Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Cheer-ful Community Race – My First City 10K

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Yesterday I did my third 10k and my first out of the countryside. There were over 3,300 entrants and the atmosphere in the city was electric.

My friends had told me they were doing it only a few days before the event and I was lucky that there were still places.

I had not done any training whatsoever. In fact the last time I had run was a month ago. However, before that I routinely did a couple of miles once a week. I also cycle to work regularly but that is a different sort of workout. It is about the race’s distance for the two journeys.

On race day I woke up at 5am excited and had some more carbs before going back to bed. Later, when I had put on my lucky running accessories and psyched up with some power ballads I set off. I had to leave my bag in the city hall and I hoped it wouldn’t get stolen as it was a free-for-all. I was almost late for the race queuing for the toilets – outside were a mere 20 to service thousands. I felt queasy and, worrying that I might be getting hungry and would then not be able to run, I dashed into the now empty bag area for my cereal bar. This was a bad move as I later got a double stitch for about 4k. But it’s true, if it’s not too bad you can get through it, and I did, gripping my fingers into the pain source to dull it.

runningecard05Crowds had gathered all along the route, filling every space near the starting funnel. I stood in the road, packed with competitors, most wearing charity shirts. There was an upbeat, excited tension in the air as we shifted and stretched. The starting horn went off periodically as we surged slowly forward. There were so many runners that I couldn’t start in my heat and had to start last.

It took so long that my boyfriend thought he’d missed me. The starting horn blared and I was held back by a wall of joggers until I found a gap. Then I was off, carried away with the enthusiasm and good spirit I clapped and waved to those running past on the other side, to their bewilderment. That was the lovely part of the race, the paths were parallel to each other so you could see the athletes and aspire to be that the next year and see your fitter friends. I was too in-the-zone to notice much but the occasional group of supporters. All the kids wanted to high five you like a hero and I was especially grateful to the sweet Grandma sitting on a fold-out chair whose face crinkled into a smile as I waved at her and  she clapped me on both ways.

With my terrific playlist and the blended sound of cheering pushing me forward I completely missed my boyfriend on the way up. Another advantage of the track going straight back down was that he didn’t lose me. It was helpful having kilometre markers so you knew when you were nearly halfway. As I hit the 6k mark I spotted my boyfriend. He’s waited almost an hour for a few seconds of support and managed to take a photo or two.

A highlight was a sprinkler tunnel, adding welcome relief to my pounding heart and burning body. The second wind I had somehow experienced in the last race didn’t quite kick in and going uphill on the way back really separated the wheat from the chaff as those who had not paced themselves fell back gasping for breath.

I managed a short sprint to the finish line, bringing me into the top third at 55 minutes 53 seconds. This was a personal best and I was delighted. WinHill_0051

I then foolishly decided to do do a 462m hill-climb walk with my boyfriend in the afternoon. At one point the path reached up almost vertically into the sky as I scrabbled on the rocks. But no challenge was too much for me now and I soon reached the top, although when I did my legs made a silent protest and went weak. Luckily I found a stick on the way up and supported myself on that. The view in the golden evening sunlight with a fine mist in the valley was incredible and I wish I had taken my camera.

The run was a wonderful experience and I want to do it again. I felt relaxed, triumphant and high on endorphins afterwards.

I didn’t do it for charity this year as I am already doing my first fundraising event – a 40 mile bicycle ride. If you can spare even just a little for my British Heart Foundation cycle please help the cause by clicking on the link here.

I think if I have energy to do a hill climb 6 hours after a 10k I should probably run a greater distance. Maybe my 2014 goal will be a half-marathon. Now that will require training. Are you a (female) runner? Read this post to find out!

So go on, compete in a city 10k next year. Be part of a an event uniting those of all ages and backgrounds in a thrilling uplifting and challenging race. It will be tiring and you may be a bit achy the next day but trust me, it’s worth it.

 

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A Morning Treat

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I call it Hangover Breakfast. Whenever I’ve been out in Leeds I go to O’Neills, the Irish pub, as they do the best and there is never a wait. There’s nothing like a traditional Irish/English breakfast. I like mine with egg, beans, bacon, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and hash browns.

This morning though even that couldn’t help me. I did a 15 mile bike ride last night, 40 minutes of it uphill to get home, and I’m still exhausted. It shows I cannot wake up in the morning fully without a cup of tea. As it is my only day off this week I am treating myself to a full body spa massage later as well. My back and shoulders are a bit sore. But that wasn’t even half the distance I’m doing for charity!

A lady in my cycling group told me about it. I went along and 70 people turned up! We all had our night lights and fluorescent jackets on, it was quite a sight. Every time I looked back there were little moving lights stretching as far back as I could see, like an alien invasion as it was so dark sometimes you couldn’t see the riders. There was a great upbeat, community atmosphere. People cheered at us and we rang our bells back. We went to a sweet shop and stocked up on sugar for the ride home. On the way back we passed through a tunnel where there were loads of cheap souped-up cars and young men standing about trying to look tough. They looked incredibly silly, but they were good-natured enough.

