Friday Fun

I don’t know about you, but this is the end of a loooooong week for me. I am glad it’s Friday. I had one of those weeks where you blink and it’s Friday, but your to-do list hasn’t gotten any smaller. Tell me I’m not alone in feeling like this from time to time!

 

Anyway, it’s not been all bad. As it’s Friday, let’s focus on the fun things, and with that in mind, here are some things that have made me smile this past week:

Trail Runners

 

I think this is fairly accurate. Although, I’m not sure that I qualify on the beard front. I hope I don’t have a beard. Even if it is an awesome beard.

 

The temperature has dropped – not enough for snow, but enough so that SB and I have to rock our running hats when we run in the evenings now. I don’t think there’s ever been a more on-point look:

photo 2-25

 

I am happy that cold weather running is back: call me crazy, but it’s so refreshing to be out in the sharp air after being indoors all day. It clears your head in the same way that plunging into the pool after being in a jacuzzi does. Except that you’re not in a spa, or on holiday or wherever you might be jumping between pool and jacuzzi, so you’re saving money at the same time 😉

Allow me to be sentimental for a minute. One of my friends said online that they needed some inspiration for living a ‘cleaner life’. I found this pic which completely encapsulates running for me:

Running-Lessons

 

I have always surprised myself by running. I was not naturally a sporty person, but I started with a small goal (to get fit and keep an eye on my body), and gradually my goals became bigger and bigger until I find myself where I am now. Believe me, I’m as surprised – and proud – as anyone that I’ve transformed into one half of those annoying couples who go running in matching sports gear. Just kidding. Our sports gear doesn’t match, but that’s only because SB is against it. Otherwise I’d Kath & Kel it right up.

 

Kath & Kel

I know this isn’t sports gear. But look how good they look.

I read about a challenge for December known as AdventRunning. I thought perhaps it would be a nice challenge to run on each Advent Sunday, but nope: the challenge is to run for at least 30 minutes each day from 1st to 25th December. I mean…. that’s a pretty tall order during a regular month, but December? With all it’s minced pie and mulled wine goodness?

 

Anyway, competitive fool that I am, I have decided to try for it. I don’t think I’ll be so hardcore as to try for 30 minutes every day, but an average per week would be good. It would help balance out the Christmas Joy that I fully intend to partake in. Plus, the article says that runs should be documented on social media, and if you’ve learned one thing about me by now, it’s that I’m a social media addict. I’m all over it. So bring it on December! Let’s get our Advent on!

 

Finally – my brother turned 30 this week (I know, so old, right?), and we went to a cafe where we found THIS:

photo 1-27

 

I just want to share this because it had everything you could want in a cake: ganache, cream, jam, sponge. Plus it was the size of a door stop.

 

Hope you all have a great weekend!

 

Ellie B

 

 

Brampton to Carlisle Race Recap

Well hello there! Yep – I’m back. Did you miss me? Yeah, I bet you did.

 

It’s been more than a week since my last post, and the only excuse I have is that I have been busy working hard and playing hard. So…. that’s a crap excuse, and I’m sorry guys. But fear not: here is a race recap from the 10 mile Brampton to Carlisle race I did two Sundays ago!

 

Thanks to a confusion in dates, resulting in a late night bus home from Newcastle the night before, and a certain time of the month (sorry guys, TMI?), I woke up on Sunday morning feeling like crap less than enthused about this race. The good thing was that, as it is about 2 hours from Durham, my running group organised a bus to take everyone there and back. So all I had to do that morning was get to the bus stop on time, which I could manage, and then chill out. Plus, I do love a good team bus trip.

 

The day itself was perfect for running. The morning started with low fog which draped itself just below the trees, but the sun soon burned it off to leave only a crisp and chilly day covered by blue skies. The race was very low key, which suited me fine: we were kind of ushered into the road, and a tape sort of penned us in, a gun went off, and we all started running – there was no ‘official’ start line that I could see.

 

Not sure if bus photos really convey what it actually looked like...

Not sure if bus photos really convey what it actually looked like…

I had heard this route was great for personal bests, and even though I hadn’t woken up in a race-day mindset, I forced myself into one as soon as we started. The route started in a small town called Brampton and took us to Carlisle by way of A-roads (did the race name Brampton to Carlisle give that away?). I must say, for a road race, this route was gorgeous. The roads weren’t too wide, and led us through the country side where there were plenty green fields, black tree trunks with golden Autumn leaves, and lots of sheep. I love running by sheep! They look so bemused at seeing hundreds of humans running past them aimlessly. Kind of like how we look when we see them run.

