27 August 2014

Words, oh so many words

It will probably be years before my British English versus American English differences of pronunciation, spelling, and meanings are exhausted but my does it result in some interesting conversations in the meantime.  I got caught out on the pants/trousers thing again earlier this week but thankfully it was in a messaging context as opposed to being out in a group of people--it's always good for a giggle though :-)

Today's Nordic Walking session resulted in another "Huh, what is that?" moment. Part of our after-walk stretching was "writing" out the alphabet using our feet (13 letters with one foot, the remainder on the other) and I joked that I was alternating block letters and cursive and was met with blank faces...in the UK it is called joined-up writing so they had no idea what I was talking about.  It was decided that cursive is a more elegant way of describing the script, score one for the American expat! 

25 August 2014

Weather, walking, and running

It's official, summer has abandoned us in England.  We gave up and turned the heat on for an hour in an attempt to take the edge off the chill and yes we are bundled up in hoodies and socks.  Out of curiosity I checked the weather back in Arkansas and it is currently 34C(94F) with a real feel of 42C(108F)...here? Slightly cooler at 13C(55F) with rain and wind.  I'd settle for something halfway between that :-)

A running friend spotted this not long ago, wonder how it ended up in the middle of England

The temps are nice for running however, a small group of us headed out for a mid-morning run yesterday and I wore a long sleeve shirt for the beginning of it although it ended up tied around my waist mid-way through. Except for the nearly mile long uphill to get to the meeting point it was a great route. The leader yesterday knows the area quite well so we went on some trails I hadn't ran before and it was all mostly spontaneous "Should we go left or right?" decisions, my favourite sort of run.  

We didn't stop here though

I'm sure you've noticed the frequency I've been mentioning Nordic Walking lately, it's something I decided to learn on the spur of the moment last January and I absolutely adore it. I've gotten to meet some fantastic people and it's amazing cross-training that's low impact.  If you're a new ex-pat that's looking to get to know the area you have moved to it can be an invaluable source of information for things like the best butcher, shops etc--little but important things like for me yesterday, where to buy fresh okra.  The British Nordic Walking site has some great information and you can search for groups and instructors nearby.  Running clubs and Ramblers groups are also excellent for meeting up with like-minded people that you wouldn't necessarily have a chance to get acquainted with otherwise.  

Don't we look like a fun group to hang out with? 

24 August 2014

Products and the expat

This time last year I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to live in the UK at all with the visa nightmare that drug on for so long but I was still creating a small stockpile of my tried and true products that I either wouldn't be able to get at all once I moved, at least not without begging friends and family to send replacements or paying exorbitant customs fees.  As I've begun to slowly empty out the bottles and tubes of those products I decided that instead of pining away for what I had on the other side of the pond I would find equivalent potions here.  However because of space restrictions and of course needing to watch the £££ outflow I couldn't fall back into my hoarding ways. If I bought something then it had to be used up or tossed immediately, preferably the former.  Fortunately my hair seems to thrive on the water here so I'm not having to use the 2 or 3 products required to tame my it in the states, I can get away with a good conditioner and a leave-in balm.

This is the current rotation 

Yes there are three conditioners there but the Tesco one is used for the days when I condish-wash rather than using shampoo.  The Garnier Ultimate Blends isn't exactly curly-girl friendly but it smells amazing and doesn't strip or coat my hair.  The Aussie Beach Mate conditioner is one I'm trying to finish up but I REALLY do not like the scent of it at all, to me it smells like bug repellent spray.  The naked style gorgeous curls leave-in balm is okay but not exactly a holy grail, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated because I'm not sure what to replace it with once I've finished it off.  

The Along Came Betty Foaming Lovely face wash is the one I absolutely wish would be empty already.  Obviously I'm not a fan of it, I don't feel like it cleanses well and it broke me out terribly.  To top it off it has the blue coloured plastic micro-beads that are supposed to exfoliate and have been found to not break down and end up in the waterways.  Not cool.  I do still have a bottle of my preferred facial cleanser so can go back to it while I look for something different.  

