Thursday, 29 August 2013

Basingstoke Half Marathon: Training Post #5

After an intentional two-week break, during which I continued to debate whether to run the half marathon, we threw ourselves back into the "game" (the least fun game ever, aside from netball), on Sunday 25th.

We chose a 6-mile loop around the course, which included Cliddesden hill and the 1-mile-long hill from miles 6 to 7. We ran:
17 minutes 45 seconds
5 minute walk
15 minutes 30 seconds
5 minute walk
8 minutes 30 seconds (this was the long hill up)
5 minute walk
and finally 11 minutes to finish, which involved running back down Cliddesden hill.
I'm pleased with how I did - I say "I" because I know Maxx finds this easier than me, but is gentlemanly enough not to leave me behind - because I've been fighting that horrible voice in the head which puts you off the task ahead before you've even begun. Sometimes exercise becomes another thing to do, another item on the list to get over with, and so having a break makes you actually miss it and therefore want to do it for pleasure.


Sunday, 25 August 2013

Top 5: Annoying Things People Do At Dressage Competitions

Happy almost August Bank Holiday.

I haven't written because, to be honest, there hasn't been much to report. My birthday was the 14th August, and that was wonderful and thank you everyone for all my lovely cards and gifts and attention.
Also, on the fitness front, I've fallen off the wagon slightly (by "fallen off" and "slightly" I mean I've thrown myself gaily into a pile of M&S more chocolate than biscuit biscuits. Yum CITY but also fat city D:). Riding, as always, has been consistent; last week we went to another competition at Sparsholt. I love competing there, but this time there were some classic annoyances, which has prompted this post.
Competing in any sport is both stressful, rewarding, and educational. But, here are some of the most annoying things I've seen people do at Dressage competitions, in no particular order because THEY ARE ALL SO ANNOYING.

1. Using a mobile phone in the warm-up arena.
"URM HI CAN I SPEAK TO FLYING-SPARKLES' STABLE MATE PLEASE?" or texty texty text text. You're right, in an arena full of animals ranging from 400 to maybe 750 kilos, it's a good idea to not look where you're going. 1000 points from Gryffindor, stupid.

2. Riding around in pairs.
No, please do completely block my path because you and Emily Snootycow (St. Trinians 1) want to have a chat about whatever mundane activities you've been up to. I forget that the warm-up is also suitable for people wanting to go on a hack but seemed to have ended up in the wrong place.

3. Taking boots etc off in the arena.
Mrs. IboughtanexpensivehorsewhichIcan'tride has warmed up and now ShadowFax 2.0 needs his boots taken off. Instead of going outside of the arena while those excessively lengthy and probably completely unnecessary bandages are removed, she just blocks the exit of the arena by standing horizontally out on to the track, while a long-suffering caddy comes and unwinds them. Exit: blocked. Track: blocked. Unlucky person running around a horse's legs while about 10 others try to navigate around the whole escapade: genuis.
4. Having the trainer inside the arena.
Competing is stressful at all levels, and sometimes nerves do get the better of us, so it's understandable that Mrs. IboughtanexpensivehorsewhichIcan'tride gets her trainer to warm-up before she gets on in the last 15 minutes. However, when she does get on, it's both dangerous and stupid to have the trainer walk alongside you while you ride. You're right, you have a much more expensive horse than I, so you do have the right to expect me to move out of your way while you're trainer tries to encourage you to ride properly and not be scared of that extremely powerful animal you're riding. EURGH.
(I have my own thoughts on getting someone to do the hard work for you then you taking the credit; if a 10-year-old girl can get on her pony at her first competition and tackle her nerves, then dammit a rich 50-year-old with nothing better to do with her time but "do lunch" and ride an expensive horse can bloody well do it too).
5. Riding too close to a horse/pony with a red ribbon.
Oh, the classic. If people get too close in the arena, Ernest doesn't like it. Neither do I, actually, so this really applies to us both. A red ribbon = a kicker, and beyond putting a bright ribbon in the tail, there isn't much more that can be done to state this, warning others off a potential accident should they come too close. But, invariably, they try and squeeze past, occasionally resulting in the back hooves leaving the ground. Now, I was once told to smack Ernest for doing that, which resulted in the stupid woman getting the full extent of my derision for her idiocy. Also, the stick is used AS A LEG AID NOT A PUNISHMENT YOU COMPLETE ARSE.
There are many more irritations which occur at these competitions, but I feel these really do earn the top 5 spots. The moral of the story?
Warm-up arenas are for horses and riders, not peoples. Oh, and if you're STUPID, don't own a horse.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Basingstoke Half Marathon: Training Post #4

