Xmas is Over and Thank Goodness Too.

Christmas is over and will someone please finish the chocolates and the Christmas cake!

Every year it is the same scenario in our house. We love receiving and making all those sweet yummy goodies but we also want to finish them before January 1st so that we can start the new year with lots of good and healthy intentions. None of which involves being crouched over the chocolate box menu and then eventually giving up squinting and just trying one of each.

Christmas was great. It was just Bill, me and our 3 kids. They are all young adults but Father Christmas still came and he did well at choosing silly gifts like fancy dress stuff and risqué jokes and the more sensible things like a box of paracetamol and a new toothbrush.

Of course they are....

We played silly games, got excited and competitive about the modelling clay in our Christmas crackers, drank bubbly for breakfast....lunch and dinner too and ate so much chocolate that I even had to put some in the bin - well just the flavors that no-one would eat.

Now I am in serious mode. Serious, meaning I've really got to get my diet in order for the ultra in March. I have been trying on and off for about a year now, to eat a low carbohydrate, high fat diet (LCHF) and I get so far but then fail miserably. Excuses like a birthday, Christmas, a holiday, house guests.....have all contributed to me being weak willed.

Our body's stock enough carbohydrates to fuel us for a few hours and then the hunger pangs set in. However our body's also stock enough fats to fuel us for days. So the idea behind eating a LCHF diet is to train your body to rely on using fats for fuel rather than carbohydrates. This means you will not feel the need to eat so many carbs (biscuits, cakes, pasta, bread..) as you will have less hunger and at the same time you will be burning fat for fuel. Bye bye belly.

You might be horrified (and scared) about eating more fat, but after reading about in on Phil Maffetone's website, I am convinced that it is a healthy lifestyle choice. Many people don't realise it, but they are actually intolerant to carbohydrates and this causes all sorts of physical and hormonal issues. I certainly get a bloated belly when I eat pasta and rice and I sleep better and just feel better when I eliminate them from my diet. Tough when you love rice.

So I'll tell you all right now so that I am accountable - "As of today, I am going to master the Low Carb High Fat diet and healthy eating"...... I've just got to finish the 'After Eights' first.

Happy New Year to you all and wishing you lots of health and happiness in 2018.

PS More Running specific information is on my website www.midliferunning.com

Week 4 of Ultra Training

I can't believe I am already in week 4. It is a nice thought in one way but then I feel panicked in another. I don't want it to go tooooo quickly as I really don't feel I am anywhere near ready. I guess that is how I am meant to feel. And that is why we do the training.

I am training 5 days a week right now. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then Saturday, Sunday. The weekend runs are the long ones with Saturday being longer than Sunday. Last week I did 19km and then a 13km and the weather was foul - freezing wind and snow. The only good thing was that I got to try out my new Salomon Lightning waterproof jacket. I'll be writing a review on it in a few weeks when I have had more time to test it.

Salomon Lightning Jacket - Trying it on for size

I am also planning on testing the the UGLOW rain hybrid jacket which I am really excited about. However delivery is taking ages - 3 weeks so far and not a peep from them. They are a fairly new French company so I think that they are still finding their feet.

I also tried out some new compression socks today. Testing your equipment is really important and I'm glad I did as the socks gave me a huge sore on one of my toes. The seam on the inside near the toes rubbed like anything. They were cheap! I do have 2 other pairs of compression socks which cost a lot more and they don't have seams in delicate places. I guess you get what you pay for. If you are wondering if compression socks are worth it, I've written about the why's and the what they do on my website. Compression socks are they worth it?

So, for now I am feeling ok. I do get moments of thinking that I'll never be able to run for 11 hours. I can just about manage 3 and then I am ready for a massage and lots of TLC. No, I don't have a masseuse so it is wishful thinking......However, I am really excited at the same time, about having a challenge. It is good to set challenges in life whatever they might be.  So yes I am still smiling, yes I am managing the training and no, I don't have any injuries....touch wood.

PS More Running specific information is on my website www.midliferunning.com

Ultra Training Starts Today

Today it is Monday 13th November 2017 and I am officially starting 16 weeks of training in preparation for my first ultra - 80km Trail de Paris.

