March 30, 2013

Parkrun Cardiff - My 6th Parkrun!

This morning I woke up at 7:45 (on a SATURDAY) for another Cardiff Parkrun.  I felt pretty good going into it - but I hadn't run in about 2 weeks... (HOW DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?)

It was cold and not raining!  And the sun was out!  It was still shockingly frigid - especially for March - but I lined up and and took off my jacket and pretended to not notice that it was only 3 degrees.
When the group started to move I saw the guy who dropped me (Mr. Red Shirt) on my first ever parkrun after kilometer 1 and decided to follow him for a while.  We did the first k together and then I decided to move a bit quicker and got on the tail of a girl in pink. Mr. Red Shirt did pass me again on mile 3, but I'm pretty sure he was less than 20 seconds ahead of me by the end.

One of the things I like about Parkrun is that I can find people I think/wish I run like and follow them.  I used to find I was around people who I thought I should be faster than - now I'm around people I feel quite equally matched to. The other interesting thing I've noticed is that skinny girls don't alway run fast, and chunkier blokes don't always run slow.  Runners come in all shapes and sizes!

I felt pretty good through the course - I don't walk at all anymore, I just jog/run quicker and slower.  I wasn't too sure of my time at the end, I didn't do a final sprint because I really didn't think I had it in me.  When I got in the time checking line there were loads of other people, which either meant I was running faster or everyone else was running slower!

In the end I had a new Personal Best for a 5k - 28:39!

Hooray Personal Best!

March 28, 2013

Sleepy Week of Workouts - and a visit to the Vale Hotel & Spa Gym

This week I couldn't get back on my workout schedule.  Or I didn't get back on my workout schedule.

Either way I had a flipping sweet meal on Monday night with some good friends that I don't get to see enough.

On Tuesday I had to work in the evening.

On Wednesday I did go to the gym with another friend I don't get to see enough.  This time we used the super posh Vale Hotel:
The gym was excellent - loads of lovely machines!  I'm not usually a fan of weight machines (I think free weights are the future!) but my friend convinced me to try a set on the Adductor:
and on the Abductor:
We started with 35kg (I think) and did 10 reps.
Then 40kg and 10 more reps,
then 45 kg and 10 more reps.

In the beginning I thought it was going to be too easy, by the end I was squeezing with all my might!  I still feel it today.  I'm thinking about designing myself a machine circuit because I have a feeling machines are easier to do alone - I always feel a bit unmotivated to do free weights by myself.

We did a couple of pull ups and some other bar work, and then 5 minutes of stomach circuits with 45 seconds on and 15 seconds off of the following:

Side Crunches
Leg lifts
Hip lifts

Someday soon I'll to return to The Vale and use the steam room and sauna, and maybe even try a class! It's a really nice gym, just a shame it's so far from my house! 

March 26, 2013

Hotel Room Circuits - Easy Hotel Rooms Excercises!

I was lucky enough to watch someone design a circuit the other day, and after 10 minutes of it I was knackered! (That's british for tired, by the way...)  So here's how it goes...

Incredible Bodyweight Circuit!

1 minute Burpees

Then alternate 30 seconds on and 30 seconds rest for the following:

Side Crunches
Bicycle Crunches
Leg Lifts
Push ups
Seated Dips
Shoulder Bridge
Flutter Kick

Then stretch for 5 minutes!

Then repeat!

I love this circuit, I hope I'll do it again. I was mega-tired at my gym session after trying this - I could feel the pushups in my arms for sure.  30 seconds of pushups is a lot of pushups!

If you're looking for some more inspiration, The Greatist has a lovely set of 50 bodyweight exercises  perhaps you can design your own 10 minute circuit!

(And this workout is only 30 minutes - that's 2%!!)

March 24, 2013

South Wales Three Peaks Challenge - (with map and strava!)

On Saturday the Brewer Half and I "competed" in the South Wales Three Peaks Challenge.

The week before I received an email letting me know that the Gold route (the 20 mile 3 peaks route we were doing) was amended and would not cover the peaks due to poor weather.  

When we arrived we were informed that the gold route was canceled, and we would now do an amended bronze route, and the Skirrid was removed from the peaks. So it was a 2 peaks challenge now, except not to the peaks, so more like a walking challenge.