Sunday 11th:
I was DREADING this run. I was still considering quitting the half marathon after Tuesday, but thought I'd try one last run to see if continuing training was going to be worthwhile or just another thing to get out of the way.
We chose a 5 mile route around part of the course, starting halfway between miles 3 and 4. It incorporated miles 4, 8, 9, 10 and back round mile 3 to our starting point. Here's the map:
I started really slowly, focusing on how beautiful the scenery was and listening to my earrings jangling about as I ran. Anything to distract me from the fact that, in half a mile, we would be running up what I considered to be the worst hill of the half marathon. I'd told myself it didn't matter if I didn't get all the way up, just aim for halfway, and with each training run I'd aim for a little further. I hadn't even managed to run all the way up during the actual half marathon last year, so I probably wouldn't be able to today!
Well, bloody hell, for the first time ever I ran all the way up! I obviously can't do this during the half but I ran part of it backwards when it got really tough, which helped. I still feel quite elated about that and I didn't even stop for a walk at the top.
We ran the first stint for 22.1 minutes, which was another achievement as so far we've not run more than 15 minutes in one go (I'm sure Maxx could but he's gentlemanly enough to stick with me). Then a 5 minute walk, then another 17.48 minutes to Cliddesden pond before another 5 minute walk. The final 3.15 minutes was in the middle of Cliddesden hill, which was quite a tough finish but I'm glad we did it.
So, back in the game. Next run is just 3 miles, then probably the same 5 mile route on Thursday.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind, by Jojo Moyles

My Grandma lent me this book, and I have to say I hesitated before reading it. I made the assumption that it would be a bit fluffy, a bit vague, using the backdrop of WWI for an average love story. Well, I'm glad to announce that I was very wrong.
The Girl You Left Behind, 4/5
Set in 1916, the book opens in the middle of crisis; the Germans have arrived at Le Coq Rouge hotel (unlike le Coq Bleu, currently making Trafalgar Square very ugly) under the impression that the owners, sisters Sophie and Helene, are hiding a pig. The feeling of fear and suspense is immediately created, and the reader develops a fondness for Sophie because of her bravery.
The new Kommandant in town develops an obsession of a portrait of Sophie ("The Girl You Left Behind") painted by her husband, Edouard Lefevre, who is away fighting. Le Coq Rouge becomes the new eating quarters of the German soldiers, and Sophie and the Kommandant develop an uneasy truce. They discuss Lefevre's art and Matisse, and while the reader never warms to him, the Kommandant is exposed as more than the leader of the enemy.
The fateful moment of the text is when Sophie offers the portrait of herself as an exchange for the release of her husband from a German prison camp. Already heavily criticised and isolated by the villagers for 'allowing' German soldiers to dine at the hotel, Sophie is violently rejected as a result of this deal.  
While the villagers' sense of betrayal towards her may seem misplaced, the reader is constantly reminded of how little these people have left, and left to hope for. Moyles successfully creates the oppressive and suspenseful atmosphere of living in an occupied town, and the desperation of trying to hide what little the villagers have left after the Germans have taken the best items from each household. Therefore, their hatred of the Germans and anyone they view as conspiring with them is understandable, even if the reader empathises with Sophie's actions.
90 years later, in 2006, the reader is introduced to Liv; widowed, alone, and in deep financial trouble, I hesitate to suggest that Liv is a mirror of Sophie. There are profound differences between the two women; Sophie's hope versus Liv's despair, for example, but both women suffer terrible losses, and degrading humiliation for the majority of their narratives.
Liv is given "The Girl You Left Behind" as a honeymoon present by her deceased husband, whom she is very much still mourning for. Then, it is revealed that the painting was stolen during wartime, and a court case ensues to give it back to it's "rightful" owners...
The novel provides a new perspective on the effects of WWI, detailing the difficulties and emotional turmoil of recovering lost and stolen artwork. Liv's attachment to Sophie's portrait is saddened by both their histories, and the story successfully encapsulates the fractious relationship between truth, lies and betrayal.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Basingstoke Half Marathon: Training Post #3