The one thing I was tempted to give up and buy from Amazon has been Secret Clinical Strength deodorant/antiperspirant.  It is simply not available here for some reason but at least it's not as hot and humid as it is back in Arkansas so I can get away with not having the industrial armpit de-stinkifier--at least I hope I am ;-) 

It seems most expats bring back suitcases full of food but I think mine would be stuffed with running gear, deodorant, and hair products! 

21 August 2014

Adding resistance

So what happens when you mention to your Nordic Walking instructor that you think you have reached your maximum walking speed?  In my case you get introduced to "Terry the Tyre" and pointed towards some hills.

One of the few "flat" sections on the route...and yes I heard all the related jokes afterwards from my partner.  It is certainly a conversation starter and during yesterday's session I had a huge dog pick the tyre up twice and try to go in the opposite direction with it! The gym equivalent to this would be the stairmill, you work up a sweat within moments.

With the next British Nordic Walking Challenge event coming up 2 November, I've increased my number of NW workouts from the usual 2 or 3 to at least four per week. Two of the walks are fairly laid back because I'm a walk leader assisting with them so I generally focus on technique but I'm trying to get in one hard walk per week to get my speed and endurance up and hopefully that will help my running as well.

Speaking of running, Tuesday's club run was awesome! It was a mostly off road, mystery route where the leader even had us running backwards at one point.  There were a few nettles and brambles and quite a few shouts of "Watch your head!" which quickly got shortened to "Head!" to avoid the low tree limbs. I still managed to get slapped in the face once with a ricocheting branch though. I played it smart and ran slow for the first 1/3, hard on the 2nd third, then easy again on the final bit. I also didn't get hung up on the pace and didn't bother with pausing my garmin at the re-grouping points or when we had to walk through a field with thick overgrowth and thistles so the stats looked a bit willy-nilly once down-loaded.  The only part I can't say I enjoyed was our tempo run around the lake, towards the end of that section I swallowed wrong and couldn't breathe and almost lost my lunch.  Afterwards I was so exhausted I barely made it through our tea before falling asleep on the couch.

See how all over the place the pace was? Loving some of the best pace times though

Back to a track session tonight but it's short intervals which I quite enjoy (once they're done).  Run happy y'all and try something crazy with your workouts every now and then.  

18 August 2014


My memory. This summer.  Two things that fit the fleeting descriptor right now.  I have had so many blog ideas but didn't bother to sit down to put the words to screen or even ink to paper to remind myself.  Or I get busy with other things and while I remember the subject I no longer have the desire to right about it.  As far as summer goes, I think it has disappeared.  It never truly got HOT at night but over the past couple of weeks it's gotten steadily cooler and now in mid-August there is a distinct autumnal bite to the air even during the middle of the day.  Time to pack away the summer clothing, most of which didn't get a single wear at all.  I made a joke on facebook that it was a good thing I don't buy trendy because whenever I made my return to the states in a few years most of my shorts, sundresses, and vests would still be in nearly new condition.  And no, it's not just me as an expat grumbling, everyone is commenting on how chilly it's been and then laughing and saying welcome to British summer ;-)


In fitness news, my speed and endurance seems to be gradually returning, emphasis on gradually.  Most Sundays I'm getting in a 10ish miler although the weekend ex Hurricane Bertha made her visit I kept it at 7.5 because of trying to avoid the rain and wind. I managed to get confused on the August handicap course again (blue arrows on the trail pointed in a different direction than what our route is) so ended up waiting for the next runner coming up to get me headed the right way.  It still wouldn't have been a pb but it would have been closer than the time I ended up with.  Unfortunately my Garmin 610 also decided to have a malfunction by freezing up and then refusing to download that day's data because the file was corrupted so I don't know exactly how much time I lost.

