Dublin Marathon Training: #runnersnotrunning

I have to say, I hate missing sessions on my training plan. For weeks 1 and 2, I ticked them all off – even on the hottest day of the year. But I’ve had a cold for the past week and a bit, so last week – and this week, so far – have seen exactly NO runs.

This is sooo frustrating, as I was just starting to see some real progress! To top it all off, I joined my local tri club last week, and was excited to get some cross-training in, too. However, a tickly cough and a stuffy head aren’t really that great to swim or run with. Boo.

But I wanted to get outside and do something, at least – so on Sunday, James and I decided to catch a train to London and spend the afternoon skating. It wasn’t quite the same as a long run, has to be said, but it was good fun and a pretty good workout – especially given how tense I was! (A master skater, I am not!)

We got the tube to Green Park, and walked across to Hyde Park from there. We passed lots of very tired looking cyclists (unfortunately, the Ride London ballot decided that this wasn’t my year – fingers crossed for next time!) and even saw one rider setting off for a run in his kit! As if 100 miles of cycling wasn’t enough for one day…

We sat on the curb, got our skates on … and then James had to help me up, because face-planting the pavement would have been a rubbish start 😀

Skating in Hyde Park

Step 1: skates on, and managed to stand up – with a little help!

The main goal was for me to learn to control my speed and be able to ‘t-stop’. Up until now, I’ve always just skated into poles/walls/the person I’m skating with, which has worked fine for me 😉 But James wasn’t standing for it, so I had some work to do…

Pokemon Hunting in Hyde Park

James made some new friends at a local PokeStop… 

After a wobbly start, I managed to pick up a little speed and could manoeuvre well enough to avoid the huge crowds of walkers, cyclists, skaters and runners. And then James realised that there were a ton of poke stops and lures about (and a gym), so he picked a route that would periodically take us past them all.

I was having enough trouble keeping myself upright, so my phone stayed in my bag for most of the afternoon. James, however, was multi-tasking like a boss, challenging gyms and catching pokemon and skating circles around me (literally). Sigh.

Skating in Hyde Park 2

The expert vs. the not-so-expert (but I didn’t fall over, at least!)

Hyde Park

Skating selfie! Whilst standing still and holding on to James for dear life…

But I’m pleased to say that I finally got the hang of the whole t-stop thing! I’m still not great at using it to slow myself down, and I’m still working out how to stop at short notice, but I’m hoping that after a few more practice sessions I’ll be able to join the ‘Sunday Stroll‘ – a weekly guided skate around London.

Always good to have something to aim for, right!? 😀

– – –

How did you spend your weekend? Are you training for anything at the moment?

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How running helped to save my Dad’s life

Some of you might have noticed that I’ve been a bit AWOL for the past few weeks.

On Sunday 10th May, my Dad collapsed at the Bideford 10k after suffering a major heart attack, resulting in cardiac arrest.

He survived.

The heart attack came as a complete shock to all of us. Anyone who knows my Dad can tell you that he’s healthy; he eats well; he storms through hilly coastal walks and can handle even the toughest hikes across Exmoor without batting an eyelid; he’s a great runner (his marathon and half marathon PBs are better than mine!) and he cycles to and from the station for work every day. He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink much, doesn’t eat takeaways or sit in front of the TV for hours, or any of those other unhealthy clichés.

Unfortunately, it turns out that he suffered from undiagnosed heart disease, and probably had done for decades. The symptoms are easy to brush off – feeling tired and achey, a bit of indigestion and some chest pain, breathlessness. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ve just had a few hard weeks at work, are staying up too late, or training too hard. Some even blame age – though at 56, my Dad’s certainly not old.

When my Dad collapsed, the first person on the scene was another runner, who began CPR. It was a second runner who took over the CPR, which gave the paramedics time to get to my Dad with a defibrillator to restart his heart. Bideford 10k is a small, club-run, low-key event, but the fantastic organisation on the day and the actions of the runners, marshals, and event organisers meant that my Dad was able to be transferred to the Devon Air Ambulance helicopter and stabilized enough to be taken to hospital.

The doctors told us that the reason he remained stable and handled the surgery so well is because he’s been fit and healthy for a number of years now – and that’s largely thanks to his decision to start running! The running caused him to rethink his diet, and the training helped to strengthen his heart, despite the damage having been done decades before.