We set off anyways. It was snowing and about 2 degrees.  The start up The Blorange was steep and slippery, which is strange because I always thought the Blorange was flat and boring.
There was quite a steady stream of people, so navigating wasn't so difficult   We didn't go to the top but followed the checkpoints and other people, and eventually stopped for this photo.  You can see the punters behind us, punting around.  This walk was awesome for punting.
About 8 miles in we came across load of little sheeplings (or lambs as some people call them).  If I was a sheep I'd feel like I got a bum deal being born into loads of snow.  I thought sheep come in the spring, as far as I can tell it's still winter (stupid calendar, stupid weather).
This sheep was very excited to see me and seemed to like being photographed.  You didn't think the blog of a girl in Wales could exist without pictures of sheep did you?
We continued walking to our next check point but decided the modified route was not amazing, even though the weather was bad it was still called a 3 peaks trail, and going for a 12 mile hike only half way up 2 peaks felt a bit defeatist.  Also I'd told loads of people at work what I was doing and didn't want to come back with only 12 miles done!

So we headed up to the top of Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf is just under 2,000 feet tall and normally looks something like this:
When we got to the top it looked like this:
The wind was immense, the ice was thick and the snow was almost waist high in places.  I had to crawl  up the last bits.  It was one of the most extreme conditions I've been in - I couldn't see more than 10 feet ahead of me.  Crampons or an ice axe would have been very helpful, most of the time I spent trying not to slide around.

The ascent and descent added a good 2 hours onto the hike, and I can understand why the organizers had taken the peaks out of the challenge!  I don't normally agree with "safety measures" on organized events, but Mountain Rescue were 100% right in changing the checkpoints to lower locations!

Snow stayed on the ground until almsot the bottom of the mountain:
At the end we checked in with the race HQ, turned in our checkpoint cards, and were given lovely certificates to take home plus lots of lovely tea and biscuits!
Then we came home and stopped at Vegetarian Food Studio for a Cheese Dosa and a Thali - perfect post-hiking food to warm me up!
The hike was a lot of fun but a bit strange - it's not a race, and there's kind of a set route so it's not really a navigational challenge either.  I was disappointed not to do all 3 peaks but I'll probably return and do them all at a later date.  It was definitely challenging and I was fast asleep by 9:30, so all in all an excellent way to spend a Saturday!

Also, Brewer half and I ate a whole pack of Pepperidge Farm cookies and didn't even feel bad about it.
In case you're interested, here's the Strava from the Three Peaks Trail:

March 22, 2013

Getting Ready for the South Wales Three Peaks Challenge

Tomorrow is the first "event" that I've entered this year - the South Wales Three Peaks Challenge.

This is a 20 mile hike around Abergavenny, covering the Skirrid, the Blorange, and Sugarloaf.  I was going to do some training or walking or finish breaking in my hiking boots before this hike, but never mind, I did not. I was also going to re-waterproof my jacket... oops x2.

The weather is looking uninspiring at the moment - it's been raining for 48 hours straight but forecast is a bit better than what we've had:

I'm not really prepared for this in any way, but I did go to Tescos and found Pepperidge Farm Cookies!  
And I got sandwich materials, so I think that's pretty much all I need. 

They actually changed the route this year because of the bad weather, so it may not really go to all three peaks!  Which is a bit of a bummer, but it's still an effing long hike.

I'm in charge of waking the Brewer Half up and getting us to the start.  Brewer half is in charge of all navigating.

Brewer half has just realized we do not have a map, and is now driving to get one at 11:10pm on a Friday night.

I am in charge of waking up and getting to the start point.  I know we need to leave at 7:00am so alarm is set for 6:15am.  I am going to sleep at 11:15 on a friday, so as to have enough sleep for a good hike...

Demitri Martin has made my favorite quote about hiking:

Hiking is just walking where it's okay to pee.

I couldn't find that quote, but he's a funny guy, here's a clip!
Anyways, wish us luck internets!

March 21, 2013

Product Review: Montane Ladies Lite-speed Jacket

I arrived in the UK with a North Face waterproof jacket that I bought in the USA for $40.  I had a rough idea that North Face was a good brand, though I couldn't really tell you why.  The jacket had everything I was looking for: 1) it was waterproof and 2) it was red.

