FitBits: 2017

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Friday, 19 May 2017

Surrey Hills mountainbiking with Marmalade MTB





Video below 👇

There's a post in my drafts that I've not yet published about doing more exercise that makes my heart sing (stay tuned this weekend for it to go live). For me, riding my bike(s) has always brought me unparalleled joy, I've loved cycling all my life.

The kind of joy I felt as a kid, when my Dad bought me a new BMX for Christmas and instead of 'just' wrapping it up, he made finding it into one massive game - a treasure hunt around the house and garden following a piece of string to my prize (nice one Dad).

I've never let go of that magic.

Everything I need part 1

 

Practice makes badass


This year I'm determined not to break any bones and do myself out of a summer on the wheels. I can confirm that apart from devouring the entire Breaking Bad collection in the first seven days being a particular highlight of those boring, rested weeks, there wasn't really much else to be happy about.

So, if I'm to keep all my bones in tact this year, including the metal plate that's now stapled to my clavicle (BFFs forevs), I need to get better on the trails.

That means more riding, more practice, more punching fear in the face and not letting my accident stop me from doing what I (really, really) love. I need to work on that bit when the fear takes over on the steep bits, but it's a work in progress.

We ride the trails in Wales and Forest of Dean a few times each year, but that's not enough if we want to really get better, and be more confident, capable mountain bikers.

It's time to get some proper, regular practice - on trails that don't take four hours to drive to.

 

Hello Surrey Hills  

 


We live less than an hour away from the wonderland of singletrack delight that is the Surrey Hills, but had never ridden there until last weekend as we had no idea where where to start. The 'problem' with only riding trail centres in Wales and Forest of Dean is that we're used to nice waymarked, managed, graded trails, and visitor centres with maps, jacket potatoes and bespoke ale for refuelling.


We're not very good at turning up to the woods and finding the local trails, and we didn't want to suddenly come across any massive jumps or technical sections that we couldn't ride, so decided to do a Surrey Hills tour with mountain bike guide Sean from Marmalade MTB.

His awesome videos and photos from his group rides and 121s have been invading my social feeds for a few months now, so we were excited to finally hit the send button on a message to book in for ourselves.

Everything I need part 2




Now, before I go into the brilliant bike fit and guiding that Sean took us through I'd just like to share one top tip for anyone looking to book in with him. It's quite a simple tip really, but pretty fundamental to the cycling enjoyment of your day I'd say, and I'm sure anyone who exists in the world, ever, would agree.

Here it is. Are you ready?

TOP TIP: WHEN DRIVING FOR AN HOUR TO A MTB GUIDED RIDE, REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR WHOLE BIKE. 

We pride ourselves on our camping set up. We've pretty much mastered it to leave everything permanently in the van (sleeping bag, stove, tea, crockery, cutlery, etc), apart from food and bikes.

The idea is, when we take the van away, it's just a case of packing the food, ice packs, beer and bikes - everything else we need should already be in there.

So far so good?

What we didn't think about was the fact that Chris had previously borrowed my wheel when he had a puncture and we forgot to put his axle back on, so although we threw both bikes and all wheels in the back to leave, what we'd actually done was to drive to Surrey with no way of securing his front wheel. And didn't realise this until we'd all spent half an hour faffing about with the punctures that we didn't have the foresight to fix before we turned up.

So Chris had to drive ALL THE WAY HOME to get this crucial component, leaving me to have a proper bike fit with Sean and practice some bike handling skills such as track stands before we headed out on the trails.

Every cloud, and all that.

A proper bike fit 



We've had our full sus mountain bikes for a year now, and have never actually had them fitted. A few simple adjustments to the dropper seat post, break and gear positions, and suspension made my bike feel so much better.

Sean worked wonders:

  • Moved the break levers and gears out and adjusted the angle to minimise reaching and wrist flex 
  • Adjusted the seat post so that when the dropper was fully up it was measured for my seated position (much less faffing on the trails trying to get the right height up hill!)
  • Repositioned the seat post angle so I don't have to keep pushing myself back when I slip forwards
  • Made sure the front and back suspension had the right air pressure in (psi should be equal in kg to your weight - my front suspension was less than half of what it should be and I'd been riding like it for months!)
  • Adjusted tyre pressure (better to have lower pressure for the trails unlike the rock solid tyres I turned up with)
  • Showed me the 'attacking position' for good weight distribution 
It's about giving you as little to think about as possible when riding the trails so you can concentrate on your flow and not be faffing about getting comfortable again.

Makes total sense in theory, and once I got on my newly fitting bike, it made total sense in practice. 

 

Punching fear in the face? Nearly... 





Once Chris got back we did a 10 mile loop taking in the only waymarked trail on the Surrey Hills: Summer Lightning and headed to the pub for the all-important liquid debriefing 😆.

It was really helpful having Sean behind me giving tips on how to ride and also in front showing me the best lines on the harder sections. There were still a few steep and technical bits that I couldn't get over the fear enough to ride though so took the chicken runs and let the boys get on with it.

On the Sunday though I 100% got my confidence back on two other fast and swooping trails, Yoghurt Pot and Telegraphs, both of which you can see in the video above.