The final BDL of the summer also went better than expected, 5.19 miles in 40:52 and second in my age category.  Last Saturday's parkrun was a bit of a success with a time of 23:26, 4th female overall, and 2nd in my age.  Gives me hope I can start whittling that time down if I can keep from getting injured again.  I also managed to spot the photographer in time to smile and not look like I was on the verge of passing out or having a seizure. 

I look like I'm going so slow and the guy behind me has both feet off the ground.

Speaking of parkrun, I had made plans to attend a Nordic Walking class on Saturday so that meant I had to leave just as soon as I got my barcodes scanned but I did get to see a couple of Nordic walkers that were doing the 5k as well.  Such a great sight spying the poles and the red British Nordic Walking shirts! Once I get over this chasing a personal best business I need to do that as well but I think I would prefer a not so flat course, it's great for running but I prefer hills for the walking.  

27 July 2014

Sunday Share

Can't stop watching this RRL Riders video. Great music, gorgeous bikes, Paris...and they have women bikers as well. Plural. Not just the token one but several, love it. I am now having serious motorbike envy, well played Mr. Lauren.

26 July 2014

Falling flat and bagpipes

This week's training included an away trip to Crich on Tuesday, such a beautiful place to run and I loved having the chance to run on some technical bits of trail again.  Too bad my legs have decided to not want to climb uphills very well anymore! Oh well, no one to blame but myself because I've been neglecting that aspect of training lately and as someone suggested last night, it's time to get back to including hill repeats once a week.  

Thursday I fell flat again on the club run but it was more due to the heat, humidity, and the fact that we started off with sub 9 minute miles. Not a problem for the speedy guys because that's their easy pace but I struggled with it, like cycling I tend to need an easier pace for the first bit if I want to finish stronger at the end of the run.  On the bright side, the 1.6 mile run I do to meet up my ride for the Thursday morning Nordic Walking class was approximately 20 seconds faster than normal with an easier RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and I was carrying a heavier rucksack than the previous weeks. Not saying those are speedy runs because it's done at an easy enough pace that I'm not struggling and raining sweat once I get to my destination but it was nice to note an improvement somewhere.

Elsie helping me workout

Last night we attended a running club social that didn't involve running, kind of odd seeing everyone in "normal" clothes rather than their workout kits and I think most were shocked to see me 5" taller than usual--gotta love heels ;-) The curry was the best I have had in the UK despite being borderline too hot (I generally prefer a medium heat) which is saying something since curry might as well be the national dish.  Even better is that it didn't upset my stomach last night or during this morning's run which means that the preparation or ingredients weren't dodgy like at another local place which made me sick both times we ate there.  

We did have an interesting experience at the pub some of us went to after the curry and conversation--the sounds of a bagpipe began drifting through so three of us decided to go investigate.  Turns out there is a local bloke that comes in occasionally just to play the bagpipes in the gents' toilet! Not while using it mind you, but he said the acoustics were the best from there when we asked him why he played in that location.  He had such a sad aura though, kind of heart-rending but that's probably part of why he played so beautifully.  Truly a magical and bizarre experience.    

Hope everyone has been enjoying the UK summer, I'm off to do some hydrating and basking in the sun before the storms arrive if I can kick this mutt off of my lounger

Ben doing what he does best

20 July 2014

Rainy workouts and wrong turns

It's been an interesting week weather-wise here in England...we've had the hottest days so far of the year but it does makes me chuckle to think of temperatures in the 80s (Fahrenheit) as being a heat wave.  Then again it's not like everyone here has air conditioning, we certainly don't.  I would have thought the lack of AC would mean more screened windows (to keep the insects out) and ceiling fans but that's not been a thing I've noticed much of.  We've also have been having some severe thunderstorms with lightning strikes and flooding causing some fairly serious damage in areas.  Of course in between the rains we get some spectacular rainbows.

Like this double rainbow!