The fact that the attack happened at Bideford 10k meant he was able to get the medical attention he needed at the time. Amazingly, the runner who began the CPR just happened to be a GP – and the second runner just happened to have completed an advanced first aid course the week before! Talk about amazing coincidences.

I’ll be forever grateful to that race, and to those runners, as they kept him alive long enough for the ambulance to get to him.

The air ambulance took him straight from Bideford to Exeter hospital. From there, he was then transferred to London where he underwent a triple bypass operation, and thanks to all this he is now at home and recovering well.

Without the air ambulance, he might not have made it this far. It was their incredibly fast response (they were already waiting for him by the time the ambulance got him back into town) that meant he was able to be stabilised quickly enough and transferred to hospital before any lasting damage was done.

I was amazed to learn that the Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT) only have 2 helicopters for the huge area they cover – and scarily, the first was already out on call when my Dad collapsed.

DAAT is a recognised charity, and needs to raise a huge £4.5 million every year just to keep their service going. They also need to raise an additional £1 million to meet their maintenance and repair costs, and to extend their operating hours. Without our help, they can’t do their job – and that job is essential. You can find out more about their service here.

Whilst we’ve tracked down the runners and marshals and race organisers to express our thanks for what they did, it’s hard to know how to really thank someone for saving the life of a loved one. I mean, what on earth can you possibly offer to repay something that big?

Whilst I’m still trying to answer that, what I can do in the meantime is support the DAAT charity so that they can keep their amazing service going. But I can’t do that alone!

I’m going to be cycling the Prudential Ride 100 (yep, that’s 100 MILES) in August to raise money for the Devon Air Ambulance, and I would be so grateful if you could spare even a few pennies. Donations can be made either online or by text:

Online, via my JustGiving page: JustGiving – Cycling 100 miles for the DAAT
By texting PTLA58 and your donation amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5, or £10) to 70070

I just want to end this by saying a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to the DAAT, the Bideford 10k runners, marshals and organisers, the staff at Exeter and Hammersmith hospitals and all of the other wonderful people that have helped and supported us over the last few weeks. We couldn’t have got through this without you.

I love you, Dad.

– – –

There are some brilliant resources on the British Heart Foundation website on risk factors and how to keep your heart healthy: www.bhf.org.uk.

Know the warning signs: How healthy is your heart?

What not to do during a skydive

Apologies for the lack of updates – I’ve been seriously slacking on the running front. But whilst I haven’t been running a whole lot, there are a few other bits and pieces that have kept me busy!

A couple of weeks ago, I headed up to the North London Skydiving Centre (which should be renamed ‘really, really far north of London’ – it’s over an hour from the M25, in Cambridgeshire!) to do a tandem skydive.

First off, it’s true what they say – skydiving is an all-day event, as they can’t guarantee when, or even if you’ll jump; it all depends on the weather. Being England, the weather sucks, so we just had to hope for the best.

The morning started off foggy and cold, with seemingly no hope of clear skies. We registered at 8am and went through our training, which was fairly brief – they demonstrated the correct skydiving position, and got us to practice; they showed us the equipment and explained how it all worked (we also learned that the tandem harnesses cost £10,000 each!), and they gave us an overview of what would happen during the jump. We then got our drop number (‘drop’ being the group you head up with – a bit of a disconcerting word choice!) before grabbing some coffee and finding a comfy spot to wait it out.

We were drop 4, which meant we got to watch the earlier groups go. In theory, this was awesome; but to begin with, it really increased the nerves. When the first group were guided onto the plane, I almost got back in the car and headed home!

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But by the time they got back to the airfield, and told us all how incredible it was, the nerves began to turn to excitement. Due to cloud cover, it wasn’t until about 15h30 that our group was called over to get suited up; and by that point, we were more than ready to go. The instructors tried to put us at ease in the plane by playing charades and joking around – almost enough to distract us from what was coming! (Ok, not really).

It took nearly 15 minutes to get to the drop site, and then it was showtime. I was told to scoot backwards onto my instructor’s lap (um, hello!), and then we started shuffling forwards – I was third to go, and oh my days, watching the people ahead of me slide over the side and disappear out of sight within a second or two was unreal. But before I knew it, I was being told to lean my head back, tuck my legs under the side of the plane (!), and then we were out.

