FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: February 2015


Thursday, 26 February 2015

RACE REPORT | Brighton Half Marathon 2015

I'm a bit late writing this one up but my immediate post-race-endorphins were blurbed out into another post about why I love running, so head over there if you fancy a peek into the euphoric mind of a runner who's just ran a 7min half marathon PB.

Last year, the Brighton Half was my favourite race in terms of performance - I ran it so well, got a massive PB and felt strong and prepared for the full marathon. This year is no different, except for the fact that I actually paced myself instead of hanging on to a pacer or running with the lovely RunningMorph.

I spent the night before the race excitedly (alright, stressfully) pacing the flat, chatting on social media, planning a pacing strategy, worrying about whether to go for a sub2, PB or just run it at marathon pace.

My favourite race

The thing is though, realistically there was no way I was gonna slow down to marathon pace for this half - it wouldn't have been humanly possible with such rested legs (I'd had the week off running), beautiful weather and great crowd support.

There are so many reasons it's my favourite race:

1) Brighton rocks, I love living and racing here

2) So many friends were running and supporting

3) Half marathons are the perfect distance - far enough to class as long distance but short enough to run fast(ish) and without training taking over your life

4) Amazing crowd support - the whole city comes out to cheer

5) Always brilliant weather - the Running Gods have shined for the past three years that I've ran the race, anyway. For the "2011 monsoon" I was too busy being fat, hungover and uninterested in any kind of exercise to notice.

6) Nice chunky bit of bling for the medal whores among us :)

7) PB every time. (So far for the last three years - if this ever changes I'll eat my words)


This year was the first time me and the hubs had ran the race together - in fact, our first half marathon together, although of course we didn't start together as Mr Speedypants is far too (effortlessly) fast for me.

Some 11,000 runners lined up at Madeira Drive on Sunday and if you look at the photo below you can see the 2hr pacer flag who I was meant to be starting near. I, however, was about 100ft behind faffing with my earphones and trying to cram my iPhone back into my FleetfootII running belt so lost him from the start.

I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing though - as I said, this is the first race I managed to successfully pace myself for and that's great practice for the marathon.

Brighton Half Marathon 2015

I knew to get a PB I had to keep each mile under 9:45 which was surprisingly easy and I kept looking down at my watch and seeing between 9-9:30 min/mi pace, sometimes even in the 8s but I felt strong all the way through.Check out my stats here.

My legs started to tire at around mile 8 and I remember looking down at my watch and seeing there were more than five miles to go, but it wasn't an 'oh-shit-I-can't-do-this-anymore' kind of pain like the marathon, just a case of maintaining the controlled discomfort to keep the pace and come in with a PB.

I passed Becca for the second time on the home straight along the seafront and as she cheered me (yay thanks!) I yelled 'I've got a PB!' I didn't know how much by though, so was so, so happy to come in at 2:02:24 - not too far at all off a sub2. I'll bag that later this year.

Hubs did brilliantly too, coming in less than a minute away from his PB of 43:10 after having a shoulder op in December. SKILLZ.

Brighton Half Marathon 2015 - Tess Agnew

I wanted to finish this post with a comparison of the key elements for me - the time, the bling, and the post-race-refuel - sticky toffee pud all the way. 

On all occasions, 2015 has come out on top, I think you'll agree! 

Brighton Half Marathon 2014 vs 2015

Brighton Half Marathon 2014 vs 2015
                                            2014                                                       2015 25th Anniversary medal - check out the chunk on that!

Brighton Half Marathon 2014 vs 2015
             2014 sticky toffee pud                                                           2015 - this was the absolute sex

So many others had such a great Brighton Half this year, PBs a plenty! Annnnd, the rain and wind held off until we were sufficiently fed, rehydrated and sticky toffee pudding had been inserted. 


I've got North London Half next on 15th March and I'll probably add a few miles on beforehand and run this one at planned marathon pace. I promise. 

I will not go for sub2... I will not go for sub2... I will not go for sub2... 


Did you race Brighton Half? How did it go for you? 

Do you find it difficult to rest or am I alone here? What are your strategies for beating maranoia in the final taper weeks? 

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Why do you run?

I was meant to write this yesterday whilst still basking in the glory of my 7minute PB at Brighton Half (more on this later), but I couldn't sit still for long enough to write it as my legs were screaming at me and the foam roller of doom beckoned. #PBproblems.

I've got a 10 o'clock start today (hurray for flexi-time) so if you're lucky and I don't procrastinate too much on Twitter and Facebook I'll be able to get this written and published before I leave for work. I'm leaving the bike at home and treating myself to a walk in, to loosen the legs up and get a bit longer on Rivers Of London on Audible. (Great book, you have to read/listen to it).