Since then my tastes have evolved, and one of my favorite pieces of clothing is my Montane Lite-Speed Jacket.

Montane Lite-Speed Jacket

I bought the Lite-speed jacket on sale for £30, and it's worth every penny.  It's perfect for riding as I never get too warm but it doesn't weight me down at all.  Why doesn't it weigh me down?  Because it's TINY!

I know using a promo photo is lame, but that is a seriously small jacket!  I take it road riding and mountain biking - it's impressively wind-proof and water resistant.  It won't keep you dry if it really starts raining, but that's not what a lite jacket is for.  The fact that it drops further in the back than the front makes it extra comfortable for road riding:

Before I had mud guards the back of this jacket took a lot of mud.  Easy to clean, easy to carry.  Possibly one of the most versatile jackets I own.   And there's even a pocket, though I've never figured out what it's for....

March 19, 2013

Cardio, Weights, and Inspirational Exercise quotes

Todays post is brought to you by the google search term "Inspirational Exercise Quotes"

It happens that I'm on camp (away with work) at the moment, which means I have a gym onsite and good food and all sorts of good things except not time.  But I did manage TWO sessions today, so quickly:

Morning Cardio
30 seconds on, 30 seconds recovery.  Alternating 11.5, 12, 12.5, and 15
Repeat 10 times

2,000 meters as fast as possible

3 minutes on 6, 2 minutes on 15, repeat for 20 minutes.

Here's a quote to keep you interested!

And I did a lovely session in the afternoon as well!

Afternoon Weights
Deadlift (20kg) x 15
Lunges (10kg) x 20
Squats (10kg) x 10

Clean and Press (15kg) x 10
Bent over row (15kg) x 10
Bicep Curls (10kg) x10

Dumbell Chest press (10kg each side) x 10
Press ups x 10
Tricep Dips x 10

Sit-ups x 15
leg lifts x 15
Plant 30 seconds

Repeat twice!

I also did a really awesome circuit today which a very talented sports doctor taught me, it was INCREDIBLE. and I will post it here for you soon.  Perfect for hotels, for places with no equipment, for kicking your own butt into shape with a stopwatch or kicking other peoples butts with a stopwatch!

March 18, 2013

2013 Races in South Wales (Triathlon/Duathlon/Running/Walking!)

Updated 24/3/2013

I'm going to try and keep a running list of what I want to enter, what I have entered, and what look amazing but will have to wait untill 2014...

Pontypool 10k - February 24, 2013

It's a 10k and it's in less than 4 weeks.  It would be silly for me to enter.  Then again, it might be good to time a 10k and then I can have something to look forward to with the half.  The Duathalons have 10k runs as part of them and I really never run more than 5k ... so something to think about maybe?  

This isn't a race but it looks quite fun!  I would probably chose the Gold route - A circular walk of 20 miles around the Blorange, Skirrid, and Sugar Loaf.  5000 feet of climbing in the gorgeous countryside of Abergavenny!  There's also a Platinum route, but it's 17 miles, more challenging, requires navigation, and it's not Circular.  I dislike things that are not circular! 

Entry Fee: £5  ENTERED - WISH ME LUCK!

ISCA Duathalon - April 7, 2013 

I'm getting more interested in duathalon.  Mostly because there are more of them, and I can't really do open-water swims until I get a wetsuit, and I can't get a wetsuit until I come to terms with the fact that OMG being athletic is SO EXPENSIVE.  But this Duathalon looks nice - it happens in Newport and consists of a 4.2km run, 16.35km bike ride, and 4.2 km run.  

Entry Fee: £26

The Vale is Lovely and this is a fairly short race: 3.5mi run / 16mi bike / 1.6mi run.  It's a local Race so not too far to travel, and would be nice to see how I do if I really push myself - I could aim for a good and/or competitive time instead of just a "finishing" time.   

Entry Fee: £35.35 (£29.95 if I join WelshTri)

Amman Valley Sprint Tri - April 21, 2013
Camarthen is a bit far - but a Sprint Tri seems a good reason to travel!  400m Swim, 16km bike, 5km run.  Sounds like a good morning!

