West Coast vacation

My two school friends and I recently returned from an amazing two week trip to the west coast of America. We spent one week travelling up the coast then across to Las Vegas and the second week in Los Angeles. When people asked what I liked most about I trip I would say it was the combination of places we visited that made it for me. Although we could’ve done with an extra day or so in a couple of places it was great moving around for the first week and then have the second week to relax.

The first week saw us fly into Los Angeles and head off in our hire car after a few hours of sleep to Monterey Bay, but a flat tire one hour into our drive on the 101 at 4am provided us with a slight set back. Luckily the highway patrol in the US were very friendly and changed our tire for us. Then after swapping our small Ford for a eight seater Dodge ‘Caravan’ we were back on our way with a lot more leg room. We made it to Monterey Bay but had missed our whale watching slot so we rearranged for the next day. We then headed to our Airbnb accommodation in Santa Cruz and headed to the board walk to ride the big dipper and try our first corndog.

Heading back to Monterey Bay the next morning we had our first experience of the Pacific Ocean as we boarded the boat in the sunshine and headed out to see some whales. We were told there was a 10% chance that we would see Orca whales and about an hour into our trip we were moving close towards some visible splashing in the distance. When we were close enough to work our what the splashing was we discovered that it was a half a dozen Orcas of mixed sizes and a couple of grey whales, a mother and a calf. Soon humpbacks also appeared. Our knowledgeable guide informed us that what we were witnessing was the killer whales trying to sink the grey whale calf but swimming over the top of it. It was like watching a David Attenborough documentary as we saw these amazing whales in action. We were told that the humpbacks had come to try and help the grey whale calf after it’s mother abandoned it which the guide had never seen before. In the end the orca’s succeeded and killed the grey calf whale. After witnessing such dramatic scenes on our whale watching tour we forgave the Ford for giving us the flat tire as we might not have been so lucky the day before.

Next on our list was San Francisco where we checked into another Airbnb and literally squeezed the Dodge into a tiny garage with a couple of inches between the garage and the car. I really liked San Francisco. Cycling across the Golden Gate bridge was amazing and we had some of the best Mexican food I had ever seen. We were staying close to the Tenderloin area which we were told was a bit dodgy. I don’t know if it was due to the location of our accommodation or if it’s just San Francisco in general but I couldn’t believe how many homeless people there were.  After walking around Manchester on my lunch break today I can’t help feel more sorry for the homeless people in San Francisco. It was clear that a lot of the people was saw in SF were in need of mental help but with no medical insurance they receive no help at all.

After San Francisco we had another long drive in the Dodge to Yosemite National Park which was breathtaking. One thing that definitely took our breath away was when we realized the road we needed to take to get to Mammoth Mountain where our next accommodation was booked, was closed during the winter months and not open until May. Our two hour trip from Yosemite to Mammoth suddenly turned into seven hours. We stayed long enough to see the amazing scenery and get some pictures with some giant trees then we were onto our next location. Mammoth was nice and I didn’t realise that it was a ski resort. We had a good breakfast here and I picked up a piste map to try and claim that I’d been skiing here.

After Mammoth was Las Vegas. Picking up an In n Out burger on our way into Sin City we checked into our hotel just off the strip by Circus Circus. I was really intrigued to see what Vegas would be like and I would say that I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. I was expecting it to be full of really strange people and for everything to be pretty tacky. In reality there were some strange people there but no more than SF or LA. I loved all of the casinos, looking around outside felt like you were in a constant Times Square surrounded by lights. And inside the casinos were even more fascinating. They were endless buildings that seemed to go on forever. Strange to see people smoking inside and with no natural light in any of the well list casino floors you can easily lose track of the time. I can easily see how people can spend thousands on nights out in Vegas as my small gambling budget didn’t last very long. Surprisingly in Vegas, which is in the desert, it rained for 75% of our time in Vegas including during our Steve Aoki pool party at the MGM but it didn’t dampen our spirits. I really wish Vegas was closer to the UK as it would be great to go back for more celebratory weekends as I think the weekend in Vegas is enough.

