweight and in a nice colour, this hat does both AND I can pretend I'm a gnome at the same time. Winning all round. Hand me that plastic fishing rod, will you?

Available here:




ASICS Windstopper Tights

I am loving these. They look like my normal comfy tights BUT THEY HAVE FLEECE INSIDE. Warm legs. Cannot recommend warm legs enough when the temperature is in single digits. Have been refusing to wear any other tights for long runs outdoors as who needs cold legs? Not me. 

Available here:




I haven't included any tops in this blog post as I've been mixing it up with the what I'm wearing on my top half depending on the session whereas the items I've mentioned above have been staples of pretty much every training I've done outside. 

However if you're interested I've been wearing mainly tech t-shirts with arm warmers (so I can remove them if I get too warm) with a wind proof jacket over the top. Socks have been mainly wool this winter as I detest having cold feet and I've got a range from multiple brands and places from Sports Direct to ASICS to Salomon. 

Happy training!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

ASICS FrontRunner UK: A Year of Smiles

So … ASICS FrontRunner applications have opened for 2018. 

It seems funny that it was only a year ago that I applied to be a FrontRunner because so much has happened in the team since. People who I'd previously only seen on social media or in the pages of running magazines have become firm friends. Team members have become parents for the first time. Races have been won … and lost. Course records broken and new PBs won.

It's been a year of smiles. 




And that's why ASICS FrontRunner is important to me. It's about smiles and about having fun and enjoying our sports. In the FrontRunner team we all share a passion for running – and socialising, but there's no comparison in times, goals or years of sports. It's all about the people. And about the love of a good run. And sometimes the stories of the bad runs. Because they're important too. 


"But these race instructions don't tell me how to ask for a beer in German"! 
We're a group of people with completely different backgrounds, different goals and different race distances and disciplines but we all share a love of running and movement and have a common goal which is to encourage others to participate too. 


Meeting the locals ...

Being the locals ... (at Holly's local parkrun)

Does this sound like something you'd enjoy? Then I'd recommend you to apply to be a FrontRunner. It's been such a positive experience for me. New friends made, new sports tried (SUP rugby anyone?) and some amazing memories. Not forgetting Pete dressed up as a banana in Germany trying to win a 5k … or Marcus pole dancing … or Becca and Corey warming up my feet with a hairdryer after a cold run in Bath! 
ANOTHER costume, Pete??

Fancy some new friends? Some AMAZING friends? Who also like running (it's totally a win/win, right??) And some AMAZING kit? 


Becca: "So we just have to hold hands and cross the line together?"
Marcus: *practises sprint start*

Apply HERE  

... And don't forget your smiley photo!  

Sunday, 31 December 2017

7 Reasons Why Running Is Better Than Cycling

1. The cleaning. Dear God … ALL THE CLEANING!!
Run: You go for a run, you chuck your dirty kit in the washing machine, you chuck the dirty you in the shower.
Bike: They take AGES to clean. And there's always a bit you've missed. And then you still have to clean yourself. Only solution is to put BOTH of you in the shower. And then you still have to put oil on the important bits. 




2. Squeak! Excuse me!
Run: Irritating noise. Oh it's my arse. Easy to sort. Avoid high fibre & caffeine before run.
Bike: Irritating noise. Not easy to sort. There is ALWAYS an irritating noise. You might have cleaned, oiled and tightened every screw. But there's always a noise. And you can never locate it. And it never does it when you're in the bike shop. Disclaimer: it might still be my arse.  

3. Aeroplane arms make EVERYTHING better. Except cycling. 
Run: Aeroplane arms down the hills and around the corners.
Bike: Aeroplane arms. Splat. Extricate bike and gravel from flesh.

4. New kit day … oh. 
Run: You always want another pair of trainers. Ok. £80.
Bike: You always want another bike. Not ok. £1000 … at least. 

5. The Rules. 
Run: The rules are don't snot rocket at another runner. Don't run into them. Share snacks.
Bike: It's Bike Club. You don't talk about the rules but are expected to know them. Sleeves are mandatory. Tan lines must be strictly adhered to and be razor edged. Kit should match bike. What?

