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New York, New York!

So following on from the last post, we took our internal United Airlines flight onto New York after our 4 days in Vegas. This was my first time in New York and it didn’t disappoint! We arrived at Newark about midnight and so my first glimpse of the big Apple was as we were landing, I even spotted Lady Liberty far far in the distance! Then speeding through the streets in our taxi. I say ‘speeding’ but even at 1am, the Manhattan streets were chock-a-block. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many car horns constantly used!

The uber dropped us at our hotel, pretty much on the junction of Broadway and Times square and we checked into out 48th floor room then headed straight out into the warm autumn night. Very bizarre walking through Times Square at 2am – it was mobbed! We ended up in McDonalds, just because we were starving and what a motley crew there was in there – gangsters, transvestites, drunk tourists, security guards, kids….

We stayed 5 days in New York and managed to run once in Central park at dusk, don’t think I’ve ever seen so many runners at that time of night! The roads were shut in the park and there were dedicated runners lanes on the road anyway. We did one lap in the park which gave us a good 10k, stopping at the huge lake for some photos with the NY skyline and sunset in the background. I wish we’d had more time to go back to the park and explore properly both inside and around the perimeter of the park. Weird but I would have liked to have seen the Dakota building where Lennon was shot!!

We walked the Highline, which was beautiful, and walked and walked round all the sights – Rockefeller centre, Empire state building, Grand Central Station, Central park, 5th avenue, Greenwich Village, Washington square park, Liberty and Ellis islands, Wall street, Battery park, 9/11 memorial… I think we had a pretty good shot at all the main attractions. We saw two shows – Chicago and Miss Saigon, which were both excellent. We went to Brooklyn and watched Ed Sheeran in concert – superb!! We didn’t get to fully explore Greenwich village, Chinatown or little Italy, which only means we will have to revisit and do it then!

On the Saturday morning we were there, Steve booked us onto an organised run at Fort Hamilton Army base. It was a ‘Run for the Fallen’ and was a choice of a 5 or 10k run. We left Manhattan super early to make it in time and still got horribly lost. The subway was impossible to fathom out, we got off too early (or late) and had to try and find our way from where we had got off. We ended up in the wrong entrance for the base and I had to beg to use the loo, sorry bathroom, at a Veterans hospital. We then had to find an alternative entrance several blocks down – finally getting to the base at 09.50 – for an 09.00 start. Whoops! The organisers were great in that they let us do the 5k race (we were too late for the 10k) and we got a fabulous t-shirt (and a bagel!) and pictures of us running next to the Verrazano bridge. We asked a lady who was volunteering with the run if she could give us directions back to the tube statio. She not only gave us a lift, but also gave us a guided tour of Fort Hamilton, Fort Washington, Staten Island, took us over the bridge and then dropped us at the Staten Island ferry to be able to get the boat back to Manhattan! Thank you Nikia for being such a fabulous, friendly  guide!

So our time in new York came to an end and we got the train to JFK and were very unexpectedly upgraded to upper class by Virgin Atlantic, which was a wonderful suprise for which we were very grateful!  I doubt we’ll ever get the chance to fly upper class again, so this finished off our holiday nicely! Very bizarre being in bed, under a duvet on a plane drinking champagne and eating a three course dinner!

So back to reality and back to training! Our next challenge (number 12) is The Great South run in Portsmouth on 22nd October, 10 miles of fairly flat and scenic running which is well supported! Although this is challenge 12 of #12challengesin12months, we actually have another 2 challenges planned….and we are up to £816 on the sponsorship. Not much more to go and we’ll be at £1000!!! So watch this space for the next instalment! Remember, you can still sponsor us at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/holfords

 

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The Secret holiday….

As mentioned in previous posts, Steve organised a super secret holiday for my 40th birthday. Knowing him as I do, I knew it would be organised with military prescision and I also knew he hadn’t told a soul, for fear of the secret being revealed!

I’d been given a large suitcase and told to pack it with clothes for ‘changeable weather’ and some swimming stuff, but no more than 23kg worth! And of course the first instruction was to ‘pack my trainers!’