After Vegas it was back to Los Angeles. It was nice remaining in one place longer than a couple of days after a week of moving around. Highlights in LA were witnessing a movie premier for The Huntsman, Warner Bros studio tour, walk of fame, amazing views from the hilltops, Venice Beach and Malibu.

It really was the trip of a lifetime. Here are some other things I liked about America:

  1. Food portions were amazing and if we couldn’t finish the meal everywhere had take out boxes
  2. Drinks were also bigger
  3. Really good Mexican food
  4. The weather (most of the time) is a lot better
  5. Friendly American people, beats anyone who has served me in the UK everyone was really helpful and nice
  6. The streets generally seemed cleaner than in the UK, not sure if that’s because it was sunnier
  7. The beaches, but not necessarily the sea as it was pretty choppy for swimming
  8. Everywhere looks like a film set

 

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New beginnings

The start of the new year, two months ago, also marks the start of a new job for me. Tomorrow morning I will be heading into the centre of Manchester for my first day at my new job. The role is similar to what I was previously doing but I will be working on different clients and I’m really looking forward to a change of scenery.

I definitely have that night before starting at a new school feeling. I’m keen to meet my new colleagues and see how the new agency compares to my old work place. It will be interesting to see how their processes compare and generally how the office functions. I’m looking forward to seeing my new desk, chair, computer etc. as this will be the place I will be setting up camp during this new chapter of my life.

Exciting times. This week I will also be having my fourth drumming lesson since taking up drumming at the beginning of the year. I’m really enjoying my lessons and feel like I’ve made quite good progress, especially when I show my boyfriend what I’ve learnt and he, who can usually do most things, can’t do what I’ve learnt. It feels different to when I was learning other instruments at school, I’m putting in about half an hours practice before each lesson as now I’m the one paying for the lessons I want to make the most of them.

It’s getting to the stage now where I’m practicing by hitting a combination of books, chairs and my leg to practice, that I’m thinking getting a drum kit would be the next step and a whole lot of fun. My housemate used to be a drummer so we’ve decided it would be a good idea to get a kit together, not sure if the other housemates will agree.

Drum kits and other expenses are currently having to be put on hold before the holiday season. With two big holidays over the next couple of months I’m really having to be strict with my budget. First is skiing in Tignes then at the beginning of April I will be heading to Los Angeles for two weeks with my school friends which will be a whole lot of fun, but it’s currently also costing a whole lot of money.

Triathlon training has been going well. I feel like my swimming has improved but I still think I could benefit from a couple of lessons. Hopefully I will source some once I’ve settled in at my new job and get a routine going.

Watch this space for feedback from my first day! Including a review of what it’s like to cycle to work.

Thoughts from this week:

  • January and February have gone quickly
  • Blog has been neglected in 2016
  • The flat has another resident mouse
  • Looking forward to the days getting longer
  • My long boarding has also improved, bring on LA

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December

It’s just over a week to go until Christmas and I cannot wait. I would say I’m currently at a 50% stage of my feeling Christmassy levels, so still a bit to go. I think one thing that is restricting my Christmasness is the fact we still have to work until the 23rd. It would be great if we could still finish on the 18th December like we used to at school or even earlier than that when we were at uni.

Unfortunately I haven’t decorated a Christmas tree this year which I’m quite upset about as it’s been a busy month but I’m sure as soon as I get home I will be feeling very Christmassy. A few things I’m really looking forward to over the next couple of weeks include spending some time with the family as it’s been a while, the amazing food my Mum will be preparing, being in a really Christmassy house, seeing school friends one who’s been living in LA and another lives in Aberdeen and just generally having a great time. I have a few Christmas presents left to get this week then it will just be the wrapping to take care of.