6. It has 2 wheels and some of those round things. You know. Pedals. Well, they GO round, don't they?
Run: Jargon. There's a bit but it's mainly about pacing and splits. Preferably gap between snacks and banana. 
Bike: Jargon. What is a gearset?  A crank? Seriously just call it a cog and a pedal. But not to me. I have no interest and no technical knowledge and will immediately say something like “Pedals? Yes I have those.” Before inwardly groaning and receiving either a (wo)mansplain or a patronising look. Probably both. 




7. Targets on 2 wheels
Run: Cars dislike runners. But at least there's usually a pavement you can run on or handy hedge you can leap into.
Bike: Car drivers REALLY don't like cyclists and as soon as they see cyclists cycling 2 abreast immediately lose their shit and start behaving as though they don't have control of a dangerous 2-tonne piece of metal. Seriously pensioners and Ocado lorries. Sort it out. 

And this is precisely why running is better than cycling. If you disagree, you might enjoy 6 Reasons Why Cycling is Better Than Running ... 

On the 12th Day of Christmas ...

On the 12th day of Christmas my Tri coach gave to me:

12 Hills a-sprinting
11 progressive swim sets
10 Laps of drowning 
9 days French Tri Camp Training 
8 miles of tempo
7 sportives suffering
















6 time trials puking 
5 single arms drillsssss …..
4 mile reps
3 turbo seasons
2 loooong swims 
And the potential to qualify for GB ...







Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Run Traitor: 6 Reasons Why Cycling is Better Than Running ...

Recently I've become a bit of a traitor. Running, always my first love has been shunned in favour of my bike. And in Winter too. No … I don't know why either. But here are a few of my guesses ...


1. Cake Vs No Cake
When I run, I just go for a run. I run around. Often in circles, sometimes out and back but I rarely have an end destination. When I go for a bike ride I go somewhere. Usually to a cake shop. Which is a bloody good incentive. Cake is one of my strongest motivators.

Or sometimes it's ice cream ...

2. Have a nice sit down, love
When I'm cycling I can kid myself that I'm actually having a nice sit down. Yes. I know I'm going up a hill and my quads are screaming at me but I'm sitting down. It's practically a rest, right?


3. I can stop having to do it downhills
When you go for a run you have to keep going or you stop. Or fall over. On my bike I can have a nice rest going down the hills. While shouting “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Which helps.


4. Strava
While I'm not a bitch for Strava *cough*, when I go for a run I might cover 6 or 7 segments. On a bike ride, especially in an area I haven't cycled in before I'm picking up 40 or 50 new shiny little cups. Yes they're not real. And yes they're only because I haven't cycled that route before, but I like shiny things. I'm basically a cycling magpie. Even for 'virtual' bling.

Nope. Totally not EXTREMELY envious of Annette's new bike *cough*


5. Wheely good gossip
Cycling is more sociable than running. I don't know whether it's because the suggestion of cake attracts more people to bike rides than a run, but cycling seem to be made for groups. I tend to run on my own but bike rides – it's basically an excuse for a massive group chat and a stop at a farm shop for a coffee *cough* cake *cough*. Also it's a good excuse for eyeing up your friend's new bike and cycling kit and wondering which child / pet / family heirloom you can sell for a bit more cash to spend on new bike / new bike kit. 

My beauty. Only had to sell 2 children and a cat to afford her ...

6. Cake
Did I mention the cake?

Earning those pudding miles
They all sound like pretty valid reasons to me. I'm certainly not stopping running but I definitely think there's a place for more cake stops in my long runs. 

New run group: Who's up for 20 miles and 3 cakes? 

Monday, 6 November 2017

ASICS RoadHawk FF Review: Better for speedwork than marathons ...

If you've seen any of my recent running photos it'll come as no surprise to you that I like the ASICS Roadhawk FF shoes. 




I received a pair from ASICS when I went to one of their events (BENEFITS!!! WOOO!) but quite frankly I wasn't too sure about when I would actually wear them. I'm a long distance runner, right? Unless there are multiple aid (edit: cake) stations, lots of miles of rolling trails and some nice hills to plan my strategy on (edit: walk up) then I'm not really that interested.