I'm p****ing myself with excitement and nerves but I'm saying to myself  "I CAN DO THIS"!.

Today started well as guess what, it is a day off!

Tomorrow is only 3km and in fact all week it is low mileage. In fact the first 3 weeks are low mileage and then it really gets going. I am going to find back to back Saturday and Sunday runs hard. I've tried it a few times over the past couple of months and I did find it took a lot out of me. I was very tired in the evenings and my calves felt tight. That is definitely something that I need to manage.

Finding a training plan was a bit tricky but I've found one that I think I'm going to be happy with.

There are no intervals or set paces as I am training purely by heart rate, a low one at that. I'm not sure how it is going to go as running X km at a low heart rate could take me forever. I am guessing I will have to make some adjustments.

Anyway, for now I am feeling good, feeling positive with just the odd panicky moment. Fingers crossed it will continue like that.

Beware of the DOG!

I've finally decided I need to do something about dogs. It seems to have got worse recently. Why do dog owners think that they can just leave their dogs out all day roaming the streets? For us runners, walkers and cyclists it can be a potential hazard. Plus it is scary.

I've lost count of the number of times dogs have crossed my path and started barking, snarling and basically telling me to get off the road or path. Sometimes their owners are with them and other times the dogs are alone and outside their house as their garden is not fenced. Yes the dogs might be gentle and loving at home but it is their instinct to protect their owner and their territory so you never quite know how they will react with you.

I know of someone who was bitten on the calf by a small dog so he kicked it in the face and dislocated its jaw. I know that sounds awful and I don't think that I could do that, but I do understand. I know another person who was randomly attacked by two dogs whilst our running. She was knocked to the ground but somehow found the strength to kick one of the dogs in the ribs. He let go of her arm yelping and then the other dog turned on the yelping dog. Bit bizarre but it meant my friend had time to get up and run like the clappers.

Our dog Lily
I am by no means a dog hater and even have my own deliciously cute and sweet dog Lily. Although I am 99 percent sure that she would never hurt anyone, we don't let her wander on the road and if we are out walking her then she is on the lead if there are other people about.

So my first plan was to research how to deal with dogs. I had been doing it wrong all along. This is what you need to do if you come face to face with a less than happy dog when you are running.

My second plan was to buy some pepper spray which is legal here in France. My pepper spray has just arrived and I am excited to test it. Mind you I am terrified of it too. Watch this space for my review.....

A couple of weeks later......I've tested the Sabre Red Pepper Gel and here is my review.

Tomorrow I, am heading out armed with pepper spray and a stick. It sort of spoils my run but without them I feel stressed.

I've Signed up For My First Ultra

Talk about midlife craziness but Bill and I have just signed up for our first ultra. An ultra is anything longer than a marathon and as it may well be our one and only ultra we've signed up for 50 miles/80KM!

This is what we have signed up to.......

Eco Trail Paris 80km

Now that we have done it, I've been telling as many people as possible as that way we will have to do it. No excuses. I mut admit 1 month on and I am starting to get a bit panicky. I've found a 16 week training plan and it starts next weekend - yikes. This is now real.

Finding a training plan was hard.

Should I train by time or by distance. Both seem to have their merits and as I train by heart rate and run purely aerobically (i.e slow!) anyway, a time based plan seemed the lost logical. However I was worried that going by time, I would not run enough distance on my long runs. So, in the end I've gone for a distance based plan as I think that will give me the psychological confidence that I can do this beast of a run. I will probably adapt the plan a bit but generally I will stick to it which means I will be running I guess 5 days a week and upwards of 7 hours a week. I currently run around 6 hours so what is one more hour - a lot I think!

I am also starting to think about what to wear. I bought  a great hydration backpack off AliExpress (cheap but so happy with it) and now I am on the hunt for a running jacket. Mid March in Paris cold be cold and wet but it could also be really hot as happened a couple of years ago. I'm thinking waterproof, windproof and with a hood. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears. As for shoes, I think I'm going to run in route shoes as opposed to trail shoes which I tend to find heavy. I'll be practicing on my runs to see what feels best.

I will write reviews as my training progresses, of the equipment I am using or might use as that might help you in the future.

This is a huge learning curve for me so fingers crossed all will go well. Of course it will - positive affirmations Nicole :).