Yesterday was one of those rainy/sunny/stormy days but since it didn't look it was going to clear up anytime soon I went ahead with my weight/core workout which I try to do outside as much as possible--the partner is afraid I'm going to lose grip on a kettlebell one of these days and it will end up through a window or door, lol.  When I first started it was only a light sprinkle but a few minutes in, it POURED!!!! I also flipped the sandbag on my first clean and press right up into my upper lip.  Instead of packing it in, it just made me that more determined to carry on and it ended up being a good solid 40 minutes of work (:30 work intervals with :10 rest, every other interval was skipping rope) and I felt like I could have kept going for another 40 but went out for a 1 mile sprint instead.   Wouldn't you know, it quit raining and the sun came out for a short time before the heavy storm moved through, sod's law, eh.

And then there was one

One of the ladies in our running club had posted that she was going to run at 9 am Sunday (today) if anyone wanted to join her so I thought I would run from my house to the meet-up point to get in a slightly longer run.  It ended up being a far longer run than I planned because I missed my first turn to the trail, continued on in a direction that I thought would lead me to a different entry point and took 2 more wrong turns which of course led me in the completely opposite way.  I was 15 minutes late and had almost 3 miles more at a faster pace than I planned to get back to where I needed to be.  Combine that with the sun and mugginess and to say I struggled would be an understatement.  The last mile for me was a walk/run with most of it being the former. Of course I've not done any double digit runs since the Ramathon on the 15th of June so I'm not sure why I was expecting to jump right into a great 13 mile run straight off! 

Since getting home I have mostly been stuffing my face and trying to get re-hydrated while finishing up reading Rosie Swale Pope's "Just a Little Run Around the World", talk about a woman with drive and determination! It was a VERY engaging book despite some occasional chronology issues and a bit of repetition (normally that would cause me to throw a book against the wall in disgust), it engrossed me so much that I finished reading it in 4 days, disgracefully slow compared to how fast I used to get through books but now it seems that I fall asleep within a few pages of reading anything.  I might have stayed out on the sun lounger for an hour longer than I should have in order to finish it this afternoon.  

Alas, now that it is finished I need to turn my attention back to studying for the UK driving test

18 July 2014

Running the mile

Last night was our club track night but instead of doing the usual puke-inducing intervals we ran a 1 mile time trial.  It's been over two years since I've ran an officially timed mile race (2012 Go! Mile) and despite a stumble off the curb in the beginning that made everyone around me gasp I managed to do it in 6:43, no way I was gonna match that time.  With how heavy my legs have been feeling I was thinking it would end up being about a minute slower, a hot track and stiff breeze at the far corner during the warm-up did little to change that thought.

Go! Mile 2012

First lap was in 1:43, 2nd lap was 3:26, didn't hear what the third lap time was at, only heard Caroline yell at me to go full out on the last which I must have because I managed to squeak in at 6:54, 11 seconds slower than what I consider my best year running--not racing because I was flat broke that year and any race I did was a luxury so I don't have much to benchmark the progress during that time--but much faster than I expected. 

Getting started

One thing I noticed when looking over the photos that were taken by James T. last night is I am swinging my arms far better, they are relaxed yet I'm getting more momentum (not sure that's the right word). I'm crediting that increased range of motion to the Nordic Walking. 

Perhaps that's a little too relaxed ;-) 

The pictures from the first lap are hilarious, most of us were acting goofy for the camera which I think helped ease the suffering significantly.  What wasn't helping was the wind at the far corner of the track, every time I rounded that corner it was almost like hitting a wall so a cooler, calmer day should see everyone's times drop a little more.  

The look of suffering--although not as bad as the last track session I did 2 weeks prior.

This has been more of a rest/recovery week, it took 3 days for the soreness from Sunday's Nordic Walk race to go away and as mentioned earlier, my legs have been feeling heavy. No weights or core work and my only run days so far have been Tuesday and Thursday although they were both my usual 2x a day with running to and from Nordic Walk classes and club training.  Next week I hope to increase the intensity and frequency of the former especially since Catherine Hughes keeps tagging me with these insane looking races and workouts and I will ease back into the core work today.  