But when you've got a pair of shoes that look like trainers, perform like trainers but feel like slippers, then it's a whole different story. 

I planned to be sensible and wear them only for events less than 10k on roads or club speed sessions. Use them for how they were intended, right?




And yet here I am dressed as a Ghostbuster at Bacchus Marathon in the Roadhawk FF shoes. But at least I was a Ghostbuster with comfortable feet. My friends laughed at me when I told them I was doing a trail race in road shoes, specifically lightweight racing shoes … but who was laughing when I was first to the wine and the sweets at the marathon aid station? That would be me. Dressed as a Ghostbuster and eating all the sweets.

The shoes are designed for neutral pronation road runners and the tongue is attached to the interior of the shoe with a sockliner which means you don't have to wear socks with them. I still do, however as am one of those paranoid triathletes who is convinced her toes will fall off if she doesn't wear socks at all times. However that probably says more about me and my feet than about the shoes. 

They are however, super comfy and I'm yet to get a blister with them unlike my road shoes which took about 35 miles before they were truly comfortable. Another benefit is that they're very light. I really do have no excuse for falling into my go-to ultra runners shuffle with these on my feet as they weigh 190g which is the same as:


  • Almost 4 mini jars of coffee (camping size)
or
  • A bottle and a bit of soy sauce
or
  • Half a jar of chocolate spread
or
  • 2 tins of tuna (responsibility sourced of course)

I had quite a lot of fun running around the kitchen trying to find things the same weight as the trainers but needless to say, these are LIGHT shoes with the Flytefoam midsole weighing 55% less than the industry standard foam used in running shoes.


Flying over the finish line in the Roadhawk FF

I really like these shoes and I've run quite a few miles in them, however despite me having no ill-effects (apart from sugar overdose from all the checkpoints during the marathon) I probably wouldn't recommend you run a marathon in them but I highly recommend them for speedwork. I use them for all of my running club interval sessions and speedwork and can't really fault them. 


 (Photo from instagram of @marathonmarcus. Photo taken by @teddymorellec)

Only thing I'd offer guidance in is to try them first if you've got very narrow feet. I've got wide feet and they fit perfectly so there might be some movement if you've got a more delicate bone structure as opposed to my flipper-style feet.

Speedwork or a trail drinking marathon ... either way they worked for me! 


ASICS gave me the trainers but didn't request that I review them. As usually I've said exactly what I thought (bouncy, comfy and feel like slippers) and took no payment (not even in creme eggs). 

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Autumn Wolfrun: Unmentionable Stuff in My Hair & Why Fake Nails are an OCR MUST

So this Autumn I was to take part in The Wolf Run. I’d like to clarify that this doesn’t involve being chased by actual wolves … I’m not quite that desperate to improve my 10k PB. Yet. Or to end my days being savaged like the Mum out of Cujo. If I’m to end my days dribbling and crying, I’d to prefer it to be from copious amounts of alcohol and a really sad book, not a ravenous canine.



W.O.L.F actually stands for Woods, Obstacles, Lakes & Fields and the Wolf Run is designed to simulate some of the obstacles that you’d meet in the wild, running as a wolf. Although not all … I haven’t yet seen a wolf on a slide. Although should anyone have any handy YouTube clips …?

Registration was as slick as the Fonz’s hair. There were lots of extremely enthusiastic marshals available to help in the large tent and it was easy to pick up a waiver form and get it signed ready to collect my registration pack. Unfortunately my morning handwriting wasn't up to scratch so I did have to decipher what appeared to be particularly badly formed runes. I’m just not a morning person.


Luckily I’d not even had to drive myself as my husband had been put in the position of Chief Supporter. Which sounds very grand but basically involves standing in the (usually) cold, being berated for taking sub-par photos and being taxi. So not even a pint at the end. I probably should make him a badge or a hat or something. 