Entry Fee: £35

Tour of Pembrokeshire - 27th April 2013

50, 75, or 100 miles.  The 100 mile route looks truly stunning, and truly leg destroying.  I would be inclined to chalenge myself for the 75, and both an challenge and incline it would be at 6758 feet of climbing.  There's 1000 feet of climbing between the 37th and 41st mile.  EEK

Entry Fee: £25

I did this race last year - Cardiff Tri is the group I infrequently train with.  When I join I'll have to marshall one event - not sure if I'll marshall this or the Cosmeston open water tri.  Still good to keep in mind, though soon I won't be novice anymore and I won't be able to do novice triathlons  (at least I think that's how it works).  400m swim / 16.1km bike / 4.6km run.  It would be great to compare my times this  year to last on the same course, see if there's any improvement (or transitions that take less than 3 minutes)

Entry Fee: £ ?

This would be very ambitious for me - it's a middle distance tri, meaning 1/2 mile of swimming, 28 mile bike ride, and 7 miles of running.  The running I already know will be terrible, but the bike ride has the following description:  28 miles in total. Most is on minor hilly roads with 2 major climbs and some lesser ones totalling about 3000ft of climb.  The fact that they used "hilly" and "major" and "lesser" all to describe 28 miles of cycling sounds... terrible.  I may hold out a bit on entering, this really would be a challenge.

Entry Fee: £37 (£32 if I join WelshTri)

Sadly I'm away with work that weekend - hope it goes well for all who entered!

The City of Bath Triathlon is both an Olympic Distance (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6 mile run) and a Sprint tri (750 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3 mile run).  Both are pool based, and it's one of the only pool based Olympic distance triathlons I've seen close to Cardiff.  Also, Bath is an amazing city.  I would be inclined to enter, though looking at the results it's highly probably I'll come in last.  I'm a little worried about the swim, and may have to trial myself to do a gym-based triathlon before I commit to entering.  There are only 100 people in the race, and the standard looks quite high.  Bath would be a great place to do a tri, so I'll definitely think about it!

Entry Fee: £43.70 (£36.30 for the sprint distance)

This was the first Triathalon I ever entered, I did the novice route in 2012.  I will definately be entering the full distance route this year.  The event is a 600 metre swim, 24k mountain bike, 6k run.  Last year I was mostly new to mountain biking, this year I'll get some practice in to really rip it up.  Afan is one of the most beautiful areas in South Wales and it's an awesome place to run a Tri.

Entry Fee: £37 ENTERED - WISH ME LUCK!

Kinetica Gower Triathlon - 10th August 2013

It's an open water triathlon, it's supposed to be awesome.  No list of South Wales Triathlons would be complete without mentioning it.  Sprint distance (750 m swim, 24 km bike, 5km run).  If I ever become a real triathlete who does real swimming (open water) this would be a great race for me to do.

Entry Fee: £42

Andy did this one last year, and it nearly killed him.  Then again, he did the on-road duathlon, so maybe I would find it easier off-road.  HAHA that's a lie.  Forrest of dean is lovely though, and the mountain biking is all very do-able, and I can do the same Duathlon the day after on-road for only an additional £15.  A good way to shock me into Half Marathon shape?

Entry Fee: £20 (£35 for both races?!)

Cardiff 10k - September 8th, 2013

A 10k would be  a good way to prepare for a 1/2 marathon!  But also, if I hate doing a 10k, I am not going to want to do a half marathon.  And I've already entered the half.  But I think a 10k would be fine, and this race always looks fun enough and with a good atmosphere.  I may wait and see if anyone's giving away their place right before the event instead of pre-registering...

Entry Fee: £24 (which seems steep for a 10K!)

Cardiff Half Marathon - October 6, 2013
Running is not really my thing, but I think a load of my friends are planning to sign up, and it would probably do me good to have a proper running race to look forward to.  I'm not sure what my goal time would be - somewhere less than 3 hours?  I'll have to do some proper training I think....

Entry Fee: £30  ENTERED!  WISH ME LUCK!

March 16, 2013

How I stay warm while cycling to work in freezing cold temperatures

This March has seen a cold snap in South Wales.  While today we have returned to heavy rain and 5 degree weather, last week saw -3 up to -12 with windchill. 

It was f*ing cold.