Asking the question...

As me and the hubs cracked open the Cab Sav last night and toasted our amazing day of running, racing and epic refuelling (roast dinner and sticky toffee pudding for lunch, pizza and chocolate for tea - clean eating starts again this week!), we started to talk about why we love to run. 

For me, whenever someone asks me that question I turn into an excited child, proclaiming my undying love for it; big grin plastered across my face, eyes darting around the room and hands waving all over the place as I try to put into words what it means to me. 

Nothing gives me that high like putting one foot in front of the other in the wonky way that I do. I do/have done a lot of other fitness stuff - cycling, climbing, swimming (work in progress), bootcamp, even boxing - and yes, stepping into that ring was the most terrifying, and exhilarating, and awesome experience of my life; but my heart belongs to running. 

Those lovely, awesome endorphins that stay with you for hours afterwards. 

I love to run for so many reasons, and trying to articulate them into a coherent sentence or blog post is actually proving quite hard, but I know that it comes from something inside of me, if that makes sense. Like it's in my soul. 

It's a massive contradiction:

I run to think, to have some 'me time'. 
But then I also run to be part of the community - to chat to others, to share those races with BOSHers and Twitter friends, and those tough, hilly and beautiful miles across the hills of the South Downs with fellow RunBrighton members. 

I run to get outside and appreciate this gorgeous city we live in. 
But then I also run on the treadmill staring at a screen some lunchtimes for a quick interval-fuelled endorphin fix. 

I run to compete with myself, to better myself, to get that wonderful PB. 
But then I also run just for the sake of it, without my watch (alright, only very occasionally), to be free of pace, and time, and structure. 

It's So. Bloody. Hard.
But then it's just so easy when it works. 

Sometimes it hurts, gives you blisters, pulls your tendons, injures your knees. 
But then it's always worth it, in the end. Always. 

Mundane tasks like cleaning the kitchen become much more enticing when you're staring at the beginning of 16+ long slow miles on the training plan. 
But when you stop procrastinating and get out there and get it done, you wonder why you were so worried. That was AWESOME. 

I asked people on Facebook (members of BOSH Run) and Twitter why they run, and so many brilliant replies came out of it. Just look at all these words, who wouldn't want to run when this is why we do it?!

Why do you run? Tell me... tell me everything! 


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Thursday, 19 February 2015

REVIEW | The Salt Room, Brighton

It's not often the opening of a new restaurant creates such a buzz in Brighton.

The Salt Room is the second venture from Raz Helalat, the man behind the city's premier steak venue, The Coal Shed, and is everything you'd expect and more from such a well-loved Brighton institution.

Suave, sophisticated, and undeniably cool; The Salt Room stands proud next to The Hilton Metropole Hotel along the seafront, overlooking what will be the exciting i360 viewing tower by the ruins of our beloved West Pier.

The enticing 50+ cover terrace is empty at the moment but come spring will no doubt be overflowing with diners - the restaurant's already had many requests for when it will be open for seating.

Inside is smart, sexy, and comfortable. Bare brickwork and reclaimed timber lines the walls with industrial low-lighting hanging from the ceiling. The floor-to-ceiling windows frame the terrace and seafront view, and the signature dessert, Taste of the Pier (more on this later), is delivered to you on a slab of reclaimed driftwood from the West Pier.

The leather-bound drinks menu oozes charm and you just know you're going to the wonderland that is 'Gin & Tonica' later. But first, a bottle of the Savignon Blanc, please...

The Salt Room interior and menu is all about style and sustainability, bringing the best of Brighton to your table. I was lucky enough to be invited to the soft launch last night and enjoy 50% off all food so of course me and hubs went to town on that gorgeous menu.

The food 

Few things excite me as much as good food does. Those who know me in person will know that I'm someone who can never contain my emotions. If I'm excited about something, you'll know about it, and so will everyone around me.

If that means bouncing up and down on my chair like a child in Brighton's smartest new restaurant as the menu is brought out to us, then so be it.

Growing up's overrated, anyway.

Having perved over the menu all week at work I'd made my decision on what to order no less than 30 times before the (very patient and knowledgeable) waitress came back to take it. I want the Fruits of the Sea with lobster. No, sorry, the roast halibut and braised oxtail, I saw that on Twitter earlier, that looked good.

- Oh, actually, what about the whole market Dover Sole on the specials board, cooked on the Josper?

Dammit I'll have one of everything, please, and hubs will have the same...

In the end we opted for the Fruits of the Sea with crab to share as a starter (they were unfortunately all out of lobster), the shoulder of turbot (me) and spiced monkfish (hubs) with a side of sesame broccoli and new potatoes.

