Life Lately - The Speed Project, Training, Wedding Plans and Puppies

I’ve been really struggling with writers block lately. I thought I’d come back from my big American adventure and be chomping at the bit to write, and honestly that’s not really been the case and all I’ve wanted to do is sleep! But I don’t want those amazing experiences to slip through the net, so let’s have a catch up and chat about life lately!

The Speed Project

Where do you even begin telling the story of such an epic adventure? 8 women, 5 crew and 340 miles from LA to Las Vegas, it was emotional and crazy, euphoric and painful, a true feat of focus and determination on the part of every person in the team. We were on the move for 60 hours, ran through amazing scenery and shady-as towns, fought, hugged, joked and argued. We felt every emotion going, had every thought, chatted so much sh*t and ate a hell of a lot of bagels and flatbread. It was insane and I came away from it really struggling to process everything that had happened.

image: Kaye Ford

image: Kaye Ford

I guess the biggest thing for me during the race was injury. I’d only run 1.5 miles when my achilles became unbearably painful - hot tight pain that stopped me in my tracks and meant I was on the radio to the car calling in an injury. I WAS SO PISSED OFF. I felt weak and pathetic, a let down to myself and my team. Of course I would end up the weakest link, why on earth did I think I had any right to be taking part in something like this? The thoughts going through my mind were a case study in beating yourself out and I’m ashamed to say I was sulky for a good few hours until our rolfer Michael helped ease out my muscles. Sadly the relief didn’t last long and my next leg the pain was back, but the mindset wasn’t. Yes I was frustrated for a moment, but as quickly as it started the negative self-talk was gone and my mind was wholly focused on what I could do. I knew I could run a mile at a time, and for every mile I ran that was one less my team mates needed to run. I also knew I could walk the sections that were technically very hard to run, so my team mates could save their legs. So I flexed and changed the plan, not the goal, in all running close to 40 miles (we think, I didn’t actually keep count) jumping in and out of the car and pushing myself to my limit.

image: Kaye Ford

image: Kaye Ford

TSP was the hardest and most epic adventure, and I am sure as I process more of my thoughts I’ll share more about it here now. But for the time being, if you ever get the opportunity to take part just say yes.

Training and Injury

When I decided to carry on running despite my injury I knew I was taking a big risk and that I wouldn’t be running for awhile afterwards. This isn’t something I’d do normally, but in the circumstances I made an informed decision to go with it. Coupled with the strain to my achilles, and the impact this had on my calf and knee as other muscles worked to accommodate the injury, I also took a fall during TSP which left me with scrapes and bruises up my left side and impact injuries to my hip and knee. All in all I arrived in Las Vegas in a bit of a state.

image: Kaye Ford

image: Kaye Ford

After TSP Mike and I had had all sorts of plans to go trail running in Joshua Tree, but my injuries meant this was off the cards and instead I spent time walking, resting and wallowing in hot tubs! It was pretty wonderful, but it was also awesome to get back to getting a sweat on in LA at my first ever Soul Cycle class (I cannot wait until the London studio opens this summer!) and since I got home I’ve found indoor cycling has been great for keeping my fitness up without doing further damage to my ankle.

I’m working with sports therapists to strengthen up my ankle and to address asymmetry between my right leg and my left leg so that in 4-6 weeks I’ll be able to get back to running (very gradually, probably following couch to 5km).

image: Kaye Ford

image: Kaye Ford

Honestly I’m not too down about the injury. It isn’t comfortable, but I knew the risks I was taking during the TSP and for me it is a small price to pay for something that meant so much to me. Not that this is an approach I’d suggest anyone else take!

Wedding Plans

Wow this last month has been an emotional rollercoaster! First there was all the feelings before, during and after TSP and then Mike went and proposed while I was hanging out in a rock on Split Rock Trail in Joshua Tree!

image: Let Me Show You Love

image: Let Me Show You Love

I won’t lie, we’ve been discussing this for awhile, but it was still very exciting when he actually asked (well, once I’d got past the confusion of wondering i. why he was fumbling in his pocket and ii. why he was handing me a medal, I seriously thought one of the other girls had left it in the SUV and didn’t know why he was giving it to me now!).

image: Let Me Show You Love

image: Let Me Show You Love

Neither of us are particularly into the idea of a long engagement, so we’ve decided to get married in London on 26 October 2019. Although a couple of people have been shocked and asked how we can possibly plan a wedding in that time (especially one for 150 people), it’s actually been really straightforward and I’m planning to share some more on the process we went through soon. It’s also extremely cool that everything has come together the way it has as it means we can get married in our neighbourhood and have our reception at a venue we know and love.

