Giveaway: Down and Dirty – The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs

As some of you will know, last year I took part in the Nuts Challenge. I absolutely loved it and spent most of the course with a grin this wide (except when I got to the nets where I probably had my default about-to-burst-into-tears expression instead).

water-slide-nuts-challenge-20131

Although in the days leading up to the challenge I did a lot of googling for tips, what I didn’t have is a book. A book like this one, perhaps.

down-and-dirty

Yeah, a nice big, thick, glossy book full of tips and photos of fit blokes (and girls) would have come in handy, that’s for sure. Plus it would have been an excuse to buy a book and I’m not one to miss an opportunity to buy more books.

part-iii

Down and Dirty: The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs covers the most popular obstacle races and mud runs and has tips ranging from those for newbies choosing their first race to a guide for the more hardcore amongst us to surviving a 24-hour-plus race such as Death Race or Tough Mudder.

tyres

Everything’s covered in the book, from how to conquer the obstacles, training techniques, what to wear and nutrition. There’s even a few recipes, including one for paleo energy bars (simply shredded coconut, pitted dates, cinnamon and maple syrup – very similar, in fact, to these delicious energy balls I made a few weeks ago).

Another thing it mentions and something I’d definitely advise taking into consideration is the facilities. The Nuts Challenge had a Pimms tent, which is obviously the most important bit but although it had a changing area, it didn’t have adequate washing facilities. You’re going to get muddy at these races. Seriously muddy. Caked in mud, in fact, and unless you’re travelling home in your own car or someone else’s car who doesn’t mind a bit of mud, you’re going to have to get on the train looking like Stig of the Dump and smelling like something that’s just emerged from a swamp (which, let’s face it is what you’ve just done). I got invited to take part in an obstacle challenge later this year but I’ve had to turn it down as there aren’t any showers and I wasn’t prepared to be seen in public looking like this.

end

Win a copy of Down and Dirty: The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs

If you haven’t taken part in an obstacle race before, I thoroughly recommend you do – they’re amazing fun. And if you do sign up for one, well, you’re in luck as I’m giving away a copy of Down and Dirty: The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and  Mud Runs. All you have to do is leave a comment letting me know which obstacle course/mud run you’ve done or one you’re signed up to do or one you’d like to do in the future.

I’ll choose a winner at random after the closing date of Friday 9 August 2014. UK entries only please.  Good luck!

Berlei Underwired Running Bra

When I first started running, my clothes lacked a certain elegance. Okay, they lacked any elegance. I wore a cheapy £10 pair of trainers, a pair of thick heavy tracksuit bottoms and a thick heavy hooded fleece, under which I wore a normal cotton t-shirt and under that I wore two normal bras at the same time. I did eventually upgrade to some proper running shoes and a pair of running tights after plucking up the courage to go into the Runner’s Need near my workplace and I bought a couple of sports bras on eBay.

Most of my early sports bras were the crop top type but they seem to have gone out of fashion and since then they’ve been made of a variety of clips and straps and stuff that I can’t do up, so my usual method of putting on a sports bra is to do all the clips and straps and stuff up and pull it over my head, crop top stylee. I’m sure that’s the best way to damage a sports bra but needs must and all that.

I do have one sports bra that has a zip up the front and you’d think that would be super simple to put on but that still requires a certain amount of tugging and pulling.

Recently, Berlei sent me a running bra to try. It looked so pretty and unsportsbra-like it stayed in the packaging for a while. The bra also didn’t look like it was up to much support-wise as it just looks like and does up like a normal bra. Still, I eventually put it on and gave it a go. Despite its flimsy looks, it has all the support you could want. It’s also as simple as a normal bra to put on and is so comfortable, you don’t even feel it’s there when you’re running. There is also a matching pair of knickers and I was going to post a selfie when I remembered there was already a photo of me modelling the set on the Berlei website.

berlei-sports-bra

The Berlei underwired running bra is £32 and the matching knickers are £16. Both are available on the Berlei website in a range of colours.

Review: Camelbak Mule Hydration Backpack

When I used to do a running commute, I needed a running rucksack. I’d tried running to the gym with the free rucksack I’d got from the gym but soon realised a waistband is a must, unless you like a bag full of kit bouncing up and down on your back.

My first running commute rucksack purchase was a cheapy Puma one – I think it cost about a tenner – which doubled up as a hydration backpack; it just came without the bladder. I didn’t have any need of a bladder until taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge in 2008, so I bought one on eBay to save me having to keep stopping to take my drinks bottle out of my rucksack.

puma-rucksack

The Puma rucksack has been used dozens, if not hundreds of times and although it’s the perfect size to put a few small things in, I want to do some long cycle rides over the summer and it’s not going to be big enough for a full bladder and anything else I want to take with me such as a lock and also leaving room for anything I might want to buy on my travels (for example, I can’t go past the Pilgrims Hospice Bookshop in Dymchurch without popping in and buying books).