The shellfish were so fresh we could've been down to the rockpools to pick them ourselves, and the mains were just as delicious as they sound on the menu.

Oh, and we had some oysters before the main too as we seemed to be on some sort of inhale-everything-on-the-menu mission. Six weeks until Brighton Marathon...

After we'd devoured this lot we were presented with the dessert menu but I already knew what we were having, and so did the whole of my office as I'd been going on about it all week.

The Salt Room's signature dessert: Taste of the Pier, is a one-way ticket to wonderland for any sweet lover. A sharing dessert (although I'd blatantly have a good go at this all on my own for carb loading / marathon training purposes), presented on a slab of reclaimed driftwood from the iconic West Pier, this bad boy's got the lot:

Candy Floss, Salt caramel and Chocolate “99”, Rum & Coconut Marshmallows, 
Doughnuts, Pebbles and honeycomb. 

Can I get a HELL YES?

I don't need to tell you how excited I was with every mouthful of this - the whole restaurant knew about it. #sorrynotsorry. (Excuse the poor quality photos by the way, I'm not up for bringing my DSLR to the dinner table...)

I washed this down with a trip to Gin & Tonica for a raspberry & orange blossom Fords G&T *happy face* and the hubs went for a generous measure of Talisker single malt to remind him of our honeymoon in the Highlands.

As you can see, boys and girls, The Salt Room is a force to be reckoned with in the gourmet restaurant stakes; Brighton's swishest, swankiest spot in town with a really comfy ambience that's as classy as it is stylish. It's OK to ask the kitchen to pause the mains so you can have a serving of oysters. You can have anything you want.

The world is your oyster.

Oh dear. Food endorphins struck again, sorry.

Let's just leave it at The Salt Room is proper epic, there's no trout about it. Seariously, it's fintastic, I'm not even squidding. You have cod to go.

OK OK I'm going. Sorry...

The Salt Room opens its doors to the public this Friday 20th (tomorrow) and to celebrate is holding a #SaltSearch Treasure Hunt with loads of prizes from cocktails for 4 to £100 dinner voucher across Brighton and Hove's most famous landmarks. Keep an eye out on @TheSaltRoomUK from 10am tomorrow morning for the first clue! 


Have you been to The Salt Room yet, or have you already made your booking? 

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Brighton Marathon Training Weeks 7-8

Week nine starts tomorrow. Errmmaaaggghhhaaaddd. 

It surprises me how fast time goes when the pressure of a training plan is involved and the weeks are counting down to race day. Nick Anderson scared the shit out of everyone at the Training Day last Sunday by sharing the fact that it was only 62 days until we stand at the start line of Brighton Marathon 2015.  

Brighton Marathon Training Day 2015
Nick taunting us with this year's medal

And of course, it's seven days less than that now, but then when you measure time by days rather than weeks it always seems much closer. Either way, I'm not gonna get too scared and just get on with things. 

There's still a good solid five weeks left of training before the taper, and like I keep saying, I'm in a much stronger position this year than last, so as long as I don't get injured everything will be OK. 

RunBrighton marathon training runs - Brighton

The last two weeks have been mega busy in terms of training, life and writing, and I've learnt a few lessons about what I can and can't cope with. I've been trying to pack so much into my weekly schedule and have had to bail on some of it as I've been too knackered at times - but that's OK. 

I'm learning to be kind to myself. Which isn't that hard, with a long run view like this:

Undercliff walk - Brighton - copyright Tess Agnew

Undercliff walk - Rottingdean - Brighton - copyright Tess Agnew

Brighton cliffs - copyright Tess Agnew

I've managed to fit in yoga (finally) and have been to Bikram four times in the last two weeks, which I'm mega chuffed about, even though it's the most difficult thing in the WORLD! Work in progress though, right? 

The bed time alarm is sort of working (when I don't turn the bloody thing off) and I've been in bed by 10.30pm most nights.   

Rock and roll. 

I've slipped a little on the clean eating front and am back on the sugar, but the runger is FIERCE so it's hard not to pile everything in. 

I've been doing much more writing, not just for this blog, but also for RunBrighton, Huffington Post and Running Physio, as well as pitching to other sites and publications so doing all that with training and work has meant my meal planning and food prep has taken a hit. 

I have managed to get some highly offensive office breakfasts in there though... 

Click here for 5 Offensive Office Habits of the Marathon Runner 

I'll tighten everything up again for the last few weeks, including cutting the dinnertime wine. I also need to not try to pack so much in, and respect the fact that I might not be ready for a Tuesday threshold run if Sunday's long run was a hilly one. 