You can read about how I bought my dress here.

PUPPIES!!

This is the other reason I’ve not been writing much or posting on Instagram this week - we adopted a puppy and he is a handful!

A Life Update - The Speed Project, Training, Wedding Plans and Puppies - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Loki is a 9 week old Brussels Griffon and he is the cutest thing I have ever been in the presence of. Teeny tiny weeny, so soft and generally against the idea of sleeping at night time. We love him a lot.

A puppy had been on the agenda for awhile, but we wanted to wait and decide which breed would be best for us and find a breeder who we really liked. A couple of weeks ago the stars aligned and we discovered Loki was looking for a forever home. After meeting him, both his parents and his amazing breeder Elena we knew he was the one and took the plunge. It’s a huge deal adopting a puppy and Loki has totally upended our lives (and destroyed our sleep patterns), but it feels right for us and I’m so glad he has come into our lives.

So that’s where we’re at right now. It’s insane, overwhelming and very emotional, but I wouldn’t change it! Now back to marvelling at Loki’s tiny paws and grumpy little face!






Your Pilates Physio Review

This post is in collaboration with Your Pilates Physio.

Your Pilates Physio Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness blog

Training to run a race like The Speed Project takes a lot more than running. If you want to run strong for the best part of three days you need to be strong. Strength training, yoga and Pilates have all played a part in my training programme, helping me build strength, recover and improve my mobility. Pilates has also been great for managing some of the little weak points that have become apparent as the race has got closer, areas like my lower back which can be weak and buckles during longer runs, throwing my form way off and killing my performance.

When my lower back starts to feel strain it’s a sign (at least for me) that I need to work on my core, so that my muscles know to work harder to help me stay nice and upright. Although weight training and yoga help with this to some extent, the think that I’ve always found works really well for me is Pilates. Those simple (yet killer) exercises really help me to hold myself better, and if I’m doing then my lower back isn’t going to give way quite a quickly. Saying that, although I work for one of the best Pilates companies in London, I don’t actually get to many Pilates classes. Heartcore’s dynamic Pilates classes as often fully booked, or I’m too busy to make it to the studio when I’m not actually working myself, which is why I was thrilled to work with Your Pilates Physio for a review - I could fit Pilates in, at home around my schedule.

Your Pilates Physio Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Your Pilates Physio differs from the Pilates I practice at the studio. First off it is mat based (because most people don’t have a reformer bed at home!), and secondly it offers Clinical Pilates which is focused on helping people overcome physical injuries and pain conditions (whereas a studio like Heartcore is more focused on Pilates for fitness).

Founder, and experienced physio, Lyndsay Hirst, has a passion for treating musculoskeletal problems and she found through her work that Pilates exercises were an amazing way to help address and prevent many of the issues her patients were experiencing. Its something more and more physios seem to be in tune with, I’m pretty sure at least once a shift someone comes into the studio saying their physiotherapist has sent them as Pilates would help X, Y or Z problem. However, Pilates isn’t always very accessible - there aren’t loads of good studios, classes can be expensive and people are time poor, so Lydnsay launched Your Pilates Physio, a platform that allows you to access high quality PIlates instruction wherever they are.

Your Pilates Physio Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

I chose to focus my Pilates workouts on my lower back (Lyndsay has a workout for most ailments) and because the website is so easy to use I could find the workouts I needed, for the length of time time I needed and at the level I needed simply and quickly. Each video moves at a really manageable pace, so it’s easy to follow each exercise either on screen or by listening to Lyndsay speak. There’s no banging music or distracting backgrounds, just good, clear instruction, which is exactly what you need when you’re practicing at home, alone.

Practicing Pilates at home a couple of times a week has made a big difference to my lower back. I feel a lot stronger and like I’m holding myself much better, and hopefully that’ll last through the 340 miles between LA and Vegas!

