Dry November and December


You know what’s sad? When you bite into an apple or a banana and they’re going off. I did both yesterday, and it made me want to cry into my granola.


Anyway, that’s not what this is about. Today’s post is a little exploration into something I like to tall Tee-totellie. Since the start of November, I haven’t been drinking alcohol. Very much. Ok, once or twice I had a red wine or two, like at my brother’s 30th birthday. But other than that, no alcohol for me.


There wasn’t a real reason for this…. I had thought it might be a good thing to do in the lead up to Christmas. To be honest, wine is my most favourite drink. Of course in moderation, but you can’t beat a crisp Chardonnay in the Summer or a bold Shiraz in the Winter. I’m not a huge drinker, but I remember my Dad picking me up from a party once when I was a teenager and I was mortified that I couldn’t do the seat belt up properly without a few attempts. I still remember his bemused face while I was trying (very unsuccessfully) to play it cool. It’s been a while since I’ve gone for longer than a week without a drink, so I thought now is a good time to chill out a bit and see how I go.


There are lots of health-related reasons why you should not drink, as well as health-related reasons why you can, or in fact should. One glass of red a day is supposed to help your heart. And Runner’s World have featured articles showing that a small amount of alcohol can actually help you: here’s one describing how beer can reduce the risk of stroke as well as help hydrate after a run. So, cheers to that!


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My own choice wasn’t motivated by training or health, more curiosity. Once I abstained, I noticed that my pleasure in the habit of having a glass of wine was just as tied up with the ritual of it all than it was the drink itself. In the beginning, I bought a bottle of non-alcoholic wine to try out because I enjoyed the practice of getting the glass, holding it in my hand and sipping.


That was a surprise to me: but the non-alcoholic wine was ok, and I was still able to get that feeling of winding down. I have never been really into tea – herbal or normal – and sometimes I wanted something a bit more grown up than squash. That’s where good old alcohol-free, in it’s nice long wine glass, came into it.


As the weeks have gone by, I’ve become quite the herbal tea fan. And that makes me feel so mature and calm, like I should also start pilates. My favourite is Twinings Mango and Cinnamon. Now I’m not so fussed as to whether I’m holding a wine glass or a mug in my hand: that association of a wine glass = relaxing after a long day is gone. In terms of how I feel: I don’t feel much different on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps I have more energy in the evenings, and I spring out of bed more easily, and without a thick head, but it’s not like I was drinking loads before. I would love to be able to do a comparison on running pre and post-tee total. In November, I did feel that I was getting stronger and had more energy to run, but then things had to slow down in December anyway in terms of running.


That’s not to say there aren’t some down sides. For all I’ve not been drinking alcohol, I have cultivated quite the diet coke addiction. It just tastes so good, and is my current substitute when out with friends. And I’m eating a lot more chocolate. I guess that’s because I always would have chosen a glass of wine over some chocolate in the evening. Sometimes you just need to treat yourself, particularly after a stressful day: there are times when Peppermint tea just ain’t gonna cut it. So…. yeah. More chocolate. Also, and this is a concern for me, my dance moves aren’t as adventurous, so the world is clearly missing out there.


It’s not a permanent thing. I know people who have made the choice to give it up permanently, and I admire them. I don’t think it’s for me: I enjoy the social element of sharing a bottle of wine with friends, and I enjoy the taste of it. But it’s been a good thing to do before Christmas – it’s made the lead up much cheaper for me, and in a season of over-indulgence, it’s been nice to wake up feeling healthy!


I wish you all the happiest of Christmases. SB and I are driving cross-country from Durham to Devon today – the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve. I saw this online and it made me LAUGH:


An Austalian Christmas Card from the Victorian era. Apparently. Thank God Aussies have Father Christmas now instead of the Nasty Emu.

An Austalian Christmas Card from the Victorian era. Apparently. Thank God Aussies have Father Christmas now instead of the Nasty Emu.


And finally, if you need a pick-me-up this Christmas, PLEASE look at this link. It’s a little girl experiencing the rain for the first time, and her face is THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. Look at the bottom ones!!!!!!

Ellie B

Sports Personality of the Year: how much ‘sports’ is in F1?

On Sunday night, the UK was treated to a new Sports Personality of the Year. Look, I’m just going to put a big fat disclaimer here: I didn’t watch much of the awards, and don’t know too much about sports outside my narrow sphere of interest. Which, in case you were wondering, includes running, pole, anything Aussie is in at an international level (I’m such a fairweather fan). And AFL.


