Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17

 This year I’ve run everything from a 3 mile plod on to a marathon, with a number of 10ks and half marathons in between. I am not a speedy runner, rather I use running to explore new places I visit, trails I stumble upon and to keep the stress levels at bay. With an intense job, I take great pleasure in lacing up, headphones in and having some “me” time.
In the two years I’ve been running myself, I’ve heard many runners rave about Brooks shoes but was yet to try them myself. So I was delighted when Pro Direct Running asked me to test the new Adrenaline GTS 17. What took me so long!

As the shoe was yet to be released I had no idea what I would discover when the box arrived. Immediately I was struck by just how colourful they were. Perfect to brighten up any dreary winter run.

This was not a shoe that wanted to be pranced between treadmill runs and brunch, this was a serious running shoe that wanted to be taken out in the great outdoors and get a bit muddy.

I christened my Brooks with a part paved/part trail run, and some general frolicking, in Richmond Park. Usually I would notice a significant difference when changing terrain but the transition was barely noticeable.

I usually opt for shoes that provide an extremely cushioned almost bouncy ride, which on trail like surfaces I don’t feel works for me. Instead of staring at the ground worried I might roll my ankle on a tree branch the GTS 17 is a stability shoes with a snug fit and solid grip on the sole that made me feel secure enough that I was able to take in my surroundings. I even made a friend.

Running through the leaves with slippery wet patches the shoes continued to impress me. They have been released at just the right time to tackle winter running conditions. They even passed the pebbled beach running test. I really did put them through every terrain/weather condition available to me. At the end of one run I even conducted a puddle test and I’m happy to report my feet remained perfectly dry.

One of the features I noticed on the GTS 17 is an added layer of material over the big toe area on each shoe. From previous experience of my big toe wearing through the top of a shoe whilst the rest of the shoe would otherwise be fine to continue running in, this is a genius idea! Shin splints have plagued me on and off for some time and during each of my runs to date they have been pleasantly absent. Having looked into shoe’s features I think I’m attributing this to the “full-length segmented crash pad which accommodates any foot landing and delivers smooth heel-to-toe transitions”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
For more details on the technology behind the shoe, head over to Pro Direct Running’s Twitter this evening as they are hosting a takeover by a Brooks Technical Rep.

Next weekend I am taking on a very tough 10km race up Box Hill in the Surrey Downs. With a multi-terrain course, November weather conditions and steep elevation I am relieved to have the GTS 17 to hand. Details on how they performed to follow in my race report.

So if you are looking for a new pair of kicks to entice you out in the Winter months, want to treat yourself to an early Christmas present or add a pair to your list for Santa, head on over to Pro Direct Running’s website. Just try and not get too distracted by all the other beautiful pieces of kit available.



London Winter Run

I’ve set myself the goal of regaining my pre-marathon fitness levels. Since April I’ve slowed down and I can’t hack any sort of distance either. 

First up is improving my 10km time. My PB is 53:01 and its always been a goal to run sub 50. My last 10km race took me 01:09:43 – around 16 minutes slower! 

For several years I’ve wanted to run the London Winter Run and this year I grateful to have the opportunity. The run takes place on Sunday 5 February 2017, in just under 4 months. So it gives me plenty of time to get in a few months of training, indulge at Christmas and still have a 5 weeks pre-race to shift the mince pies. 

Post Christmas things can be a little glum but with polar bear hugs, snow blasts and a penguin party this run is set to be a lot of fun. Besides I’m a big fan of these Arctic creatures. I’ll give you an idea, this has been my phone background for the last few years! (Unfortunately I’ve had the image so long I can’t remember the source to credit)

I also happen to have quite a perchance for penguins. This little guy was my absolute favourite when I recently visited London Zoo. I had to be dragged away and consoled that I couldn’t take him home. 

Another major plus for me is the course description “no major hills”. Words to my ears! So I can focus on getting a good time (and the Penguins) without having to put every ounce of my being in getting up a blinking hill! As you can see from the image below the route takes in some of London’s finest sites. 