I’m also going to Warehouse Project this Friday to see Jungle which I’m looking forward although Warehouse Project doesn’t feel like a Christmas thing to do.

In other news I did the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k on the 15th November last minute as other people had dropped out because of the bad weather which I enjoyed. I also managed to knock four minutes off my PB coming in at 54:07 which I was pleased with. I’m now going to aim to complete a sub 50 10k in 2016.

I’ve also started leading at my local running club Chorlton Runners which has been fun. It’s also forced me to start going back to our Tuesday club night as I’ve been getting a bit lazy in attendance since Snowdonia Marathon. It’s been fun but I find pacing difficult sometimes. I’ve been using my boyfriend’s Garmin to pace the group and it’s a bit slow in reacting to a change in speed. Sometimes I’ll be leading a 9.00-9.20 minute mile group and it will jump from 10.30 minute mile pace to 7.50 minute miles so I feel I have some improving to do in this area. I’ve also had a couple of instances now where I feel the pressure of being a leader.

When I normally go for a run I’m the only one I have to please and think about but when I’m planning a route when I’m leading I try to think about keeping the route interesting and not taking a group somewhere where the pavements are really narrow. This has lead to me going to some areas I’m not so familiar with and a couple of times I’ve had to stop and check where I am which is frustrating enough when I’m on my own. When I have a group of runners looking at me to lead it’s even worse but luckily everyone in the groups I’ve led have been really nice and patient with me. I think my rule to stick to is keeping the routes simple. I’m sure people would rather run an averagely interesting route than get lost plus what I define as not interesting might be interesting to another runner.

I’ve also starting thinking about plans for 2016. I’m planning on a no marathon year for next year and will be kicking off with the St Helen’s sprint triathlon with my sister which I’m looking forward to. I will also add a sub 50 10k to the list and I also want to improve my half marathon time too. My current PB for a half is 1 hour 55 minutes so maybe I’ll aim for a 1 hour 45 min half marathon. I’m also wanting to move up to the 8-9 minute mile group in the running club. Basically all of my goals revolve around getting quicker which will require a new approach to training rather than long distance so will be interesting to see how that pans out.

For the next few weeks I will be focussing on my other favourite hobby, eating.

Thoughts from this week:

  • Merry Christmas to all blog readers
  • Watched Charli XCX documentary the F-word and Me which was really good
  • Excited to give my Christmas presents out this year
  • Looking forward to running around home country lanes over Christmas
  • I have sent Christmas cards out in the post for the first time

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Snowdonia Marathon 2015

A couple of weeks ago on a wet October weekend I headed to Snowdonia to begin my third marathon. It truly was a wet Autumnal day and after an hour journey from my parents house to Llanberis it was safe to say that I didn’t really want to get out of the car. But I did and headed in to pick up my number with plenty of time to spare before the 10.30 start.

Once we had picked up my number and my Dad’s friend Graham’s number too the support team aka my Dad and boyfriend Stewart and Graham’s wife Sarah-Jane, headed to the hotel near the car park to get prepped. I was debated which combination of clothes to wear but went for my waterproof jacket, gloves, headband and camel back on top of my normal running gear. As we set off from the start I was a bit worried I had too much on as there were a lot of runners wearing a lot less, but they were also running a lot faster than me too.

So I had been preparing myself for the hills in the Snowdonia marathon and from the start we were faced with a 6 mile long one. This wasn’t too bad however as I was feeling quite energized and our legs were still really fresh. I just got down to a slow pace, kept my head down and just drilled it out. Once myself and Graham reached the 6 mile mark we we’re met with a great sight, a downhill. The weather was still pretty wet and it must’ve been between miles 6-9 where I enjoyed myself the most on the whole route. After a couple of corners on the road we came to a track which was downhill and really fun to run down.