Anyway. Sunday was the night when the UK’s top athletes get the chance to be in the spotlight when they dressed in all their finery: when they aren’t all tuckered out from finishing their particular event. Lewis Hamilton, F1 driver,was crowned Sportsperson of the Year, with Rory McIlroy, golfing youngster, coming second, and Jo Pavey: AWESOME runner, placing third.


Lewis Hamilton with his Sports Personality of the Year trophy. He looks thrilled.

Now, don’t be too surprised, but I was all for Jo winning. This year she achieved gold at the European Championships in the 10,000m. Not only that but she did it 10 months after giving birth. Not only that, but she is also the oldest female in Europe to do so. I mean…. what can you say to that?


Ladies and gentlemen: Jo Pavey.

Twitter erupted when Hamilton won, and in the spirit of the moment I might have retweeted something less than encouraging like ‘Driving is not a sport’. Not very sporting of me I know. And then I realised that I actually know nothing  about Formula 1, so perhaps my judgement is a little misplaced. I’ve seen ‘Senna’ , but that’s about it.


Wikipedia (the God of all unanswered questions) says that ‘sport’ is ~” usually competitive physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing entertainment to participants, and in some cases, spectators.” So I decided to look into it: just how sporty does an F1 driver need to be??


In short, the answer is very. Although they are driving a car, there is a lot of physical exertion involved. According to The Telegraph, drivers “manoeuvre 691kg cars at top speeds of 300kph, endure forces of 5g, burn 1,400 calories and lose up to 3kg of body weight in sweat during a race. What’s more, they do it 19 times over an eight month period.” (source).


3kg of sweat?! What the heck? Basically these guys need to be both as strong as possible and as light as possible at the same time. Drivers work towards maintaining 10% body fat, and 8% is considered good. After qualifying, they can afford to put on a little weight to account for what they will lose during the race to ensure they don’t get disqualified.


Let’s talk strength. These guys have to handle some severe G-Force, and be strong enough to hold against it. Their helmet means their head weighs close to 8kg, and their necks need to be strong enough to stop their 8kg heads from flying around when driving. Going around corners will put an additional 25kg/4 stone on their necks, and they often experience a longitudinal G-Force of up to 5g when braking. That’s the equivalent of having someone who weighs 38kg/6st trying to rip your head from your shoulders.


Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen stands at 1.70m (Lewis Hamilton is 1.75m), but has a neck of 16.5 inches. To prepare for specific routes, Kovalainen will sit in his helmet and his trainer will push his head in the same sequence of the track. They do this for 90 minutes at a time. In addition to the neck, the drivers must have exceptionally strong shoulders and core to withstand the pressure.

Kovalainen. Pencil neck he ain't.

Kovalainen. Pencil neck he ain’t.


Next, let’s talk cardio. Cardio is what helps these guys maintain their slight frames, but it also helps with their stamina. During the race itself, a driver’s heart rate is 170 bpm on average. Kovalainen says that before the race, his heart rate might reach 185-90 thanks to the adrenaline. To train for an event where his heart rate will be close to 80% of its maximum, he does both running and cycling, either maintaining a specific bpm for 90 mins, or doing intervals. Apparently Jensen Button favours cycling, where as Lewis Hamilton enjoys squash, water ski-ing and running. To handle all this, drivers tend to train twice a day. Lewis Hamilton reckons he trains four hours a day during the season to maintain his fitness, but more during the off-season.


Jensen Button: cyclist as well as F1 driver.

Jensen Button: cyclist as well as F1 driver.

Let’s put this in terms that I recognise: running. All this would be the equivalent of going on a tempo run for 90 minutes  on an extremely fast fairground Waltzer with a 38kg/6st human on your neck. I don’t recommend trying it out.


And if that wasn’t enough, they have to be mentally strong.  My three hour runs would sometimes pass in the blink of an eye as I let my mind wander, but when you’re driving at speeds of 350km, you can’t afford to relax even for a second! These drivers need to talk to their teams, and be aware of how the car is performing as well as what’s happening on the track. Kovalainen trains his mind by using a batak reaction board: hitting as many lights as possible in 60 seconds. Getting 60 at your first attempt is ok – Kovalainen himself can get 121.


So, the challenges of Formula 1 definitely meet Wikipedia’s criteria, and the drivers have to be pretty bloody fit to survive them. My re-tweet may have been ill-deserved, seated as I was on my sofa in my pyjamas eating chocolate. While I think it’s an achievement to drive from Birmingham to Durham in three hours (believe me, if you’ve seen the roadworks on the M1, you’ll think it an achievement too), I’m kidding myself if I think it’s anything like what Lewis Hamilton goes through when he gets behind the wheel at an event. They may be driving cars, but they are definitely participating in a sport.

Although I don't drive F1, there was a time about 9 years ago where I liked wearing helmets and chunky belts.