14 July 2014

First British Nordic Walking Challenge Series

July 13 was the first ever event in the British Nordic Walking Challenge Series with a choice of 20k, 10k, and 5k distances and I'm quite pleased I had the chance to participate.  Because it was held in Bristol which is approximately 2 hours away I hadn't planned on going but my partner decided he was interested in a road trip/day out. I'm not so sure he was happy about his decision when 5:15 am rolled around though ;-)

The drive over was fairly bleak, very overcast and we even had a heavy downpour once we reached Bristol itself, thankfully it was short-lived and friends who were approximately 20 minutes behind us never encountered any rain at all.  Typical British weather!

First view of the venue (bad phone pic)

Much better photo of the other side

Ashton Court is beautiful but I would love to go back to explore on a sunny day, yesterday's cloud cover while nice for the duration of the race obscured a lot of the scenery.  This website does an excellent job (much better than the "official" ones) of detailing the estate.  I was chuffed to be able to see the fallow deer during the race, we were all oohing and ahhhing over how pretty the herd was.  

Setting up--the woman on the left is Catherine Hughes who introduced me to this sport

Before arriving I was waffling about which distance to do--whether to amble about on the 20k or try to see how fast I could do the 10k but once there I opted for hanging around chatting with friends instead of immediately leaving out on the longer distance (it started an hour earlier).  I also decided to use part of the time to go for a short run in order to recce the course--highly recommended because I stopped to chat with nearly every course marshal which meant I got extra cheers when it came time for the race, it's all about the strategy, lol. 

10k Warmup

What a background!

Not that you can tell in the previous two photos but I missed most of the warmup exercises because I had to make a last minute loo visit! Nothing new there, I'm usually not in any group photos because of being in the toilet queues.  It's ok though, the instructor led a far more coordinated routine than what I can keep up with anyway, it was more akin to aerobics and I am always the one out of sync with everyone else.  

Finally made it to the start line, cheeky grins and all

In order to keep everyone from being right on top of each other and having to dodge poles we were lined up in rows of four across and then had to pause at the chip timing point for a few seconds--very much like an orienteering event.  

And we're off!

The course was a mix of terrain, we started off in a civilised grassy area that quickly turned more pasture like complete with hidden holes and where it had been mowed (bush-hogged is what we would call it in the southern US) the tall grass would clump up around your shoes and ankles.  It was almost like trudging through ankle deep water.  After we got through that the course turned sharply uphill on a rock and dirt road that was slick from the earlier rain, this was also a heavily wooded area so it was the most picturesque section in my opinion.  

I think there's far too much relaxing happening here

After the lung and quad bursting climb, the course turned left onto a path that was more open.  We were still climbing but it was more gradual, it was also covered in pea gravel and had several large speed humps built in that were a pain in the butt to Nordic walk over.  I'm guessing the humps served a two fold purpose, the first being to slow the cyclists down and the second to help prevent the path from eroding.  Once you got past those it was an awesome area for the poles, I was really able to get a good bite without them sliding about and powered through. The path did finally level out and there was a water station just before we started the downhill.  The volunteers told us we could walk on the grass alongside the path through here and I did so on the first loop but on the second there were far more golfers and dog walkers about so I stayed on it. Absolutely hated this section on the second loop because it was covered with a mix of large and small rocks that made it impossible to use the poles properly and it hurt my feet!  

"What is taking them so long?"

We then took a right onto the pavement for a short distance, it was noisy with the tips clacking but at least you could get a good pace going before making the left for the steep downhill back to the start/finish.  I knew the gentleman who was marshaling here so had a quick chat (still moving, mind you!) before negotiating the photographer gauntlet, both the professionals hired for the event and everyone down at the tents.

Reacting to a catcall

The above pic was me reacting to my partner yelling out "Be tall!" as I was starting the second loop, it got quite a laugh from everyone around.  Not long after that photo I was also finally able to chase down the woman who I had been slowly closing ground on for the last mile of the first loop, I was quite pleased with that because she started in the very first row and I started in the next to the last.  Unfortunately I'd lost sight of the other person in a blue shirt I'd been using as my rabbit as well.  The second lap ended up being slightly slower overall than the first (but only by 31 seconds if I read the timing slip right) but it also had a faster pace at certain times. According to my garmin stats I hit a 9:44 pace on one of the downhills and for walking that's very good--I'm fairly sure I know the moment when it happened, everything just clicked into place perfectly, stride length, pole planting, shoulder swing--such an amazing feeling.  

