Review of 2016

Turning 40 ain’t that bad!

This year I turned 40 and to mark the occasion I went to Paris with my husband, New York with friends and completed my first triathlon.

January Edinburgh Winter Warner 5k

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March Paris

I’ve always wanted to go to Paris. So what better way to celebrate my 40th than to visit this wonderful city. It did not disappoint.  But the weather did as March in Paris is baltic.  Next time we will visit in warmer weather.

April New York

This was a truly amazing 5 nights holiday of a life time. I still get giddy when I see NYC on TV and never tire of shouting to whoever will listen “I’ve been there”!

May Loch Leven Half Marathon

This was my 5th Half Marathon.  My running buddy and I raised  £200 for charity. It was a well organised local run.

June Muddy Race for Life 5k

This was so much fun! We are doing again this year.

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July Wee Beastie Triathlon

This was a goal i set myself to complete a triathlon.  I was lucky that I found like minded people to do this with. It was a brilliant day and something I am very proud to have achieved. I over came my fear of open water swimming and have acquired a new love of triathlons! I’ve already signed up to do this again.

September 5k obstacle race

This event took place in Edinburgh around Arthur’s seat. It was good to have done but didn’t have as many obstacles  as I had imagined.

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I’ve had a great 2016 and can’t wait for 2017. I’m doing a 100k night cycle in May around London, doing the Wee Beastie Triathlon again in July and planning on another half marathon in October.

 

A weekend in Stockholm on a budget

Stockholm may not seem an obvious weekend city break destination for everyone to choose.   However, with it being only 2 hours away in a direct flight from Edinburgh it isn’t too far to travel to.  It is comparable in distance to many other popular city break destinations like Paris and Barcelona.

Stockholm is a beautiful and vibrant city for the avid weekender city break traveler and it will certainly not disappoint.

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I flew with Ryan Air and as it was just a weekend I chose to keep costs down further and limited myself to their strict hand luggage allowance.  This was fairly easy given that my flight time was Friday 5.30 UK time and was due to arrive in Skavasta airport, outside Stockholm, at 8.30pm.  My return flight from Edinburgh to Stockholm with Ryan Air cost £62.

The challenge for the trip to Stockholm was to survive on a shoestring budget of 2000 kroner (roughly £200) excluding the cost of my flight.

The journey from Skavasta airport to Stockholm passed through motorways that were lined with deep forests on either side.  At times during the 1 hour 20 minute bus ride I thought I had been transported into the Twilight movie location of Forks in Washington, USA.

On the Saturday we had breakfast in a stylish café not far from the hostel (Stf Fridhemsplan Hostel-60 for a triple room for our stay) we were staying in.  This was in the  Kungsholmen (Kings’ Island) area of Stockholm.   After a light refreshment to fuel our bellies for a day of sightseeing we headed towards the metro.

Upon departing the metro a short walk took us towards Gustav Adolf Tury and over the Norrbro bridge into the old part of the city, Gamla Stan.   Gamla Stan is full of cobbled and meandering streets, trinkets shops, restaurants and cafes.   We saw the Riksdagshuset-the House of Parliament, the Riddarhuset-the House of Nobility and the Riddarhulmskyrka-a Church.   It also has the Kungliga Slottet-the Royal Palace.  We were able to see the ceremonial changing of the guards at 11.45am.

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We decided to walk back to the Hostel and went towards the Stadshuset, City Hall.  This is the venue for the Nobel Prize and was full of multiple wedding parties simultaneously getting their pictures taken.  It was a truly stunning backdrop for such an occasion.   We continued walking the promenade along from the Stadshuset called Norr Malastrand, that lined the water’s edge.

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Having bounced the night away at a Calvin Harris gig (see blog Delicious dance only a flight away) we began the morning somewhat tired from the previous night’s activities.  We had breakfast in the café from yesterday after which we went on a leisurely we walk towards Norr Malastrand again.  Unbeknown to us we had been very close to this yesterday so this time we were walking onwards towards the top end of the promenade.   The lake was full of runners, walkers, cyclists, families relaxing, people trying watersports, sunbathers, dogs splashing in the water, couples walking with their new babies in high tech strollers, friends and families gathering for special occasions (a christening).   This must be what Stockholmer’s  do on Sundays.  With such glorious scenery across the lake it is hard to imagine not wanting to live in a European City outside of the UK and Ireland.