I recommend a cooked breakfast in the morning. Researchers have found that starting the morning with a fatty meal may boost the metabolism for the rest of the day and prime the body to burn fat more efficiently. 

A study from the University of Alabama, in Birmingham, U.S., found that mice who consumed high-fat food in the morning and a lighter, lower-fat meal in the evening showed lowered incidence of metabolic syndrome – a precursor to diabetes and heart disease. All the more reason to enjoy this guilt-free.

The meal is high in B vitamins, protein and fibre, and offers three of your five a day. The Daily Mail article on the subject offers advice on making it lower in fat, and you could always use Quorn meat as a substitute.

Treat yourself on your day(s) off. This helps you appreciate them more and leaves you feeling more relaxed for work. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as getting outdoors for a walk or cooking a nice meal. Make the most of the spare time and you’ll feel better for it.

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Sunset vs Sunrise

Back by popular demand, here are some more sunset shots with a sunrise thrown in for good measure.

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005“Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight”

006The dying embers of the sky’s fire

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Here comes the sun! A morning like this makes me feel grateful to be alive.

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Shame about the lens flare. Nature is more beautiful than anything we can create.

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September 21, 2013 · 10:49 am

Have a Heart

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Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer resulting in around 82 000 deaths a year.

A massive 2.7 million live with it here. It doesn’t just affect those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, who smoke or are overweight. It can be genetic or it can be caused by fatty deposits building up in our arteries as we get older. It could affect you at Thyroid-hormones-and-heart-diseasesome point in your life.

There are some great tips for maintaining cardiac health here.

I used to care for an elderly lady who had a pacemaker so the British Heart Foundation is an important cause for me. Thinking of her is what will drive me in my 40 mile charity bicycle ride on 27 October this year, which I will be doing with my group. Of course I practice what I preach and have given money and I will also donate my organs in the event of my death, so that someone else may live a life as full as the one I often take for granted.

Have a heart and please donate to our bike ride JustGiving page today. You can give in a variety of currencies through a secure process. It doesn’t have to be much but it would be much appreciated not just by me but by the people whose lives the research/treatment will save or improve.

Thank you.

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Exercise for Less This Winter

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It’s the time of year when you may think about joining a gym or renewing your membership.

I looked at the glossy online photos and was nearly enticed. Then I spoke to friends about it and realised I was looking at it the wrong way. The cheapest decent gym and swimming pool deal I could find nearby was a fixed 12 month one. It would be £47 per month and that would be off-peak. The hours were not specified.

However, if I go to a gym down the road from work it’ll cost £20 without the pool and then I can go swimming once a week elsewhere for a total £36 a month.

Here is a website where you can search for cheaper gyms near you:

http://www.payasugym.com/

One near me is only £17 and this website lets you pay for just one session to test it. It also gives you the lowdown on opening times and facilities in an easy-read format. Bear in mind that 20% of people stop going to the gym after six months. If you think this could be you don’t enter into a 12 month contract.

There are more money-saving tips here.

Think about it. Are there cheaper ways you can exercise? Can you cycle to work and back with night lights and the right clothing? Just make sure the light is designed for the roads and isn’t too bright or has two settings for on/off road. In the long run (or cycle) that will cost you less. Is there a free group you can join? I am sorted with my cycling one.

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On Mr Cameron’s “Small Island” generalisations

I was rather amused by Mr David Cameron’s Britain is Best speech at the G20 summit. This was not not just due to their similarity with the Prime Minister’s speech in British romantic comedy Love Actually, but by the glaring inconsistencies of it.

In response to an alleged comment by a Russian official that the United Kingdom was “just a small island” he responded “Britain may be a small island but I would challenge anyone to find a country with a prouder history, a 120802CameronPutin_6496554bigger heart or greater resilience”, continuing that:

“Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism and was resolute in doing that throughout the Second World War.

“Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery, that has invented most of the things worthwhile inventing, including every sport currently played around the world, that still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.

“We are very proud of everything we do as a small island – a small island that has the sixth-largest economy, the fourth best-funded military, some of the most effective diplomats, the proudest history, one of the best records for art and literature and contribution to philosophy and world civilisation.”

Despite the communal applause in the press, the flaws of these comments were all too obvious. In comparison to Russia, we are indeed a small island. Regarding our past, yes we have had great inventors and famous people who have changed history. But so have many other countries. As for our history, the way we occupied the colonies, slaughtering the natives and attempting to convert them all to Christianity is nothing to be proud of.

1. Mr Cameron claimed Britain cleared “the European continent of fascism”. Yes but not without the military might of America, without whom we may well have lost the Second World War.

2. The statement with the most holes is that Britain “helped to abolish slavery”. As The Guardian’s Stephen Moss AS 55 Anti-Slavery Britain then pointed out, we profited from it for 300 years before this happened. A BBC history website points out that of all countries, Britain profited most from the trade.