Lots of work to do to get over my post-accident fear it seems. I think I'm fine but then it stops me right at the top of a steep drop and proper mucks up my flow, and confidence for the rest of the ride.

Like I said though, it's all about practice practice practice, and we're going back for Sean's 20mile tour of the trails this Sunday, so to be continued!!!



If you fancy a guided tour of the Surrey Hills trails or South Downs get in touch with Sean at Marmarlade MTB. He also does bike maintenance workshops and bike fit too! We paid £60pp for our 121 guided ride, but you can join the monthly group rides for just £20pp. 

Not sure yet? Follow him on Facebook or Instagram and let him infiltrate your social feeds until you give in. 

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Do you like mountain biking? Got any tips for me to get over the fear after my accident?

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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

My first float | The Float Spa, Brighton


The irony of rushing home from an hour of meditation to get straight back on the Macbook to blog about it isn't lost on me, don't worry.

I started to write this down before I went to bed last night as I didn't want today's To Do list to barge right in and fill up my brain again. When I got home it was pretty spacious up in this head of mine, let me tell you. I left the mini headache that'd been threatening to multiply all day behind in the floatation pod, (is that what they're called?), along with most of the thoughts that had been busying said brain for what seems like forever.

I say most of the thoughts.

It was my first session, a work in progress.

I loved 70% of it. 

The other 30% was spent thinking about work, trying to make my eyes see in the pitch black (very difficult and didn't happen), and seeing how gently I could push myself around the pod with my fingers.

When your senses are deprived like that and you cannot see a thing, it takes a surprisingly long time for your toes to reach the other side.


 

How often do you just lie still, and do nothing? 


It's Mental Health Awareness Week and meditation is something I've always been fascinated by, but not very good at. I'm one of those 'ohhh I'm so busy' people. You know, the ones who claim to be full on multi-taskers, 100 tabs open at once, the self-proclaimed productivity ninjas, getting shit done with no time to do anything else, and 100% unable to just sit and do nothing.

After a difficult year last year and my first taste of what I realise now was probably chronic stress and anxiety (did you watch the BBC's 'The Truth About Stress' last week?), I went into 2017 making a few promises to myself:

1) Reclaim my time

2) Focus on my wellbeing

3) Prioritise my health and happiness

That means making time for yoga, exercise, hanging out with friends, seeing family, not being a dick to Chris.

Always, always always... making time to run, ride and write, because that's always been the best kind of therapy for me.





So what about a float? 


That'll fit in quite nicely, right?

I have to say, hats off to The Float Spa in the first instance, for getting their email marketing bang on. As a digital marketer things like that please me immensely.

An email landed in my inbox on my birthday offering me a discount on my first float, reduced from £65 to £45. I know what you're thinking - £45 to basically lie still and do nothing? Say whaaa?! 

I kinda thought that too, but then I tried it.

At the time the email was sent I was mid way through a glorious five hour ride along the South Downs Way, but I knew I'd take them up on it when back in the land of the living.



I booked onto a yoga class at the Float Spa for MoveGB's Big Day of Move to check out where it actually was and have a nose at the pods.

The yoga class was epic and the lovely Assistant Manager Sarah showed me round, putting me at ease (not that she needed to, I was fascinated by the look of the pods and knew I would have to do it).

I left with the One Float monthly membership (discounted to share with you guys how I find it, so stay tuned).


A date with yourself

This is what a post-float, chilled AF Tess looks like



Last night was the night. I was quite nervous throughout the day, hoping to God that I'd be able to actually shut my mind down and relax in there.

What if it's weird?

Verdict? It is weird. 

And lovely. And all-encompassing. 

But sort of hard work, if, like me, your mind won't shut the hell up. 

It can be everything you want it to be, or nothing at all, and very much depends on how much you surrender to it.

Someone summed the experience up pretty well in the guest book by reception: "Elevated and expanded." I definitely felt both of those things coming out of there. I was relaxed and refreshed but not in the same way as when I come out of a good Savasanah at yoga.

You get more involved in yoga, moving your body, focusing on your breath, holding poses in what can be quite intense practice. Savasanah is your reward. I crave it after a hard class.

But floatation is just that - surrender your body to the water completely, surrender your mind, and do nothing. There's no 'reason' to reward yourself with your relaxation, you just do it.




The light in the room has a motion sensor so goes off once you close the pod. I had the blue light on inside for a bit while the meditation sounds (waves, seagulls), eased me into the float.

The music goes on for the first five minutes and then nothing, pure silence, until five minutes before the end so you know when it's nearly time to get out.

Half way though the music I turned the blue light completely off and it was 100 times better. I took Sarah's advice on trying different arm positions, (Savasanah, up over my head like a baby, palms down), and explored different movements in the water.

Because it's full of salts and magnesium the water makes your body feel different. It holds you up and envelops you in a silky smooth cushion (much to my delight).

I managed to quieten my mind eventually and sunk into my subconscious for a while, which was amazing. Somewhere in between (not sure when, time has no meaning in there), I lost it and completely woke up, got a bit angry with myself and laughed at what I was doing before settling back down again.