So, an upgrade was needed and the upgrade came in the form of the Camelbak Mule Hydration Backpack.Poppy-Orange

Okay, I’m cheating and using the photo from the website. Here’s my not-so-glamorous pic.

mule-camelbak

Pretty though, isn’t it? I love the colour and I love that it’s not too big and I especially love that it has about a zillion pockets in it. It’s even got pockets in pockets and ‘integrated helmet hooks that utilize chinstraps to carry a variety of styles’ (I think that means you can carry your hat on it).

mule-camelbak-back

It comes with a bladder and I’m not going to pretend I know much about bladders other than they hold a drink and you suck it through a hose thing because that’d be lying and we all know lying’s bad, don’t we? But according to the blurb, the bladder has a 100oz/3L capacity, 1/4 turn cap, a low profile design, dryer arms and a quick link system.

camelbak-bladder

I used the rucksack on the recent 55 mile Pilgrims Hospice Cycle Challenge and it was light and comfy and it held what I wanted it to and I didn’t notice I was wearing it, which is all I want from a rucksack really.

pilgrims-challenge

If you want a pretty orange Camelbak like mine, or perhaps one in a different colour or style, you can get one at the Blackleaf website.

Tour de France 2014 Yellow Jersey Infographic

Cycling is out for me at the moment, as I’ve got the lurgy. It’s especially a shame as the weather outside is absolutely gorgeous and perfect for cycling in. Although, last time I went for a bike ride, I did 60 miles and got sunburnt and I’m wondering if that’s the reason for my lurgy.

Still, the Tour de France is starting soon and here’s a pretty yellow infographic about the yellow jersey for you to look at.

tour-de-france

Infographic supplied by www.yellowjersey.co.uk

Juneathon 2014 – Days 29 and 30 – Diseased With Juneathonitis

As is usual for a Sunday, my exercise was a walk to Tesco and back. But guess what I did on the last day? On the last day, I was diagnosed with Juneathonitis. Okay, so the word the doctor used was shingles, not Juneathonitis, but he said it can be brought on by physical exertion so I’m diagnosing myself with Juneathonitis, especially as that sounds better than shingles, which sounds like some kind of Victorian plague.

So, that’s Juneathon finished for another year. Well done everyone for your efforts and I hope you enjoyed it. I’ve got an extra week to do but I think it’ll be restricted to walking. 

Juneathon 2014 – Days 27 and 28 – Walking and Running

Yesterday, I walked to the station. I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking, ‘Hang on, just because you’re the Queen of Athons, that doesn’t mean you can go round making rules like “walking to the station” count for Juneathon.’ Well, actually, because I am the Queen of Athons, it does mean I can go round making rules up willy nilly but yesterday’s walk to the station counts. It counts because the station is over two miles away and I could have cycled or got a bus but no, I walked it for Juneathon. So there.

Today, I ran three and a half miles, although I am still being feeble and walking most of my runs. I have told myself, next time I do a parkrun, I’m not going to walk any of it, not even the hilly bit.

So, just a couple of days left! For you lot, anyway. I’ve got another week to do as I told my uni friend, Shelby, she could start Juneathon a week late because she was on holiday the first week and if she exercised every day and blogged properly each day up to the end of June, I’d do the extra week with her for moral support. I actually thought she wouldn’t last the month but I clearly underestimated her as she appears to be doing brilliantly. I have asked my deputy, Helen, to be the independent adjudicator and thoroughly check Shelby’s blog for any signs of slacking to see if I can get out of my extra week. I don’t think she’s going to find anything though, dammit.

Juneathon 2014 – Days 25 and 26 – All The Exercise

Well, I certainly can’t be accused of slacking yesterday, even if I didn’t blog in the evening. I’m not much of an evening blogger – I’m not much of an evening anything, really. I used to blog all the time in the evening as I used to blog as soon as I’d come back from a run, whatever time that was, even if if was straight after a run commute from work. So, yes, my blogging over the years has definitely slacked off – a bit like my running, I suppose.

Anyway, yesterday morning I went for a five mile run, then in the evening I went to the gym and spent 30 minutes on the rowing machine, then 15 minutes on the cross-trainer, before going to a 45 minute spin class. This morning, I had planned to do my body pump DVD (the 30 minutes of it I like, anyway) but I couldn’t be bothered. However, as we all know, in Juneathon slacking is not an option, so I got on with it.

I do need to do some walking later though as I was perturbed to see I’d lost my number one position on the Fitbit leaderboard and after holding the top spot for a few days, I’ve become pettily competitive about it and I want to be number one again. Stupid Fitbit.