If you are looking for a race to channel your winter training towards, want to run your first 10km or just fancy dancing with the Penguins, take a peek at the website. To get a few pounds off race entry, to save for a post run hot chocolate you can use the code SIMPELLE3. 

I will be documenting my training on the blog and over on Instagram, let me know if you will be joining me, I love sharing in other runners journey to race day and seeing familiar faces along the course. 

Boudavida Women’s 10km

After deciding not to run Richmond marathon I was really looking forward to taking part in the Boudavida Women’s 10km. I was grateful to have been given a place as part of the ThisGirlCanRun10 team, part of the brilliant, wider, This Girl Can initiative. 

The race took place in Windsor Great Park. I had never been before, but through a great deal of Instagram stalking, I knew I was in for a scenic treat. I most certainly wasn’t disappointed, it’s the most beautiful course I’ve run in the UK to date. 

Race kit was laid out the night before, shorts, tank top and my Hoka One Ones. Watch, headphones and phone were charged. Had a soak in the bath and a foam roller session before an early night.

The alarm was set for 6:15am, which for someone who is not a morning person is painfully early, it also meant that it was distinctly chilly and I decided to ditch the shorts in favour of full length 2xu compression tights. Arriving at 9am the sun was already shining and by the time I was on the start line I was deeply regretting my outfit choice, particularly as it was all black!

We drove to the race and there was amble parking available free of charge. If you were looking to go by public transport, the train station is around a 1.5 mile walk to the start. The race village had the nicest toilets I’ve ever visited at a race, they smelt delightful and there weren’t even any queues! 

Stood on the start line there was lots of chatter, from beating PBs to ladies running their first 10km, I spoke to a group who had all trained together and were about to embark on their first ever race. I felt a buzz of excitement for them, I warned them there was likely to be pain and frustration along the way but that feeling as they crossed the finish line would make it all worth while.

I had no intention on going for a PB, but I hoped to come in a smidge under my last 10km race in July. I set off planning just to run and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The first 1km involved quite a steep hill, but with a fantastic statute looming and the excitement of getting started I was distracted from the incline. 

The entire course was a series of relatively steep hills with short stretches of flat in between. Despite the combination of hills and heat I was determined that I wasn’t going to let myself slow to a walk, because if I allowed it just once it would be a mental battle the rest of the race. So I employed the slow plod, with arms pumping up hill and free falling letting my legs gather some speed on the way back down. 

At 4km on a particularly steep descent, I had a very near miss when my new “extremely high impact” sports bra, which does up at the front decided to unzip; luckily I caught it in the nick of time, but it gives you an idea of just how much speed I was managing to gather down hill. 

The scenery was stunning and definitely somewhere I would recommend making the trip to go for a run / walk. I ran alongside horses and cows, over ponds I wanted to jump in to cool down and past quaint little houses. 

Then just when I didn’t think it could get any better I turned the corner and ran the 1.5km stretch downhill towards Windsor Castle, it was magnificent. 

Crossing the finish line, a smidge under as hoped, I was swiftly given water and a Meridian peanut butter bar and another piece of bling to add to the collection. It was a real bonus to be able to keep walking around afterwards, rather than having to queue. 

The race was brilliantly organised from start to finish and the number of participants allowed for plenty of room on the course and in the race village. If you can stomach the hills I would definitely recommend it for 2017. Next year I’m definitely tempted to do Windsor Half Marathon which takes place the same weekend in the same beautiful setting. 

Post race snap with Sasha and Claire 

This was the first race I ran in my Hoka One One Clifton 3s, by coincidence they also happened to be an official sponsor. I loved them in training for their lightweight, bouncy but yet supportive feel and they performed just as well on race day! Not a blister, hot spot or foot pain in sight. Don’t be put off by how big they look, they are in no way heavy or clumpy. 

Post race I was excited to visit the Boudavida stand, a new activewear collection that has only just launched. I had seen the pieces online but was keen to have a feel of the materials in real life. In post race euphoria it’s probably best they were only exhibiting rather than selling because I would have bought it all! I definitely have my eye on several of their tops and a beautifully crafted running jacket. 