We didn't run last week, which I massively regretted as soon as we left the house yesterday afternoon. We decided to run to my grandparents' house, 2.1 miles away, and back again (totalling 4.2 miles if you are as bad at maths as me).
The run there was a little difficult, as I still ached from the gym the day before. I managed 13 minutes before needing a 5 minute walk, and then it took just another 3 minutes of running to reach my grandparents' (21 minutes there). On reflection, this is incredibly annoying as I wish I'd pushed through it. Can't believe I couldn't even manage 2.1 miles!
We had a lovely refuelling snack of a banana and some cake. Thanks Grandma and Grandad!
Then we had to run back... Mentally, I was not in the right state, and running there I had wailed, "I don't wannaaaaaa, I'm tireeeeed". But the return run was horrid; every part of my body hurt, and I was running just to get home so I could collapse. Which I did, on all fours, on the driveway. I needed a 2 minute walk after 10 minutes, and then managed the final 8 minutes home (20 minutes back).
It felt like I was at the end of the half marathon, with nothing left, just running to reach the end. The final 8 minutes I kept telling myself that every step was a step closer to the end, and that I had managed 3 miles with no energy, and as we got nearer to home I pictured the finish line of the half and how I felt as I got closer and closer. I finally managed to get myself into the right mentality in those 8 minutes, which was a small victory after a terrible run.
I am disappointed, as it was the first time I've ever considered quitting. My whole body was agony afterwards, and I still hurt a lot today. I keep reminding myself that there were days during training for the last half marathon when I felt like I would never be able to run more than 3 miles.
A bit of a frustrated post, but I don't want to paint a picture that exercise is always amazing. Sometimes, when I read interviews with my favourite fitness models or watch fitness videos on YouTube, it seems that they never have a bad day or that every day of exercise is wondrous. But, to take something positive from this, Tuesday's bad run has reminded me to eat properly (and more), and to rest more (I had already trained Ernest in the morning for our Dressage competition next Saturday).
Our next run is Sunday, when we're going to train around part of the course.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Why Women Should Buy Men's Fitness

A long title for a post, but also rather summative. I mentioned in my Festival of Dressage post that I am undertaking work experience at 3PM magazine subscriptions in October (now November).
To expand on this, I had to write a short piece on a UK-based magazine or paper; I decided to write "Why Women Should Buy Men's Fitness". This was inspired by the three free magazines I was given at The London Graduate Fair in June, which included Men's Fitness, Women's Fitness and Health and Fitness.
So, here's what I said:
Why women should buy Men’s Fitness.
Perhaps I should begin with the sweeping generalisation that women do not buy men’s fitness magazines. The clue is in the title; Men’s Fitness is targeted at men, however the tagline is somewhat gender-neutral, stating ‘Look great, feel great’. Furthermore, on the spine of the August 2013 edition, this is followed by ‘Eat cake to win races’; surely an enticing statement to both men and women.
Men’s Fitness engages with the other forms of media, emphasising how the articles are timely and relevant. In particular, the August edition is “The Hero Issue”, reflecting the interest in, and explosion of, superhero films in recent years, such as Iron Man, Kick-Ass, The Avengers, and, most recently, Man of Steel. This feature is multi-faceted and appealing to a variety of readers, because, for each hero discussed, there is a different method to obtain their physiques. Want to learn how to use your own body chemicals to get ‘bigger and leaner’? Or prefer to focus on your agility? This feature can tell you how. But this shouldn’t be limited to men; of course, the examples in question are male actors, but the principle works for both men and women. Biceps curls have the same effect on both genders, so why would ‘The Man of Steel workout’ only increase mass on men?
Furthermore, the message of Men’s Fitness is one which should be promoted to both men and women; while many magazines aimed at women are currently promoting smoothie diets for weight loss, Men’s Fitness includes a receptive article by Charles Poliquin, ‘Why fasting makes me furious’. Because, let’s face it, a smoothie diet is one step away from fasting. In a society with increasing issues surrounding over and under-eating, Poliquin’s article gives four strong reasons why intermittent fasting is, for lack of a better term, stupid. While many women’s magazines focus on fat loss, they don’t highlight the danger of the wrong kinds of loss, notably lean muscle. While Poliquin’s article might site research conducted on men, the message is applicable to both genders: intermittent fasting has more negative effects on the body than positive.
To support this message, again demonstrating the conscientious nature with which an edition of Men’s Fitness is put together, there is a feature dedicated to the diets of five top sportsmen. The men in question all participate in a diverse range of sports, including rugby, ultrarunning and cycling (also appropriate, given the Tour de France started on the 29th June). This is reflected in their dietary requirements, which ranges from steak and ice cream to wholegrain rice and chicken. While women may feel reading about sportsmen’s diets isn’t relevant, the feature demonstrates how each sport requires a very different diet; contrasted with this is the assumption that a smoothie diet will work for all types of women. Not once do these smoothie diets consider that this type of ‘diet’ is disastrous for even a moderately active woman, whereas Men’s Fitness focuses on the individual’s needs.

So, what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Ridiculous?
Let me know.