Running the Trail de la Collégiale

Bib number 25

After deciding that I have had enough of racing this summer plus having had a bad cold for the past week, my heart got the better of me and I decided to run "just one more" race this summer.

It was a local race in Montréal, a pretty little village in the Malepere area and since we know some of the club organizers, I felt it was good to support them. Also Bill was going to be doing the 30km (cautious me signed up for the 11km) and the thought of hanging around for several hours waiting for him sounded a bit boring. So, heck, why not race as well.....

Getting up at 6am was hard. I hadn't slept so well with my bunged up nose. First things first was to do my HRV reading (heart rate variability). It was a RED 75. Basically "Stay in Bed"!!! For once I ignored it and then it was a rush to shower, walk the dog, sort out breakfast, dose up with paracetamol and head out the door for the 25 minute drive. Thankfully the day earlier I had decided to clean our car and discovered that the battery was as dead as a dodo. And the car is not even a year old. Renault grrrrrr!!!!. Anyway the garage lent us a temporary car so all is good.

Arriving at the race car park area it was nice as always to see familiar faces plus the nodding of 'bonjour' to the new faces who you know are sussing out if you are their age group competition. Today I decided that racing my guts out was not an option and instead I would do what I could, clenching a pack of tissues. Basically just go out there and enjoy the course. I knew there were going to be some fantastic views from up in the hills and that also there would be some forested areas which were also beautiful.

At 8.30am ,Bill and those doing the 30km (1000m of elevation) were off. I didn't envy them at all and seeing as there were only 9 females out of the 95 runners, there had to be a reason. 45 minutes later and I and 150 runners set off on the 11km (350m of elevation). It started with a hill up to the village church. A hilly start I always dislike as once my heart rate has shot up, I can never get it down again. Today I decided to not look at anything - neither my pace nor my heart rate, which I knew would be horrendous anyway. I was going to run by feel - gentle enough to enjoy it but fast enough so as not to be last!

The first 8km was a roller coaster of hills. Up and down, up and down, through forest, through fields but with some great views of the hills and the countryside. The race marshaling was superb and I never got lost. If anyone is going to get lost it will be me! I just kept reminding myself to look out for the red and white ribbons and to try and keep an eye on the shirt in front.

Trail de la Collégiale
Feeling good at this point
 By 8km I found that I was running in rhythm with 2 young lads who looked about 12!!! and a couple of guys and another girl. Whilst I would walk most of the hills and get left at the back, I would then overtake my fellow runners on the downhills. Then I spied her.....

"Her" was wearing a lime green t-shirt who up until a couple of months ago was in my age category but has since moved up. I have NEVER, ever beaten her and I have always admired how fit and strong  she looks and how well she runs. Normally she is ahead of me and is always just out of reach but today I was in front! I think she had been stalking me for most of the race, waiting to make her move in secret. But today I suddenly got that itchy feeling that I could fight back. Where my energy came from I have no idea.

I just kept pushing forward, still walking the hills and trying to keep my breathing under control, then hammering the downhills but also keeping a side glance for the lime green t-shirt. We got nearer the village and I could hear the voice over the microphone calling out the finishers and this gave me that extra lift. For once at the end of a race I had leg-fulls of energy so I just hurled myself down the last 200m to the finish, overtaking 3 runners on the way. I was a demon possessed.

It was so nice crossing that line and feeling that not only had I finished in spite of a stinking cold but I felt strong too and as a big bonus I had beaten lime green t-shirt. I felt happy for her though as she came first in her category.

The other nice thing that I later discovered was that I was 12th female out of 52 so not too shabby at all. And very surprisingly I was 3rd in my age group so got a few nice goodies to take home.

3rd place goodies!

I did learn a BIG lesson from that race: 

Start out slow as it really pays off later. I have never (try as I might) been able to start out slow and so I usually succumb to a slow and painful shuffle at the end. I have this anxiety that if I start out a a slower pace then I'll lose invaluable time. However today I was forced to start slow which meant in the second half I still had energy whilst others were slowing.

Bill also did really well and I am so proud of him. The 30km was gruesome and in spite of having a sore ball of his foot (a nagging problem that he really needs to sort out), he finished in 4 hours and looked pretty good at the end.