Pack picked up, number pinned on and portaloo visited and sharpie applied to my head branding me with my race number all done. I love having a bit of time before a race starts - not an awful lot worse than having to rush on race morning. As it was a warm morning I even got a bit of late-season sun basking done … and spotted one of my friends from work in LONDON who was marshalling the race. I can never get over what a small world the running one actually is. *Waves at Sophie*

Decided that pre-race relaxing just isn’t the same without needing a wee most of the way around the run and paid £2 for the privilege of some murky black water masquerading as coffee. I was quite happy with this until I spotted the sign on the stall next door offering coffee for £1 … gutted. I could have needed a wee TWICE as desperately while running as could have had TWO cups …

The Wolf Run is a sociable run, which puts a lot of emphasis on teamwork and at the start of each of the waves of their events, they run an extremely enthusiastic warmup. The comperes shout if you’re not trying hard enough and basically get everyone doing a 5 minute equivalent of HIIT. Mainly commando crawling, high knees and bear crawls which basically involved sticking your butt in the air and crawling. Like a cat getting it’s back scratched. But with more mud, grass and lycra.

I was exhausted before we started.

However, that didn’t mean I didn’t get caught up in the start line enthusiasm and was off like a shot like the rest of my fellow lunatics. Usually I’m pretty strict with my pacing. I know what distance I’m running, what pace I’m aiming for and where my heart rate should be. Wolf run pace? No idea. Whatever feels like a good idea at the time. And I’m not sure I HAVE a target heart rate for rope climbing, pond jumping or bog wading. Except for avoiding flatline I was happy to be moving forward.

I did discover an unexpected talent. Turns out I can climb ropes like a monkey. Not sure when I would be using this skill in the future now that I’ve grown out of primary school and gym classes but should I ever need to escape from something that can’t climb ropes (worms? hippos?) and there should be a rope handy … then I’m the girl who will be escaping THAT imaginary predator. 

However I was RUBBISH at the pipes. These were slick plastic pipes and I JUST fitted. There was no room to commando crawl or use my legs so I had to drag myself along with my arms and shoulders. It was hard work and I was exhausted at end. You remember that bit in Ace Ventura where he crawls out of the robot rhino’s arse? It was like that. And in case you haven’t seen the film, there’s a recommendation right there. It was how I imagine being born like … but without the drugs. And while wearing lycra.

I thoroughly enjoyed the submerged tunnels and discovered I had a rather unfair advantage. I like having nice nails but due to all the sports I do they need to be practically bulletproof and not chip so I go to a nail place where they make them as Wolverine-like as possible. My secret advantage was being able to dig my nails into the mud and muck at the bottom of the tunnel and drag myself along like a zombie but with better nails. It was surprisingly speedy and I overtook the lad I’d been leapfrogging with on the last few obstacles. He soon caught up again but I noticed that HIS nails weren’t wolverine-esque so should there be another muddy tunnel, bets were on me.




Ended up having a chatter and it turned out that only a few years previously, my new running buddy, Anton been a very overweight man. You’d never guess with the way he was running now but he’d turned his fitness around and was now smashing out obstacle runs like a pro! Inspiring stuff!

I’m obviously the perfect height … *cough*. Ok short. I’m short. And I did find that being vertically-challenged makes some of the obstacles tougher. There are some felled trees and while the lads with long legs and big strides made short work of these, it was almost faster for me to crawl underneath them than to go over them. However, I would have the last laugh as should I trip I wouldn’t have far to fall.

I do find the bog and pond wades tough work. While I enjoy doing these, I lose a lot of time in the field. On the lad, the water was around their knees and they could raise their feet out of the water. For me - the water was around my thighs. However, being lighter on the muddy bog sections if I could get enough speed up beforehand I could pretty much run across the top if the mud was solid enough. Not quite Legolas on the snow, more like Bog Monster in the Marsh but it gave me an advantage. 

There are quite a lot of jumps in the Wolf Run. Lots of fun and a bit of gamble especially as you never quite knew how deep they were! On one of the sections, I should have spotted the mischievous look on the marshal’s face before I leapt in … to 6 inches of muddy water. And promptly stuck fast in the thick mud at the bottom. I was loathe to leave my new and rather striking ASICS Gel Fuji Trabuco 5s in the bog so I struggled and wallowed until I could finally pull my feet free and drag myself out of the bog. 