Literally, if you think about what you're actually doing in there, it's quite hilarious. 

Oh, and you're naked, by the way, which is just as Britishly awkward as it sounds at first, but then you really don't give a shit.

Afterwards you shower and freshen up in the Vanity Room before enjoying herbal tea and homemade sorbet in the chill out area by reception, which is a really nice touch.

I could've stayed there all night but they had to close so I cycled home on a wave of calm with my brain basking in space that it rarely gets to feel.


What did I learn? 


1) You do actually float

This was one of my main concerns and as someone who most definitely sinks I'm still surprised by it now.


2) It's better with the light off

I spent a fair amount of time trying really hard to make my eyes see in the pitch black, but they just couldn't do it. It was literally a black hole in there, and much easier to get in the zone in the dark than with the blue light on.


3) You should go to the loo beforehand. Twice

I did go to the loo before I got in, on Sarah's advice, but towards the end, maybe in the last 10minutes (or seconds, who knows in there?!), I started to need the loo again and that would've been annoying AF had it been any earlier.





4) An hour is a LONG TIME

I've never done any sort of meditation for longer than the Savasanah at the end of a yoga class, which, is what, about five minutes, on a good day? Just like I train my body to run marathons, it looks like I'm gonna have to train my mind to shut down.

Anyone got a training plan for that?!


5) Surrendering yourself completely is amazing

The moments where I did fall into it mentally were incredible.

In the shower afterwards I couldn't believe how many muscles it takes to stand up. When I changed arm positions in the pod (from above my head to Savasanah), my arms felt heavy like lead. Doing star fish motions with my legs was really surreal, my feet took forever to touch.

Don't worry I wasn't trying to do jumping jacks in there, just exploring the movement and feeling of being held up like that. Like when you do a figure of eight in table pose (with your eyes closed for God sake), it's nice to just explore and feel what it's like to be present in your body.

6) I need to do it again. Right now would be nice 💙


My first float wasn't perfect, by any means. I couldn't hold the relaxation for the whole time and I did find myself wondering what the time was and ticking off To Do lists in my head. 

But the moments where I was able to (WARNING: floatation wanker phrase coming) give myself to it fully were incredible. 

Elevated and expanded? Fuck yeah. 

*Oh, and by the way, I had the run of my life this morning at 6am - related? Who knows... 


As well as floatation The Float Spa do yoga, meditation and mindfulness workshops, massage and chiropractic therapy.  I'm paying for my One Float per month membership on a discounted rate in exchange for writing about my experience. 


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Have you ever tried (or wanted to try) 
floatation therapy?

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Sunday, 30 April 2017

If you don't take part, you're gonna fail

FitBits | If you don't take part you're gonna fail - Anthony Joshua - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Wise words spoken by World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua, moments after he knocked Wladimir Klitschko out in the 11th round.

90,000 people packed into Wembley Stadium to see this £30million pound title fight, with millions more watching online, in pubs, and on the live Instagram streams of people who'd paid to view it.

19 fights. 19 wins, all by stoppage. An opponent has still never made it past the 11th round. Incredible.

Joshua was knocked down himself in the sixth round but he got back up, mustered everything he had to finish the job, and when mic was handed to him as 90,000 people screamed his name, what did he say?

"I'm not perfect, but I'm trying. If you don't take part, you're gonna fail.

Anyone can do this."

I'm not gonna pretend to know lots about boxing.

I've done a little bit myself, and found it utterly terrifying, all-encompassing and brilliant in equal measures.

It's the most difficult thing I've ever done, on a physical and mental level, and I'm not sure I'll ever get in the ring again as I just don't have the mental capacity to dedicate myself to it enough to do it well right now.

That, and I don't want another repeat of my blood pressure putting a stop to me fighting just hours before getting in there.

But what I do know is this: Anthony Joshua's words should be a mantra for all of us. 

He's totally right - if you don't take part, you really are gonna fail.

Too much holds us back from achieving our true potential in life. It stops us experiencing things that would stay with us forever, never letting us build the memories that would live on in the tales we'd share with others.

Fear is healthy - we should embrace it. Or as I like to say, (but have forgotten a bit these last few months) - we should feel the fear, then do it anyway. There are so many things I've stopped myself doing recently, for one reason or another.

How about you? What are you faffing over? What are you scared of?


That race you're deliberating over entering but don't think you're hard enough? Enter it now.


That blog or project you're thinking of starting but scared of no one reading it? Do it. 

The conversation you've put off for ages in fear of the outcome? Get it done. 

That leap you've been dreaming of taking for years? The time is now. 

Time waits for no one. Don't waste your life wishing you could do something.

Just do it (or #JFDI), and do it now.

Thank you AJ, that was just the push I needed. 😊 👊


Part 1 of #JFDI: (part 2 to be revealed shortly...)

FitBits | Beachy Head Marathon 2017 - Tess Agnew fitness blogger


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What are you putting off doing, and what's stopping you?

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Birthday bike rides and spring training goals


I'm 31 today guys. Thirty bloody one.