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Had I not been on such a tight budget with limited baggage allowance I would have packed my running gear.  If I had it would have topped a fantastic weekend in Stockholm.   The only other thing that we never did was to take a boat trip around the lakes.  These cost from around 100 kroner upwards.  Stockholm is a city that was built around 14 islands connected by 57 bridges so it was a great shame we were unable to have one of the many boat trips on offer.  May be next time…

Stretching the budget:

  • Travel-

Return airport bus from Skavasta airport-268 kroner

Travel card-100 kroner

  • Accommodation-

Youth Hostel-600 kroner

  • Food and drink-

Two coffees and two muffins for breakfast cost-120 kroner

Two salads and two drinks cost-380 kroner

A take away consisting of a falafel with pitta break and salad and a cheese toastie both with drinks-68 kroner

Extras in the supermarket (beer and snacks)-100 kroner

4 beers at Calvin Harris gig-240 kroner

Money left over-around 30 kroner (£3).

Final note-

It was cheap enough to travel to Stockholm but it is an expensive place to visit.  So, save up to make sure you have enough kroners to spend and you will be guaranteed a weekend to remember.

Delicious dance only a flight away

 

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We met a number of people on the train back from the gig who shared this had not been the first time they had seen Calvin Harris.  In fact one women said she have seen him seven times. Wow!  This came as no surprise as his gig was amazing.

I had high expectations for seeing Calvin Harris not least the fact I’d travelled all over from Scotland to Stockholm to see him.

The warm up DJ’s Muller and Heyman came on at 8pm and did a pretty good job of jostling up the ever-increasing crowds at the Annexet which is a small arena next to the Ericcson Globe (the world’s largest spherical building).

Calvin’s next support act was Burns who came on at around 10pm.  I had been really looking forward to seeing him.  I liked Burn’s single “Lies” (Otto Knows remix).  He really got the crowd jumping.  My calves are still aching from all my bouncing!  He also played his new single “Limitless” featuring Clare Maguire.  His set was sensational and left me definitely wanting to check out his next tour dates.

The change over between Burns and Calvin Harris was like an exciting Houdini act.  Very impressive theatrics! Calvin came on at 11.30pm to a packed room full of screaming fans.  The wait was over.

The lights, the confetti, the pumping beats were a truly mind-blowing mix.  I am loving his new song “Thinking about you” featuring Ayah Marar.  It is one of my favourite tracks on his 18 months album.  Unless I was mistaken ( I had had a few beers by now) there appeared to be a healthy number of Swedish based artists thrown into Calvin’s set including Sebastian Ingrosso, Tommy Trash and John Martin’s single “Reload”.  What a treat for the international audience.  In my group there were 3 Scottish people (two of whom live in central Europe), one Swiss French person (with a Russian sounding name), a Canadian and an American (who I thought was actually French).

The gig exceeded all expectations of what seeing Calvin Harris would be like.  I could get used to travelling around the world listening to Calvin delivering his high dosage of delicious dance.

 

 

 

A pint and chips

I looked at my alarm on the morning of the Edinburgh Marathon.  It said 12.30pm. OMG I started screaming and crying.            It was over, I’d let everyone down, how could I let this happen.

Then I woke up.

What a nightmare.   I’d slept a little bit but was too excited for a full proper sleep before my first marathon.   It was a really sunny morning in Edinburgh with bright blue skies.   The guest house we were staying in didn’t do cooked breakfast so I had bought a porridge that only needed hot water and had a banana too.  I had laid my clothes out the night before so it didn’t take long to get ready.  Before we left the guest house we had some “continental breakfast” which consisted of cereal and toast. Not very continental but I had some toast and two cups of tea.

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My husband dropped me off as near to the start as possible.  I was left with a 15 minute walk to my start area, Regent Street, which was easy enough to find by following the trail of other similarly dressed runners.  I was at my start area for 9.20am.  At this point I joined the infamous toilet queue which took around 15 minutes.  I chatted to a few runners in my purple pen.  One was part of the relay team and another three were also hoping for a 5 hour and 30 minute finish time.  I felt in good company.