I also learned a new trick. Seeing a few people early on in the race commando rolling under the cargo nets, I gave it a try. It was surprisingly fast and effective! Much quicker than clambering over or crawling under them however I wasn’t sure that the vertigo immediately afterwards took away from the benefit as I probably wasted time bouncing off the trees that I could have spent crawling and running. 

While the Wolf Run is totally not a race the marshals were telling me I was the 2nd placed lady in the event. At this stage of unfitness I was TOTALLY keeping that!

There’s an open water swim in the event which I was looking forward to after all the triathlon training of the last couple of years, however despite being confident in the water, I had completely underestimated quite how tough swimming in trainers and full running kit is. I did thoroughly enjoy it however and even did a bit of backstroke to get the benefit of the sunshine! Plus it washed off some of the more fragrant mud which appeared to have been kindly donated by some local cows with dreadfully runny tummies. 

While I enjoy ALL of the obstacles at the Wolf Run (even the giving-birth-simulating-pipes), the absolute highlight has to be the MASSIVE WATER SLIDE! I don’t know how long it is as I spend my whole time on it shouting “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”  but it does seem to reach from the top of a very long field all the way down to the bottom. At least 30 seconds of “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” anyway. It puts any park waterslide to shame. Plus as I was in the first wave there was no queue to get on it so I could leap up the steps and taking a run up to get a better launch at it! I was airborne for about the first 10 metres. TOTALLY worth it!



I’m not quite sure why I look quite so serious on it. Maybe I’m concentrating on “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” rather than weeeeeeeeeeeee after those cups of coffee. Or more likely calculating where my next snack is coming from.

After this section, it seemed only a very short run to the end. There were plenty more obstacles than I’ve mentioned (did I mention the Monkey Bars? The Nutcracker? The massive A-Frame Cargo nets?) but who am I to spoil the surprise for you? It would be like telling you the end of a good book, right?


Running up though the last half a mile, you can hear the crowd and the announcer and it adds an additional adrenaline boost. Your legs are tired, you’re covered in rather fragrant mud and there’s something unmentionable in your hair … but there’s something very special about The Wolf Run. You climb the last A-Frame, swinging your legs over the 25-odd foot high top bar and slide down the other side and run as fast as you can towards the inflatable finish arch you can just see the top of over the last hillock. You climb the last hillock … and there in front of you is a massive bog full of filthy mud.

So you do a star jump. As is perfectly normal at the end of a race, right?




Thanks Wolf Run. Loved it. I’ll be back.


The Wolf Run very kindly offered me a free spot if I wrote a blog about it. As usually I wrote exactly what I thought of it (lots of mud, lots of obstacles and cider!!) and I took no payment for this post.

The Wolf Run Part 1 - A (Long-Suffering) Supporters Tale

(This is written entirely by my husband ...)

It had just gone 8am and we were in the car ready to go. In MY car as Sarah's car battery had given up the ghost the weekend before.

Sarah started at 10am and we had a whole 25 minutes drive ahead of us. In my opinion, leaving 2 hours for this journey didn't make a whole lot of sense but then again opinions are like assholes; everyone has one.



We reached the site about at about 8.30am (before registration had even opened) and Sarah went straight to the portaloos. It had been a good while since Sarah's last running event and so she had clearly been missing the aroma of a temporary plastic toilet. Obviously one trip was not enough for her to get her fix as she visited 2 more times within the next hour. Next she would be jumping behind hedges, toilet paper in hand, just for nostalgic reasons.  

After registration Sarah took to preparing herself and her kit for the challenge ahead. This included using 6 safety pins to secure her number to her top and the acquirement of some out of date Cliff Bars (linked to toilet trips?).


Free food!!!

Now ready and armed with coffee we ensured enough 'before' pictures were taken. I am not known for my ability to take a good photo so have learned that I need to be taking at least ten shots in each pose to ensure a usable one is created.