That means I'm definitely a proper adult by now, right? Oh God I really don't feel like one. I remember when I was a kid, looking at my Dad (hero) in his mid 30s thinking Christ that's old, I've got ages until I get there. 

I honestly thought that by the time I hit my 30s something would click and suddenly I'd be a responsible grown up, with a house, kids and husband, a good job and a pot of savings to whip out for loft conversions or new boilers or whatever these adults spend their hard earned money on these days.

Probably not *another* bike, right?


 

Breaking the exercise fast 


I celebrated entering my 31st year with a solo mountain bike adventure up on the Downs. With the sun on my back and a carpet of rolling green hills and bright yellow fields as my playground, it was the perfect way to break the exercise fast following my less-than-perfect Brighton Marathon.

So many of my awesome running friends have been smashing workouts and getting back to it since last Sunday but tbh all I've smashed is Easter eggs and a right good sleep binge, and I'm not even sorry.

Today marks the end of six glorious days off, which we started by sacking off the planned Forest of Dean trip in favour of some localised chill time in the van and at home / with the fam.





 
We took the road bikes camping but couldn't be arsed to ride and it set the tone for the days thereafter - hence I've done zero exercise until today's day-long adventure.

That five hours on Strava below, that's moving time.

Add another couple onto that for me basically sitting about up on the Downs eating sandwiches and taking in the view because I had all the time I wanted and had nowhere else in the world to be.

There were only about 10 people up there for the whole duration and it was bloody marvellous. (Can you spot where I lost the South Downs Way and had to double back on myself?!) 


  


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If you want to read more about cycling the South Downs Way, check out the posts below from our trip last August Bank Holiday. We did it in sections over the long weekend because a) we're not hard enough to do the whole thing in one go *yet*, and b) we like to take our time and enjoy these things, not batter ourselves into oblivion...

Part 1) Eastbourne to Brighton  
Part 2) (because fuck headwind) Petersfield to Amberley 
Part 3) Amberley to Devil's Dyke
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What's next? Spring & summer training goals

Now that the marathon's done I'm really excited to get stuck into other goals for the year. For me, spring and summer has always been about cycling - it's when we start our regular camping trips to Wales and Forest of Dean to hit the trails, and next month we're finally checking out the Surrey Hills which is much closer to home and apparently has a great network of singletrack to ride for playtime. 

We're doing a guided ride with Sean at Marmalade Mtb so stay tuned to see how that goes! 

Other cycling goals this year for me are to get 100-mile fit for RideLondon in July, and me and Chris are also hopefully doing the BHF London to Brighton road and off-road rides too. 

Check out my vlog from last year's London to Brighton off-roader - 75 miles and quads of doom! 

I saw a sign for the full BHF South Downs Way 100miler today which is fully supported but one hell of a ride - it's very tempting but will have to think seriously about whether I'm hard enough for that one just yet... 


Aside from cycling it's all about triathlon this year, after having to bail on everything after last year's collarbone and wrist break, I'm pretty much starting my swimming from scratch to get strong in the sea for the Brighton & Hove Triathlon in September.

Not giving up on running altogether, don't worry - taking on the Virgin Sport Hackney Half at the end of this month to see what all the buzz is about since Virgin took over. There's a 5.5k too if you fancy, as well as yoga classes and fitness bootcamp / dance sessions too on the day. 

Oh, and I'm also starting a 12 week body transformation soon to get rid of this marathon flab and sculpt a stronger me heading into all this training so stay tuned for that too!

Man I do love a change in season for a renewed sense of motivation! 


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What are your spring/summer training goals, and what's your perfect way to spend your birthday?

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Two different tales: Brighton Marathon 2017



One marathon, two runners, two very different tales.

The final She Said, He Said blog from me and the hubs. He popped his marathon cherry with a bang, I crashed and burned. 

He's eyeing up Beachy Head in October, I couldn't think of anything worse.

Maybe for once I'll be the good wife and actually support him, instead of getting jealous and having to run it all too.

There's a video in there somewhere, put your feet up - it's a long one...  (scroll down for the vid if you cba to read, or click here for YouTube, don't forget to subscribe!) >> 

And if you're bored of reading me pls scroll down to read Chris' blog as he did awesome and I want everyone to know it :) 


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SHE SAID: WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF PLANS - FREESTYLE




Well what can I say about my third Brighton Marathon.

It didn't go to plan - which one, you ask? 

Er... how about all of them.

As I wrote the night before, I had three goals, and decided to go for the middle (and should-be achievable) one, of 4:45-4:55, i.e. a PB. 

In my head there wasn't really any reason why I wouldn't be able to do this. I was far too chilled out about the whole thing really, haven't been as dedicated to my nutrition or swotting up on running magazines as previous marathon cycles.

Yes I'd missed a few sessions over the last few weeks and am not as fit as I was when I smashed my second marathon at Brighton, but I could still run the distance, it just might not be as comfy as I wanted. 

Spoiler: It wasn't comfy at all.

It sort of went wrong from the beginning, although I didn't realise it...



Plan: stay hydrated and stick with pacer.