Juneathon 2014 – Day 24 – Back To The Running Group

Usually when I go along to something, at the end when saying goodbye and I’m asked if I’ll be along next time, I always reply with ‘yes, definitely’, then am never to be seen again. This isn’t because I haven’t enjoyed myself – when I say, ‘yes, definitely’, I mean it (except for that time I went along to the local writing group. I most definitely did not mean it that time) – I just seem to not go along again, at least not for a long time after, anyway. But last night saw me going along again to the Tuesday session of a local running group. They do meet at other times – on a Wednesday night when I’m at my spin class and on a Saturday morning when they meet too early for my liking and so Tuesday suits me. It especially suits me as, on a Tuesday, they do things like hills (see last week) and speed sessions. Last night was a speed session. I thought this would be a bit of running fast, then stopping for a break, then doing it again a couple more times. Oh no. We got to the field and the leader said while pointing at each corner of the field, ‘start at that corner, then run to that corner as fast as you can and don’t stop until you get to that corner where you can slow down a bit then when you get back to the first corner run fast again and repeat for thirty minutes’. Um, okay. Not.

We all started off well, then I was out of breath in about twenty feet but I managed to carry on until I got to the corner where we could slow down and I slowed down and slowed down until I was walking and then I ran again then I walked again and then I thought I need some sort of system here and everyone else was going round the field doing their own thing and so I decided to run round to one of the corners then walk for a minute and repeat until I’d done the thirty minutes. I got back to the start at about 28 minutes so I decided that was near enough thirty minutes, then every one got back and the leader said to me, ‘did you enjoy that?’ and I said, ‘yes, and I must have won, as I was back first’. Yay, I am the champion.

Juneathon 2014 – Day 23 – Top of the Fitbit Leaderboard

My days are usually extremely sedentary when it comes to putting one foot in front of the other, so it’s been a bit of a surprise to find myself at the top of my Fitbit leaderboard the last few days. This is despite my Fitbit’s best efforts to boot me back down to my rightful place near the bottom by running out of battery yesterday morning, therefore only logging 32 steps and not noticing any of the sixty-four miles I cycled yesterday (it doesn’t actually count cycling but it does give you something towards your steps I think).

fitbit

Still, I’ll enjoy my no. 1 position while it lasts. I’m mentioning my Fitbit because I just did a 1.91 mile walk for Juneathon to get me some steps in and not just to show off at being top of the leaderboard. Honest. 

fitbit-no1

If you have a Fitbit and would like to add me as a friend, please email me an invitation via the Fitbit website.

Juneathon 2014 – Day 22 – Great Kent Bike Ride

I’ve taken part in the Great Kent Bike Ride twice before, but only doing the short route of 35 miles. This year, I thought I’d do the long route but then the bastards decided that the long route wasn’t long enough at 60 miles and added a new 100 mile long route. So the long route is now the medium route and so it was the medium route I did.

In previous years, I’d ridden my beautiful Pashley Poppy although I rode it into town the other day and because I’m now used to my lighter, nippier bike, it was like riding a tank, albeit a pretty pink tank and I have no idea how the hell I’ve done 35 miles on it in one go.

I was up bright and early, got all dressed up in my cheapy cycling gear from Sports Direct (don’t knock Sports Direct – it may look like a jumble sale and you always feel like you might catch something in there but they do have some great bargains) and I almost looked like a cyclist.

great-kent-bike-ride

That’s not fat squidging out the back of my top, it’s flapjacks, honest. Trek Bars to be precise. Peanut & Oat and Mixed Berry to be even more precise.

It was a quiet ride this year – the only reason I can think of is because of the new 100 mile route as I reckoned the people who usually do the 60 mile route would have gone for the longer route this year and they had to start between 7 and 8am, unlike the lightweights doing the shorter routes who didn’t have to start until between 8 and 10 (‘between’ being taken literally by me, as I turned up at 9).

Despite the info saying there was a refreshment stop every 10 miles or so, the first one didn’t appear until 22 miles and even then there was no tea on offer, just water. The next stop – at 40 miles – was a cafe but you had to leave your bikes round the back and as there were only a couple of people around, I didn’t want to leave my bike unattended and I hadn’t brought a lock with me. Someone told me the next stop was only 5 miles away though so I carried on and, hurrah, the next stop was indeed only 5 miles away and they had tea, yay.

The ride was great and the weather was perfect, except for the wind in places, especially down the really boring long road along Dungeness – the struggle on that road not made any easier by the dents in the road every two feet. In fact, the only real moan I have about the ride is because of the roads in places – there had been a lot of resurfacing taken place recently which is obviously a good thing, given the state of the roads, but it’s not a good thing when you’re on a bike and the resurfacing means the roads are basically made of gravel with a good chance of skidding.

At 54 miles, the route split again with an arrow pointing one way for the short and medium riders, and an arrow pointing the other way for the hardcore long route riders. I briefly pondered whether I fancied doing another 46 miles but decided I didn’t, so I followed the arrow that took me to the finish line where I was handed a certificate and a bottle of water.

Then I cycled the two miles home and spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden with my Kindle and cold cans of Budweiser.