My cycle to work is 3 miles.  It takes about 3 miles for the body to adjust to being in the cold.  My housemate sometimes cycles 12 miles to work.  For him the first 3 miles are the warm-up, and then he's good to go.  For me, the first 3 miles are all I have, and I know I will freeze for 20 minutes if I don't layer up good.

So here's what I do!

Step 1 - Base layers

This is just a cheapie set from Go Outdoors.  I have a really nice Merino Wool set from Wiggle but they're so nice I save them for road riding

Step 2 - Fleece and ski socks

True fact - my Brewer Half got me ski socks for Christmas.  Though this may be the most laughable gift ever, I use those ski socks nearly every day for half the year.  And they're pink.  Though I teased him about it a lot, they're actually pretty awesome socks

Step 3 - Tracksuit bottoms, buff, arm and ear warmers!

Tracksuit bottoms keep the legs warm, buff keeps the neck warm!  I love the ear warmers from Wiggle!  The arm warmers are my own invention because I was once told that how warm the hands are is very affected by how warm the wrists are.  I use arm warmers to cover any gaps between hands and gloves.

Step 4 - Softshell and gloves

Now that I'm layered up it's time to go!  This awesome Montaine soft-shell is wind proof and water resistant.  I'm wearing my Outdoor Designs summit gloves which are wind and water proof.  

And then I cycle.  My fingers are still cold but everywhere else is fine, and by the time I get to work I'm at a good temperature.  If I cycled much farther I would be way too warm in all this kit, but for short cycles with lots of lights it's nice to be bundled up warm.

And sometimes, if I'm super freezing, I break out one of these grabber hand-warmers.  I don't know what they're made of, where they're from, or how they work, but they make heat like magic:
Hopefully all this will be of the past soon, as it's March now and summer is here!  So stay tuned for my post about cycling in the summer --- a lengthy review of the best waterproofs.

The original joke was about Wales!

March 13, 2013

La Crêperie de Sophie: Restaurant Review Cardiff

After working too many weekends I decided to have a Thursday in town to meet up with Lois - one of my best friends from Uni who has since moved up to North Wales.  We both love food and decided to become "Ladies who Lunch" for the day.  I recently got a tastecard trial and thought I would check out one of the restaurants on 2 for 1 offer.  I've heard nice things about La Crêperie de Sophie before - not to mention always seeing them at markets around Cardiff - so we decided to give the restaurant a try.

Located in the High Street Arcade, La Crêperie de Sophie looked like a take-away crêpe shop from the outside.  Walking in we were greeted by a wall of Nutella (YUM!) and the smell of cooking crêpes - I was hungry from the start.

Downstairs was an absolutely adorable seating area.  It was quite small but not very crowded at 3pm on a Thursday.  I would call the ambiance "relaxed" - I could imagine a crêpe restaurant could look overly romantic but they had the balance between the dim lights of romance and the chilled atmosphere of relaxation just right.

We both ordered crêpes.  I had the Paysan - delicious garlic mushrooms and herbs, cheddar cheese, red onions, and green leaves.  Lois ordered the Cocorico - Chicken Breast, Brie Cheese, Cranberry Sauce, green leaves and balsamic dressing.

That's a normal sized plate - the crêpe is just big!  Mine was deliciously cheesy - it had far more cheese than I expected but this was great because I love cheese.  I don't think I've had a savory crêpe before but it was spectacular - the flavors melded together well and you could definitely taste the herby mushrooms over the strong cheese.  The crêpe itself was nice and crisp - not greasy at all.  At first I worried if it would be enough food, but by the end I was stuffed.

Lois's chicken and brie was superb as well - I think the magic is in the cooking of the crêpe as I've never managed to make such a thin, well cooked and flavorsome crêpe at home.  I was happy to have my cheesy crêpe though, as there was a lot of chicken but not as much brie in the Cocorico.  However we each polished ours off and (sadly) did not have room for a desert crêpe.

I'm a total Crêperie de Sophie convert. The food was delicious, the ambiance was lovely, the staff were attentive and friendly.  I only wish they were open in the evenings -  I would love to have date night with the Brewer Half here. Unfortunately I don't get to go out for lunch very often.  With the tastecard (buy one get one free crêpe) the total came to under a tenner, a very affordable lunch.  Even without the tastecard all the crepes are around £5, which is great value for fantastic food.

