Icebreaker Merino

A little while ago I was delighted to have won an Icebreaker superfine GT t-shirt, from Freestak. Have you come across Freestak yet? If not, you really should take a look at them and sign up via Facebook.

Freestak is a place where we collate tips, inspiration, offers and competitions for runners to help them get the most out of their sport

There really  are many great competitions fairly frequently, so do have a look at them.

I was going through my mail and pulled out this wonderful t-shirt, even better as it was completely unexpected. It was actually posted out from Ten-Point, the amazing Helen’s place. When I saw it was Merino wool I was delighted. If you are a stranger to merino you really need to buy some kit made from this stuff. I absolutely love it and I buy most of my technical stuff as merino, although I have yet to find a pair of running tights that meet my requirements (e.g. are not see through on the bum).

So, why do I love merino?

Well it is made from natural materials (you know, from a sheep), it is biodegradable and just does not have to go through any where near the same amount of processing as normal technical fabrics. For me, this is important, as I want my life to be low impact, and this is an easy way to start. And of course the sheep grow another batch each year – automatically renewable!

There is no saying this delicately – it doesn’t stink! You can wear it and wear it and it still doesn’t smell. I say this as someone who sweats an awful lot while exercising. Not only is this great from a lazy point of view, but again from an environmental one you don’t need to keep washing it as often, cutting down on detergents and water use. I have a bit of a dream to kit myself out in head to toe merino and a tiny backpack containing water, moisturiser, spare pair of pants and socks, snacks and heading out for two days on the trails and coming back not at all stinky!

It feels lovely! Honestly, forget about itchy wool, all of the merino I have tried has been super soft. To the extent that I have started buying merino pants to wear. It is like a lovely hug. Oh and socks, for day to day wear. I am a little bit obsessed.

It keeps you warm in the cold and cool in the warm. I know, freaky! I guess the sheep don’t want to boil to death in summer or freeze in winter.

It lasts well, merino lasts and lasts, you just have to watch out for those pesky moths. I never see any and yet, there are tiny holes in some of my stuff where they have been munching away. The bastards.

So, onto the Icebreaker superfine GT.

As you can see - very happy when I received this!

As you can see – very happy when I received this!

It is well made, with flat lock seams (so no chafing), as you can guess from the name it is quite a light weight one and seen as I received it sometime in October, it is not the weather to be heading out in thin clothes, however paired with a long sleeve top this works really well. At this time of year I can get by with layering up long sleeve and short sleeve top and long tights and not really wear anything else as I get really hot when I am exercising (aside from my trusty Buff and a serious sports bra). To be honest I look like I am going to die of heat exhaustion at any given moment, about 3 minutes after I start working out.

It is really soft, even by merino standards, wonderful to wear and I am looking forward to summer when I can run with it next to my skin!

So, do I recommend it? Yes, I do and I am now looking into other icebreaker clothes for when I need some new running kit.

Barbershopera

While I was working on the Totally Tilbury project I was really pleased to work with some great artists including Sunanda Biswas, Jody Schroeder, Charlie Morley and Lea Cornthwaite.

The lead artist was Rob Castell and I am really excited to say that his group Barbershopera, is playing on BBC 4 for their Christmas eve
 play.  Listen and watch this trailer and I bet you can’t keep the refrain ‘I am a matador, he is a matador’ out of your head!
Barbershopera
Next year is a really exciting year for Rob, as he is the lead in the European tour of We Will Rock You.
I am really pleased for him and I wish him all the best next year!

France for Interreg

*written on Saturday on the train from Amiens to Paris*

The past couple of days I have been in Amiens in France for an Interreg project for THEATRE IS… and the GatewayLearning Community.

I will leave the explanation of the project to those websites, which will be updated soon, but I just wanted to share how excited I am to be involved in project that is working on both sides of the channel. Like many English people I did my French (and German) GCSE and then not really done anything with it.

When I was doing the recent Totally Tilbury project we had a couple of French musicians from this project come over and take part and it made me remember how much I had enjoyed languages. So, I decided to start on an online course. After I had been doing that for a few weeks I was asked if I would like to be involved in this project, of course I jumped at the chance.

Now, I am highly motivatd to continue with my French studies, and so when I was in Amiens and saw a comic book shop I decided to go in and get myself some graphic novels in French. So now I am the proud owner of two Dr Who graphic novels! This will really help me as I try to improve my reading.

I had the chance to go to the Comedie de Picardy and watch The Death of a Salesman in French, which was a great challenge. I read the play just before I left and so I was just about able to keep up and understand what was happening at the time. The French clap together, rather than a general applause, like we do. I was confused at first, thinking that people didn’t like it, but when the actors to four curtain calls, I realised that they really did!

I have greatly enjoyed spending time by myself in a foreign city, trying to get by with my limited French, wandering around and paying great attention, trying to understand the signs in the window from context. Amiens is a very pretty town and I have spent this morning there, including buying myself a few very dark handmade chicolates, and now I am en route to Paris for a couple of hours before I head home on the Eurostar.

I plan to have a nice glass of wine over a very relaxed lunch, do some window shopping and people watching while in Paris!

MA Arts Administration and Cultural Policy

I am very proud to have passed my MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy from Goldsmiths with a Merit!

I loved my time at Goldsmiths and the opportunities it has provided for me to stretch myself, especially on my dissertation, business plan and giving me the confidence through the Entrepreneurial Modelling module to become self employed, with thoughts to the future as to how I can serve my local area of Thurrock.