FOILED: Our pink wave were kept in the starting pens for over 40minutes before starting and it was already getting pretty hot. By the time we set off I'd already drank all my electrolyte water and the first water station wasn't until 3 miles.

I remember being thirsty as soon as we started and stupidly declined some water from another runner as thought I'd be OK.

Get to the first water station and fill my bottle, losing the 4:45 pacer way ahead as I faff about with the cups, then mess up my pace trying to catch up.


Plan: fuel correctly. Four gels with shot bloks and energy drink in between. Two of the four gels to be caffeine, taken after 16 miles for a boost. 

FOILED: At four miles, settled into a rhythm with the pacer again and reach for a gel and THEY'RE NOT THERE. As in none of them. I must've dropped all of them out of my Fleetfoot 3 on the way (although not sure why no one behind me said anything?!) Luckily my shot bloks were in the zip up bit so I at least had these.

Mild panic ensues but lovely RunBrighton pacer Dorian assures me he'll sort me out at the gel stop coming up.


Plan: stay cool and don't let the heat get to me. 

FOILED: Out to Ovingdean in the blaring heat, with no breeze. In training runs I've laughed at how people call this a 'hill', having done lots of running up the Downs, my legs are well versed at proper inclines.

Sunday was different. Why was it hard already?

I distracted myself from the warning signs my slightly unhappy legs are giving me by looking out for Chris on the other side, but couldn't find him. (That's because he was smashing it and was way ahead btw but we were close at one point)...

You know that tired, achey feeling you get in your legs in the final miles of a long run? I'm pretty sure you're not meant to get that at mile 10 of a marathon. My new visor was keeping the sun off my face but the sweat still found a way down my face as we turned at Ovingdean.

I remember heading along to the turnpoint begging for it to come, and dreading the incline back into town.

It really shouldn't be this hard yet.

10.5 miles in at the water station and my first admission of defeat as I walk through the water station and beyond, adjusting my goal from b) 4:45ish to c) just finish the fucker.

That set the tone for the rest of the race. The thing with marathons is, once you walk once, you've broken the seal. It's like going to the loo when drinking as a woman. In and out all night.

Or in marathon terms, walk-run-walk-run all the way home.

I was thankful that I had my GoPro as it gave me something to focus on instead of beating myself up. This'll make a good vlog, I thought. An honest, painful marathon.

Talking to others who were also already walking up at mile 10ish was comforting. None of us had this in the plan, but fuck it. No time to be upset about it, let's just enjoy the day.



The weather had brought out the crowds in full force. Never before have I felt support like it, even when I was walking people were still screaming my name. I lapped up the cheers like a kid in a sweet shop, said thank you to everyone, high fived every child.

Seeing people already finishing on the other side of the road as we crossed Panda Bridge at the half way mark was a bit crushing. I think a man must've felt my pain as just before mile 14 he gave me an ice pole and I could've bloody kissed him. He had made my day!

Then seeing two lots of my family for the first time just after, including my beautiful niece with her innocent smiling eyes wondering what all these crazy people were doing running in this heat picked me right up.

The crowds on Church Road came out in force, with cowbells, street parties, water pistols and wet sponges of cold water to cool us down. It was then that I realised had I poured water on myself from the beginning I might've been able to carry on running.


I bumped into a few RunBrighton friends along the way, before picking up my good pal Sally from the BTRS Family who was struggling too. We struggled together all the way home, counting lampposts to run-walk, making promises to not stop after we got to the home stretch on Kingsway.

It seemed to take forever to get to the finish but I relished every second of those last two miles, and didn't try to hurry at all. It seemed like the crowds got louder the more we struggled, as one person said my name, so did another, and another, and same for Sally.

We were carried to the finish in a big Brighton bubble, the best kind of high.

It may not have gone to plan at all, and I came in more than half an hour slower than I wanted to, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I've literally never worked so hard for a medal.

Brighton, I still love you (just) xxx





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HE SAID: I'LL NEVER FORGET THAT FEELING


It was the hardest, the longest, the hottest day of my life but I loved it completely.

I woke up after around 8 hours sleep feeling nervous but well rested. A nice breakfast and plenty of time to get to the start line, it was all a surprisingly relaxed affair, even though Tess was shoving the GoPro in my face on the way down to the park.

Because of the temperature I knew hydration was important, and spent the previous few days drinking plenty of water, and following advice at the Expo only had a pint in the morning before the race started.

I decided as soon as I woke up that I was running a 3:45. One of the skills I’ve learned in tree surgery is sometimes not to look at the bigger picture but to compartmentalise the task at hand, and tick off stages as you go through. I applied this to my 26.2, thinking about different turn points, road ends and the big 17 mile marker which would be the furthest I’d ever ran to date.


If I could get past there, I could do anything.

After much faffing about this past few weeks with shoes, I decided to run in my old trainers, without the insoles that I thought were causing me the problems - not the shoes. Tried to find the 3:45 pacer, Andy, who was right at the front of the blue coral, and gave me some encouragement before we set off.

We all had a laugh about the delayed start which relaxed me, and I felt surprisingly confident - as long as I stuck with the pacer, everything was gonna be fine.