They also have some exciting looking Crêpes and Cider nights coming up - perhaps the Brewer Half and I can have date night at La Creperie de Sophie soon!  

16 High Street
Cardiff CF10 1BB
029 2037 2352

March 10, 2013

Rest Days and Training Schedules - Sunday Burger Justifications

Alternative Title: advice for aspiring moderately poor athletes in South Wales, i.e. people aspiring to be moderately poor athletes, not moderately poor athletes aspiring to improve

When normal people have a lazy day, they say "I had a lazy day."

Three years ago, when I had a sunday in pyjamas, I called it a hangover day.

But now, as a moderately poor "athlete" I can call it a rest day.

Yes, my friend, I *had* to spend all day in pyjamas, and I *had* to eat peanut butter from the jar on a banana, and I certainly *had* to go out for a massive North Star beer and burger and chips for dinner!

Because, you see, today was my REST day!  I was not being lazy, I was RESTING. I was fixing my muscles and lactic acid and getting ready for the week ahead!

And when I had minstrels for desert, I was refueling! Carb-loading, see, so I could run more tomorrow.

Yes, this image says it all:

Being a moderately poor athlete has it's challenges, sometimes you just have to spend a whole Sunday doing basically nothing.  I made that sacrifice.... for you... for me... for the results.

Also, I have some very comfy fleece pyjamas.

March 9, 2013

Mountain Biking at Forest of Dean (Pedal a Bike Away - Trail Centre)

Today seven of us headed to Forest of Dean  for a bit of mountain biking.  The great thing about Forest of Dean is that they have a number of different tails for all abilities.  They have green trails and family trails and red trails and downhill trails.  It's one of the only places I know where the on site cafe has downhillers next to dads with toddler tandems next to middle effort bikers like me!

I went for the Verderer's Trail first - 7 miles of blue single-track.   It's not as difficult as Y Wal, partially because the climbing is easier and partially because the actual track is easy.  Then again, Y Wal is Red and Verderer's is Blue, so it should be easier.  Forest of Dean was described my one of my friends as "flat and boring" which it kind of is - until the descent.

The descent from Verderer's Trail is fun.  It's enjoyable and fast.  Nothing is thrown at you, everything flows smoothly, and every feature is fun - nice little bumps to keep you rolling, nice smooth burms to slow your speed, small drops that lead out to long gentle descents.  Verderer's Trail is just mountain biking fun.

This is a contrast to the descent off Y Wal, which I would describe as fast and challenging - I often feel like I'm attacking the side of the mountain.  It's filled with adrenaline and fear and speed and curves and semi-technical challenges that keep me scared and focused and exhilarated.

Verderer's Trail does not put the fear in me, but I feel awesome at the end, rather than exhilarated.  It's a subtle difference I know - but I like both rides - but for different reasons.

It was also a really nice day to be on a bike.  It was muddy and cool but not raining.  It was my first time biking alone - three of our group went off downhilling, and three were going much faster, so I was happy to pootle along by myself.

After finishing on the Verderer's Trail I tried the Red Freeminer's Trail - about 4 miles of Red grade singletrack.  It was a good chance for me to practice cycling over roots and some of the technical skills that I'm not so good at.

It was good for learning, but not good for fun.  After finishing the Red I pushed up once more and blasted the descent of the Blue again, because it's FUN.

Someday, when I'm better, I'll be able to rip it out of the downhills at Forest of Dean. Until then, I leave it to Ben:

March 8, 2013

Five Things Friday - Girly things I love right now.

Just a quickie - 5 things I'm loving right now!

1. Daisy Perfume by Marc Jacobs.  Andy got it for me for my birthday.  It smells amazing!

2.  Candles, all candles, especially Yankee candles!  I only have the little sample sizes though!

3. Molton Brown Yuan Zhi body cream.  Its the fanciest body cream I've ever had and I love it!

4. Lush Bath Bombs.  I know they make for a $4 bath, but I love them anyways.  I'm saving mine for after races or triathlons though!

5. Chocolate from Hotel Chocolate - Especially the Mississippi Mud Pie.

And that's 5 things I'm loving right now :-)