Have you ever been on one of those fairground rides that are basically a vertical drop? Imagine that, and multiply it by a few thousand. With skydiving, there’s no real way to gauge your speed (unless, yknow, you look at the equipment) – all you feel is the initial acceleration (like the fairground ride), before your speed levels out and you’re just… floating. Well, not floating, but it almost feels like you are.

If you’re interested in trying out a skydive, I’ll tell you now: shouting OHMYGOD at the photographer during the 30-second freefall won’t leave you with much of an opportunity for flattering photos. Unfortunately, nobody warned me about this before I jumped. So I’ll do you a favour. To discourage you from making the same mistake, here’s what it looks like (hint – it’s not good!):

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‘Oh …’

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‘My…’

omg3

‘God!!!’

To make things worse, my instructor looks like a total dude in every single photo. Like, ‘Oh what? We’re freefalling at over 120mph? I hadn’t noticed!’ Also, yes, that IS the plane I jumped out of in the corner of the last photo. Turns out that you can fall a pretty long way in 30 seconds without a parachute. This was probably helped by the fact that the initial freefall speed (before the drogue parachute was deployed) was closer to 150mph. Insane!

Luckily, I managed to snap out of it just before the main parachute was pulled – giving me just enough time for 2-3 smiley photos, to prove that I did in fact LOVE IT:

smile

Once the parachute was out, we had a good few minutes to enjoy the view. It would almost have been relaxing, had my instructor not piped up with ‘so, shall we try some spins?’ I mean, SPINS!? My first reaction was ‘HELL NO’, but it was actually really good fun. Each change in direction affected the g-force that you felt, so it seemed like we would speed up, pause, and speed up again. It’s actually really hard to describe – I guess you just have to experience it for yourself. (I seriously recommend it!!!)

Before I knew it, we were coming in to land (we were warned to tuck our legs up, as there was a risk of people breaking them if they didn’t – we were still travelling close to 20mph!) … And then it was over. Hugs and high fives all round – before I turned to the photographer and exclaimed, ‘I survived!!!

Note to self: Fine for the video, but again. Bad, bad photo.

finalThe instructors and other staff were all absolute legends. Despite the long wait, it was SO worth it, and I can’t wait to go back 😀

Skating in the sunshine

I’ve been fairly healthy the past few days. A friend introduced me to a new Android app – ‘My Fitness Pal’ – which calculates how many calories you should have each day to maintain/lose weight. You have to enter everything you eat, and all of the exercise you do, which makes it a great source of motivation for healthy eating as you instantly feel guilty if your calories go too high! Cycling to work is awesome though, because by the time I get to my desk, the cycle has cancelled out my breakfast! More snacks for me!

For the past few days I’ve been having low-fat vanilla yoghurt and sliced strawberries for breakfast. It’s light, tasty and low calorie – a brilliant combo!

yoghurt
I mean, I do love my porridge/toast, but if I have either of those, I inevitably add honey or peanut butter (to the porridge and toast respectively), which aren’t particularly forgiving on the calories/sugar front.

As a slight contrast, this has been a bit (!) of a burger weekend so far. Yesterday evening my boyfriend and I went out for dinner, and somehow I found myself with a reeeally tasty burger and mojito:

food00
Best combo ever – I’d forgotten how much I love a good mojito. Sooo much lime .. Yum!

Today, the two of us and a couple of friends decided to make the most of the glorious sunshine and headed into London, to skate in Hyde Park. With it being a) sunny and b) marathon weekend, there were tons of people about – and even more than usual because of an event called the ‘420’. I didn’t know anything about it, so was extremely confused when the guy behind the till at M&S mentioned he was heading to Hyde Park to smoke pot this afternoon, and was that why I was going, too?

I assumed he was already a little high, if I’m honest. But it turns out that it was a perfectly valid question – ‘420’, I learnt is the police code for pot smokers, and every April 20th (4/20) hundreds of people congregate in Hyde Park to smoke pot, listen to music and generally chill out. Unfortunately, this meant that every now and then a waft of pot smoke would drift past us, which was disgusting .. But the fun we had skating was definitely worth it!