We set off to great cheers and excitement, but I kept finding myself ahead of the pacer, looking at my watch, and having to slow back to join the group. Must’ve done this about 100 times during the first half, which turned out to be beneficial to me at the drink stations as I was able to walk, take on two or three cups, one over my head, before Andy caught up with me.


This gave me a great boost. 

I was fuelling well on gels every half hour and shot bloks, sweets, bananas and anything I could get my hands on in between.   
I was on it.

It was always an unknown for me with fuelling as I missed so much of the training in the latter stages so I took everything.

At the Panda Bridge, 13 miles, I pulled away with a bit of a kick from the downhill back into town and this time didn’t bother to slow down for the pacer, I felt good and I believed I could do another half at that pace no problem so carried on.

I took the support from the crowd, friends and family cheering, kids high fiving, and got a lift from the crowd as I went up Church Road. I was waiting for the wall to hit me, there were walkers around me and it was bloody hot but I’m used to working outside in the heat and my hydration and fuelling kept me going.

Turning back onto the seafront again I picked the pace up further, chatting to two girls from Farnham Running Club who were going for 3:45 but they were doing 8min/miles and were on a push, so we stuck together and got talking up to mile 21 down to the Power Station.

On the turn I felt good as it was the last stretch, but knew it was a long way home still. My foot was hurting since about mile six but nowhere near as bad as it has been and I believe the adrenaline of the day saw me through (thank God!)

I knew the 8min/mile pace would be too much to see me to the end so I dropped my pace to 8:30s and let the girls go as I thought I should hold something back.

I knew I was going to finish, and I knew I would come in under 3:45 as I was ahead of the pacer, so I ran on strong and confident through the amazing crowds around Hove Lawns where I saw my family and work colleagues really giving me a push.

It felt like everyone was there just for me, not only the people I knew. 

Every step someone cheered my name, and when I waved and said thank you the support increased even further, into a mexican wave of ‘come on Chris!’ all the way to the finishing stretch.

I’ll never forget that feeling. 




When I got to the i360 I knew it was in the bag, I was overtaking runners, I was tired, emotional and couldn’t wait to see the finish line.

When it came into view I felt overwhelmed with what I was about to do, I couldn’t believe that I was a marathon runner. Tess has been on at me for years to do it, and I’m so glad I finally took up the challenge.

The overwhelming sense of accomplishment hit me hard and made the post-run beer taste all the better.

One of the first questions I was asked when I finished was would I do another one, and while some people may say ‘never again’, I couldn’t help but say ‘bring on Beachy Head!’.



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What do you do when your race doesn't go to plan? 
And what was your first marathon like?

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Saturday, 8 April 2017

Time to believe - Brighton Marathon 2017


Shit the bed, it's tomorrow morning. When did that creep up so quick?! One minute we're dusting off our winter kit ready for a wet and windy season, and the next it's a balmy 14 degrees with blue skies and sunshine.

No time to faff about feeling unprepared though, not us Agnews.

Me and Chris have got this NAILED.

EAT ALL THE FRIES 

Last minute running around today all done including volunteering at parkrun and getting a sneaky peek at the start line.

Race numbers picked up, dirty portion of Loaded Fries inaled and factor 30 and Vaseline / Body Glide purchased ready to be applied.

New visor bought (where the feck is my old one?!)

Quick (but brilliant, actually), £20 sports massage down at the expo done for each of us. I did have a massage with Tom on Thursday too but what can I say, I like to be thorough.

I even snuck in a lunchtime yoga class to chill me out and get me all zenned up. Except it wasn't the meditative, restorative chill fest I thought it'd be and was actually quite a workout, with strong poses and lots of twists and downward dogs.

Now though, now it's all done. Only thing left on our Brighton Marathon To Do list is to find Chris' flip flops, charge the tech, lay out the kit, eat and go to bed.

So, boys and girls, here's the penultimate She Said, He Said marathon write up from me and hubs as we head into the big 26.2 tomorrow. The last one will obvs be the race write up so stay tuned for that.


She Said: giving zero fucks


I've been telling everyone how undertrained, fat and unfit I've been this season due to life taking over and work schedules messing with my morning runs but tbh I've got a bit bored of my negativity so have decided to give zero fucks and run it with a smile on my face regardless.




The weather is spectacular right now in Brighton, and the whole city has been buzzing since the sun showed up a few days ago. 14-17 degrees forecast may be hard for us runners who are used to free exfoliation sessions in the driving icy wind and rain, but it'll definitely bring out the crowds, and make the post-marathon beach-fest even more of an attractive offer.

Free ice bath in the sea, anyone?



 

Setting goals

As ever, I have three goals for this year, so I don't get pissed off with myself for 'failing'. The last thing anyone wants is to drag themselves to the finish line having been dropped by the pacer on their top time goal, so I'm breaking it down into three outcomes I'd be happy with:

They are, in 'ideal scenario' reverse order:

1) 4hrs30 - I've been training in the 4hrs30 RunBrighton group all season, so in theory the race pace of 10:20 per mile should be comfortable. It definitely was for the half, but we all know the marathon doesn't really start for another seven miles after that, so we'll see. Realistically I think it'll be too fast for the full distance.