It's all progress though - this time last year I wasn't running half as much as I am now. I'm really surprising myself with the midweek runs - I feel fast and strong on the threshold and progression runs, even though I might look like a bit of a nob giving myself a talking to along the seafront in the mornings... 

"4mins left then a rest. 3 mins. Come on... Just 2 mins... Fucking hell..." 

I've been doing a bit more on the long runs than what's prescribed in the plan but only because I feel I can, and if that changes, I'll stop. 

W/C 2/2/15 - WEEK 7  

Tue: Recovery run SPORTS MASSAGE
Wed: Bikram 7am + Gym S&C legs PM  
Thu: 60mins prog run (20easy / 20steady / 20threshold) AM  + Bikram 6pm
Fri: REST  
Sat: Continuous hills 50mins 5x (5mins/90secs jog)  + parkrun
Sun: RunBrighton long run (2hrs18) 13miles :)  + Brighton Marathon Training Day

**missed: Threshold run 45mins 5x (5mins/75secs) + gym S&C upper body


Tue: AM Threshold intervals 5x(6min/90sec) within 60min run + Circuits class
Wed: Bikram 7am  
Thu: 75mins run including 2x10mins threshold in last 30mins   
Sat: 21mile mtb ride across the Downs
Sun: Long run (2hrs45 with 30mins marathon pace)

*missed: 45-60mins continuous hills 3x(12mins effort / 90secs jog) + gym S&C


Looking forward to a cutback week next week in prep for Brighton Half!

Still basking in the glory of last year's 12minute PB I signed up to the 1:45 - 1:59 pen this year, and looking at the pace I'll need to run for a sub2 it doesn't look likely. So I'm gonna go for a PB (anywhere under 2:09) and if it doesn't work out I'll run the whole thing at marathon pace and it won't be a total fuck up and make me feel crap if I can't PB. 

Bring on those easy midweek plods!! 

How is your weekly training going? What are you finding difficult?


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Friday, 6 February 2015

Be kind to yourself

I couldn't be arsed to go to the gym today. Or run. Or go to Bikram.

I laid my kit out for an upper body session at the gym and went to bed at 11 rather than midnight (early bedtimes are a work in progress, still battling with myself to get to bed before this). Too many hits of the snooze button and a general I-can't-be-arsed feeling convinced me to write it off and have another rest day.

This is part of Project Be Kind to Tess, something I'm working on during this cycle of marathon training to look after myself and train mindfully to get to the start line of Brighton Marathon injury free, strong, conditioned and fully charged for a PB.

And I will get a PB.

It's easy to activate beast mode when working hard towards a goal - nothing else matters, never mind if you're tired - no pain, no gain, and all that crap.

Miss a threshold run this week?! Better defer your marathon place, it's just not gonna happen now.

Nah, I'm not buying into all that any more. I'm respecting what my body can do (and what it can't) and am letting it have its say. If Tuesday's planned threshold session has to be turned into an almost-walking-pace recovery run - so be it.

If I can't be arsed to go to the gym and fancy two slices of toast with peanut butter and builder's tea on a Friday morning - that's fine. I've learnt a few things this winter about how to look after myself while training, so if you're going through the same thing, do yourself a favour and be kind...

1. Stop criticising yourself

So you stopped and started a bit on your long run, took a few photos, stretched out your calves, didn't run as fast up the hills.

You did your intervals but didn't keep the pace as well.

Who cares? The miles are in the bank, the work is done -  you could've sat on the sofa and not gone out at all. Stop nitpicking at your workouts and look at what you've achieved.

2. Rest when you need to 

A difficult lesson to learn when you've got a training plan to stick to. Something I've learned though, is not to be ruled by the plan. Use it as a guide. If you hit all the sessions - great, well done! If not, don't beat yourself up about it.

Only you know your own body, and if you try and push on for a hard session when your legs are screaming NO, you'll be injured and miserable.

Rest hard, and you'll come back stronger.

3. Strength and conditioning 

One of the most important parts of marathon training, without a doubt, is strength and conditioning. If your body is not strong enough to cope with the training you are putting it through, you'll crash and burn.

Strength and conditioning for runners - King Alfred gym Brighton

I learnt this the hard way last year, skipping hills and not doing any weights, and my weak hamstrings and glutes made me pay for it.

Staying injury free is vital and the only way you can do this is by training mindfully and getting strong. My physio Tom Goom (aka RunningPhysio) has done this ace guide to injury prevention if you're interested.

4. Sports massage 

I know. It hurts, it's expensive, it makes you swear. A lot.

But if you don't give your legs a regular service, you'll seize up and probably die. Maybe.