Stats for the race, click to enlarge

As you can see from my Garmin stats, the course was just shy of a full 10k.  I also forgot to push the stop button at the end! Nordic Walking is one of those sports that you can make as easy or as difficult as you want, you certainly have to expect a fair bit of teasing when you are doing it--if you think Forrest Gump running references are bad, wait for the "Where is the snow?" and "Did you forget your skis?" comments.  As for me, I am as sore today from yesterday's event as I am after running a hard half marathon.  I am not even sure I was this sore after doing the Marine Corps Marathon a few years ago.  

I didn't get one of these

But I did get this :-)

And a goofy pic like this!

12 July 2014

Heating up

Today's run was less than stellar.  Truth be told the last 3 have just sucked (4 if you count the one to and from Nordic Walking class) but I know it's just the heat...which brings me to the realization that I am well and truly acclimatized to UK weather if 77F feels HOT.  Yes, I know those back in the states are rolling their eyes at me complaining about that temperature when the highs there are a good 20 plus degrees above that but it is toasty for here.  Every time I came upon a group of horse riders today I was hoping it would take them a while to notice me so that I could take a walk break and not feel guilty about it, lol.  

Mutts pic just because they are so cute. Ben and Elsie before their summer cuts

Good news is my thumb (broke the right trapezium) is healing up. I can now stretch it across my palm to the pinkie without excruciating pain and while I still have to be very careful when grasping a glass at least I can now hold one.  Even better news is that I've been able to go without the brace for most activities which is a relief because even though I washed it, it was getting quite stinky! Kettlebell and Nordic Walking workouts still require me wearing it and Thursday night's run was a little worrisome because I'd forgotten it and we had to negotiate through some stiles.  

11 July 2014


Slugs outside are ok, they are gross and they decimate the hostas but the great outdoors is their environment. However one of the slimy buggers will occasionally make its way into the house.

And that makes me want to use a different sort of slug(ger).......I refrain because apparently holes in the wall aren't considered good form.

09 July 2014

2014 TdF Grand Départ Stage 2

As the majority of avid cyclists and UK residents know this past weekend was the beginning of the Tour de France and the Grand Départ started in Yorkshire. While we didn't make it up north to view the first stage we were able to travel to Sheffield to watch near the finish line on the 2nd day.  Another thing ticked off my bucket list!!! While it wasn't France, it still was such an awesome thing to be a part of and according to a lady in my Tuesday Nordic Walking class whose son lives in Paris, even the French media was impressed with the record turnout and enthusiasm from England ;-)

Because we had a late start we decided to park just off the city centre and take the tram to Meadowhall. This served two purposes, we wouldn't have to deal with car traffic and it gave my partner a chance to show me the area.

Check out the Tour Maker shirt to the right, wish I'd thought to have volunteered

People watching

People watching II

The yarn bombed bikes of The Woolly Bike Trail at Sheffield Cathedral

Pub lunch and tram ticket

Waiting for the cyclists.  Yes I wore very impractical shoes to traipse about in but you gotta admit they are cute

McCain Chips publicity caravan vehicle

Yorkshire Tea

Carrefour polka-dot jersey themed caravan

Lead racer at this point, he zoomed by to quick for us to get a good pic

Jens Voigt in the Polka-Dot jersey

Yellow Jersey

The Team Sky kit looks GOOD.

Media helicopter

Zoomed in on the other side just before the 1 km banner

Stormtrooper cyclists

Stormtrooper cyclists II, as you can see they created quite a stir

Ummm, I don't think he is an official part of the TdF! Still got lots of cheers though and good on him

Go home, it's all over! A few of us stayed to the end