Therefore...

2) 4:45 - 4:55 (PB) - If I can bosh out a PB whilst being a few kilos heavier and a bit undertrained than I was in 2015 I'll be well chuffed.

3) Get round without any tantrums / crying / hissy fits - if it does all go tits up time-wise I'll put my watch in my Fleetfoot 3 and sit back for the ride, however long it takes. No tantrums allowed. Five hours is a long time to be pissed off with yourself, especially when 150,000 spectators are cheering your name.

I'm gonna GoPro it to make up a vlog so stay tuned for a video with the write up!


He Said: going in for the experience




I’ve been surprisingly relaxed about the whole experience until today, even though I’ve had to miss a lot of the training and adjust my goals. 

It’s only four hours or so of my life. I’ve been through a lot worse. 

I’ve done a lot of endurance feats in my life not relating to sport. I’ve worked 12hour railway possession night shifts without sleep the previous night, climbing trees and using heavy chainsaws, where you just have to carry on for one mammoth strength session. 

You’re there for 12hours, you can’t stop. You can’t go home, regardless of the conditions or how tired you are. You have to make it to the finish. 

This is how I’ll get through tomorrow, even though my foot will probably still hurt and the wheels have definitely come off my training over the past five weeks. That and the support along the course from running friends in the race and family and colleagues cheering on the sidelines. 


 

Lessons learned:


  1. Buy new trainers at the start of training, and probably again half way through. 
  2. Get used to the weekly sessions BEFORE the training plan kicks in - this was a shock to the system early on. 
  3. Listen to my wife (Tess edit: I didn’t make him say this, it came out of his own mouth!) 
  4. Listen to my body and don’t push on when injured in training. 
  5. Don’t set too high a goal in the early stages. 

I’ve always said start slowly, in every single race, you always feel better for it. So that's why I'm adjusting my goals and starting with the 4-hour pacer, to hopefully pick it up if I feel I can from 20 miles. 

Yes I could have music to help me through, I love running to music, I get really involved with it. But that’s not what I want from this run. I want a marathon experience in all its painful but magnificent glory. 

It will get done, it just might not be as strong a performance as I originally wanted it to be. 

And as for 'never doing another one', Beachy Head, anyone??  


** Here's Chris' JustGiving page if you want to find out why running a marathon is so important to him :) 

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How do you make yourself believe you can do it when the doubts creep in?

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Thursday, 30 March 2017

VIDEO: HSBC UK Breeze Cycling with This Girl Can


I’m really excited about this one (although I think I say that every time?)

It's no secret that cycling is one of my absolute favourite things to do. There's a special kind of freedom you can only experience on two wheels, and I'm all for getting more women to experience that, in Sussex and beyond, on the road and on the trail!

This month I went on my first HSBC UK Breeze cycle ride and it was AWESOME! If you’re not in the know, Breeze is a nationwide initiative from Sport England and British Cycling offering free, women-only rides across the country.

Whether three miles or 30, Breeze offers a welcoming, inclusive and supportive community for women of all ages and abilities to build confidence, make friends and discover new routes whilst of course improving fitness along the way.


The rides go at a pace of the slowest rider, and it’s not competitive at all.

That means no dropping anyone on the hills or at crossings – you ride as a group from start to finish at a nice social pace, with a coffee and cake stop in the middle or end (because, really, it wouldn’t be right without cake, now would it?!)

On our ride we had ladies in their 70s joining some of us in our 20s and 30s, on all sorts of bikes including mountain bikes, hybrids and road bikes. One of the riders had never even sat on a bike until her late 40s, so you really are never too old to get started.

I’ve loved cycling all my life and was lucky enough to be taught how to ride on the road by my Dad when I was a young child, but this isn’t the case for many women, who may be nervous about joining a group ride with faster cyclists.

With Breeze you don’t need to worry about speed or fitness, it’s about community and confidence building as much as it is the actual cycling, and improved fitness is just a bonus!

So come on girls, on yer bikes!



 
Find out more about Breeze Network Brighton by following the Sussex and South Downs Facebook page, or find a ride near you at letsride.co.uk/breeze.


Also check out activesussex.org for more ways to get active in the county. 

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Read more about my role as Ambassador on the Active Sussex website and on my blog, and watch our other videos:

Tess Tries: Skateboarding*

Tess Tries: Synchronised Swimming*

Women's Sport Week: PT in Brighton**

*Videos produced by the lovely Laura Evans of Brighton  
**Video made by me, hence poor noise quality!

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Do you cycle in groups or alone? 
Have you been along to a Breeze ride? 

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Monday, 27 March 2017

Stand up for your health - it's time to move



I stood at my desk all day for the first time a couple of weeks ago and despite my body protesting initially, by the end of the day I felt awesome.

My legs were tired, my feet were surprisingly very achey, and I had that satisfying rumble in my belly that I get from working out first thing.

My flexible sit-stand desk arrived this month and I'm not gonna lie, it's pretty brilliant.