We carried on downhill/on the flat taking on some Dextro tablets after an hour in. It was a nice part of the route at this point with some leafy country lanes. Then we carried on towards miles 10/11/12 this was a bit less exciting, longer winding roads with cars on, but the support team had caught up with me at this point and my Dad had brought a cow bell from home so I could here them a mile off when they were approaching in the car which was great. I stopped and said hello as my Mum had joined the support team at this point, but knew I would be seeing them at mile 16 so said I would see them up there. This motivated me to push to mile 13 at Beddgelert where there was a lot of support there which was nice.

After mile 13 coming out of Beddgelert there was a 3 mile hill that took my slightly by surprise. I thought the hills were at the beginning and the end, I wasn’t expecting a significant hill in the middle as well. I was determined not to start walking yet. I had seen loads of people walking from the very start. I think because people knew it was hilly they just took their time which is fine if that’s what you want to do. I also knew that the support team was at mile 16 and that I’d want to have a rest when I saw them so tried to keep going for as long as possible but it was pretty tough. The weather at this point was still really miserable. I said to one lady running next to me that there must be a downhill somewhere. She had really had enough she told me she was willing to give up four miles ago. This seemed to be a general theme as a few people I spoke to along the way really didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves.

I got to mile 16 and saw my team. I was ahead of Graham so decided to wait for him so that we could run together before the big horrible hill at the end but after waiting for 5 minutes I was worried I was going to get cold if I stood still for too long so carried on with Stewart who ran alongside me for about 100 meters then headed back.

From mile 16 on wards it felt like we were just heading towards this massive hill. At this point the support team appeared again with the bell saying Graham was right behind me so I waited for a couple more minutes but Graham was struggling. I wanted us both to get a sub 5 hour time and we had about 1 hour 15 minutes left when we got to close to 20 miles so I knew it was going to be tough to do especially with the hills. I pulled out the big gun jelly beans at this point to keep us motivated but at this point it was tough and I just wanted it to be over. As Graham was struggling I carried on aiming to get as close to 5 hours as possible.

At this point the sun had come out and the scenery was in all it’s glory which really helped. As I was walking a bit at this point it was nice to take in the views and appreciate what the Snowdonia Marathon is all about. I had always said that Snowdonia Marathon would be about the experience and not about the time, but at this point I wasn’t too bothered about the experience and just wanted it to be over but there’s only one way to get a marathon finished and that’s to keep moving.

After walking for a bit with Graham I felt quite energized again and ran on for a couple of miles until the bottom of the final hill at around mile 22. I knew it would be a whopper so decided my best bet would be to power walk up it at a consistent pace, which was still knackering. The views at this point were the best. I was pushing so much at this point to keep moving at a quick pace as I could see 5 hours approaching quickly. I said to myself to get to the summit then you can rest on the downhill and this will all be over.

When the downhill did eventually come at mile 24 I wished I’d never asked for it. The muddy track had been worn down into a road runners worst nightmare, poor trainers. Not only was it so much effort trying to work out where to step, it also made everything move very slow and it felt like we were so close yet so far. I even almost lost my trainer at one point, so much for making up my time on the downhill.

Then after this treat we came to what I can only describe as the steepest bit of tarmac I had ever seen. This combined with muddy trainers and legs that have ran 24 miles was a scary combination. I was genuinely scared of doing permanent damage to my legs as I didn’t feel like I could control them and I felt like if I fell down I wouldn’t be able to get back up and would just be in a heap on the floor.

This felt like a familiar point in other marathons I’ve done where people have been keeling over at the side, at this point it’s just about getting over the line safely, better to pass it a bit slower than planned than not at all. I started chatting to a girl from Cardiff cursing the downhill as much as the uphill which really helped and finally when we crossed the finish line I gave her a hug to say thanks for distracting me from the downhill and the pain.

I was so pleased to be over the finish line. It was a massive sense of relief that it was all over. I saw one woman crying and said well done to her then saw my support team and had a little cry myself simply due to the fact it was so painful and at the end I was so happy it was over.