For some reason I love starting line pics. Please enjoy the starting line for the Brampton to Carlisle race!

For some reason I love starting line pics. Please enjoy the starting line for the Brampton to Carlisle race!

 

For the most part, the route was flat or downhill, and I running a steady average pace of 7:30 min/mile. Towards the end, there were some gentle inclines up, and by that time I was tiring. I hit low points at mile 4 and mile 8 when I was thinking ‘what the hell am I doing? How did I ever think this was fun? Is this really what I have chosen to do on a Sunday morning?’.

 

But in miles 3, 6,7, 9 and 10 I was thinking ‘This is amazing. Amazing! Look at that countryside! Look at those sheep! How fast am I running? Good, I can keep this pace up. Keep it up. This is the last race of the year, finish strong. Strong, I tell you! You’re an independent woman running to Carlisle on a Sunday morning for fun, Goddammit, and you’re proud!’ So, the conclusion from this little personal journey is that the highs outweigh the lows (again), and I’ll be running more races in the near future.

 

This is what it was like. Absolutely gorgeous running conditions.

This is what it was like. Absolutely gorgeous running conditions.

 

The end was fantastic because, after what felt like a never-ending gentle incline (the cruellest of inclines) there was a fabulous downhill where you could really pick up speed. By the start of mile 10, my calf muscles were crying and it was hard to push to go faster, so it was ace to have that downhill and finish feeling like a hero.  I finished in 1:15:15, the second lady from my club, and got a PB not only for the 10 mile but for the 10k distance too.

 

I want to give a special shout out to one lady in our club: she fell over in mile 1, and really badly grazed both her knees and hands to the point that blood was pouring down her legs. Mile 1! Wouldn’t you be heartbroken? The race stewards told her there were medics at the end, and that they could either give her a lift or she could run there. And what did she choose? She ran. She ran the rest of the race – pretty much the whole 10 miles – whilst injured. I cannot imagine what strength that must have needed. To top it off, she finished with a smile, and didn’t stop smiling even when she admitted she was in loads of pain on the way home. Full respect to her – the real hero of the day!

 

And the best bit was that afterwards, we all got back on our bus and stopped off for lunch on the way home. We had a huge roast dinner, complete with chocolate cake, eton mess and berries for desert. It was my first proper team outing of this kind with the Elvet Striders (who do the bus + lunch combo a lot for races), and it was so nice to speak with people I’ve not met before and get to know them.

 

This race was a fabulous way to end my 2014 races (unless I sign up for another sneaky event). It had beauty, speed, good company, good food, a team bus trip and heroes. Can you really ask for more from a race?!

 

Ellie B

Tangent Tuesday

 

Today’s post is brought to you by Tangent Tuesday. Because I want to list my favourites, and because I’m on a night train to London (it’s Monday night people. See, I do actually prepare these posts somewhat in advance). I’m sore from yesterday’s race and I’m not looking forward to wearing heels tomorrow – there will be muchos protest from my calves I think! I deliberately didn’t bring my running gear to London to give myself a chance to recover, and to hopefully encourage more core work to happen….

 

These tangents are things that I have come across or seen over the past few weeks. I spent a week in Stockholm, and so let’s kick things off with some Scandi-love.

 

  • Fotografiska – This is a photograph museum in Stockholm, and was recommended by some friends. The main exhibition was by a guy called Anders Petersen, and he really captured the intimacy and vulnerabilities of his subjects, which made me feel sad. Don’t you think photography exhibitions are strange? The subjects are all out there, either living their lives or not.  Then I left, walked back to my hotel & thought about how I’m almost ready for my own Scandi crime drama after being so contemplative in a photography museum in Stockholm. At least, that’s what I told Gilly, anyway.
See? Sad photos!

See? Sad photos!

  • My Swedish running top! Since it’s dark for about 60% of the year, Stockholm has loads of really expensive good running shops. I bought this cute vest which will help running in Durham, as it’s also dark there for about 40% of the year. Sadly I can’t remember the brand – I’ll check it out when I get home.

photo 1 (4)

  •  Kylie – She came to Newcastle!!! Hurrah. She always puts on a good show: she sings live, doesn’t forget the classics, struts around the stage, and has the best wardrobe ever. She’s an awesome entertainer and this time she didn’t disappoint. I would say it was the best night of my life, but what about the other times I’ve seen her?

photo 2 (4)

  • Karl Stefanovic – hero. For the Aussie readers, did you ever think you’d see that sentence written down? Karl is a morning TV presenter in Australia who revealed that he wore the same suit every day for a year. Yep. A whole year. He did it to show how little people care about what male presenters wear: people actually judge them for what they say and the work they do rather than on their appearance first. Now, Karl may not always be so astute, but this was a pretty good experiment with the point well made. Well bloody done, and get yourself a new suit.
  • The G20 – nothing makes me as happy as seeing all the world leaders get together, and if it happens in Australia, then even better. They always look so proud and excited, like it’s the first day at school. As if these people run the world. And there are so. many. awkward photos flying around. Here are my favourites from this week.
Awww. BFFs.