The rest of the day we combined with pottering around the sites of Windsor, eating lunch by the river and being astounded by the sheer number of swans. All in all a fantastic way to spend a Saturday. We won’t talk about me getting ridiculously sun burnt running for just an hour in late September….. 

The countdown is on!

A calendar month today I will have completed my second marathon (18 September). I haven’t done an update on how my training is going after my 100 mile run commute challenge and I thought it was about time.

So currently I have mixed feelings. One day I’m ready and raring to see how much I can smash my current marathon time by and proudly place another shiny bit of bling on the dresser. The next I’m in despair that I’m going to be putting my body through another 26.2 miles. This generally reflects the days I run well and those where my legs refuse to co-operate. 
Here’s my super concentrated/I’m really scared face from the Track Mafia X Nike Run Club event, which I pull every time someone asks how the training is going: 

I’ve had several very successful 4-8 mile runs but my most recent attempt at running 10 miles left me a little crushed. I hate giving up but it was a Friday night and I really wasn’t enjoying it, the shins hurt and so I stopped at 6 miles. 

Really I ought to be up to 14-16 miles at this stage in my training and I’m panicking slightly as a result. Consequently I think I’m putting even more pressure on the runs to be “successful” and inevitably mentally struggling even more when they aren’t. 

Basically I need to chill out. 

This is me finishing strong, the speed lap I was so terrified about messing up for my team and in front of lots of people. Moral, I need to doubt myself less:  

Thank you to the lovely Georgia and Laura for the all important snaps.

Part of me takes comfort in the fact that I’ve done it before so I can do it again. But then I am perfectly aware that you need to respect the distance. I’m concerned the former is making me a little lackadaisical and I’m a little annoyed at myself for not taking training as seriously as I intended. Life just got in the way. 

So the plan for the next four weeks is to get in a 13, 15, 18 and 20 miler. Not necessarily in that order. Time to download some new podcasts. I’d be grateful for any recommendations to see me through. 

100 miles run commute 

I am not a morning person. As I stumbled off the train a little before 9am a leaflet was shoved into my hand. I glanced and shoved it into my bag and it wasn’t until 15 minutes later, consuming my first coffee of the day, I recollected the title – 9 day line closures. Groaning I dug it out and began to profusely swear. 9 whole days my blissful commute, 1 direct train taking 35 minutes was going to be disrupted. Looking at the alternative routes suggested I continued to Eff and Blind, it would take close to 2 hours each way. 
I live exactly 10 miles, front door to office. I scoffed to my colleague that I could run ten miles quicker than that. That’s when it popped into my head, I should just run it and save the £38 my travel card costs at that. With all the optimism in the world I did the maths, 10 miles each way, 20 miles a day, 5 day, that would mean running 100 miles on a week. A 100 mile run commute; it had a ring to it. 

The lovely Pro Direct Running team sent me a lovely pair of Saucony Triumph ISO 2 to keep my feet moving through out the week and some amazing Asocs/Nike running kit. I’ve never run in a pair of Sauconys before but have always been aware they are a serious runner’s brand so they gave me a sense of confidence. During the movements I was trudging along they also provided something colourful to stare at and were super comfortable. I realised j probably ought to have broken them in first, there wasn’t the opportunity but I survived an entire week blister free. The snug fit took some adjusting to but it definitely helped me feel as if my ankles were secure and supported. 

I started off with abundant enthusiasm. Screw TFL and their cancellations, with every step I took I felt a sense of defiance that I wasn’t at the hands of their inadequate service; I’m still very bitter from how barely the Forest Hill sink hole was dealt with a few weeks ago. 

I reached work on day one and I was exhausted. I certainly felt more awake than normal but the prospect of a full day’s work did not appeal. By lunchtime I was guzzling coffee at an alarming rate. Something. Which escalated as the week went on. 
Returning home home and completing my first 20 miles I felt a real sense of achievement. It was only the third time I’ve ever run that distance in a single day. The eight/nine hour gap in between the runs had refreshed my legs and it was beginning to feel like this would be a long term viable option. 
Crawling out of bed an hour earlier than normal the following morning, with somewhat aching legs I soon changed my mind. Trying to run home that evening my legs were starting to protest. 