One of the benefits of being onsite early is having the opportunity to observe the other runners. I love looking at competitors at events like the Wolf Run as there is such a wonderful diversity of people. From those that are typical runners (skinny, hungry looking, club vests ...), to the gym rats who have entered because they want to try something that's described as an 'extreme' event, through to the people who are nervously toeing the line for their first event and already dressed in the event's t-shirt. These kind of events are not judged on speed but on ability to complete and capacity to enjoy. 

One lady in particular stood out. Clearly in the 'runner' category and taking the event very seriously (stretching and stuff) with a very focused look on her face (or possibly needing a poo but not interested in visiting the portaloo). I though that if she isn't good she's going to look silly.

Eventually Sarah was called up for the official warm up and the start was at T minus 10 minutes. After a few minutes of shouting from the 'motivators' and some running and crawling around in circles: actually this was a more useful warm up than I make it sound but it was still making me dizzy. 

And then they were off.

Obviously I couldn't watch Sarah around the course but it was easy to imagine how she was running. Fake nonchalance with a big smile on her face. That is to say, pretending she wasn't competitive while picking off runner after runner and loving every minute of it. I sometimes wonder how far Sarah's drive would take her. Any given situation could turn into a example of a popular adult card game – 'Sarah against Humanity': “While running an obstacle course Sarah would...”.



While waiting for her I spied a couple of friends who were aiming for the title of Alpha Wolf – Marina and Aurian. As we caught up and talked about next years plans around running events Marina pulled a 'Sarah' by visiting the portaloos twice; she had obviously missed the aroma too.

Their starting wave was about 90 minutes after Sarah's kick off time and had suggested meeting up with Sarah after she had finished but before they started. Sarah had pooh-poohed this idea stating she would take closer to 2 hours to finish the course. Having completed the run a couple of years earlier in just over 1 hour she was fooling no one and we were keeping an eye out from the 60 minute mark. It was not long after his that the first lady came through to tackle the last obstacle and finish. It was the focused, fully prepared, possibly constipated lady we had seen before the the race had started, she definitely wasn't looking silly!




It was only about 5 minutes later than Sarah came into sight on the last straight. 2nd woman! As I said competitiveness masked by a pretence of blasé. She had picked up a running buddy and they had clearly been pushing each other in that friendly 'you're not going to beat me' kind of way. Sarah has always been fantastic at this – chatting to everyone and picking up buddies during every race she enters. (Sometimes she doesn't even drop them with a mile to go in pursuit of a good time or place!).

As the two of them climbed over the last obstacle it looked like that Sarah wasn't keen to fly off and beat her companion ... while at the same time not wanting to be beaten by a last minute sprint by her buddy. 

She cleverly overcame this by taking her time composing herself for the final leap into the watery mud that signified the end of the course ensuring the best race picture possible, not taking the inconsiderate 'win', while also maintaining her 'I could have beaten you if I wanted to' position. 




Having finished she made sure the finish line marshall received a muddy hug. Then having shown off the mud she was wearing to me, she made sure I also received a sopping wet hug.  


A pint of cider for her (I was taxi driver today!) and a few quick hugs for Aurian and Marina before they set off rounded off her event. And judging by her grin and the amount of mud she was wearing it had been a good one!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

KARKOA: The bag that does 7,000 miles & ALL the snacks

As I was dashing to the gym the other day, juggling phone and kit, I received an email from Karkoa asking me if I'd review one of their sports and lifestyle bags. I have to admit, I thought “What relevance does a lifestyle bag have to me?”


Then I looked down at the bike shoes I was clutching in one hand and the Tesco carrier bag containing my towel, drinks bottle and hoody in my other hand and realised that actually a decent bag might really come in handy. So I shot them back an email saying “Yes please.”






But how do you test a bag ... apart from filling it up with kit?