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The clock ticked 10am and the race started. Well, it did for the fast runner and but the purple pen didn’t run over the start line until at least 10.20am.  It was hard to keep to my planned race pace.  For a 5 hour and 30 min finish time I needed to be doing around 12 min 50 seconds pace on average.  I looked at my Garmin watch and it said 9.5 pace.  I slowed again and it said 10.15.  I slowed again and it said 10.45.  I slowed again and it said 11.15 and when I slowed again it said 11.3.  I decided to keep at this pace.  I felt perfectly fine…

Around the mile one marker I befriended a fellow runner, Claire from Leicestershire.  It was her first marathon too and she was also hoping for a 5 hour 30 min finish.   We chatted away and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and the fantastic atmosphere.  There were lots of crowds at the start.  I had my name printed on my T-shirt.  It was such a motivator hearing people shout “come on Elena” or “Well done Elena”.

The joke for the first 6 miles was trying to keep ahead of the dreaded sweep bus for those runners who were running too slowly.  Every time we heard an engine sound our hearts fluttered and we practically sweated our way forward to find out it was the bloody paramedic on a motor bike!  It kept fooling us on more than one occasion.   We were both keeping at a 11.45 pace and we felt good.   It was very hot.

Around mile 8 our pace slipped to 12.45.  This felt ok as this was what our pace should have been from the start.  We continued chatting.  From the half way mark our pace dropped to 14 min mile pace.  I felt fine, honestly but my legs had a different idea! We worked hard at trying to stop getting slower.  Running at the faster pace for the first 8 miles wasn’t such a great idea.

It was frustrating as I had read all about this as part of my marathon preparation.  The advice was to stick to your marathon pace and retain energy for the latter part of the race.  Despite reading lots of information about keeping to your race pace and not to run off too fast I defied them all! My pace at the start should have been 12.5 which is slow.  But had I done this I know I could have maintained it to make my 5 hour 30 min finish.  In the end I ran 8 miles 1 minute faster than my race pace and in so doing used up all my energies.   But despite what my Garmin pace was telling me what I already knew-I was running really slow-I was really enjoying the atmosphere.

From 10 miles up to around mile 20 there is a loop in the marathon route.  This involves running on a stretch of road with both sides having runners going in different directions.   At this point we saw the elites pass by.  We gave them all big cheers. You see, us slow runners are a really chirpy bunch.  Or at least my group was.  As group leader I ensured there was lots of motivational talk; “this is a Sunday training run” “we can do this, we are already doing it” Plus some spontaneous acapella.  A group favourite was Back Street Boys “Everybody”.  A wee mantra we coined to get us to the finish was imagining having a pint and chips.  Pint and chips was a real motivator let me tell you! Especially when nearing “the dark place”, as Claire put it.

At mile 15 I saw in the distance a young woman who was topped by the road.  She was crying and looked as if she was trying to be sick.  I immediately stopped beside her, as did Claire.  She said she thought she was having an asthma attack.  She knew she wasn’t but after stopping wasn’t sure how to start again.  We helped her by giving her some encouragement and walking with her for 10 minutes.  This totally mucked up our race finish plan but it was the right thing to do.  I was brought up to help and care for people, offer an extending hand to those who are less off.   It’s probably why I ended up being a social worker!

This stretch of the road was utterly demoralising.  Seeing large crowds of runners on the other side running onwards to the finish and knowing we still had 10 miles to go was heart destroying.  In reality I would say to the organisers the stretch of the road was too long for a loop.  This reason alone is why I won’t be running this marathon again, especially if your finish time is 5 hours and over.  When you have been running 3 and a half hours the last thing you need is to be reminded visually of how long you have still to run.  By this time the mass of spectators had disappeared.

It was comforting to know that while we were slow there were others behind us who were even slower.   Success on a small-scale is nonetheless success!

I was totally beaten by mile 20.  My hips were aching whether I was running fast or slow.  I just couldn’t find any rhythm.  My running buddy Claire was feeling pain in her feet so I championed her on.  I remembered a bit of advice offered by a friend of mine who said to keep you mentally alert and get through a difficult patch was to start counting or saying the alphabet or people’s names using the alphabet.  I chose to count; once to 582, then to 382, then another 445 and who knows what else as when I lost count I just started again.  The pain at points was unbearable.