As always I’m so pleased that I did the marathon but more so with this one that previous ones I was really glad when the whole thing was over. The training had been time consuming and the marathon was really hard but I did it in 5 hours 6 minutes. After doing my first marathon, knocking 20 minutes off my PB and tackling a marathon with some serious hills it’s time for me to find a new challenge like a triathlon.

Thoughts from this week:

  • Sudocreme between my toes solved my blister problems this time around
  • Starting swimming which is really tiring
  • Watching Desperate Housewives from the very beginning
  • Going to try and improve my 5k time again this weekend
  • Still need to clean my trainers from the Snowdonia mud

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Two days until Snowdonia Marathon

I have just finished my latest running playlist titled ‘The Hills’. My bag is packed and tomorrow I will be driving home to my parents house ready to carb load before heading to Snowdonia on Saturday morning for the main event. With two days to go today I have been mentally preparing myself for the weekend ahead.

Without an official training plan this marathon seems to not have creeped up on me but not been at the forefront of my mind as much for some reason. I think maybe other commitments like work, social life etc. have been taking up more of my mind than the Snowdonia Marathon. People have been asking me this week if I’m ready for it and I feel like I am physically, depending on how tough the hills will be but today I started to think whether I am mentally prepared for it.

Running a marathon is 40% physical and 60% mental. It’s not natural for a human to run 26.2 miles but with training you can get your body to a state where it can cope but mentally pushing yourself that hard is also just as tough especially for myself as I am an emotional runner for sure.

I was in tears at the end of London Marathon earlier this year, ecstatic with my effort and improving my PB after all of my hard training. Even when I’m going on any run emotional pick me ups work wonders for me. On a 17 mile training run I was about 5 miles from home feeling pretty knackered and my Mum and her friend drove past me and beeped and waved madly, I had an instant energy boost and got what I needed to get through the last few miles. High fives from children, seeing a sign that says touch here for a power boost, random strangers shouting my name telling me I can do it, that is one of the things I love the most about running. It’s unlike anything else I’ve experienced. On Saturday I will be looking out for my support team when I need them most. My Mum who is my official support team member there from the start of my first 10k and Dad who is more part time supporter will help me around the course. And as cringe as it may be placing my boyfriend strategically at the hard miles will help me to keep going on the hills because once I get up this hill I will be able to say hi to him. Things like that are my mental energy tablets.

My friend did her first half marathon in Berlin last weekend and I’m very proud of her. We were having a conversation about how once you’ve done something like a half marathon, something you thought you might not ever do it makes you feel invincible. Now I’m so pleased she gets why people love running! It’s an addictive way to feel, the fact that running for a couple of hours makes you feel like you can do anything.

To get myself in the emotional mood I watched a few motivational videos which made me feel like I was going to cry at work (might be taking this emotional thing a bit too far: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7B5IHtUXFg) but it definitely helped to get me hyped up for the big day on Saturday and I can’t wait to have that ultimate feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Here is a list of songs that always make an appearance on my running playlists:

Work- Iggy Azealea

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger- Kelly Clarkson

On a mission- Gabriella Cilimi

I’ll be OK – McFly

Girl on fire – Alicia Keys

Gotta get through this- Daniel Bedingfield

Thoughts from this week:

  • I sold a lot of clothes on eBay this week
  • My iPhone battery is officially rubbish
  • Saw Jamie XX twice last Friday night
  • I have missed running in the dark
  • The Walking Dead is back

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Two weeks until Snowdonia

I am now two weeks away from the Snowdonia Marathon on the 24th October. Exactly two weeks today it will all be over. I’m feeling fairly confident about it after a successful 17 mile run last weekend and once I’ve done my 20 mile run tomorrow I should be ready for it.

One concern I have is that I haven’t done as much hill training as I should have done. Saying that I was pleased with how I got on at the Macclesfield Half Marathon which I completed in 2 hours 4 mins and managed to run the whole way around even up the tough hills. I have also been up and down the only hills in Chorlton many times which should help, but I still don’t think they will be anywhere near as tough as the hills of Snowdonia.