5. Go to yoga 

If you're a runner you just have to do this. Do it for your body and your mind.

I've been saying I should do more yoga for months. Last week I signed up to a 30 day intro deal with Bikram in the Lanes in Brighton and since (and including) Saturday I've been three times.

It's incredibly hard, probably the most difficult thing I've done so far this winter, because my body is so tight and rigid that I can't open myself up to do the postures. But this is a work in progress, and I'm gonna go at least three times a week for the next month to see if it improves.

Despite the difficulty, I'm absolutely loving setting aside 90mins each class for ME. Focus, be calm, be strong, and breathe. I will get better...

I must get over wiping the sweat from my face though!

6. Eat and sleep more 

Healthy Turkey Burger recipe - FitBits
Homemade turkey burgers with sweet potato chips - recipe here 

I don't tend to have any problems with eating more but sleeping more is another massive work in progress for me right now. I've set an alarm for 9.45pm with the aim of being in bed by 10.30 but it's not happening at the moment.

Sleep is just as important as the actual running and training - I need to remember this! It's just difficult with 101 other things to do, with work, my writing and actually spending time with hubs and friends/family, to shut down and get to sleep at a sensible time.

Like I said though, a work in progress. This week I've nailed fitting in the yoga. Next week I'll nail the sleep.


Are you being kind to yourself with your training? 
Am I the only one who nitpicks at runs and comes away feeling bad? 
Also, somebody please tell me I'll get better at Bikram soon... please?

Monday, 2 February 2015

Brighton Marathon Training Week 6

<-- Weeks 4-5

My legs hurt.

They hurt in an I-worked-bloody-hard-last-week-and-I-feel-awesome kind of way.

I've been getting worried that I'm not working as hard as other Twitter buddies and runners in other groups I'm part of. Lots of people are running 15, 16, 17 miles already on the long runs in preparation for their Spring marathons, and I've been teetering around 10-11 for the past couple of weeks.

RunBrighton marathon training runs - Brighton Marathon 2015

I've given myself a good talking to this week as I've been nitpicking at my runs and coming away feeling bad in one way or another.

10 miles done but it was stop-start. Threshold intervals in the bag but it wasn't as fast as normal. 

Well it stops now. I need to stop worrying about what other people are doing and concentrate on my own progress. This time last year I couldn't run two days in a row because of my knees. I was doing two or three runs a week and no strength work apart from my physio exercises. This time I'm doing four runs, two or three gym sessions, a core class, cycling to work and now Bikram too. 

Yep, you heard me - I actually managed to fit in a Bikram class - are you proud?! No swim though, just can't fit it in, unless I want a divorce. 

Anyway, last week was awesome my legs are done. Here's why:

W/C 26/1/15 - WEEK 6

Mon:               bfit CORE PM
Tue:                Threshold run 45mins 5x (5mins/90secs)  
Wed:               Gym S&C + BTRS turbo
Thu:        REST  
Fri: Gym S&C  
Sat: Continuous hills 45mins 3x (10mins/90secs jog) + parkrun + Bikram yoga 11am
Sun: RunBrighton long run (2hrs)  

Started the week off with a tough core class, and boshed out some intervals on Tuesday along the seafront. It was my first threshold session off the treadmill in a while and thank God I did them then instead of Wednesday as the weather was pretty grim the next day. 

Hove seafront beach huts

I took shelter in the gym and ruined my legs at the BTRS turbo class with Chris in the evening. It still surprises me how much you can sweat on a stationary bike! 

King Alfred gym - weights area

Brighton Triathlon Race Series turbo session

I accidentally missed Thursday's out-and-back progression run due to getting up late and being busy at work so had a rest day to save energy for the weekend. 

Saturday had 45mins of Kenyan hills with 5x (5mins/90secs jog) on the plan but I read week seven instead and ended up doing 3x (10mins/90secs jog) which proper killed me. I followed this with a nice comfy parkrun and then went off to my first Bikram class with Bikram in the Lanes in Brighton. 

Out of all the things I did last week, this might possibly have been the hardest. And most blissful. Came out of there feeling like Jesus. It was epic. 

Sunday's long run was a beautiful (but bloody freezing) hilly affair up on the Downs in the melting snow. Bloody marvellous it was. 10 very tough miles in the bag. 

RunBrighton marathon training runs - Brighton Marathon 2015

Hence the rest day today. No core class, just a tired cycle to work and lots of sitting on my arse. Threshold intervals tomorrow... I don't think I'm ready yet! 

*scurries off to bed* 

Is anyone else getting as knackered as I am? This Improver's plan is showing me who's boss! What's been your highlight of last week's training?


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