After showering, prize giving and a typical french apero, we then sat down to a great (in taste and size) meal of gesier (gizzard) salad, cassoulet, fromage, tarte au pomme and glugfuls of wine.

So that is all my races done for 2017 although Bill has started hinting that next month there is a race around a lake that might be interesting....

Happy Monday.

Living in Limoux

People often ask why we live in Limoux and my usual response is that although there are lots of lovely towns in France, Limoux was the one that we visited that just seemed to have that "je ne sais quoi". Plus it had everything that we wanted.......near an airport (Bill travels a lot for work), college and lycée (our kids were all school age then), a river and a town square (my treat).

We moved here in the summer of 2008 having spent the last 16 years on the move in either Africa or Asia. To finally have our own house, our own garden and best of all, fresh air and green spaces, was like heaven to me. I still look out our living room window and get seduced by the view of the hills and the vineyards. And then I look in our back garden and get seduced again! I feel ever so lucky.

Limoux is a smallish town in the Aude in France with a population of around 10,000. One thing I like about it is that it is not just a holiday town which dies a death in winter. All year round there are things going on, including festivals, concerts, markets, pétanque competitions and very importantly celebrations of local market produce including the famous Blanquette de Limoux. Of course our local taxes pay for all that but it is worth it. I might not say that when I am old and grey.

Being the South of France, people imagine that we are sitting by the pool all year round, topping up the sun tan. Well, our first 3 years here we had a LOT of snow. Thankfully the winter months seem quite short compared to say the UK but we do get snow, we do get cold and we have a big supply of logs for feeding the wood burning stove.

As for fueling our running passion, Limoux is the perfect place to be. Right outside our front door we have the choice of tracks, vineyards, roads and trails to run around. Plus there are hills and woods to get lost in. There really is something for everyone. I am slowly learning to be more courageous with throwing myself down a hill and unfortunately as I get older, my fears gets worse. Age is never going to be on my side.

I can write loads more about Limoux but I'm going to save that for another day. The grape harvest is taking place right now and I'm going to walk Lily our dog round the vines and see if we can also collect a few figs from the trees along our lane.

A bientôt.

Why I run

When I started running about 6 years ago, it wasn't to get fit, it wasn't to lose weight but it was more as I felt claustrophobic living in a city.

We were living in Hanoi, Vietnam at the time and if you don't know it, it is a city crammed full of buildings, people, motorbikes, street cafes, dogs, and noise. Busy, noisy, exciting but claustrophobic. My little pleasure of the day was to take our dog Lily for a gentle jog around one of the lakes.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself (with my husband Bill, 3 kids and of course Lily)  living in the South of France, Limoux to be precise. What a fantastic place to be. I still look out the window from our dining room and think "Wow, I'm lucky".

Wanting to integrate, my husband and I joined the local running club and all of a sudden, running became a bit more organised and frequent. And I needed new running stuff that I didn't know that I needed. Yes, got to look the part. I was also introduced to running races. Me who never got on a sports team at school and who had never won a sporting prize in her life. Well lo and behold, in my first race I came away with a 3rd place trophy and 2 bottles of wine. I was hooked! Run for wine, yes please.

Fast forward a couple of years and much as I enjoyed running in general, it had become stressful. I seemed to go from one injury to the next, running races had become les enjoyable and more anxiety producing and I just had sort of lost my love of running. Forced to take 4 months off with an Achilles injury was the final straw and it made me reassess why I run and should I continue.

The answer was clear to me. I love running whether I am fast or slow. It is a way of de-stressing, a way of seeing and enjoying the French countryside, a way of socializing with other runners. So yes I definitely wanted to run. However I wanted to enjoy running which in essence meant being injury free and not getting het up about speed and paces.

I feel I have gone full circle from wanting to run for fresh air and pleasure, to running to compete and then back again to running for fresh air and enjoyment.

I don't want to get injured again so I take running seriously from the point of view that I try and look after my body (ok I do drink wine, eat lots of cheese, love the late night village fetes....) and I train carefully knowing that as an older runner, I am not as 'bounce backish' as my younger self.

PS More Running specific information is on my website www.midliferunning.com