My dissertation was on arts education and the recent changes to the education system in this country. I was hoping it was going to be horribly out of date very quickly as the government would reverse its thinking on excluding the arts from the ebacc. Unfortunately it looks like everything I wrote about still holds true.

Inov-8 update

 

So, I didn’t win the grand prize with the Inov-8  8 weeks to natural programme, however I have got so much out of it I really do feel like I have won! We also all got given another pair of Inov-8s and I chose the Bare Grip – 0mm drop, but some serious grip. Just in time for me to start training with East Essex Tri for the cross country season.

Woo, going to see me coming!

They are so comfy, I completely forget about them and I am not slipping at all, so perfect as far as I am concerned. They weren’t quite this colour by the time I had finished! I have learnt so much, each time I run 3 miles I take another 30 secs off of my time at the moment, which is great. I will soon be breaking 30 mins, which will make me happy.

I have decided that I am going to start training with EET, and stop worrying about being slow. I will get faster by pushing myself against other people and that, combined with my new running style will soon get me flying along I am sure.

Royal Parks Half Marathon

Well, Sunday was my first ever half marathon – the Royal Parks Foundation through the lovely Hyde park, around Big Ben and the houses of Parliament.

I was so nervous the day before, it was ridiculous and I was still nervous when I woke up! On the journey I ended up chatting to three different people who were all heading that way, which was lovely.

The organisation of the race was fantastic, it all went so smoothly, the racing chip was on my number, which was sent out in advance, so that certainly helped to make things quicker. This is the largest event I have ever been involved in and it certainly was impressive.

at the start in the pen!

The first seven miles went really well and I spent the whole time muttering to myself 1,2,3, fly, fly, fly and it worked really well for me and kept me going with great posture and technique. If my legs started to feel tired I concentrated on my shoulders and the swinging of them, or my pelvis movement or something else, and that kept me going.

at mile 8, all was great!

I saw my wonderful OH at mile 8 and I managed a cheery smile and a wave. At mile 9 it all got a lot harder, so I plugged in my iPod with a kickarse playlist to get me through. It helped!

I have to say that at about mile 9.5 I got what felt like a blister the size of a golf ball on the ball of my foot and it became really painful. I kept going, but by about mile 12 I was having to heel strike as trying to land mid foot first just hurt far too much.

I saw Gavin at about 800 meters from the end and by this point I was just gritting my teeth to get through it and apparently I didn’t even manage to smile or wave at him. (Sorry)

gritting my teeth

I was so pleased that I crossed the line and I love my wooden medal, but I didn’t remember to get a photo as I was just hurting far too much. My time was 2hrs 39 mins and I am very pleased with that and the fact that I didn’t walk at all. Spending £4 to get my name on my top was a fantastic idea and certainly something I will do again for long races, the motivation from having supporters call out my name was so wonderful.

When I got home the blister was only about the size of my thumb and I think it was from the tape in my shoes, when I looked the top layer was starting to peel upwards. Lesson learned – always check the condition of the tape!

I raised £295 for Diabetes UK, so a massive thank you to all of my sponsors who so generously gave. There is still chance to sponsor me if you wish to – click here. 

Two days later I am still hurting, but using the foam roller is helping a great deal. I am very proud that I managed to transition to a natural style running which seems to suit me in time for this half and that I wore the Inov-8 trainers to do this. Remember there is still time to vote for me to win the Inov-8 competition!

Half marathon

As well as arts administration, marketing and teaching I also try to keep fit as much as possible and I blog about it over on Action Jen if that is something which interests you.

This weekend I am running the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Diabetes UK. My husband is Diabetic and so this is an important cause for me. This is my first ever half marathon and will be the furthest distance I have ever run. I am not a fast runner and running does not come easily to me and so this is a real achievement.

If you would like to donate to Diabetes UK you can sponsor me here. I really do need as much encouragement as possible and knowing that I am raising money for such a worthwhile cause is a real spur to carry on!

Catching up

Well, the 8 weeks to natural transition programme has been going very well for me. I am comfortable doing 12 miles in this style and it only took a few weeks of doing 1-2miles at a time! I am fairly sure that I am keeping the technique up, so I am pleased. However this is all at the long, slow run pace (albeit fast than my normal LSR pace).

Helen has sent us an update focusing on speed and I tried a session, I suspect I went off far too fast and optimistically, as I did one mile at a 9.30 pace (which for me is miraculously fast) and then couldn’t do any more. This is a full minute faster than my normal fast pace, so it was probably a bit much. It didn’t help that there has been a change in the air and it takes my asthma some time to settle down between season changes, so that may also have been a factor.

When I have done my half (which is under two weeks now) I will look at doing some speed sessions at a slightly slower pace! And try to maintain it for a longer period of time. I do want to get faster, I am bored of being in the last section of races, so I really will focus after the half marathon.

As for my Morton’s Foot, well Helen fixed it and the difference for me is amazing. I can walk in a straight line. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but up to now I have been incapable of walking in a straight line, my friends all know that I wobble about and my husband is always complaining that I am pushing him over.

I also feel a lot stabler now that my foot is landing correctly. I now need to put the tape in all of my shoes so that I don’t just experience this in my Inov-8s.

It really has made a big difference, not wobbling about all over the place and it feels like my ankle isn’t flopping around as much as normal, mainly because my foot is taking  a bit plant in the ground and not moving on from there.

Remember, you can vote for me here which puts me forward to winning the competition and you can win a pair of Inov-8s yourself and you can sponsor me here for fundraising for Diabetes UK in my first ever half marathon.