Awww. BFFs.

No one's even pretending to have fun here.

No one’s even pretending to have fun here.

It turns out all you need is a Koala to ease international political tension

It turns out all you need is a Koala to ease international political tension

And here he is: the Coolest of the Cool joining in on the fun. With his side kick.

And here he is: the Coolest of the Cool joining in on the fun. With his side kicks.

 

Well. I think we can all agree that today’s Tangent Tuesday was a action-packed: spanning from Scandinavian art to world leaders and gender politics. I am going to celebrate with a chocolate bar, and consider what kind of Scandinavian detective I could be in my new series for the rest of this train journey.

 

Ellie B

Last Race of the Year and SA-Yes!

Saturday is my last race of the year! Unless I sign up for more.  First of all, I can’t believe it’s November 12 already. Second of all, this has made me all nostalgic for the year just gone. Let’s all ignore the fact that it’s still technically ‘only’ November: there are Christmas decorations in the shops, so it’s definitely not too early for a yearly-round up.

 

So today, ladies and gents, I will look back at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of running in 2014!

 

The Good:

  • I started the year with my favourite race of the year: the Stubbington 10k, with two of my oldest friends. Sunny race by the Solent, followed by a pub lunch. Running at its best.

photo-76

  • THE MARATHON! My first and absolutely not my last, even though I still hear that voice at mile 18 saying Please don’t ever make me do this again. Please. This was a definite life achievement, and I’m still stoked with the time of 3:43.
  • Running in Stockholm was an unexpected delight, and gave me some of the prettiest running memories

photo (30)

 

The Bad:

  • 20 miles in the pouring rain. They were the longest three hours ever. Longer than being stuck on a plane for 24 hours, longer than waiting for my meal to arrive after I’ve ordered (I’m a very impatient restaurant diner), and longer than Christmas Eve. Thank god for Beyonce telling me who runs the world (GIRLS!), and for Hamish & Andy keeping me company  on the way around, or I might have cried.
Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 14.22.32

This is Beyonce’s outfit of choice when she’s running. Away from Cops. Don’t worry – this is for a music video only. Source

  • Not being able to do either a half marathon or an obstacle course this year :( The half is my favourite distance, and I like to do the obstacle courses so I can show off how hard I am. That is, until someone mentions snakes, and then I turn into a trembling wreck. So take note: obstacle courses with mud, walls and electric shocks are ok, conversations about snakes are definitely not ok. 

 

The Ugly:

  • There’s only one proper contender here: my marathon-blisters. These bad boys developed about half way through my training, and got bigger and bigger til the week before the race I was running an average of 1:30min slower than I wanted. Luckily on the day, I pulled it out of the bag, but these war wounds hung around for about 8 weeks afterwards. I felt bad for everyone who attended my pole classes at this time, and had to see them.
photo 1-1

I’m sorry, everyone. But if I had to look at them, I think you should too. At least I’ve made the photo smaller for you all.

  • The end of the marathon: my face was covered in a grit-like substance, which I soon realised was dried sweat mingling with my foundation. I looked like something from the Zombie apocalypse. Smarter people would choose to run without make up on, I guess….

 

This year I’ve covered loads of different distances and events. If I’m honest, I’m not in the shape that I wanted to be for the end of the year thanks to a really busy August-November. However, looking back on all this reminds me that for me, running is 50% fitness and 50% because I love it: the places I get to see, the experiences, and the memories I now have. So there you go. A bit of personal growth thrown in here today too.

Saturday’s race is a 10 mile road race from Brampton to Carlisle. In keeping with my new approach to charity running, I chose to support a charity which works to protect children who are vulnerable to being trafficked at my last race. For this race, I wanted to choose a charity that supports young adults. SA-Yes works with young adults in South Africa who have been in children’s homes, providing them with a support network once they leave the social system and have to look after themselves at the age of 18.