Saturday 23rd Sept at 5:30am, a driver knocked on the door to take us to our first stop! He’d already been primed by steve not to give the game away! Anyway, north up the M3 (which was at a standstill thanks to some eejit chucking something ontomthr carriaway), divert to A31 to the M25, eastbound to M23 and it started to look suspiciously like Gatwick airport!

Sure enough, North terminal beckoned and the Virgin Atlantic check in desk loomed large! The secret stayed firm as Steve made me stand well back while he checked in for us both!

Into the lift and up to the fantastic Virgin lounge where we ate and drank our fill, and it was still only 09:30! Steve asked if I wanted to know where we we were going. I had noticed the Virgin departure board had four flights on it….Barbados, Antigua, Las Vegas and Orlando. Let’s face it, all pretty awesome destinations! He handed me a folder that he’d made and the destination was…VEGAS! The folder had a full itinerary for our trip day by day, starting in Las Vegas onThe Strip and ending in New York! With shows, concerts, helicopter trip, zip wires all packed in! Unbelievable! Starting with a 11 hour flight out in premium economy where we were treated like a King and Queen! We’d woken at 4:30, flown to Vegas and with the time change we arrived there at lunch time…very bizarre knowing we still had all day to go! The Department of Home Land security guy was very stern taking our fingerprints before we jumped in a cab toget to our hotel on the famous sunset strip!

We had 4 nights at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas where we were on the 11th floor overlooking the beautiful gardens and pools. The gardens to the hotel were amazing, fountains, waterfalls, a beach, wave pool and lazy river. The sun shone throughout although the locals said it was a quite cool 85c!! 😎

That night we watched Michael Jackson One cirque de Soleil which was breathtaking and awesome. We finished off our night in the Irish bar in the mall of the Mandalay Bay, having been awake for over twenty six hours!

Up at dawn for eight laps round the gardens of the hotel for just over five km run then showered and changed before we found Denny’s. We ordered three meals between us and got a round of applause from the table next to ours when we polished off every last scrap and several refillable coffees!

We walked down the strip and  saw the Bellagio fountains, Caesars palace, the Venetian canals. We wandered through New York New York, the Cosmopolitan, Luxor and Excalibur. We stood in awe at the massive casino in the MGM Grand and had photos taken with the Eiffel Tower at Paris.

Later that evening having been picked up by limo and taken to the helicopter base, we flew in our chopper over the Hoover Dam and into the Grand Canyon where we drank champagne and flew back at sunset! It was unbelievable, one of those things that I’m so glad a saw in my lifetime, a true wonder to see the Colorado river snaking its way through the canyon as it has been for thousands of years. Later that evening we had a wonderful meal at the Foundation Room in Mandalay Bay, where we drank cocktails on the room terrace looking down the neon blaze of the Strip.

Next day, more sightseeing, then in the evening we zipwired down the madness that is Fremont Street a hundred and fourteen feet up like superheroes! We ate burgers fries and very alcoholic cocktails at The Heart Attack Grill! What an exotic, eclectic  place that was…lots of near naked street performers and wonderful bands, street bars and vendors topped off by a massive LED lit canopy and a banging sound system.

Las Vegas felt like a big magical, sparkly fairytale of a place. Way more amazing than I’d ever imagined. We walked 26,000 steps a day and managed to fit a two runs in while we were there.

After a whirlwind of views, hotels and sightseeing, I was sad to leave Las Vegas but we were New York bound. Can’t believe that I loved it so much and will definitely return!

 

Challenge 11 – Hursley 10km trail run

Last Sunday was our challenge 11 of #12challengesin12months….the Hursley 10k trail run! Hursley is a local very small village to us – 2 pubs, a school, a post office, hairdressers and a butchers! (Oh, and the amazing Hursley Park Cricket Club). IBM has a huge facility there too.

There were some hilarious emails that came out from the organisers in the days leading up to the run, when the heavens opened and everything started to flood. The route description went from wet, to muddy to VERY MUDDY to omg! We’ve changed the route as its un runnable !