I hadn’t actually skated since I was back in school, so I was a little rusty (read: wobbly and hazardous to pedestrians) at first:

skate1
But with a little help (ok, a lot) from my boyfriend and friends, I was skating along quite comfortably by the end. They tried to teach me to ‘t-stop’, but I didn’t quite master it – instead, I found a much better alternative: Stop moving my legs, and slowly roll towards whichever friend was closest, hoping they would either not notice me (the preferable option, as I was then able to grab their backpack and stop entirely) or catch me (which, to be fair, also made me stop moving .. when they actually agreed to catch me, that is).

.. I’m assuming this is why they took it upon themselves to actively teach me to stop in a variety of different ways that didn’t involve me rolling into inanimate objects or living things.

What can I say? I’m creative!

james01
And here’s the expert! (Though I clearly look more professional ..)

After nearly three hours of skating (I’m pleased to say I didn’t fall over once!), we headed to an American diner near Euston station, for American burgers and milkshakes. I caved and went for the cheeseburger, which was delicious! In true American style, the portions were really generous (awesome!) and they served my milkshake in the metal jug that they made it in, and gave me a glass on the side – I got 2 and a half servings!

Needless to say, I’ve not filled in today’s calorie count. Maybe I’ll start over with the app on Monday ..

I’m beginning to think I should probably squeeze in a run tomorrow.

Happy Easter!

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I decided to make the most of the long Easter weekend and venture up to London for the day (ok, we hopped on the fast train to Waterloo and got there in 35 minutes). We had originally planned to skate around Hyde Park, but as the forecast predicted rain for the afternoon (which never materialised, besides a light 30-second shower) the skate shop couldn’t let us rent any skates from them. Whilst my boyfriend has his own, short of buying a pair on the spot (I decided £140 was a bit steep for an impulse buy) skating was out for me!

We briefly considered renting a Boris Bike (the ugly Barclays bikes) but as we headed over to Hyde Park, the very light snow turned to heavy sleet, and we ducked into the Underground, instead.

We ended up in South Kensington, at the Natural History Museum. It was free to get in, and just big enough to spend the afternoon there, so we queued up. Luckily, it didn’t take too long to get in, despite the crowds of tourists – though it was quite busy once we got inside! After standing around in the cold, the first thing we did was head to the cafe for a hot drink – and were luckily enough to nab a table almost immediately. The drinks were really tasty, and given that we were at a tourist spot in central London, the prices were really reasonable!

museum

The Natural History Museum building is absolutely stunning!

The first area we checked out was the Blue Zone – i.e. loads of really awesome huuuge mammals, and skeletons of various ancestors (including a huge rhino-like mammal with two huge horns!) I was surprised at just how much there was to see, given it was free to get in. It took us quite a while to get round, but it worked out nicely as by the time we queued up to see the Dinosaurs Gallery, the waiting time had gone right down. We both agreed that this was the BEST bit:

dinosaurs

Dinosaur skeletons, fossils, and an animatronic T-Rex – awesome!

Of course, we couldn’t go home without taking a dinosaur with us – though this little guy wasn’t quite as fierce as the ones in the gallery!

trex

Teeny little cuddly T-Rex!

We stayed until closing, and then hopped back on the Underground and headed over to Oxford Circus and Carnaby Street. If you find yourself in the area, you have to check out Cha Cha Moon – they do the most amazing noodle dishes ever. This time, we started with prawn dumplings (sooo good) served with chilli and garlic sauce, and then I had the wonton soup. After the dumplings (which were pretty rich) the soup was quite light, and really hit the spot. The restaurant itself is really cool, with low atmospheric lighting and rows of wooden benches. Highly recommended!

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Dumplings and wonton soup at Cha Cha Moon

As for Easter, I’ve somehow found myself with no chocolate today !! (I know, something’s wrong with the world). Luckily, we picked up some M&S hot cross buns yesterday. We had apple and cinnamon ones last night, which have always been my favourite, but this year there’s a new flavour to try – Belgian chocolate and orange:

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A little taste of Easter!

They may not be Easter eggs, but they’ll do for now. I guess I’ll just have to eat extra chocolate tomorrow!

Happy Easter, everyone 🙂