Wednesday and Thursday were in all honesty horrid. By this point I had already exceeded my weekly mileage, the DOMS extended to my arms, neck, shoulders and back and I realised I had been a little unrealistic in thinking I could just plunge myself into such a challenge. My knee, which had never presented any issues, started to niggle and then really hurt and my shin splits were back with vengeance. At this point it distinctly became a case of walking with the odd spur of energy allowing me to jog. I had very little energy was very sore and my appetite was off the charts. I was also extremely grumpy and snappy. I nearly bit the head off a staff member in Tescos when there was no calorie free Lucazade in the chiller, I did not want it luke warm….. 

Friday and I was so ready for it to be over. I walked the majority of 20 miles, maybe only running for 7 or 8. I reached home and promptly collapsed. In that moment I was immensely proud at my determination but also acknowledged my stupidity. I hadn’t respected the distance and had risked injury to the detriment of my marathon training. But still, proud. 

Then I found out that TFL were calculating their nine days from Monday to the following Tuesday not Saturday to the following Sunday that I had envisaged. There’s no way I’m doing another 40 miles on the coming Monday/Tuesday. However I have discovered there is a nice little run to be done from Wapping to my office which is just under 4 miles and I plan to encorporae the into my routine more often. It will certainly save me the cost of travelling through Zone 1.

This week has been a real kick starter for getting my marathon training back on track, which if I’m being honest has been somewhat lacking and there are only 6 weeks to go. It’s also reinforced just how much I am not ready to take on an ultra and need to stick to marathons. 

So any suggestions for what I can spend the £38 I saved from my travel card this week? 

Lululemon’s Sweat Life Festival 

Last Saturday Lululemon held the eagerly awaited Sweatlife Festival at Tobacco Dock. The best of London’s fitness studios and health food/drinks companies came together to create a fantastic day of sweat. 

Tickets were prices at £20 which considering what classes were on offer was an absolute bargain. I was very grateful to Oppo Ice cream for my tickets but would had paid to go regardless. It was also a particularly special occasion as I managed to persuade my fitness phobe sister to join me and she enjoyed it! She has no idea what I’m going to be trying to convince her to do with me from now on! 
We arrived around lunch time and soaked up the buzzing atmosphere. There were sweaty exhausted looking faces and those eagerly awaiting their first class. I was in my element. 

We started off with an hour long vinyasa yoga class with Marc Hatvani. I haven’t done yoga in so long and with my tight runner’s muscles it showed. It was a definite reminder I need to try a get one class in a week. Feeling beautifully stretched I was pleased to just about get into a wheel. My sister made me laugh saying she felt like a 5 year old again being told to put her feet and legs over her head. Something else she said really made me think, at the very end Marc was talking about letting go of everything, to stop judging yourself and others and yet in the background there was a photographer continually clicking away. Attending fitness events I guess I am used to there being a photographer present bit of did make me think whether you can fully let go of yourself and give your all during a class/yoga practice if you are aware there if someone snapping away. Just a little something to think about.

Post yoga class we explored the healthy products on offer and sat enjoying a pot of Oppo Ice Cream, if you haven’t tried it I suggest you get yourself down to Waitrose/Co-op asap, it’s guilt free indulgence at its finest. 

Other than classes there were lots of mini challenges and competitions dotted around the venue. In particular the “Hang challenge”, how hard could it be? The record was around 2mins 10 seconds at the time we had a go. Well less than 29 seconds in my hands were slipping and I remembered I have absolutely no upper body strength! I didn’t last long after that. 

Of course no festival is complete without a crazy photobooth and Lululemon stepped it up a knot and had a GIF photobooth. We definitely had more than one go –

A Psycle and a Kobox class later, I left with a sweaty content smile on my face, this was definitely my sort of festival. Fingers crossed it will be back next year! 

A Weekend in Warsaw

I was very fortunate to win a competition hosted by Faya Nilsson, a wellbeing ambassador for Westin Hotels & Resorts for a trip to Warsaw. (Head over to her Instagram for incredibly fitness inspiration @fitnessontoast)

It was my first time in Warsaw and if I’m honest it’s not somewhere that was even on my radar to visit. If you are thinking the same be sure to read on.