Chandlers Ford community Running Group (@CFCRG17) came out in force to all compete together as this was the first real ‘race’ we’d all done as a ‘proper’ running group! It was amazing to see loads of us in our group t-shirts lighting up  the crowd in a blaze of luminous yellow.

We did this race last year, it was Steve’s first EVER race and we finished in 58 mins, although that was a glorious sunny day and it was quite dry. Ho, ho, ho…what fun awaited us on this year’s course….not a 58 minute finish, that was for sure!

We donned our Murray Parish tshirts over our CFCRG yellow tshirts and off we set. Not a good omen when my feet got soaked through walking from the car park to the start point.

It was a huge loop round the woods around the village, with more mud and hills than you could shake a stick at. We ran on shingle paths, grass, mud, puddles, fields – hard but fabulous. My trusty trail shoes held fast in the ankle deep mud, although at times it would have been easier with skis on my feet than shoes.

I hit a bit of a wall at 7.5km and Steve  offered to push me round, which was met with a quite un polite refusal. We still finished in 1hr 1 min,  and I even managed a sprint finish at the end (God only knows how, cos at 7.5k there was no energy in my legs at all!).

So, my first race as a 40 year old! And the next challenge is the Great South Run 10 miles in October. Before that, we have my super surprise birthday holiday, leaving on Saturday. Of course, I have packed my running stuff – even though I haven’t a clue where we’re off to (Steve’s spent all year organising it!). Keep posted for holiday running updates!

 

 

Challenge 10 – The End Of August

The first post of September! September! Can’t believe How quickly the year has frittered away and now I am 40!! We’re three quarters of the way through our year of challenges.

When we dreamed this up last year, a year of challenges seemed like an unfeasibly long time, a huge amount of planning and mammoth task. Now, the end is in sight and (fingers crossed) nothing has gone horribly wrong, we remain uninjured (now I’ve jinxed it I bet) and we are soldiering on!

So, back to the challenge for August, which has required more organisation than all the others combined. As I mentioned before, in a way, this was one of our hardest challenges. It wasn’t a couple of hours in one day to get it done and dusted – it was a month long challenge during which I saw more of Strava than I did of my children. This feat was performed over the kids school leave with three holidays to incorporate and a 40th birthday. (And subsequent hangover).

I’m over the moon to announce – we smashed it! Our target was 100km over the month, I reached 135km and Steve did 148km! Im really proud of myself and it feels great knowing we significantly trumped our target rather than just hobbling over the line!

To give you an idea, the amount I run in a month varies (due to work mostly – I do tons of night shifts) but over the last few months, figures have been: January 66km, February 46km, March 92km, April 73km, May 48k, June 62km, July 88k….so you can see 135km is a big deal. Of 31 days, I got up and out on 24 of them, having 8 total days rest only during the month – including 6 of those days being 12 hour work days. Only one of those runs was on a treadmill, some were in Spain, some in the New Forest, some in Devon and the last week at home.  It worked out at 33.8km a week. I’m really happy with it and doubt I’ll manage that distance again, ever!

My 40th birthday was fabulous! With a 5km run on the morning of my birthday to celebrate my first run as a 40 year old. We had a lovely day with the family, a walk into Winchester, drinking pimms by the river and a family meal in the evening at The Dog and Crook. I got some funky new compression socks and a new pair of trainers as it was time to retire my old ones at 793km. I’ve stuck faithful with Saucony, going for omni’s this time.

Then, the following day, Parkrun in Eastleigh in the morning and then an all day garden party with a LOT of prosecco! The weather was glorious, the alcohol flowed freely, my garden looked beautiful and it was amazing to catch up with friends and family! Needless to say, the day after my birthday I was unable to run – I was barely able to get out of bed! I had a wonderful video message from the Murray Parish Trust, the charity we are supporting this year to say ‘Happy Birthday’ which was posted on my Facebook page!

My birthday also signalled a lovely boost in sponsorship with about another £85 donated on the day. We are well on our way to our £1000 target. I think with gift aid, we are up to just over £800. Remember, I am still sponsorable by clicking here!

The August challenge also gave me a new PB for a 10 km. during one of my runs as last week I did 10km in 55.13 (I was in the zone!) not bad for a 40 year old!