I looked at my watch and it said 5 hours 35 minutes.  We were only at mile 24.5.  We knew we had not made our aim of finishing if before 5 hours 30 mins.  Our new aim was to be in before 6 hours.  Claire and I tried so hard to make it but our legs could hardly move. It was like trying to run in treacle.

The last 600 metres was more crowded again.  This time spectators and fellow runners were cheering us on.  We entered the last 200m.  I saw my two boys at the side of the road.  It was so amazing to see them.  I felt a last rush of energy as I ran over the finish line with Claire.  I am so proud of my achievement.  Claire and I hugged each other.

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Thank you so much Claire, you gave me such a memorable marathon experience.  I would like to say a huge thank you also to my wonderful husband, parents and children who came to watch me.  This made my marathon journey more fantastic.

At the end we had to walk 20 minutes to get the shuttle bus back into Edinburgh as the race finishes in Musselburgh.  Having run for 6 hours and 5 minutes I discovered that pain had found a new frontier!

During this walk I swore I’d never run a marathon again.  However, 24 hours is a long time in a runner’s life.  By the next day while I felt a little stiff I was feeling stronger too.   As I was on a day’s holiday from my work I took the opportunity to search for my next potential race.  I might not do a marathon next year but I will definitely be running another marathon.   I want to get faster before I run my next marathon.  The cut off for Paris Marathon is 5 hours and 30 minutes…

The greatest race in the world-Le Tour de France

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I have so many memories of Le Tour de France from childhood.  Watching the TV in my parents kitchen whilst cycling away vigorously on a stationary bike.  Seeing the cyclists pass by in the streets during a stage of the Volta a Catalunya.  As a child from the ages of 7 to 10 I lived in Barcelona and also latterly in Sitges, a coastal town 30 minutes in the train from Barcelona. The most vivid memory I have is when we returned to Sitges in 1989 for a summer holiday when I was 13.  It was Sunday 23rd July and the final stage of the tour was a time trial.   The two leaders France’s Laurent Fignon and America’s Greg LeMond were separated by a mere 50 seconds.  I wanted LeMond to win.  On a sweltering hot afternoon while the rest of my family enjoyed the beautiful day I sat in the hotel’s lounge and watched the Spanish TV commentary of the race.   I absolutely loved every minute of it.  To my delight LeMond won the stage and as Fignon came third the final result ended with LeMond winning le Tour by 8 seconds.   It was an amazing race to watch. 

It is an amazing race to watch.  The sheer power, determination and mental strength the riders use to compete.  From my younger days my favourite cyclists were Miguel Indurain, Pedro Delgado and Robert Millar.  Nowadays I’m a big fan of Fabian Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish (Cav).   I really hope Cav wins the green jersey in the points competition at this year’s 100th Tour de France.

Good Luck to all the riders for today’s opening stage Porto-Vecchio to Bastia in Corsica. 

 

Lets get physio physio, I wanna get physio..

I began this week with a few days rest.  I was struggling to walk properly in my left leg on Monday but by Tuesday it was a lot better.    I booked myself into see a sports physio on Wednesday.  She got me to do  a few exercises and watched me walking up and down her room.  She said my left hamstring strain is down to over pronation.  She advised to get a sports insole which would add an arch on my left sole.  My right foot is ok but when it comes to feet one needs to achieve a balance 😉

She gave me a remedial sports massage. Now for those who haven’t been before it is a massage focusing on all the small parts of the muscles that there are issues/niggles with.  Both my hamstrings were very painful-my outer left ones on both legs one since I am over pronating on my left foot.  

She prescribed low mileage. I could run but keep it low. I wondered if one 12 miler would be ok (no), I further wondered if one 10 miler would be ok (no). My puppy eyes weren’t having any effect to what she was saying.  She finally ok’d me doing 6 miles. It will need to do if I am to keep with my training plan. 😦

So this week has been a low key one.

Monday-rest day (day after injury)

Tuesday-rest day (only just felt better). This is normally one of my running days

Wednesday-physio session of 1 hour and 30 mins

Thursday-ok I was meant to run on tread mill but I took the advice of my gym buddy (see previous post). This is another one of my running days

Friday-rest day

Saturday-did 3 miles. It felt ok. I was a little nervous running as I was worried it would be sore but it wasn’t. 

Sunday-today I am hoping to run later today.

I probably should have done more cross training this week instead of those extra rest days but you live and learn.

Byee Elena 🙂Image