When people have been asking me how my training is going I feel like it has gone well. This is the first marathon I haven’t had a proper printed training plan for but I have been aiming for about 4 runs a week, particularly during the last month of training. I always said that when I signed up for Snowdonia Marathon that it would be more about the experience than the time. My aim is to complete the marathon as quickly as possible and not worry too much about the time. My aim for London was to get a PB and I did and I think it’s important to remember what you’re aiming for.

Also as I trained hard for London Marathon and the London 100 Bike ride I feel like I’m a bit trained out, so haven’t worried as much about the training as previous events of the year. Saying that already having trained for one marathon and a 100 mile bike ride this year it meant that when I started training for Snowdonia Marathon I was pretty fit already which helped.

As my marathon training basically kicked off straight after the London 100 bike ride it’s meant that I won’t have much time to taper, I will only have one week. As far as long runs go I will have done a 13, a 17, a 20 and I will be doing 15 miles next weekend too which should be enough.

Now I’m just praying for good weather on the day, mainly for good weather conditions but also so that us runners can enjoy the beautiful scenery that we will be attempting to scale.

Thoughts from this week:

  • I got a Park Run PB today of 24 mins 50 secs which I am really pleased with
  • Going to listen to the new Disclosure album on my run tomorrow
  • Started watching Desperate Housewives from the start on Sky
  • The Walking Dead starts again this week
  • Marshalled Park Run a couple of weeks ago too which was fun

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Snowdonia Marathon Training

With Snowdonia Marathon only six weeks away I definitely need to get my arse back into running gear, literally. Since completing the London 100 I started to think about the next challenge almost straightaway thinking I could have a couple of weeks off, but after downloading a ‘mountain marathon 12 week training plan’ I was already two weeks behind.

When I signed up for Snowdonia Marathon back around Christmas 2014 it seemed so far away and now as usual it’s come around quickly. From the start of this year I always said that London Marathon would be my running focus this year and then the bike ride and training took up a lot of my time as well. For Snowdonia I’ve said I just want to complete it and not worry too much about the time as I will be far away from getting a PB, plus this marathon will be more about enjoying a completely different marathon experience. However, I still need to make sure I train to get myself around and time is running out.

Looking at my ‘mountain marathon training plan’ I was set to run four times a week same as London training. But the sessions were split into interval training, hill reps, crossfit and some other stuff I wasn’t 100% sure about. This added with a busy summer, mainly of holidays, has made it really difficult to stick to this training plan and as a result I haven’t stuck to it at all.

That’s not to say I haven’t been doing anything. I’ve done about 10 or 12 runs over the past month or so and a couple of bike rides. My bike training lead me to a good level of fitness but it’s still really important for me to get the long runs in plus HILLS. When flying back from my last holiday on Saturday I sat with my phone on flight mode and went through my calendar and realised how few weeks there were until the marathon, so created my own training plan.

My new iPhone training plan includes morning hill sessions, a gym session, club run and a long run. I’ve scheduled which days on which week I’m going to do each session as I have to be really organised with my training or else I feel out of control.

To date the furthest run I’ve done for Snowdonia training is a flat 8 miler. I need to do a 11 mile run over the next few days before Macclesfield Half Marathon on the 27th October. I’ve ordered new Mizuno Wave Enigma’s so once they arrive nothing should hold me back! After Macclesfield Half I will have 3 weekends left where I’m going to do hilly 15, 18 and 20 routes then have one week for tapering.

Thoughts from this week:

  • Feels like the easiest time to train is definitely Spring- Summer/Autumn are too busy
  • Ordered Born to Run to get me into the running mood
  • It’s difficult to find hills in Manchester
  • Think a sprint triathlon will be next on the list
  • Ran 5 miles before work- kind of missed the early morning shift

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