So, the next challenge, challenge 11, is the Hursley 10km, an off road, hilly trail run in the rural village next to ours. We did it last year and it was excellent, I have a time to beat as well as I want to beat it last years effort.

I have also just looked at Race To The King, a challenge for June 2018. This is a ultra race, 2 marathons in 2 days. I’m not mad enough to think I could possibly run this, however, plenty of people walk/hobble/crawl it. Its from Arundel to Winchester with a camp over on the first night. Its crazy and another massive challenge, but something to work towards!! Maybe some of our fabulous running group would be up for it too – the entries open in the morning, so if we’re going to enter we only have overnight to think about it!! Last week we collected our fabulous new running club tshirts – they are luminous yellow with our names on and Chandlers Ford Community Funning Group. It’s cool to see us all running about in them and folks wearing our club tshirts at Parkrun!

In three weeks, we go away on the surprise holiday that Steve has spent 6 months planning! He has kept extremely quiet about where we are going, joking throughout that we are going to ‘Bradford’, West Yorkshire. (I’ll be extremely disappointed if we actually DO end up in the north of England!) He’s not told me anything or given me any clues about where we are off to, except to say it will be 8/9 days. Yesterday was the first real clue he’s dropped – he came in with a large new suitcase and told me I have a 23kg weight allowance to fill the case for the holiday, and also a 10kg hand luggage allowance. This must mean a flight -right? There’s no weight allowance on trains, ships, buses or cars!! He’s told me to pack for changeable weather but not for cold weather. Trainers are a must and some smart clothes for going out!! I also think there may be a travel visa involved, he asked me my parents details and employment details!! Where could it be? Am so excited and only three weeks to wait. All will be revealed here when I know!!

 

 

Challenge 10 – update!

Finally back to the ‘real world’ after three weeks away on holiday!

Our third week of holiday was in beautiful Devon. We’ve had a very hot week in Spain, a very rainy week camping in the forest and then this last week in a caravan in Devon, near Exmouth.

The weather was fantastic, far more sunny summer days than miserable rainy ones! The view from the caravan was stunning and we woke up each morning with a view of the shimmering sea.

Steve took his bike and managed some pretty epic cycles round the Devon coast. We also get plenty of runs in while the kids were entertained with activities – swimming, Segway, football, crazy golf etc. Again, we seem to have very unwisely chosen to holiday – and therefore run – this August in the hilliest places! Spain; quite undulating! New Forest; far from flat. Devon, truly mountainous!! It was quite fun to check the tides before we ran each day to see what in time slot we would manage to get along the beach before we were stranded in the caves!

Anyway, 22nd of August now and I can safely say we’ll hit 100km for this month! I wonder if we can add another 25km in the last week to make a nice round 125km instead as 100km seems a bit too achievable?! 😂

Had a lovely run this evening with our running group buddies at Chandlers Ford Community Running Group. Such a lovely lot and a very social event. It was a lovely muddy, gloppy trail run through the woods…however, it did prove the nights are (very sadly) starting to draw in as we were rapidly losing light towards the end at 8:30pm.

So, as the decade of my thirties approaches it’s very end (three days till I’m 40! Eeeeeeekkkk!) it seems like a good time to reflect on my fitness, to know that I’m in the best shape of my life, fitter than I have ever been. My stamina and mindset is better and more focussed than it has ever been in my twenties and thirties. I’m approaching the fourth decade of my life and actually quite looking forward to it!

Challenge 10 – 100km in August

Well, it’s now 11th August! If my calculations are correct, I think we’re on about 40km out of 100km for the month.

We ran in Spain, we did Eastleigh Parkrun last weekend. We’ve just spent the week at Sandy Balls in the New Forest, where it did nothing but rain. We were seriously at risk of becoming amphibian, camping in pouring rain. The kids did not appreciate being dragged around in the rain until we discovered Geocaching! They soon forgot the rain and it was excellent fun too. We also downloaded a treasure trail from the Internet which kept them amused for an afternoon.