After years of faffing about with boxes for makeshift standing desks, I've finally got my own proper set up thanks to Varidesk!


I've since got a new keyboard so the laptop is at eye level, don't worry... 



Those who've worked with me before will understand the significance of this moment. I don't know if it's just me, (please tell me it isn't?!), but every marathon cycle, and basically whenever I'm training a lot, sitting down for eight hours a day physically HURTS.

As in literally pains me. My hips hate it. My hamstrings hate it. My glutes hate it. It's literally a pain in the arse.

I need to stand up at regular intervals to avoid seizing up. Stop - drop - pigeon pose has occurred on various office chairs and floors throughout my office working career, as I dream of a lunchtime run or yoga to energise and unwind my tangled body.

Impromptu chair-assisted pigeon pose before my Varidesk arrived :) 


I like to think I'm pretty fit and healthy. I exercise regularly, try to eat well most of the time (ish), and when aiming for a big goal like the marathon I try to prioritise my sleep, rest and recovery.

My marathon training hasn't gone wholly to plan this year and I'm carrying a bit of extra weight but let's be honest - even if I'm running the prescribed three or four times per week and strength training once or twice a week - that's still at most one or two hours a day of activity, apart from the long run of anything between two to three and a bit hours.

The rest of my day is spent on my bum, regardless, and it's got to change. Stay tuned for more posts on the Varidesk as I get to know it a bit more...


Time to move


And then there's lunchtimes. If you work in an office, what do you do on your lunch breaks?

I know when I'm busy I basically move from one desk to another from the office to the cafe upstairs and sit to eat before going back down to sit again until hometime.

Recently Brooks Running released findings from an independent study revealing just how inactive UK workers really are, with the average person spending four hours 26 minutes sitting at their desk per day, (yeah, and the rest!) and 23% spend a massive seven hours or more sat down at work. (GUILTY)

Pitiful total step count by 17.30 on one day last month


Eight out of 10 say they have a daily afternoon dip and to escape this, 66% of workers reach for coffee, 42% eat chocolate and 10% even admit to taking a nap while at work. To be fair, I'm right there on the coffee and chocolate but not sure I'd get away with a nap - what sort of career witchcraft is this??

Experts agree that a run break (or runch) is a much better alternative to any of these options, and I have to admit, as much as I love a morning workout to kickstart my day, on the few occasions where I've been organised enough to grab a lunchtime run, it's always been the best kind of fuel for a productive and energised afternoon.



Brooks realise the challenges to beat the afternoon slump and get out for a run break, so have teamed up with personal trainers across the country to help people get up, out and running during the working day.

“Incorporating a run break will make a massive difference to your working day,” says Graeme Hilditch, personal trainer at GH Training. “We all have those moments when we feel sluggish or tired during the day, or we simply want to escape the pressures of the daily grind."

I'll be the first one to shout about the virtues of a good run in changing my mood, however tired I am, and ironically when we're at our most tired is probably the time when a lovely 30min run in the open air will do us the most good.

It doesn't matter how busy we are, we should always make time to get away from our desk and get outside - whether that's a run or walk. Something I've been working on this last few weeks as much as I can.

So with that in mind, I asked Brooks and Graeme to give a few tips to help get us organised and lift us out of the lunchtime lull...


  
Prepare
No one wants to skip lunch, so make sure you prepare your lunch in advance of your midday run. By having your lunch ready to eat it means there’s no need to go out and get it, saving you time and leaving you with more time to run. (GUIILLTYYYYY)


Buddy Up

By running with a colleague who is under similar time restraints, you’ll be far more motivated to get organised and will procrastinate far less. There’s nothing quite like the worry of letting someone else down to help focus the mind and stick to a strict time schedule. (true dat!)



 

Intervals

To get maximum benefit from your run, why not do some intervals for your 30-40 mins session rather than just a steady pace? 

Interval training, for example running fast for 3-6mins, jogging slowly 1min etc., packs a huge fitness punch and will not only make you feel incredible afterwards but it’s also the best way to torch a load of calories. (Can personally vouch for baddassery of intervals)


Set targets

Another way to increase the intensity of your lunchtime run and help save time is to set yourself certain goals on your lunchtime training run. For example, if you run in a park, set yourself a time limit of 30minutes, then the goal of sprinting to one bench, then jog to the next one. Over time, see if you can beat the number of benches you run past in the 30 minutes.



If you do head out for a runch this month, maybe check out the latest Brooks release, the Ravenna 8, designed to put more spring in every step with dynamic responsive cushioning and an updated design.

I've yet to try these as I've been running in the Ghosts and Glycerins, but will be giving them a go at the Brooks Run Signature Tour when it comes to Brighton next Saturday.

The tour is back with 15 locations across the country so if you fancy a free gait analysis and run in the latest pair of Brooks shoes to see if they're for you, find your nearest one and book in.

Worth a try, right?


Thanks to Brooks Running for sharing research to input into this post. 
Thanks also to Varidesk for sending me a standing desk to review - I'll write more about this soon, lots to tell you about my new favourite way to work!! 


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Have you tried a standing desk? Do you treat yourself to regular lunchtime run breaks?

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