 

I was an emotional ball of mess at 18: I was both terrified of the world and scornful of it, and I was really naive too. I relied on certain mentor-figures who helped me work out my values and priorities. So now I would like to support young adults who need the same guidance, but who are in much more vulnerable situations. I needed help on what to study at university, but these teenagers need stability, and help to finish school, and in finding housing and jobs so they don’t end up in trouble.

 

Anyway, that’s my chosen charity for this event, and I have made a donation. If you are interested, you can also make a donation here.

 

I hope you’re all having a wonderful Wednesday!

 

Ellie B

 

 

 

Pole Sports: The Great Debate Continues…

Hey everyone. I hope you had a good weekend. I did a 10k hill run in Durham on Saturday, which was hard, and then I had my first pole lesson in about 8 months yesterday!!

 

This year, I haven’t had any time to train pole myself. And when I have trained, I’ve looked like a little fish that’s out of water, flopping around all over the place as my guns skinny arms let me down. These bad boys have shrank!

 

So, sadly, I’ve stepped back from teaching, and yesterday – with all the nervousness of a new girl at school – I once more became the student in the hope of actually progressing. After all that hard work last year on my splits, I’m still where I was on January 1st! Don’t worry though, the splits won’t dominate this blog like they did this time last year. I’d feel like a fraud. Although I could just recycle all last year’s posts…

 

My teacher and I looked at some moves that were new for me, and worked out what the focus areas will be moving forward. There’ll be more strength training, more back and shoulder flexibility, and more ab work. My shoulders are sore today, but that’s only a good sign (I tell myself, as I grimace just trying to bring my coffee cup to my lips).

 photo-148

 

And, if it wasn’t the biggest coincidence, when I was eating my recovery chocolate (an absolute must in my book), I read this article: Pole Dancing: Olympic sport or strip-club sleaze? . The basic arguments are:

  • This journo went to the World Pole Sports Championships with a number of preconceptions, including doubt as to whether it could be a sport
  • She found out that she was wrong

Ok, I admit, that’s a pretty basic summary….

 

What she discovered was that the world of pole is dominated by supportive women, not the ‘dirty mac brigade’. She learned that it was in the same family as gymnastics, but was less dangerous as the pole itself supports you (says a mother of a 13 year old competitor), and that it’s easier to actually do because you don’t need as much room. This skeptical journo closed the article on a positive note, and wondered if ‘anything could get (her) flying like a human flag’. And everyone was happy.

pole sport

 

What the article doesn’t do is apologise for the sport, or it’s background: the competitor she speaks with credit strippers for helping make today’s incarnation what it is, and in fact one girl believes that it’s empowering to have taken pole dance out of the strip clubs and developed it into a competitive sport.

 

I don’t want every post I write on this to have a slightly defensive tone, but when I write them, I can’t help it. Sorry guys! I am working to remove this huge chip from my shoulder. In August I wrote about pole dance vs pole fit, and said that as long as UK pole has a conservative view towards the sexier element of the sport, I would prefer the Aussie way (which is all sexiness). However, this article today pointed out that if it wants to be taken seriously as a sport, it needs to set certain limits. And apparently these limits lie with cleavage and actually taking clothes off on stage.

 

I can understand this. To conquer people’s preconceptions, the sport must be seen to differentiate itself from ‘titillation’. Even though the journo closes the article more positively, she still litters the article with phrases like ‘gyrating on a pole’ (twice) and ‘grinding prop’, when her quotes from the performers themselves make pains to show how the sport has actually progressed. Which proves the whole point.

 

So…. I guess I’m backtracking a little from my stance in August. While it’s not my personal preference, I do admire what these people are trying to do: bring down the conceptual barriers surrounding the sport, and which stop people from seeing it for what it actually is. If you see two people doing the same dance – but one is in a sports crop top and pants, and the other is in a glittery bikini – I wonder how your interpretations would differ. These little things do matter if it is to be taken seriously, even if they do eliminate a certain kind of art from the whole proceedings.

 

Although I can’t back track 100%:  it’s still not my personal preference to have such strict guidelines on what’s acceptable and what’s not, because if taken too far, I think they could actually bolster the same prejudices they’re trying to break down. I don’t mean to back track from my back track, but hey, I write these posts and so I can do that, people!!

 

The Winners of the NSW Heat for Miss Pole Dance Australia

The Winners of the NSW Heat for Miss Pole Dance Australia

And, for panache, extravagance and outrageous costumes, well thankfully we have the Aussies for that!! They  have just had their Miss Pole Dance Australia championships, with bikinis, cleavage and stilettos galore!! Thank God for the Aussies, who dance and strut and are proud. Aussie Aussie Aussie!

 

Ellie B