Although I don’t drive F1, there was a time about 9 years ago where I liked wearing helmets and chunky belts.


Ellie B





  1. Anon. Driver Fitness [WWW]. Available from: http://www.formula1.com/inside_f1/understanding_f1_racing/5298.html (Accessed 18th December 2014)
  2. Anon. Fit to Win – staying in shape for Formula 1 success [WWW]. Available from: http://www.formula1.com/news/features/2008/7/8158.html (Accessed 18th December 2014)
  3. Bailey, M. F1 Fitness: how to get in shape like Jensen Button [WWW]. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/10693007/F1-fitness-how-to-get-in-shape-like-Jenson-Button.html (Accessed 18th December 2014)
  4. Fox, G. Heart Rate 101 [WWW]. Available from: http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/beginners/heart-rate-101/7576.html (Accessed 18th December 2014)
  5. Hamilton, L. Lewis Hamilton column: Training, his pet dog & car upgrades [WWW]. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/22474908 (Accessed 18th December 2014)
  6. Holt, S. F1 Drivers are Athletes too [WWW]. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/6980337.stm (Accessed 18th December 2014)

December down time

Hey everyone


First of all:

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 19.52.30

I haven’t lived in Sydney for three years, but I used to go to that cafe all the time, and a lot of my friends and family work very close by. I am so proud of the way the city responded with #Illridewithyou (what an awesome and spontaneous display of compassion), and I am so sorry for the victims, the hostages and their families. I know the city will be able to pull together to heal from this, and I hope the individuals involved can too.


Well, the posts are slowing down in December it seems. There’s a reason for that: I’ve not been too well. It’s nothing serious, but I have been advised not to run so much, and at certain points this month, not at all. So that’s why it’s been quiet from this end….


It’s a shame, because I had such lofty hopes for December. Remember my plan to run for 30 mins each day til Christmas? Hahahahahahahahahaha. Ha. Ha. In the last week I have clocked 90 minutes running, and in the last month it’s been a total of 170 mins. Pretty far off the target!


It has been an interesting couple of weeks, because my pace has slowed too. It’s easy to accept that’s part of the process when I’m on the run,  because I can’t go much faster, but when I see the time at the end sometimes I want to push faster to what I know I could do before. Running slower does mean that I have more time to take pics. Here is one from my last run on Sunday:


No Filter.

No Filter.

It’s a really funny transition, because so much of my marathon training this year was getting my head around the fact that I can run the distance – and at a certain pace – and now I have to train my mind to think that it’s ok to slow down when you need to. #Runnersproblems indeed.


Anyway, the upside of all this is that I have plenty of time to watch movies, and take amusing selfies pretending to have a ‘work meeting’ with Santa and a Snowman.


I think my colleagues will find it hilarious. Don't you?

I think my colleagues will find it hilarious. Don’t you?

So bear with me whilst I get my own bearings back! 😀 I’ll still post, but maybe not about my own running for a bit… until I have something to report.


Hope you’re all having a fabulous pre-Christmas week.


Ellie B

Christmas + Detox = Any good at all?

Tis the season to be jolly! It’s here at last. And what better way to be jolly than to overindulge in mince pies, mulled wine, and a few cheeky encounters under the mistletoe?!


It’s all fun and games now, but we are only a few short weeks away from the most dreaded time of the year: January. Dark January, with its conspicuous lack of Christmas lights, and its focus on making up for December’s overindulgence. That’s right folks – I don’t mean to rain on your Christmas parade, but the Season of Detox is just around the corner.


Although, it doesn’t have to be. I for one have never been very good at detox diets. I have tried a few in my time, and when I found myself stockpiling 12 jars of Nutella ready for the diet’s end, I knew it was time to stop.  So for me, January doesn’t mean a detox, but rather a re-focus. There is a difference: a re-focus means that you won’t be drinking ginger tea for days. With a little planning, now is the time that we can all satisfy the urge to indulge, but not spend all of January paying for it.


Here are the top reasons why I won’t be detoxing in January:


  1. It’s boring. Let’s be honest. The appeal of a 3 day concentrated juice detox is that it’s quick. Quick but painful. I read that one of my favourite actresses had salad and chicken for dinner every night, with more chicken than salad. I decided to try it out (in case I am ever required to step up to the London stage), but by the second night I was done. There was a distinct lack of flavour that I couldn’t face night after night. I may well be ruining my chances of winning an Olivier, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
  2. It’s expensive. Another detox I once tried came equipped with recipes and a shopping list – ‘perfect!’ I thought. The list was wheat-free, meat-free, dairy-free. I almost choked on my quinoa when I heard the total: for a diet that excluded practically everything, it sure was expensive. Not to mention that so much fresh food goes off quickly if not eaten…which means you end up stuffing spinach into your mouth like a crazed rabbit.