On the one day the rain held off and the sun came out we spent the day at Lymington Sea Water baths which the kids loved and did not cost the earth either.

Steve and I managed a very hilly 10 mile cycle round Godshill and Hale. The featured image was the view from half way round! Amazing or what?!

We managed a beautiful New Forest run that evening and got some stunning photos in the dusk. It is absolutely true that you just don’t realise what is on your doorstep. We were only thirty miles from home and it was so beautiful!

So, today we have been up since 0700, we have packed up the tent and headed home. I’ve unpacked again, washed 6 loads of washing, done a shop, cooked tea, repacked ready  for Devon and now, at 22:30, I have to fit a run in before bed and hopefully also find a Parkrun in the morning on the wat to Devon! I’m shattered!!

Running in Spain 🇪🇸

I’ve  been planning a holiday to Spain for us for the last few months, except I didn’t tell the kids and I didn’t tell my sister who was already in Spain, a lovely big surprise for everyone!

I finished work 07:00 Thursday morning and the train to Birmingham was 08:38. We told the kids on the train that we’d be going to Moraira to visit their Gran and Papa. We were in Spain by Thursday evening, where the temperatures even in the evening were 28c!

While we were there the August challenge started! So as we’d included our running gear in out very limited baggage we decided to run in Spain.

OMG! Running in treacle wearing a scuba suit would have been easier! It was hot, humid, hilly and horrendous! The first run we did was in the evening about 34c! I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much. We did a lovely 8k walk to the beach for a swim and home. We then ran in the mornings when it was was cooler, well, slightly!

It was glorious to run along the beach, to run on the promenade, along the shore. It was beautiful though and over the week we managed three runs and kilometres and kilometres of walking! There was one hill of 800metres that was ALL steep uphill. We walked it most days as it was too hot to run!

We took sme beautiful photos and managed 3 x 5km runs (steve did 4) over the week.Just was well because we did noting but eat and drink in the evenings and had to burn off all that indulgence somehow!

August coming up!

July’s challenge is now done and out of the way and so time to start thinking about August’s challenge! It’s a bit different this one – it lasts ALL month long!

It was no surprise for us that August was going to be a busy month! It is the month in which we always have our summer holiday. It is the month the kids are on holiday. It is the month of my birthday (did I mention I’m 40 this year!?!!) So, I searched and searched for an event we could do that would fit in with our plans, and came up with…..nothing!

Until, I realised that if we did a virtual event with virtualrunner.co.uk, we could do it wherever we were at any time of the day and fit it around all our existing commitments. Therefore, we have planned a virtual ‘run in the sun’, with the aim of 100km over the month. Now, this might not sound a lot, but we’re away to Spain. And away camping. And away to Devon. And working in between. And planning to be drinking proseccco on my birthday and will therefore be hungover for a while!

So, I think 20-25km a week for 4-5 weeks should do it. That’s up to 5 x 5k a week. Or a couple of 10k’s a week plus a bit more. This week, I’ve only managed 16k and I’ve been out 4 times. Plus, the heat in Spain is like 40c at the moment. And, we’all be travelling a lot. We haven’t done a virtual run before, so fingers crossed it’s quite as easy as it sounds to submit all the evidence to prove ourselves!

So we could factor parkruns into this, to add to our distance. Eastleigh before work on the fifth. Looks like Exeter or Seaton Parkrun the following weeks. And back to Eastleigh on 26th (the day after my birthday!) with cake!

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Challenge 9 – Winchester Pedal, Paddle, Pace

We moved ‘down South’ from the Midlands in 2013 – from the urban sprawl of suburban Coventry to a teeny tiny village in Hampshire – Compton. It was a bit of a shock moving the kids from schools that had hundreds of pupils to Twyford village school with just over 100!

We’ve since moved again within Hampshire to Chandlers Ford, which is slightly busier but one of the things I remember about Compton was one of the school mums mentioning ‘pedal paddle pace’.

‘It’s a triathlon with a difference,’ she said, ‘you kayak instead of swim! It’s great fun!’
As it was a local event, lots of the Twyford folks were involved but at that time, 20lbs heavier and massively unfit, a triathlon was as far off my radar as claiming Everest!!