*I was given a month’s free subscription to Your Pilates Physio in exchange for review but all opinions are my own.




The Speed Project; Risks and Research

It’s been a little while since I shared an update on my training for The Speed Project, life has been so full on lately between uni assignments, training and getting all the logistics for the race sorted and blogging fell right down my list of priorities.

It is crazy how close we are to stepping out on this massive adventure through the desert. It feels like just yesterday I was chatting to Rosh about perhaps maybe joining her team for The Speed Project and now we’re counting down the days until we fly to LA. I can’t quite believe it’s happening.

I don’t feel any fear about what’s coming. I thought so hard about taking on this challenge and have always been utterly realistic about the risks and realities involved. Not least because I had to write a risk assessment for my university setting everything out in detail!

One of the first things I did once I’d made up my mind to run across Death Valley was to tell my phd supervisor Rich. For someone who’s research is all about ultra running the opportunity to go out and experience a race is just too good to turn down, it’s an opportunity to get closer to understanding the experiences of women in the sport and bring that insight in my research. For a professional geek that is about as exciting as it gets, and thankfully Rich was onboard (and in fact suggested it’s make good field work before I even had a chance to say anything!) and fully supported turning this exploit into research.

The Speed Project; Risks - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

The thing is though carrying out field work isn’t quite as simple as just going out and doing it. You need to get ethical approval, a process that’s all about making sure you don’t do any harm, mostly to other people but also to yourself. It’s a big deal and something universities take really seriously, and if you do research that involves people in situations where they might be vulnerable (like when they’re running across the desert and haven’t slept in awhile) then they really up the ante. I completed pages and pages of forms where I carefully set out what I wanted to achieve from my research and how I would safeguard everyone involved, including me, because although I reckon this is a fun weekend away my university has other ideas. You see they have a responsibility to me as one of their students, and if things go wrong while I’m in the field then they have a responsibility to show that everything was done to protect me as far as practically possible. Which means I had to do a pretty involved risk assessment.

It was an intense experience, and the first time I met with my departmental ethics officer the intake of breath was audible. What I was proposing was like nothing anyone in my department had done before (it’s not exactly common for management academics to want to go for really long runs in the name of research!) and there were understandably a few concerns. Injury, dehydration, snakes, road traffic collisions were starters for 10 in the list of things that could happen and my job was to set out how I planned to mitigate each risk so that the university could feel a little more confident I wouldn’t kill myself. It was a painstaking process, but it also means I am brutally aware of what I’m taking on and that I am confident I’ve done as much as I can to look after myself and my team in the field.

The Speed Project; Risks - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

We have an awesome crew who are supporting us through this thing and will be playing a major role when it comes to our safety. Driving the RV alongside us when we need to run on busy sections of road, running with us through shady neighbourhoods, making sure we’ve eaten and are staying hydrated, generally having our backs.

Tech will also play a big role. Strava Summit will help us keep tabs on each other when we’re running stretches alone. Files uploaded to our watches will keep us on track along a route none of us know and walkie talkies will keep us connected when we’re all in different places.

Although there are so many unknowns in a race like this, and that’s part of the appeal, knowledge is power. We’re working with Precision Hydration to work out our exact hydration needs and reduce the risk of dehydration. Likewise we know what nutrition works for each of us, we have an amazing massage therapist called Michael to keep our muscles in check and we’re learning more about how each of us reacts in stressful situations so we can manage them better. This doesn’t eliminate risk, but it does mean that we can keep more of a grip on the things that are within our control.

One of the most important elements of risk management is our training. I am crazy proud of how hard the whole team has worked to get ready for this event. Everyone has trained in their own way, but we’ve all been through the hard yards. We’ve had good runs and bad runs, injuries, sickness, days when things have been amazing and others where we’ve doubted everything. We are all stronger than we’ve ever been, individually and as a team, and that shows in our shared philosophy that our priority right now is to get to the race in one piece.

There’s an amazing camaraderie that’s developed between us over the last few months and the bonds we’ve built as a team have helped us all develop the mental strength we need to go into this challenge. We all know this isn’t going to be easy. We know that there’s going to be times when we each find things really hard, and we’re learning how to support each other through those tricky moments. I know this team have my back, and i’ve got theirs.

*images: Anna Rachel Photography