As the Abolition Project website points out, it was no longer in Britain’s economic interests to continue slavery. Since America had become independent, it had been able to obtain sugar elsewhere. Furthermore, following the Industrial Revolution, we had been able to produce our own goods. It was also no longer profitable because of the continuous revolts. These points may explain why many importers of plantation produce were also abolitioinists. In August 1833 the Emancipation Act was passed under pressure from religious groups and abolition campaigners. However this still did not go far enough as it still required slaves to be “apprentices” working for free for six years before becoming emancipated.

“Apprenticeship” was not outlawed until 1838. The 1833 Act was only a partial victory, only applying to the West Indies, Cape Town, Mauritius and Canada. The Empire continued to profit from slavery in other countries. The Act did slave-ship01s  not stop the practice – many simply ignored the ruling and although reported by campaigners, it was not enforced. Treaties were entered into with other countries, and an “Anti-Slavery squadron” was set up of old and derelict Naval vessels. However ship owners that were caught were tried in foreign countries. Those freed were sent to Freetown, a British colony. However when that became full they were forced into the army or “apprenticeships”. It took 100 years after the Emancipation Act for total abolition of the trade, during which time Britain continued to profit by importing and exporting slave-grown sugar and importing slave-grown cotton.

For freed slaves conditions were still horrendous with endemic racism, poor living conditions and lower pay, as a former slave and American statesman, Frederick Douglass commented:

“Though no longer a slave, he is in a thralldom grievous and intolerable, compelled to work for whatever his employer is pleased to pay him, swindled out of his hard earnings by money orders redeemed in stores, compelled to pay the price of an acre of ground for its use during a single year, to pay four times more than a fair price for a pound of bacon and to be kept upon the narrowest margin between life and starvation….”

3. To say that we invented “most of the things worthwhile inventing” is doing a great disservice to the great 1885Benzinventions of other countries. The invention of the car for example, was crucial to our sixth-largest economy, in which a £52 billion turnover is supplied by the automotive industry.

4. Mr Cameron then claimed we invented “every sport currently played”, what about rowing, which was first recorded in Egypt, basketball and sumo wrestling? (to name just a few). The comment suggests that the only sports worth including are British ones, thus devaluing the sports of other countries. Furthermore the reason for the widespread playing of British sport again relates to colonial rule. Game fields were used for “moral instruction” of the conquered,  following a rejection of local cultures and beliefs.

British army troop5. As for a well-funded military, we are the fourth-largest worldwide spender on military. Yet after cuts, the army will eventually number just 82,000 – a level one British lawmaker said was the lowest since the Napoleonic Wars. Even the new British Head of Armed Forces, General Nicholas Houghton commented: “We’ve got to get back into an ‘expeditionary mindset’ where we will not have perfect capability for every scenario.”

A political opportunity was seized to put good spin on the unproven comment by a Russian official, using sweeping generalisations. The majority of the press responded as was intended. However, as a result of the comments we appeared arrogant, misinformed and laughable as a nation. Yes, Britain has been the home of many great inventors and yes we do have parts of history we can be proud of. But lets not diminish the achievements of other countries.

As American poet and critic Ezra Pound said: ““Any general statement is like a cheque drawn on a bank. Its value depends on what is there to meet it.”

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Love thy neighbour as thyself

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I’m not religious, but the bible does have a lot of wisdom passed down through the years.

Research shows that one in eight Britons don’t know their neighbours. This figure was higher among those who lived alone. But they are the ones who may need next-door friends the most. A quarter of us do not know our neighbours’ names and 60% of us do not even talk to them.

Mine are fantastic. Yesterday for example, my kettle broke. This was not a life-threatening situation, but it was irritating having to boil up water in the pan. The guy next door brought over a spare. He could get rid of something that was collecting dust and I could have a cup of tea quicker, rather than waiting for my humble two-plate burner to heat up enough to boil water for 15 minutes. An0ther time he brought round some food when I ran out and hadn’t realised. In return when I had too many yoghurts that were close to their sell-by date I let him know and his whole family enjoyed them. In the past our nearby residents have been vital, babysitting us while our parents were out and even modelling for art projects. It makes you feel good to help others and you really get a sense of community spirit which hardly exists anymore in some areas. Being a good neighbour can even add extra value on to your next-door resident’s house, with 40% of buyers prepared to pay more for “trustworthy” and “quiet” neighbours. 

Bad neighbours can be the bane of our lives – messy, noisy and generally irritating. But good neighbours should be appreciated, we should invite them to our parties and help them when we can. When we’re away, they’re the ones who can keep the house going and keep it safe. When we’re in trouble they’re sometimes the only ones who are there to assist. Their proximity means you can share things you both use – some neighbours even share Wi-Fi. Websites have taken off on this idea, with the likes of streetbank.com and nextdoor.com being used by thousands. I am lucky having excellent people on both sides of me. It helps that they have known me since I was a baby and that they get on well with my parents.

On the Telegraph news website you can take a test to see how your good neighbour credentials stack up.

So next time you have food you need using up, next time you’ve baked too much, next time it’s Christmas, pop round. Get to know your neighbours. You never know when you might need them and you could make some new friends.

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