Fast forward 4 years and it was a no brainer that this year, pedal, paddle, pace would firmly be ON my radar.

Well, it didn’t disappoint. We had a wonderful day. Once again, the weather never let us down and it was a mixture of pleasant heat, a little cloud cover and a smidgen of sun!

Up at 6am to register on a field by the River Itchen at 8am. It was beauifully organised and at just after 9 we wandered down to the Guildhall in a big crocodile, approx 400 of us. We were in wave 3 and were set off at 10:05 from outside the Guildhall by the Mayor, no less!

A 20km cycle out to Easton and Avington and back commenced. Why is it, you don’t realise what’s on your doorstep – absolutely stunning villages and scenery was a pleasure to cycle through. Plus, we saw a few more village pubs en route that we’ll have to try!!

Back to Palmers field to rack the bikes, change shoes, take on some fluid and then off down the itchen navigation footpath for the 5k run. To Hockley viaduct and back in a respectable 27 min, the course as we measured it was slightly short so we carried on running round the field to make the full distance.

Off the run and a bit of a queue for the kayaks, which was welcome as we were roasting by that point! Kitted out with buoyancy aid and paddle and off we went up and down the river Itchen. Not always in a straight line in my case, a couple of bumper car kayak scenarios ensued. But again, were so lucky to live in such a beautiful area as the river was glorious.

So there we are, we finished in 1:36:37 so not bad as far as I’m concerned! The fastest finishers were a minute or two over the hour. It was a lovely family atmosphere and much fun and jollity going on all morning. Would I do it again? Where do I sign?!

Ruined all the hard work by cycling into Winchester and eating a dirty great McDonald’s on the grass outside the cathedral…but that’s one of the reasons we run right? To be able to trough junk food!!!

Next month, a bit of a different challenge – 100kms for the month. Watch this space.
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This week – an extra challenge, running club and kayak practice

Here I am on my 12 hour night shift, the 2nd of four….OMG! Steve has booked himself on to an extra challenge tomorrow, running 10 miles in the New Forest 10 while I will be sleeping my night shift off.

Its probably the time now to say how proud I am of my husband Steve! 18 months ago he was 5 stone heavier and his waist was 10 inches bigger. When I tried to take him out running, he literally managed between lamp-posts and then gave up after a kilometre!

Bit by bit as his weight came off, he started to do couch to 5km and run with me round the block. I remember when we did our first 5k together and it was such an achievement, then we did Parkrun Eastleigh and I think he got the bug. I got him a lovely new pair of trainers and km by km and mile by mile he got faster, slimmer and more stamina.

Hi first longer run with me was September last year when we did Hursley 10km and as it was off road and the route was a bit different, he loved it. It was a lovely atmosphere and also his first medal!! He’s now consistently faster than me, his Parkrun PB time is 23 minutes to my 25. His 10km time is 50 minutes to my 55.

Anyway, we’ve always ran together and he’s constantly run at my pace, refusing to leave me when I start to flag and pushing me round when I needed encouragement. Tomorrow, he competes in his first run without me there. Its s good distance, 10 miles / 16km which gives him a good chance to stretch his legs and get some distance in. we did this distance at the Great South Run last year at my pace, which saw us come in about 1:42 – I reckon he should be able to shave at least 15 minutes off this time tomorrow!

We’ve also been running with a local group of runners, who we meet up with when we can to pound the pavements together and spur each other on. Its lovely to meet new people especially when there is common ground. Not sure I’ll manage to meet them in the morning for a run round the rec, I’m sure I’ll be in the land of nod but hope to catch up in the week for a stroll round with them all.

Last Monday we went for a practice kayak on the beautiful Beaulieu river with New Forest Activities. It was a glorious summer evening and we spent the best part of two hours kayaking up and down one of the country’s only privately owned rivers – owned by Lord Montague I believe! It was way harder than I expected and I finished with aching hips and knees. Good practice for the peddle, paddle, pace triathlon we are doing next week. God only knows how I will manage to run and cycle after having kayaked for 2kms!!

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