Warsaw is around a two hour flight from London Luton and then our hotel was only a 10-15 minute drive from the airport so I wasn’t left feeling at all groggy after travelling. We stayed at The Westin Warsaw and absolutely loved the hotel. Minus a roof top pool with a pink flamingo, there was everything you could possibly want and more. We had an executive room on the top level, 20 floors up in the clouds. 

Whilst you are on holiday it’s so easy to fall into bad habits. Westin have designed a specific wellbeing range to help you maintain your healthy lifestyle whilst away from home and “Stay Well”.
Let’s start with the room. A bed, bath, rainfall shower, fluffy rope and slippers all from the ‘Heavenly’ wellbeing range. At home we have an amazing Superking bed so we are often disappointed, but it was the best night sleep I’ve ever had in a hotel. I woke up feeling relaxed, refreshed and raring to explore. 

The staff were all lovely, very welcoming and the service was fantastic through out our stay. It was such a thoughtful touch to have a fruit platter and chilled water brought to our room within minutes of us arriving. 

Breakfast was like an Instagram smoothie bowl station that I wish I had access to every day. I did a lot of swooning. It made starting the day off on a healthy note even easier with a wide selection of fresh fruit and Westin’s Superfoods range. No doubt I would have opted for the ‘treat your self it’s a holiday’ cooked breakfast instead.

The hotel is fitted out with a gym and sauna. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the gym equipment, which was all state of the art and the free space available for stretching and floor work. A lovely and convenient touch is that Westin have partnered with New Balance and offer a kit lending service. So if unlike me you don’t want to use up 90% of your luggage for activewear and trainers, they will be happy to kit you out. So you avoid the dilemma of trainers being too bulky to pack or not being able to workout. 

I only used the gym once for a quick speed treadmill run and some stretching as I wanted to use the opportunity to “run explore” the city. It was delightfully flat! Having banked a decent amount of miles each day I was more than happy to take advantage of the complimentary prosecco on offer in the Executive Club lounge from 6-8pm. Another superb perk. 

Now for the highlights of our discoveries:

The Vistula / “Wisla” River

Along the banks of the river there are six sandy beaches. In between the beaches are boats with restaurants/bars on deck and pop up bars/food stalls. Beautifully relaxing by day and the hub of summer nightlife come dark. 

I loved sitting by the water, cold beer in hand, getting my toes in the sand post run; an added bonus when you are in a city. One of the beaches even did water-sports, given more time I would have loved to go kayaking or jet skiing. Handy tip, there is a free boat taxi service across the river between the beaches. 
The Old Town

In contrast to the sleek modern skyscrapers where our hotel was located, the Old Town had a wonderfully quaint charm about it. The buildings were stunning, they oozed character and history. The star of the Old Town is the main square, where we were able to sit, eat, drink and soak up the atmosphere. A particular favourite was “The Wine Garden” although after a glass in midday heat it went straight to my head.

Old Town of Warsaw – “Jesteś piękna” (You are beautiful) 

The Palace of culture and Science

This has to be the most eye catching building in all of Warsaw and until recently it was the tallest at 231 metres high. For a small entry fee of 20zl (approx £4) you can be whizzed up to the viewing gallery on the 30th floor for a 360 degree panoramic view of the city. In general we found everything to be very reasonably priced (particularly compared to London).

The University Library Rooftop Garden

There are two levels to the beautiful garden connected by a cascading stream of water and a staircase, allowing access between the two and a stunning view as you ascend/descend. 

On the upper level there is a viewing platform providing fantastic views over the river and a series of paths and bridges connecting the various segments of the gardens. With each corner I turned, I was gasping and pointing at another intricate element of the garden’s design. I really couldn’t recommend it more and entry to the gardens is free.

We were extremely lucky with the weather, 30 Degrees, blue skies and sat on the beach/river bank/in the Old Town Square and I felt like I was on holiday in a Mediterranean country.  The Westin Warsaw is one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in and I would definitely seek out a Westin where ever my adventures take me next. I came home after just three days and two nights feeling full of culture, history and wanderlust.

Warsaw you exceeded expectations.