  1. It’s not healthy. Perhaps controversially, I subscribe to the opinion that anything that makes you feel sick as part of its process isn’t helping you. It’s making you sick. If you feel better at the end of three days of carrot juice, might that be because you’re allowing yourself to eat real food again? It can’t help to completely cut out protein, fibre and roughage. I absolutely don’t profess to be an expert here, but here’s an article that has more credibility than me to go into detail.
  2. Detoxes are part of a huge marketing machine. These days everything has an ‘angle’, and is targeted towards a specific market. Again, here’s another article that explores the marketing side of the detox diet. These dieticians and experts might not always have our best interests at heart, if you can believe it.
Quick Google search for 'detox': look at all the sponsored posts...

Quick Google search for ‘detox’: look at all the sponsored posts…

  1. It’s unnecessary. As the two articles above describe, your body is actually pretty good at detoxing itself. Anything else can be more of a hindrance than a help. Plus, if you’re aware of your indulgences now, you can go some way to balance them out before January even shows it’s ugly little face. Personally, I think there’s nothing better than a Boxing Day run in the bracing winds to clear the mind and help your fitness after Christmas Day.
  2. I don’t want to. I might sounds like a petulant child here, but we’ve all just spend four glorious weeks of minced pies, mulled wine, egg nog, chocolate, christmas cake and socialising. I could handle cutting back a bit in January. I could handle making an effort to exercise a little more, to balance the December fun and to make sure I have the balls to run in the Winter cold! But what I could not handle?  Eating celery while thinking of lasagne.


So…. they’re my two cents on the matter. It seems far more reasonable to use the old ‘everything in moderation’ adage because then you don’t miss out. Case in point: today I had a smoothie for lunch, but I also had a pizza for dinner. And now I’m eating ice cream because SB is at his Christmas party, so I’m having a little party of my own with Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and Haagen Dazs.


I may regret posting such a blatant account against detoxes, especially if I give one another go in the future (God help SB). But I guess the main point of this is: January is dark enough as it is, why make it even harder?


Ellie B

Four Fact Fun: Satisfying the my Nosy Nature

I hope you all had a great weekend. Mine consisted of fighting a cold, and rueing the gorgeous sunny weather we had here, while I wasn’t well enough to run. But I balanced all that out with lots of coffee and brownies: it turns out rueing is hungry work.


For today’s post, I saw this little quiz on Shut Up and Run, who in turn saw it on Hungry Runner Girl, and wanted to join in with the cool kids.  I definitely have a nosy streak, and love reading these about other people so I thought some of you might be as nosy as me….


Four names that people call me other than my real name:

  1. Buts. Because now I am a Butler.
  2. Norbit
  3. Nell
  4. Cherry


Four jobs I’ve had:

  1. Barista at Starbucks. For about a million years. And in multiple countries.
  2. Cinema Steward
  3. Secretary
  4. Graduate Recruitment Manager


Four movies I’ve watched more than once:

  1. The Sound of Music
  2. The Terminator
  3. My Girl
  4. Apollo 13


Four books I’d recommend:

  1. The House of Mirth
  2. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
  3. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
  4. Moranthology


Four places I’ve lived:

  1. Melbourne
  2. Sydney
  3. London
  4. Devon


Four places I’ve visited:

  1. Serbia
  2. Peru
  3. Tokyo
  4. Hong Kong


Four things I prefer not to eat:

  • Onion
  • Anything vegetarian
  • Haribo
  • A bad hamburger, the ones you can taste in your mouth for three days afterwards. You know the ones.


Four of my favourite foods:

  • Chocolate
  • Curry
  • Sushi
  • Pancakes


Four TV shows I watch:

  • 30 Rock
  • The Fall
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Luther


Four things I’m looking forward to this year:

  • Going to Miami with work (hooo-raaahhhh!!!)
  • Running a half marathon
  • Moving to Loughborough – BOOM! That’s new! Although I am really sad to leave Durham.
  • Seeing A View from the Bridge


Four things I’m always saying:

  • Dude, that’s awesome! (sometimes I confuse myself with a California Skater kid)
  • Do we have any chocolate?
  • No, I took the bins out last time.
  • Shall we get a coffee?


So. Not much running today. Plans went awry and runs didn’t happen, but thanks to little  quizs like this, we can all still have some fun.


I’ll hit you all up with some more relevant posts later this week! And also – please feel free to tell me four facts about yourself in the comments. I’m nosy, I tell you.


Ellie B