It was a good time for a bag to arrive especially as I was back to being a student for 6 months again (training for a new job so I could avoid the instant noodle eating, partying until the wee hours and getting lots of piercings) as well as trying to juggle family life and triathlon training. This would involve long hours on a train at the mercy of Network Rail and London Underground during which I'd be carrying notebooks, textbooks, folders, snacks (Of COURSE – I haven't TOTALLY changed), gym and triathlon kit, towels, drinks bottles, uniform and assorted makeup, shoe polish, pens and tissues. Plus my usual assortment of painkillers, hayfever tablets, plasters, safety pins and crayons.


Just SOME of the detritus I carry around daily ... and this is BEFORE I've packed my A4 folders and laptop!

So the bag had a BIG job to do.

Luckily, although on the outside it appeared to be the size of a normal rucksack, inside it had positively TARDIS-like proportions. And just when I thought I'd investigated all the pockets ... there were more. And more. I love a good pocket and this had plenty of good pockets. 




One of the most handy was the small one at the very top which was just big enough for keys, phone and bank and travel cards. And because it was right at the top of the bag, it was in a position which would make it very awkward for anyone trying to stealthily undo it and take out the contents. Perfect for public transport. 





However, that was only my SECOND favourite pocket as my very favourite one was the snack bag. Yes – it comes with a snack bag. What can I say. It's like these bag-designers have me sussed. My only disappointment was that it didn't come pre-filled with snacks … but can't have it all, right? This bag came in extremely handy as anyone who knows me, knows I like my snacks but what I hadn't taken into consideration was that rush hour on the tube in London gets very hot … my chocolate melted and covered all my other food … but as it was in the snack bag, it stayed in here as it is waterproof.

I totally didn't STILL eat the snacks. Honest. *hic*




There's also a padded pocket for your laptop, plus room for the wires and cables and enough room for a large A4 folder in the main pocket. There's a roomy pocket on the front which the snack bag fits into, a laundry bag(!!) AND a waterproof pocket on the bottom of the bag for gym kit. Plus a circular side pocket for a drinks bottle.




And yes … ALL of this stuff fits in together. Which quite frankly is a minor miracle.

The bag is also a really good looking bag too. I'm not ALL about the aesthetics, for me if a piece of kit does the job that's the main thing but it was lovely to have something that did a good job AND looked great. Plus I had compliment after compliment about it.

However, what really matters is NOT what a piece of equipment looks like when it's brand new, but what it looks like when it's fully packed and has been used for a few months. I have a much loved piece of hand luggage (of a different brand) which I adored when I bought it, but which looks like a sack of potatoes when fully packed.

So I decided to put the Karkoa bag through its paces.

It has so far done:


  • 3,960 miles with Network Rail …
  • 2,288 on the tube …
  • Approximately 1000 miles in the boot of the car ...
  • Multiple gym visits where it's been shoved in a locker and filled with damp kit ...
  • 18 weeks on the floor of a classroom, under a desk, on the floor, in a locker ...
  • Several evenings under the tables in a bar and on one memorable evening in the middle of a dance floor being danced around where there wasn't a cloakroom but we WERE NOT MISSING THAT DANCE!
  • And even to my horror it had a cup of coffee knocked over and into it by a friend, who I've 
  • still not entirely forgiven ...


So how does it look after all of this?

EXACTLY THE SAME!

I thought the bag was quite pricey at £65 ish for a rucksack / gym bag but after the abuse it's inadvertently taken by being my go-to bag for the last 6 months, it has come out the other side still looking marvellous. There's no damage at all to the exterior, the stitching has stayed perfect, the straps haven't worn in any way that I can see. The only thing I can see that this bag has travelled over 7,000 miles is that the writing on the snack bag has slightly worn away. And that's it.


Only area of apparent wear - ignore the chocolate stains *burp*

I'm not convinced that this sports bag will EVER wear out, in fact I suspect it may well outlive me the way it's looking at the moment, but if it does I wouldn't hesitate to buy another.

I'd like to find a downside to balance the review out a bit, but quite frankly the only one I can find is that the writing has rubbed off the snack bag. After 7,000 miles and quite a lot of snacks. Which is pretty bloody good.





This is a link to my exact bag here
www.karka.comhttp://karkoa.com/en/ 

And because I'm lovely here's a discount code if you wish to buy one that gives you 20% off the retail price: SARMYA20